“Love is always bestowed as a gift--
freely, willingly, and without expectation.
We don’t love to be loved;
we love to love.”
~ Leo F. Buscaglia

Hi all!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!  I hope you all have a good one!

As with the past two Valentine's Days, this newsletter is a story compromised of interviews with Dyeland characters about various types of love.  I'd like to heartily thank Nicole (Tess and Rose) and Yvette (Yva/Sir Sven, Willy, Adam, Nigel) for answering the questions for their characters' interviews.  This is truly an issue I couldn't do alone! 

That being said...  I'm coming off a fairly lengthy insomniac streak.  So I really, really apologize for any glaring typos in this.  I read it over twice but given I still haven't slept too much... who knows what I missed!  So if you read this and notice anything and think "Well, that just doesn't seem right..." please let me know!


God bless,

When You are Real

Monday         Tuesday         Wednesday      Thursday

Friday         Saturday         Sunday


Monday, February 8th, 2010


Andrew watched attentively as JenniAnn checked the battery power of their cameras while he packed up the cords and memory cards they might need.  It was only just after noon and their first interview wasn't until 5:00.  However, JenniAnn had been keen to ensure all was in order well before they met with Tess.  Andrew suspected there was more behind her asking him to come over so early.  He thought back to the previous Valentine's week. 

He'd arrived at Willowveil, ready to be interviewed and happy that 2009 promised a less strained Valentine's Day than 2008.  But in only a moment everything changed with a phone call.  JenniAnn's great-aunt/godmother was dying.  By the end of the week, Sophia was gone.  She'd left behind a grieving niece and an angel of death, Eli, whose bond to Sophia had mirrored Andrew's with the Dyelanders.  Andrew prayed that this Valentine's week would pass without similar grief.  However, only a moment after his silent plea was delivered to the Father, JenniAnn's phone rang. 

Panicked, the woman looked up at Andrew. 

Andrew tilted his head to the phone.  "Do you want me to..."

Shaking her head, JenniAnn reached for the phone herself and plopped on the floor.  "H-hello?"  She grew pale and covered the receiver.  "I-it's my mom... again," she whispered.

The angel of death crouched beside her and put an arm around her shoulders, disturbed by the resemblance to a year before.  Sensing something was amiss, Fawn and Lulu snuggled beside the two.

Absently, JenniAnn stroked their noses as they rested on her lap.  "You... you sound kinda out of breath.  Is everyone... okay?" she continued, her voice developing more of a tremble.  A moment later the dread cleared from her face and was replaced by confusion.  She turned to Andrew and held the phone out to him.  "It's for you."

Equally perplexed, Andrew accepted the phone.  "Hi, Allison.  What can I do for you?"  He listened intently for a few moments as JenniAnn stood nearby shaking her head.  "Okay, it sounds like maybe a washer broke and that's why the handle won't work.  First thing you need to do is shut off the water.  Do you see a handle anywhere below the sink?  No.  Huh.  Alright, do you know where the water supply to the whole house is?  Maybe in the basement.  Right.  Go there.  Yes, I'll stay right here on the phone, I promise."  Andrew paused, smiling at JenniAnn who was gaping at him in horror at the idea of her mother calling him instead of a plumber.  He shrugged and then directed his attention back to Allison.  "Great.  Now do you see a handle there?"

JenniAnn, Fawn, and Lulu watched as Andrew counseled Allison on the finer points of a bathroom sink.  The former became highly amused as he began to mime his own instructions.

"It'll probably look like one you might see outside where your hose hooks up," Andrew continued.  "Good!  Now turn that as far clockwise as you can.   Unfortunately, now you won't have any water in the house but at least that will stop it before the sink overflows and floods your bathroom.  I'll come over and see if I can get that washer replaced.  Is now okay?  Great.  We'll be right there.  You're very welcome.  See you soon."

JenniAnn accepted the phone from Andrew and hung it up before turning back to him.  "I can't believe she called you to fix a sink!"

"Why not?  You do," Andrew teased as he scratched the dogs' ears.  "And to unclog the shower, open jars, resettle snakes you find in the garden..."  He looked up and grinned when JenniAnn wrinkled her nose.   "But that's okay because you help me out with a lot, too.  And, you know, there's the whole helping people being my life's work thing.  And as for your mom, specifically, there's the 'You labored for ten hours with a really good friend of mine so I suppose the least I could do would be to replace a washer' thing.  And, while I know your parents felt a little bit better about me after they were here for Christmas, I think stopping by and doing this might just put your mother even more at ease with the idea that her daughter spends her days with an angel of death."

JenniAnn laughed.  "Points taken.  Thanks, I appreciate you doing that.  So I guess it's off to Nebraska?"

"Cornhusker State, here we come!"  Andrew cleared his throat.  "'There is no place like Nebraska, dear old Nebraska U.  Where the girls are the fairest, the boys are the squarest...'  Wait, is that a plus?  Is that actually what you all look for?  Squareness?"

His friend continued to laugh.  "I can't speak for 'you all' but... I'd have to say you, sir, are definitely not square so for me all... no."

Andrew blushed, smiling as he did. 

"And it's especially awesome that you're wearing Cornhusker colors: red and white!  And the fact that it's a red and white flannel shirt..."  JenniAnn sighed with appreciation as she finished packing their equipment in case they were late in returning.

The angel chuckled as he helped her.  "I'm glad you approve.  You'll be seeing me in red a lot this week actually.  You know how I was a cardiologist last week?"

JenniAnn nodded.  "Yep.  I did kinda wonder about the wisdom in that."

Andrew cocked his head.  "You don't think I'd be a good doctor?"

"Oh, no!  You're an awesome doctor, I'm sure.  But one wonders how many heart rates went up solely because of the charms of the patients' physician."

Andrew folded his arms over his chest.  "Now, Laja, you've gotten one blush out of me already.  You might just want to content yourself with it or else explain to your mom why I resemble a tomato."

With a sigh, she nodded.  "I spose.  If for no other reason than you have such a lovely complexion as is and I shouldn't be trying to alter it."


JenniAnn laughed.  "But it's such fun...  And I do mean every word," she added solemnly.

Andrew rewarded her earnestness with a smile.  "I know you do.  Thank you.  But back to what I was saying before you decided to go on a compliment blitz:  I've decided to Go Red for Women.  You know, promote awareness of good heart health by wearing red.  Guys can do that, can't they?"

"Aww, Andrew...  Of course they can.  You're very sweet."

"And you're all very important to me so this cause is, too."  Andrew smiled when JenniAnn hugged him... and lingered.  "Laja, your mom doesn't have any running water," he gently reminded. 

"Oh right!"  JenniAnn pulled away.  "So should I call Tess?  Or what about whatever it was you have to do at 2:00?  How long do you think we'll be?"

Andrew shook his head.  "It shouldn't take more than a few minutes.  Especially not with my helper."  He once again smiled at her.  "But first... I need my tool belt.  Do you want to wait here while I get it or go..."

"Go with!" JenniAnn scrambled into her coat and dashed to the hall.

Andrew chuckled as he and their pets followed her.  "Somehow, I'm not surprised."

As soon as they let the dogs outside then saw them contently settled back into Willowveil, Andrew and JenniAnn went after the storied tool belt and made their way to Nebraska.


JenniAnn stood in the doorway, watching Andrew work and occasionally handing him whatever he requested. 

"So what do you two have planned for the rest of the day?" Allison asked cheerily as she stood next to her daughter.

"Those Valentine's interviews.  Ya know, the ones I did two years ago and then Andrew did last year," her daughter responded.  "How about you?"  It suddenly occurred to her that maybe her mother would want to be included.  The prospect made her anxious but she didn't want to seem rude.  She caught Andrew's glance and knew he was thinking the same thing.  "Do you wanna be interviewed?"

Allison shook her head.  "Oh, no.  At least not this year, maybe next year if your father's in town.  I do love the idea, though.  You must learn so much about your friends."

"I know I did last year.  That's why I was grateful that JenniAnn asked me to be a part of the interviews again this year."  Andrew smiled at his friend. 

JenniAnn returned his smile before getting a distant look in her eyes.  "He did such an amazing job last year.  I did miss it, though."

Her mother hugged her.  "I know.  It meant so much to Sophia to have you here, though.  I know it did.  And I think having you around helped Eli, too."  Allison bowed her head for a moment as she recalled her aunt-in-law.  "Have either of you seen Eli lately?"

Andrew gave the faucet handle a spin and, to his relief, it did not continue to turn.  "I think it's fixed.  We'll turn on the water and check."

"Thanks, Andrew!"  Allison beamed at him.

"You're very welcome.  As for Eli, he stuck around a while after my..."  Andrew paused.  He knew that Allison had been bothered by her daughter's distress while he'd been homeless.  The visit was going so well and he hated to bring it up.  "My arm thing," he settled on.  "And Eli's been by a few times since.  Never for very long.  Actually..."  Andrew bowed his head then looked up at JenniAnn.  "He's the one I'm supposed to meet with at 2:00.  He has an assignment not far from here so he wanted to stop by the cemetery... but not alone.  I was going to ask you if you wanted to go.  Either of you."

Allison cast Andrew an appreciative look.  "Thank you.  But Robert and I intend to go when he gets back and I don't think...  I don't need to go twice."  She turned to her daughter then.  "Unless you want me to."

JenniAnn shook her head.  "No, it's okay.  I'll be fine with Andrew and Eli.  As always."  She blinked back tears but smiled at the angel of death who looked back at her with an encouraging, reassuring smile of his own.

Andrew looked up at Allison, assuring her, as well.  Then he tilted his head to the sink.  "I think you're good.  If you want to tell me where the water is, I'll go turn it on."

Allison hugged him.  "Thanks, Andrew!"  She proceeded to relay the location of the water meter to him.  Once he'd gone she turned to her daughter who was smiling dreamily as she picked up the tool belt he'd left on the floor.  "Do you remember that day the laundry room drain got clogged and your dad was at work and I told you that if you could manage it... marry a plumber or carpenter or someone handy?"

Blushing, JenniAnn nodded.

"I'm alright with this, too.  I can't promise I won't have my worries in the future but... while he's not husband material, he is handy.  One out of two ain't bad. "

Giggling, JenniAnn threw her arms around her mother.  "Thanks."

Before any more could be said, they heard Andrew holler from the basement.  Allison approached the sink and turned it on then off.  "It works!" she called through the vent.  "It all works," she repeated more quietly and with greater meaning as she smiled at her child.


After paying their respects to Sophia, JenniAnn and Andrew stood a few yards from the solitary figure who remained near the grave stone.
"Why do you think he wanted to come, Andrew?  I mean... he still sees her."  JenniAnn looked expectantly at Andrew but he was silent, watching Eli.  His only response for a few moments was to take her hand in his.  It occurred to her then that maybe *he* was the one who shouldn't have come. 
Finally, the angel answered.  "He wants to honor Sophia here, in the world where they met.  And maybe..."  Andrew bowed his head.  "Maybe he mourns aspects of their relationship that are lost.  It will get better in time.  But not so long ago, when an assignment got him down, he could call her.  Maybe even visit her.  Hug her.  Hold her hand." 
Blinking back tears, the woman stared at their interwoven, gloved fingers then back at Eli.  He had turned away from the grave and was headed towards them. 

"You okay?" JenniAnn checked. 

Eli nodded, brushing at the last of his tears before smiling at her.  "Oh, yeah.  Don't you worry about me.  I needed to clear my head.  Now I have."

"Tough assignment?" Andrew asked as they walked back to Eli's car.

His fellow angel nodded.  "Two actually.  I've been working with a couple who recently lost a son.  And I'm in the preliminary stages of another assignment involving a group of close friends.  One of them is considering a big change that's going to be a little hard for the others to accept."

JenniAnn looked curiously at Eli.  "That second one doesn't sound much like an AOD assignment.  Are you getting into caseworking, too?"

Eli shook his head.  "No.  It's definitely a job for an angel of death.  I hope I can pull it off.  It's not like any assignment I've ever had before."

JenniAnn hugged him.  "I'm sure you'll do great!  I have a lot of confidence in you, Eli."

"Thanks, kiddo.  I hope I don't disappoint you."

"I can't imagine you will."  JenniAnn beamed at him then looked at Andrew who had gotten strangely quiet.  "Don't you think he'll do great, Andrew?"

Andrew snapped back to attention.  "Sure!  Eli always does great work.  He's an excellent angel of death."

"Takes one to know one," Eli countered as they all three hopped into his car and rode away, leaving two bouquets of flowers and one hand-written note behind them.  A gust of wind picked up the latter and carried it away.


Seated at the gazebo table, Andrew obediently took another brownie when Tess slid the platter to him.  In the two and a half months since he'd been homeless, Tess had made a point of feeding him whenever she saw him.  Blushing, he recalled a brief assignment they had worked on together the previous month.  Tess had seen fit to carry a bag of Cheerios in her purse which she regularly offered to him.  It was slightly undignified to, at this age, be seen being fed from a woman's purse.

JenniAnn quietly giggled and feigned complete focus on her camera as Tess brushed a crumb off Andrew's cheek and then slid some windblown hair behind his ear.  Andrew glared at his co-interviewer but she merely shrugged and kept giggling.  It seemed only fair after her mother had seen fit to show him photos of herself at five after she'd ransacked and sampled Allison's make-up.

"There, now, Angel Boy.  You look as fine as Walter Cronkite ever did."  Tess stepped back and looked proudly at her friend.

"Way finer," JenniAnn murmured, smilingly impishly at Andrew whose face was beginning to match the pink tablecloth Tess had set out. 

"Uh, thanks, Tess.  And these brownies are really great."

"Definitely," JenniAnn agreed.  She sighed contentedly.  "I'm so glad it's so nice here.  Back in Nebraska there's still yucky snow on the ground but this... this is lovely."

"Thank you, baby.  I hope it will be lovelier still when my roses bloom."

"I'm sure it will."  Andrew looked around, admiring Tess' yard.

Tess began to tidy up the table, absently humming "The Rose" as she did. 

JenniAnn watched as Andrew smiled to himself.  She was sure he was recalling when Tess had sung it to him over 14 years before.  She and the other Dyelanders remained grateful that their bond had remained strong.  She turned on her camera, knowing that very moment and the emotions betrayed by the angels' faces illustrated exactly what she and Andrew had come to interview Tess about: love and music.

Satisfied with her grooming and tidying efforts, Tess reclaimed her seat across from Andrew.  JenniAnn situated the second camera then sat at a third side of the table. 

"You both ready?" Andrew checked.  Noting the two women nod, he began with the first question.  "So, Tess, what do you love most about music and can you describe how it makes you feel?"
Tess beamed as she responded, first glancing up at the gloriously blue sky.  "I think one of the things I love most about music is that it was created by God and it's so perfect in all the many different forms and genres it takes.  Somehow, in some moments, music and songs can be more expressive than simple words."

Andrew nodded.  "I know there've been times I've spent with you that your singing has meant a great deal to me."

"And I'm very glad of that, Angel Boy."  Tess squeezed his hand.  "I'm not really sure how that works exactly, but I bet we can chalk that up to the Father's genius.  When I listen to music, it makes me feel a lot of different ways, depending on what the music is and my own mood.  But I think that in all music, I always come away from listening to it, feeling stronger."

"That's great.  Music really can be empowering.  Thanks, Tess.  JenniAnn?"

JenniAnn jolted to attention.  She'd been so intent on the back and forth between them that she'd forgotten she, too, was asking questions.  She glanced down at her note card then back at Tess, trying to hide the mischief she felt.  "So... Tess, do you remember the first piece of music you ever heard?"

"Yes, I do, and it was quite lovely, I'll add.  But if you're asking who sang or played it or what it sounded like or even where I heard it at, then I'm afraid you're out of luck."  Tess shot JenniAnn a knowing look as Andrew chuckled.  "I will not be telling you that.  You'll just have to guess and that's all you're getting out of me on that question."
The young woman sighed dramatically.  "Rose will be so disappointed that I didn't get a single hint on your ages."

"She'll live," Andrew assured with another chuckle.  "Nice try, Laja."

Tess joined in his laughter.  "You babies... do you know the meaning of the word quixotic?"

"An impossible pursuit, from Cervantes' Don Quixote."  JenniAnn shrugged.  "Well, it was worth a shot wasn't it?"

"Persistence is an admirable trait.  I wouldn't discourage it but I can tell you this: however, long I've lived...  it's been enough time to learn how to keep secrets.  Don't be expecting any help from me on this, " Tess responded.

Andrew continued to laugh.  Seeing Tess be so stern with JenniAnn reminded him of the countless times Monica, or admittedly himself, had tried to needle information from her.  The questioner changed but Tess' determination to keep her own secrets never did!  Rousing from his musings, he realized the supervisor was looking expectantly at him while JenniAnn was giving him her "trying to pierce the mysteries of your angelic, male mind" stare.  He knew it was time to get back on task.  "Okay, now that we have Tess' non-help settled...  Speaking of help, has there been a time that you were especially helped by music, Tess?"
The elder angel thought for a brief moment before nodding.  "There have been many instances where I've been helped by music.  But there was one particular moment, many years ago, long before I was even working with you, Andrew, when I was a new caseworker myself."

JenniAnn straightened up in her seat and leaned in intently.

Tess noticed her human interviewer's change in demeanor.  "And, no, I am not going to tell you when that was, either.  And even if I did, you still wouldn't know how many years I spent in what roles before I was a caseworker so I suggest you let it rest, baby."

JenniAnn looked away sheepishly as Andrew laughed some more.

"Honestly...  it's downright obsessive is what it is."  Tess shook her head.  "Now...  I will tell you I was feeling very down about my current assignment.  She was a lonely young woman, living all alone.  She was in such a hurry for her 'life' to start that she wasn't enjoying her time as it was then."  Tess glanced at JenniAnn who was listening intently, all thought of ulterior motive banished.  She also smiled at Andrew who was looking at her compassionately.   Squeezing his hand, the supervisor continued.  " She just wasn't listening to anything I tried to tell her, I felt.  But I didn't give up.  I prayed and went back to see her that very night.  I was amazed to find that she had written a simple, but beautiful song on her guitar for me.  She really did get what I had been saying.  At some point, she'd finally understood.  But I couldn't see that until she sang and played that song for me.  Music was her way of expressing her thoughts and ideas and emotions.  It was easier for her than just trying to talk to someone.  That song helped me to realize that many more people felt the same way she did.  We can't connect with everybody in the same cookie-cutter way.  Everybody is different and everybody requires a different approach for you to reach them on a level they can really, truly understand."

"That's really awesome, Tess.  And I know you and Andrew are both very good about not being... cookie-cuttery.  So, well, obviously that girl used her music to help you realize you were meaningful to her.  But do you think now you can describe a time that you used music to show or tell someone how you felt about them?" JenniAnn inquired.
Tess patted both her interviewers' hands.  "I guess I would say that nearly every time I'm able to sing a song for all of you babies, I feel in my heart that I'm expressing to you how much I love you all.  Oh, I can definitely do blunt, and am not afraid to tell people what I feel or think."

Both Andrew and JenniAnn tried to hide knowing smiles.

Tess noticed but made no comment.  "But it's when I'm able to sing that I really feel my best about expressing myself.  It's like I'm taking what my heart is feeling and translating it into something understandable." 

"Having been on the receiving end of those songs for many, many years, I can tell you that we get the message, Tess.  And we're all very grateful for your love whether you say it, sing it, or show it."

Tess couldn't resist and walked around the table to give her Angel Boy a hug.  "And I'm very grateful for you."  She turned and offered JenniAnn a hug.  "And you, too, baby.  Even if you and some of the others have a strange obsession with dates you aren't ever gonna find."

"But they'll have fun trying... fruitlessly," Andrew teased. 

"As long as it makes you laugh and smile, it will never be fruitless," JenniAnn countered.

Tess' face broke into a wide grin as Andrew blushed.  "Now that's a result I can get behind.  So are we done, babies, or do you have more for ol' Tess?"

"Andrew came up with one more," JenniAnn responded then looked expectantly at her co-interviewer.

"Right.  The last thing we'd like to know is..."   Andrew glanced at the card JenniAnn was holding.  "If you met someone who was apathetic about music, what would you do to help them appreciate it and maybe even grow to love it as you do?"
Tess pondered his query for a moment.  "I think I'd try to get to know them and understand them first.  Sometimes it takes a certain song for it to really 'click' with some people.  But if they hear a song they can really understand or relate to, many times a new love of music is born from right there.  Now, not everyone will appreciate music on the same level.  But I think most people can find it in themselves to fall in love with at least one song out there.   There's a song for everybody."

"And I have no doubt you've helped many people find theirs, Tess.  Thanks for doing this."  Andrew stood up and hugged her again.

"Any time.  I'm looking forward to Sunday when we can all watch it together."

"I'm looking forward to not having to edit it all by myself," JenniAnn looked with joy at Andrew as he began to wind up cords and collapse the tripods.

"I think working together was a fine idea.  Most love is about how people feel about each other.  It makes sense to me to have two people who care about each other doing these rather than one person all by their lonesome," Tess opined.

Andrew looked up from the bag he was packing equipment into.  "You know, I hadn't thought about that but it's a great point."

"Definitely," JenniAnn readily agreed.  "And I think it'll be especially good when we're interviewing more than one person at a time.  Like next with Mick and Beth."  She began to help the angel of death pack up.

Andrew finished loading a bag then pulled out his pocket watch.  "It's almost 7:00 their time."

"We said we'd be there around 7:30." 

"Then you babies better get going.  I'll see you Sunday if not before then, alright?"  Tess hugged Andrew and JenniAnn and then watched as they walked towards the coast and stepped onto a small boat. 

As Andrew rowed, JenniAnn became worried that she'd left her case of batteries on the gazebo railing.  Opening the bag she quickly discovered them... and something else.  She burst into laughter.  "I think Tess meant this for you." 

Andrew watched as JenniAnn withdrew an item from the bag... a twist-tied sack of Cheerios.  Still stuffed from the brownies, he turned up his nose but smiled at the care and love the cereal represented.


Thinking he and JenniAnn might have dinner in L.A. so they could plan out their next day's interviews, Andrew drove the mini-van to Mick's apartment.  He smiled as JenniAnn bopped along to the chorus of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car"  as it played on the radio.

"Like the song?" Andrew asked with a grin.

JenniAnn blushed, realizing she'd been singing quite loudly.  "This song's so freaking depressing but whenever the chorus comes on..."  She smiled.

The music swelled again and Andrew joined in.  "'So remember when we were driving, driving in your car, the speed so fast I felt like I was drunk.  City lights lay out before us and your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder and I-I had a feeling that I belonged and I-I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone.'"

When the song ended, Andrew considered it.  "You're right.  The verses are sad.  But I can see why you like the chorus.  That's pretty much the best of what love is, isn't it?  Feeling like you belong and feeling like people will help you be who you're meant to be."

"I'd sure like to think that's what love is like for everyone.  But it does make me sad to think of how many people get disappointed like the girl in the song."  JenniAnn frowned.  "I mean...  It's not that I personally need to have a romantic relationship work out.  But I just feel better... safer when they do for other people.  The world seems a lil bit more stable.  But, like I said, it's not like I feel I need to experience that," she assured.

Andrew parked the car and turned to his friend.   "Laja, I understand.  And I feel the same way.  I don't like seeing couples break up... unless it was an abusive relationship, of course.  It does shake me up.  But, thankfully, some couples are very, very, very happy and don't end up as two ships passing in the night like the couple in the song," he counseled.  "So... let's go interview Mick and Beth, okay?"

JenniAnn calmed.  "Okay!" 

They each grabbed a camera case then entered Mick's building.  The doorman recognized them and waved them into the elevator.  JenniAnn smiled as Andrew swayed to the muzak until the doors opened and they stepped onto Mick's floor.  They knew immediately that something was very, very wrong. 

Bags were stacked in the hallway and Mick's door was flung open, a major and uncharacteristic security breach for the vampire.

Andrew pulled a gaping JenniAnn into the stairwell.  "Wait here.  But run if you hear anything... suspicious."

She opened to her mouth to protest but Andrew shook his head.

"No, Laja.  Please," he begged.  The angel of death untensed when she nodded and stayed put.

After a few moments of silence, JenniAnn heard a noise like something being dragged on the floor.  Panic welled up inside her as visions from that terrible week in November filled her mind.   She nearly burst into the hallway before remembering Andrew's plea.  And then, just as the worry nearly became unbearable, the door opened.

Andrew took one look at his terrified friend and hugged her.  "I'm sorry, I got back out as soon as I could but..."

JenniAnn stood on tip-toe and peeked over his shoulder.  Beth stood in the hallway, her mascara an absolute mess.  She'd clearly been crying.  Pulling away from Andrew, JenniAnn moved to stand near the other woman.

"What's wrong?!  Where's Mick?" she asked, frantic.

Beth stiffened.  "While Andrew is being a gentleman and loading up his van with my stuff, Mick is being a coward and hiding on the roof."

"Oh Beth... what happened?"

"We... we..."  Beth began to tear up again. 

Andrew squeezed her shoulder before grabbing some of her bags.  "I'll get these into the van then come right back."

Beth nodded, forcing a smile then turned back to JenniAnn once the angel disappeared into the elevator.  "It was all stupid but then we started fighting and... and then I realized... this is never going to work.  I was going to call you to tell you and Andrew not to come but I can't find my stupid cell phone and..."  The woman began to sob.

JenniAnn embraced her.  "Aww, Beth.  Lotsa couples have fights but it doesn't mean it's over or..."

Beth sniffled.  "Yeah, this time I think it does.  Could you... could you help me finish packing?  Andrew said he'd take me wherever I wanted to go."

"Sure," JenniAnn agreed, feeling dazed.  She and Andrew had come to interview the couple about keeping love alive even through adverse situations.  Instead they'd happened upon a tumultuous break-up scene.  However, she knew there'd be time to agonize over that later, for the time being Beth needed help. 

As the two women folded clothes, Andrew walked back into the apartment.  "I, uh, have the suitcases you'd stacked in the van.  Is anything else ready to go?"

Beth shook her head.  "Not yet."

"Anything I can pack?"

Beth wasn't too keen on Andrew folding up her clothes so only shook her head.  In truth, she hadn't even wanted him to know she was living there but that ship had sailed... and sunk in a spectacular fashion.

"I, umm, I think I'm going to go check on Mick... if that's okay."

Beth only shrugged in response.

JenniAnn nodded over Beth's head in agreement with Andrew's plan.

The angel of death made his way to the roof.  It didn't take long for him to spot Mick standing on the ledge.  If it was anyone else, he'd have worried about a potential suicide but he knew Mick regularly did this.   Further, any plunge would end only with Mick standing on the ground amid astounded passersby.

"Hey, Mick," Andrew greeted, moving beside him. 


"I thought you might like someone to talk to.  I want to help."

Mick shrugged.  "Unless you can rewind time, I'm not sure there's much you can do here."

"I can't rewind time.  But I can listen."

"I'm an idiot."

"No, you're not."

"Fine, then I'm a jerk."

Andrew sighed.  "You know, sometimes we all say and do things we don't mean.  But if we apologize..."

"If we apologize then maybe we pull back someone who would be better off without us," Mick interrupted bitterly.

"That is *not* what I was going to say and you know it."

"Which just proves you don't know much."  With that, Mick leapt into the air and onto a higher point of the building to get away from the angel.

"Maybe not.  But I know Beth loves you."

Startled, Mick turned around to see Andrew was behind him.  For the first time since the angel joined him, he smiled.  " Angel 1, Vampire 0.  I'm sorry.  I didn't mean that about not knowing much."

Andrew smiled, too.  "It's okay.  I know I'm not Josef but if you need to talk..."

Mick looked out at the night sky.  "It really was stupid.  Beth was working on her laptop  and I was watching TV.  Some lame, junk entertainment show.  Some actress was on... I don't even know her name.  But it looked like she'd been living in a tanning booth or something.  Shot a bunch of that junk into her face.  So I just made some smart a..."  Mick gulped.  "Smart aleck comment about how old she looked.  Next thing I know, Beth's gotten up from her chair and watching.  She says she thinks she looks great.  I start going on about the tanning issue and the Botox.  And then Beth goes off about how I don't have a clue what it's like to be a woman in a culture that worships youth.  So then I said I don't have a clue about poison, either, but I'm pretty sure it's not a good idea to shoot it into my face.  Then she shot back with 'Well, maybe she wouldn't have shot it into her face if she hadn't caught her boyfriend giving the eye to some cute, little waitress.'  Which I suppose I did last night but it wasn't like...  it wasn't like *that.*"

Andrew grimaced. 

"And then it just got really ugly.  She wanted to know what I thought was going to happen if I refused to turn her yet was apparently so turned off by older women.  But I... I wanted to say..."  Mick brushed at a tear rolling down his cheek.  "'But I'm not in love with *that* woman.'  But I don't know.  I can't promise Beth I'll be attracted to her in thirty years.  I want to be.  I think.  But I'm not even sure of that..."

Andrew looked at him in surprise.  "You don't want to be in love with Beth?"

"Maybe I don't want her to be in love with me.  Do you know she basically has no friends now outside of my friends and all of you?  The friends she had before me were all either friends of her ex or in the news business.  You can imagine a vampire boyfriend doesn't exactly mesh with cronies always out for the next big scoop.  So she drifted away from them.  And don't think she didn't remind me of that.  And all the other sacrifices... too many, Andrew."  Mick held his head in his hands for a moment then looked back at the stars.  "Maybe this stupid, stupid fight is a sign.  A sign that I need to let her go."

Andrew looked up to the heavens, as well.  "I can't imagine the Father sending a sign this painful."

"Then maybe I'm just a screw-up."


Once more the vampire leapt into the air, settling onto a pole with room only for himself.  He again buried his face in his hands, trying to block out the whole, horrible night. 


A strong hand rested on his shoulder.  With a sigh, Mick uncovered his eyes to see Andrew was literally hovering beside him.  "Oh, good lord."

"That's right," Andrew responded.  "He is good and He knows you need a friend tonight.  Now maybe I'm not it.  And if you want me to go then I will.  But promise me you'll call Josef or Logan or someone."

Mick nodded.  "Alright, I promise.  Please, just go back down there.  Take Beth wherever she wants to go, I don't want her to be driving as upset as she is."

"JenniAnn and I will get her safely wherever she wants to go, I promise."

Mick smiled through the tears forming in his eyes.  "Thanks."  He leapt back down to the main part of the roof, shaking his head when he turned around to find Andrew already there.

"You'll call someone?"

"As soon as I see the van leave, I'll give one of the old-timer's a call."  Mick reached out and shook the angel's hand.  "Thanks for taking care of Beth.  And for listening to me."

"You're welcome.  Take care, Mick.  You call if there's anything I can do."

Mick nodded then turned back to stare out at the darkening sky.  A moment later, he spun back around.  "Andrew?"

"Yeah?" the angel asked just before entering the stairwell.

"Be grateful you have the choices you do."

Andrew looked at the vampire, thrown by his last words.  He wanted to ask what he meant but Mick jumped back to the upper roof and turned his back.  Resigned, Andrew returned to the two women who were waiting by the front door with two more suitcases.  Beth began to cry again as she slid a ring of keys off her key chain and left them on the coffee table.  Andrew grabbed the two bags while JenniAnn carried a framed painting in each hand and Beth grabbed her purse, laptop, and what looked suspiciously like one of Mick's shirts.

"I'm ready," Beth murmured. 

Andrew and JenniAnn stepped into the hall first and watched as she closed the door behind them, leaning against it for a brief moment. 

Inside, Mick watched from his security camera monitor as the three loaded up the elevator.  As the doors closed, he glimpsed Beth turn to Andrew and begin to cry into his shoulder while JenniAnn looked on helplessly.  Flicking the monitor off, he reached for a bottle of whiskey.

"Hello, old friend," he muttered before lifting it to his lips.


At Beth's request, Andrew and JenniAnn brought her to the Fields of Gold where she took up temporary residence in one of the cabins.  It was obvious to them both that she was trying to avoid Mick showing up unexpectedly at her apartment.  Neither was convinced that ignoring their argument and hiding from Mick was much of a solution.  Nonetheless, they agreed and stayed a few minutes to help her get situated.  Their enthusiasm for dinner in L.A. had dimmed and been replaced by the desire to be somewhere warm and friendly: the Cafe.  When Beth turned down their invitation, the two parted from her and climbed back into the Jolly Green.

Andrew was a few minutes into the drive back to Dyeland City when JenniAnn at last spoke.

"Was Mick at all okay?"

"Mick was very confused."

"Do you think... do you think there's any chance they'll get back together?"

Andrew sighed.  He wasn't sure what to make of the entire situation.  Less than two months earlier he'd been so sure Mick and Beth would live a happy life together.  He'd caught a glimpse of it on Christmas Eve.  But he'd begun to accept the possibility that it had all been the Father's way of showing him what could be if only he'd trust himself and not pull away from his friends.  Free will still allowed for a lot of variance. 

Not waiting for him to answer, JenniAnn continued.  "Do you really think..."  She looked out the window.  "That the aging thing is really the main reason they broke up.  I mean it would be weird.  He's way older than her but in a matter of time...  And it's not simply about being attracted to the other person.  People gawk and it could be awkward and embarrassing..."

Andrew pulled the car over to the side of the road and turned to face his passenger who was looking at him intently, almost pleadingly.  When JenniAnn got worked up about other people's relationships, she reminded him eerily of Monica.  They both had some sort of starry-eyed, romantic sense; rooted in neither personal experience nor even sometimes reason.  Well he remembered how wrapped up Monica, though herself romantically impartial, was prone to get in other's romantic dreams.  He'd been alternately touched, irritated, and amused by the trait.  With JenniAnn, though, he didn't have the luxury of so limited an emotional response.  Often, as he suspected she was in that moment, her worries about others' romances reflected her own about what they shared.  She was afraid he'd one day feel awkward and embarrassed.  "No, Laja," he answered after some reflection.  "I think that set it off but I think they were arguing more about something a lot deeper than that.  At least, I think Mick was.  But probably Beth, too.  Love goes a long way against gawking and awkward moments," he emphasized.  "And maybe... maybe the cure will be found and that could put many of the issues driving them apart right now to rest."

JenniAnn bowed her head.  "It didn't come soon enough for Josef and Sarah.  How can we be sure it will for Mick and Beth?"

Andrew reached across the middle seat and squeezed her hand.  "We can't.  But we can hope and we can pray."

"Right."  JenniAnn nodded and smiled bravely at him.  After drawing in a deep breath, she looked back at him.  "So now what?"

"Well, I think maybe we should just relax for the night.  Right now... how about if we head back to Willowveil, spend some time with the dogs, and then head to the Cafe for dinner and... I hear it's 'Spin the Bottle' night."  Andrew glanced at her with an impish smile.

JenniAnn rolled her eyes.  "Seriously, someone really shoulda come up with a different name for that but... it is fun.  Lead on."

With a chuckle, Andrew got the van back on the road and headed to the Dyeland City.


"Well, now this just ain't right." 

Rose smiled across the circle at Owen who had dropped into the Cafe just in time to find many of the Dyelanders seated in a circle on the floor with a bottle in the center.  "Relax.  It's not what you think.  Adam, why don't you share the origins and rules of 'Spin the Bottle- Dyeland Style.'"

Adam took on his most professorial tune.  "'Spin the Bottle-Dyeland Style' was invented when our esteemed JenniAnn, then princess of Dyeland, dropped her empty bottle of root beer.  Instead of breaking, the bottle spun around and pointed to Andrew.  Teasing and prodding from a person no longer of the realm commenced."

The group rose up with a chorus of dramatic "boos."

"But then yours truly devised an entirely new version of 'Spin the Bottle.'  These are the rules.  Player One, determined by an initial spin of the bottle, spins the bottle again.  They then have to sing a duet with whomever the bottle opening points to.  The dueters then head to yonder juke box."  Adam indicated the brightly lit machine a few yards away.  "They hit the random button and then must sing whatever song comes up.  Although we later decided to give each duo two passes after Tess and Gloria got 'It's Raining Men' one time."

Some in the circle shuddered at the memory of Tess showily and humorously giving the song her all until Gloria went off on a physics-based monologue.  From that day forward no Dyelander could hear the song without also hearing the neophyte angel explain that if it were to rain men their rate of acceleration as they fell through the air would result only in a bunch of splattered men and dead pedestrians.

Once he sensed that his fellow players had recovered from the flashback, Adam stepped into the center of the circle and set the bottle down.  "So, let's see who starts!" he exclaimed as he gave the bottle a mighty spin and raced to reclaim his spot.  The group watched the bottle rotate then applauded as it stopped with the opening pointed towards Nigel.

"Oh dear, I am not quite sure I will be able to sing any song represented on that."  He looked nervously at the others then at the juke box. 

"Remember, you get two passes, Nigel.  I'm sure there are enough nice songs you've learned from spending time with me.  And I happen to know JenniAnn loaded a bunch of Celtic songs onto it.  Maybe you'll get an older one you'll know.  So just give it another spin," Yva encouraged.

Drawing in a deep breath, the guardian angel gave the bottle a spin and watched anxiously to see who his partner would be.  To his relief, it landed on Yva.

"Alright, Nigel.  Let's see what we get to sing."  Smiling at her guardian, Yva walked with him to the juke box.  He was intimidated by the variety of buttons and so she hit the random button for him.

"I do know this one!" the angel cried as a familiar tune filled the Cafe.  Moving to the stage with Yva, the two began to sing.

Andrew and JenniAnn entered just as the two were finishing the song.  They put their dinner orders in and then neared the group, focusing on the melodious voices and the elegiac lyrics.  JenniAnn gasped as Yva and Nigel began the final verse, singing "O love is handsome and love is fine, and love is charming when it is true.  As it grows older it groweth colder and fades away like the morning dew."

Andrew waved to his friends on stage and gave them an appreciative look before turning back to JenniAnn.  "I guess it's a good thing Beth didn't come with us."

"Uh, yeah.  Speaking of which... should we tell them?  It's not really our business but you know someone will ask how the interview went and we can't lie.  And, worse yet, Beth said she might come here for breakfast.  Do we really want her repeatedly being asked how Mick is?" the woman fretted.

"Let's just see if anyone brings them up, okay?  In the meantime, please try to have a good time.  Neither Beth nor Mick would want us wallowing over them the whole night.  Remember, it's not hopeless," the angel consoled.

Drawing in a deep breath, JenniAnn nodded and followed Andrew towards the circle.

"And here come our resident documentarians!" Owen called in greeting.

"Here we are.  I'm glad we got back in time to hear you two," Andrew smiled at Yva and Nigel who had reclaimed their seats.  "That was really beautiful."

JenniAnn nodded in agreement.  "Sad but definitely beautiful.  So how many rounds have you played?"

"Thanks.  That was the first song.  Are you two going to play or do you have another interview to head to?" Yva asked.

Andrew shook his head.  "We're done for the night but we haven't eaten dinner yet so we may have to skip our turns once or twice.  But I'll definitely play.  Laja?"

"Why not?"

The circle widened and they both took seats. 

"So how'd the interviews go?  Tess and then Mick and Beth, right?" Rose checked.

JenniAnn's face flushed.  Noticing, Andrew responded on their behalf.  "Tess' was really great.  I got some free Cheerios."  He smiled and shook his head.

Adam chuckled.  "Still trying to fatten you up, huh?"

Andrew shrugged.  "I guess!"

"How are Mick and Beth?" Willy asked.

JenniAnn looked to Andrew, again not trusting herself to speak without getting overly emotional.

Yva noticed the look pass between them.  "Uh oh.  What's wrong?"

Andrew cleared his throat.  "Well...  They had a fight earlier and, well, broke up."

"Beth's staying in one of the cabins in the Fields," JenniAnn added.  "Hopefully not for long..."

Rose frowned.  "That's awful.  Poor Beth, poor Mick."  She shook her head but then her face lit up.  "But maybe it's not for long.  Beth told me once that they broke up two years ago... for about five minutes.  For all we know, one or the other has already broken down and called the other."

JenniAnn was visibly cheered by that possibility.  "Maybe!"

Owen grabbed the glass of cider that was beside him.  "A toast.  To Mick and Beth."

The others raised their glasses to wish their friends well.  When the last glass was lowered, Adam called their attention back to the game.

They laughed as Owen's turn brought he and JenniAnn giggling their way through "I've Got You Babe."  When Adam's turn came, the mood immediately sobered when  he and Andrew ended up with "Lily's Eyes" from The Secret Garden and left half the group in tears.  Thankfully, Andrew's own turn found he and Willy singing and dancing along to "Stayin' Alive" as best as two men without high-pitched voices and leisure suits could.  Everyone awwed over Rose's and Adam's rendition of "Thank You for Music" which no one could resist singing along to.  When Yva's spin led to she and Willy covering the Pretender's "I'll Stand By You" every member of the group was moved by their touching delivery.  JenniAnn, having passed on singing both the nearly impossible "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the highly questionable "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights," ended up singing "I Will Follow Him" with Rose while trying not to look at Andrew who blushed nonetheless.  Willy ended the round on a bizarre high note when he and Owen got stuck with "Rock Lobster" as the rest of the group practically rolled on the floor.

Three rounds later, the group began to tire.  Andrew led a final song, "Dream Catch Me," which was sung by the whole group.  Then, one by one, they drifted off to their own homes.  Everyone except Andrew.  The angel of death dropped Lulu off with JenniAnn when he received word that he had an assignment.  With the laughter of his friends resounding in his mind, Andrew departed to face a difficult case.


Tuesday, February 9th, 2010


JenniAnn waited as patiently as she could manage beneath the willow tree in Andrew's yard.  In a little over an hour, they were due to interview Vincent, Catherine, Father, and Owen and the angel had called earlier to say he'd be back in plenty of time.  While his voice sounded breezy, the woman was convinced she'd heard a tremor in it as he said good bye.  Thus, JenniAnn had opted to wait for him beneath the tree so as not to waste a moment following his return.

It was a beautiful day, filled with evidence that Spring was just around the corner.  In a way, it seemed a shame to spend such a day in the Tunnels but after their last "interview" and its fall out...  Breakfast at the Cafe had made it abundantly clear that Mick and Beth had not spoken and the latter remained angry, hurt, and heartbroken.  Beth had put on a brave face and tried to be social but it was obviously straining.  By 8:00 she was off to work with promises to return that evening.  The manner in which she said it made it clear that, for her, returning to Mick's was not an option.  In light of that, spending time with Catherine and Vincent seemed almost therapeutic to JenniAnn.  As did spending time with her fellow interviewer.

Familiar footfalls beyond the hanging branches alerted the woman to Andrew's approach.  Soon he pushed them aside and entered the willow's enclave.  He smiled when he saw his friend then raised his eye brows when he noted her dress.  The print was entirely Gustav Klimt's "The Kiss."  He didn't think it was coincidence she'd opted to wear one of the world's great romantic paintings only hours after witnessing the fall out of Mick's and Beth's break-up.  It was protest in the form of fashion.  "Hi there, Laja.  You look very... festive and Symbolist." 

JenniAnn grinned.  "Thanks.  It did seem appropriate.  And you look very..."  She took in his white suit.  He would have looked like he was ready to take someone Home if not for the undone tie.  "Amazing," she settled on.

Andrew blushed and sat beside her, leaning against the tree's trunk.  "Thanks.  But I'm going to change before we leave.  I need some red, right?  And you look all alt-rock cool and I look..."

"You do look amazing!  Only change if you want!" JenniAnn cried.

The angel smiled fondly at her but then looked down to his hands as he twirled a small twig.  "Thanks... again.  But I think it's a good idea."

"It was a tough assignment, wasn't it?"

Andrew nodded.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No, thanks for asking, though." 

"Do you want to maybe rearrange some interviews if we can?  I mean the next topic with Catherine, Vincent, and Father..."

Andrew shook his head.  "Laja, I'm an angel of death.  The combination of love and grief isn't one I can avoid.  I'll be just fine," he encouraged.  His expression brightened.  "You know what I'd really like to do?"

JenniAnn hugged him.  "Hmm?"

"Go Below early.  Spend some time with the kids.  It's almost their lunch break, isn't it?"  He pulled out his pocket watch and turned it to her.

She took note of the time.  "Yep, nearly so.  And I think that's a great idea."

"Then I'll be right back."  Andrew stood up then turned back to JenniAnn.  "Hey, where are the dogs?"

"Sleeping.  They saw a squirrel this morning, chased it forever.  Then it just scurried up a tree and teased them unmercifully for about ten minutes."  JenniAnn giggled.  "Completely wiped em out!  I recorded it for you."

Andrew chuckled.  "'Love of the chase,' maybe?"


"Sounds like a plan to me.  I'll be right back." 

"Andrew?" JenniAnn called just before the willows fell behind him.


"I know that... whatever happened... you did what you could and that it meant so much to that person to have you there."

Andrew reached over to squeeze her hand.  "Thanks, Laja."  With a small, thoughtful smile; he left.


JenniAnn gazed across the children's chamber to see Andrew crouched beside a small table.  Despite her protestations, she was glad he'd changed.  He looked infinitely more comfortable in his jeans and red sweater.  Although she suspected his easy manner had more to do with the company he was keeping than his attire.  He was being served "tea" (otherwise known as apple juice) by Shelby as her little friend, Millie, dropped cubes of sugar into his cup.  The woman winced as he took a sip, not betraying even a slight indication of disgust at the super-sweet drink.  Even if she was wary of what he was sipping, she couldn't deny the adorableness of the scene.  Of course, it was rivaled by an earlier vision of Andrew stacking blocks with some of the other children.  Andrew reading them a story...  Andrew getting swarmed by children wanting hugs... 

"Earth to Psyche.  Come in, Psyche."

JenniAnn spun around to come face-to-face with her cousin.  Catherine was eying her with a knowing, bemused smile. 

"Gonna go play with Andu," Jacob lisped as he began to squirm on his mother's hip.

Catherine let him down and watched as he ran to the tea party and waited politely for his own cup.  Catherine and JenniAnn both looked on in relief as Andrew gave the little boy some juice sans sugar cubes.

"It is a very cute sight, I'll grant you that."

"He's wonderful with kids," JenniAnn cooed dreamily.

"Men who are good with kids do have a certain allure.  I should know.  I married their teacher." 

"And we were all very, very happy about that."  JenniAnn smiled then began to shuffle nervously.  "Catherine?"

The older woman noticed the change in her cousin.  "What is it, Psyche?"

"Do you ever...  I mean do you think Vincent ever hides stuff from you that maybe you should know?  Or maybe not know but you get the feeling some part of him wants to tell you something but... won't?"

Catherine laughed, a bit of an edge sneaking into it.  "I think you've pretty well described the first, oh, five years of our relationship."

"Well... how did you get him to open up?"

Catherine blushed, smiling to herself.

JenniAnn grew bright red.  "Right then... not applicable to Andrew!"

"I'd say not.  Sorry.  You think Andrew's hiding something?"

JenniAnn shrugged.  "Maybe I'm just paranoid.  But every so often I see this look or hear this tone in his voice...  I don't know how to describe it."

"Psyche, I know you and all his friends want to be there for him.  But you can't expect him to tell you everything.  You just can't.  He sees so much and he wants all of you to be happy... the two might not go together so he chooses the latter.  You need to accept that."

"I know, I know.  But I just don't think this is an assignment thing.  I mean I think there's that on occasion, even today he seemed down about one, but this... this is something else.  I casually mentioned it to Rose and Yva and they've noticed it, too.  It... it kinda reminds me of..." 

"There you are!"

The women turned to see Father entering the chamber.  "Psyche, I do apologize but I had hoped we could move our interview up.  I've just received word from a Helper who wants to meet with me at 1:30.  Regrettably, it is the only time that will work for him."

"Oh, sure, lemme just go grab Andrew.  I can't imagine that being a problem."

Catherine watched, curious, as JenniAnn went to speak to the angel.

"I hope I didn't interrupt anything."  Father looked apologetically at his daughter-in-law.

Catherine gave him a serene smile.  "She knows she can talk to me anytime.  We'll finish the discussion later.  Does Vincent know of the change?"

Father nodded.  "Yes, he's already waiting in your chamber."  The old man chuckled as he looked across the room.  Shelby and Millie were looking at JenniAnn with their lower lips pushed out while Jacob had a firm grip on Andrew's right leg.  "Perhaps we'll need to perform the interview here.  Andrew seems to be indisposed."

"And loving it!"  Catherine laughed as Andrew tousled Jacob's hair and chuckled at something JenniAnn said, no doubt a bribe to get the little ones to release him.  With mischievous smiles the little girls led Jacob to a stack of books and began to read to him.  The two adults drew nearer.  "And how did you manage that?" Catherine asked.

"We told them that later we'd take them to the tree house in Dyeland," JenniAnn explained.  "And..."  She beamed at Andrew.

"I'll have to play with dolls there," he added.

Father began to laugh again.  "They are very shrewd negotiators already.  One wonders what the future will bring!"

Still smiling, JenniAnn looked at Andrew.  She glimpsed it again.  That enigmatic look.  But before she could say anything, he was gathering up the camera equipment and following Father out.

Catherine patted her cousin on the shoulder.  "He's happy.  That's what matters most," she encouraged.

Nodding, but without feeling much conviction, JenniAnn followed the three into the hallway.


Vincent set down the journal he was reading when the four entered the chamber.  He smiled warmly at them, embracing the two Dyelanders before waving them to the small cluster of chairs he had arranged.

"A year has passed already.  It is hard to believe," he mused. 

"Quite a year!" Catherine remarked, taking a seat beside her husband once Father was seated.  She glanced over at the journal he'd been reading and at once recognized it as his mother's.  She lovingly stroked his face and smiled as his lips brushed her palm.

Catching a glimpse of the exchange, JenniAnn sighed to herself.  Andrew smiled, both for the couple and for their role in re-establishing a sense of romantic well being in their cousin.  Thus inspired, the interviewers soon had the cameras ready and took the two remaining chairs.

"Everyone good to go?" JenniAnn checked.  After receiving three eager nods, she glanced to Andrew.

"Great.  Okay, so to start, Laja and I were wondering why you chose the topic you did: love and grief.  Could you please tell us?" he asked.

The other two looked to Vincent who took the lead.  "I believe we chose it because those two emotions, perhaps more than any other, have enveloped us this year.  We felt also that far too often grief isn't addressed.  People struggle to speak of it.  They even hide it from the world.  Many of us try to be as Buddha's parents were: shielding our loved ones from all that is unpleasant.  But we must remember that goodness, beauty, compassion, and, yes, love... these things can come from grief and pain."

Andrew nodded in approval.  "Thank you.  That was an excellent answer and I couldn't agree more."

"Me neither.  And I can relate.  To what you said about it being a struggle to speak of at times.  So I guess then... how do you find the strength to?" JenniAnn questioned.

"For me, when I lost my father, I just knew that I had to speak to someone," Catherine began.  "And I trusted Vincent so much.  That trust, the feeling of safety he lent me gave me the strength I needed.  I think with my previous relationships..."  She paused, cringing. 

Vincent entwined his fingers with his wife's.

Drawing in a deep, calming breath; Catherine continued.  "It would have been difficult for me to let them see me vulnerable.  I think they might have taken advantage or downplayed my feelings... tried to rush me through my grief so they could have their smiling, polished girlfriend back.  But Vincent didn't do any of that... even when I know, at the time, it was disconcerting to him to have me here."

"And two decades later, Catherine was there for me when my mother died.  Just as she was when we lost friends here.  I only needed to see the love in her eyes to know... she would be there for me," Vincent explained.  He cast Catherine an adoring look then shifted his intense, loving gaze to Father.  "Of course, I have not known a loss without knowing Father's love at the same time.  I can remember when I was very small, a Helper I was especially attached to passed away.  I was distraught.  Father and Mary spent countless nights with me.  And they have not once failed me since when I have been in need."

"Thank you, Vincent," Father murmured before beginning his own answer.  "My son more than reciprocated.  When my Margaret died... no, even before that.  I was so lost after her father took her from me.  But not long after there was this tiny, beautiful miracle: a son.  And that little one's courage and determination to live...  His first smiles at me...  They gave me the courage to continue on.  I was loved still.  It was not something I forgot.  Vincent's love pulled me through that final loss of Margaret thirty odd years later.  And Vincent had become such a noble, strong, caring man.  I knew I could trust him to lead when my grief overwhelmed me."

Both Andrew and JenniAnn sat silently for a few moments, mulling over the words of the three and the depth of love they revealed.   Andrew eventually moved to the third question.

"You, all three of you, spoke so movingly about how love helped you through grief.  But how do you know when love may not be enough to get someone through?"

"As with all emotions, we must be mindful of the line between feelings we all experience and psychological conditions.  A person with clinical depression may be immensely loved.  However, medical treatment and/or counseling may still be necessary," Father stressed.

"It may happen, too, that a person could become so blinded... so distraught by love they've lost that love itself may become destructive.  It may feed an overwhelming grief," Vincent added.  He glanced back at Cora's journal.  Well he remember her confiding in him that she had contemplated suicide following his birth father's death.  It was an impulse he himself had felt before when Catherine's life hung in the balance.

Catherine nodded, sensing her husband's train of thought and again taking his hand in hers.  "And let's be honest: the culture may not help with that.  Sure we all love the language, the beauty of Romeo and Juliet but is that something people should aspire to?  Dying for love?  I'll admit in my younger days I bought into that.  And Vincent and I both had moments when we feared the other was lost.  A future without him did seem unbearable and I did..."  She brushed at a tear.  "Feel like I would die.  But now...  Now I just think of my father or Vincent's mother or Father."  She reached across Vincent to squeeze the elderly man's hand with her free one.  "If they had given up when the loves of their lives had died... where would we be?"

"They continued on, carrying the love they bore for their beloveds in their hearts.  The lived on for them.  That, to me, is love in the face of grief at its best," Vincent finished. 

Andrew felt JenniAnn shudder beside him.  He knew, even when his immortality had never been questioned, his time on the streets had brought her closer to the particular type of grief Vincent was speaking of than she'd ever come before.  While self-destruction hadn't entered the picture, Andrew had later learned how close she had been to it.  He wanted to say something to her to assure her... all of them, really... that nothing like that would ever, ever happen again but he knew he couldn't. 

"I agree so much," JenniAnn assented.  "But I just can't imagine having the strength...  Sometimes it's so hard just to see something bad happen to someone but to lose them entirely..."

Andrew looked pleadingly at Father, hoping he could settle on words that would encourage her.

Father smiled at JenniAnn.  "The strength comes.  It does.  Is it easy?  Never.  But you survive and one day... you find yourself smiling again.  Later on you may hear their favorite song and realize it doesn't bring you the suffocating, maddening pain it once did.  Instead, you laugh as you recall how poorly they sang it."  He wiped at his eyes even as he continued to smile.  "And if it's not a life lost that one grieves but, instead, a sense of well being... a loss of innocence in a manner... then one day you will find that the person you feared was broken is not.  They, too, will smile again.  And, perhaps, be even stronger knowing they overcame something difficult and were surrounded by loved ones as they did.  Believe me?"

Andrew sighed with relief, seeing JenniAnn relax and look more peaceful.

JenniAnn nodded solemnly at the patriarch.  "Thank you for another really great, thoughtful answer.  So I guess it's my turn for the next question which is this... and kinda related to what you just said: As hard as it is to grieve ourselves, sometimes it's harder even to see a loved one go through that.  What's the most loving way to help a person who you know is grieving?"

"I believe the response must be different for everyone.  For some, listening is the most loving thing you can do.  For others, it may be simply holding them until the sharpest grief passes," Vincent responded.  "I am sure Andrew can attest to the value of these things, having practiced them himself these many years with immense compassion."

Andrew smiled at Vincent.  "Thank you.  And I do agree about it being different for everyone."

"It is, of course, important to mind one's own well-being while doing that," Father added.  "Whether human or angel."

"Ever the physician," Andrew jested with fondness as he smiled at him.  "It's a great point and one I think a lot of people have to work at.  Catherine, anything to add?"

"I think Vincent and Father covered it.  Although maybe I should say that among those I know who have had to work at minding their own well-being... I've noticed some definite progress, much to the relief of many of the people the fellow knows."  She grinned at Andrew.

JenniAnn smiled, too.  "I'll second that!  And then defer to him for the final question."

Smiling and shaking his head at their gentle teasing, Andrew pressed on.  "Thank you, Laja.  The final question we wanted to ask the three of you is if you could share one thing with someone who is grieving right now, what would it be?"

"Even when a life ends, the love that we shared with that person never does.  It remains with us and with them.  It continues to bind us together, even if it grows more difficult to feel that connection: it is there."  Vincent glanced again at Cora's journal, an example of one way he still felt a strong connection to the woman who had given him life.

Catherine tenderly stroked his arm as she gave her own answer.  "I'd want to remind them that while no one can ever take that person's place, there are so many people in the world who need to be loved.  They shouldn't isolate themselves in their grief.  Reach out to others."

Father considered the question for a moment.  "I believe I would tell them to write to the person they've lost.  As a community we did that once when one of the children was taken from us and it gave us all much peace.  It reminded us, too, that she lived still." 

"Thank you.  That was really... this was a great interview."  Andrew stood up and, along with JenniAnn, hugged their three subjects.  Despite some initial wariness about the topic, it had went beautifully and they knew Father's, Vincent's, and Catherine's words would touch all who would later hear them.


Since the Wellses' early interview had left an even lengthier amount of time free before Owen's was scheduled to begin, JenniAnn asked permission to take the children to Dyeland that afternoon.  Knowing their wariness with the dreary winter of New York, Vincent agreed.  And so, not long after their lunch break, Andrew and JenniAnn took whichever of the children wanted to go back to Dyeland to play for an hour or so.  Hearing of their arrival, some of the Dyelanders had gathered in Dyeland City to spend time with them.

True to his word, Andrew was playing dolls with Shelby and Millie when JenniAnn and Rose climbed into the tree house.  They giggled at the sight of Andrew showing Millie the proper way to hold a baby when they needed to be burped while he counseled Shelby about which bonnet looked best with which dress.

"I wish babies stayed little longer," Millie pouted.  "I used to be able to hold Jacob but now he's too big.  And when I try he squirms away."

Shelby let out a sigh.  "Kids grow up so fast these days."

Andrew had to stifle a chuckle at the obvious parroting of an older Tunnel dweller.

"But everybody changes and grows.  Well, but not angels," Shelby continued.  "Angels are immoral.  Right?"

After ducking into a side room to let out a laugh, JenniAnn and Rose returned and drew nearer to hear the angel's response.

Andrew began to cough to cover his own laughter again.  He didn't want to embarrass Shelby.  "Actually, it's immortal.  But the two words are very close in how they sound so it's easy to get confused.  And you're absolutely right.  Angels are immortal."

"But after you went away at Thanksgiving..."  Millie stopped speaking after a rebuking look from Shelby.

Andrew hugged Millie and then Shelby when she began to look jealous.  "I did look a little older for a while.  Maybe I still do some.  See, we can change sometimes.  Like you know how sometimes when people get upset they might look older?" he explained.

The two little girls nodded.

"That can happen to angels."

"Oh.  Okay.  Wait..."  Shelby looked at Andrew suspiciously.


"So when I'm a grown up lady... I'll be older than you?" the little girl questioned.

JenniAnn and Rose looked at each other in concern.

Andrew's gaze shifted from the little girls' expectant faces to the apprehensive ones of his friends.  He shot them a smile which he extended to Millie and Shelby.  "Believe me, neither of you will ever actually be older than me.  And as for whether you'll look older... try not to worry about that, okay?  I'll still be your friend even when you're grown ladies.  Sound good?"

Millie nodded enthusiastically.

"Sure!" Shelby cried.  "Can you please button this?"  She held her doll out to Andrew.

Smiling at the way children could just calmly accept some things; Andrew took the doll, buttoned it's tiny coat, and handed it back to Shelby before doing the same for Millie's doll.  He looked back to Rose and JenniAnn, both visibly relieved at the way he'd handled Shelby's query, and waved them over.

"Now those are two adorable babies!" JenniAnn gushed as she approached and knelt by her students. 

"And they look like they've been so well taken care of!" Rose added.

Millie and Shelby looked proudly at their dolls.

"Andrew helped," Shelby informed them, beaming at her angelic friend.  "And he said when it's time for them to go to bed, he'd teach me the shepherd song."

"And me, too," Millie piped up.

"Andrew's a very good teacher so I'm sure you'll learn it very well."  JenniAnn looked over their heads at Andrew, enamored.

"So what are these little ones' names?" Rose asked.

Millie was making introductions when what sounded like a herd of animals came up the stairs.  In reality, it was only a handful of energetic Tunnel boys and girls.  Shelby's brother Asher was leading them.  He wrinkled his nose when he neared the group seated on the floor.

"Aww, geez, you two.  Making Andrew play with dolls!" he exclaimed.  "That's girl stuff.  Andrew, can you, please, come play football?  Evan already called Adam for his team and so we need a grown-up for ours to make it fair."

Shelby crossed her arms over her chest.  "Boys need to know how to take care of babies, too."

"Darn right!" Rose agreed.

Andrew noticed the disappointment on Asher's face.  He was enjoying spending time with Shelby and Millie but knew the boy deserved some of his time, as well.  They'd become good friends since Asher had joined him and the others on the trip to the Renaissance Faire.  After some thought, he answered.  "Yes, boys definitely do need to know how to care for babies.  Everyone should learn.  And, you know, I had a lot of fun."  He patted the two girls heads.  "Thank you very much for letting me play and, I promise, later I'll come Below to teach you the song.  But why don't we go outside for a while?  You don't have to play football... unless you want to.  You can just play out in the sun for a little while or, if you want to watch the game, I happen to know Psyche knows some really fun cheers."  Andrew smiled at his nonathletic friend.

"That I do!" JenniAnn agreed.  "So how about it, girls?"

Millie and Shelby readily agreed to go outside.

Once they'd gathered in the yard, JenniAnn sat down with Millie and Shelby to watch the game unfold.  They laughed when Lulu stole the ball and ran off with it, Fawn chasing her, and soon two football teams chasing them both.  In no time at all, Andrew had reclaimed the ball and distracted the dogs with a rope toy. 

For a time after the game commenced, Shelby sat with her teacher and friend but JenniAnn could tell she very much wanted to play.  The five-year-old ran up and down the sidelines as the game went on.  "Shelby, Andrew said you could play, ya know," JenniAnn reminded.

Shelby looked wistfully at the players.  "Evan says I'm too little to play.  And a girl."

"Look out there," JenniAnn waved to the football game.  "See, Rose is out there.  Jessie is out there.  Some of the other girls, too."  True, she was concerned about the slight, young girl playing but she knew the adults would keep her safe.

Andrew was nearest them and could tell something was going on.  He called a time-out and ran towards them.  "You girls, okay?"

JenniAnn set her hands on Shelby's shoulders.  "Millie and I are having a great time cheering but Shelby would really like to play."

"Great!  My team's actually short one.  Do you want to join?" Andrew looked expectantly at the girl.

Shelby nodded eagerly and took Andrew's offered hand.

"Millie, how about you?" Andrew checked.

She politely shook her head.  "I'll stay here, thanks.  I like cheering."

"Great.  We definitely appreciate being cheered for."  Andrew's smile traveled from her to JenniAnn.  He blushed slightly when he noticed she was pointedly spinning her ring around her finger, her coded message of affection.  He mouthed "thank you" and led Shelby into the game.

Once Shelby was on the field, the adults made sure they always had her surrounded, ready to scoop her up if a wild play came too near.  Touched by this, JenniAnn propped one of the cameras up and recorded the scene.

She'd no sooner turned the camera on then, through pure luck, the football landed near Shelby's feet.  The little girl looked at Andrew, panicked.  JenniAnn had to strain to hear their exchange.

"You kick it, Andrew!  I can't!"

Andrew crouched by the child.  "Just give it a try, sweetheart.  I know you can do it." 

Encouraged, Shelby smiled at the angel and kicked the ball as hard as she could.

Everyone on both teams and on the sidelines broke into applause as the ball sailed through the two bare trees doubling as goal posts.

Millie was enthusiastically screaming for her friend as JenniAnn clapped wildly, stunned and very happy for the little girl.  Shelby was grinning from ear to ear, proudly.  She looked happier still when Andrew knelt down and held her in a bear hug.  JenniAnn knew at once the shot was definitely going into the documentary. 


Owen got up from his desk when he heard foot steps nearing his chamber.  He cocked his head when JenniAnn entered.  "Well, I was expecting Psyche and Andrew but I guess I can tolerate being interviewed by the lovers from Klimt's 'The Kiss.'  I just hope their interview isn't too one-dimensional."

"Ha, ha, ha.  Very lame, Owen."  JenniAnn laughed and hugged her friend.  "Andrew will be here soon.  He's helping Millie and Shelby get their dolls to sleep."

Owen noted how pleased the prospect made his friend.  "He's a man of many talents.  I hear tell prior to that he was playing football."

"That he was.  And now he shall be here soon to co-interview you!"

"I figure it'll be a little bit like being on The Today Show... well, supposing Meredith was madly in love with a saintly Matt.  And, of course, Matt would conduct all interviews in flannel to keep Meredith happy."

JenniAnn laughed.  "Well, other looks are nice sometimes...  Like he has this grey and white sweater that I'm especially fond of... and the red one he's wearing today is quite nice... he's doing that Go Red for Women thing which is just plain sweet... ooh and his tan button-up... and..."  She was completely unaware of the fact that Andrew had entered the chamber and was standing behind her, counting the items off on his fingers.  "Oooh and this brown jacket he has and... his beige scarf and... what else?"

"Hmm... I don't know.  Andrew, what do you think she forgot?"  Owen burst into laughter as JenniAnn turned bright red.

Andrew grinned and set a hand on her shoulder.  "Well, I know she's also fond of my long coats, my beige sweater, my glasses, my green sweater, my fedora, and one of my button-down white shirts but I can never tell which one it is until she tells me.  And, finally, she hates my loafers." 

"I just don't understand putting tassels on shoes is all..."  JenniAnn answered meekly, embarrassed at being caught in the middle of her litany... again.  Andrew had developed a knack for coming upon her and lurking just when she was at her dopiest.  "But, of course, none of it compares to the person who wears the clothes."  She turned around and gave Andrew her most innocent, appreciative smile.

Andrew laughed and hugged her.  "Thank you.  But I think now we need to focus on our friend, Owen, here."

"Personally, I think I look stunning in these jeans and this sweater really makes my eyes pop," the man responded.

The angel chuckled.  "I meant your interview but, yes, that outfit definitely suits you.  Don't you think so, Laja?"

JenniAnn rolled her eyes.  "He's so modest but... yes, I agree."

"Thank you.  Now that we have that settled, I thought the table would be the best place.  It's the least dim area... although maybe the messiest."  Owen led them to his table which was covered in books and notes and art supplies. 

"Great idea.  It's very you, also."  JenniAnn surveyed the area with approval then helped Andrew set the cameras up.  With it being their third interview, they had become quite efficient at it and everything was situated within a couple minutes. 

"Owen, are you ready?" Andrew checked before turning the cameras on.

The young man nodded and waited patiently for his first question.  His earlier bravado was gone, he'd chosen a serious subject and trusted Andrew and JenniAnn to conduct a thoughtful interview.

"Owen, first we just wanted to say how glad we are to have you participating this year.  You've meant a lot to us both for several years now but... I can't thank you enough for all the support you gave us this past November.  So... thanks."  JenniAnn smiled at her friend and patted his hand as it lay on a stack of construction paper.

Owen shrugged and swallowed a lump in his throat.  "I care about all of you so it was an honor to be able to do something for you.  I haven't forgotten that without the two of you and others here... I wouldn't be here.  I'm actually not sure where I'd be.  You helped me trust again."

"It's really great to hear that, Owen.  Thank you.  Do you think maybe, as your first answer, you could tell the people who may not know what you mean?" Andrew asked.  He thought back to Owen's earliest days among them and felt both saddened and grateful.

"Sure.  It can be hard to talk about but I think it's important to."  Owen drew in a deep breath.  "To make a long story short, when I came out to my parents' they didn't explode like some parents do.  There was no screaming.  I actually thought they'd accepted it okay.  But then they started taking me to these... meetings.  We met lots of 'model' couples who had 'reformed their lives' and 'seen the beauty of love as God intended it.'  Then it was off to counselors who talked a lot about personal choice and how it was natural to rebel and act out and that, in time, I'd come to realize how happy I'd be with a nice girl.  After a few months of that, I'd had enough and ran away.  I needed to get away from that environment but I also wasn't prepared.  I had no idea how to support myself.  I crashed with a friend for a while but that got complicated.  I ended up on the streets.  Got in with a bad crowd, started using drugs.  One night I was having an especially bad trip.  Got in a fight... I definitely did not win.   My leg was broken, face beat to a pulp, and left there on the street.  I think I passed out.  The next thing I remember is being carried but not being able to see who was carrying me."

"Vincent," JenniAnn interjected.

"Yes, Vincent.  Although I didn't find that out for several days.  I remember the first people I actually saw were you two.  And I was struck by how caring you were to someone you didn't even know.  And it was pretty obvious I was an addict.  But you never seemed to be judging me.  No one I met here did.  Even when I told them the whole story.  And then I found out who... what you were..."  Owen mustered a smile for Andrew.  "I was nervous for your next visit.  I knew by then how word got around the Tunnels.  An angel of God and surely you must have heard I was gay.  When you came to my chamber for a visit, I braced myself for... I don't know what exactly.  Fire and brimstone maybe.  You must have known right away that I was worried.  Because you hugged me immediately and told me that God loved me and that I was His child."

Andrew nodded.  "Because it was and is true, Owen."

Owen swiped at some tears.  "Thanks.  So that was when I knew that I'd finally found a home where I could trust everyone to love me no matter what."

JenniAnn dabbed at her own face and, once she was sure Owen was ready, moved to the next question.  "I'm so glad you knew you could trust us.  But now for the flip side, how do you let people know they can trust you?"

"Sometimes I tell them my story.  So they know that I realize how hard it is to trust someone with something about yourself.  But how it can be the best, most freeing, most loving thing you can do.  And, actually, I try to mimic the look of compassion Andrew had on his face that day.  Because it definitely put me at ease."

"You've gotten pretty good at it!" JenniAnn complimented.

"Still don't beat the real thing, though, huh?"  Owen smiled devilishly as Andrew began to blush.

JenniAnn giggled.  "No, but you're pretty awesome, too."

"Alright, then..."  Andrew, sporting a bemused smile, cleared his throat and looked to his card.  "The next question is: do you think love can exist without trust?"

Owen nodded.  "Sure.  People fall in love with people without really knowing much about them, including whether or not they're trustworthy, all the time.  And, speaking from personal experience, sometimes you can't keep from loving someone even after they've broken your trust.  I still love my parents.  I can't see myself visiting them any time soon.  But I love them.  There's no trust there, though.  In an ideal relationship... yeah, I think there has to be trust."

"I think that's a really good, really realistic answer.  Thanks, Owen."  JenniAnn smiled kindly at her friend.  Even though it was difficult to hear him talk about parts of his life that were so painful, she knew he'd been determined to do it.  "Ready for the next question?"

"Can't wait to hear it!"

"Alright... so, sposing someone has lost your trust, how would they go about winning it back?  Or how would you try to regain trust if you felt you'd disappointed someone?"

Owen drew in a deep breath.  "Well, as it happens, I've been on that side of things, too.  I know that after I found out about Andrew... when my mind was still so muddled and I was so worried about what his reaction to me would be after word got out... I said some things to you that hurt you."

JenniAnn blushed.  "Well... this," she pointed from Andrew to herself, "throws people off."

Andrew tilted his head and nodded.  "I think the angel of death concept itself throws people," he offered, trying to deflect as much of the perception of oddness from JenniAnn as possible. 

"Maybe.  But regardless 'What the hell???  That's crazy!' wasn't the best response."  Owen blushed.  Looking back, he couldn't believe he'd been so crass.  "So, after that, I apologized and asked you to tell me a little bit about Andrew.  Bit by bit, you opened up.  I tried to never, ever say anything like that again.  And I'd expect the same from someone who hurt me."

"And you haven't.  Ever since then, I've found you very easy to talk to, Owen," JenniAnn assured.

"Me too.  You've been a great friend to us all."  Andrew again smiled at the young man.  "It seems like we just got here but now we're at the final question.  Wow."

"And I'm eager to hear it.  So how does this work, anyway?  Do you two brainstorm these together?"

JenniAnn nodded.  "We try to meet up before interviews.  Although we didn't end up with much time to plan yours.  So we're kinda winging it."

"Andrew would know about that, I guess."  Owen laughed as the woman rolled her eyes at another bad pun and Andrew chuckled.

"I just don't think wings would really become me.  I'll keep my feathers in my pillows, thank you very much."  The angel noticed that JenniAnn was staring intently at him.  "You're imagining them, aren't you?"

"Yeah...  And I think it's good you don't have em, too.  You might whack people in the face with one during football.  Or how would you give the kids piggy back rides?  Or how would you sit in a chair?"

Andrew chuckled.  "You're the theology student, you tell me."

"We didn't get around to covering that."

"Thank God.  I imagine the girl spent too much time daydreaming about you in class as is."  Owen posed with his head resting on his hand, looking into the air dreamily.  "Imagine if her instructors had gone on about angels!  'I heart Andrew' all over the margins!"

Andrew's face colored at the same time he erupted with laughter.  If looks could kill, he'd be taking Owen Home and JenniAnn would be a murderess. 

"Ahem.  I was an ideal and committed student.  Now... Andrew, please ask my former friend his last question."  She glared at Owen but couldn't quite keep the corners of her mouth from turning up.  If she'd been under oath she would have been forced to admit to her fair share of Andrew-themed day dreams and notebook scribbles.  That Owen joked so freely about it lent it all a sense of normalcy and he'd been among the first to give her that.

Andrew sobered fairly quickly and after only a moment settled on his final question.  "If you could go back in time and tell your younger self something about trust and love, what would you tell him?"

Owen, too, had reclaimed a more serious demeanor.  He smiled tenderly at his two friends.  "I would tell him that he would find both and that he would find home and family.  And that he would love them with every ounce of his being."

Andrew and JenniAnn knew they could say nothing to improve upon that so the interview ended with a final shot of the three friends pulled together in a bear hug.


After leaving Owen to his myriad projects, Andrew and JenniAnn returned to Willowveil to go through their footage from the past two days.  Andrew was reviewing the football game.  He had to smile at JenniAnn's recording of it.  She'd missed nearly all the big plays but captured several small, sweet moments between the players.  They both laughed when going over Tess' interview.  Without realizing it, they'd captured the precise moment she'd tucked the Cheerios into their bag.  They rewatched the Wellses' interview, touched anew by the tender love shared by them all. 

JenniAnn sighed as Vincent kissed his wife's hand.  "That's what romance should be like," she murmured.

Andrew noticed her eyes flooding with tears and put his arm around her shoulders.  "It is sometimes.  But all couples have their difficult moments.  Laja, you were so small when Vincent and Catherine first met.  I'm sure they shielded you from their struggles.  But look at them now.  You know, there's hope for Mick and Beth."

"How did you know I was thinking about them?"

"I guess because I've been thinking about them, too, since last night.  And... your dress.  It struck me as a form of protest."

"Wow, I'm that readable?"  JenniAnn shook her head, amazed. 

Andrew smiled.  "I think so.  Maybe don't ever try to play poker?"

JenniAnn laughed.  "Too many 'tells,' huh?  Thanks for that, I needed a laugh right then.  But... maybe we should go check on them, you think?  At least Beth.  She's alone in the Fields.  Mick promised you he was calling a friend, right?  I bet Josef's there."

"Probably."  Andrew stood up and retrieved the phone.  "Do you want to call her or should I?"

JenniAnn shrugged.

Andrew could tell she felt a little awkward about it so began to dial.  After a few moments, the woman picked up.  "Hey Beth, it's Andrew.  JenniAnn and I were just wondering how every thing's going.  I'm sorry we haven't called before now."  He chuckled.  "Yes, reporters definitely lead frenzied lives.  Thanks for understanding.  So are you still in Dye...  A grocery store?  Sure, we have one.  It's about twenty minutes away but we'd be happy to show you.  Alright.  See you soon." 

JenniAnn frowned.  "No reunion yet?"

Andrew shook his head.  "No but she seemed in good spirits.  She needs some groceries, though.  You up for a trip to Resplendia?"

"Grocery shopping with an angel of death!  Something about that sounds really fun!  I can't believe we've never gone grocery shopping together before!" JenniAnn gushed.

Andrew raised an eye brow.  "I don't know that I bring anything really special to the grocery shopping experience."

"You bring something special to every experience, trust me.  Besides, you've run out of Cheerios."  JenniAnn smirked then went to go grab her purse and coat as Andrew shook his head and followed her.


"Dyeland's Dyelicious Dyelectibles?" Beth mused as she stared at the grocery store sign.

"Afraid so.  You woulda thought we were a buncha five year olds naming some of these places!"  JenniAnn giggled then looked sternly at Andrew.  "You were the most grown-up!  Why didn't you say anything?!"

"Because the only alternate name I could think of was... the Grocery Store.  You know I'm not very creative with names!" Andrew cried.

Beth laughed as they entered the store.  "Well, I'm just glad it's here.  And it's really cute!  Like I'd imagine an old time grocery store!"  She dashed off to admire the store and its offerings.  Unfortunately, Beth's excitement soon died down.

Andrew and JenniAnn quickly concluded that for someone who had shared only a single meal with her boyfriend, Beth certainly had a lot of food-associated memories of Mick.  Nonetheless, she proceeded through the store bravely, tossing items into the cart Andrew was pushing.  In the produce aisle she smiled as she placed brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach in the basket.

"Mick told me that when I get on one of my health food kicks, he suddenly doesn't regret not being able to eat."  Beth laughed.  It lasted only a moment before reality set back in.  "Well, I guess he won't be finding this stuff in his fridge anymore."

"Have you spoken to him at all?" JenniAnn asked.


"Don't you want to?" the other woman pressed as gently as she could. 

"I think he should call first."  Beth turned away abruptly and intently examined some oranges.

"Is there anything at all we can do for you, Beth?" Andrew asked. 

Beth shot him a bright smile.  "Oh, Andrew, you're already doing so much just by letting me stay here.  This really is a great place and I can get to work easily and there's no smog... I even saw a deer this morning!  I can definitely see how a person would live here forever!"

"Dyeland's certainly a great place.  But if you do decide to go back to your apartment, you just let me know and I'd be happy to help you mo..."

"Oh, I gave the apartment up months ago when I thought Mick and I... well... it's gone.  I guess you could say I'm homeless!"  Beth's face reddened when JenniAnn's eyes darted to her in horror.

JenniAnn grabbed Andrew's hand, shaken by the sudden flood of memories.

"Sorry.  That was... that wasn't right," Beth mumbled.

Andrew set his free hand on Beth's shoulder.  "It's alright.  You can stay here as long as you want to, Beth."  He smiled encouragingly at her. 

JenniAnn calmed and released the angel's hand but continued to look at him admiringly.  He was never one to take offense where others might.  He was always eager to help those in need instead of wallowing in his own troubles.  It was one of the things she loved best about him.

Beth looked to JenniAnn, apologetic for having brought a traumatic event up so carelessly.  But it was clear to her that JenniAnn's mind was already more pleasantly occupied.  And she envied her.  Andrew was there with her.  Beth drew a ragged breath as it occurred to her Mick may never be with her again.  "I... I just want to go home," she murmured.  "Why does it have to be like this, Andrew?"  Her voice took on a more desperate edge and wavered.  "I... I don't want to lose him.  But I don't want him to just watch me grow old... watch me die... be left alone.  But I... I want him."

Andrew hugged the sobbing woman to him.  "I know, I know."

Beth noticed another shopper she didn't recognize looking at her with concern and curiosity.  She swiped at the tears running down her cheeks but they were quickly replaced by more.  "I'm such a mess.  I'm sorry, I..."

"Beth, it's okay.  We've all seen each other upset before.  But if you'd feel more comfortable, maybe you and Andrew could step outside?" JenniAnn suggested.  "I'll wait here."

"That's a great idea," Andrew agreed.  "How about it?"

Nodding silently, Beth let Andrew lead her out. 

Sighing, JenniAnn watched the two exit back into the starlit night.  Unsure what else to do, she picked up the list Beth had left and went in search of the items.  As she filled the cart, she thought about what Beth had said about not wanting Mick to watch her grow old, watch her die, and be left alone.  It wasn't unlike thoughts she had on occasion.  Just the day before, watching Eli and standing beside Andrew, she'd contemplated a similar fate.  However, she recognized there was a world of difference between worrying about leaving someone alone until their assignment ended and they returned Home versus leaving someone alone to live innumerable years on an Earth that bore increasingly little resemblance to the one they'd been born into.  Ideally, the cure would be found and Mick would never face that fate, nor Beth spend her last years agonizing over it and trying to prepare him for it.  The cure was the only guarantee of anything resembling a stable, minimally angst-filled life together.  And yet... how difficult would it be to know that because of you someone who otherwise wouldn't would face illness and infirmity? 

JenniAnn was grateful to be shaken out of her maudlin thoughts when Andrew and Beth reappeared.  Beth looked somewhat more calm, albeit very tired.  She declared the items in the cart sufficient and soon after they had her bags loaded into the van.  She turned down another invitation to dinner and, reluctantly, Andrew and JenniAnn left her in her cabin and returned to Dyeland City.


Wednesday, February 10th, 2010


Andrew looked in surprise at the clock reading 7:00 AM.  It wasn't often that he slept through a whole night.  However, the situation with Beth had emotionally drained him.  He knew she hadn't meant to upset him but her desperate questioning in between sobs had gotten to him.  Telling people of God's love was his chief and best loved duty.  But it was also his job to bring peace to his assignments and everyone he met.  So often, though, there simply were no good answers to the questions that plagued them:  Why did my child die?  Why did this happen to me?  Where was God when tragedy struck my loved one?  If God can do anything, why can't He fix this? 

Andrew remembered the pain in Beth's eyes as she'd muttered the last one.  What could he say?  He could have told her that Mick's wife had abused the gift of free will the Father had given her.  He could have even gently reminded her that Mick's state had brought many blessings even amidst the pain.  He'd saved her and others.  He'd used his nearly-limitless time to reunite families.  He'd lived long enough to meet her.  But the angel knew that wouldn't be much comfort to her at the time.  So he'd simply held her as she wept.  He'd also prayed that if the Father willed it, the couple would find each other again.  Having never been in a romantic relationship, Andrew had also never been party to a break-up.  But he had lost friends before.  He didn't know if he'd ever be on good terms with Eben again.  And while the state of his and Monica's friendship wasn't nearly as fractured, he still missed the days they'd worked together and been close.  Then there was that horrible period when he'd cut himself off from Dyeland, his own grief over that had been intense.  The previous Valentine's he'd temporarily believed JenniAnn had cut him out of her life forever.  Each incident had shaken him.  He'd been forced to consider the previously unfathomable possibility that he might never be as close to... nor even ever speak to... people who had once been so close to him.  He knew that Beth had to be considering the same possibility with Mick.  They'd shared so much and now even a phone call seemed impossible.

Lulu didn't leave her boy to his troubled musings for much longer.  Andrew chuckled as she began to nudge him with her nose. 

"Now what if I wanted to sleep, huh?  Did you think about that?" he asked, pulling the blankets more tightly around himself and closing his eyes again.

The dog answered by standing up and staring at him, not moving a muscle.

"I can feel you staring at me.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to sleep with someone staring at you?  You're lucky.  You live with someone who doesn't find watching someone sleep to be an enjoyable pastime."  Smiling, he at last got up and scratched the dog's ears.  "Alright.  Breakfast time."

Andrew ambled down the stairs and to the kitchen with Lulu at his heels.  He filled her water and food bowls then started a pot of coffee.  He'd just taken his first sip when he stared out the window and did a double-take. 

"Uh oh," he mumbled.

He set down his mug, ran upstairs, quickly got ready for the day, and headed outside with Lulu at his side before dashing off to meet Fawn who was staring up at a tree... and the woman in it.

Andrew crossed his arms over his chest and stared up, too, his eye brows arched.  "Would you care to explain what's going on?"

JenniAnn smiled beatifically at him.  "Oh... just enjoying this lovely morning."

"Uh huh...  And how did you come to be in the tree and your ladder lying here on the ground?"

She looked sheepish.  "I accidentally bumped it once I got up here and it fell down."

"Which still doesn't explain why you're in the..."  Andrew noticed a balled up bunch of twinkle lights next to her. 

"They're pink and red!" she explained with much enthusiasm.  "After we went our separate ways last night, I spent a good chunk of time switching bulbs around from pink and red strands from Christmas!"

"I thought you said you were tired and were going to sleep?" the angel asked with unmasked concern.

JenniAnn shrugged.  "Got a second wind.  Aww, now don't look all worried.  Hey, if you have time do you think you could cut me some big hearts out of that extra plywood in the shed?  I think it'd be fun to turn them into signs that looked like those candy conversation hearts!" JenniAnn chirped.

Andrew ran his hand through his hair.  Over night, she'd graduated from symbolic clothing and gone all-out Valentine's crazy.  It was obvious to him she was no longer merely upset over a slight to her romantic sensibilities.  This was bigger.  It was just another reminder that love in all its forms was fragile.  Now she'd gone into preservation mode and chosen twinkle lights and wooden hearts as her tools.  "Sure, I can do that," he agreed.  If it would make her feel better, he didn't see any harm in helping.  Besides, he knew she'd try it herself if he didn't and an insomniac with a saw was a scenario to be avoided.  "But first..."  He raised the ladder back up to her branch.  Instead of waiting for her to climb down, he proceeded up.  Knowing from personal experience that the branch was a particularly strong one, he took a seat beside her.  "You think maybe next time you get the urge to do this you could tell me?  What were you planning on doing if you got stuck and I hadn't seen you and no one knew you were here?"

"That is a particularly good Go Red for Women ensemble," she non-answered, admiring his jeans, red T-shirt, and leather jacket.

Andrew smiled but was undeterred.  "Thank you.  So..."  He waved his hand around to indicate the tree. 

"Cell phone's in my pocket.  I was gonna wait til 7:30 and then call you for help.  In the meantime... it's lovely.  Don't you think?"

Andrew peered out at the rising sun.  "Beautiful.  So... I'm thinking it's a good thing we're interviewing Yva and Sir Sven today."

"Me too."  JenniAnn looked out into the yard.  "They're happy," she uttered softly.

"Yes."  Andrew knew she was thinking not only of them but also of the same unhappy couple he'd considered earlier.

"I'm glad you could help Beth.  I... I tried to call Mick last night.  I know I shouldn't interfere but..."

Andrew looked at JenniAnn in surprise. 

"Don't worry.  He didn't answer.  Was probly out with Josef."

"Laja, I'm sure he'll call if he wants to see us.  Right now I think Mick needs to work some things out for himself.  You have to admit, it's not an easy situation."

"He loves her.  She loves him.  Seems pretty simple to me!"

"Laja, come on.  Be honest."

"Okay, fine.  He has mentioned to me before that he was so grateful us girls get along with Beth because since they got together her existing friendships have waned.  And I know he feels bad about that so probly he needs to work through that.  Yes, I realize there are legitimate concerns but I don't want to give them much credence be-because..." 

Andrew looked at her.  She'd done that thing where she used her hair to hide her face.  "Because what?" he prodded gently.

"What's to stop you from starting to think along those lines?"

"Laja, I have thought along those lines for most of the time I've known you.  It does bother me that there are entire parts of your life and the others' lives that you've had to keep apart from me... sometimes even letting them slip away.  And that I haven't been able to be as involved as a friend should be at times," the angel confessed.

"But it's not as if you just shrugged it off cause you had better things to do!  You just can't be around apart from here and the Tunnels, Andrew.  People would get suspicious.  That doesn't make you a lousy friend.  And it doesn't make Mick a lousy boyfriend.  It just is what it is," JenniAnn reasoned.

"But it wouldn't have to be," Andrew murmured as he unraveled the lights.

JenniAnn hugged him as best she could without losing balance, noting how troubled he looked.  She sighed.  "No.  But right now they don't have a cure.  If they never have it, then they've wasted the time they had to live a relatively normal life.  And if a cure is later found, they'll still have wasted this time being angry at each other."

Andrew nodded.  "Then we pray they realize that."  He looked up at the brightly hued sky and prayed, knowing JenniAnn was doing the same.  "Now you ready to go back down?  I'll help you string lights later.  But for now: breakfast."

"Agreed."  Feeling a bit more encouraged, JenniAnn climbed down after Andrew.  Once on solid ground, the dogs drew near.  After depositing them at Serendipity, the two headed to the Cafe.


After breakfast and some hurried Valentine's arts and crafts time, Andrew and JenniAnn hopped in a rowboat and sailed for Heavenly Playground.  In no time at all they'd reached the shore and quickly made their way to the Michaels' door.

Yva burst out laughing when she opened it to find herself facing two pastel hearts: one reading "You are loved" and the other reading "God loves you."   "Very nice messages, thank you.  But I would like to see my friends' faces."

Andrew and JenniAnn lowered the signs and smiled.  "Andrew made them!" JenniAnn gushed.

"But it was her idea and we both painted," the angel modestly deflected.

"They're adorable.  Come on in!" Yva waved them in.

"These two are for you and Sir Sven.  We have some for everyone and figured we'd bring yours now," JenniAnn explained. 

Andrew nodded as he stepped inside.  "We're having an impromptu Valentine's crafting party later.  Hopefully the others can pick theirs up then."

"Thanks!  I love them and I'm sure Sir Sven will, too.  He's waiting in the den.  With the bears, of course.  And I saw the email about the party, count me in!"

"Great!"  Andrew smiled as Yva led him and JenniAnn to the den. 

"Look what Andrew and JenniAnn brought us!"  Yva held the signs out to her husband. 

"Very nice, thank you.  You're both very committed to the holiday," he mused.

Andrew nodded as he set up a camera while JenniAnn managed the other.  "I'm all for any holiday that celebrates love.  Especially when it's celebrated like it is here."

"The interviews have been going well?" Yva asked.

"Very well.  I mean... except for that first night, of course..."  JenniAnn frowned for a moment then looked at Yva cheerily.  "But otherwise really, really great.  I can't wait to show this off.  When you see Vincent's, Catherine's, and Father's... you'll be very proud of your big brother."

"We're both really looking forward to Sunday."  Yva smiled at Sir Sven then back at Andrew and JenniAnn.

"And we've both been looking forward to this interview," Andrew responded.  "Unconditional love is a really great topic and I hope our questions do it justice."

"I've no doubt they will," Sir Sven assured.

"No time like the present to find out!  You both ready?" JenniAnn asked.

Upon receiving two nods, Andrew and JenniAnn turned the cameras on and took their seats.

The two peered briefly at the card they'd written out earlier that morning.  They realized they'd neglected to discuss who would ask which question. 

"Ladies first," Andrew concluded.

That was good enough reasoning for JenniAnn so she turned to Yva and Sir Sven.  "So you two chose unconditional love.  The first thing we'd like to know is... how would each of you define unconditional love?"

Sir Sven shrugged.  "I don’t know."

His wife laughed.  "He never knows!"

At that, Sir Sven adamantly shook his head while smiling.  "Hey, now wait a minute!  But, I do know what it is.  To me it’s to let the teddy bears stay in the bed even though they take up so much space."

Andrew chuckled while JenniAnn seemed puzzled by the idea that not everyone would want to sleep with a variety of plush animals.

"I think the question was in relation to us, Sweetie," Yva clarified.

"Well, you are the biggest teddy bear of them all and I let you sleep in the bed."

"You let me?"  Yva crossed her arms and mock-glared at her husband.

"Oooh..." JenniAnn whispered with a devilish glint in her eye.  "This could get interesting!" 

Andrew smirked.  After the Los Angeles debacle, this sort of playful "fighting" was a welcome counterpoint.

"But of course," Sir Sven pressed on.

"How very nice of you.  Anyway," she smiled at Andrew and JenniAnn, "to answer the question, to me unconditional love is accepting the other person for what they are and not trying to make them into something they are not.  Like I accept your interests and hobbies and you accept mine.  I mean; someone once asked me why I allow Sir Sven to pilot a plane, and I was taken aback by that.  I mean; it’s not about allowing him anything, it’s about accepting him. 

"I agree," Sir Sven said with a confident nod.

"Of course you do, Honey."

JenniAnn giggled.  "I like that!  Very appropriate pet name for ya to share given bears' affinity for honey."

Yva laughed.  "That hadn't occurred to me but that's a good point."

"Yeah, well, I think a lot about nicknames.  Speaking of which... that's your cue, loveliest of all Swan Boats."

Andrew had to struggle to swallow the ginger ale Yva had given him.  Recovered, he looked to his co-interviewer.  "Thank you for that."

"Any time!" JenniAnn vowed with a giggle.  "I thought about going really retro with 'my Skin Horse" but how did I ever think that made sense?  I mean the Skin Horse was all old and ragged looking.  Definitely not like you," she added in a sing-songy voice as the other two continued to laugh.

"But you loved him.  The character I mean, right?" Andrew asked, an odd pitch to his voice.

JenniAnn looked at him in alarm.  She noticed that Yva cast him a confused glance, too.  He seemed a little too worked up over a reference to a children's book.  Then again, it had dated back to a fairly tumultuous time and maybe he was just remembering all of that.  "Yes...  He's a great character.  Anyhow..."

Andrew cleared his throat and looked to his interview subjects.  "Yes, sorry we got off track."  He smiled breezily at both Yva and Sir Sven.  "Thanks for the definition.  My follow-up is how has that definition changed for you over the years?"

Yva pondered the question for a moment.  "I don’t think it has.  I mean; that’s the one thing that seems to have remained a constant with us.  It hasn’t changed, it’s just become more profound and special.  The fact is,  I have always loved Sir Sven regardless of what he says or does.  It’s especially trying though, whenever he starts behaving like one of Adam’s turkeys."

"Wait a minute!" the man protested and the two interviewers recommenced laughing fondly at the two.

"You already said that once before.  Besides, I’m just checking to make sure you’re still awake, dearest."

Sir Sven decided he accepted that explanation.  "Right, but, no, it hasn’t changed!"

"Very cool, thanks."  JenniAnn glanced down at the card in Andrew's hand.  She looked intently at the two as she asked the question she'd found especially intriguing.  " So how do you demonstrate unconditional love when you might not agree with what the person you love is doing or saying?"

"Well, he doesn’t throw a temper tantrum," Yva responded.

"No, I don’t, I just disagree with you."

"Actually, he’s very good when we disagree with one another," Yva complimented.  "I think that the fact that he is very quiet is sometimes disconcerting for me, but I love him and he is easy to talk to.  But, when we do disagree, I tend to get flustered and not know what to say or do.  Generally, I will ask him what he thinks and see if he has suggestions on how we can contend with the issue.  You know, I think we disagree with one another quite productively."

"Very much so," her husband agreed.

"That's really great.  Talking *is* very important," JenniAnn stressed.

Andrew squeezed her hand, sensing she was speaking to two people who weren't in the room.  "It is.  And I've learned it's important no matter what the nature of the relationship is... sometimes some people just need a little more time to reach that place where they can talk," he ended on an encouraging note.

"I think a lot of us in Dyeland have struggled with finding the patience to wait for those people.  But we've all learned it's worth it," Yva added.

"Yep.  It's one of the things that makes this place home," JenniAnn agreed.

"One of the many things.  It can be hard to pick one thing to zero in on.  But I guess that's what my next question is asking you to do, Yva and Sir Sven.  What's the greatest example of unconditional love that you've ever experienced?" Andrew asked.

"No idea," was Sir Sven's response.

"Man of few words!" Yva remarked with a smile before quieting to contemplate the question.  "Actually, I don’t think it boils down to one specific event, but instead on a bunch of little moments or experiences that showed us over time that what we have with one another is very special.  This year will mark our being married for fifteen years."  She paused as Andrew and JenniAnn clapped.  "Thanks.  I would say that instead of being happy about one big moment, we have all these little moments that have somehow compounded our joy and made it all worth it.

Sir Sven nodded.  "That makes sense, because the time with you has been wonderful."

"For me, too."  Yva took her husband's hand.  "Maybe this is another of those wonderful moments that I mentioned."

"Aww!" JenniAnn cooed.

"That's very sweet, thank you for sharing that great answer with us."  The angel looked appreciatively from one to the other.

"You're very welcome.  So are we down to the final question?" Yva checked.

JenniAnn nodded.  "Yep and..."  Her face clouded for a moment.  She and Andrew had drafted this particular set of questions days earlier and their final one had taken on a more urgent tone.  She drew in a deep breath and smiled with more confidence than she felt.  "Well, sometimes it can be very hard to stick with someone, no matter what happens.  What advice would you give to someone who, maybe unexpectedly, has found the unconditional love they thought they felt for someone... faltering?"

"I think unconditional love is only fully realized when it is shared," Sir Sven responded.  "Too many sacrifices made for another only seems like one is trying to prove something instead of letting whatever happen, happen."

Yva nodded.  "Yes, and sometimes people have to accept that when they are trying too hard, their expectations are too high.  Unconditional means without condition, and that implies that one must accept the other for who they are, flaws and drawbacks included.  Embracing the positive  and negative and not blindly assuming that all is sunshine and daisies."

"Sometimes people try too hard and that ends up destroying everything," her husband added.

"Absolutely.  Just recently someone asked me about something along those lines.  They wanted to know if they should pressure their significant other to get married.  I was rather confused about how to respond to that question because it does test every thought or idea about unconditional love.  I understand that people should accept and love one another without condition, but somehow this person’s inquiries compounded how lucky I am to have someone like Sir Sven in my life."

Andrew listened intently to Yva but also kept an eye on JenniAnn.  She seemed daunted.

Sir Sven nodded.  "She told me about this dialogue and it was pretty sad."

Yva sighed.  "It was.  I mean; this couple has been engaged for quite some time, but still haven’t gotten married.  The lady was sad about that, and she asked me what I would do if I was in her shoes.  I could not answer because I wasn’t in her shoes and Sir Sven wasn’t in her fiancé’s.  It was as though she wanted me to imagine Sir Sven not wanting to commit to me, or that he was dragging his feet about taking this step.  It was a very difficult question for me to answer because that was a case of someone’s unconditional love faltering and not mine or Sir Sven’s."

"So what did you end up telling her again?" Sir Sven asked.

"I said that if there exist questions about the relationship, then they have no business getting married," Yva answered.  "It sounds like a rather harsh stance, but I have seen too many people trying to get married thinking that the person will change once the vows are spoken.  They won’t change because they are who they are.  Each person has to accept the other without condition.  It seems to me that there’s no way the marriage could possibly work if they are saying ‘I’ll marry you if…’ or ‘when we get married…will happen’.  Nothing is going to change if there are all these underlying issues with it.  Having been married for more than a decade, I know that this is something that the couple must work at all the time.  It cannot stem from one person, it has to be accomplished as a partnership.  To me, it boils down to unconditional love and if that’s not present, then the divorce rates will continue to rise."

JenniAnn was at a loss for words for a moment.  Finally, she snuck a "thanks" out.

Yva looked questioningly at Andrew who only smiled reassuringly in response.

"That was a great, very complete answer.  And I hope your friend reaches the conclusion she should.  I think your listening to her was probably good for her, Yva," Andrew assured.  "Sometimes that's more important than having the right answers."

Yva beamed at him.  "Thanks, Andrewkins, I hope so.  You okay, there?" she checked with JenniAnn.

Smiling, the blonde woman nodded.  "Oh, yeah.  Just got to thinking is all.  I'm glad you could be there for your friend, I'm not sure I could."

"Sure you could!  I've seen you be there for many people, JenniAnn," Yva protested. 

"Maybe.  Anyhow, like Andrew said, great interview!  Thanks so much!  Now could you please show us your new bears?  There seem to be new additions but I can't quite place which ones," JenniAnn requested, surveying the room.

For the next several minutes, Yva introduced her guests to the new additions as Sir Sven added his own commentary about his house mates. 


JenniAnn was largely silent on the ride back to Dyeland City.  Andrew would have liked to have thought that it was merely her concentrating on rowing but he knew all too well that she was an expert at multi-tasking... sometimes to a degree that disconcerted him.  He knew she was troubled about Mick and Beth.  Yva's response, however true, hadn't been the balm she was hoping for.  But something more seemed to be at work. 

When they reached the shore, he helped her step off the boat then studied her.

"Laja, is there anything you want to talk about?" he asked.

"I dunno.  I mean... yes.  But I don't know how to say it."

"It's okay to ramble," Andrew assured. 

"It's just... listening to Yva...  I mean she made some really good points.  And Sir Sven, too.  And I guess I wished I'd asked...  But, I mean, I didn't want to put them on the spot..."  She began to pace.

"Can you ask me?"


Andrew sat down on the sand and waited patiently.

"So that lady who called was trying too hard, right?  To make her relationship work, I mean."

"It sounded like it."

"But how do you know what's too hard versus normal working at a relationship?  I mean apparently for a while things were very, very hard for Vincent and Catherine.  They had to work a lot."

Andrew nodded.  "Yes, they did.  But I think that was mostly working on their own issues or helping the other with things they themselves knew were hurting them.  It wasn't Catherine deciding Vincent read too much or him deciding he didn't like that she worked such long hours."

JenniAnn laughed.  "Oh... I can imagine the fury that woulda rained down on him had he tried to mess with her career!"

The angel smiled.  "And Catherine would have been rightly angry.  But Vincent loved her completely and her work will always be a part of who she is.  He loves that about her.  Maybe it posed some challenges for them but they worked through it and found solutions that worked for them.  That's good work."

"So then what's bad work?"

"I think that would be trying to change things about yourself that previously you never wanted to.  Like... remember that Halloween you decided not to celebrate because of how I felt about it?"

Looking embarrassed, JenniAnn nodded.  "That was bad, wasn't it?"

"It was a nice thought but... yes.  You love Halloween.  And I would never want you to give up something you loved for me.  So it was much better when, with our friends, we figured out a way to celebrate Halloween that kept us all happy.  That was good work.  Make sense?"

"Yes.  So... do you think what Mick and Beth go through is good work or bad work?"

Andrew sighed.  "Laja, I honestly don't know.  I think maybe that's what they need to decide now.  So we support them and we listen to them and we pray for them.  But, in the end, it's completely up to them to make it work... or not.  Okay?"

Nodding, JenniAnn knelt on the sand and hugged him.  When she pulled away, she still had a quizzical expression.

Andrew chuckled.  "What else?"

"Doesn't it ever seem odd..."  She cut herself off.

"Go on."

"Well, just that you basically spend a lot of time explaining humanity to me... a human.  Makes me think I'm not a very good human."

"No, no.  That's not true, Laja.  I've had a lot of years spending time with humans.  True, I've never been one.  But so many years among all of you has taught me a lot and I don't think it's at all odd that you're less sure of some things at a mere 27."

Consoled, JenniAnn grinned.  "Yeah, I spose you do have a lot of years on me.  Although just how many..."  She sighed dramatically.  "I wish I knew.  It'd be a wonderful Valentine's present."

Andrew looked around, peering intently at trees and other places people might be hiding.  Finally, he waved JenniAnn nearer, cupped his hand to her ear, and whispered...

JenniAnn pulled away and shook her head at him, still grinning.  "Thanks, I'm enjoying working with you on the interviews, too.  But that was a bratty tease!"

Andrew only shrugged and chuckled as he picked their bags up and headed inland.


Since Vincent had covered JenniAnn's classes that morning, she'd volunteered to take whichever of the children were interested for another afternoon in Dyeland.  From that and her morning escapades at the tree, Andrew had dreamed up the Valentine's crafting party.  The idea had become even more tempting as the day warmed, allowing for the group to set up their stations outside.

JenniAnn and Rose were setting out supplies for a valentine-creation area when Yva approached.

"Everything set up at the chocolate-making area?" JenniAnn inquired.

Yva nodded excitedly.  "Papa has all the melted chocolate ready and he brought the sweetest Valentine's themed molds.  Even a little bear holding a heart.  Although... now I can't imagine eating that."

Rose laughed.  "Maybe you can keep that and make a heart or rose to enjoy."

"Good idea.  So where's Andrew?"

"His place," JenniAnn answered.  "He's finishing up cutting out those big hearts.  He didn't think it'd be good to let the children see him using the jigsaw to cut them out so didn't wanna bring it out.  It is pretty nifty and I could see some of them wanting to try."

"Good thinking on his part.  So how are you liking working with him on the interview instead of going out on your own?" Rose asked.

"It's much, much better.  Of course, I don't need much reason to want to spend time with Andrew!  But it's nice to be able to talk to someone about the thoughts that come up."  JenniAnn smiled over at Serendipity, wondering how much longer it'd be before its keeper emerged.

"About that... were you upset about something I said during mine and Sir Sven's?" Yva asked.

JenniAnn bit her lip.  "Not upset by means of disagreeing or feeling slighted for some odd reason or anything like that.  Just... I guess it's starting to dawn on me that maybe Mick and Beth are one of those couples for whom it's just too much work.  And I guess... well, I've told you before how Mick was the one who helped me make things right with Andrew again after the whole misguided situation with Eliot had me practically hiding from him.  So..."

"So you wanted to return the favor?" Rose guessed.


"I think you're doing the right thing by supporting Beth and letting Mick know you want to do the same for him.  But you can't fix their problems any more than I could fix my friend's," Yva reasoned.

"True.  Sometimes I just feel so... out there."

"Because you are," Rose teased.

JenniAnn laughed.  "I know.  But I mean like with the whole relationship thing.  Beth stopped by for lunch and was telling me all this stuff and I really, really wanted to offer her some sort of advice but what was I going to say?  The things she's worried about with Mick are so completely different than any concern I've ever had about Andrew."

"Maybe she just wanted someone to listen as she talked things out for herself?" Yva offered.

"I hope so.  Cause that's about all I did.  Anyhow, so that was why I reacted as I did.  I hope I didn't concern either of you.  I just got lost in my own jumbled thoughts!"

Yva smiled.  "Good, I'm relieved and I'm sure Sir Sven will be, too.  And are you still lost?"

"Andrew helped a bit."

"What did I help with?" the angel asked as he approached and set the wooden hearts on the table.

"Explaining the mysteries of humanity to me."

"Oh right.  And yet you still haven't answered any of my questions about my wings."

"Your what?!" Rose exclaimed.

Andrew laughed.  "Owen had her imagining me with wings and it brought up some questions such as how I would sit in a chair."

"Uncomfortably?" Yva guessed.

"Probably.  Ouch."  Andrew rubbed at his shoulders. 

"Now come on, buddy, you can't tell me you couldn't manage to carry plywood without straining a muscle," Adam teased as he drew nearer.

"I'll have you know I carried those hearts just fine.  I was rubbing my shoulder as I contemplated what it would be like to have wings," Andrew explained.

Adam's face contorted in disgust.  "And have holes in the backs of my suits and sweaters?"

"No wounding of the beige sweaters!" JenniAnn cried.

"Let's ask him what it would be like," Yva suggested as she held up a craft foam Cupid and laughed.  "Maybe that's why he only wears a loin cloth or diaper or whatever that is."

"Ya know, I just can't figure that out.  In the myths, Cupid was, well..."  JenniAnn glanced up at Andrew.  "Well, in my storybook he looked a lot like Andrew.  So how did he get morphed into a baby?"

"Babies can sell more cards and boxes of chocolate than Andrew can?" Adam hypothesized.

"That could be it.  I mean imagine being a guy looking for a valentine for his girlfriend.  Would you really want to give her one with an image of Andrew on it?  I just think that would be a lot to live up to."  Rose grinned when she saw her remark had the desired effect.  Andrew was beginning to match the hue of the heart Cupid was holding.

Yva laughed.  "Andrew, I know you committed to this whole 'Go Red for Women' thing... and that red T-shirt with your leather jacket looks very nice on you, by the way... but no one really expects you to literally go red."

"I think Rose did," Andrew corrected.

Rose smirked.  "Totally."

"The kids are gonna think I'm sunburned."

"Aw, Andrew, believe me... they've seen you blush plenty of times.  They'll know," JenniAnn assured, giggling.

Andrew chuckled.  "You girls have the strangest games."

Rose nodded.  "We're easily amused."

"And I hope we're all ready because... the willow tree is hopping."  Adam pointed to the tree portal where the Tunnel kids, led by Owen and Mary, were congregating.  He waved them over.

Soon the area surrounding Willowveil and Serendipity was brimming with excited voices as the children dashed from station to station.  Willy and Yva helped them make candy, giving them samples and helping them to box some up to share with everyone back in the Tunnels.  JenniAnn and Rose were not surprised but still touched when the children assembled valentines, ensuring that they had enough for every member of their community.  Andrew and Owen helped the children paint the large, wooden hearts.  Nigel came upon the scene a bit later and quickly set about to instruct the children on how to make sachets, something he had learned back in his own time.  Adam and Mary helped the children frost and decorate the heart-shaped cookies William had sent along with them.  It was nearing 3:00 when Henry, at last finishing an assignment that had kept him away for days, arrived.  His appearance made a performance by the AOD Band absolutely necessary.

Thus their Valentine's Craft Party ended with a gleeful crowd singing and dancing around to "Make New Friends."


After seeing all of the children back to the Tunnels, Andrew and JenniAnn hopped into the van and drove to the Fields of Gold to check on Beth.  While she still seemed blue, her outlook appeared to have improved.  She happened to be working intently on a case for work, however, and they both hoped she wasn't merely hiding behind her job to escape her emotions.  Not wanting to keep her from her work, they left soon after and from the coast of the Glen, sailed for Pure Imagination.

The sun was setting and they admired its reflection on the water as they rowed. 

"Ya know, we should all do this more often.  It's pretty relaxing," JenniAnn commented, inhaling the fresh air.

"We should.  That's another thing I like about these interviews.  Sometimes we just don't get around to each other's places very often the way we tend to meet at the Cafe."

"Yeah.  And I must say... the journeying has been much more fun with you.  Plus... I haven't had to worry that my poor directional abilities will get me in trouble."  JenniAnn laughed, recalling all the times she'd wandered off course in Dyeland.  "Does it worry you that it's only gonna get worse the older I get?  Ol' Laja wandering around oh, I dunno, Skellig and there you'll be running after me... handsome as ever."  She giggled and looked away from the sea and to Andrew.  To her surprise, he didn't look at all amused.  It was that darn confusing look again!  She cursed herself for making light of something that clearly upset him.  "I... I'll be less reckless when I'm older.  I promise, Andrew." 

Andrew heard the tremble in her voice and snapped back to attention.  "I know you will, Laja.  Everything will be just fine."  He smiled to assure her.

JenniAnn was anything but assured.  However, the boat had come ashore and they had an interview to focus on.


The breeze had chilled a few degrees and so Willy immediately saw to it that his guests had hot chocolate upon arriving at his office.  The enticing scent spurred them on to set up the camera equipment and take their seats.

"Thanks for the hot chocolate, Willy!"  JenniAnn took a sip and gave the chocolatier a thumbs up.  "It really hits the spot." 

"Yes, thank you," Andrew added.  "And thanks for taking time out earlier to help the children and now to let us interview you.  I'm sure you're busy with last minute Valentine's orders."

Willy smirked.  "The procrastinators are some of our most loyal customers.  Yva has warned me about overtaxing myself, however.  I wouldn't want to worry her so taking some time out today was a good idea.  Plus, I've been looking forward to hearing and answering your questions."

"Well, then let's not delay any further."  JenniAnn handed Andrew their note card then turned on the cameras.

The angel glanced at it and smiled at their host.  "Willy, you asked to be interviewed about love as expressed by a surrogate parent, as you are to Yva.  Great topic.  First, JenniAnn and I would like to know if you ever run into difficulties explaining the surrogate parent role to other people?"

Willy grimaced.  "This may sound like a simple enough inquiry to you, but being someone in my current situation - that is a magnet to the press because of my work – this is very difficult for me to address.  At first I tried to speak to Charlie about this and he had the typical questions about it.  To try and explain it to people outside of the factory, people who have no connection to Dyeland, I have discovered that explaining it has been monumentally difficult.  Let’s face it; when I try to tell people that I have a daughter, they immediately assume a scandal."

JenniAnn nodded knowingly.  "Of course, they do..." she muttered.  She'd lost count of all the unseemly assumptions people made about the Dyelanders and those close to them.

"I'm afraid so.  They want to know about who she is, and the relationship I have with her mother.  In truth, I have never met Yva’s mother.  Yet, you can see where that could become very complicated very quickly.  So, after discussing the possible ramifications with Yva, we both decided to keep my connection to her inside the realm of Dyeland.  She does not need or wish for the publicity and I would rather spare her from having to contend with the fickle press.  Let me just say that this was not decided because of shame, I feel no shame whatsoever about our bond.  I do, however, feel that because of the security of Dyeland and the Tunnels, that secrecy with this matter is of the utmost importance."

"I don't think anyone here would ever assume you felt shame about Yva, Willy.  We understand and really appreciate your efforts to keep us safe," Andrew assured him. 

"Definitely.  The alternative would be... very scary," JenniAnn concurred. 

"Indeed."  Willy smiled, pleased that his answer had been understood.

"So, moving onto the next question...  This is something I've wondered about for a while.  I assume in many cases the surrogate parent and child have known each other previously.  How do you transition into a parent/child role or does it just happen naturally over time?" the woman asked before giving Willy her full attention.

"I think that it’s a natural feeling.  Since Yva is a happily married adult, that makes it easier for both of us to relate to one another.  Naturally, I do want to protect those I am close to from the tempests of the world, but I also realize that in relation to Yva, she doesn’t need me to explain the facts of life for her because she knows them to some extent.  Of course, I have always made myself available to her if ever she needs me.  There is really no room for me to tell her what to do or how to do things because she is an intelligent enough person and can handle things better than some might assume."  Willy paused to smile proudly at the photograph of Yva on his desk.   "I suppose in some ways, we have simply slipped into the notion of trust and understanding without it taking its toll on either of us.  I have entrusted many of my secrets with her, and she has confided the sad and painful parts of her life with me.  We both love each other, and she has told me many times that she is very happy knowing that I am there for her and that she can speak openly with me about her feelings.  Of course, I do the same with her, it’s not just my taking the role of a father figure, but of us both being able to find something that we were denied in our own lives."

"That's really wonderful, Willy.  Thank you for such a complete and deeply felt answer."  Andrew smiled fondly at the man before moving on.  "Would you say there are many differences between being a surrogate parent and a birth parent or an adoptive parent from birth?"

"Definitely."  Willy nodded emphatically.  "We see that depicted in Vincent and Catherine with little Jacob."

JenniAnn smiled warmly at the mention of her godson and cousins.

"The concern and caring that those parents emanate towards their young child is an intricate part of the child’s growth.  This brand of caring is rather different than what is happening between Yva and myself.  The reason is because Yva’s already grown and her personality has already been developed and defined to what it is.  While adult children need nurturing, it is vastly different than that of a young child.  As I said in the second question, I do not need to tell Yva what to do, as she is an adult and already knows.  However, Jacob requires the guidance of his parents so that he can learn and grow as a child should.  Through the example of loving parenting, Jacob will learn the things he needs to know to lead a productive and happy life.  That is where the differences lie."

"I know my cousins will be very touched to hear what you've said, Willy," JenniAnn affirmed. 

Andrew nodded.  "It'll be really great to have everyone gathered together to watch."

"I am looking forward to it.  But I imagine first the two of you have much work to complete."  Willy looked from one to the other.

"That we do," Andrew assented.  "Starting with finishing this interview, even though we'll be sorry to have it end.  This has been really great."  He smiled at the man and at Willy's nod, moved to the next question.  "As follow up to what I just asked: what are the similarities?"

"I think that love is the one basis of comparison between all of them," Willy began.  "Yva came to me because she needed the love of someone who could be a father figure and I latched myself on to her because I have always wanted to have a daughter.  I suppose the link between all of these, whether surrogate parents, adopted parents, or birth parents is the love that emanates."

"Well spoken!" JenniAnn commended.  "I can't believe we're already at our final questions which is... what would you say is the hardest part of being a surrogate parent and what's the best part, Willy?"

Willy took some time to contemplate his final answers which gave his interviewers time to enjoy their neglected cocoas.  He smiled at the obvious appreciation on their faces before making his answer.  "The hardest part of being a surrogate parent is finding the balance between caring and control.  What I am trying to say is that the act of trying to correlate my feelings to that of Yva’s is sometimes difficult.  Perhaps because we are both strong personalities.   We both have things that are important to us and because of our age differences, sometimes we see a gap between them.  Does that make sense?"

JenniAnn nodded.  "I think so.  I think power issues can come into play with lotsa relationships so it doesn't surprise me that they do with surrogate family members.  Although I guess I'm not quite clear on what the unique concerns with that may be."

"Maybe there’s a better way to express it.  When I tell someone my opinion, it is merely my perspective and is not being conveyed as a way of controlling or dominating them, but simply sharing.  So, when I talk to my daughter, I have to be mindful of the fact that she has been through control dramas throughout much of her life, and that is the last thing in the world that she needs from me.  At the same time, I don’t want to come across as disinterested or uncaring.  The balance is the hardest," Willy clarified.

"Got it.  That makes sense to me," JenniAnn answered before looking to Andrew who nodded in agreement.  "Cool.  So now the best part?"

Willy's whole face lit up as he began to speak again.  "The best is simply having someone to come over to me and call me ‘Papa’ and put their arms around me and tell me that they love me.  I have, during the past few months realized that that has been the greatest feeling in the world for me.  So, that is for me, the best."

Andrew beamed at the man.  "And I can't wait for Yva to watch this part.  Thank you, Willy.  You did a wonderful job."

"Most definitely.  And I know we're both so glad you and Yva found each other.  I love it when people come together and give each other that one thing they felt most deeply that they were missing."  JenniAnn sighed contentedly.  "Sometimes there are happy endings."

"Believe it, dear lady," Willy encouraged. 

With that guidance, the interview ended and after a quick demonstration of Willy's latest innovations, Andrew and JenniAnn were on their way.


Andrew was once again in JenniAnn's office at Willowveil.  Though it was quite late by the time they'd returned to Dyeland City, JenniAnn showed no signs of slowing down.  The only reason she wasn't giddily gushing over the footage was because she was taking a "business" call in her bedroom.  He could hear her pacing.  Sometimes Andrew wondered about the moral repercussions of sneaking into her kitchen and slowly replacing her chai with decaf.  He didn't want to send her crashing down with a caffeine withdrawal headache but figured if he replaced the chai tablespoon by tablespoon, the switch would be gradual enough to avoid any problems.  But, alas, that was something more intrusive and deceitful than he was willing to do.  As it was, he had bigger concerns. 

The angel had suspected his friend... and possibly more than one of them... knew something was on his mind.  He didn't think they had any idea what it was although of that he couldn't even be sure.  There was that fleeting sixth sense of JenniAnn's, too.  At least four times she'd been able to "see" him while he was on assignment.  What if that had extended to any random moment?

"You rang?"

Andrew jumped and turned around to find Eli standing behind him.  "Hey, Eli.  How are you?"

Eli laughed.  "Doing good, thanks.  Sorry for the abrupt appearance.  We do it all the time but it seldom happens to us, huh?"

Andrew nodded and smiled sheepishly.

"The Father said you wanted to see me.  Although... this doesn't exactly seem like your scene."  He surveyed the room which was orderly but also far more cluttered and colorful and lacey and frog-filled than any room his fellow angel of death had ever had.  Finally, his gaze landed on a shelf lined with photos.  "Oh, okay.  So this is one of JenniAnn's rooms.  Got it.  Never been in here before.  I thought you'd put a swing in?"

"That's her bedroom.  Next door," Andrew explained.

Eli nodded.  "Oh, hey, I stopped by Tess' place.  She said to give you this.  She's graduated to trail mix.  Knock yourself out.  It's actually really good.  Got my own bag."  He tossed a twist-tied bag to Andrew.

Chuckling, Andrew surveyed the contents of the bag.  "I'll have to thank her."

"So why did you want to see me?"

Andrew looked nervously at his hands.  "Have you talked to JenniAnn or any of the girls much lately?"

"The last time I talked to JenniAnn was when I dropped you two back off at her parents' place on Monday.  And as for the others...  I guess that was about three weeks ago when I stopped into the Cafe and thought I was going to have to call Al when I found you three AOD Banders and Tess and the aforementioned girls playing what looked suspiciously like 'Spin the Bottle.'  By the way, you do a mean rendition of Neil Diamond's 'Walk on Water.'  But why do you ask?"

Andrew chuckled then looked at the door to JenniAnn's room.  He could still hear indistinct talking.  She was distracted.  "I don't know.  I have a sense lately that they know or at least think... some thing's up.  So I wondered if maybe you'd mentioned or hinted at what we talked about right before Christmas."

Eli adamantly shook his head and took a seat in the chair beside Andrew.  "No way.  I wouldn't go behind your back like that.  I know you decided to bide your time."

"Okay, thanks.  I didn't think so.  It's just...  I don't think the time's right, yet, to tell them.  I mean I haven't even made a decision."

Eli set a hand on Andrew's shoulder.  "But you're contemplating it.  I know you didn't want to say anything until it actually became an issue but I think you need to face the facts that you were created with a very limited ability to hide what you feel.  Combine that with very attentive friends... time's not on your side, Andrew."

Sighing, Andrew looked back at the computer.  He'd paused the video on a shot of the group huddled together after the football game the day before.  "I know.  Soon.  I'll tell them soon."

"Good idea.  But now... I need to get back to work.  And you need to get back to your video." 

Andrew smiled.  "Right.  Take care, Eli.  Thanks for stopping by." 

"Any time, my friend.  Have a good night.  I'll see you soon.  And just... enjoy these next few days.  Don't let this weigh you down."

"I won't."

"Good."  Eli smiled encouragingly at his friend then disappeared.

Andrew turned back to the computer, laughing as the footage shifted to the craft party and revealed some of the smaller children with paint and glitter smeared faces.

The door creaked open and JenniAnn re-entered.  "Sorry that took so long," she apologized before glancing at the screen. "Aww!"  She giggled and took the seat Eli had recently occupied.  "I have a feeling that we're going to have a hard time cutting anything!"

Andrew smiled.  "Director's cut?"

"Totally!  And then three years from now we can release the Special Limited Edition Re-re-release with Exclusive Extras!"

Chuckling, Andrew nodded.  "Sounds like a plan to me." 

For the next couple of hours, the two worked away at the film.  To Andrew's relief, he saw no more evidence of concern on JenniAnn's face.  He began to think that, perhaps, he'd made more of it than he needed to.  He prayed that was the case.


Thursday, February 11th, 2010


Once they'd set up their cameras, Andrew and JenniAnn checked on the turkey pens with Adam whose interview was starting their fourth day of interviews.  They thought their visit to his feathered friends was nearly through when he brought them to a small, shed-like building.  "And this mom and dad didn't seem to get the memo about hatching season being in May and June.  I had to build this to keep the lil guys warm."

"Babies!" JenniAnn practically shrieked, setting off an echo of piercing turkey chick cries.  "Oh!  They're so adorable!!!" 

Andrew laughed.  "Laja, are there baby anythings that you don't find adorable?"

"Snakes.  Although they're slightly less... less cute when babies.  But... still not cute.  Oh..."  She knelt down to get a better look.  "How old are they?"

"About three weeks," Adam answered rather proudly.  "Would you like to hold one?"

"Won't the mom and dad be upset?"

"If these were wild turkeys, probably.  But these ones are used to visitors."  Adam gently scooped a baby up and handed it to JenniAnn. 

"Hello, sweetheart," she cooed.  "Look at your pretty feathers."

Adam looked at Andrew questioningly.  He loved the turkeys but pretty?  He wasn't so sure. 

Andrew only shrugged and sat down to pet the turkey.  It tilted its head into his palm.

"Oh!  She... he... whatever likes you!"  JenniAnn murmured.  She looked on fondly as Andrew pet and held the turkey.  He'd opted for a bit more formal outfit that day, donning a white shirt, red tie, gray cardigan, yet he didn't seem to mind at all as the turkey left a trail of cedar and tiny feathers all over the latter.

"I won't know the gender for a few weeks but I think he or she likes you both.  The mom and dad are two of my more people and angel friendly birds so I think I might have my hands full with this brood!  They could wind up clingier than Alexander," Adam pondered.

"Clingy isn't always bad," JenniAnn responded rather pointedly. 

"No, it's not," Adam assured.  "But I really think I'd rather have a lady follow me into the kitchen and insist on eating at the table instead of a grown turkey.  Turkeys are much messier than girls."

Andrew and JenniAnn looked incredulously at Adam.

"I'm serious!  Alexander actually managed to fly into my kitchen window and was sitting in a chair... looking at me expectantly when I came back with my orange juice planning on a nice, quiet meal alone!"  Adam chuckled and shook his head in dismay.

"So what did you do?" Andrew asked.

"I love the guy but I was not sharing a table with a turkey.  It's just not right.  So... I had dinner by his pen."

"Aww!  You're awesome, Luscious!" JenniAnn beamed up at him. 

"I think Tess would have gone with crazy but I'll take awesome.  Thanks," Adam returned her smile then pulled out his pocket watch.  "I hate to rush but the Father just told me I have a tentative at 10:02 so maybe we should get the interview started.  I promise you can both come back and see the babies again.  I don't even mind if you stay after I leave."

"Cool, yes, let's start."  JenniAnn cuddled the baby then returned him or her to Adam.  The three watched as it snuggled back amidst its siblings.  Then they moved to a blanket they'd sat near the pond and immediately began the interview.

"Adam, buddy," Andrew started, "thanks for letting us interview you.  You've chosen 'love and humor.'  It seemed perfect to us."

JenniAnn nodded and smiled at Adam.  "It was a lotta fun to come up with questions for."

"Yes, definitely.  And the first thing we'd like to know is if you can share about a time you've used your sense of humor to really help someone you love?" Andrew asked.

Adam bestowed a sheepish grin on them both.  "When have I not used it?  Actually, cheekiness aside, there have been moments when humor was the only thing I had at my disposal.  It was sort of my way of conveying what I felt at that particular moment or time.  Sometimes people have misunderstood me, but that's sometimes the only way I could show my assignments or other angels that I care.  Love and laughter seem to go hand in hand, at least from my point of view.  Just look at how fondly Dyelanders regard Alexander and his brothers and sisters and the two of you with those babies."

JenniAnn looked longingly back to the shed.

"Later," Andrew promised.

Adam chuckled.  "Thanks for making my point.  If I hadn't joked with Tess that year about the 'noble turkey', then things would perhaps be different than they turned out to be.  We may not have had the heartache of fixing turkey pens or keeping them from drowning when they try to get off of Tourkia, of course."

"I think the good... and cuteness... definitely out weighs the bad," JenniAnn responded.  "And I, for one, am very glad you took on Tess.  Dyeland just wouldn't be the same without Alexander and Company!  So, along the same lines, can you tell a little about a time someone used humor to show how much they care about you?"

Adam contemplated his many memories.  "I can't really recall any Dyeland incidents, but I do recall the conversation I mentioned just now with Tess about the turkey as the national bird.  When she made that comment about Ben Franklin being a loud mouth who didn't know better than to come in out of the rain, I genuinely was amused.  Of course, I would be the first angel to admit that she probably did not mean it that way and instead of being humorous, she was being serious."

Andrew shrugged.  "Whatever her intentions were, I'm for anything that brings us a smile during assignments."

"True.  There was another time when you and I were jamming in the Cafe and something amusing happened.  I don't remember what specifically, I just remember being happy, but not really knowing why.  I suppose if I stopped and thought about it, there would be a great many moments when something someone here said or did would make me laugh or smile.  It's just hard to pin down the specifics in a ten minute interview."

"I understand that.  Sometimes I wish I remembered more about all we've experienced than I do.  Maybe that's why I make all those scrapbooks.  But a general sense of happiness and well-being is probly more important, anyhow," JenniAnn concluded.

"I think so," Adam agreed.

"How we doing on time?" Andrew checked. 

"I have fifteen minutes."

"I don't think we'll have any problem getting through these next three before you need to leave.  Let's start with..."  Andrew had memorized Adam's set of questions... or so he thought.  He'd drawn a blank.  Clearly he had too much on his mind.

"Being serious," JenniAnn reminded.

"Right, thanks!  Speaking of wishing we could remember more..."  He let out a self-deprecating laugh.  "Adam, do you ever find it difficult to know when someone might be helped by humor versus when they really need you to be serious?"

The elder angel of death shook his head.  "Not really, because I do know that there is a time to be serious and a time when humor is a workable solution.  I don't want to give off the impression that I don't know when to be serious and when joking is acceptable.  I honestly do know when it's appropriate.  Some may think that I'm a very blunt or dry humored angel, but the Father creates all kinds, and somewhere out there, there's an applicable place or situation for someone with my, shall we say, gifts?  Yet, with that said, I do know the distinctions and so it's not really that difficult for me to decipher between the two.

"I'm not surprised.  I love it when you make me laugh but you've also been there for all of us at much more serious times and you were amazing then, too," JenniAnn complimented.  "I'm very fond of your gift.  I know we all are... even Tess."

"Thanks, Lady Luscious.  I'm glad about that."  Adam squeezed her hand and smiled.

JenniAnn returned it then moved onto her next question.  "So speaking of that gift of humor, I wonder how often you come across it in others.  Do you often have assignments who use humor to show their love to others?"

Adam nodded with enthusiasm.  "All the time, and some of their creative outlets leave me constantly amazed.  Recently, Yva showed me a film that outlined that idea perfectly.  It was called The Court Jester.  It was a very amusing film, but it also had very touching moments with the main character.  During certain moments he could be quite comical and funny, but during other moments, he was a rather soft spoken, kind, and loving individual.  I hope that I emulate that same sort of idea, although not as slapstick-like as the film depicted."

"I can't say I ever caught that one but I'm sure ya do!" JenniAnn gushed.

"Me too.  Although I've definitely seen you in some slapstick moments.  In fact, the whole Alexander at the table incident..." Andrew raised an eye brow and grinned at his friend.

Adam chuckled.  "That was definitely a slapstick moment.  I agree."

"Maybe ya should do a lil recap for the others since we didn't record that bit," JenniAnn suggested.

Thinking it a good idea, Adam did so.

Once Andrew had stopped laughing, he gave Adam his final question.  "Have you always been humorous or is that a trait that's developed over the years?"

"Am I really funny?" Adam questioned.

"Definitely!" JenniAnn assured.

Adam smiled.  "Thanks, I'm glad you think I am.  But for me...  I mean; that's a really interesting question.  It's sort of the same when Yva told me about someone asking her if she sang well.  She said that she didn't know how to answer that because the question was quite subjective.   I suppose the same sort of response could be conveyed about my humor.   I like to make people laugh and smile.  You might think I'm funny, but someone else might think I am a total fool.  As for how long I have been this way, I don't really know.  Maybe I always have been to some extent.  I have truthfully never fully contemplated whether or not it is present, so I would say it's been a gradual change.  I know that I didn't wake up this morning and say 'I think I'll be funny today or make you laugh'.   I don't believe that any character trait happens from one day to the next, it is all gradual and develops through the person's experiences."

"Cool, sounds right to me."  JenniAnn frowned.  "And as for the people that may think you're a fool... well, I'd feel sorry for them.  They're missing out on knowing a great person."

"I would, too," Andrew agreed. 

"Thanks.  And as much as I would love to remain here and be showered with praise, I have to head out," Adam jested.

"Alright.  We can reschedule the praise shower for later," JenniAnn joked back.

Adam hugged her.  "Something tells me you actually would schedule something like that."

"And decorate for it and print invitations," Andrew teased.

JenniAnn stepped away from Adam and began to help Andrew with taking the cameras down.  "You know me so well."

"That and Andrew knows that we need little excuse to throw a party," Adam added.

Andrew chuckled.  "There is that."  He stepped away from the camera case he was packing and hugged his fellow angel of death.  "Well, buddy, I hope your tentative goes well and I guess we'll see you Sunday if not before?"

"Count me in.  You two enjoy your interviews and if you stick around, have fun with the turkeys.  Just make sure the pens all get closed.  I don't want my kitchen invaded again."  Adam winked then strode away and disappeared.

Andrew and JenniAnn finished stowing away their cameras then made one last check on the turkey babies.  They were fast asleep and they both laughed to find themselves yawning.

"I need more chai," JenniAnn whispered as they exited the shed.

Andrew shook his head.  "I think you need more sleep."

JenniAnn shrugged as they stepped out into the sunlight.  "Okay, but I *want* more chai... although you're especially cute when you're being all... advisory."

"Yet not cute enough to be listened to?"  Andrew smirked.

"Yes, definitely cute enough.  But I'm stubborn enough to resist!"

The angel of death laughed.  "Alright.  If you're not going to rest, I advise that we head to the Cafe.  It'd be good to go over Nigel's questions one more time and I think I could manage a scone and some coffee."

"Second breakfast!  We can eat like hobbits!"

Andrew smiled.  "Sure.  So let's head on back to the Shire if you're ready."

"Definitely.  The chai and scones are calling me."

"Might want to see a doctor about that.  Sounds like a hallucination to me."

JenniAnn laughed giddily then started a race to the shore, not even minding that she was doomed to lose.


As he sat across from JenniAnn in a booth at the Cafe, Andrew glanced over the note card she had written their questions for Nigel on.

"I've been psyched for all our interviews but I think this'll be really good," JenniAnn gushed.  She lowered her voice.  "And kinda help with the residual feelings from the Mick and Beth issue."

Andrew looked up when the door bell jingled.  "Speaking of Beth..."  He tilted his head towards the door.  "Isn't this her usual work time?" 

JenniAnn craned her neck to see that Beth was, indeed, standing near the door.  "She looks a lil daunted."

"I'm going to see if she wants to come join us."  Andrew stood up and walked towards the newcomer.  "Hey, Beth.  You meeting someone?"

Beth smiled with relief at Andrew.  "Oh, no.  I just got called away really early so didn't get any breakfast.  I thought you'd mentioned the scones here being really great so I thought I'd try."

"They definitely are.  In fact, JenniAnn and I were just having some."  He indicated where JenniAnn sat waving.  "If you want you can join us.  Although if you have work to do, we understand."

Beth shook her head.  "No!  I said I was taking a break and I meant it.  I'd love to join you!  Let me just put in my order and I'll be right there."

"Great!"  Andrew smiled at her before returning to JenniAnn.  "She'll be right over."

"How'd she seem?"

"Just fine, actually." 

JenniAnn sighed with relief.  "Good."

In no time at all, Beth had returned with her tea and scone.  Andrew and JenniAnn waited for her verdict.  "Oh, yeah...  They're definitely delicious!" she declared with a contented smile.  "I should come here more often."

"You should!  So how are you?" JenniAnn asked, careful to keep any leading tone out of her voice.

"Oh... good moments and bad moments.  This... this is a heavenly moment," she declared before taking another bite.  She glanced at Andrew then.  "In more ways than one, I guess!"

Andrew chuckled.  "It's good to see you smile."

Beth shrugged.  "I realized I had to pull myself together for work.  Plus... I don't know... there's just something very calming about being here."

"I'm glad you feel that way and I hope you stay as long as you like," JenniAnn responded.

Beth took a sip of her tea then began to carefully fold her napkin.  "What would your feelings be about me... living here?" she asked.  "It's okay to say no.  I can get another apartment.  I just... I guess I'm liking this work in L.A., live here arrangement."

JenniAnn absently stirred her chai.

Andrew knew it was up to him to respond.  "Wow, well, yeah.  You can definitely move here.  I know no one would object.  But, Beth, is that what you really want?  Or is it just what feels safest right now?"

Beth blinked.  "Wow.  You get right to the point."

Andrew patted her hand.  "I guess because sometimes I don't have a lot of time with people before I move on.  I just want you to take your time is all.  We'll always be here for you.  If that means some place to stay for a while, we can give you that.  If it means a home, we can give you that, too.  But there's no reason to rush into deciding which it is."

Beth smiled.  "I understand.  And thanks.  I just feel so... in limbo."

"Have you..." JenniAnn drifted off.

"Talked to Mick?"  Beth shook her head.  "I called Josef, though.  I think Mick was nearby.  He was very... vague.  But I got the impression Mick was upset."  She bowed her head.  "I may have over-reacted.  But I also can't completely dismiss what that fight brought up.  I love him.  I said some hard things that night but... it didn't change that.  But what I've come back to countless times since then is... where's the future in this?"  She saw that JenniAnn looked somewhat frightened by the question so turned her attention to Andrew.

"I'm not sure, Beth," Andrew responded.  "But I also know... from experience... that no one is ever guaranteed a future with the one they love.  At least... not in this life.  I think what you need to ask yourself and what Mick needs to ask himself is something JenniAnn actually brought up."  He smiled at her, thinking she might want to take over.  The wary look in her eyes spurred him on.  "If a cure isn't found then these next few years are probably going to be, well, the easiest for you.  Do you want to spend them angry at each other and wasting that time?  And what if the cure is found?  How are you going to feel if you spent these years avoiding each other, loving each other from a distance, when you could have been building a life?"

Beth sighed and bit her lip.  "I'd feel pretty lousy either way.  But... maybe it doesn't matter what I feel.  Mick is dead set against somehow being a drain on me... limiting me.  Which, come to think of it, is what I worry about for him... when I'm older."

Andrew smiled.  "Funny how two people can have the same worry but never really talk about it, huh?" he asked pointedly. 

Beth lowered her head and smiled.  "Are you saying I should be having this conversation with Mick?"

Andrew patted her hand.  "It's a thought."

JenniAnn beamed at Andrew.  It was like seeing him at work, something she seldom had a chance to do. 

"I just need a little more time to myself... to think things through but... I tend to think that when an angel makes a suggestion, it's worth following.  After all, you were right about the scones."  Beth took another bite and rewarded Andrew with a goofy smile.

The discussion left all three feeling much more hopeful... and just plain full.


Late that afternoon, Andrew and JenniAnn made their second trip in the week to Heavenly Playground.  They briefly chatted with Yva and Sir Sven who they found tending to their yard and the bunnies then proceeded to Autumn Wind where Nigel was waiting for them. 

The guardian angel showed them into his parlor and they took some time to admire the changes in decor he'd made since last they'd been there.  It felt strange to them to be setting up their digital cameras in such a stately room from another era.  Nigel only looked on, impressed by their ease in handling contraptions that baffled him. 

"Are you ready, Nigel?" JenniAnn asked once they were set up. 

He nodded and took a seat in his favorite armchair, across from the settee where his interviewers would be sitting.  He gaped at the cameras.

Andrew knew, despite having sat through two of these in past years, Nigel was still made uneasy by the cameras.  "You know, when I saw my first camera, I was pretty taken aback.  I could understand why some people were upset by them," he recalled, hoping to let Nigel know his nervousness was understandable.  "But now I'm glad we have them.  It's great looking back on these videos or flipping through scrap books and photo albums."

Nigel nodded.  "Yes, I must admit I enjoyed coming together to view the interviews.  It has certainly been a blessing, as well, to be able to obtain so many likenesses of my friends here."

"I bet.  I love having photos of my loved ones around," JenniAnn agreed with a breezy, calming smile. 

"There is one of Yva in her garden of which I'm quite fond," the guardian angel mused.

"I've always loved that one of the two of you standing near the gazebo just a ways from here," JenniAnn continued.  "I dunno why.  It just really captures ya both, I guess."

"I think one of my favorites is the one we took last year at the Valentine's party.  Everyone looks so happy."  Andrew smiled at the memory.

JenniAnn sighed.  "I was deliriously happy."

Andrew blushed.  He knew why that had been the case.

Nigel's smile traveled from one to the other.  "We were quite happy to have you back with us and Andrew very relieved that you had not penned that hurtful note.  Have you, ah, spoken to that cousin of yours since?"

"Oh... I made my feelings known," JenniAnn responded with a grin.

Andrew chuckled.  He knew the full story was a little more colorful than she was telling Nigel.  JenniAnn had a vindictive streak and slights against him brought it out full force.  Thus, the meddling Veronica had woken up one morning to her own note.  It had said simply "I love Andrew," written 505 times... once for each cruel word Veronica had written to him.  Finally, it had been signed simply "Your loving cousin."

"I hope that helped you move past what occurred."

"That it definitely did, Nigel!"  JenniAnn beamed at him then Andrew. 

The angel of death could see that the exchange had put Nigel at ease and he was going to inquire about starting when Nigel beat him to it.

"Shall we begin, then?"

"We'd love to!  I'm so excited about this topic.  So Andrew agreed to let me ask the first question about courtship and love in the 19th century!" JenniAnn enthused.  "And so... could you give us an overview of sorts about Victorian courtship, please?"

"To start, I must say that it would take quite some time to elaborate on the traditions of courtship in my time," Nigel began.  "There are vast differences between that and what transpires in today’s world.  Romantic love is the primary requirement in that sense.  In order to court a lady a gentleman must make his intentions known.  He cannot simply approach a lady and ask her out.  They must go through a formal introduction first and then he would present her with his card.  The lady would then look over the options and through giving her card to the gentleman, then he would know that she was interested in knowing him."

"Kinda like how nowadays prospective dates exchange phone numbers and email addies... only fancier?" JenniAnn asked.

Nigel was thrown by the idea.  "And how is that done?"

"I dunno.  I think they just write them down on a napkin or scrap paper or something."

The guardian angel tried to hide his dismay at the idea of using a napkin in place of one's card.  "Perhaps something like that, yes.  I am not quite sure how it is done in your time."

JenniAnn blushed.  "To be honest... I'm not, either."  She smiled when Andrew briefly sat his hand on her shoulder.  "Okay, so after the card exchange then?"

"The gentleman would then escort the lady home," Nigel continued.  "The act of courting would take place in the lady’s home and under the watchful eye of the parents.  There is generally a chaperone present and marriage proposals are handwritten messages.  Of course, this is based on a class system.  In lower classes the traditions may vary."

"Thanks, Nigel, for that great overview!  Andrew, you're up next."

"This sort of came up with the card versus napkin discussion but what aspects of Victorian courtship do you find to be better than modern courtship rituals, Nigel?" the angel inquired.

"I find the traditions of my time to be quite stringent, but many are nice, and it seems much safer than a young lady trying to infer if someone is interested in a relationship with her through a dance club or a movie house."  Nigel looked to JenniAnn, concerned he might seem to be putting down her own era.

She shrugged.  "I've always thought that must be so nerve-wracking.  The very idea makes my head spin!"

"Mine, as well.  I am not sure I could work as Andrew does, occasionally lending counsel to couples in your era."

JenniAnn recalled earlier at the Cafe with Beth.  "Oh... he does remarkably well," she complimented.

"Thank you.  But I had my stumbles through the Victorian era so I imagine Nigel could teach me a thing or two."  Andrew smiled at their subject.  "Is there anything else?"

Nigel nodded.  "Indeed.  To me, telephone conversations seem rather impersonal, and I like watching as young ladies receive a proposal in a neatly written letter.  That is, to many young ladies, the most romantic aspect of courtship.  The proposal letter is quite a lovely item, and I am certain that today, many ladies would treasure that."

"I'm sure.  I treasure letters that aren't even proposals so... definitely," JenniAnn agreed.  "I mean I'm all for the whole down on one knee with a ring thing a la my parents and Vincent and Catherine but I bet lotsa ladies would love to have a letter to reread.  That was a really nice answer.  Thanks, Nigel!"

"My pleasure.  I quite enjoy speaking of my time.  Before we move on, can I get either of you more tea?" he checked.

Andrew and JenniAnn shook their heads.  The latter waited for Nigel to fix his own cup then moved on.  "As the counterpoint to what Andrew asked, are there any aspects that you think have improved in modern times?"

"I believe that the family always having control and dominant influence over a couple has become somewhat lightened in today’s world."  Nigel frowned as he recalled some examples of how deeply troubling such enmeshment could be. 

JenniAnn could nearly see Andrew's mind drifting back through the years, as well.  However, she only patted his hand and focused her attention on Nigel as he continued to speak.

"Whenever I stop and consider the vast challenges that many individuals face in today’s world regarding their family, I must say that I am quite happy that the couples have managed to court one another with a focus on the couple as opposed to the outside family influences," Nigel continued.  "I recall watching this film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and seeing traces of the past in the present day, so perhaps people are finding that sense of balance in their relationships with one another."

"I think so.  Many weddings I go to have a lot of traditional elements to em," JenniAnn mused.

"And that's great to see as long as they're traditions the couple wishes to uphold.  And many do.  I've also been to some weddings where families found really inventive ways to compromise," Andrew added.  "Some even incorporate Victorian traditions even if they don't realize it.  And it's not just weddings.  Laja, that's where your 'language of flowers' you like so much came in."

"Yeah, I think I read that somewhere... or maybe you told me before.  That's definitely a cool tradition!"

Nigel smiled.  "I am pleased that some traditions have continued to flourish, even in Dyeland."

"Me too."  Andrew responded, smiling himself.  "But moving on from the romantic aspects of love in the 19th century, do you see many general changes in other types of love from the Victorian era to the 2000s?  Like the bonds between parents and children, friends, etc., maybe?"

"Actually, I do see the love that emanates during both times, it is simply demonstrated in different ways.  The bonds between parents and children are perhaps the most empowering when one considers the distinctions between my time and today.  I must say that with all of the advantages of today, I tend to prefer the days of old, where the word of a person meant more than it does in this day and age."

"I do miss that," Andrew agreed. 

JenniAnn let out a melancholy sigh but seeing that Nigel was growing concerned, smiled at him to encourage him to continue.

"I must also say something with regard to the distinctions between carrying oneself in a friendly and casual manner as opposed to a formal mode of address," the guardian angel pressed on.  "This is present in many languages outside of English, but in the past it existed whereas today, there is no distinction."

"Yeah, I remember learning that in Spanish class and wondering how we modern English speakers lost that.  I mean, sure, we have 'thee' and 'thou' but no one really says that much," JenniAnn pointed out.  "Cept sometimes in prayers."

Nigel nodded.  "I must admit I have not heard it much at all in your time.  Perhaps that is what I miss the most when I look at the past in relation to today.  I hope you understand what I am saying.  It is not to say that the way individuals relate to one another is false, but when I recall the day I first made myself known to Yva, she asked me why I was behaving in such a formal way with her.  She did not understand that that was my way, and perhaps that is the grandest of all distinctions between the two; whether it is the love expressed between parents, children, friends, or those whom one courts."

"Could be," JenniAnn responded.  "It's definitely cultural.  I can understand Yva being thrown."

"It's definitely been interesting watching the languages evolve," Andrew added.  He smiled brightly.  "But the love's still there and that makes me very happy."

"Most assuredly," Nigel agreed.

"And now... wow, last question already?"  JenniAnn glanced at Andrew for confirmation.

He nodded.  "These have really been flying by."

"I hope our interview subjects have felt the same way!"

Nigel laughed.  "I am quite sure they have.  I have found this discussion to be delightful."

"Aww, good!"  JenniAnn smiled gratefully at him.  "So... last question and it's my personal favorite.  Nigel, can you give us an example of something truly loving you've seen in your time?"

"I recall seeing the empowering love between a young man and a lady.  Unlike the issue depicted in your first question, the lady’s home life was rather an unhappy situation," he recalled.  "The young man came from a family rich in nobility and the young lady was surrounded by her alcoholic father and brothers who demanded her attention to work and home.  She was the only girl in this family and it was expected of her.  They did not wish to let her go because of her working the home.  The young man was quite determined to bring her to his home, contrary to the objections of his family.  Eventually, the couple found their way to one another through the Father’s love."

JenniAnn had been holding her breath but exhaled with relief.  "Oh, good."

"Yes, it was one of the most empowering and emotional assignments that I have ever had."  Nigel's smile grew as he recalled that joyous day.  "I was quite honoured to be there for them and when they married, there was a great celebration of their love.  It was a beautiful event that detracted from tradition, but showed that even in the most stringent of places and times, that the power of love is the most beautiful and wonderful of things."

Andrew smiled.  "And I think we can all agree with that no matter when we were born!"

"Oh, yes, definitely.  And when was that again?" JenniAnn asked, looking innocently at Andrew.

Nigel laughed.  "Yva spoke to me of the game you share with Rose."

"They're very persistent about it," Andrew informed good-naturedly.

"That probly wouldn't be considered very good in your time would it?" the woman asked.

Nigel considered the question.  "I believe young ladies of my time were, perhaps... more delicate in seeking information about their gentlemen acquaintances."

JenniAnn giggled.  "I think that's a very polite way of telling me to leave you alone, Andrew."

He chuckled.  "Thanks, Nigel."

JenniAnn shrugged.  "Eh, it's not as much fun without Rose, anyhow."

"Good point.  But now how about we get these cameras down?"

"I'm all for that.  They really look clunky in here."  JenniAnn wrinkled her nose as she eyed the cameras and their tripods, obscuring a gorgeous curio and grandfather clock.  "I'm glad that some of your time's traditions made it into my own, Nigel.  But I'm really not that fond of my time's technology in the midst of this!"

"It does not seem quite right," Nigel agreed.  He was greatly relieved when Andrew and JenniAnn had their equipment packed away and the room was once more the peaceful, elegant yet cozy parlor of his time. 

After spending some time visiting with the guardian angel, Andrew and JenniAnn returned to Willowveil where they were greeted by excited, hungry dogs.  After getting both their pets and themselves fed and out for a walk, the two settled in her office for a long night of editing the day's interviews.  Time consuming as the work was, Andrew and JenniAnn were aware at every moment that it was a gift to see the people they cared so much about talk so passionately and tenderly about what they and the Father held so dear: love.

Neither had any sense that, by the following night, the friendship Andrew and his friends had all come to count on in their own ways would be forever altered.


Friday, February 12th, 2010


JenniAnn waved as the last of the Tunnel children left the classroom chamber.  She was picking up books when Andrew entered. 

"Aww, you missed the kids!" she lamented.

"I caught most of them in the hall, headed to lunch.  So how was class?  Did you fall asleep?" he questioned.

"No, I did *not* fall asleep, Mr. Sleep Patrol.  And we were only up til 1:00, anyhow."

Andrew's eye brows raised, characteristically.  "Only?"

"That's actually not that late considering some of my night owl escapades during college," JenniAnn smiled wistfully recalling the nights spent reading poetry beneath the starry sky and waiting for Andrew to return so she could quiz him about whatever had come up in her history class... the remembrances were even more alive to her as the present-day Andrew looked quite teacherly in his khakis, white button-down, and red sweater vest.  "Anyhow, I'll catch up on sleep after the 14th," she added after shaking herself from her reverie.  "I just really wanted to go through what we got yesterday.  It doesn't seem like we should already be down to our last two interviews!  I'm kinda glad Eli's isn't til tomorrow.  It'll be a bit of a crunch but I don't wanna finish today.  I like this."

Andrew hugged her.  "Me too."

"So how was your assignment?"

"It was a really great one.  I took Home a woman who lost her husband in Vietnam.  I wish you could have seen the reunion!"  Andrew's face lit up at the memory.

"Aww, I'm always glad when you have that kind of assignment.  And I'm glad for them."

"Me too.  But you never answered about class.  How was it?"

"Aww, it was so cute, Andrew!"  JenniAnn gushed.  "Come here."  She led him to a bulletin board.  "We took turns reading various passages about love from the world's religious texts.  Then I gave the kids some of the extra valentines from the party and asked em to write things they love on them."

Andrew surveyed them, smiling as he read "my family," "the Tunnels," "our playground," "the stars," "God," "our tree house," "music," "Vincent reading us stories," "my mommy," "my friends," "dogs," "my doll," "sports," "getting hugs," and so many others.  "This is great.  If they're okay with it, we should have a part in the video where we pan over this."

"Aww, yeah.  I'll check but I'm sure they'll be cool with it.  After all, they were more than happy to appear on camera during the crafts party."  JenniAnn smiled as she looked over the board again.  When her gaze landed on one particular valentine, tears welled in her eyes.  Andrew seemed to have missed his own name on it.

"Laja, what is it?" Andrew asked, concerned.  Her took her hand and led her to one of the chairs, taking one beside it for himself.

"Shelby got a little upset during the project."

Andrew grew even more concerned.  "She seemed alright when I saw her.  Gave me a big hug."

"Yeah, I think I put her mind at ease but the thing is... she was feeling a little... disloyal or something."

"Disloyal?" Andrew questioned.  "She's five!  Who could she have betrayed."

"Nobody really.  But she thought maybe she was being disloyal to her parents, her dad especially."


"I'm really not sure how to say this..."

Andrew could tell that while her concern for Shelby was real, wherever JenniAnn was going with this she was most concerned about how he'd feel.  "Just start at the beginning," he encouraged.

"Alright.  So I gave the assignment and the kids started writing.  And one of the lil bit older kids saw her write your name down.  So he started teasing her about wanting to marry an angel."  JenniAnn laughed even as she wiped away her tears.  "She gave him the dirtiest look!"

Andrew chuckled.

"So then she just said 'Don't be silly.  I don't love Andrew like that.  I love him kinda like a daddy.'"

Andrew blinked.

"And I don't think she planned to say that cause she looked really distressed afterwards.  And then she asked me if that was wrong cause she 'loved her actual mommy and daddy in Heaven.'  And I assured her that they understood.  I mean she was only two when they died.  I know she doesn't remember much.  But I could understand a lil girl being worried about that.  I mean after the whole foster care run-around... you're probly the only guy seemingly close to her dad's age that she really became close to.  So... well, I guess I thought you should know."

Andrew ran his hand through his hair. 

JenniAnn sucked in her breath nervously.  She saw that undefined something flicker across his face.

"I knew she cared about me," Andrew murmured.  "And I really do love her.  But does she understand... I mean I can't adopt her or anything like that.  The way I come and go... that's too hard for a little one."

"Oh, Andrew, I don't think she expects that!" JenniAnn responded soothingly.  "Shelby's happy here!  It's not like she's dreaming up what to do with your guest bed room or anything.  But... I dunno.  I guess I was just concerned because I know you already feel way more responsible for the rest of us and our feelings and well-being than you really should.  And now there's this."

Andrew peered at her, his own eyes flooding.  "Laja, it has never been a responsibility I felt stuck with.  It's never been something I didn't want." 

JenniAnn had to blink back more tears.  It was obvious Andrew deeply felt what he said.  His normally barely detectable accent often thickened when he really cared about what he was saying.   His "nev-ahs" about sent her over the edge.

Andrew wished there was some way she could feel how honored and blessed he felt but knew he'd have to settle with trying to tell her.  He wrapped his arm around her shoulders.  "I will be there for Shelby, however she needs me to be... for as long as she needs me to be.  I won't let her down.  And this isn't gonna make me feel bogged down.  I feel so blessed to have each and every one of you in my life and to know you all love me... however you love me.  So don't worry about it.  If Shelby gets distressed, we'll deal with that.  But for right now, you seem to have handled it perfectly.  Okay?"

JenniAnn drew in a deep breath.  "'Kay," she agreed.

"Now let's go get Fawn and Lulu and head to Rose's.  I'm sure watching them cower in the face of the mighty Theo will make you feel much more light-hearted."

The woman laughed.  "Our dogs really are very cowardly."

"I'm afraid so.  But we love them, anyway."  Andrew gave her a smile, hoping to cheer her even more.  Of course, he succeeded.


As predicted, Lulu and Fawn spent the first five minutes of their visit to Hopeful Haven hiding beneath Josephine's coffee table. 

Josephine clucked her tongue and shook her head.  "You shouldn't be afraid of a little cat.  The two of you are both bigger than Theo!"

Unmoved, Fawn and Lulu remained as they were.

Josephine laughed then directed her attention to the pets' caregivers.  "You three have a good time with your interview.  I'm sorry I can't stay longer but Tess and I are volunteering at an old folk's home.  Although I'm a little concerned the workers will just show me to a room."

"No way, Aunt Josephine!" Rose protested as she gathered up her aunt's scarf and gloves.

Josephine stroked her niece's hair.  "You're such a sweetheart.  Oh!  You all are!" she added as Andrew helped her into her coat and JenniAnn went for the door.

"Thanks, Josephine," Andrew responded.  "We wish you could stay, too, but I think it's great what you're doing.  And we'll see you Sunday, right?"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world!" the old woman vowed.  She peeked out the window.  "I see Tess coming."

JenniAnn opened the door and ushered her in.

"How you doing, baby?" the angel asked as she stepped inside.

"Just super!  Excited for our interview with Rose."

Andrew nodded.  "We're talking about love and pets.  Speaking of that... how's Widget?"

Hearing his name, the little dog poked his head out of the bag Tess was carrying.

"Hey there, Widget!" Andrew greeted, laughing. 

"I thought the people at the senior center would enjoy my little guy," Tess explained. 

Seeing Andrew paying attention to another dog at last forced Lulu and Fawn out. 

"Oh, now, just a second," Andrew told them.  He gave Widget one more pat and hugged Tess and Josephine then knelt down to pet a jealous Fawn and Lulu.

"Have a good time you two!" Rose said as she hugged them both.

"We certainly will," Tess responded.  "Have a good time, babies.  Rose, I promise I'll have your aunt back to you soon."

Rose laughed.  "I trust you, Tess."

"G'bye!" JenniAnn called. 

She and Rose waved at them for a time then closed the door.  They turned to find that Andrew had managed to get the dogs and Theo to come within a yard of each other.  Theo pawed a catnip ball which intrigued the two dogs. 

"I think if I move and leave them here, they might actually start playing," Andrew guessed.  He slowly stood up and moved to the couch.  The three watched for a few moments.  Theo batted the ball nearer the dogs.  The two girls and Andrew smiled when Lulu nosed it back.

"Good, they've made friends!" Rose enthused.

"I think it'll get better now that the weather is nicer and we can have em out and together more often."  JenniAnn looked hopefully at the three.  "They'll get accustomed to each other again."

"I'm sure they will.  Since they're occupied... we better take advantage of it.  Rose, you ready?" Andrew checked.

"I'm ready!  Here, let me help you two."  With Rose assisting, the cameras were soon ready.

After ensuring that both Rose and JenniAnn were settled, Andrew turned his attention to the interview.  "Thanks, Rose, for talking to us about love and pets."

"I've been looking forward to it, Amish Boy!"

Andrew chuckled.  "You're really stuck on that one, huh?"

Rose smiled.  "Maybe a little... just a little."

Still laughing, Andrew gave her the first question.  "We were thinking some history might be good first.  So what was your first pet?"

Rose's face softened with a nostalgic look as she remembered.  "It was this small, tabby cat that lived in my uncle's garden shed in the backyard.  I don't even know if my aunt and uncle ever knew she was back there.  But I found her in there one day when I was probably about six.  I called her 'Kitter' and fed her little scraps and stuff, since we didn't have any cat food.  Some days I'd just sit in there and do my homework while I scratched her head.  She was a really sweet cat.  She did eventually die when I was in about the 9th grade.  And a few years later I got Theo and moved here.  But Kitter was definitely an awesome first pet."

"That's amazing you kept her hidden for so long," JenniAnn marveled.  "But I'm glad she was there for you.  Kitter sounds very sweet."

Rose nodded, wistful.  "She was.  She didn't have the evil streak you know who has."  She tilted her head to Theo with a smile.  "But I love him."
"Of course!"  JenniAnn looked to the three pets who were merrily playing.  "And I know Theo loves you.  What do you think makes a pet's love so meaningful to you?"
"I like that they don't care what you look like or say really.  I mean, yeah, they definitely want you to feed them!"  Rose laughed, recalling Theo's grouchiness in the morning before she got the food out.  "But they love you with this awesome, loyal love.  It's great.  If you've got a dog or a cat, then when you come home all they want to do is snuggle up with you on the couch and have you pet them and talk to them.  And you can tell 'em secrets and I guarantee you that they're not gonna tell anybody!"

JenniAnn shivered.  "Imagine if they could.  Eek!"

"Maybe Lulu could tell us Andrew's age."  Rose laughed and looked from Lulu to Andrew with a mischievous grin.

"Tough luck there, ladies.  I never told Lulu.  I was afraid you'd hire one of those dog whisperers and bribe her to reveal it."  Andrew laughed at the mental image.

JenniAnn smirked.  "Right.  Cause we'd actually do that..."

Andrew crossed his arms over his chest and shot her an "Oh really?" look.

"Okay, we'd totally do that," Rose admitted as JenniAnn nodded.

"I wouldn't put it past you!  But moving on from *that* topic...  Rose, how would you describe the love you feel for a pet?"
When she was finished giggling, Rose responded.  "Well, it's different, I guess.  For some people it is like having a child, I think.  But for others, it's sort of like having your best friend.  There's lots of ways to describe it.  Do we give pets their own kind of love?  I think maybe some people do.  They like their pet a lot and would be sad if they were gone.  But I don't know, I think some people see their pets more 'human' than others do.  And that's totally okay.  I see my pets as my best friends.  But not everyone does."

Andrew nodded.  "I think that's how I feel about Lulu.  She's one of my best friends."

JenniAnn gave them a diffident smile.  "I carry Fawn around like a baby.  At least when she lets me."

"And that's okay," Rose assured.  "Just as long as you don't starting dressing her up in onesies and feeding her from a bottle."

JenniAnn laughed.  "She would sooo not go for either of those.  Although she'd probly steal the bottle and just chew on it and then for weeks I'd be finding plastic bottle bits around Willowveil."

"That might not be a lot of fun," Rose agreed.

"Nope!  I'd much rather play catch or something."  JenniAnn smiled at her dog then turned back to Rose.  "And I guess it's my turn for the next question.  Rose, was there a time in your life when your pet meant even more to you than usual?"

"That would probably be Kitter," Rose decided after thinking for a moment.  "Mostly because I was sometimes a bit lonely growing up and she was always happy to see me.  But I love Theo, too.  Even though he can be a little ornery at times!  But when I first moved to Dyeland and didn't know anybody yet, he was really great to have around.  I told myself that even if I didn't make any friends here, I'd always have Theo.  Of course, now I have all of you, and my aunt Josephine, and Theo!  So I am very blessed!  But yeah... I don't think I can narrow it down to one time in my life.  I think having a pet has always meant a lot to me."

"Then I'm glad you've had them for most of your life.  And I'm very, very glad you came here."  Andrew beamed at her.  "I can't imagine Dyeland without you now."

Rose returned his smile and moved to hug him.  "Thanks, Andrew.  I can't imagine not knowing all of you!  I know the people here will always be a part of me and I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Good!" JenniAnn cried. 

Andrew nodded and smiled again at Rose.  "And here we are at the last question already."  He grew more serious.  "What would you say is a difficult aspect of loving a pet?"

Rose sighed.  "They don't live as long as we do.  So it's really, really hard when they get old and eventually die.  We tend to look at them like they'll be here forever, even though we know they won't be, it's not something that I think most people really think about.  And when you've had a pet for maybe three years or even fifteen, it's sometimes kinda shocking for them to just be gone.  And it's always sad.  It takes some time to get past.  But we usually have a lot of good memories."

The three silently watched their beloved pets for a while then.

"And we are awesome at choosing a good note to end things on," JenniAnn finally said sarcastically.

Andrew and Rose both laughed.  She'd said exactly what they'd both been thinking.

"I'm sorry," Andrew apologized.  "We were so excited to write the questions, I don't think we gave much thought to ordering them."

"It's okay," Rose assured.  "But maybe you can just end with some footage of us playing?"

"I think that is a really great suggestion!" Andrew agreed.

Moving the cameras outside, they captured the two dogs and their new cat friend running wildly around the yard to the sound of their keepers laughing.  Soon, the angel and two women joined in and Rose's interview ended on a much happier note than her interviewers' poor planning had promised.


After dropping JenniAnn and the dogs off at Willowveil, Andrew had to immediately leave for another assignment.  Stepping inside, JenniAnn noticed that her answering machine was blinking.  Very few people called that number any more, most used her cell phone number.  Curious, she hit the 'Play' button.

"Hello there, JenniAnn!  This is Fr. Mike.  Sorry I didn't call you back after I had to cut our conversation short on Wednesday.  One of my parishioners had an emergency.  He's fine now, thank God.  Anyway, I hope everyone in Dyeland is well!  And in the Sibling Cities, too.  I think you and Mr. St. John will be very happy to see what I received today.  When you get this, give me a call."

JenniAnn gawked at the phone.  It was a sign.  It had to be.  Months ago, at Mick's request, she'd contacted Fr. Mike.  The priest was the son of Sybill and the enigmatic Storyteller who had lived in Dyeland since long before she and the others had arrived.  If anyone could help Mick, she knew Fr. Mike could.  Well-versed in the ways of the Catholic Church, he'd also inherited his parents' free spirits.  And his birth in Dyeland and the necessity of keeping it under wraps had taught him the value of secrecy.  He was the perfect man to annul a vampire's marriage.  Even at that, it had been tough work... but it sounded like the deed was now done.

Shaking with anticipation, JenniAnn picked up the phone.


Josef checked Mick's monitor and saw JenniAnn standing alone in the hallway.  She was holding a file or notebook.  He couldn't tell for sure.  He hoped she wasn't seriously contemplating doing an interview.

Sighing, he buzzed her in.  "Come in, JenniAnn.  But just... stay by the door.  I'll come to meet you."

JenniAnn was thrown when she heard Josef's voice instead of Mick's.  She began to consider that maybe she should have called.  However, she'd been so excited after her visit with Fr. Mike that she hadn't thought of it until that moment.  "No going back now," she said to herself and stepped inside.  The waiting view alarmed her.  Mick's usually immaculate apartment was trashed.  There were bottles strewn around.  Clothes lay in piles.  Open books were flipped over chairs and balancing haphazardly on side tables.

Setting the file down, JenniAnn stooped to pick up one of the bottles with disgust.  However, she couldn't smell blood.  And there were a few drops remaining.  The liquid was clear... and it smelled strongly of liquor.

"This is what it looks like when a vampire goes on a four day bender," Josef explained as he came down the stairs.  "I'm sorry.  I was just starting to clean when you showed up.  You know, you really shouldn't...  I get that Mick's your friend but he's not in a very... welcoming state right now."

"I thought Beth was going to call him!"

Josef sighed.  "She did.  Idiot wouldn't pick up the phone.  Maybe it was for the best.  He was, uh... indisposed."

"I'd say so!"  JenniAnn began to help toss bottles into the trash bin Josef was holding.  "Why didn't you say anything?  Someone could have come to help."

"Whether I like it or not, Mick's my responsibility these days.  Damn, I love being a sire," Josef answered, sarcasm dripping from his voice.  "It wouldn't have been safe to have anyone else here.  I'm just sorry I didn't get back in town until yesterday."

"Is this all because of the fight with Beth?  Or is something else going on?"

"It's Beth.  There's nothing else to Mick right now."

JenniAnn set a hand on Josef's shoulder.  "There's you."

"Yeah, thanks.  Mick's not really in best buds mode right now, though."  Josef surveyed the room and saw that most of the bottles were gone.  He shifted his attention to the clothes.  "Apparently being heartbroken means you get a free pass on using a hamper," he joked darkly.

JenniAnn forced a smile.  "So... where is Mick?"

"I tossed him in the freezer a while ago.  He needed it.  So what brings you here?  An emissary from Beth?"

"Um... no.  The Catholic Church, I guess."

Josef burst out in laughter.  "Seriously?"

"I dunno.  I guess in a manner.  Umm, how much do you know about Mick's marriage?"

"It was a sham... and a shame.  A crime of passion, so to speak.  Coraline was one messed up, deceitful chick.  The marriage was epically bad but they tried to make it work.  But I suppose it's a little hard to feel much love when the Mrs. turned you into a monster because the whole 'til death do us part' thing just wasn't enough for her.  So they divorced.  She reappeared a couple years ago.  Teased Mick with the cure.  Tried to win him back and for a moment... I think she might have.  But our hero had actually matured and realized that a relationship is more than sex.  And Coraline was last seen being taken away by her equally malignant siblings.  That had to be one hell of a family reunion!"  Josef shook his head.  "Sorry.  I should watch my language.  And that was probly more than you want to know."

JenniAnn shrugged.  "I kinda knew it all though Mick was a bit more... genteel in his rendering of it."

Josef looked abashed.  "Sorry."

"It's okay.  I'm a big girl.  Anyhow, I only asked cause I wanted to make sure you knew enough about it.  I shoulda guessed you did.  In any case... even though Mick's not really a devout Catholic any more, I guess the fact that he and Coraline were still technically married in the eyes of the Catholic Church got to him."

"Catholic guilt?"

"Something like that.  So... knowing I took all those theology classes and knew some priests... he asked me to try to get this."  JenniAnn grabbed the file off the coffee table and handed it to Josef.

The vampire accepted it and opened it.  "An annulment."

"I think he wanted a fresh start... with Beth."

Josef nodded.  "He did.  So now he has that... but no Beth."

"Oh look.  It's an intervention."

JenniAnn and Josef turned to see Mick had entered the room.

JenniAnn gasped.  He was disheveled and ghastly pale.  "Hey, Mick."

"JenniAnn," he greeted. 

"How are you?"

"Groovy," he grunted.

Josef handed JenniAnn back the document and nodded.

"Mick, I heard from Fr. Mike.  That's why I came by.  He, umm, had to fudge the birth years and some other details a bit but... he finally got your annulment through.  Here."  JenniAnn handed him the paper.

Mick stared at it.  "I'll frame it and put it in my office."  He laughed as he plopped on the couch.

JenniAnn stepped away at the sound of his ugly, bitter laugh.  "Mick, you said you wanted a fresh start.  Here it is!  And Beth called you!  So... take care of yourself and then call her back!" JenniAnn demanded.  "Oh, Mick, if you could see her!  She misses you so much!"

Josef drew near his friend.  "Mick, JenniAnn took time out of her day to bring you this.  Don't you think you should at least thank her?"

"Oh, look the playboy's become a Sunday school teacher now!" a belligerent Mick shot back.  But his demeanor softened when he looked to JenniAnn.  "I am grateful, thank you.  I'm just really, really hungover."

"I'm not sure you're quite at hungover yet," Josef muttered.

They were silent for a while.  Eventually, JenniAnn spoke up.  "Mick, Andrew and I spent some time with Beth yesterday.  We've actually spent quite a bit of time with her lately.  And we all concluded that the two of you just really need to sit down and discuss your concerns and feelings and..."

"We all?"  Mick rolled his eyes.  "I don't need the Dyeland Consortium to sort out my life.  Thanks, though."

"Don't be like that.  It's what Beth wants.  What Andrew and I think is immaterial, you're right.  I'm sorry I brought us into it."  JenniAnn sighed.  "Mick, I know the future might be hard.  And I myself have sometimes been troubled by the idea that one day I'll look older than Andrew.  But that doesn't change the..."

Mick bounded up.  "Let's just get this straight.  You and Andrew are not the same as me and Beth."

"Of course not.  But there are similarities."

"No, there are not!" Mick bellowed.

"Yes, there are!  Andrew is never going to change but my friends and I..."

Something in Mick's eyes frightened JenniAnn and she stepped away.  He looked wild.  Josef pulled her back towards him.  But instead of doing anything violent, Mick only laughed dryly. 

"Wow.  So your dearly beloved Mr. Perfect hasn't told you yet?"

Josef pushed JenniAnn towards the door then grabbed Mick by the arm.  "Mick, you're drunk and you don't know what you're saying.  Come on, let's go." 

"Hasn't told me what?" JenniAnn demanded.

"About his plan.  It was before Christmas and I came over to help him out because of the arm thing.  I got there early and that black dude was still there."

JenniAnn let out an irritated sigh.  "Eli."

"That's him.  Must not have realized I was there and these..."  He yanked his ears.  "These are golden."

"Mick!" Josef chastised upon seeing that his friend was bound and determined to not shut up.

JenniAnn braced herself.  "Let him talk.  If he's going to talk trash then I want to hear it so I can straighten him out."

"I tried not to listen but 'deep cover' kind of just gets a James Bond fan's attention, right?" 

JenniAnn felt her stomach begin to churn. 

"So Andrew's going on about how he'd ask God about that.  Eli's talking about what a big deal it is.  Then he made some joke about whether Andrew could really handle his hair going gray."

"Oh God," JenniAnn moaned.  Everything was starting to fall into place.  That strange look.  Andrew telling Shelby and Millie not to worry about getting older.  He hadn't said "I'll love you no matter how old you look" as he had to her in the past.  He'd only said not to worry.  She'd thought he was trying to calm them... now she realized he'd been saying not to worry because it simply wouldn't happen.  And then there was his reaction to her Skin Horse comment.  And the troubled look that had crossed his face when she'd made the remark about running around Skellig chased by an eternally handsome him.  The room seemed to be spinning and she slumped against the wall to keep from falling.

"Shut the hell up," Josef seethed.

Mick snickered, undeterred.  "Hey, so I guess... in a way... you turned him."

Josef shoved Mick onto the couch.  "You are a damned awful, mean drunk."  He moved to JenniAnn who had begun to sob and embraced her, practically holding her up.

The sound of her crying pierced through Mick's stupor.  "Oh God...  Oh God... JenniAnn, I..."

"Stay away.  Just stay the hell away," Josef ordered. 

Mick continued towards them. 

Josef's eyes turned an eery blue and he stepped towards his friend. 

Mick tried to duck away but stumbled into the coffee table.  He tripped over it, landed sprawled on the floor, and passed out.

Josef shook his head, glaring at the still body as he regained his normal appearance.  He returned to JenniAnn's side.  "Come on, let's get you home."  He led her to the hall closet.  "Do you want me to come with you?" he offered.

Mutely, JenniAnn shook her head. 

"Are you sure you're alright on your own?"

JenniAnn looked up at him.  "Nothing is alright, Josef," she murmured before stepping into the portal.


Saturday, February 13th, 2010


Andrew was concerned when he showed up at Willowveil at 8:00 AM, as promised, and found it completely empty.  JenniAnn and both the dogs were gone.  He compared his pocket watch to the clock on the computer in her office where she'd said she'd meet him to work on the video.  It was definitely 8:00. 

He hadn't ventured into her bedroom.  It would have been unlike her to still be sleeping.  Nonetheless, he knocked.  "Laja, are you in there?  It's okay if you want to sleep in.  Actually, I think that's a good idea.  I can come back."

No response. 

"Laja, I'm coming in."  Worried for her, Andrew burst into the room.  Empty.  The bed was made.  Unsure what else to do, he closed the door, made his way to the ballroom, and sat by the window.  He assured himself that maybe the dogs had gotten hyper and she'd taken them for a walk.  Sitting there he had the best chance of seeing them return.  Five minutes passed.  Ten.  Fifteen.  He pulled out his cell phone, planning to make calls.  He hadn't had it with him during his assignment and noticed for the first time that there were 8 missed calls and one message... all from Josef.  He'd listen to them later.  He was dialing Tess when he finally saw JenniAnn, and only JenniAnn, approach the door.  Letting the number go undialed, he winced when the door slammed behind her.  Worried, the angel made his way towards the hall.  He had to stifle a gasp when he saw his friend more closely.  She looked absolutely elemental.  She actually had leaves in her unkempt hair.  And she was wearing the same dress as the day before.  That in itself was completely uncharacteristic.

"Laja... what's going on?"

"I went for a walk," she answered flatly, not looking at him. 

"With the dogs?"

"Rose has them."

"Where did you walk?"

"The mountains."

"Laja, it's only just after 8:00!  How early did you get up?" Andrew questioned, incredulous.  He hadn't taken too strong a stance on her poor sleeping habits yet but ridiculous behavior like that would push him towards it.

"I didn't sleep.  I went there last night."

Andrew thought of the missed calls from the vampire then.  His worry transformed into dread.  "Laja, l-look at me."

She shrank away.

"Laja!" he shouted.  "Look at me!"

Startled by his raised voice, JenniAnn looked up.  "Oh... oh no... not yet," she cried.

Andrew studied her neck and breathed a sigh of relief then looked behind him, thinking something there was causing the look of horror that had appeared on her face.

"Y-your glasses," JenniAnn moaned. 

Andrew raised his eye brows.  "I usually wear them when I need to spend a lot of time at a computer.  Laja, you know that."

"You haven't w-worn them in a l-long time."

"I didn't think I needed them but last time we worked on the video, my eyes did start to bug me a little so..."

"Let me see them!" she demanded.

Andrew yanked them off and handed them to her.  He watched, alarmed, as she took her own off and put his on.  For some reason it calmed her... but only slightly. 

"The prescription hasn't changed.  Maybe it hasn't started yet.  Maybe it's not too late."  She thrust the glasses back to him.

Andrew took them and set them on the railing, thinking it best he proceed without them until whatever was going on was out of her system.  "Laja, what are you talking about?  What hasn't started?  What's too late?"

"Mick heard you.  He heard you and Eli talking."

"When?  About what?"

"You haven't been honest," she accused.

Andrew felt anger rise up in him along with hurt.  "Laja, I have never, ever lied to you!  Not to any of you!"

For only the second time that morning, her eyes locked with his.  "So you just forgot to tell me you'd gone deep cover?  What?  Were you going to wait until one of us noticed the first gray hair or wrinkle and then tell us 'Oh, by the way...'"

Andrew looked at her, shocked.  Then he remembered.  He'd had that discussion with Eli only minutes before Mick had arrived.  But apparently Mick had been there longer than he'd realized.  And for some reason Andrew couldn't fathom, he'd told JenniAnn within the last few hours.  "Oh, Laja."  He reached out to pull her into a hug.

She stepped back.  "Have you lost your mind?  Why would you do that?  Why?  Why?  Why?" she demanded.

"Laja, first of all, I haven't done that.  I haven't even asked the Father... formally.  That's why I didn't tell you or anyone yet.  It may not even happen.  But, yes... I have considered it."

JenniAnn was somewhat calmed.  "But you won't do it?"

"I didn't say that."

JenniAnn tensed.  "Why?" she repeated.

"Because I don't want to have to pick and choose about what parts of your lives to be a part of."

"And what's that supposed to mean?  You're a part of all our lives!"

"Here, yes.  In the Tunnels, yes.  But, Laja..."  He took her hands in his.  "Why didn't you let me go with you to your grandpa's funeral?  Afterwards, you told me that as you saw your cousins walk down the church aisle with their spouses and significant others... when they cried into their shoulders... you hated being alone then and you wanted me there.  But you didn't ask.  Why?"

A tear slid down her cheek.  She opened her mouth to answer but then shook her head.  "I won't let you do this."

Andrew was taken aback and released her.  "You won't *let* me do this?"

"Fine then...  I can't stop you but...  I'll... I'll never forgive you if you do!" she cried.  "Never."

"Then I'm willing to spend however long it takes trying to convince you to.  Please don't say never, Laja," he pleaded.

JenniAnn drew in a ragged breath.  There was that accent again.  And with it Andrew so nearly won her over.  But then her mind reeled back... years before.  Late 2002.  She began to rock unsteadily on her feet.

Andrew grabbed her and steadied her. 

"Never," she repeated.  "I can't... I can't agree with something this awful.  Y-you... a stroke.  Or a heart attack.  Or... or..."

"Laja, be reasonable.  Just because we have older human forms doesn't mean we're human.  Sam's never had a stroke.  Gabriel's never had a heart attack.  Ruth is the picture of health.  Have you ever seen Ronald looking unwell?  And..."  Andrew cut himself off.  He wasn't sure whether what he had to say would help or hurt his argument.  "What happened in November happened to a thirty or forty something body.  It's not as if I can't get hurt looking like this.  I've never been invincible.  I wouldn't be even if I looked exactly like this forever.  But I'd always be immortal."

Unconvinced, JenniAnn buried her face against his red and black flannel shirt.  The memories were strengthening.  "I-I found you on your porch.  Y-you were crying.  And I asked why.  And then... then you tried to cover it.  I was barely twenty and you were always so protective... even more then.  But I finally got it out of you.  A-and I'll never forget the sadness on your face, the grief.  You told me Tess had developed Alzheimer's," she finished, beginning to sob.  "If that happened to you..."

Andrew patted her back.  "Laja, that was... yes, that was very hard.  But you know what?  I had never heard of that before and I've certainly never heard of that since.  God used that to strengthen Monica and to reach out to an assignment that needed Tess.  I'm not supervising any of you and you're not my assignments.  We're talking about two completely different situations."

JenniAnn still wasn't convinced.  "Even if the worst you ever feel is mild arthritis... you could avoid that entirely!  It's too much to give up!"

"So perpetual youth is too much to give up for *all* of you but dating, marriage, having children... that's alright to sacrifice just for me?" Andrew asked as gently as possible.  He knew he was treading on shaky ground. 

JenniAnn pulled away.  "Andrew, that's not the same.  Lots of humans are single.  But I don't see lots of angels going deep cover just cause they're fond of some humans!  What you're contemplating... it's not worth it!"

Andrew drew in a deep breath.  "It is to me.  And I'm not sure 'fond of' quite covers what I feel.  Laja, back in October you told me you needed someone to be on your side in... in this."  He indicated the two of them.  "You wanted to know that there was someone who wasn't on some level hoping you'd reverse your decision, move on from me, and consider getting married.  Do you remember?"

She nodded.

"And I said I was on your side.  Well, Laja, now I need you to be on mine in this.  This is my choice.  This is what I want.  Please."  Andrew waited.  True anxiety wasn't something angels often felt but he felt it then.  He had to strain to her hear answer when she, at last, gave it.


She tore away from him and up the stairs.  Andrew jolted when her door slammed.  Swiping at a tear, he prayed for guidance on what to do next.


Her body wracking with sobs, JenniAnn slid to the floor and sat with her back against the door and her head in her hands.  She tried to listen for some hint of where Andrew had gone.  Had he left?  Had he come after her?  She didn't hear anything for several moments until she jolted at the sound of a voice in her room.

"'Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you,'" the familiar voice recited.  "'Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.'"

JenniAnn looked up to see Eli standing in front of her balcony door.  She bowed her head, embarrassed that he'd seen her in such a state.  "I'm sorry, Eli.  I spaced your interview but now... now's really not a good time any more.  And... and I can't even begin to express how much an AOD reciting wedding vows is *not* what I need to hear right now."

Eli shook his head.  "Don't you remember those words from your Bible classes?  They really struck you, precisely because they aren't wedding vows.  Sure, people sometimes use them as vows.  But they aren't.  At least they weren't originally.  Here," he picked up her Bible and handed it to her.  "Start from the top of chapter 1 of Ruth.  Aloud or silently.  It's up to you."

JenniAnn silently read as directed then looked up.  "Yeah, okay.  So Ruth said those words to her mother-in-law.  Trust me, I don't need guidance on how to behave with a mother-in-law."

"You're missing the point, kiddo."  Eli crouched in front of her.  "Ruth loved Naomi.  She'd spent many happy years with her while married to her son.  They became a family.  And even when he died and there was no reason for them to remain a family, Ruth still wanted that bond.  So she spoke those words.  Naomi thought Ruth could lead a better, more comfortable life elsewhere.  But Ruth was determined.  She loved this woman that had become her family.  She loved the life she had.  Just like Andrew loves the life he has here and the people that are a part of it."

JenniAnn shook her head.  "Eli, it's *not* the same.  The sacrifice is not the same."

"Not exactly, no.  But the sentiment and the determination is."  He smiled at her.  "JenniAnn, do you remember me?"

"Eli, don't be ridiculous.  I know who you are.  We met last year.  My godmother was in love with you.  Thus proving that perhaps falling in love with AODs is the result of a genetic mutation," she stated. 

Eli chuckled.  "I doubt that.  But that's not what I mean.  When we met... did you remember me?"

"Why would I remember you?"

Eli sighed and looked at nothing in particular as he thought back.  "Sophia was so proud of you.  I remember when she came home from the hospital.  And she talked about how beautiful you were.  You were 'the sweetest, most darling angel'... I was a close second, she assured."  He laughed.  "And the first time she got to babysit...  I'd never seen her so happy.  She loved you so much.  Every Tuesday starting when you were six weeks old, your parents went out.  And so Sophia got to watch you the whole evening, every week... and sometimes I got to help her."

JenniAnn's head snapped up and she peered into the angel's eyes.  "I... I really don't remember you.  I'm sorry, Eli."

He stroked her hair.  "It's okay.  That was what we wanted.  I stayed away shortly after you began to talk."


"People began to ask who 'Ee-yi' was.  How could Sophia have possibly explained me?  Even if she'd introduced me then, after so many years... what was going to happen in twenty when I still looked the same?  It's never been an option to just go around shouting that I'm an angel.  And it's not an option for Andrew, either.  I'd never met a deep cover angel so the possibility never even occurred to me.  And even if it had... I'm not sure I would have made that decision.  Sophia and I were different from what you have here.  She loved her family and friends but she was a traveler at heart.  We both were.  And so me staying younger, stronger... it made sense.  But that doesn't mean it was easy.  I didn't like staying away from you.  So that's why when Andrew told me what he was considering... I couldn't dismiss it, JenniAnn.  I lived on the outskirts of your life and even in Sophia's life I had to limit my involvement.  Andrew doesn't want that."  He smiled encouragingly at her.  "'Your people are his people.'"

"But that's been true for years now, without Andrew... doing this."

"How long could that continue, JenniAnn?  What if some of you have children?  I suppose it could all work out if they went to school Below or took classes here.  But what if they wanted to go to a normal school?  Do you tell them no?  Andrew would *not* want that.  If you agree, does Andrew go to their first day of class?  Or does he wait until their grade school graduation?  Or does he wait until high school?  College?  Or does he go to them all and risk a fellow student wondering why your child's uncle never seems to change?  And if he does limit his involvement... you're always so concerned about his reputation.  But, believe me, he'd rather have people wondering what he is to all of you than have them think of him as that deadbeat that disappeared when the kid was ten."

Moved and frightened by that vision of their shared lives, JenniAnn hugged Eli for support.  "I... I don't know."

"But he does know the answer.  Trust him.  And trust the One who will ultimately make that decision when the time comes," Eli urged.

JenniAnn nodded and let him go then settled back against the door.

Eli looked curiously at her. 

"What?" she queried.

"Do you think you could move?"

"Umm... sure.  Why?"  JenniAnn let him help her up.

Eli chuckled.  "Well... because Andrew's leaning on the other side of the door and that's just really making me think I'm stuck in some maudlin, break-up movie and that soon the music of Snow Patrol or the Fray is going to start playing."

For the first time since she'd arrived at Mick's apartment the night before, JenniAnn laughed.  But then she glanced at the door.  "H-how long's he been there?"

"The whole time, I think," Eli answered.  "Don't worry.  He hasn't heard this."

"I... I want to see him," JenniAnn murmured.

"And you will.  Soon.  But first... there's one more thing."  Eli smiled and withdrew a small object from his pocket.


Andrew looked at his pocket watch again.  Ten minutes and JenniAnn hadn't budged from her room.  While he'd waited, he'd returned Josef's call and learned of Mick's drunken secret-spilling and his jab about turning.  It was no wonder JenniAnn had snapped.  Andrew knew that, somehow, he had to break through the wall she'd thrown up.  Bored and distressed, his anxious gaze traveled around the hall way.  It landed on a decorative waste paper basket.  Not quite sure what he was doing, Andrew pulled it to him.  Inside was only a couple crumbled up pieces of paper they'd been taking interview notes on.  He tossed them to the side then turned the basket over.  A piano would have been better but the makeshift drum would have to do.

He tried to remember the words they'd "sung" together all those years before, the night Adam's version of "Spin the Bottle" had been born.  It was before the "two passes rule" had been added.  They both knew they didn't have a hope of reaching all those high notes so they'd thrown themselves into just having fun with it...  Ever since then, he'd only had to utter a few lines to make her laugh.

It was worth a shot.


Back in Los Angeles, Mick was finally beginning to stir.  He winced and brought his hand to his head.

"Good morning, sunshine," Josef greeted from his spot on the couch where he'd been reading to pass the time.

"Hey," Mick mumbled.  His gaze drifted to the papers on the table.  Seeing them, memories of the previous night hit him full force.  "Damn..."

"Yeah.  That about says it all.  I thought maybe later we could go outside and you could steal candy from small children and punch old ladies," Josef suggested caustically.

"I didn't mean..."  Mick sat up and buried his head in his hands.  "How is she?"

Josef shrugged.  "Don't know.  I tried calling Andrew to warn him and tell him to keep an eye out for her.  He only got back to me a few minutes ago and the damage had been done.  She's holed up in her room, he doesn't know what to do.  So bang-up job there.  What were you thinking?  That was for Andrew to tell.  Not you.  And it's not as if you can't keep a secret... even when you're smashed.  You chose to tell JenniAnn... you chose to hurt her."

Mick groaned.  "Oh God..."

"Why?  Why did you do it?" Josef pressed.

"I-I was jealous... jealous that he could make that choice.  And I can't."

Josef glared at him.  "You want to talk about jealousy?  Beth loves you.  Beth wants to be with you.  And you've spent this week hiding away from her, ignoring her, and just generally acting like an ass.  Meanwhile, my Sarah is dead.  She is dead, Mick!  I can't have her with me.  But if I could... I wouldn't squander that chance.  And I sure as hell wouldn't use my heartbreak as an excuse for hurting people who care about me.  JenniAnn and Andrew helped me to tell Sarah good bye."  Tears began to roll down Josef's cheeks.  "They and... and God... gave me... that last moment with her.  And I will always be grateful to them for that.  And if you don't make things right with them..."  Josef stood up straighter and brushed at his face.  "You're on your own, my friend."

Mick watched as Josef left, roughly closing the door behind him.


JenniAnn pulled away from Eli's embrace.  "What the..."

Eli covered his mouth with his hand.  "Please tell me he's not..."  He began to laugh hysterically.  "No man should ever, ever sing that song."

JenniAnn drew nearer to the door and the horrible singing accompanied by drumming.  She giggled.  Andrew had a very nice voice but Eli was right.  It wasn't his song at all... but it had been theirs once.

"'Bad dreams in the night.  They told me I was going to lose the fight.  Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering Wuthering Heights.  Heathcliff!  It's me, I'm Cathy, I've come home now.  So cold, let me in your window."

"Oh, please, let 'Cathy' in so he'll stop!" Eli begged.  "Somewhere, Kate Bush is cringing without knowing why!"

Giggling, JenniAnn cracked the door open.  "I'm going to open this so please stop leaning on it or else you're going to fall in."

Andrew immediately jumped to his feet and replaced the basket, tossing the paper back inside.

JenniAnn opened the door.  "Hi," she greeted shyly.

"Hi, JenniAnn."  Andrew peered past her.  "Eli," he greeted.  "Did you, umm, show up early for your interview because we're a little..."

Eli shook his head.  "I showed up for my assignment."

Andrew did a double-take.  "Wait... so am I..."

"The fellow considering a big change?  That'd be you, my friend.  But, actually, I'm about finished.  You won't be interviewing me but I was sent here to give you these."  He reached into his pockets again and handed each of them a card.  "These are the topics you each would have picked had the other been doing the interviews alone.  When you decided to work on it together, you opted to cut yours and focus on preparing the film.  The Father had other ideas."  He looked to JenniAnn.  "You interview him about the topic on that card.  The questions are already there but feel free to add your own."  He turned to Andrew.  "Likewise for you.  This isn't for your video.  Some things need to be said... in person... to yours friends first.  And not all the questions have to do with love, anyway.  But this is important to the Father."  He turned to JenniAnn.  "You get some breakfast and take care of yourself.  But then the both of you are going to talk.  Got it?"

Andrew and JenniAnn nodded, each knowing they had little choice in the matter.

"Great."  With that, Eli disappeared.

JenniAnn shuffled around, feeling bashful.  "I'm just, uh, going to go clean up."

Andrew nodded.  "I'll fix something for breakfast while you do that."

"You don't have..."

"Let me," Andrew insisted.

JenniAnn nodded and watched him leave the room.


Andrew balanced a tray with one hand and knocked on JenniAnn's door with the other.  She held it open and appreciatively eyed the tray laden with two bowls of oatmeal, fruit, orange juice, and toast.  Andrew had decided that a caffeine-free meal would be best.

"It's not much.  But I was worried if I spent too much time, Eli would come back and tell us we were procrastinating."  Andrew smiled.

JenniAnn let out a giggle as Andrew set the tray down on the coffee table in front of her love seat.  "Good thought."

Beyond that, they found conversation difficult and focused on their meal. 

When they'd both finished and moved the tray out of the way, Andrew tilted his head to the cards that they'd sat on one of her bookshelves.  "Do you want to look at yours first?" he asked. 

"Let's both look at once."

Andrew nodded and retrieved their cards.  "On three," he directed as he handed her the card bearing her name.  "One, two, three."

They both studied the cards. 

Andrew began to chuckle.  "You were going to make me interview you... about me?"

JenniAnn smiled.  "Yes and clearly God thought it was a good idea.  And yours... Dyeland.  I was going to interview you about your love for it last year but, of course... life intervened."

"I guess the Father thought it was better late than never."

JenniAnn nodded.  "You start, Andrew, please."

Drawing in a deep breath to steady himself, Andrew looked at his first question and settled back onto one side of the love seat.  "Alright..."  He couldn't believe the Father was making him do something so awkward.  However, he knew that if God willed it... there was a reason.  "Why do you love me?"

JenniAnn smiled.  "Because you're kind and gentle and loving.  A-and you go out into the world and you see things that would break so many people.  Or turn them bitter and hard.  And that's all true of Adam and Henry and Eli, too.  And I do love them all very much but you... you've always been different.  You... I don't know how to say it.  You just... make me more human."

"What do you mean by that, Laja?" the angel prodded gently.  Saying her nickname restored some of the ease he usually felt when talking to her.

She looked out the window.  "It's hard to talk about.  But I guess...  You know I'm very happy for all the loving couples out there."

Andrew nodded solemnly.  "Of course.  And you get very unhappy when something happens to them."

"Exactly.  And I cry at weddings.  And I love hearing people's 'how we met' stories.  Choosing wedding presents.  And it's like I said Monday night.  I feel safer knowing real, true romantic love exists but it also reminds me of... birds."  She gestured towards a tree branch just outside her window on which two pigeons were perched.

Andrew did a double take.  "Birds?"

"Yes.  I know it sounds weird but it's like... do you ever watch birds fly and just think they look so beautiful?  And it brings you happiness to see them.  And you feel like, somehow, your life would be far poorer without those birds?"

"I can't say I'd ever thought to put it that way but... sure.  I can relate to that."

"Do you want to be a bird?"


"And if the birds could talk to you, do you think you'd fully be able to comprehend their... birdness?"

Andrew shook his head.  "No, I'm not a bird."

"But what if almost everyone around you was a bird?  Or what if you actually were a bird but didn't feel like a bird?"

"That would be pretty difficult."

"Right.  And what if you found someone, finally, who was similarly non-bird like?"

"I think I'd stick pretty close to them."

"So... I'm a bird... but I don't really feel like a bird.  And you are not a bird."

It was beginning to dawn on Andrew that JenniAnn was maybe a lot more like him than he'd previously gathered.

"I have some of their tendencies and I feel parts of what they... people in actual romantic relationships, I mean now... feel."  JenniAnn looked up at him, trying to judge if he was following her rambling.  It seemed he was.  "But, before you, when my friends would approach me with their love woes... I just plain didn't get it.  It was like I was some other species.  After you... I got it a little more.  I guess I feel like, via what I feel for you, I gained some small hold on the reality my friends live in.  I really and truly think I am in love with you.  But I also think my way of being 'in love' isn't really the same as most people's.  I do find you attractive... always and, yes, especially with the jeans and flannel."

Andrew blushed and reached over to squeeze her hand.

"And I do love dancing with you and probly other things some people would consider romantic.  And when I see you with the kids... I do feel longing in some deep way I can't quite define.  And I do like having you near but... if tomorrow I were to wake up and find this had all been some dream and you were human and if I had even the slightest inkling that you were interested... I think I'd panic.  Maybe I have altered my life a little for you.  But when you inferred I'd given up dating, etc. for you...  I suppose I did.  But I also know it would never have made me happy like you do... it would never have driven away my aloneness like you have.  And that's one of the reasons... I'm terrified by anything that threatens to take you away."  Her eyes welled with tears as she stood up and began to pace the room.  "I really and truly don't know how to cope without you."

Andrew hugged her mid-pace.  "I promised you I wouldn't leave you.  That's still true.  And it will always be true, no matter what comes.  And I think you'll feel better if you understand why I began to consider... changing."

Nodding, JenniAnn pulled away.  "I guess that's my cue to ask you the first question which is..."  She looked to the card and laughed though it was tinged with sadness.  "What about us Dyelanders spurred you on to consider making this change?"

Andrew sighed as they reclaimed the love seat.  "You know, for most of my existence, I worked alone.  With the Father, of course.  And various supervisors that guided me.  But I considered myself something of a loner.  And then I started working with Monica and Tess and... it just felt right."  He smiled as he recalled all the great times they'd shared.  "Sure, there was the occasional problem or hurt feelings.  But I was happier than I'd been when I worked cases alone.  And then..."

JenniAnn reached for his hand.  "Then every body went their separate ways with working cases.  You... had a sense, didn't you, that it was coming?"

Andrew nodded. 

"Sometimes back then you looked so troubled and, actually, lately... I saw that same look.  I was worried something was changing again... but I couldn't have imagined this." 

"I suppose I have been a little nervous about how all of you would take this.  You probably saw that.  But this is the exact opposite of what happened in 2003, Laja.  With all of you, I feel a part of a family again.  I didn't have a choice before with Monica and Tess and Gloria.  But I feel like I do with all of you in Dyeland.  If the Father allows me to, I'm doing this so we can all stay together."

"Do you think He will?" she asked.

Even though Andrew could tell her utter repulsion to the idea had gone away, he could tell she still wished the possibility didn't exist.  But he wouldn't mislead her, even if it meant causing her some pain.  He thought back to his vision at Christmas.  He'd hoped to catch a glimpse of himself, wanted to see signs of age on his own face.  However, the Father hadn't shown him that.  He'd shown him only his friends, waiting for him.  When Andrew had stepped out of the ballroom on that snowy Christmas Eve, all doubts were gone and what little he had seen seemed answer enough.  "Yes, Laja.  I really do."

She closed her eyes but nodded. 

"You've always been so afraid I'd fade away and leave you.  But people fade away and grow apart in many ways," Andrew continued.  "And I know we would never choose that but already you, and maybe the others, too, have pushed me away at times.  Because you felt you had to."

"Like at my Grandpa's funeral," JenniAnn murmured.  "You asked me about it earlier but I didn't answer."

"Do you want to now?"

She nodded.  "I didn't ask you because even though I wanted you there desperately... I knew there would be more difficult funerals to come.  And if you had come then... how would I have explained you to my extended family in the hopefully many, many years later at my parents' funerals?  I knew I had to make a choice.  So I did."

"And I don't want you to have to any more.  And I definitely don't want the little kids to have to, either.  Laja, what if Shelby's one of the kids that decides to move Above?  What would you have me do?"

JenniAnn inhaled raggedly.  "I... I dunno.  When I told you about her valentine yesterday... that just convinced you even more to... to age, didn't it?"

Andrew nodded.  "Yes, Laja.  But I would have learned eventually.  And even if Shelby hadn't said that...  Laja, do you remember on Tuesday when I got back from an assignment and was upset but didn't want to talk about it?"

JenniAnn nodded, frowning as she recalled how sad he'd looked.  "Do you want to tell me now?  I can take it, Andrew.  As long as you're with me," she encouraged.

Andrew averted his gaze, fumbling with a throw pillow.  "A little boy.  His own father had beaten him until..."  His voice broke off for a few moments.  "And then I had to convince him that not all fathers hit, that one Father loved him so much.  That He wanted him in His Home where he'd always, always be loved.  And he was so happy when he saw Heaven and all the loving people waiting for him.  But... I'm so tired of seeing those scenes unfold.  I can hold the kids and reassure them and love them but it... it doesn't change what happened to them, what they suffered.  And nothing in the world is ever gonna make that right."

JenniAnn began to cry into his shoulder, clutching his hand in hers. 

"But... when I go Below or when I think of being 'Uncle Andrew' somewhere down the road..."  Andrew smiled through his tears and squeezed JenniAnn's hand.  "I find a lot of peace in seeing the children growing and happy, knowing I can be a apart of their lives... not their deaths but their lives, Laja!  I need that balance.  I've gotten used to having that balance and I don't... I can't lose it.  So this isn't about you or anyone else unwittingly pushing me to consider this.  It was always me and only me.  One reason I didn't want to say anything... maybe not until it happened... was because I didn't want any of you making decisions based on whether or not it'd push me to take that step.  "

"I believe you," JenniAnn assured.  "And... I do understand your keeping it quiet for now."

"Thank you.  So... can I ask the next question?"

"I'm ready."

"This... I've always wondered about this one but I could never bring myself to ask it," he confessed.

"I'm sorry if it's something you've struggled with but God must think it's important to get it out in the open," JenniAnn reasoned.

"He must."  Andrew smiled at her then dragged his right hand through his hair.  "Have you ever wished you didn't love me as you do?'

"For a while... yes," JenniAnn admitted, watching him closely, fearing she'd hurt him.  "I wanted to fit in, Andrew.  And I see now my whole relationship with Eliot was an attempt at that.  I did love him but I was never in love with him and... it wasn't fair to him... or you... or even me.  I hated feeling like I'd disappointed some family members by not being married and, well, pregnant.  But I just have this awful feeling that if I hadn't found my way back to you... thanks to Mick, ironically... I would have spent my whole life running from relationship to relationship, trying to find what we had and always failing and leaving a trail of wronged guys behind me.  And I would have hated myself for that.  And... when you were homeless..."  She looked away and nervously smoothed out her skirt.

"It's okay, Laja, I can take it," he encouraged.

"There was a moment... shortly before Rose and I visited with you... I felt consumed by my own helplessness and grief and worry for you."  Tears slid down her cheeks.  "For the briefest moment I wanted to run away from you and what I felt but... I couldn't, Andrew.  I knew it would be like living without my heart.  So, in short, I have wished that but it's a wish that I am so very glad didn't come true."

Andrew sighed with relief.  "Thank you.  I... that makes me feel a lot better."

JenniAnn hugged him.  "Good.  I love you and I want to love you," she stressed.

"Thank you.  I love you, too," the angel responded, returning her hug.

JenniAnn glanced at the card in her hand. 

"I'm ready," Andrew assured.

"Okay, then.  You told me that this... that growing older... was worth it to you.  What did you mean?" she questioned intently.

"Do you think it's every century I find a group of people who love me like all of you do?  I've been thrown out of houses, run away from..."  He chuckled but it held a note of sadness.  "I've even had the occasional person throw holy water on me and try to send me back to where I came from... and I don't think they understood that to be Heaven.."

"Oh, Andrew..."

"It's okay."

"No, it's not!"

Andrew acquiesced with an almost imperceptible nod.  "It is better now.  Even if that happens, eventually I come here.  And here there are people so unafraid of me, they'll prod me mercilessly about my age."  He chuckled again, truly amused.  "I have my own specially and lovingly made teddy bear.  I can play 'Spin the Bottle: Dyeland Style'!  How many people get to have that much fun?  I have someone who in a demonstration of her, admittedly reckless, love; got me the dog I've wanted for a long, long time."

JenniAnn blushed and beamed at him.  She wanted to say something but his words were too precious to interrupt.

"There are the children who grew up being taught that I would never, ever harm them."  Andrew stood and walked to one of her book shelves.  In front of the books was a row of photographs of them all.  He studied them.  "And when I lost sight of that all... when all the hate and the cruelty and the anger clouded my mind and broke my heart and hurt my spirit... you all fought for me.  And, yes, with me.  But you didn't give up.  You all loved me that much.  And you remained at my side when I mourned Dawn.  And in November... don't you think I realize it would have been easier to turn your backs and wait in Dyeland until my assignment ended?  But you didn't.  You were all there for me every last moment you could be."  The angel picked up a photo from that Thanksgiving dinner.  There he was in his cast, visibly wearied, but smiling in the center of a group hug.  He handed it to JenniAnn who had moved to stand at his side.  "Can you understand why this is worth it to me?"

"Y-yes," she responded.  She smiled at the photo then reached up to hug him again.  "I do, Andrew."

"I'm glad, Laja.  Very, very glad."

"And I'm sorry I acted like such a maniac."

Andrew chuckled.  "I suppose now that I can look back at it from a safe distance... it's a little endearing.  You wouldn't have been so angry if you didn't care so much."

"Exactly.  But still... and imagine me thinking I could or couldn't let you do something!  Gah, Yva would flip after what she said about the whole Sir Sven flying thing!"  JenniAnn cringed at her own audacity.  "And that bit about never forgiving you."  She shuddered.

"We all say things we don't mean when we're upset," Andrew consoled. 

"So you forgive me?"

"With all my heart."

"Thank you."

"But I think I'd feel even better if I could ask this last question here."

"Of course," JenniAnn agreed, following him back to their seats.

"I'm going to need to tell the others soon.  I don't want to risk another... slip.  I figure I'll do it individually.  I think that's best."

"Me too."

"Good.  And whatever their reactions are... I think I could handle them knowing this answer now that you've had some time."  Andrew peered at the card then back up at his friend.  "Will you be on my side with this?"

JenniAnn took his hands in hers.  She flinched slightly when she noticed the thin scar on his right palm, a seemingly permanent reminder of his most recent and most violent stint on the streets.  She wondered and worried about what other transformations would follow once he'd been granted his request.

Andrew waited, outwardly patient but inwardly anxious again.  Her initial reaction, though smoothed over, increased his concern about how the others would react.  If he could be assured that he had even one of them committed to his decision, it would be easier to face whatever the rest felt.  But reluctant acceptance was not the same as valuing his choice.  He tried to read her expression when JenniAnn finally looked up at him.

"Yes, Andrew.  I will," she vowed at last.

Finally letting out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding in, Andrew hugged her.  "Thank you, Laja.  Thank you so much."

"I feel like the thankfulness should be all on our side," she murmured. 

"No," he assured. 

Reluctantly, JenniAnn eventually pulled away and reclaimed her card.  "Are you ready for your last one?"

Andrew chuckled.  "I think I better be."

"True enough.  We're not allowed to put it off."  JenniAnn grinned before focusing on the task at hand.  "When you were first considering going deep cover, what were your concerns about how we'd react?"  She blushed, recalling those initial moments. 

"I knew you'd all be concerned.  I didn't want that.  But mostly it was not wanting any of you basing your decisions off 'Is this going to force Andrew's hand?'  I'm doing this to give us all more options, not reign them in.  So I absolutely do not want that.  And I do remember how concerned you all were when I broke my arm and the days leading up to that."  Andrew gazed across the room again at the Thanksgiving photograph.  "I knew that you'd worry I'd be more... fragile eventually.  And I didn't want that at all.  And..."  He blushed.

"What?" JenniAnn prodded gently.

Andrew smiled, feeling foolish.  "I think I might miss all the compliments if you all don't feel the same way about how I look.  I mean... I may not always be handsome or cute or... lovely.  And knowing what you told me earlier... if how you feel about me is your hold on their world of romance and attraction... I don't want to take that away since it's important to you."

"Oh, Andrew," JenniAnn cooed.  "Didn't you ever wonder why I use 'lovely' more than the others?  Yes, you are handsome and you are cute.  But those qualities have always been secondary.  Lovely is more encompassing.  You're lovely because of who you are, how you act, what you do.  And that won't change.  In fact, it will deepen."  She withdrew the object Eli had given her from her pocket.  "Remember when we visited Sophia's grave and I left her that note?"

Andrew nodded, too moved to make any other response.

"I told her I wished she was here to guide me cause lately... it would be nice to talk to someone who has been through this all before like she had with Eli.  Because even though you've said so many times how grateful you are and how blessed you feel about us being there for you, I still feel like it's never quite enough.  Like there's always more I could do for you.  But I didn't know what.  Until today." 

"Laja, I don't know what that could possibly be."

"I do.  When I was younger, I called you 'my Skin Horse.'  It was cute, maybe.  Endearing.  But it was only half right.  You've been Real like the Skin Horse for a very long time, Andrew.  But you didn't become Real because a child loved you... even if I did.  I have a sense you were Real from birth.  And that you became more Real when you first looked upon one of us humans with love, when you first comforted someone who was grieving, first brought the message of God's love to someone.  And you become more Real each and every day.  You're one of the most Real people I know and even though I've known you for only a very small portion of your life, I know this is true.  But for all my goofy, dreamy, swoony compliments to you... I obviously haven't done a good enough job of ensuring you that I see you as Real.  That I love you because of that Realness, not physical beauty.  Not because you are Andrew who is cute.  Or Andrew who can wear the heck out a flannel shirt and blue jeans.  Or Andrew who has amazing hair.  But Andrew who is Real because he is... love."  She'd begun to cry but soldiered on.  "So Sophia asked Eli to give this to me.  This is her guidance.  Now I'm giving it to you."  She dropped the object into his hand and closed his fingers around it.  "So if forty years from now... you wonder... if I still love you... and I'm not able to tell you... just hold tight to this and remember this moment.  Remember that I love the Real you... whether your hair is golden or silver... or... or gone.  Whether you look like a Greek god... or an old man.  I love you."

"I love you, too," Andrew responded, his voice cracking but he didn't care.  He opened his hand and gazed down at the miniature skin horse resting in his palm.

They sat for a long time, embracing.  Neither knew that just outside the door, someone had heard every word from JenniAnn's reference to the Skin Horse onward.  And in her words, he heard his own feelings echoed. 

Mick wouldn't interrupt them.  He'd return later to apologize... bearing very large, very soft plush frogs and several cases of ginger ale.  And he would make a point of calling before any future Dyeland visits.  There would be no more accidental eavesdropping.  But just as Andrew and JenniAnn needed that moment to themselves, he and Beth needed their own.


With some reluctance, Josef had turned over Beth's location when Mick called.  Mick tried to make peace with his best friend but knew it would take more than a single chat.  He'd selfishly disregarded Josef's own pain, only going on about his own.  He was determined to make up for it no matter how long it took.  His commitment was even stronger when it came to Beth.

Thus, he found himself ambling through the Fields of Gold even though the sun shone bright in the sky.  His guitar case felt heavy, weakened as he was from the light and his well-deserved hangover.  He was grateful when a cabin came into view.  He knew it must be the one Beth was staying in, the clothes hanging on the line were her own.  He noticed, too, that the windows were open.  He'd hoped they would be.

Standing before the cottage, Mick opened his guitar case.  Strapping it on, he began to play. 

"'The book of love is long and boring.  No one can lift the damn thing.  It's full of charts and facts and figures and instructions for dancing.  But I love it when you read to me.  And you can read me anything,'" he sang.

Beth had been working on a report when she heard his voice.  Her heart began to beat fast with hope.  She stood and walked towards the door, peering out.  The sight of Mick after four long days and five heartbreaking nights without him brought her immense joy.  She opened the door and stepped outside.

Mick smiled wanly when he saw her.  Tears pricked his eyes but he continued to sing.  "'The book of love is long and boring and written very long ago.  It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes and things we're all too young to know.  But I love it when you give me things.  And you ought to give me wedding rings.'"

Beth approached and stroked his hair. 

He finished the remaining lines then removed the guitar and knelt before her.  "I am an incredibly stupid man.  But I am a man who loves you very much, Beth.  And I am sorry that I hurt you.  I am so sorry.  And I have no right to ask now... what I intended to ask tomorrow before Botoxgate 2010 happened."

Beth laughed deliriously even as she began to cry.

"I love you... and only you.  And I will love you... until the day I die.  No matter how many years away that is."  Mick held Beth's hands in his.  "Whenever it happens... it would mean everything to live... and to die... as your husband."  He kissed her hands then fumbled for his coat pocket.  "I don't expect an answer now.  I think we need to talk about some things, first.  But right now you deserve to know... I love you.  Forever.  No matter what comes.  Will you marry me, Beth?"  Shaking, he held the ring box out to her.

She sighed as she sat on the grass, pulling Mick towards her.  "I agree we need to talk but... you deserve to know... I'll say yes.  I-I love you, Mick.  I-I want to go home."

Mick nodded, tears streaming down his face to match her own.  "I've missed you so much."

Beth's response was to give into the longing she'd felt since closing their apartment door behind her and kiss him.


As soon as they'd both fully calmed down and JenniAnn had rested, she and Andrew left to retrieve Fawn and Lulu from Rose.  The weather was fair and since they carried only some thank you treats for Rose and Josephine and not their cameras, they decided to walk.  They were nearing the lake that bordered the Fields of Gold when Andrew held his arm out and stopped JenniAnn.  He smiled beatifically.

"What is it Andrew?" JenniAnn asked.

"I think we're going to need to go a roundabout way to reach Rose without being noticed," he told her.

"Noticed?  By who?"

Andrew took her by the shoulders and turned her towards the west. 

JenniAnn had to stifle a cry of glee when she saw two figures, one with long, blonde hair and the other with dark, curly hair, dancing beneath the shade of a tree.  Not wanting to be intrusive and only needing that one moment to restore her faith in Mick's and Beth's love for each other, she turned back to Andrew and hugged him.  "That's so wonderful!"

"It really, really is."  He smiled up at the sky.  "Thank you, Father," he whispered.

"Amen," JenniAnn added. 

The goofy smiles didn't fade from either of their faces for a long while as Andrew led JenniAnn to the coast by less traveled paths.  After a few moments, JenniAnn finally spoke.

"Andrew, look!"

The angel gazed up to where she pointed.  Two birds, not unlike the ones they'd seen outside her window, were flying together... fearlessly facing a new day.  Andrew hugged his friend.  "You said it exactly right, Laja.  It does make me happy to see them.  And I would feel like my life was a little less rich without those birds... the feathered ones and the non-feathered ones," he clarified with a smile.

Sighing contentedly, JenniAnn nodded.  "May they never know such heartache again."



Sunday, February 14th, 2010


Andrew entered Willowveil shortly before 9:00 AM.  After coping with all the emotions of the previous 24 hours and completing some errands necessary for the video, both he and JenniAnn had turned in early the night before.  The video only needed slight tweaking and so they'd agreed to complete it over breakfast in her office.  The angel laughed when he stepped into the room and found himself staring at three very large, vibrantly colored plush frogs.  Lulu timidly approached them, staring at the amphibians warily alongside Fawn.  "Mick's been by?"

"How'd ya know?" JenniAnn asked.

"He stopped by my place around 7:30 with several cases of ginger ale and one very heartfelt apology," Andrew explained.  "He said he was coming here next."

"That he did.  And he even named them."  JenniAnn's hand drifted from a magenta frog to a cerulean one to an emerald one.  "Mea, Maxima, and Culpa.  Which actually sounds kinda cute but in English that makes them My, Most Grievous, and Fault which, ya know, is a lil bit weird."

Andrew chuckled.  "So how did he seem to you?"

JenniAnn thought.  "Well, apologetic and embarrassed.  And I told him that I was hurt and scared out of my mind by all that but... that I couldn't forget that if not for him speaking up two years ago... I might still be living a lie.  And if he hadn't volunteered his P.I. services back in November..."  She shook her head, banishing the thought.  "Well, I couldn't rightly hold a grudge.  So once he was assured of that he seemed, well, blissful."

"Good.  And how do you feel?" Andrew checked.

She sighed.  "I feel... blessed and loved," she responded.  "You?"

"The same," Andrew agreed, hugging her.  "And very, very ready to show this off."  He pointed to the disk that was on her computer desk.

"Me too.  We're meeting everyone at noon so...  three hours."

"And have you decided?"

JenniAnn grinned.  "Yes, I believe I have.  And I say we go for it."

"It'll be different than previous years," Andrew pointed out.

"True.  But different can be good.  So... I'm game if you are."

Andrew gave her a sly smile.  "Game on."

They toasted their plan over coffee and heart-shaped French toast before beginning their final preparations.


The Cafe was nearly at capacity when the great video unveiling was set to begun.  After a potluck lunch, every person who had been interviewed, several of the Tunnel children, Josephine, Henry, Mick, Beth, Josef, and Eli all directed their attention to the screen that nearly covered the karaoke stage.

To the sound of clapping and cheers, Andrew and JenniAnn climbed to the stage to address their friends. 

"JenniAnn and I would like to thank every one of you who had a part in this video.  We had a great time interviewing so many of you and spending time with so many more of you.  We love you all very much and hearing you speak about the types of love that are meaningful to you... it was a gift."  Andrew beamed as his gaze settled on each individual.

JenniAnn nodded.  "Sometimes your answers were funny.  Some very serious.  But they all touched us.  And we hope this video we put together with your help touches all of you."

With that, the video began to roll.

There were laughter and tears as the interviews played, interspersed with shots of life in Dyeland and the Sibling Cities.  There were "awws" and cheers during footage of Adam/Father Christmas among the children at the Phoenix.  Several Dyelanders cringed even as they laughed when it became obvious Andrew and JenniAnn had seen fit to include the footage Willy had shot of them dancing like maniacs at the Renaissance Faire.  However, no one could accuse the two of being selective with their embarrassing scenes.  The group laughed thunderously at footage of Andrew donning several barrettes after some of the little girls had begged the chance to style his hair.  There was a scene of JenniAnn proudly showing off the shirt covered with Andrew's nicknames... only realizing after a rather exuberant explanation of "Rakish One," in which she recalled his habit of failing to utilize all his shirt buttons, that Andrew was behind her, grinning from ear to ear just moments before tapping her shoulder.  Josephine leading a Bible study at the Phoenix.  There was Mick and Beth, pelting each other with snow balls only to get clobbered by Josef.  They'd even captured Eli, in full Lumiere gear, rehearsing.  Rose listing off number after number with Andrew simply answering "No, try again," with each guess at his age.  Owen patiently helping the children to paint their valentines.  Several people got misty eyed during a scene of Tess singing at the Phoenix, her soft gaze often falling on Andrew who had only recently moved in off the streets.  There was Jacob curled up on Vincent's lap as Catherine read to them both while Father looked on proudly.  Willy, Yva, and Sir Sven laughing as they made the rounds of the former's factory.  The AOD Band playing for their ever-appreciative admirers.  Nigel speaking to intent Tunnel children about his time.  And, of course, the directors were sure to include the "best of" from Spin the Bottle nights.

As they all watched each other speak of love and saw highlights of a year filled with blessings and sadnesses, both of which they'd faced together, no one noticed Andrew and JenniAnn slip away.  Their disappearance was only remarked upon when the disk seemed to stick and the video froze on an image of all of them gathered together outside on Christmas Eve, dripping from making snow angels but incredibly happy.

"Andrew?" Adam called.  "I think you need to do something, buddy.  JenniAnn?  The video is frozen."

No one answered.

"Baby?" Tess shouted. 

"I do not see either him or JenniAnn," Nigel responded with concern.

Yva looked around.  "Well, they have to be here.  I know they wouldn't just leave.  This tradition is really important to them both."

"Definitely.  And it seems like this is usually the point where they play some really great, meaningful song," Rose added.

Mick shuffled nervously then rose from the bench he was sharing with Beth at the back of the Cafe.  "Well, the thing is... I kind of wrecked yesterday for them so it's possible they didn't get to finish so..."

"I don't think that's it," Owen countered.  "I think they finished it because they apparently had enough time to go shopping.  I ran into them yesterday afternoon at a thrift shop back in NYC.  Actually... come to think of it, they were behaving a little strangely."

Josef, sitting very near the stage, heard the distinct sound of JenniAnn giggling and Andrew muttering "I'm shedding sequins everywhere."  Smiling, he kept mum. 

"I believe this must be part of their presentation," Vincent reasoned.  "I know my cousin well and she would not leave something of this value unfinished.  I cannot believe Andrew would, either."

"Oooh!  Psyche has a pretty dress!"

Everyone turned to see that Shelby had moved to the side of the stage.  She was smiling as she looked behind the screen.

Eli chuckled.  "I hope you're all ready for this."

"You know what they're doing?" Beth asked.

He shook his head.  "No but I know them both.  And I know what they're capable of."

Josef continued to laugh quietly at the dialogue only he could hear. 

"Shelby saw us."

"Maybe just you.  You are a little... eye-catching, you know."

"And you aren't?  Grr.  Why won't this start?  They're getting restless."

Andrew chuckled.  "I've found that it helps to plug CD players in."

And then very familiar notes of a song filled the Cafe and Andrew's voice came over the speaker.  "JenniAnn and I are perfectly aware that for the past two years we've each ended the documentary with a nice, lyrical, beautiful song."

"That's right," JenniAnn continued.  "But this year... with everything we've been through together... it's time to have fun!  And sing!  And dance!  And celebrate one of the greatest gifts God has given us... each other... a family.  So..."

The two emerged from behind the curtains, JenniAnn in a ridiculous pink-sequined dress and Andrew in an equally horrendous red sequined shirt redeemed only by his much-appreciated blue jeans.  On cue, disco balls dropped from the ceiling and everyone, fully giving into the spectacle and the emotion sang and danced together.

"We are family!
All my brothers, sisters, and me!
We are family!
Get up everybody and sing!"

After the first verse, JenniAnn stepped back from it all and smiled at her friends.  For a brief moment, she felt a pang of worry as she thought about what Andrew would soon have to tell them.  But then she heard a shriek of laughter and saw him twirling Shelby around as other lil ones patiently waited their turns. 

Yva and Sir Sven danced past her.  "This was a great idea!" the former shouted, laughing.

JenniAnn smiled and nodded. 

A moment later, Eli approached.   "It'll be alright, kiddo," he encouraged, noticing her preoccupation with Andrew.  "No matter what happens, remember who the Head of this family is.  He'll get us all through."

JenniAnn nodded.  She giggled again.  Andrew was really getting into the song!  He was singing even louder than Tess!

Andrew smiled encouragingly at JenniAnn, knowing what her thoughts had drifted to.  Pointedly, he sang with even more gusto the lyrics of the song that suddenly took on even greater meaning for him.

"Living life is fun and we've just begun,
to get our share of the world's delights.
High hopes we have for the future
and our goal's in sight!
No, we don't get depressed.
Here's what we call our golden rule:
have faith in you and the things you do.
You won't go wrong.
This is our family jewel."

He was reluctant for the song to end but when it did, Andrew hugged his equally bedazzled friend.  "I'm glad we went with this option."

"Me too!  We look horrendously gaudy but... look at everyone!"  JenniAnn beamed at all the dear people around them, still laughing and happily discussing their favorite parts of the video.  She turned back to Andrew.  "And you... with the kids.  That was adorable."

Andrew smiled.  "I had a great time... especially knowing it doesn't have to end."

"Never," she added.

"Never," he echoed.

JenniAnn giggled.

Andrew raised his eye brow.  "What?"

"I just love how you say that is all."

Andrew smiled at her, bemused.  "Whatever you say, Laja."

"I hope you're not plotting anything else," Rose teased as she approached.

Andrew chuckled.  "That was our only surprise, I promise."

"Good.  Because now that they saw it on the documentary, the kids want to learn 'Spin the Bottle: Dyeland Style' and your participation is required," she stressed.

Gamely, Andrew and JenniAnn agreed and joined the large circle of people as Adam laid out the history.

As he listened, Andrew's gaze traveled around the circle.  Maybe JenniAnn was right.  Maybe he had been Real for more years than either she or Rose could ever count.  But he knew that each of them made him feel more Real, more a part of something, more the person the Father had created him to be.  And he loved them and Him for that.  Closing his eyes for a brief moment, Andrew told the Father of his gratitude and love and heard love echoed back to him along with a sense of peace and determination with which to face the future: whatever it brought, whatever changed, and whatever stayed the same.

"Thank you, Father," the angel whispered.  Then he devoted his attention to the rest of the celebration of family, friends, and love in all its glorious forms.

The End


Bible verse quote by Eli is Ruth 1:16, NIV
"There is No Place Like Nebraska" lyrics were written by Harry Pecha
"Fast Car" lyrics were written by Tracy Chapman
"The Water is Wide" lyrics are traditional
"Wuthering Heights" lyrics were written by Kate Bush
"The Book of Love" lyrics were written by Stephin Merritt
"We Are Family" lyrics were written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers.  The Sister Sledge version has only "all my sisters" in the chorus.  Despite my best efforts with Google, I don't know who altered it to "all my brothers, sisters, and me" or when.  The latter version is what I'm familiar with from church but, again, I have no idea if Edwards and Rodgers wrote it as such and Sister Sledge opted for only the sisters part or what.
The Velveteen Rabbit was written by Margery Williams.  To anyone who has never read it, you can do so here.

Research for Nigel's segment, courtesy of Yvette, was done at http://genealogy.about.com/cs/timelines/a/romance_history.htm.

Play List:
In past years I've chosen a song for each interview but this year just plain didn't give me enough time.  So here are some songs I listened to for inspiration at points.

1, 2, 3, 4- Plain White T's- This was originally going to be the closing song before I had the "We Are Family" idea.  I just think it's really sweet.

Fast Car- Tracy Chapman- I dunno why but I've just had this mental image of Andrew and a Dyelander or several in his van listening to this.  Got it with this story.  The chorus really does apply to them but definitely NOT the verses!

Say Hey (I Love You)- Michael Franti & Spearhead & Cherine Anderson- My mood wasn't exactly up for most of the writing process.  But this song helped me when I needed to write cheery scenes.  It doesn't apply to the characters... just happy!

Set The Fire To The Third Bar- Snow Patrol Feat. Martha Wainwright- After Eli's crack, ya know there had to be a Snow Patrol song somewhere on this!  Mick and Beth, totally.

Losing My Religion- R.E.M.- It helped me write the initial Saturday scene with Andrew and JenniAnn.  I'd previously used it for a scene involving them and Mick so I guess it made sense to have it pop up again in a scene that involved Andrew and
JenniAnn in the wake of Mick's revelation.  Plus it just seems ironic and I feel ironic lately.

Wuthering Heights- Kate Bush- Just the eeriness of it...  It set a good tone for the darker scenes.  And then to be ironic I ended up using it for comic relief.

All This Time- OneRepublic- Really I just listened to their entire "Waking Up" CD a lot.  But picked this one as especially appropriate for the Valentine's play list.

Fields of Gold (New Version)- Sting- This song is soooo not appropriate for Andrew and the Dyelanders but I love it.  So putting Mick and Beth there finally gave me an excuse to tie it to the Dyeland Fields of Gold.

The Book of Love- Peter Gabriel- I dunno why but this song suddenly popped in my head while I was contemplating how to tie up Mick's and Beth's scenario.  I think because it swings from the petty aspects of love (their fight) to one of love's greatest gifts (marriage).  So it really covers their journey here well.  Although don't look for a wedding soon.  They really do need to do some major talking first.

We Are Family- After the year these people had... they needed a dance party and NOT some nice but quiet musical observance! 
And they are family!


JABB 294

(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)