"I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you."  ~~Paulo Coelho

Hi all,

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

So this happened... in Dyeland... and Manhattan.

God bless,

Promises of Someday

February 4th        February 5th        February 6th        February 7th        February 8th

February 9th       
February 10th        February 13th        February 14th        February 17th

February 4th, 2014

As she sunk back into the cushions of the couch in her office at Willowveil, JenniAnn clicked through a folder of photographs from the past year.  Beside her, Andrew had his own laptop and was playing snippets of songs.  He was on the hunt for the perfect ones to use for their annual Valentine's video. 

JenniAnn giggled to herself.  The angel's musical sensibilities had never made much sense to her.  There was Bruce Springsteen and Simon and Garfunkel, selections from Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, and Peter Pan, chants by Hildegard of Bingen, gospel, country, waltzes, tangos, Celtic ballads, jazz, swing, and equal parts the early and later work of some shock rocker Andrew had once had an assignment with.  When he stumbled upon one particular song, JenniAnn sighed.

"Oh... I've always loved this one," she whispered.

Andrew watched as JenniAnn's eyes misted while Joni Mitchell crooned.

"And the seasons they go round and round
and the painted ponies go up and down.
We're captive on the carousel of time."

The angel grew sentimental himself.  The following month it would be fourteen years since he had met JenniAnn.  They had seen over fifty seasons "go round and round" in that time.  So many people had come into their lives during those seasons, some remaining and some not.  But always the two of them had stayed.  If they were captives, well, then at least they were captive by choice! 

"The song's fitting," he decided.  "I think we should use it.  But first..."  Andrew stood and smiled down at JenniAnn, holding out his hand.  "I've had enough of clicking and dragging for the night.  Dance with me?"

Beaming, JenniAnn took his hand.  Around his shoulder, she noticed her clock.  "It's already after 8.  You have to leave soon, don't you?"

Andrew nodded.  "8:37."

"Which means 8:32 in Andrew time."

The angel of death smiled.  "Yeah.  But I should be back in the morning.  Early."

"Kay."  JenniAnn rested her head against his shoulder.  It was pleasant to know Andrew would be back soon and yet...  For so many years she had rejoiced whenever she knew his absence would be abbreviated.  But in the past year so much had changed between them...  No.  Not changed.  Grown, repaired.  Those were better words to describe it.  JenniAnn recognized now that what, to her, had meant having her beloved Andrew near could mean something else entirely to him... could feel differently to him.  Short assignments could mean many things.  He could be going to take an elderly person who was ready Home.  If that was so then he would come back to her all smiles and warmth and laughter.  But it could be something sudden and violent.  JenniAnn realized now that those cases were often the most difficult for Andrew.  With his assignments that involved caseworking, he often had time to help someone see reason and find compassion and forestall tragedy.  Barring that, he at least would have time to bond with and prepare the one whose life would be lost.  But too often the short assignments left the angel with time only to dry tears and say a few words and take his assignment Home.  Then he would come back still smiling, heartened by memories of rejoicing in Heaven, but at odd moments she would find him staring off... seemingly staring back into time and what had happened.  Neither she nor any of her friends would be able to fully dispel that shadow until he had time to grieve in his own quiet, selfless way.  She prayed the morning would find him happy and at peace.

Andrew, too, was deep in thought.  He knew that as soon as he left Dyeland, he would go to a hospital in Tulsa where he would sit with a woman name Lydia.  Though she was unconscious, God knew she longed to leave the world hearing His Word.  Thus Andrew would sit beside her and read the Bible, holding her hand as he did.  He sighed as he thought of the assignment that would follow: a young man who had apparently never taken to heart the fact that he was, indeed, a mortal.  Shortly after midnight, unless his guardian angel's counsel against speed and alcohol prevailed, he would wrap his car around a tree and Andrew would take him Home, too.  And then there was the third assignment...  Of that Andrew only knew the location.  An alley in Manhattan.  He assumed the Father would tell him more once he was there.  Or perhaps Joshua would.  The separation that would come when their assignment together started wasn't yet complete.  The not knowing made Andrew uneasy but he trusted there was a reason for it.  God would be with him no matter what came and by morning he'd be on his own time again, free to go Home or curl up on his couch with Lulu and a book or visit with friends. 

"Laja," he murmured.

"Hmm?"  JenniAnn looked up at him.

"Can we meet for breakfast?"

"Well, sure.  Should I invite the others?"

"Maybe wait until the morning.  I'll come find you."

JenniAnn nodded, understanding that Andrew didn't know what sort of state he'd be in.  "Is Violeta going with you tonight?"

Andrew shook his head and smiled.  "She's with Monica.  God sent them back to the Philippines so they could visit some of their former patients.  He thought it would do them both good.  I'm sure it will.  She'll be back sometime tomorrow, too."

Though happy for Monica and Violeta, JenniAnn wished the latter was going with Andrew and could keep him company.  Still, there had to be a reason for his going alone.  She just wished she could shake the feeling that something was going to befall Andrew that night.

They had danced through Joni Mitchell and another ballad but suddenly "Master of the House" erupted from Andrew's computer.

JenniAnn laughed and stopped moving.  "I'm sorry but I am not dancing with you to this."

Andrew smiled even as he blushed and scrambled to turn the song off.  "Sorry.  I must have burned the whole CD by accident."

"It's all right.  But..."  She looked at the clock again.  "It's 8:30."

Andrew pulled out his pocket watch and confirmed this was so.  "Hopefully tomorrow we'll have more time to prep for the video."

JenniAnn hugged him.  "Yes.  I'll pray all goes well for you and your assignments tonight, Andrew."  She stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.  "G'night."

The angel warmly returned the hug and kissed her hair.  "Thank you and good night."  He moved towards the hall, knowing it sometimes unnerved JenniAnn to see him fade away.

"Andrew?" she called just before he'd crossed the threshold.

He turned back and smiled at her.  "Yeah?"

"I love you."

Andrew's smile grew.  "I love you, too.  Don't wait up for me.  I'll see you for breakfast."

JenniAnn nodded and sighed when she sensed the hallway was empty.


February 5th, 2014

Andrew shook his head as he saw the ambulance lights drawing nearer.  It was too late and he prayed that the EMTs wouldn't take it too hard when they were unable to revive the man behind the wheel.  The angel of death still wished that Marcus had made a different decision but he was safe now... no one could hurt him in Heaven, himself included. 

Withdrawing his watch, Andrew saw that it was nearly 1:00 AM... time for his mysterious assignment.  He tucked the watch back into his pocket and looked up at the stars.  "Lead me, Father," he prayed.

Andrew surfaced in a dimly lit, frigid, rundown alley.  Snow was falling around him.  The area seemed vaguely familiar but he couldn't say why.  Then again, he was in Manhattan... a place he'd roamed so often both while on assignment and when among friends.  Many places were familiar.  But that didn't tell him why he was there.  Then he heard it.  First some rustling.  Then a cry.  A baby's cry!

Frantic, Andrew ran towards the sound.  He let out a soft moan when he saw a rustling garbage bag.  Immediately, he withdrew the naked, shivering baby it contained.  She was a newborn, her umbilical cord still attached.  And she was his assignment... 

The angel of death sat down and placed the child in his lap then pulled his scarf off.  "Hello, sweet girl," Andrew murmured as he swaddled her in the thick, soft material.  She was so tiny that the scarf wrapped around her several times.  After undoing the buttons of his coat, Andrew rested the baby against his chest then rebuttoned so as to cocoon her between his sweater and the fleece lining of his coat.  Though she continued to kick and flail, her crying ceased and he peeked down at her perfect, tiny face.  "Oh baby," he cooed.  "Where's your mama?"  He looked around, desperately hoping.  "Hello?" he called.  "Is anyone here?  Please, I need help."  Being in angelic form, Andrew knew no one would hear him audibly.  But if their spirits were open to hearing... maybe.  "There's a little one over here who needs help!" he called.

Rocking, both from anxiety and to stave off the chill, Andrew waited.  No one.  He looked up to the stars.  Maybe the Father would let him take the baby to safety.  Maybe even let him...  Andrew couldn't finish the thought.  Not unless he knew it was possible.  He couldn't bear it if not.  "What am I supposed to do?" he asked.

"Keep the baby warm, Andrew."

Joshua's voice.  The angel of death relaxed... but only a little.

"I... I'm doing my best to."

"I know.  Thank you."

"Joshua, is she going to..."  Tears filled Andrew's eyes as he again peered at the baby.  The breath left him as their eyes locked.  His arms tightened around his coat and her.  It wasn't enough.  He could comfort her, yes, but protect her...  Andrew shook his head.  "I... I can't."

"Pray, Andrew.  Pray that her mother will come for her.  Her mother must come for her.  Love knows no distance, Andrew.  Just because no one heard your calls earlier doesn't mean someone else won't hear you."

"A-and if her mother doesn't come?  Then what?  And someone else?  I... I don't know what you mean, Joshua.  What do you mean?  Please tell me!" the angel begged.

There was only silence.

But Andrew knew.  If the baby's mother didn't come then she would freeze to death.  He bowed to kiss the shock of black hair.  Oblivious to the danger she was in, the baby calmed.  Despite his heartache, Andrew smiled at her.  "I'm not going anywhere, little one," he vowed.  Then he began to sing "Tender Shepherd" as he resumed rocking.  In between rounds, Andrew shouted for help and hoped that was what Joshua had meant for him to do. 

After being content for several minutes, the baby let out a cry.  Andrew again tightened his embrace.  But his coat was cold and no longer offered the baby as much warmth.  "I... I'm sorry," Andrew cried.  "I wish I could take you home... take you to Laja.  She would love you so much."  His heart ached, the grief mingling with his anger.  JenniAnn so badly wanted a child and someone had cast this tiny girl aside.  It wasn't fair.  This baby should have had a good, loving mother.  She deserved that.  All babies deserved to be loved!

Andrew sighed raggedly.  He couldn't give the baby life but he could give her love.  Even if she only lived a few hours more, he would ensure she knew she was loved.  Andrew felt the newborn wriggle beneath his coat, resting her cheek against his heart.  "God loves you.  I love you," he whispered.  They were the most important words and he would be sure the little one heard them over and over in whatever time they had.

Unbidden, the memory returned to Andrew of JenniAnn in her office only hours before, calling him back just to tell him she loved him.  Then his memory lurched forward, to Joshua's words.

"Love knows no distance, Andrew."

Andrew gaped for a moment before letting out a sheepish laugh.  Joshua had answered him!  He just hadn't realized it.  There was someone else whose love for him didn't know distance!  In her bedroom in Dyeland, JenniAnn had once heard him cry out from a cave in Afghanistan.  Even before that she had seen him with Cora when he was in Manhattan and she in Dyeland. 

Laja would hear him just as she had before!

Andrew smiled down at the baby.  "I'm getting us some help."  He closed his eyes, praying that he would succeed.  Opening his eyes, the angel stared at his ring then looked around him, hoping JenniAnn would see what he did and know where to go... would know wherever "here" was.  He could see no street signs, nothing of note but maybe to her it would be familiar.  He didn't like the idea of his friend out in the dark of night, alone, but then she wouldn't really be alone.  God wouldn't have led him to do this only to lead her into danger.  Andrew knew he had to try.  Then, his voice shaking, he called to her.  "Laja, come.  Come find me.  Please.  Come find us." 

The plea made, Andrew resumed his prayers and his lullaby and waited.


Snow was falling all around her, so thickly that JenniAnn couldn't see anything until a form appeared.  Her view remained obscured but she knew it was him.

"Andrew!" she shrieked as she tried to reach him.

"Laja, come.  Come find me.  Please.  Come find us."

Snow blew up around him, making him disappear, and JenniAnn screamed.  Then her chest felt heavy and...

JenniAnn's eyes burst open.  The first thing she saw was a black snout.  Lulu was on top of her and whining wretchedly.

The woman gasped and cuddled the dog to her.  "Oh Lulu... what's wrong?"  She gently prodded her, feeling for a wound or ache, and prayed.  The basset hound was getting quite old but she'd given no indication of being sick.

Lulu pulled away and began to howl, setting Fawn off, too.

"Lulu, come..."  JenniAnn's voice broke off as the dream returned to her.

"Laja, come."

Andrew.  Andrew had asked her to find him... them?

JenniAnn jumped off the bed and hastily threw on some clothes, grateful that she'd worn leggings and a T-shirt to bed and could simply pull jeans and a sweater over them.  Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she halted.

It had only been a dream.  This was crazy.  And Andrew could be anywhere in the world or in Heaven or God only knew where else and she had no hope of finding him.  And yet...

Something in his voice...  And simply the way she felt.  It reminded her of the night she had awoken from their last shared dream, when she had heard him scream for Badriya.  She had felt so compelled to do something.  Crazy or not, she felt it again.  She grabbed her purse and then her cloak.  She tied it on then yanked up the hood.  Next came her boots.  Then her scarf.  She couldn't find her gloves.  She would go without.  But where?  She clamped her eyes shut and prayed for guidance.

The alley.  In her mind's eye, she saw it as it had been that afternoon.  The police.  Catherine.  The dead body and flashes of silver and the spirit and then... Andrew.  Her Cupid.

That was the answer.  She had to go back.  Back to where she'd first seen him.  To the alley.  But which alley?  She had never found it again, didn't know what street it was on.  And Manhattan had countless alleys!  She shook her head, dismissing the distressing thought.  She'd find him even if she had to check every alley. 

JenniAnn fled her room and ran as fast as she could to the willow tree.  Once through the portal, she began to tear through streets and alleys.  As she ran, she fretted over what might be happening.  What if Eben had returned?  What if he was hurting Andrew?  Or what if it was worse?  What if Satan...  No.  Andrew would never call to her in that case.  He'd do anything he could to keep her and the others as far from them as possible.  He certainly wouldn't bid her to come face to face with demons!  Maybe he was injured... maybe it was like the time on the soap opera set.  Or worse... like when he was homeless.  Like Afghanistan... 

The worries for Andrew distracted her for several minutes before she realized the precariousness of her own situation.  She was running around, unarmed, in Manhattan in the middle of the night.  And she'd never been strong.  If someone came at her... 

At that moment she saw someone... a man... a large man... headed towards her.  She began to grow panicked.

"Jesus!" the man shouted while still several yards away. 

JenniAnn was so surprised by the outburst and the tremor in the man's voice that she halted. 

Unbelievably, the man was holding his hands in the air.  "Don't want any trouble!" he shouted.  "You just go on your way, man, and I go on mine."

Confused, JenniAnn nodded and resumed her running.  The man's reaction was mystifying but she didn't have time to ponder it.  Somewhere, her beloved was in trouble and only finding him mattered.


A man came running into a vacant lot, and approached a group of homeless men huddled around a trash can fire.  "He's back!  The savior is back!"

A bulky man with hair and a beard that matched the fire's flames snorted.  "What are you talking about, Samson?"

Samson drew closer and warmed his hands.  He opened his mouth then closed it when he noticed a stranger was among them.  "Who are you?"

"A friend of Sean's."  The newcomer answered with a smile as he looked from the red-haired man to Samson.

Sean chuckled.  "As of this afternoon.  This here is Josh.  He's trying to convince us to give that new shelter a try.  But that can wait.  Savior?"

"Don't know about the legend?" Samson asked.

Another man laughed and rolled his eyes.  "Legend is exactly what it is."

"What is this legend?" Joshua asked though he already knew.

"Some of the old timers tell of a creature who roamed the streets, ridding the city of murderers and rapists and scumbags of other sorts.  They say he had the face of a lion and a mane to match.  He had the strength of a hundred men.  And he wore a dark cloak... and jeans.  The jeans always got me.  What's got people going about that again?"

Samson grinned.  "He's been spotted tonight, Dice.  On the prowl.  Cloak and jeans and gold mane a'flying and everything.  Some people say he's the Lion of Judah.  You know, like in the Bible."

Joshua quietly let out a sigh and nodded.  He smiled at Samson then closed his eyes briefly to offer a silent blessing.  He was grateful that remembrances of Vincent had kept his godchild safe and unmolested as she'd run from block to block.  Cloaked and thickly maned with her own blonde hair, JenniAnn was a ringer so long as no one got close enough to notice how petite and non-leonine she was.  Joshua smiled again.  No one would get close enough until...

"That's ridic..."  Sean's voice cut off when he heard someone sobbing. 

The four men looked towards the sound.

"That... that..." Samson sputtered, his hand shaking as he pointed to the cloaked figure who had come running into the lot.

"Is a chick," Dice finished as JenniAnn's hood fell back when she stared up at the stars to plead.  "Dude, your big, tough savior is a chick.  And she don't look like no lion to me."

"She needs help.  I'll be back soon."  Joshua pulled up the hood of his sweatshirt and approached the weeping woman.  "Miss, why are you crying?"  He held his hands out so he could help JenniAnn to her feet.

JenniAnn struggled to speak.  The cold air had burned her lungs as she'd run, searching for Andrew.  Finally, she pushed the words out.  "My... my friend... he... he's in trouble, sir.  And I... I don't know where he is."  She stared at her helper whose face was obscured by her tears and his hood.  Even at that, she felt calmed as she looked at him.  She noticed his hands were outstretched and she took them, letting him help her to her feet. 

For the briefest moment, Joshua allowed himself to hold her.  Then, when he was sure she was steady, he stepped back.  "It's going to be all right," he assured her.  "Follow me.  I know where your friend is."

JenniAnn was surprised that her legs no longer felt wobbly and her lungs no longer ached.  But there was no time to ponder it.  She nodded and, content to have him continue to hold her right hand, JenniAnn mutely followed the man. 

As they made the short journey, Joshua revisited Andrew's and JenniAnn's shared past.  He saw the alley as it had been in 1987 when, for a brief but important moment in time, it had held a four year old girl and an angel of death.  Joshua thought of that first meeting in the Fields of Gold.  The first hug.  The first dance.  The first "I love yous." 
The first chaste kiss.  The introductions of mutual friends.  The farewells.  The shared dreams.  The long talks.  This was the life he had willed for them.  Their lives together had begun in that alley and now, with both of them there again, Annabelle's life would be spared.

Joshua turned one final corner and squeezed JenniAnn's hand.  Though she couldn't see, he smiled at her.  "Go."

She stared at him, trying to see more beyond his hood.

Gently, Joshua pushed her into the alley. 

JenniAnn gasped.  Andrew was huddled on the ground!  And he was cradling something.  Something moving beneath his coat.  He had a baby!  She ran towards them and fell to her knees.  "My love!" she cried.  "Wh-what..."

Grateful tears poured down Andrew's cheeks.  "I... I found her a-and... and He said her mother had to come for her or... or..."  His eyes grew wide.  He was no longer glowing.  JenniAnn wasn't merely there to help.  She had ended his assignment.  Awed, Andrew noted how JenniAnn was gazing at the child with such love... caressing her downy head.  Joshua had said the girl's mother must come or else...  The angel of death felt dizzy and giddy and spent all at once.  Her mother had come!  JenniAnn had come!  The vision.  The Christmas tree ornament.  This little girl was JenniAnn's baby!  Shaking with relief, Andrew unbuttoned his coat and handed the baby to JenniAnn.  "Take her.  I'll flag down a cab.  We need to get her checked out at a hospital."

Fresh tears welled in JenniAnn's eyes as she snuggled the baby against her own chest.  "It's okay, sweetheart," she cooed.  "We're gonna get you warm and fed a-and... and everything's gonna be all right."

Andrew ran out of the alley, pausing when he saw Joshua.  "J-Joshua..."

When their eyes met, both sets were brimming.  "Go get the cab, Andrew.  I'll meet you in the hospital chapel.  You'll know when.  But go now.  I... I'll watch them until you're back."

Andrew hugged him then darted off.

Joshua watched as JenniAnn swayed back and forth while she quietly sang the first song that popped into her head.  "'And the seasons, they go round and round and the painted ponies they go up and down...'"

He sang along so softly that she didn't hear him.


The arrival at the hospital was a blur.  Once the baby had been whisked away for an exam and tests, Andrew tried to explain to a social worker as best he could, without revealing too much, how he'd found her.  JenniAnn took up the story, simply saying that Andrew had called her for help... that he'd done so without the aid of a phone was immaterial. 

"I see.  Well, we'll, of course, check with the police to see if anyone has reported a missing baby.  Although I think all three of us know that this is likely a case of abandonment.  We'll get her into the system as soon as possible.  I'll start calling foster parents."

Andrew pulled JenniAnn against him when he saw her begin to teeter as all remaining color drained from her face.  He buried his face in her hair as she began to shake. 

"Laja... it... it'll be okay," he consoled.  Tears welled in his own eyes when she turned into his shoulder and began to cry.  She had held the baby all during the cab ride, staring down at her with utter love and devotion and awe.  Already he believed the baby had to be hers, Joshua's words could mean nothing else, but what trials might come before that... Andrew didn't know.

"So if you'll excuse..."

"There you are, Talia!" a voice interrupted.

The social worker spun around.  "Oh!  Hi, Kelly.  I didn't know you were working tonight... this morning, I mean."

Andrew's head shot up.  He saw the newcomer and beamed.  He knew this Kelly very well.

"Oh, yes.  So I'll take over here.  Besides, there's no need to call foster parents.  I happen to know Andrew is licensed as a foster parent and I have a feeling that, given he's already bonded with the little one as has his friend, we won't have any trouble placing her."  Kelly smiled at the angel of death who was in too much of a stupor to respond beyond nodding.  

"Well, great.  I could use a coffee break.  Thanks!"  Talia smiled gratefully at Kelly then turned back to Andrew and JenniAnn.  "All the best to you!"

"Th-thank you," Andrew choked out.

"Kelly..." JenniAnn murmured, reaching for the angel's hand once Talia was gone.

Kelly warmly squeezed her hand then tilted her head towards an empty consultation room.  "Let's the three of us go somewhere a little more private so we can discuss things." 

Still clinging to each other, Andrew and JenniAnn followed.

Once all three of them were inside, Kelly waved to a couch and closed the door behind them.  "There's a lot I need to go over with you both but, first, Andrew you need to explain to JenniAnn everything that happened."

The angel of death nodded.  He turned to JenniAnn and took her hands in his.  "I didn't know much about this assignment when it started, Laja.  All I really knew was that I needed to go to an alley in Manhattan.  So... so I did.  And I heard... her crying.  She... she'd been left amid some trash in... in a garbage bag... so I picked her up and..."  A tear streaked down Andrew's cheek as he remembered the baby's woeful sobs. 

"You wrapped her up in your scarf and tucked her into your coat," JenniAnn finished, gently stroking his back.

"Yes.  I called out to see if anyone was nearby... hoping for the mother but... no one.  So I asked God what I was supposed to do and He told me to keep the baby warm.  A-and to pray that her mother would come because she had to come or otherwise..."

JenniAnn let out a sob.

Andrew squeezed her hand.  "Then He said that... love knows no distance and that even though no one had heard my cries... or hers... yet... someone else would."

JenniAnn's head shot up.  "I... I did.  I had a dream.  And you said to come find you.  So... so I did."

Andrew beamed at her.  "Yeah... you did."

"The... the homeless man!  I wouldn't have found you both without him... I-I don't even know how he knew it was you I was looking for and I didn't even... I should have given him some money for... for food at least..." JenniAnn lamented.

Andrew and Kelly exchanged knowing looks.  Andrew knew JenniAnn would agonize over this but he couldn't tell her she'd been helped by God Himself.

"I... I couldn't see very well," JenniAnn continued.  "He was wearing some old jeans.  The knees were worn out.  And a white hoodie.  That and the dark and... and me crying... made his face hard to see but I know he had really dark hair and a short beard and he looked like he had a darker skin tone.  His hands... he had good hands.  But he could be any where and..."

"Andrew will go looking for him later," Kelly appeased. 

Relieved, JenniAnn reached into her purse.  She frowned.  "I don't carry much cash anymore but... but here's what I have.  Could you please give it to him?"  She held a twenty and a ten out to Andrew.

The angel took it, blinking back further tears.  Thirty pieces of silver then thirty dimes and now thirty dollars for the King of Kings.  "He... he'll appreciate this very much, Laja.  I will find him as soon as I can."

JenniAnn hugged him.

Kelly gave them a moment then cleared her throat.  "JenniAnn, you need to really think about what Andrew just told you.  If the baby's mother hadn't come, Andrew was going to take the baby Home," she reiterated.

"So... so the baby's still in danger of... of...?"

Andrew adamantly shook his head.  "Laja, no."  He smiled lovingly.  "You were so focused on helping me with the little one that you didn't notice I stopped glowing as soon as you arrived."

JenniAnn stared, trying to make sense of this. 

Kelly knelt down in front of them and reached for JenniAnn's hand.  "Her mother came, JenniAnn.  You came."  She stroked her hair.  "May you treasure the blessings of motherhood."

More tears welling in her eyes, JenniAnn looked to Andrew for confirmation.  He beamed at her and nodded. 

"I'll leave you both for... for a few minutes," Kelly excused herself, blinking back tears.

Andrew looked up to her, concerned she might be upset but she smiled before exiting the room.  He sighed.  "Laja..."

Speechless, she brought his right hand to her lips before beginning to sob.  When finally she could speak, she peered into his eyes.  "A... a daughter."

Andrew's face glowed with happiness.  "Yes."

"Thank you," JenniAnn murmured, kissing his right cheek.  "I love you."  She kissed his left cheek then beamed.  A moment later, her face fell.  "I... I don't even have a name for her!  I stopped even thinking about it when... when I realized it probably wouldn't... happen."  She smiled again.  Oh she of little faith...  But this was serious.  They couldn't keep calling the baby... her daughter... simply "the baby"!  "The last name I ever considered was... was AnnaDru a-and I would like to honor you with her name but that seems a little..."

Andrew chuckled.  "Please don't call her AnnaDru."  He bowed his head.  It was very close to Annabelle, though...

"Well..."  She paused, thinking back to that first glimpse she'd had of them.  From that moment up until the baby had been taken by a nurse, Andrew had looked so tenderly and lovingly at her.  There was no question in JenniAnn's mind that the baby was Andrew's, too.  "What would you like to name her?"

Andrew gave a small smile.  "Laja, she's yours.  And yours to name."

JenniAnn shook her head.  "You're going to be her foster father.  And then... then I imagine I'll be able to adopt her?"

The angel nodded.

"And she will be my daughter in name and on paper a-and in my heart and all ways that truly matter.  B-but you loved her even... even before I did.  She was in your arms first.  In your heart first.  I could see it, Andrew.  I still can.  If... if I hadn't come... if we'd never met... you would have asked Him... for her."

Andrew closed his eyes when JenniAnn caressed his damp cheek.  He would have missed his work, especially training Violeta.  He would have desperately missed going Home often.  But he would have given it all up had that been the only way to save the baby and God had allowed it.  But it hadn't been the only way...

Though Andrew hadn't responded, his answer was writ across his face.  JenniAnn sighed.  "So... so now we have this opportunity... this blessing together.  And I... I know it might be complicated if... if you were to be known as her father.  I can only imagine the conclusions made if ever we were near for an assignment and she called you 'Daddy.'"

Andrew looked to her with a slight smile.  "Yes, that could get complicated."  He left off telling her that they'd be on an assignment together very soon.  His assignments were in for enough of a shock when they discovered they were sharing a stage with Jesus!  If any of them found out he was an angel of death and thought he'd fathered a child... too much!

The angel's enigmatic smile brought a tender one to JenniAnn's face.  "B-but couldn't you be her uncle in name but love her and... and care for her as a father?  Lotsa people have their kids call family friends and such 'aunt' and 'uncle' so no one would necessarily assume you were blood a-and... she doesn't look like you so that would maybe prevent that misunderstanding even more."

Andrew knew this was true.  The baby was deeply tan and had ebony hair.  Her dark eyes had so startled him because they seemed to be identical to Badriya's. 

JenniAnn gripped his hand.  "Andrew, we... we've welcomed our friends together.  We've seen them off to lives elsewhere together.  We've nurtured Shelby and Max together.  Heck, we've even given some variation on The Talk to Violeta together."

Andrew laughed.  "Awkwardly... but yes, we have."

"And so much more."  JenniAnn let out a ragged sigh when he stroked her hair.  "The most important things in my life, I've done with you.  And I... I haven't done so well when I've tried to do big life things with... without you.  And what could be bigger than parenthood?  I know... I understand... that you'll be away as much as you usually are.  I do.  And I will... I can... financially support her.  Catherine and Vincent have always been more generous than I'm due a-and so that won't be a problem.  But... I... I can't be her father.  You can... if you want.  A-and you do want.  I know you do.  And, Andrew, I want to do this together.  As... as equals."

The angel of death bowed his head and recalled his unfinished thought after he'd found the girl.  JenniAnn was right.  In spite of the sacrifices, he'd longed to take the little one home, to settle her into Willowveil or Serendipity and build her a cradle and then a whole life.  But he did want the baby to be Laja's.  He would have smiled and cheered when it came time to transfer custody to his friend.  But Kelly's appearance and her story made it impossible for Andrew to ignore his own yearnings to claim the baby as his own.  Could it really be so simple that JenniAnn wanted the same?  He remembered what he'd said to her on Christmas morning: Is anything too difficult for the Lord?  No.

Not knowing what to make of the expression on Andrew's face, JenniAnn sighed.  "'Where you go...'"

"'I will go,'" he finished.  "Your kid will be my kid."  Andrew smiled.  "I want to do this together, too."

JenniAnn shrieked with happiness and threw her arms around his neck.  "We have a baby!"

"Yeah.  We do."  Andrew nuzzled her hair and sighed.  "And she still doesn't have a name," he reminded as he both laughed and cried.

"Yes...  What?"

"What what?"

"You have a name.  I can tell.  What is it?"

Andrew nodded, taking both her hands in his and staring down at them.  "Laja, I... I saw something.  This past Christmas."

"What do you mean 'saw something'?"

The angel looked up to meet her gaze.  "Like... like a vision."

JenniAnn studied his face.  "Like a vision from God?  Was it a good vision?"

Andrew nodded again.  "Very good.  I... I saw you with a baby.  A-and you were standing in front of my Christmas tree.  I didn't tell you because I... I didn't want to get your hopes up if the baby was only a cousin or friend's baby or... or something but... but I really did feel like she was yours.  And there was an ornament.  It was dated 2014 and..."

"And you believed it was a true vision?"


JenniAnn remembered how happy he'd been at Christmas.  Now she suspected she knew why.  "Oh love..."  She hugged him again.

"There was a name on the ornament, Laja."

JenniAnn pulled back.  "What was the name?"

Andrew smiled fondly.  "Annabelle."  He blushed.  "Actually, I've thought for a few years that if you had a little girl, she should be named Annabelle.  It means 'favored grace.'"

"Annabelle..." JenniAnn murmured.

"It's got the An- sound from... from both our names and then has a nice Beauty and the Beast vibe."

"You don't have to convince me.  Her... her name is Annabelle.  I... I love it.  I love her."  JenniAnn smiled tenderly, longing to hold Annabelle... her daughter... their baby... again.

Andrew rested his forehead against hers.  "And I love you both."

Before any more could be said, someone tapped lightly on the door.  A moment later, Kelly poked her head in.  She smiled.  "The doctor would like to see you."

Andrew and JenniAnn scrambled to their feet and moved to the hall.  The latter threw herself at the doctor when she saw her.

Portia laughed as she returned the hug.  "Well, it's good to see you, too, Psyche."  She beamed at Andrew.  "And you.  When I saw the names Andrew and JenniAnn on the little one's papers I really hoped it was you two and then when I saw Kelly..."

"How... how is she?" JenniAnn asked.

"She's good.  A little smaller than we'd like but she was enjoying a bottle when I left her so I think that's temporary!  No signs of frostbite.  She's getting really close to maintaining a 98 degree temp.  Hip alignment is perfect.  Strong heart beat.  Good ears.  She, umm..."

Andrew felt JenniAnn tense and marveled at how quickly that maternal hyper-attentiveness developed.

"She's trembling some.  It could just be the strangeness of it all and I'm sure she's wanting to be back with you both.  But there's a chance it's a symptom of drug withdrawal."  Portia set a reassuring hand on her friend's arm.  "Please don't worry too much about it.  We won't have results back on drug testing for a bit yet and even if they come back positive the best treatment may turn out to be simply rocking her and keeping her wrapped up and feeling secure."

"O-okay."  JenniAnn nodded resolutely.  "How... how long do you think she was out there?"

"Based on the condition of her umbilical cord and the lack of frostbite, I'd say she was left not long at all before Andrew found her."

"So... so she was born just today... or late yesterday?" JenniAnn checked.

"No doubt about that.  That baby's only a few hours old."

Andrew and JenniAnn let out ragged sighs in unison.  Neither could understand how someone could abandon a baby like that.  Everything in her warring against the idea, JenniAnn tried to convince herself that perhaps it was all a misunderstanding... like with Cora and Vincent.  But, no.  Cora had wrapped her son in a soft blanket... not rolled him up in a garbage bag.

Kelly set a hand on each of their arms.  "Right now you need to focus on the fact that she has her whole life ahead of her with a mother and..."

"Fatherly uncle," JenniAnn interrupted, casting an admiring glance at Andrew.

Kelly beamed.  "Fatherly uncle who love her."

Portia nodded.  "Would you like some time with her?"

"Y-yes, please," JenniAnn answered.

Andrew took her hand.  She looked so tired but he knew better than to ask if she wanted to rest.  "Thank you, Portia."  He smiled at the doctor before turning to Kelly.  "Are you coming?"

The angel shook her head.  "I'll be around later.  Right now this is time for the three of you."

"Thank you, Kelly."  JenniAnn smiled and waved to her as Portia led them down a hallway.

"Thankfully, we have a few of our maternity rooms free so I'll get you set up in one of those."

"That's okay?  I don't want to get you in trouble," JenniAnn fretted.

"You won't.  Besides, your girl's going to need a room when not in the nursery.  These days, we try to keep the babies there as seldom as possible.  And even if anyone was opposed, they won't push it.  I'm only here because another doctor had to leave town for the week very suddenly so I'm doing them a favor taking over her schedule at the last minute.  Although..." Portia turned to them and grinned.  "Maybe it wasn't really the only reason."  Away from the eyes of her colleagues, Portia began to jump up and down then pulled JenniAnn into a hug, forcing her to jump, too.  "I'm so happy for you!  And Vincent and Catherine are going to freak out!  A cousin for Jacob!  And Persephone will be a wonderful babysitter in time!  And Owen is going to flip and insist on painting the nursery!  And your parents!  All your friends!  And Max!  And Violeta!  And Shelby!  A new baby for your, uh... unique brood.  A-and..."  The woman's gaze shifted from JenniAnn to Andrew.  He had stood by her friend through so much, had given her so much and asked for so little.  Portia hugged him.  "This little one will be so blessed to have you in her life, Andrew.  Just as... as we all have been."

JenniAnn began to cry, sure it was for the millionth time in the past couple of hours.

"Th-thank you," Andrew managed, warmly returning the hug.

With a happy sigh, Portia pulled away and opened the door of the nearest empty room.  "Go in and make yourselves comfy.  Lie down if you want.  I'm sure you're both exhausted.  And, really, don't worry about it.  We're not even close to max capacity.  This room would just sit here empty, otherwise.  I'll get your little one in here as soon as possible.  Have you decided on a name, by chance?"

"Annabelle," Andrew and JenniAnn responded together.

Portia smiled.  "I love it and so will she.  Be right back."

Alone again, Andrew and JenniAnn gaped at each other for a moment.  Then they began to laugh at the wonderful whirlwind of absurdity. 

Andrew noticed when JenniAnn began to teeter and he grabbed her, leading her to the bed.  "I know you won't sleep yet... and I don't blame you.  But you should at least get off your feet.  How... how long were you running?  And how far?"

JenniAnn shrugged.  She honestly didn't know.  It had seemed an eternity that she had worried she might not find him.  But it had been worth it... so worth it.  Sighing happily, she settled onto the bed and only a few moments later, Portia returned with a bassinet. 

"Here she is!" she cheered, lifting the baby and handing her to Andrew.

Awed, Andrew sat down on the edge of the bed. 

Silently, Portia left the room and closed the door behind her.

"Look at her, Laja..." 

JenniAnn rested her cheek against his shoulder and peered at her daughter.

"You want to hold her?" Andrew offered.

She did but right then she wanted even more to see Andrew holding her and feeling such happiness.  He'd looked so distraught when she'd first glimpsed him.  Now he looked blissful.  "In a lil bit.  Look... look at her tiny hands."

"They're perfect.  She's perfect."  Andrew bent to kiss Annabelle's hair. 

"We love you so much, Annabelle," JenniAnn murmured.  "So much."

Andrew nodded.

JenniAnn smiled.  "She still needs a middle name.  I don't suppose that was on the ornament?"

Andrew chuckled.  "No such luck."

"I have an idea."


"Well, I actually... for a moment I almost dismissed the dream.  But I felt so like when... when I heard you cry out for Badriya in Afghanistan.  I knew I couldn't ignore it.  That I had to do something tonight just as I'd had to do something then.  If not for her... would I have come?  Back when... when you first told us about Badriya, I looked up the meaning of her name.  Because I thought it was beautiful.  It means 'full moon.'  So... so I'd like to name our girl Annabelle Luna because that means moon, too.  And though she may not have known it, Badriya was partly responsible for bringing you back to us a-and for... for bringing the three of us here."

Andrew settled Annabelle into the crook of his left arm and pulled JenniAnn into an embrace with his right.  He softly kissed her temple.  "I... I think that would mean a lot to Badriya.  I know it means a lot to me."

Before any more could be said, there was another knock on the door.  Portia poked her head in, wincing.  "Sorry!  Sorry!  I really will leave you alone but I got to thinking and... Catherine will kill me, and probably your mom would help, if I don't get a photo of your first night with her."

JenniAnn smiled.  She would have been disappointed herself later on if they'd had no such photo.  "Ready, Andrew?"

The angel nodded, beaming at Portia and the camera.  "Now one with her mama holding her."

JenniAnn sighed as Andrew returned Annabelle to her arms.  She smiled then thanked Portia as she, once again, left. 

Softly, JenniAnn began to sing.  "'Then the child moved ten times round the seasons, skated over ten clear frozen streams.  Words like "when you're older must" appease him... her.  And promises of someday make her dreams.'"

Pausing in her song, JenniAnn's gaze traversed back and forth from Annabelle and Andrew before finally settling on the baby.  "No matter what the future brings, Annabelle, don't ever forget that sometimes the... the promises of someday really are more than... than dreams.  Sometimes they're fulfilled.  Like... like for us with you."

For the first time, JenniAnn kissed her daughter and sang her to sleep as Andrew held them both.  As he did, he noted the joy and the peace that shone in his friend's eyes... eyes made even brighter than those in his vision.  The angel closed his own eyes and thanked God for that moment and every other one that had led to it.


Finally, JenniAnn had agreed to return the sleeping Annabelle to her bassinet and go to bed herself.  Now she was sleeping, curled towards the baby.

Andrew was settled on a nearby couch, watching over them both.  He could barely contain the joy and relief and love he felt.  Soon he realized that he couldn't contain it at all!  That's when he knew he had to go to the chapel.  Before leaving the room, the angel kissed JenniAnn's hair and Annabelle's cheek.  He paused at the door to gaze at them and smiled before stepping into the hall.

"Everything all right?" Portia called, seeing him as she stepped out of another room.

Andrew nodded.  "Everything's... perfect.  I just need to visit the chapel for a little bit.  I'll be back soon.  They're both sleeping but if JenniAnn wakes and asks..."

"I'll tell her.  Go.  I trust you know where it's at?" Portia was confident there wasn't a hospital in New York that Andrew wasn't familiar with.

"I do."  He hugged her.  "I'm really glad you're here."

"Back at you.  And just so you know... I haven't told anyone.  But if you and JenniAnn could make some calls before I leave at 2:00..."

Andrew chuckled.  "We will.  We won't put you in the position of having to keep quiet about this back home."

"Thank you!  See you in a bit."


Andrew grinned all the way to the chapel.  He was unsurprised when he found it empty save one man... a man in worn jeans and a white hoodie.

"Joshua," the angel greeted.

Joshua rose from the pew he'd been sitting in and smiled.  "Andrew.  Well done!"  He held his arms aloft, closing them when Andrew stepped into his embrace.

As the enormity of it all hit him, Andrew began to sob.  "I... I was so upset when it started and I... I thought she... would die and I couldn't underst-stand why you... sent me when you knew..."

Joshua's embrace tightened.  "I knew it pained you that JenniAnn didn't have a child.  And I knew that the cases involving children have always been among the most difficult for you but it had to be you this time, Andrew."  He sighed and led the angel to a pew before taking a seat beside him.  "There's a lot I want to tell you but I would prefer to tell you and JenniAnn together, in time, assuming..."

Wiping at some tears, Andrew glanced over at Joshua.  "Assuming she believes you're you?  She will, Joshua.  I know she will.  It just... it may take some time.  You know how it is.  Sometimes people want to believe something so much that... that when it comes they can't because they know it'll break their hearts if it turns out not to be."  He smiled.  "Like me tonight.  But she'll see, Joshua."

Joshua smiled, hugging Andrew's shoulders.  "I believe she will.  But for now I want you to know this and tell her this.  The woman who gave birth to Annabelle was in a great deal of emotional turmoil.  She didn't know she was pregnant and she didn't want to be.  She doesn't know who the father is.  She didn't..."  He shook his head.  "She doesn't want Annabelle.  After she gave birth, she abandoned the little one to die.  She didn't want to be a mother and so... she's not.  JenniAnn is Annabelle's mother."

Andrew nodded.  All at once he felt sympathy for someone who could be so confused but also anger that she'd allowed her pain to harm an innocent.  He exhaled slowly.  But God had, once again, turned chaos into beauty.  Annabelle was safe and loved and desperately wanted.

Joshua continued, his voice becoming softer.  "Dad and I sent you because you alone among all the angels of death could call to Annabelle's mother, to JenniAnn, and bring her to you both.  That will be important to Annabelle in time.  When she grows older and questions why... why her birth mother abandoned her... why she... rejected her... why she didn't love her... you will tell Annabelle that love brought her true mother to her.  And that you saw, the moment she laid eyes on her, that JenniAnn loved her utterly and completely.  And..."  Joshua chuckled.  "When nights are long and sleep elusive because Annabelle is fussy... when she looks at you both with that scowl that only teenagers can pull off... and JenniAnn frets that she doesn't know what to do and you're at a loss yourself... remember this first night.  I didn't outright tell you to call for JenniAnn because this way she will always cherish that you thought of her, that you chose to call to her because you cherished those earlier memories of when she heard you.  The love you have for each other broke across worlds to save Annabelle.  If it can do that, it can definitely conquer colic and teen angst."

Andrew laughed.  "I will remember.  We will remember."  He sighed, reaching for Joshua's hand.  "So... JenniAnn will definitely get the baby... uncontested?"  Andrew couldn't bear for her to deal with a custody dispute.

"Yes.  Even if the birth father knew about her, he would be... uninterested."

The angel of death bowed his head when he saw anger briefly flash across Joshua's face.

"There will be legal proceedings that will take time as usual but, yes, JenniAnn will get permanent custody," Joshua assured.  "No one else will try to adopt Annabelle.  The only other person who would have any reason to make a claim on her is her foster father and I have a feeling he won't be an issue."  He looked slyly over at Andrew, playfully punching him in the arm to try to rouse him out of his giddy daze.  "Kelly will fill you in on more details about that but in short: Annabelle will stay here for a few days for observation.  They'll want to keep her until..."  Joshua frowned, squeezing Andrew's hand. 

The angel set his other hand over Joshua's and sighed.  "When... when she shivers sometimes... it's not because she's cold or upset... is it?"

Joshua shook his head.  "Portia's suspicions are accurate.  Withdrawals.  Heroin.  Annabelle will need lots of cuddling and care.  Keep her swaddled.  Trust me, it's comforting."  He smiled over at Andrew, glad when the angel returned the smile.  "We both know it's not an ideal way to start a life but... Annabelle has two loving parents to help her through it."

"So... so it's okay to be that?  Her... 'fatherly uncle' as Laja put it?"

Joshua laughed.  "Of course.  Every baby deserves to have someone to be father and mother.  If one or the other doesn't happen to be the 'actual' parent... well, I've heard that works sometimes.  I mean... I grew up okay, didn't I?" he teased.

"'In wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.'  But I'm no Yosef!" Andrew replied with a chuckle.

"No, you're Andrew.  And that's good, too." 

Andrew let the words sink in.  "Thank you.  And on behalf of Laja, too."

Joshua smiled.  "I've heard her gratitude."

Andrew jolted.  "I almost forgot."  He reached into his pocket.  "She wishes she'd thought of it back in the alley but..."

"She was pretty intent on her daughter and her Andrew," Joshua finished knowingly.

Andrew grinned.  "Yeah.  But she wanted you to have this."  He handed the money to Joshua.  "I know you don't really need it but... but if she ever puts this all together and I think she will... it would be better if she knew she'd at least done this for you."

Joshua nodded, accepting the money.  "Please tell her that I'll take the guys out to breakfast with this and that I thank her a-and pray for her and for your family."

"I will," Andrew vowed.  "I thought the thirty was fitting."

"Yes."  Tears pricked Joshua's eyes as he thought of the baggie of thirty dimes tied with a hot pink ribbon and left on the altar of a little girl's church.

Andrew hugged him.  "Soon, right?"

Joshua smiled.  "Yeah."

They both sat in silence for a few moments.



"I... if you're willing... I want to make the change.  Now.  When... when Annabelle does struggle with... with what her birth mother did, I will tell her about Laja.  But I also want her to know, that while I had an abundance of reasons, the... the final one was... was her."

Joshua rose and, turning from Andrew, began to examine the woodwork on a lectern.  He didn't want to sway the angel with his own reaction.  The final choice had to be Andrew's.  "You don't want to wait until Valentine's Day as you planned?"

Andrew shook his head.  "No.  I feel like... like you planned for today."

A proud smile spread across Joshua's face and his eyes shone as he turned back to face his angel.  "Yes, I did."

"And I'm ready."  Andrew knelt in front of his Creator and bowed his head.  "Thy will be done."

Setting his hands on Andrew's hair, Joshua began to speak in the language he had used to speak all that was and is and will be into existence.  As he did, the chapel became drenched in light. 

Andrew felt as if every cell in his human form was on fire but it was a warm, comfortable blaze.  As it spread through him, flashes of memories... the past fourteen years as Joshua had seen them... flitted through his mind.  As the memories progressed, Andrew knew in his spirit and in his soul that every moment had led to this one and he thanked God.  Then, gradually, the feeling lessened as did the light.  The angel peered up at Joshua with absolute love and took his hands.

Just as he had when Andrew had been ready to take his first steps, Joshua gently tugged him up onto his feet.  He beamed at the angel and kissed his right cheek and then his left cheek. 


Outside Andrew's bedroom window at Serendipity, a light wind rose up.  It pushed the window open, allowing for a pure white dove to enter the home.  The dove flew throughout the rooms and then, finally, made its way to the main hallway.

The bird alighted ever so softly on Andrew's rose and cooed.  As it did, the last of the petals turned from white to red.


Back at the chapel, Joshua continued to smile.  "And so it starts.  I'm so proud of you, Andrew, and I love you so much.  Enjoy this chapter of your life."  He hugged the angel again. 

"I love you, too, and... I will.  Thank you for writing it," Andrew warmly replied, returning the embrace.

"You're welcome.  Go back to them now.  Annabelle's going to wake in a moment, wanting her bottle.  You should be there for that."

Andrew nodded.  As much as he loved being in Joshua's physical presence, he did want to return to Annabelle and JenniAnn.  "Will I see you again soon?"

"You really think I could stay away when you're going to get started on a cradle?"

The angel laughed.  "No.  I'll see you then."



"How do you feel?"

Andrew grinned.  "As Violeta has recently taken to saying... everything is awesome sauce!"

Joshua laughed.  "Good.  Give them both a hug for me?"

"Of course... until you can yourself." 

Joshua nodded, hoping and praying that would come to pass.

With a final smile and wave, Andrew exited the chapel and made his way back to their room.  Annabelle began to fuss just as he stepped in.

"Don't get up," Andrew urged when JenniAnn bolted up into a sitting position.  "I'll hand her to you.  She's hungry.  I'll go ask someone for her formula."

Shaking off her sleepiness, JenniAnn nodded then began to coo and sing once she had Annabelle in her arms.

After finding a nurse, Andrew returned with her.  She gave them a few pointers on feeding then, once again, it was just the three of them.

JenniAnn giggled as Annabelle eagerly began sucking down the liquid.  "Look at her little cheeks!  And those eyes...  She has the most beautiful eyes.  Well, her and..."  She halted when Andrew made eye contact with her.  There was something in his eyes... a different sort of weariness than any she'd ever seen in those soft green orbs she loved so much.  But the weariness was coupled with such excitement! 
She didn't need to ask.  She knew that, if it were possible for her to go back to Dyeland right then, she would find a fully red rose in Andrew's hallway.  "My... my love..."

Andrew wrapped his arms around her.  "Where you will go, I will go... eventually with gray hair and wrinkles."

JenniAnn nodded.  "And I will love each one for... for being part of you.  But... when... where?"

"The chapel.  Just now.  In time, I want her to know that of all the reasons leading up to my choice... she was the final one."

"Andrew..." JenniAnn was so moved she didn't know what more to say.

Andrew smiled and kissed her hair.  "As it happens, your guide was there.  I gave him the thirty dollars.  He said to thank you and that he's taking the guys he was with out for breakfast.  And he's praying for us, for our family."

"So kind.  I wish there was more...  Did he look well?"

"He did," Andrew assured.

"What are the odds he'd be in the chapel right when you were?  Well, coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous, after all!"

Andrew buried his face in her hair when his eyes welled.  If only she knew how accurate she was.  "Yes."  He took in a deep breath then peered down at Annabelle.  "I think it's time for her first story."



"And you have a story in mind?"

"Think so."

JenniAnn beamed, sure she knew which story he meant to tell.  "Then we will both listen avidly."

"Once upon a time, there was an angel of death.  Now, it's really, really important to know, Annabelle, that angels of death aren't bad or scary.  Although maybe this one could sometimes have a bit of excess pride and be a little too..."


Andrew chuckled.  "Exactly.  So one day this angel of death was walking in a field.  The people who lived there called it the Fields of Gold because during the spring and summer the sun shines so beautifully there and golden grasses rise high and wild.  The angel was admiring the beauty of the place when he heard a song... a song your mama had written for him... for me."

JenniAnn listened happily as Andrew told their story which, for the first time, contained a chapter she had long wanted. 


Shortly after 8:00 AM, Andrew and JenniAnn began the task of making calls, mindful of the promise to Portia and eager to share their news.  After gushing along with Robert and Allison, Andrew had left the room to give JenniAnn some time to speak with her parents alone.  He made his way to the empty waiting room and sunk onto a couch, pondering it all over in his mind.

"Hey," a voice called after a few minutes.

Andrew looked up to see he was no longer alone.  A young man who appeared to be in his mid to late twenties had taken a seat on the couch across from him.  He smiled.  "Hi.  How are you?"

The man grinned.  "Really good.  My wife had a baby last night.  A son."  He proudly held out his cell phone to display a photograph.

"Looks like you got a strong boy there," Andrew praised.  "Firstborn?" he guessed.

"Yeah.  How about you?"

Andrew hesitated.  Should he say he'd just welcomed his niece or his daughter?  When he noticed the man was beginning to grow wary, he settled on his answer.  "A little girl."

"Congratulations!"  The man held out his hand.  "Carlos."

"Andrew.  Congratulations to you and your wife!"

"Thank you.  I hope they both wake up soon.  I'm only out here because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep myself from waking them.  Hey, so do you think this is okay?"  Carlos held a small box out to Andrew and opened it to reveal a string of pearls.

"They're, uh, very pretty."

Carlos laughed at the angel's confused look.  "Well, thanks.  So what did you get for your wife?"

Andrew blushed and shook his head.  "Oh, I'm not married."

Carlos shrugged.  "Okay but, man, surely you got your girl something, right?"

Andrew blinked.  "Is that... customary?"

"Yes!  Ooh boy... you better get yourself down to that gift shop or you'll be on the couch."

Andrew deemed it not worthwhile to explain that he was likely to wind up on the couch, anyway.  But it did seem appropriate to get JenniAnn some token of his gratitude and his love and the hope he carried for their lives and Annabelle's going forward.  He stood.  "I'll do that.  Thank you, Carlos."

"Good luck, man!" Carlos called.

"Thanks!  I hope you can see your wife and son soon."  Andrew smiled again then made a beeline to the elevator and rode it down to the lobby.  He'd almost reached the gift shop when it occurred to him that he should have told JenniAnn, Kelly, or Portia that he'd stepped away.  But surely it wouldn't take long.  He hurried into the shop and approached a jewelry counter.

"Can I help you with anything, sir?"

Andrew gulped.  He'd never done this before.  He'd never expected to.  "My, uh..."

The saleslady noticed his spit-up stained shirt and mussed hair.  "New baby?"


"Looking for a mother's gift?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Well, maybe start with her birthstone.  Or the baby's?"

Andrew nodded.  That made sense.  But his brow furrowed and he frowned as he surveyed the options.  Most were too expensive and didn't suit JenniAnn, anyway.  There was some affordable costume jewelry but he knew she'd find it too gaudy.  Besides, he wanted something she could have for everyday... not something she'd put away and only bring out for special occasions.  He surveyed the rest of the shop then wandered towards some baby items.  And then he saw it... something JenniAnn and Annabelle could share.  Smiling, he picked up his selection and brought it to the counter.

"I'd like this, please."

"Is that... all?" the woman asked with a disapproving frown.

Andrew grabbed some batteries then nodded. 


Once he'd paid, Andrew cheerily accepted the bag and wished the clerk a good day before heading back to the maternity ward.  He knocked lightly on the door and entered when JenniAnn called for him.  He was pleased to find her feeding Annabelle again. 

"So when can we expect your parents?" he inquired with a smile. 

"Well... they're coming to town this afternoon and heading to Cora's to stay at Vincent's request.  They said they'll call again when they're settled in.  They'd like to come up this evening to meet Annabelle.  Catherine, too.  And Vincent..."  JenniAnn frowned.  It pained her to think he'd have to wait possibly days to meet his granddaughter.  She brightened when Andrew stroked her hair.  "Well, we'll see him when we leave.  Oh and I did get a call from Monica.  She and Arthur are coming with overnight bags for us.  I said one or the other of us would meet them for lunch in the cafeteria.  Violeta's coming, too.  I hope that's okay.  If Annabelle happens to be sleeping, maybe we can both go."

Andrew caressed the baby's hair and nodded.  "That sounds great."

JenniAnn noticed the bag.  "Where did ya go?"

Andrew sat beside them on the couch.  "The gift shop.  There was a new father in the waiting room who got on my case for not getting a mother's gift."

"Oh, Andrew.  That's really not..."  JenniAnn kissed Annabelle.  "Having you both happy and safe is my gift."

"I... I know but when I saw this... well, I thought it was the perfect mother and baby gift."  Because JenniAnn arms were full, Andrew removed the present for her.

"Andrew..." JenniAnn's face lit up.  "It... it's perfect."

"It plays music and projects a bunch of stars and, well, it's a frog!"  The angel busied himself stripping away the packaging and popping the batteries in.  Soon he had the frog working. 

Annabelle's eyes opened and she stared at the stars.

"Look, sweetheart.  Uncle Andrew brought us the stars," JenniAnn cooed.

A lump formed in Andrew's throat.  Uncle Andrew.  He loved the sound of it... he loved being it.  He settled more comfortably into the cushions and sighed. 

Careful not to disturb Annabelle, JenniAnn shifted just enough to kiss Andrew's cheek.  "Thank you.  It really is perfect.  And very soothing."  She smiled.  "And maybe not just for Annabelle."  Andrew himself looked like he could doze off at any moment.  "Rest now," JenniAnn urged.  "You... you've been through a lot in the past few hours."

"All worth it," Andrew murmured.

JenniAnn smiled tenderly at him as his eyes drifted closed and he fell asleep.


Nearly an hour later, Andrew was awoken by a high-pitched wail.  His eyes shot open and he saw JenniAnn pacing around the room, holding Annabelle close to her.

"She... she just started shaking really bad and feels clammy and hot a-and... I don't think she's just being fussy.  I was just about to call..."  Tears slid down JenniAnn's cheeks as she tried to soothe Annabelle.

The angel of death hurried towards the door.  "I'll go get help."

Only a few moments later, Andrew returned with Portia and a nurse in tow.

JenniAnn handed the baby to the physician.

"Oh now...  Poor dear..."  Portia hummed a lullaby as she examined the flailing infant. 

Andrew moved to stand behind JenniAnn and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, resting his chin on her hair.

"L-look.  She's all sweaty a-and... oh Annabelle," JenniAnn moaned, reaching out to her. 

Portia let JenniAnn stroke her daughter's hair and cheek then handed the still crying infant to the nurse with whispered instructions.  She turned back to Andrew and JenniAnn who gasped when the nurse left.  "She's just taking her to the nursery for a little bit.  I promise you that you'll see your girl later," Portia consoled.  "Psyche, I know this is terrible to see but I have to be honest with you.  It's not terribly unexpected.  I, umm, I just called the lab.  The test came back positive for heroin."  She patted JenniAnn's hand.  "That TLC from the two of you will go a long, long way in pulling your baby out of this.  But sometimes medical intervention is necessary and I think we're at that point with Annabelle.  I'm going to start her on some morphine."

"D-does that mean she's in a lot of pain?"

Andrew twisted JenniAnn around to face him and caressed her cheek.  "Laja, I'm sure Annabelle's not very comfortable right now but the morphine will help with that.  She just needs a little help getting through these initial withdrawal symptoms."

"Was I holding her wrong that I... I hurt her?"

Tears rolled down Andrew's cheeks.  "Laja, no..."

Brushing at her own tears, Portia tapped her friend's shoulder so she'd turn around.  "Psyche, please don't think I'm minimizing this but... but I know you and I know your lifestyle.  So..."  She forced a smile.  "Think about those times when you miss your tea and coffee.  All of a sudden your head feels like someone has it in a vice grip.  You could be perfectly content at the time.  You could even be dancing with this guy."  Her smile growing more sincere, the doctor looked to Andrew who returned the smile.  "But right then your body decides it's missing something and you feel it.  It's not because someone did or didn't do something and it hurt you.  It just happens.  Trust me, Annabelle felt completely content in her mama's arms before the withdrawal attack hit.  It's not your fault, not even one tiny bit.  Got it?"

JenniAnn nodded.  "When can we have her back?"

"After lunch.  Which you should really both spend away from this room, anyway.  It'll do you good.  Then you can have time with Annabelle this afternoon although I do think observing her for a night in the nursery would be good.  It'd give you a chance to catch up on sleep, too."  Portia knew this wouldn't soften the blow but it was true.  Both of them looked spent.

Andrew and JenniAnn frowned but trusted Portia's judgment.

"What about my parents coming this evening with Catherine?" JenniAnn asked.

"I don't see any problem with that.  I'm sure the grands don't have any intention of blaring music or jumping around with Annabelle."

JenniAnn smiled slightly and shook her head.

Andrew glanced over at the frog and pointed.  "You don't think that was too much stimulation, do you?" he asked Portia.

"I'm assuming she didn't seem upset when you used it?"

"She just stared up at the stars..." JenniAnn murmured, remembering how content Annabelle had seemed.

"Then keep using it."  Portia squeezed Andrew's hand.  "Your instincts are good.  You've had millennia to hone them after all."

The angel of death smiled.  "Thanks.  For everything."

"You're welcome.  It's just nice to know..."  Portia's voice drifted off.

"What is it?" JenniAnn prodded gently.

"I don't always know that the babies leaving here are going to get the care and attention they need.  It's nice to know in this case that Annabelle will."  Portia hugged JenniAnn.  "Things will get better.  I can feel it.  And my instincts are pretty good, too."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Now, I'm going to go check in with Miss Annabelle.  I'll see you both later.  You take care of yourselves.  She's going to need you both strong and healthy."

Andrew and JenniAnn nodded.  Once Portia had left, they hugged each other tightly.


"But how did Andrew and Psyche have a baby?  Psyche said angels can't get married."

"Yeah.  And why didn't Psyche's tummy get fat like my mom's did when she had my brother?"

Owen turned away from the class and stifled some laughter before facing Vincent.  Word traveled fast in the Tunnels... and not always accurately, especially among the children.  "This is all yours to sort out.  Your progeny, after all.  And I think Simone would be really pleased by Leda's commentary on her tummy, don't you?"

Vincent mock scowled at his protege then turned to their students.  "Children come into families in many ways.  Andrew and Psyche did not have Annabelle in the way your parents had you and your brother, Leda.  And you are right, Millie.  Angels don't marry."

"Annabelle is adopted.  Like me and like Papa!" Jacob trilled.

Vincent beamed at his son.  "This is exactly right.  Annabelle grew in another woman's belly but she's unable to take care of her and so Andrew and Psyche will.  And I know they love her just as much as if she had grown in Psyche's belly just as Catherine and I love Jacob so."

Jacob grinned.

"Now, as happy as Andrew and Psyche are to welcome little Annabelle, she has come as a surprise.  So Owen and I are going to Willowveil to help prepare Annabelle's nursery.  Mary, Brittony, and Eliot have graciously agreed to help you with any of your studies or... you may make gifts or cards for Annabelle."

At their teacher's words, the children leapt from their desks and dove for the art supplies.

Vincent smiled.  He had known there would be no studying that day.


The man crouched down to Shelby's height.  "Yes?"

"When will we be able to see the baby?  And is she... I heard someone say she's sick."

Vincent pulled the girl into a hug.  "She is unwell but Portia tells me we have every hope of a recovery.  You know how well Andrew and Psyche have cared for you when you've stayed at Willowveil with colds."


"Well, they'll pour lots of care and love onto Annabelle, too.  I don't know when we'll see her but I know we will."

"Can I make her a yarn doll like Psyche taught me?"

"I am sure she would love that."

Smiling, Shelby ran off to join the others.

"You have your phone on if Catherine tries to reach you?  Or Psyche?" Mary checked with Owen.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Do you have any idea what colors Psyche might prefer for Annabelle?  Myself and the other ladies in the quilting circle would like to make something for the girl."

"Psyche had told me she wanted to paint the office robin egg blue.  I think we'll stick with that even though she wasn't thinking of a nursery at the time!  If we want it aired out by the time it's needed, we really can't wait.  So there's that and you know Psyche and her bright colors..."  Owen smiled.  "She'll treasure whatever you make, Mary."

Vincent nodded. 

Noticing he was growing restless, Mary hugged him.  "Well, be off!  We'll handle things here."  She stretched up to kiss Vincent's cheek.  "Soon, dear."

"Yes..."  Vincent smiled.  As difficult as it was for him to be apart from his godchild, he knew he would see her and his new granddaughter soon.  In the meantime, there was much to do.  He and Owen needed to get the office turned nursery in order before Catherine arrived with the results of her shopping spree.  He followed the younger man towards the portal and then to Willowveil.

"We're supposed to call the others when we're ready.  Max is chomping at the bit and driving Rose crazy.  Do you want..." Owen paused when he saw Vincent holding a photograph of JenniAnn and Jacob.

"I can remember one day, when she was very little, it was just the two of us in my chamber," Vincent mused.  "I was planning lessons and she was playing with her dolls.  I couldn't help but listen to her merry conversation among them.  Telling one or the other to stop teasing their sister because 'I'm mommy and I say so.'"  He chuckled.  "Miniature-Allison.  I would watch her cradle those babies of hers and coo and sing them lullabies.  Even then I thought she would, on a day I was in no hurry to see yet wished for, become a doting mother.  So when Andrew entered her life..."  He shook his head.

Owen approached and set a hand on his shoulder.  "Andrew's told me that he never thought ill of you for your reluctance.  He understood."

"I should have never been so pessimistic, Owen.  While I grew to love Andrew, I fretted about Psyche's childlessness even after God granted Jacob to Catherine and I.  Even after I had proof of so miraculous a thing..." 

"I'm sure God understands, Vincent.  I'm not the scholar Psyche is but even I know the Bible is filled with stories of God giving people children long after they'd given up hope.  That's what twelve years of Catholic school gets you!"  Owen grinned.  "Maybe He cares more about the fact that they clung to Him even when that hope was gone."

Vincent considered the words.

"What we know for sure is that Andrew and Psyche have been gifted with a child and you, Robert, Allison, and Catherine with a granddaughter.  Be happy, Grandpa!  And help me move this desk."

"Grandpa..." Vincent murmured.  Then he smiled and helped Owen move furniture away from the walls so the painting could begin.


"Ah, they're both joining us!" Monica cheered when she saw Andrew and JenniAnn approaching the hospital's main lobby at a quarter after 11, their agreed upon meeting time.

Arthur rose from the bench he'd been occupying while Violeta set off at a sprint.  The man chuckled when Andrew staggered after his trainee lunged at him.  "Were you like that when you were her age?" he playfully asked Monica.

"No, no.  I was much less dignified," the caseworker teased.  "I nearly bowled over Moses a time or two."

Arthur blinked.

Monica giggled.  "I'm kidding."  She grabbed JenniAnn's suitcase then grinned at Arthur as she rolled it away.  "Moses wasn't even born yet."

"Right..."  Shaking his head, Arthur slung Andrew's bag over his shoulder.  As they drew nearer and he got a better look at the new parents, he reached for Monica's hand.  Andrew and JenniAnn looked wearied and Violeta was visibly deflated.

"Oh Father..." Monica murmured.  She hastened her steps, Arthur hurrying along with her.  "What is it?" she asked once they reached the other three.

Andrew and JenniAnn took turns hugging their visitors and then the former spoke.  "Annabelle's going through heroin withdrawals.  We're confident she'll be fine.  So is Portia.  But this morning was rough to see."  He squeezed JenniAnn's hand.  "She's in the best place she can be, though.  Getting cared for by a doctor who's also a friend.  And JenniAnn and I will get to spend more time with her after lunch."

"Do you think..."

JenniAnn smiled at Violeta and reached for her hand when her voice tapered off.  "You can come with us to see her before we head to lunch.  But she's getting treated right now so we're just gonna look, okay?  We'll all have a... a lot of time to hold her later on."

The young angel nodded solemnly. 

Monica drew in a deep breath and tried for her most comforting smile.  "I'm looking forward to that very much but for right now... JenniAnn, you're coming back to your room with Violeta and me.  Andrew, you're going with Arthur.  We've brought you both a few changes of clothes.  I hope we chose well."

Though not particularly keen to separate, both Andrew and JenniAnn relished the opportunity to change and clean up. 

"I'm sure you chose just fine.  Thank you."  JenniAnn smiled wearily then hugged Andrew and kissed his cheek.  "When and where will we meet up?"

"I'm just taking Andrew to my place.  We can easily be back in half an hour.  But how about we make it noon, right here?" Arthur suggested.

"Sounds like a plan."  Andrew returned JenniAnn's hug.  "You'll be all right?" he whispered.

She nodded.  "See you in a lil bit."

Once Andrew had released JenniAnn, Monica set her arm around her shoulders and led her towards the elevator.  Violeta hugged her supervisor tightly then followed.  Andrew and Arthur watched them go, waving when they stepped into the elevator, then departed the hospital.


Andrew stepped out of the bathroom, still wiping at his hair with a towel.  He sighed, glad to be in clean clothes.

"Sorry I don't have a hair dryer to offer you."  Arthur pointed to his own short hair.  "This never required one."

The angel smiled.  "It's okay.  I usually let it dry on its own, anyway.  Besides, you've already done enough.  I feel a lot better."

"Good.  So I wasn't sure what to get you... a cigar didn't seem appropriate."

Andrew chuckled.  "You didn't have to get me anything, Arthur."

The man shrugged.  "Hey, it's not every day a friend becomes a... so are you Annabelle's father or uncle?"

"Uncle... with paternal responsibilities.  JenniAnn wants to do this as equals."

"And that's what you want?"

Andrew smiled.  "Very much."

"Well, then... congratulations on becoming an uncle with paternal responsibilities.  I did get us a drink to toast with."  Arthur beamed and produced two bottles of ginger ale from his refrigerator.  He tapped his bottle against Andrew's once he'd taken it.  "To you and to JenniAnn and to Annabelle.  I know she'll come through this and then everything is going to be wonderful.  And please know that you have a lot of support.  Monica and I stopped into the Cafe before coming here and we saw Rose and Max and Fr. Mike's parents and Kemara and several others who are absolutely thrilled for you both."

"Th-thank you," Andrew smiled and took a sip of the soda.  It tasted wonderful after all the stale hospital coffee.

Arthur tasted his ginger ale then looked back to Andrew who was staring at nothing in particular.  The man bit his lip, trying to think of something to fill the silence.  "So, uh, I thought about trying to get some of the other guys to come along but Monica wasn't sure... we didn't want to overdo it.  But maybe... I probably should have brought someone you have a little more of a history with," Arthur apologized.  He admired Andrew and liked him very much but they'd yet to have much of a chance to talk just the two of them.  Surely the angel would have drawn more comfort from Max or Adam.

Andrew looked into the man's caring, compassionate gaze and shook his head.  "No.  I'm really glad to be spending this time with you, Arthur.  I've wanted to get to know you better.  God's given us the chance."  He beamed.  "So how's everything going with you?"

"Oh... well, the True Light shelter is taking up a lot of my time but I love it.  And it's good to be back home.  Especially after Monica made it a little more... homey."

Andrew laughed.  He was confident Arthur could have done without the lace doilies on the coffee table and several other decorative touches that betrayed Monica's hand.  But he could well understand how their presence comforted him.  He imagined it was similar to how he felt about his friends' additions to his house: evidence that they were woven into his life and he into theirs.

"And things with Monica are..."  Arthur stared down into his bottle, a goofy grin stretched across his face.  "Amazing."

The angel of death smiled.  "I'm very glad to hear that."

"Thanks."  Arthur studied Andrew for a moment.  "How you doing?  This has to be a little... shocking."

Andrew nodded.  Even with his vision, he hadn't truly been prepared for this.  "It is.  But... but she's so precious and I'm so grateful to God for... for our Annabelle."  His throat suddenly feeling dry, he took another sip.

"And JenniAnn?  How's she holding up?"

Wet-eyed, Andrew smiled.  "Really well.  She loves that little girl so much a-and..."  The angel cleared his throat.

Arthur realized why it had fallen to him to be with Andrew in this moment. 
Henry and Eli were away on assignments.  The angel would have put on a stoic front for Max, not wanting to alarm the young man.  Arthur hadn't gotten a really good feel for Adam but sensed that he sometimes struggled with showing his emotions and Andrew may very well have mirrored that.  But with him... there was nothing to lose.  "Andrew, it's okay," he assured, holding out a tissue.

Tears rolled down Andrew's cheeks.  "It was very... very hard seeing Annabelle flail around a-and in some ways it... it was even worse seeing Laja seeing that.  I... I'm used to this.  I should be used to this but..."

Arthur patted his shoulder.  "It's different when it's your family."

Andrew nodded.  He set his ginger ale down and buried his face in his hands.  "I know God will get us through this.  I do.  But right now... I wish I could fix it."

Arthur sighed.  "Yeah..."  How often he'd wished he could just snap his fingers and make crumpled buildings rise and wounded children walk and the dead live again.  But he couldn't.  Neither could Andrew.  "But here's what you can do.  You can give JenniAnn memories of getting through this thing together so when there are other trials, she can look back on this and know the both of you made it through.  And you can give Annabelle the beginning of a story about two people who love her so much that they stuck by her even when it hurt."

Andrew straightened up and rubbed at his eyes.  Arthur called to mind Joshua's words from earlier.  Their past would strengthen them in their future.  "You're right."  He drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly.  "Definitely right."  He beamed.  "You know, I'm really glad Gloria needed glasses."

Arthur laughed.  "You and me both."

They hugged.

"We really do need to find a time to talk more.  And we will," Andrew vowed.

"Definitely.  You need some company during those 3 AM feedings, just give me a call."

Andrew's face lit up.  While he knew his tune might change eventually, having to get up for 3 AM feedings sounded heavenly at the moment.  "I'll do that."

"ESPN is still on at 3:00, isn't it?  Or does it go to infomercials?"

Andrew chuckled.  "I'm not sure but I guess I'll be finding that out soon."

Arthur smiled.  "You will."

They finished their drinks while casually visiting and then set off for the hospital.


Back on the maternity floor, JenniAnn was struggling with some knots in her newly washed hair when Violeta grabbed the brush from her.

"My turn to return the favor.  Sit down."

"Oh Vi..."

"I'm doing it," the angel declared.

JenniAnn smiled and perched on the edge of the bed, her back to Violeta.

"Sometimes I wish I was blonde..." Violeta mused as she worked.

"And sometimes I wish I had dark hair.  I think it's one of those grass is always greener things."  JenniAnn smiled at Monica.  "Sometimes I wish I had Monica's hair color.  I'd look more Irish that way."

Monica turned away from the bureau where she was putting away JenniAnn's things and returned the smile.  "You both have lovely hair as it is."

"Thank you," the other two responded together.

JenniAnn sighed, snuggling her face into her fluffy robe.  Of everything Monica had brought, she was most happy to have it... well, that and some of her hair sticks that Violeta had tucked away.  They made her happy for reasons she couldn't quite explain.  "Thank you both for... for bringing us our stuff a-and just being here.  I'm sure you would have liked some down time after being away."

"Being here for you, Andrew, and Annabelle is much better than down time," Monica insisted. 

Violeta readily nodded.  "He's my supervisor and you're both my friends.  I had to be here."

"Do you... I mean... I made it pretty clear to Andrew that I wanted him to... to consider Annabelle as his own but that was before... I... I didn't mean to add more to the... the responsibilities he feels for..."

The caseworker moved to stand in front of JenniAnn who had begun to cry again.  "JenniAnn, you know better than that.  Even if you'd found Annabelle yourself, you know Andrew would be right here with you.  He would have chosen that.  And he has chosen that.  Think of Max.  No one forced him to stay with him as he did.  That was all Andrew.  The Father would have been perfectly happy with him remaining in angelic form through it all.  And now... now the Father would have been perfectly happy for Andrew to play doting friend to your wee one.  But that's not what Andrew wanted... he wanted more and the Father is very happy for that, too."

JenniAnn sighed and smiled dreamily.  That was Andrew all the way.  "You're right.  Of course.  I... I'm just..."

Violeta handed her a tissue.


Monica patted her hair.  "You're tired and stressed and sleep deprived and you've been drinking truly terrible coffee."

JenniAnn laughed as Monica wrinkled her nose at an abandoned cup.

Violeta giggled then set down the brush and hugged JenniAnn.  "Do you remember when you told me about that case you all worked with Andrew in that town in Iowa?  Remember how it helped Andrew to do all that weird stuff with the sports equipment so he could feel like he was protecting you and Rose and the others?"

JenniAnn nodded.

"Well, I... I've worked some cases now with Andrew when... when children were hurt.  He's just so sad when that happens.  Now he can do some version of the sports thing again.  That's how he'll cope with those assignments... by protecting his Annabelle, your Annabelle."

The woman swiveled around and smiled proudly at Violeta.  "I... I think you're right.  And you've learned so much, Violeta.  One day you're going to be an absolutely wonderful angel of death."

"I still have a lot to learn!" Violeta insisted.

JenniAnn nodded, knowing the teenager was none too eager to be out from under Andrew's wing.  "Yes and I'm glad of that, too, hon."  She patted her cheek then drew in a deep breath and let it out.  "We'll be fine.  God is with us."

"He is," Violeta asserted as she slid a hair stick into JenniAnn's hair.  If only she knew how close He was...

"It's getting close to noon.  I best get dressed and then..." JenniAnn smiled.  "We'll go see Annabelle Luna."

Monica and Violeta both beamed. 


When noon rolled around, the five made their way to the nursery.  Portia waved from behind the glass and then beamed down at Annabelle. 

"Oh..." Monica murmured.

"She's so cute!" Violeta cried. 

"Look at all that hair already!" Arthur exclaimed.  "Good thing she's going home with people who have a good handle on long hair care."

Andrew chuckled, amused by the comment and heartened by the way JenniAnn was beaming. 

"She's so lovely."  Monica pulled Andrew and JenniAnn into a hug.  "Absolutely beautiful."

"She is..." JenniAnn cooed.

Portia held up a finger, said a few things to a nurse, and stepped into the hall.

"How's our girl doing?" Andrew asked as calmly as he could manage.

"The morphine seems to have done the trick for now.  She took another bottle no problem and that's a big, good thing.  Had a rather unpleasant diaper shortly thereafter but I'm not concerned.  Persephone had some doozies."  Portia turned to the visitors.  "Monica, Violeta, Arthur... good to see you!  Are you making sure these two get some lunch?"

"Yep.  Soon."  Violeta nodded then turned back to the window.  "What's her temperature?"

"She has a little fever but not much," Portia assured.  She hugged the young angel, imagining she felt something akin to a big sister being denied her sororal rights.  "I think after tonight we'll have a better feel for when she'll be ready for her parade of visitors."  She grinned.  "Once she's home, I imagine you'll have multiple opportunities to help feed her and bathe her and change her diapers."

Far from put off, Violeta beamed and moved into Andrew's embrace. 

JenniAnn smiled at them.  As if she needed any further proof of what sort of father figure Andrew would be...  "You're leaving at 2:00?" she questioned after turning back to Portia.

"I plan to but if you'd rather..."

JenniAnn shook her head.  "No, no.  Persephone needs her mommy time and you need to rest, too.  But we'll be back no later than 1:30 so... if you still think it's okay..."

Portia nodded.  "I'll bring her to you in your room.  And I'll be sure to tell Dr. Madison to have her stay with you as much as possible today.  Then I'll be back tonight.  Okay?"

JenniAnn nodded and hugged her friend.

"Now I better get back in there to make some notes and you need to go and enjoy your lunch or else I'm tattling on you to Vincent."

Andrew chuckled.  "Well, I don't need anymore warning than that."  He gazed once more at Annabelle.  "See you soon, little one," he promised, blinking back tears.  She was so difficult to leave...

"We love you," JenniAnn murmured before hugging Andrew's arm and allowing Arthur to lead the way to the cafeteria.

Portia watched them go, praying God would help them to enjoy themselves.

"They'll be fine.  Violeta will keep them laughing.  She has many, many questions... as always."

Portia turned to find Kelly.  "This is all really going to turn out fine?" she asked, needing a little reassurance herself.

"More than fine.  It's difficult to see her struggle."  Kelly smiled gently at Annabelle.  "But she's very blessed.  So many people to love her."  She turned back to Portia.  "I'll meet with Andrew and JenniAnn later to discuss custody.  I know it may not be for a few days but I think planning for it will help them focus on the light at the end of the tunnel."  She lowered her voice.  "Light shining right on into the Tunnels, perhaps?"

Portia beamed.  "I'm sure they'll go there first.  From what Owen's texted, Vincent's already anxious to meet his granddaughter.  And Grandma Catherine is only slightly more subdued since she's coming up here tonight."

"It's a miracle, isn't it?" Kelly murmured.  "Only hours ago, Annabelle had no one but God.  Now she has bunches of people in four different worlds.  This one, Dyeland, the Tunnels, and Andrew has a bunch of people pulling for him and his own back Home."  She sighed and gazed at Annabelle.  "Keep fighting, darling, because you have a bunch of people fighting for you."

Portia and Kelly both laughed when a tiny fist pumped into the air.


It was nearing 3:00 when Kelly knocked on the door and entered the hospital room to find Andrew and JenniAnn seated on the couch, their heads together as they peered down at Annabelle.  She was asleep in Andrew's arms.

"How is she?" Kelly asked.

"Still shaking at times but peaceful.  Her cry when she was hungry wasn't as... as sad.  And her diaper was just normally gross."  JenniAnn grinned.

Kelly laughed.  "You'll be surprised by some of the things that bring you joy as a parent."

Andrew looked up at his fellow angel, wondering once again if this was difficult for her.  He was relieved to find her smiling.  "Have you been here the whole time, Kelly?"

She nodded.  "The Father lets me spend a great deal of time in maternity wards.  Schools.  CPS."  Sighing, Kelly pulled a chair in front of them.  "I should have asked Him.  I know that now.  I'm sure He would have let me keep Jesse if I had asked...  I... I would have enjoyed raising Jesse with Him."  She smiled at Andrew and rested her hand on his.  "I'm glad you did ask.  And that's why I'm here.  As Andrew well knows and as you've no doubt gathered, JenniAnn, God likes to work within human laws and processes whenever possible.  That's why Annabelle will enter foster care and this adoption will proceed as normal.  However... that doesn't mean God won't help things along.  He sent me to be your social worker because He wants you to, from the moment you leave this hospital, live your lives with your girl as normally as possible... whether that means going Below or to Dyeland or staying somewhere in the city."

JenniAnn's eyes welled.  She recognized what a blessing this was. 

Andrew's own eyes shut as he silently prayed in thanksgiving.

"I'll need to document some home visits and I'll just go to wherever home happens to be that day.  I think it goes without saying that my reports will be glowing."  Kelly's eyes lit up with her smile.  "Andrew will have sole custody since he's the only one registered as a foster parent.  However, you can bet I'll be sure to document your involvement, JenniAnn, from the get-go.  No judge will question your adopting Annabelle.  So... do either of you have any questions?"

JenniAnn bit her lip. 

"Laja, speak up.  It's okay," Andrew encouraged when he noticed her unease.

"I just... I don't like the idea of... of the transfer of custody," she confessed.  "I mean... I want... would welcome... having custody of Annabelle but..." 

Using his free arm, Andrew hugged her.  "My Laja...  I promise you, I won't feel like Annabelle's any less mine just because you'll take over legal custody.  Family is more than whose name is on a piece of paper."  He smiled and kissed her hair.  "I think we've already proven that.  And do you feel any less like her mother because right now I have custody?"

JenniAnn smiled.  "No..."

"Then there you go."

Kelly knelt in front of them, drawing closer to Annabelle.  "Sounds like we have it all worked out, kiddo."  She caressed her hair.

"Would you like to hold her?" Andrew offered.

"No, no.  I won't take her from..."  Kelly's eyes drifted back to the baby.

Andrew chuckled.  "That's not very convincing, Kel."  He rose to transfer the baby to her.

"Oh... I've missed this..." she cooed.  "She's so precious..."

Annabelle awoke but kept calm, peering into Kelly's eyes.

"Hello there!"  The angel laughed when Annabelle's face contorted in a yawn.  Then she became serious.  "May God bless you and your mother and your uncle with many, many years together.  May you have much more laughter than tears.  May you always know how loved you are: by humans, by angels, by God.  May you... you find His beauty in... rocks and clouds and trees and flowers and animals and His compassion in your friends and in your family.  God will be with you always, Annabelle Luna."  She kissed her forehead then handed her to JenniAnn.

JenniAnn swiped at a tear and squeezed Kelly's hand.  "Thank you for the beautiful blessing." 

"You're welcome.  Oh!  I nearly forgot."  Kelly reached into her bag.  "I picked this up for Annabelle.  It was one of my favorites to read to Jesse.  And I know you have a soft spot for bats."

"Stellaluna!" JenniAnn cried.  "Annabelle's first book...  Thank you so much!"

"Thank you, Kel," Andrew echoed, accepting the book and hugging his fellow angel.

"I'll leave you three to enjoy it together.  I have to get Home for some time with my own not-so-little one but I'll be back later."

"Say hi to Jesse!" Andrew called.

"You bet."

Once Kelly had left, the angel of death settled back down beside JenniAnn and Annabelle and began to read.  "'There once lived a mother fruit bat and her new baby.  Oh, how Mother Bat loved her baby.'"

Annabelle squirmed in her blankets, ceasing when she had a hold of one of Andrew's fingers.

Andrew sighed happily and continued his recitation.


Shortly after 7:00 that evening, the Chandlers arrived at the hospital.  Andrew went to meet them in the lobby of the hospital, smiling wearily when they noticed him.

"Andrew!" Allison practically shrieked before she enveloped him in a fierce hug.  "How are you?  How are our girls?"

The angel of death waved to some couches.  "Let's go sit down for just a few moments.  Please."

"But..." Allison began to protest. 

Robert studied Andrew's face then linked his arm through his wife's and squeezed Catherine's hand.  "Just for a little bit, dear.  Andrew here could do with a rest before we hike up there.  Bet you haven't done much sleeping, have you?"

Andrew smiled gratefully.  "I got an hour in."

"Good thing you're an... who you are," Allison covered.

Catherine bit her lip, opting not to point out that given Andrew was in human form, an hour of sleep was likely not sufficient.  Further, a few dreamy utterances from her cousin about "everything Andrew's done for us... all he's sacrificed..." during an earlier phone call had made Catherine suspect the change they'd known was coming for three years had taken place, making the angel even more vulnerable to fatigue.  She hurried into a chair, anxious for Andrew to take a seat, too.

"So what's going on?" Robert asked once they were all seated.

"Annabelle is with JenniAnn in the room for now.  I'm going to take you all up to see them.  A-and you can hold Annabelle and spend a little time with her so long as..."  Tears welled in Andrew's eyes.  "So long as she doesn't need to go to the nursery."

Catherine gripped his hand.  "The symptoms have worsened?"

Andrew nodded.  "She'll be fine.  She will.  I know she will.  This is just... it's a rough patch.  A-and it can be hard to see.  So I just... we wanted you to be prepared.  She's been shaking quite a bit a-and she took a bottle really well earlier this afternoon but when we've tried a couple times since..."  He shook his head.  "JenniAnn was trying again when I left so I'm hoping we'll get up there a-and find Annabelle feeding."

"I hope so, too.  H-how's JenniAnn?" Allison questioned.

Andrew smiled proudly.  "She's been amazing.  It's taken its toll.  She's very tired a-and emotional."

Catherine moved to sit beside Andrew and hugged him.  He might as well have been talking about himself.

He smiled gratefully.  "But she's happy.  We... we're both happy.  This won't last.  In time, we'll go home a-and so will Annabelle."  Andrew sighed and dragged his hand through his hair.  "We're all gonna get through this.  And now I'll take you to meet your granddaughter!" 

His optimism heartened the other three and they eagerly followed him to the elevator and then to the room.  Andrew felt some anxiety as he reached for the door handle.  It was so quiet.  He hoped that meant Annabelle had been lulled and not that she'd been whisked away to the nursery.  Praying, he opened the door.  His face lit up when he saw JenniAnn seated in the recliner, rocking Annabelle as she took her bottle.

JenniAnn looked up, beaming.  "Hi Mom and Dad.  Hi Catherine."  Her gaze grew more tender as they settled on her cousin.  "Hi Vincent." 

Catherine's eyes welled.  Though her husband couldn't be with them physically, he was there through their bond. 

Andrew approached, kissed JenniAnn's hair, then perched on the arm of the chair.  "How's the shaking?"

"Not as bad.  Maybe it's just wishful thinking but I... I feel like the twitches are more spread out... less frequent."  JenniAnn looked back up at her family.  "Well, come see!"

Andrew moved so Robert and Allison could be on either side of their daughter while Catherine stood behind the chair.  All three gaped.  The photographs that had been flying from cell phone to cell phone since the morning hadn't prepared them for the reality of how tiny and precious the newborn was.

Robert kissed his daughter's temple.  "Congratulations, my girl."  He squeezed Andrew's hand.  "Congratulations... and thank you."

Choked up, Andrew could only nod.

"Baby..."  Allison smoothed some of JenniAnn's stray hair behind her ear.  "You... you're both going to be wonderful parents.  And you..."  She peered down at her granddaughter.  "You are going to be wonderful.  I... I can tell."

"She... she is.  As soon as she's done eating, you can take turns holding her," JenniAnn offered.

Allison nodded.  "Can I touch her?"

"Of course, Mama."

"I love you, Annabelle Luna," Allison cooed as she stroked her hair.

"Prettiest baby I ever saw... well, tied for prettiest baby," Robert gushed, a tear rolling down his cheek as he smiled.

Catherine laughed.  "Oh, little one, you are going to get spoiled rotten."

Andrew cherished the image of the three welcoming their grandchild.  Like JenniAnn, he wished Vincent could be there.  But there was another person Andrew longed to have there.  As JenniAnn's family got to know Annabelle, the angel wished that Joshua could join in.  He knew he was.  He always was.  But the hugs and kisses and murmured benedictions would have to wait.

JenniAnn's eyes locked with Andrew's, silently questioning him.  He smiled back at her.  Soon.  There would be time for all of that soon.


Portia returned to the floor a little before 10:00.  After reading Annabelle's chart from the day, she went to check in with Andrew and JenniAnn.  She frowned when she entered the room and found that Annabelle was once again letting loose with her alarming cry.

"She was fine while she ate," Andrew explained as he cradled her and gently swayed. 

"But once the morphine starts to... to wear off..."  JenniAnn shook her head as she stroked Annabelle's hair.  "Dr. Madison said her temp is down so... so we were just saying good night and then..."

Portia hugged her.  "I'll be with her tonight.  I'll watch over her and rock her and feed her.  Both of you can rest and then tomorrow... tomorrow will be better."  She prayed this would be so.  "Getting her temp stabilized again will help immensely."

"We... we kept her swaddled."

Andrew sighed, hating that JenniAnn kept blaming herself.  "Laja..." 

"I know you did," Portia assured.  "And Annabelle knows, too.  This... it's beyond that, Psyche. 

Sullen, JenniAnn nodded.  Throughout the day, doctors and nurses had given her pamphlets to read and Andrew had tried his best to help her understand.  Still, she struggled to accept how helpless she truly was.

Andrew winced and his eyes caught the doctor's.

Portia noticed that Annabelle's feet were twitching.  "Could I take her, please?" she asked gently. 

Andrew kissed Annabelle's forehead then held her so JenniAnn could do the same.

"G'night, sweetheart," JenniAnn cooed.

"We love you.  We'll see you very, very soon," Andrew added before handing her off to Portia who gently laid her in her bassinet and began to examine her. 

"You'll call for us if there's anything we can do?  Even if it's the middle of the night?" JenniAnn questioned.

"Of course, Psyche.  Please try to rest.  You need to be there for Annabelle tomorrow.  Both of you.  Good night."  Portia gave her most comforting smile then bundled Annabelle back up.  She hugged them both and then left.

Andrew sat back down on the couch and rested his head in his hands for a few moments then looked up to find that JenniAnn hadn't moved.  He rose and pulled her into a tight hug. 

JenniAnn nuzzled her face into his sweater.  "I... I'm praying.  But I can't help b-but worry. 

"I know, Laja.  And God... He understands.  But He has a will for this baby, for our Annabelle.  And that will is for her to live and to thrive."  Gently, Andrew tugged her towards the couch and continued to hold her there.  "Do you know why He sent me to Annabelle?"

"Because you are so gentle and loving a-and..."  JenniAnn stroked his face, her lips trembling into the start of a smile as she felt the stubble there.  He'd forgotten to shave.

"Thank you.  But so are Eli and Adam and Henry.  So many others.  But He sent me because He knew you would hear me when I cried out.  He knew, with me there, Annabelle's mother would come... you could come.  And then we could save her together.  And it's His will, too, that we raise her together.  She will grow up, Laja.  I promise you."

JenniAnn kissed his cheeks as she wept.  Then, drawing back the curtain, she peered up at the stars.  "Thank You," she whispered.

Andrew peeked his head out, too, and looked in the direction of Joshua's apartment.  "Thank You," he echoed.

With JenniAnn gazing at the stars and Andrew looking out at the skyline, they continued to pray for Annabelle's healing and to be the parents she would need them to be.


February 6th, 2014

Hours later, Andrew lay on the couch and stared at the ceiling.  He felt tired but he couldn't sleep.  His arms ached though he could think of no reason why.  Annabelle certainly wasn't heavy enough to have caused such pain.

Except she had, he realized a moment later.

Tears welled in the angel's eyes when he recognized that he only hurt because his arms were empty.  He knew, when the time came, he would easily and even happily entrust Annabelle to her mother's care.  He smiled when he thought of how, after his assignments, he'd return to Dyeland and scoop the baby up and cover her with kisses as he got the daily report from JenniAnn.  But this separation was different.  Though no doubt cared for diligently, Annabelle was in a plastic bassinet in a nursery that wasn't even her own with morphine gliding through her tiny veins.  He longed to hold her.

And then there was JenniAnn, curled up on the bed.  Andrew stared at her back.  She was curled towards where Annabelle's bassinet should have been.  He was glad she had finally gone to sleep.  She needed to sleep.  But as much as he wanted to be near Annabelle, he also wished they were back in Dyeland.  He was sure that, if they were, JenniAnn would be at his side and they would help each other through the dark night that lay before them.  He wanted to hold her, too.  He beseeched God to help him give them both all the care and support they needed.

Andrew was roused from his prayer by the sound of JenniAnn sniffling.  He saw her shift to reach for a tissue.  She was awake... and she was crying.  He slid off the couch and sat beside her on the bed.  She immediately moved into his arms and buried her face in his shirt.

"I... I had a ni-nightmare that Annabelle was crying a-and I could hear her b-but not find her.  And then she stopped crying.  And that was even worse." 

"Laja..."  Andrew glided his hand up and down her back, trying to sooth her.

"I am grateful to God.  I... I am.  But the anger at... at...  How... how could she do this?" JenniAnn questioned.  "A-and where's the dad?"

The angel rocked her gently and kissed her hair.  "I don't know, Laja.  Maybe she..."  He remembered Joshua's words.  "She was probably in a lot of pain and looking for escape.  It's no excuse.  But I don't think she intended for this.  She just... she didn't take care of herself and so... so she didn't take care of Annabelle.  And the father... maybe he didn't know and maybe it's because she knew he wouldn't care."  Andrew sighed.  In all his years, he could never and would never understand it.  How could he possibly help JenniAnn to?

"It... it feels so... so awful to have her cry so much and n-nothing we do..." 

"I know."  For so many years Andrew had stood by as some humans allowed others to suffer... sometimes even caused their suffering.  It never became easier to witness.

"I just look into her... her eyes and I feel like she's asking me w-why I won't make it stop b-but I can't and..."

Fresh tears pooled in Andrew's eyes.  "Laja, no...  Don't think like that.  Don't do that to yourself."

"I... I miss her."

Andrew smiled sadly.  "Me too.  Very much.  My... my arms..."


"Yes.  But maybe after tonight, after they've had a full night to monitor her, she'll be able to be back with us tomorrow and stay here through the night."

JenniAnn nodded.  "I hope so."  She peered up at him.  "What if she... this could follow her all her life."

"Whether it does or doesn't, she'll have us to help her through life and so many aunts and uncles and grandparents!  If that means being extra patient or getting a tutor or whatever then we'll do it.  Together."  He rested his forehead against hers.  "I'm so glad you're here.  For so many reasons."

JenniAnn replied with a trembling smile.  "I'm glad you're here, too.  I... I couldn't do this alone.  Once... once for a brief moment, when you were homeless and I... I just couldn't handle it all, I thought I could maybe leave.  A-and adopt on my own.  But I know now that I couldn't have.  I mean I know God would be here b-but I... I need you, my love."

Andrew kissed her hands.  "Laja, I'm here.  I won't go anywhere during this.  I... I couldn't."

"Good cause right now... I just..."  She blushed.  "I just need to be... held tonight."

Andrew sighed.  "And I... I think I... I need that, too.  But first..."  Andrew got up and turned on the frog's lights and music.

JenniAnn smiled as she sunk back against the pillows.  "Thank you.  It really is soothing."  Beyond its intended features, its very presence reminded her that soon they would take it to Annabelle's nursery... with Annabelle.

Andrew beamed as he walked back to the bed then settled beside JenniAnn.  They both stared up at the stars.  "So you're okay with the nursery being in your office?" he asked.  Throughout the afternoon and evening, they'd received text messages from friends with updates on the hurried redecorating effort.  It had helped to ease some of the more painful moments and Andrew hoped thinking of it would calm JenniAnn again.

"Well... I thought maybe I'd just keep her in my room.  But you won't come into my room without asking so..." JenniAnn smiled and brought his hand to her lips.  "I'm glad to hear my office is being redone.  You can come and go as you please.  And I'll leave my door open so I can hear her."

The angel smiled.  "I like that plan a lot."

JenniAnn yawned.  "It really is so... so lovely that everyone is going to so much trouble to get the necessities in there."

"We have amazing friends," Andrew agreed.

"Yep.  Owen said they'll leave some of the smaller decorating tasks for us.  So what colors do you think for the decor?"

"Bright ones.  Lots of them."

"Do you think...  I mean is it okay with you if we baptize her Catholic?  If you'd rather not then I..."

"I think Fr. Mike should have the honors and I'd be very surprised if he baptized her anything else."

JenniAnn giggled, feeling herself lighten.  "Yeah...  So when will she be old enough to date?"


"Good answer."

Andrew chuckled.  "Maybe eventually...  What do you think Fawn and Lulu will think?"

"I hope they love her.  I miss them... but I'm glad they're with Rose and Max."

"I miss em, too.  And I'm sure they will love her... especially when she gets to cereal dropping age."

"Mmm... hmmm..."

Andrew felt JenniAnn's body relaxing.  "I can't wait for all the firsts.  First Easter... a tiny little, frilly dress and matching hat..."  He paused.  "I mean unless you were thinking maybe we should try the gender neutral parenting, umm, thing..."

"She's getting a frilly dress."

Andrew chuckled.  "Sounds good.  Then for her first Christmas... we'll... we'll make her that ornament."


He sighed when she rested her head on his shoulder and her hand settled over his heart.  Smiling softly, he enclosed her in his embrace.  "You'll teach her to knit and to do all sorts of crafty things.  I'll teach her to throw a ball and fix a leaky faucet.  And we'll help her learn to read and write together." 

JenniAnn smiled as she closed her eyes.

"And every night... whether we're both there or not... we'll tell her that we love her and that God loves her and nothing... nothing will ever change that."

JenniAnn snuggled nearer.  "Yes..." she whispered before sighing contently.  After another few moments, she drifted to sleep.

Andrew buried his face in her hair briefly then looked back up at the projected stars.  "Thank You," he prayed silently.  "For all of this.  For her.  For Annabelle.  For our friends and family and their generosity and love.  For Kelly's support and guidance.  Thank You for Portia and for all the dedicated and caring nurses and doctors here.  Please bless all the other families welcoming their little ones.  I hope... I hope Annabelle's birth mother finds peace and wellness and recognizes that she is Your child a-and You want better for her.  Please, heal Annabelle and, if a complete healing isn't Your will, give us the strength and the means and the knowledge to help her cope with the rest.  And may she always know how loved she is.  I love You.  Amen."

With the prayer said, Andrew followed JenniAnn into a deep, calming sleep.


"'Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night,'" Fr. Mike quoted as he kept an eye out for visitors.  His appearance with a "stranger" outside Willowveil Castle at 4:30 AM would take some explaining if noticed.  "I have to say, I never thought that actually meant you'd start behaving like a thief in the night.  And I'd just like to go on record as saying that you are absolutely the only person I would ever engage in breaking and entering with.  Are you sure I can't help you?"

Joshua grinned.  "No.  Just keep watching.  I'll find it.  And we're not breaking and entering... we're just entering... and then fixing.  Besides, I have a standing invitation.  So do you."

The priest laughed.  "Of course."

"Found it!"  Joshua declared in a hushed tone.  He got to his feet, showing off a rock.  He slid a panel out of the bottom and grabbed the key inside.  A few moments later, he had the front door of the castle open. 

Once inside, Fr. Mike took a good, long look at Joshua as he wiped his feet on the rug.

Joshua noticed and smiled.  "If JenniAnn does figure everything out, I don't want her to get annoyed with me for tracking mud."

"I think, given it's you, she'd let it slide.  But... it's just... I guess it's still hard for me to grasp that you're having to use keys and doors."

"Incarnation is fun like that."

"Yeah... I guess."  Fr. Mike sincerely hoped they'd be foregoing many of the elements of Joshua's previous Incarnation.

Joshua clapped the man on the back.  "Don't worry.  I'm a hardy sort."

Fr. Mike smiled.  He couldn't argue with that.  "True.  So... what are we doing first?"

Joshua made a beeline for the kitchen.  Once there, he set his tool box near the table and knelt by one of its legs.  "There's a jagged bit here.  I'm going to sand it down.  It's eye-level for a toddler.... or thigh level for a sleep deprived parent trying to get a bottle ready."

"Wow.  Good call.  What can I do?"

"That knob on the drawer by the refrigerator is loose.  The screw's been stripped."  Joshua fished a screw out of his box and handed it to the priest along with a screwdriver.  "Could you please replace it?"


As Fr. Mike fixed the drawer, he kept stealing glances at Joshua as he meticulously worked.  It was touching and sad all at once.  After taking his homeless friends out for breakfast and successfully convincing them to pay a visit to Arthur's shelter, Joshua had shown up at the rectory.  Only a few minutes later, Fr. Mike had gotten JenniAnn's call about Annabelle.  As soon as he'd gotten the gist of her words, he'd put the phone on speaker so his visitor could hear.  Fr. Mike knew he would never forget the way Joshua's face had shone with pride as he listened. 

After that, Fr. Mike had spent the day relaying information to Joshua as it came in.  Always Joshua had remained calm but the priest could tell it was hard for him to know so much activity was swirling around Annabelle's homecoming and he couldn't join in.  The appearance of an unknown man in Dyeland would have caused a panic and no one needed that on top of their concerns for the baby, JenniAnn, and Andrew.  Finally, after they'd sat down for dinner, Joshua had announced that he was going to Willowveil in the early hours of the morning when he knew no one would be there.  The priest had been relieved when Joshua had agreed to let him tag along.  It wasn't that Fr. Mike worried over Joshua really.  He knew Joshua didn't need the moral support.  Yet, somehow, it seemed best for him to have it.

"Need versus want," Joshua called.

The priest jolted.  "Huh?"

Joshua grinned.  "I'm not totally cut off yet.  What you're pondering, that's the answer: need versus want.  It's not that I needed company.  If you weren't here, I'd still fix what I came to fix.  But I wanted company.  So I'm glad you came, Mike.  It is better having you here.  And now... this table is better."  After sweeping up some sawdust, he stood.  "There's a newel on the main stairs that keeps losing its top."

Smiling, Fr. Mike finished his task and joined Joshua.  It amused him to watch the carpenter move from room to room, zeroing in on items that needed fixing  The priest wondered how people would feel if they knew Joshua knew their homes with such detail. 

Just after 6:00, they finished.  Joshua locked the castle back up, stowed the key rock, and hurried with Fr. Mike back to the willow tree.  They headed towards the rectory from the alley portal.

"So... what am I supposed to say if JenniAnn openly ponders, while I'm near, how those things got fixed?" the priest queried.

Joshua smiled.  "It'll take her a while to notice most and maybe by then..."

"She'll have her answer," Fr. Mike finished.  "In the meantime, if she does notice something?"

"She'll probably assume Vincent or Eliot or someone did it.  It's for the best.  Besides, she'll have a lot on her mind with Annabelle.  Maybe there will be more photos today." 

"I hope so.  And I hope..."  He frowned, thinking of the poor baby struggling with an addiction not of her choosing.

Joshua halted and set a hand on the priest's shoulder.  He smiled reassuringly.  "Today's going to be a good day for Annabelle."

Fr. Mike smiled back at Joshua.  He would know.


Portia stuck her head inside Andrew's and JenniAnn's room to see if they were up.  She quickly closed the door and stepped back into the hall.  It wasn't remotely professional but the doctor couldn't help but giggle.  She well knew that what she had seen was perfectly innocent... and perfectly adorable.  Still, she didn't want to embarrass either of her friends.  Collecting herself, she turned back to the door and knocked.

"It's me," she called.  "I wanted to give you both a report."

Andrew's eyes shot open.  "Just a minute!"

His answer woke JenniAnn who sat up.  "Portia?"

Andrew nodded.  "Yeah.  She has a report."  He jumped to his feet and opened the door.  JenniAnn turned and stared expectantly at the doctor. 

"Good morning, Portia.  Sorry.  We overslept a little," the angel explained.  "But we'd definitely like to hear that report."

"Oversleeping is good.  You both needed it."  Portia let out a relieved sigh.  "I have good news!  Annabelle's temp got back up to normal around midnight and has remained there.  She struggled with her midnight feeding, though, but then drained her bottles at 2:30 and 5:00.  We were just about to give her another bottle but I thought I'd check first to see if you might like the honors."

Andrew and JenniAnn exchanged eager glances.

"You think that's okay?  I mean... what if her temp drops again with being out of the nursery?" JenniAnn questioned.

"Then we'll get it raised again.  I think it's more than okay, Psyche.  And... I think your little girl wants to see you both."

JenniAnn smiled.

Andrew smiled, too, as he squeezed her hand.  "Then we'd like to see her," he answered.

"Great!  Be right back!"  Beaming, Portia left the room.

Andrew and JenniAnn hugged each other. 

"Maybe the worst really is past," she hoped.

Andrew nodded.  "I really hope so.  I have a good, good feeling about today."

That feeling only grew when Portia brought Annabelle to them and they took turns holding her as she hungrily sucked on her bottle.


Another night in the hospital... but how different!  Andrew smiled as he lay, sprawled across the couch, watching Annabelle and JenniAnn.  He laughed when the latter wrinkled her nose as she changed the baby's diaper.

"You laugh now but you're up next," JenniAnn teased. 

"I know.  I don't mind.  Do you know how many diapers I've changed in my life?"

"Probly a staggering amount given your extreme old age."

"Ouch!" Andrew jested.

JenniAnn washed her hands then scooped Annabelle out of her bassinet and brought her to the angel. 

Sitting up, Andrew took her and snuggled her close as JenniAnn kissed his cheek.

"You wear it well," she added then sighed.  "You will always wear it well.  Besides, I've never loved you more than... than here recently when we were disheveled and had bloodshot eyes and were covered in spit-up and worse."

Andrew brought her hand to his lips.  "Then we have that in common."

JenniAnn peered down at her daughter.  "Do you..."

Andrew replaced the pacifier that had fallen out of Annabelle's mouth then met his friend's eyes.  "What is it?"

"Do you think we'll have a while until... til she realizes we aren't exactly... the norm?  I mean I know we'd never be exactly... common.  Castles and Tunnels and vampires and..."

"Angels?" Andrew added with a grin.

JenniAnn blushed but smiled as she nodded.  "But we all have that in common between us.  I mean Jacob deals with that.  And Shelby and all the other Tunnel kids.  And if Max and Rose have children then they will, too.  But I mean... the two of us."

Andrew beamed at Annabelle and then JenniAnn.  "I think she will notice from very early on that she's being raised by two people who love her very much, who love each other very much, and who love their family and their God very much.  And the rest... it won't matter so much.  I hope it gives her a better understanding of all the diversity in life.  Not all love looks the same so not all families look the same.  And that's okay." 

JenniAnn's smile grew.  "It is... it's wonderful."  She bent to kiss Annabelle.  "Our family may not look like, well, any other family... ever.  But I can't wait for you to meet them, my girl."

"And they can't wait to meet you," Andrew added.

"Her eyes are getting droopy.  Lullaby time.  'Tender Shepherd'?"

The angel chuckled.  "I think, given we'll be doing this a lot, it's time for me to become a little less predictable.  Remember that song we ended the last Valentine's video with?"

JenniAnn nodded.

"I think that should be one of her lullabies."

"I... I think so, too."

Annabelle let out a tiny sigh as her uncle sang for her and her mother.

"It's only for a moment you are mine to hold
The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I'll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I'll want to know
You're walking in the truth."


February 7th, 2014

JenniAnn awoke at 3:00 AM and immediately looked to Annabelle's bassinet.  It was empty.

"Over here, Laja," Andrew whispered.

Relieved, JenniAnn turned to find Andrew in the recliner with the baby.  "Is she okay?"

"Just needed a diaper change then drifted back to sleep but I haven't felt like putting her back."  Andrew smiled down at the girl.

JenniAnn noticed when his smile changed to a pensive frown.  She rose and, after pulling on her robe, perched on the arm of the chair.  "What ya thinking?"

Andrew took a few moments to consider what he could tell her.  The truth was he didn't know what to think.  He was confused by his own thoughts and feelings!  When he looked at Annabelle... when he held her... he felt such love and devotion.  But there was something else, too.  A feeling he'd struggled with and thought he was done with.  But now here it was again.  He sighed and peered up at his friend.  "I feel... such... pride, Laja.  But I didn't do anything to deserve to feel that."

JenniAnn crossed her arms over her chest.  "I beg to differ, sir."

Andrew chuckled quietly.  "On what grounds, madam?"

"I think most parents feel pride when they hold their newborn... even though they haven't really started the hard work of parenting.  Maybe it's because they're holding this perfect little baby who is evidence of how much and how completely they loved someone else."  She brushed some stray hair from his forehead.  "I love many people.  But I don't hear them call out to me in my dreams.  I did with you.  Funny thing about being raised Christian... it makes you feel awfully close to the sort who give up Paradise just to walk the Earth with you."  JenniAnn rested her forehead against his hair.  "I know... I've always known... that you can't tell me whether Jesus is God or not.  And I'm fine with that.  But I know you love Him because of how you get when people try to use Him for bad purposes.  So know this: I have never met anyone who reminds me so much of Him as you do."

Tears welling in his eyes, Andrew shook his head.  Joshua never struggled with pride.  Joshua never lost his way.  Joshua had never alienated his friends with his own stubborn refusal to trust them.

JenniAnn continued.  "I know you're not perfect and I don't expect you to be.  You weren't created to be.  You've stumbled at times... I know that.  But so few times when compared to all the times you gave of yourself so completely even when... when it hurt your spirit and your soul and your body.  You never stopped loving me even when... when I thought I stopped loving you and even when I... I couldn't recognize that you were just trying to protect me and the others when you wouldn't be more open.  After all that... you really don't think you've done anything to deserve to feel pride?  Cause I do.  And even more than that... I believe with all my heart that Jesus is proud of you.  And if He can feel pride... then some pride has to be good."

"Thank you," Andrew choked out.  He rested his head against her shoulder and played her words over in his mind, letting them mingle with Joshua's own words.  He had said he was proud of him.   Yes, good pride definitely existed.  As Andrew allowed himself to feel it, he also felt humbled and awed that God had given him such a life to lead.  He sighed deeply.  "You know, it never really seemed like much of a sacrifice to me.  I... I just felt blessed that God gave me two places to call home and so... so many people to love and be loved by.  Laja..."  He kissed her hand and softly stroked Annabelle's tufts of hair, thanking God that they were both safe and near.


The morning dawned on an even more optimistic twosome.  Annabelle had eagerly eaten on schedule all through the night.  While waking up at 2 and 3 hour intervals on top of their middle of the night heart-to-heart had made both Andrew and JenniAnn weary, they were too happy and relieved to notice.  The afternoon brought further distraction.  Heartened by Annabelle's progress, Portia had consented to visitors.

Shortly before noon, Andrew grinned when the door to their room opened and three very recognizable faces peeked around its edge.  He'd been looking forward to showing Annabelle off to three of his closest friends and now the time had come!

"Greetings," Adam solemnly began.  "We are three AODs who have traveled from the East, bearing gifts for..."

"That utterly adorable baby, her lovely mother, and that grungy looking fellow," Eli continued.

"And by the East, we mean the East Village," Henry explained.  "We have brought chai for your sleepless nights."  He held a bag out to Andrew who shook with laughter as he took it.

"Scented candles to combat olfactory assaults brought on by your new bundle of smelly joy."  Adam handed over a box.

"And this for the little one."  Eli produced a tie-dyed plush dog.  "We've named him Jimi because the fellow who sold him to us bore an uncanny resemblance to Mr. Hendrix but you can change the name."

JenniAnn giggled and tilted Annabelle so she could see the three angels of death.  "Thank you.  You're all lovely.  And I happen to like Jimi."

Andrew hugged them all.  "Thanks.  This is... it's so great to see you all and..." He waved them all in.  "May I present Annabelle Luna Chandler." 

"Look at those eyes!" Adam gushed, drawing nearer. 

Andrew beamed.  "Aren't they beautiful?  Everything about her is perfect."

"She's so tiny!"  Henry laughed when Annabelle stuck out her tongue.  "Already a clown!  She'll fit right in." 

Entirely sober, Eli knelt in front of the recliner where JenniAnn sat.  "Kiddo..." he murmured, resting his hand on her arm.  He looked up to where Andrew stood behind the chair and back to JenniAnn then down to Annabelle, his eyes filling.  "Sophia is so... so proud," he faltered. 

"I... I'm so glad.  Eli, would you like to hold her?" JenniAnn offered.  "You can all have turns."

Adam set a hand on Eli's shoulder.  "Go ahead.  You go first.  After all, you held her mother."  He smiled at JenniAnn then handed her a tissue once she'd transferred Annabelle to Eli.

"She is perfect..." he murmured.  Sighing, Eli looked back up at Andrew and JenniAnn.  "Congratulations!"

"Everyone's so happy for you!"  Henry rose and again hugged Andrew.  "Willowveil's been overrun with people helping.  When I left, Owen and Max had just finished painting.  Vincent and Devin..."

JenniAnn looked away from Eli and Annabelle with surprise.  "Devin's around?"

Adam nodded.  "He made travel arrangements as soon as he heard.  He's been keeping his brother company."

JenniAnn slid behind the chair, hugging Andrew.  "How is Vincent?  I talked to him on the phone yesterday but he can be so hard to judge just by voice.  I... I do wish..."  She peered over at Annabelle.

"Vincent is well.  He felt all the joy Catherine did when she was here.  He's anxious to meet his granddaughter but he's content to wait until she's well."  Adam smiled gently.  "He said to tell you that he's moved the family crib to your chamber."

Andrew embraced JenniAnn more securely.  "It won't be long now, Laja."

"What's Portia thinking as far as when she can leave?" Henry asked.

JenniAnn's face glowed with happiness.  "Annabelle did so well yesterday that, actually, they began tapering off the morphine this morning.  A-and look at her.  I mean she still shakes sometimes.  Portia said that could last for days.  But if you had seen her even on Wednesday night..."  She approached Eli and kissed the baby.  "You're such a strong little girl," she murmured.

Eli returned Annabelle to her mother who, after cuddling her for a few moments, passed her to Henry.  The angel of death was immediately enchanted.

Henry peered into Annabelle's eyes.  "Whatever you may think in the future, remember this," he whispered.  "You were born of dreams and prayers.  You were always wanted." 

Sniffling, Andrew reached over to squeeze his buddy's shoulder.

Adam's turn came next.  Once Annabelle was in his arms, he could find nothing to say.  No charming words of praise.  No self-deprecating joke.  No sarcasm.  He sat on the couch and continued to stare at the baby, his eyes welling.  Memories of over a year ago were still fresh in his mind.  A bruised and battered Andrew.  A bereft and forlorn JenniAnn.  Now they looked so happy.  Now they were parents to this beautiful little stranger. 

JenniAnn squeezed Andrew's hand and looked at him with concern.

"Adam, you okay?" Andrew checked.

"'I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,'" he recited before kissing the baby's forehead.  Adam smiled.  Already, as he'd knelt with JenniAnn on the floor of Willy's factory and later when he'd first spied Andrew sprawled on the floor of that awful cave, God had known Annabelle was coming to them.  She was their future and their hope and they were hers.  Adam sighed then smiled at Andrew and JenniAnn.  "I love this part of His plan."  He returned Annabelle to Andrew.  "You know, if you two ever need some time to yourselves to dance or rearrange your sock drawers or whatever it is you do... I'm a highly qualified babysitter.  I once babysat for the twelve tribes."  He winked.

JenniAnn laughed.  "Likely story.  And given what happened there... not really sure it's grounds for bragging rights.  One of your charges wound up sold into slavery by ten of the others."

Adam chuckled.  "Good point.  And I was kidding about that part but... I wouldn't mind babysitting."

"I could help," Henry offered.

"Me too!" Eli agreed.

Andrew grinned.  "I don't know...  Three AODs and a baby...  Kinda sounds like the plot to a wacky comedy."

"And that's a bad thing?  Maybe Annabelle likes wacky comedies."  Eli made a funny face at the baby who stared unblinkingly at him.  "Tough audience..."

JenniAnn giggled then looked tenderly at her daughter.  "I can't wait to hear her laugh!"

"Hear her first word..." Andrew added.

"See her first steps... and then panicking when you realize it means she can get into anything... and will," Henry jested.

Andrew smiled, snuggling Annabelle closer.  "I can't wait."

The three other angels smiled upon their friends, deeply grateful to God for what He had worked in their lives.


"And we'll make awesome ice cream sundaes and watch movies late into the night and make our own jewelry."

Andrew opened a weary eye and smiled as Violeta rocked Annabelle and made plans, unaware that he was awake.  Monica had taken JenniAnn out for coffee, leaving him alone with the baby and his protege.  Noting her supervisor's red eyes, Violeta had insisted she could care for Annabelle while he rested.  After her work in the Philippines, Andrew was confident this was true and had drifted to sleep.  He was glad he'd woken up in time to hear this. 

Violeta beamed down at Annabelle.  Her heart had soared when she and Monica had returned to the hospital and learned that they could hold the baby.  She hadn't let go since JenniAnn had placed Annabelle in her arms.

"And I know I look a lot older than you but I'm really not.  Only sixteen years older.  Which means I'm still a kid by most human's counts.  Like you.  So I hope I can be like a big sister to you.  I want to be."  Violeta lowered her voice.  "Some angels probably wouldn't like me saying that but our group... we're a little different.  A little more... a lot more... meshed.  But good different and good meshed!  And it makes sense.  I mean we all have the same Father, after all.  Do you remember Him, I wonder?"

Annabelle trembled but refrained from crying.

Violeta's smile turned sad.  "I'm sorry your first couple days here have been hard, Annabelle.  But it really is a good world.  Bad things happen in it and sometimes you might feel like there's more bad than good but there's really not.  And you'll always have lots of people around to help you through the bad times.  I'm glad I'm an angel but if I had to be human, I'd pick your parents to be mine.  I love them.  And I know you will, too."

Andrew rubbed at his face, brushing away the tear that was trailing down his cheek. 

"You're up!" Violeta cried.  "I was hoping you'd sleep longer.  You need it and..."  She looked to Annabelle.

Andrew sat up and smiled, recognizing that Violeta was reluctant to hand over the baby.  "You can keep holding her."

"Kay!"  Violeta moved to the couch and sat by Andrew.  She rested her head on his shoulder but kept her eyes on Annabelle.  "I... I'm really glad you were sent to her a-and that you and JenniAnn saved her.  It feels like she was always supposed to be with all of us."

Andrew hugged her.  "She was.  And so were you, Violeta.  I'm so proud of you and I know Annabelle is going to enjoy those sundaes and movies."

Violeta laughed.  "Eavesdropper..."

Andrew blushed.  "Sorry.  I almost spoke up but... it was just too sweet to interrupt.  I love you, too, and I know JenniAnn does.  And having you with us these past couple of years is part of what made us feel confident that we could do this... raise Annabelle together."


"Really.  But now don't go thinking that now that we have Annabelle, we won't still be there for you.  We will.  For you and Shelby and Max and everyone else."  Andrew kissed her hair.  "You're my first protege.  Nothing will ever change that."

Violeta sighed happily.  Even when they were in the midst of heartbreaking assignments, having Andrew near always made her feel safe.  Only one other person made her feel even safer.  "When will Joshua come?  Have you heard from him lately?  JenniAnn mentioned the homeless guy.  Was that him?"

Andrew nodded.  "Yeah.  But JenniAnn doesn't know, of course.  Later that morning, I went to the chapel here and talked with Joshua.  I had to request something of him and he... he gave what I requested.  Violeta, I..."

The younger angel squeezed his hand.  "Arthur saw the rose and told Monica and I overheard...  Then Max stopped in to get more food for Lulu and told Rose and...  Well, everyone knows."

Andrew frowned.  He'd hoped to be there when people found out.  "And how did everyone react?"

"Wistful.  But mostly happy.  Adam made a crack about how one day you'll be even more gray and wrinkly than him and still manage to be better looking."

The angel of death chuckled.  "I don't know about that."

"Tess got on his case because she says he doesn't even have wrinkles.  And he really doesn't much.  Goofball."

"Is Tess, uh..."

"She wants to come visit but figured she'd wait until tomorrow.  She didn't wanna overwhelm Annabelle.  She knows Rose and Max are coming later and figured that was probably enough visitors today."

Andrew smiled softly, touched that the usually brash Tess was being so patient.

"So... back to Joshua.  What ya think?"

Before Andrew could answer, someone tapped on the door.  He got to his feet to see who it was and grinned at the visitor.

"Fr. Mike!  I'm glad you're here.  But I wish JenniAnn was so she could be here when..."  Andrew waved the priest in.  "You meet our Annabelle."

A wide smile spread across Fr. Mike's face.  "Andrew... she's..."  Tears slid down his cheeks.  He'd never told anyone and would never tell anyone but for the past year, JenniAnn had been coming to him for counseling.  She hadn't been able to reconcile how she could feel so much gratitude for the unique lifestyle and family she'd been led to with her ongoing frustrations and sadness over the fact that she and Andrew could never have children.  Fr. Mike had never been happier to discover a friend had been so utterly wrong. 

"Wanna hold her?" Violeta offered. 

The priest nodded.  "She's so precious... such a miracle," he murmured once he had Annabelle. 

Andrew beamed.  "She is.  We'd love for you to bless her and JenniAnn and I have some other things we'd like to discuss with you.  She should be back in about ten minutes.  Can you wait?"

"Sure.  But that means I better get to why I came here."

"Joshua?" Violeta asked eagerly.

Fr. Mike smiled and nodded.  "Yes.  He would have come himself but he's volunteering at a senior living center and, well, Bingo ran long."

The angels both laughed.

"How is he?" Violeta questioned nervously.

Andrew hugged his protege.  Her youth hadn't prepared her for Joshua's occasional long-term sojourns in mortal form.

Fr. Mike patted her hand.  "He's good.  A little... not anxious exactly but..."  He bit his lip, searching for the best word.  "Expectant.  He's looking forward to your visit later."

Violeta smiled.  Ever since Joshua's arrival, she and Andrew had been making a point to stop by his apartment when they could.  She relished the time with him.

"And he'll be by your place when he can, Andrew.  But for now he wants you to know that you're on leave until the 17th when you'll go to the theatre.  He says you know which one."

Andrew nodded eagerly.  The previous week, Joshua had walked with him and Violeta to the St. Genesius' Theatre and explained more about the assignment.

"That will be your only assignment for the duration which he says should give you a good amount of time with Annabelle and everyone."

"I'm very grateful for that."

"He knew you would be."  Fr. Mike turned back to the young angel.  "And you, Violeta, are on leave until the last week of February.  You're to stick around JenniAnn and this little cuddlebug, helping out, until Andrew needs back-up at the theatre."

Violeta had to keep from shrieking with glee, knowing that could upset the baby.  "He's awesome sauce..."

Fr. Mike laughed.  "He is.  It's been a privilege to spend this time with him and I... I can't wait until...  JenniAnn and Kemara and Owen...  I'm excited for everyone to meet him but knowing something of how those three feel about him... it'll be a joy to see them together."  He turned to Andrew, marveling.  "How have you kept this to yourself for so long!?" he queried.

Andrew chuckled.  "The initial shock lasted me for a while.  And then it was knowing that it would all come out in his time.  And that would be best.  But sometimes... sometimes it was hard.  But I remembered, too, that it's always fallen to Joshua to be patient, to wait for people to find him and love him.  So by comparison... how could I complain about holding onto this secret for a few months?"

Fr. Mike nodded solemnly.  The reckless love of God had never seemed more real nor more complete to him since Joshua's arrival on Christmas Day. 

Andrew squeezed the man's shoulder.  "I'm glad you're around, Fr. Mike, and that you know.  That means a lot to Joshua."

"It means a lot to me.  Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve..."

"You loved him," Violeta interrupted.  "Everyone who loves him meets him in time.  It just happened earlier than usual for you."  She smiled. 

The priest returned the smile and snuggled Annabelle closer. 

"Fr. Mike!" JenniAnn cried when she entered the room with Monica.  "I'm so glad you're here!"  She hugged him, mindful of Annabelle.

"JenniAnn... she's amazing.  I'm so happy for you and for Andrew and for everyone... a new addition to your tribe.  And a very cute one at that." 

JenniAnn's eyes locked with his and they exchanged a meaningful look, both remembering the hours she'd spent pacing his office at the rectory.  "She... she is." 

Fr. Mike returned the baby to her mother.  "Would you like me to bless her?"

"Yes.  Please."

Andrew rested his arm around JenniAnn's shoulders as Monica and Violeta drew near.

Fr. Mike raised his hands above Annabelle and began to pray.  "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we pray that Annabelle Luna Chandler grows strong in body, spirit, and mind.  We pray that she rejoices in Your love and in the love of her family and friends.  Bless her with wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, piety, and respect and obedience to You.  Annabelle, may you always know that you are loved by a God who created you, died for you, and longs to hold you close.  May you come to know Him and glory in His love.  Amen."

"Amen," the others echoed.

"Thank you, Fr. Mike," Andrew said as JenniAnn hugged her priest.

"My pleasure.  Truly."

While Monica and JenniAnn fussed over the baby and checked her diaper, the other three exchanged knowing glances.  Annabelle surely would come to be held by the One who created her.


It was a quarter until 6:00 and Andrew was softly prancing around the room with Annabelle who was crying.  JenniAnn scrambled to prepare a bottle, smiling giddily as she did.  For the first time, Annabelle's wail sounded like that of a healthy but hungry infant.  As soon as she had the bottle ready, Andrew settled into the recliner.  The two grown-ups laughed as the baby greedily sucked down the liquid.

"It never ceases to surprise me how big a noise such a tiny person can make," JenniAnn mused.

"Wait til Tess hears her.  She's going to be sure she has a singer to train up."  Andrew stroked Annabelle's cheek.  "You got yourself some pipes, my girl."

"And some more visitors," JenniAnn noted when someone tapped on the door.  "I think I know who that is..."  She leapt up to let Rose and Max in.

The couple entered silently then, noticing that Annabelle was awake, began to talk at once.

"Can I hold her when she's done eating?"

"Her eyes are so huge and adorable!  Oh my gosh!  I want one!"

"She's totally a Gryffindor!  Wait... do you really want a baby li-like..."

"No!  I mean yes!  But not now!"


Andrew chuckled.  "Yes, you can hold her after she's done eating.  The rest of that conversation you're going to have to figure out between the two of you."

Max and Rose both blushed, smiling as they did.

"You can get closer.  C'mon."  JenniAnn took their hands and brought them nearer.  The two stood in awe then snapped back to attention.

"Maja!  Andrew!" Max cried before hugging them both.  "Congratulations!"

Rose followed with her own hugs.  "Everyone is so psyched back home.  I wish you could see her nursery.  I wanted to bring photos but Owen nixed that.  He said it was better to see it in reality.  It's really beautiful.  I will say that."

JenniAnn's eyes welled up.  "It means so much that... that everyone..."

Max hugged her.  "The way I hear it, everyone with myself included has stories about you both dropping everything to help them out.  It's been nice to drop everything and do something for you both... and for Annabelle."  He looked tenderly at the baby.  "Is she... would she be like... like my sister or my niece?"

Rose giggled.  "In most families, it would be really disconcerting that you need to ask that.  But in ours... totally reasonable."

Andrew smiled.  He and JenniAnn had already discussed it.  "Everyone else who has been in seems to have taken to being Aunt or Uncle so-and-so."

"Aunt Rose...  I like the sound of that," Rose murmured, caressing Annabelle's hair as she perched on the arm of the chair.

Max's breath caught in his throat as he took in the sight.  "Uncle Max sounds pretty good, too."

JenniAnn squeezed his hand.  "Then Aunt Rose and Uncle Max it is.  We can explain the particulars to her as she grows up."  She knelt in front of Andrew to smooth Annabelle's blanket.

Max nodded, still gazing at Rose and Annabelle.

Noticing, Andrew's heart swelled with pride and happiness.  Every day he thanked God for letting him help to get Max back to safety and to a place he could call home.  Now the young man would be there to help them welcome and then raise Annabelle... hopefully one day raising his own children with Rose.  For eons Andrew had consoled his assignments with the truth that God can bring joy out of the most wretched of heartbreaks.  Annabelle and Max were evidence of this and helped the angel of death to believe the words even more deeply.  He leaned down to kiss Annabelle's brow then reached for Max's hand.  With the three adults clustered around him and Annabelle content in his arms, the angel prayed that they and their friends would always remain so close.


Later that evening, following another visit from her parents and Catherine, JenniAnn held her breath as a nurse began to gently wash Annabelle. 

"There, she likes it!" the woman cheered as she wiped behind the baby's ears and neck.  She dipped the sponge in warm water then wrung it out some before holding it out to JenniAnn.  "You can do it," she encouraged. 

Andrew stepped nearer, affectionately squeezing JenniAnn arm.

Life in the Tunnels, at Catherine's shelter, and in her mom's in-home daycare had given JenniAnn multiple opportunities to care for newborns.  Still, each new task with Annabelle made her nervous.  She'd never felt so responsible for another person in her whole life.

Andrew lowered his head, whispering directly into her ear.  "She's right.  You can do this.  You're her mother."

Calming, JenniAnn nodded.  Everything her parents, Catherine, and Vincent had taught her came back to mind.  She bathed Annabelle gently and quickly, waiting to wash her hair until nearly the end and removing her diaper last. 

Andrew watched JenniAnn's hands move so gently and expertly.  He realized with a start how truly new this all was for him.  For all but the last fourteen years, his friends had mostly been angels and humans in Heaven.  He'd never been there as a friend, as someone he loved so much, became a mother.  That didn't mean he hadn't thought of it.  He had dreams for all his friends, JenniAnn included.  He blushed as he remembered the first years with her and how, sometimes, he'd wondered what it would be like for them when she got married and had children.  Always he had envisioned himself as looking in from outside of her family but now...

"Love, could you please grab a diaper and some clothes?" JenniAnn requested as she patted Annabelle dry.

Snapping back to attention, the angel nodded.  When he had the diaper and a sleeper, he looked on with admiration as JenniAnn cuddled their little one. 

The nurse laughed softly when Annabelle set her hand on JenniAnn's and let out a tiny sigh.  "You did very well, Mom.  Look how content she is."

JenniAnn smiled kindly but could only nod.  She was overcome.  Each new "first" made her feel more and more like she was something beyond just being JenniAnn.  She was Annabelle's mother.

"I'll be on my way then.  Let us know if you need anything."

Andrew smiled appreciatively.  "Will do.  Thank you, Karen."

Once the nurse was gone, Andrew stroked JenniAnn's hair.  "You wanna get her dressed?"

"Yeah."  JenniAnn set Annabelle back in her bassinet and unbundled her.  While Andrew put the diaper on, she caressed the shamrock-laden sleeper that Kemara had sent along with Monica and Violeta.  When Andrew was ready, they got Annabelle into it and swaddled her.

"Today has.... it's been like a dream," JenniAnn whispered as she picked Annabelle up.

"Yes.  But a real dream," Andrew assured.  "And... and far better than any dream I've ever had."

JenniAnn snuggled against his shoulder.

Andrew rested his chin on her hair and wrapped his arms around both of them.  "Laja, I heard from God earlier.  I'm on leave until the 17th."

JenniAnn smiled.  "I'm glad He believes in paternity leave."

The angel chuckled.  "Also apparently sorority leave... if that's a thing.  Violeta's going to stick around until the end of the month.  And even after the 17th, I'll be near.  I have an assignment in Manhattan for several weeks."

A tear slid down JenniAnn's cheeks.  "He's really watching out for us.  I know He always is, of course.  But to have it be so obvious..."  She looked to the ceiling.  "Thank You."

Andrew kissed her forehead.  "You're tired," he noted.

JenniAnn nodded.  "I don't wanna lay her down... but I would love a shower."

"I'll take her... happily."

JenniAnn smiled.  "Knew you would."  She transferred Annabelle to Andrew then admired the sight of them for a few moments before gathering her things.  She kissed them both then stepped into the bathroom.

Once Andrew heard the water start, he sunk into the recliner and gazed down at Annabelle.  Sucking away at her pacifier, she stared back up at him.  The angel smiled. 

"Annabelle," Andrew cooed.

The baby latched onto one of his fingers. 

Andrew's eyes filled.  "You know, I... I wanted this so badly that at... at first I couldn't even say it.  Not even to God.  Because if you went away..."  He shook his head.  "From the first moment I held you, I wanted you to be mine, baby girl.  And I know your mama feels the same.  We are so blessed.  And I want you to hold onto something.  Even when you're older and it might be hard to believe.  But you have to hold onto this, Annabelle.  We will always love you.  No matter what.  Even if you think we'll be angry... even if we are angry... we'll still love you.  Nothing will change that.  Ever.  I... I meet a lot of people who don't realize how loved they are.  I pray you'll never be like that.  La...  Your mama and I will do everything we can to make sure you always know this."  He kissed her hair.  "You are God's beloved child... and ours, too."

Annabelle's face scrunched up.

Andrew laughed when a pungent aroma filled the air.  "I guess I was getting a little too serious."  He kissed her hair again then got up to change her diaper.

Once she was cleaned up, they settled back into the recliner.  Andrew rocked and sang.  "'Tell me why the stars do shine.  Tell me why the ivy twines.  Because God made the skies so blue.  Because God made you, that's why I love you.'"

As she drifted to sleep, Uncle Andrew prayed for a peaceful, pain-free night for his Annabelle.


February 8th, 2014

With much of the work done, a smaller group had gathered in Annabelle's nursery to see to finishing touches.  Owen stood in the center of the room, reading from his phone.  "'Annabelle's temperature remained stable throughout the night.  She only fussed when she was hungry or needed her diaper changed.  Portia is thrilled with her progress and says that unless something changes in the next 24 hours, our girl's getting released!  Hope to see some of you today.  A request from JenniAnn: please bring real coffee.'"

Kemara laughed.  "I will most certainly do that."

Owen smiled and continued.  "'We can't wait to get to the Tunnels and then home.  Thank you for everything you're doing.  We... we thank God for you and love you all very... very much.  Always, Andrew and JenniAnn and Annabelle.'"  He put the phone down and surveyed the room.  There wasn't much more that any of them could do.  The walls were painted and the furniture pushed back into place.  Vincent had brought a bed from the Tunnels' surplus and he and Devin had set it up, both suspecting Andrew wouldn't roam far.  Though much of the decorating had been left alone, everyone had added their own touches to welcome Annabelle. 

Vincent set a hand on Owen's shoulder.  "I think you should visit them today."

Owen shook his head.  He wanted to meet his closest friend's daughter very much but he felt badly doing so before his mentor and her grandfather could.

"Go for me.  Please," Vincent requested.  "I would like you to bring her this."  He pressed a soft object into Owen's hands.  "Psyche mentioned on the phone that Kelly brought them Stellaluna.  I made one like this for Psyche when she was small.  I want Annabelle to have one, too."

Owen looked down to find he was holding a hand-sewn plush bat.  He'd seen JenniAnn's before.  In fact, he knew she sometimes still slept with it.  "I... I will," he promised.  "So who else is visiting today other than Kemara and me?  We should probably work out some sort of schedule again.  The way I hear it, that room's not that big.  Any more than four at a time and we might be tripping over each other."

Monica raised her hand.  "Arthur and I have already been... me twice.  But Arthur hasn't since Annabelle got out of the nursery.  I'd like to take him up this evening, after his shift ends, if that works."

"I have an assignment this evening but I would love to meet that sweet girl.  And I... I have some things I would like to say to her parents."  Tess bowed her head for a moment.

Adam rested a hand on her shoulder.  The night before, Tess had confessed that she wished she'd been a little less harsh with both Andrew and JenniAnn at times.

"Tess, you can go with Kemara and me," Owen offered.  "We can step out for a snack or something... coffee refills maybe... while you talk."

"Thank you."

"Mick?  Beth?" Owen called. 

Mick shook his head.  "Thank you but I, uh...  Not so good with hospitals.  A lot of blood around."

Beth laced her fingers through his, knowing this was only a half-truth.  Mick could stomach hospitals well enough.  The wall-to-wall reminders of his infertility were harder to confront.  "We'll wait to come see them all when they're Below." 

Despite his own regrets, Mick smiled.  "I am looking forward to seeing them with her.  They deserve this after years of patching so many of our lives up."

Beth nodded.  "We might not even be married if not for them.  Maybe not... not even speaking."

Mick wrapped his arms around her waist.

"God only knows where I'd be," Owen mused.  "Or if I'd be... in this sphere of existence, at least."  He looked to Vincent with a wavering smile.  "I loved the Tunnels from the start but it wasn't until the two of them hauled me off to a production of A Man of No Importance that I realized that... that I really would be not just tolerated but loved."

Kemara nodded.  "They helped me to realize that, too.  I got to know JenniAnn the most.  At first.  I actually... I thought she and Andrew were dating."  She looked over at Adam, Monica, and Tess.  "Sorry!"

Adam laughed.  "Don't be.  We're used to misunderstandings like that."

"Good.  Well, I mean... okay.  I was shocked when I found out the truth: that Andrew was an angel of death.  And that he chose to spend so much time here... with us humans."  Kemara shook her head in amazement.  "I spent so many years being rejected and taunted by kids at school and here was this angel who could have spent time in Heaven... choosing to meet a friend and me for coffee.  Then there was everything with Ivy and that was healing, too.  I wouldn't have had that... wouldn't have met her or any of you without them."

Monica hugged the woman.  "We're very glad we could meet you... and that you stuck around, Kemara."

The others murmured agreement.

"Psyche always gave me hope," Devin added.  He turned to his brother.  "For you."

Vincent look curiously at him.

"You were different with her.  You were so reserved even with Catherine, for a while... a long while," Devin teased.  "But with Psyche... with her you were a natural."  He chuckled.  "I can still remember one time she came toddling into your room, interrupting a very intent conversation we were having about Othello.  She had managed to drench herself in blue paint and was hysterical.  It was like whatever part of you agonized about your hands and your face and your instincts finally shut up and shutdown.  You cleaned her up, washed her hair, got her changed, and brushed out her hair... all while continuing to lambast the Moor!"

Vincent laughed at the memory. 

"Blue's a good color for Psyche.  You should have left her," Owen joked.

Kemara shook her head.  "JenniAnn is not a Smurf."

Devin smiled.  "No.  She's not.  She's a human.  And when I saw you with her... I knew that eventually you'd realize you were, too, and let all that other nonsense go."

Vincent nodded, brushing at a tear.

Kemara squeezed his hand.  "And JenniAnn and Andrew both have mentioned to me how you and Catherine helped them to see the value in what they shared... and to stick with each other even when that didn't resemble anything they'd once planned for themselves."

Monica smiled wistfully.  "And I... I still look to them when I wonder if the future... with Arthur... is really possible.  They help me to believe it is."

Tess hugged her.  "It's amazing how connected each life can be to another.  Isn't it, babies?"

The others nodded. 

Adam sighed and leaned his head back, staring up at the ceiling which Owen had painted to resemble the sky shifting from sunrise to sunset.  "Now we have one more life to be connected to."

The others all smiled then looked over at the crib, imagining the day Annabelle would come home to it.


"She... is... a... doll!" Owen gushed as he held Annabelle shortly after arriving at the hospital. 

"That she is..." Tess cooed.  She laughed when the baby spit out her pacifier and gave a big yawn. 

"Can I paint her when you get back home?" Owen requested.

Andrew smiled and replaced the pacifier when Annabelle seemed to be missing it.  "Of course."

"I have a feeling Annabelle will get a whole series.  She is so sweet," Kemara agreed.  "How light does she feel?"

"See for yourself," Owen offered.

Kemara smiled when she had Annabelle.  Andrew and JenniAnn had left her unswaddled for a bit so she kicked her legs.  "Maybe she'll be a dancer!" Kemara wished.

JenniAnn beamed.  "I hope so.  Of some sort, at least."  She glanced over at Andrew, daydreaming about Annabelle learning to dance by putting her feet on his, just as she had once with Vincent. 

Beside her, Andrew was imagining the same and grinning at the idea.  Then his mind drifted ahead.  School dances.  Boys...  What if one broke her heart?  He caught himself and shook his head.  Annabelle wasn't even a week old!  Not even a week old and she already had him so wound around her tiny finger that he was mentally lecturing imaginary teenage boys.  He chuckled.

After letting out a dreamy sigh, JenniAnn hugged Owen.  "I've heard others gushing about the nursery.  Thank you... and Vincent... for heading that up.  And you, Kemara and Tess, and everyone who's helped!"

Owen returned the hug.  "My pleasure.  And everyone's been a pleasure to work with.  It's been really nice to spend so much time with everyone.  Despite having a pretty quick turn around time, no one was stressed or short-tempered.  It was all very pleasant... or maybe it was just the paint fumes making everyone very mellow," he teased.

Kemara laughed.  "I think it was everyone being so happy."  She gently squeezed Annabelle then turned her over to Tess who had quietly but anxiously been awaiting her turn.  Once the angel had the baby, Kemara looked over at Owen who nodded.

"Hey, Kemara and I are going to go peruse the cafeteria then we'll be right back," Owen announced.

Andrew's eye brow raised.  "You actually want to eat hospital food?"

"They have like eight flavors of Jello!  How is that not awesome?" Owen defended.

The angel of death chuckled.  "I guess it is.  Enjoy!" 

"You'll come back?" JenniAnn checked.

"Definitely... with Jello," Kemara vowed before following Owen out the door.

"Well, that seemed staged," Andrew noted.

Tess finally looked up from Annabelle's face.  "I asked for a few minutes with the two of you," she explained.

"Tess..." Andrew murmured when he saw the tears in his old friend's eyes.  "What's wrong?"  He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her to the couch, sitting at her right side while JenniAnn settled to her left. 

"Ever since Miss Wings told me the news, I... I've been thinking.  For a while now I've regretted how harsh I sometimes was with you, Angel Boy."

Andrew shook his head.  "Tess, that's in the past. 
We've talked about this.  Let it go.  I have.  You know that.  "

JenniAnn bowed her head.  She hadn't let it go.  Not really.

Tess patted his cheek.  "I know.  It's your way, baby."  She smiled.  "But I got to thinking about it again because... Andrew, at least a few of those times you got so upset because you were trying to protect a child or... or a woman who had been wronged.  And I thought it was unbecoming of an angel of death.  But maybe those incidents weren't meant to prepare you for your work as an angel of death.  Maybe they were meant to prepare you for her."  She stroked Annabelle's hair.  "And her."  Tess turned to JenniAnn who set her hand over hers.  "And all the others who have found their way to you.  You acted in a way becoming of a friend, of a father, of an uncle.  I'm very proud of you and I love you."

Andrew felt tears glide down his cheeks but let them go.  While he'd sometimes clung to the belief that he'd been in the right despite Tess' admonishments, he'd never thought of his behavior then in that light.  Now Tess' words seemed undeniably true.  He hugged her.  "Thank you.  I... I love you, too, Tess."

The supervisor nodded then smiled at JenniAnn who was also crying.  Tess recognized that any slight she had inflicted on Andrew had hurt her, too.  She was relieved to see forgiveness on JenniAnn's face.  "And you, baby...  I should have believed... should have trusted... I saw how much your friendship meant to Andrew and I worried that one day you'd move on and hurt him.  But you never did."

"I... I wish that were true," JenniAnn lamented.

"We all have doubts sometimes.  But yours never lasted long.  You never left.  Not really.  You always came back and now...  Baby, you live in a castle connected to his house by a tunnel.  You aren't going anywhere."

JenniAnn laughed.  "Nope."

Tess smiled. 

"Would you sing something for Annabelle?" JenniAnn requested.

"Her first Tess song..." Andrew mused. 

"Of course, I will!"  Tess kissed Annabelle then began to sing, choosing not a lullaby but a song that meant so much to her, to Andrew, to all of them. 

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

As Tess neared the end of the song, Owen and Kemara returned.  Both sensed that something healing had occurred.  They smiled... then passed out the Jello.


Andrew and JenniAnn watched anxiously as Portia listened to Annabelle's heartbeat and took her temperature.

When the doctor turned back to them, her smile stretched from ear to ear.  "Everything's normal.  I see no reason to keep her here after tonight.  I think you better tell Vincent to be ready to meet his granddaughter tomorrow morning."

JenniAnn threw her arms around Andrew's neck and wept happily.

Andrew beamed.  "Thank you, Portia.  That's wonderful, wonderful news!"  Once JenniAnn had released him, he scooped up Annabelle.  "One more night and then we're on our way home," he murmured. 

"How long will you stay Below?" Portia questioned.

"We'll head home on the 13th," JenniAnn answered as she smoothed Annabelle's hair.  "Owen thinks it best to wait a week with the fresh paint."

"Well, I'm glad about that."  Portia smiled at Annabelle.  "I'll get to see you every day until then!  And you can meet my little girl." 

"I'm so excited for Persephone and Shelby and all the kids to meet her.  Vincent said I could bring her to classes whenever I want."  JenniAnn smiled.  "Catherine said he'd prefer I always do... so would I."

Andrew sighed happily.  It would be easier for him to leave when he had to, knowing Annabelle would be with her mother all day. 

"I would still like to give her a brief check every day, at least until you leave the Tunnels.  No real reason.  Just..."

Andrew squeezed her hand.  He knew, like himself, Portia carried the memories of cases that had gone badly.  If a few minutes with Annabelle was going to stave those fears off, it was worth it.  "Absolutely," he agreed.  "She's a blessed little girl... her own personal physician."

Portia's eyes lit up.  "Happily."

A knock sounded on the door and Kelly poked her head in.  "Look who I found!"  She stepped inside and ushered Arthur and Monica in. 

JenniAnn enthusiastically hugged them both.  "We're leaving tomorrow morning!" she cheered.

"That's great!" Arthur gushed.  "Vincent's beyond excited.  I thought he was going to wear a trail in your carpet while waiting for word."

JenniAnn hurried to her purse and pulled out her phone, promptly sending out a text.  "Hopefully that gives him some peace."  She returned to Andrew's side and kissed Annabelle.  "Less then 24 hours and you can meet your Grandpa Vincent!"

Kelly smiled then let out a sigh.  "I also come for professional reasons."  She held out a folder.  "Paperwork for you, Andrew.  Sorry."

"I'm good with paperwork.  I've been an IRS agent about two dozen times, after all."  Andrew grinned then turned to Arthur.  "You want to hold Annabelle since you haven't had a chance?"

"Yes... please."

Monica watched, feeling torn as Arthur cradled Annabelle.  All day long she had tried to prepare herself for this moment.  All at once she felt such joy for her friends, a twinge of jealousy, and the stirrings of an old longing.

"Monica, come sit with us, please," Arthur requested, pulling her out of her thoughts.

JenniAnn squeezed the angel's hand and urged her forward.

Letting out a deep breath, Monica joined Arthur on the couch and rested her chin on his shoulder.  "She is so lovely," she cooed.  "Aren't you, Annabelle Luna?"

Andrew looked wistfully at the two then took the papers and settled into the recliner, using the briefcase Kelly offered as a desk.  He immediately burst out laughing.  "All right, whose idea was this?"

JenniAnn sat on the arm of the chair and peeked at the papers, not understanding what had set Andrew off until his finger slid under a line where his alleged last name was typed.  She laughed.  "So let me get this straight...  I spent the summer with Mr. Rochester and am apparently now raising a baby with Mr. Darcy?"

Andrew grinned.  "So it would seem.  Unfortunately, I don't have an English accent."

JenniAnn shrugged and hugged him.  "I like your accent better, anyway.  I hope Annabelle picks it up... Mr. Darcy."

Arthur smiled up at them then looked down to Annabelle whose eye lids were drooping.  "Umm, I think she's about to fall asleep.  Do one of you..."  He frowned, not in a particular hurry to turn the baby over.

"Are you okay with keeping her?" JenniAnn asked.

The man nodded.  "Definitely."

Andrew smiled.  "Thank you."

"Would you sing to her?" Monica asked.  While they were working together in the Philippines, she had overheard Arthur singing to some of the children and been even more enchanted.  Bittersweet as it was, she longed to hear him sing again.

"Sure.  My mom used to sing me to sleep with this one."  Arthur began to sing, the others joining in on the brief chorus. 

"Oh once I had a little dog, his color it was brown.
I taught him for to whistle, to sing and dance and run.
His legs they were fourteen yards long, his ears so very wide.
Around the world in half a day, upon him I could ride.

Sing Tarry-O Day, Sing, Autumn to May."

Kelly studied Monica.  Even as she sang along, she prayed.  Andrew and JenniAnn had received their heart's desire and Kelly prayed that, somehow, Monica would, too.  Looking at Arthur, Kelly suspected the longing was shared.  After a few moments, a peace settled over Kelly.  She didn't know what was coming but she heard the Father's voice.  This wouldn't be the last time she would help this group welcome a child.

Andrew busied himself with the paperwork, piping up when the song reached the chorus.  He stole glances at Monica, wondering what exactly she was thinking.  Even amidst his own happiness, he hadn't lost sight of how emotional Annabelle's arrival might be for some of their friends, especially Arthur and Monica and Beth and Mick.  However, he couldn't feel sadness or angst.  God's miracles were unceasing and Andrew knew Annabelle would be far from the last.


Fr. Mike admired all the hand-carved knick-knacks stashed in Joshua's apartment.  "So this is what you do when you're actually here..." he mused.  "Do you ever sleep?"

Joshua set down his carving knife and smiled.  "When I'm like this, yes.  Sometimes."

"So...  Andrew and JenniAnn are thinking of putting off Annabelle's baptism until Holy Week.  They're hoping their friend, Ivy, can come then since she'll be on break.  But I was thinking... that gives you some time.  Maybe by then... well, surely you could be there."

Joshua nodded.  "I hope so."

"Is that what all this is?  For them?"  The priest's quick inventory of Joshua's collection took in many items that reminded him of his friends.  He picked up two owls that, though separate pieces, slid together.  "For Max and Rose, I presume?"

"Yeah."  Joshua approached.

Fr. Mike hugged him.  "They'll all treasure them.  I know how much mine means to me."  He thought of the statue Joshua had made him depicting himself as a baby with his Abi and Ama.  Joshua had given it to him after Yosef and Maryam had left with promises to return.  Fr. Mike kept it on his bedside table where he saw it every morning and every night.

Joshua picked one item off the shelf.  "Could you please take this to them when you go to Annabelle's Naming Ceremony Below?  It'll likely be Monday.  They'll want to fit it in before Robert and Allison need to head back on Tuesday."

Fr. Mike admired the piece.  It was a beautiful abstract statue of a man and a woman with a baby.  A white butterfly was perched on the infant's hand.  "Josh...  They'll love it."  After Joshua had wrapped the figurine up in tissue paper, the priest settled it into his bag.  Then he pulled two envelopes out.  "I have something for you.  Not from me personally.  I'm just the messenger."

Joshua looked curiously at the envelopes.  The Father had not said anything to him about them.  "Who are they from?"

Fr. Mike handed him the envelopes.  "When I visited Andrew and JenniAnn to discuss their wishes regarding the baptism, JenniAnn was... well, there may have been some caffeine involvement but I suspect she was just plain overjoyed."

Joshua smiled then sobered.  "I'm losing their words... I don't know exactly what they're doing or thinking at every moment any more.  But I did feel that."

"Well, she kept repeating the word 'blessed' over and over.  And Andrew..."  Fr. Mike chuckled.  "I've heard that sometimes guys turns into their fathers when they themselves become fathers... but I think Andrew's taking it quite literally.  He's growing a beard."

Joshua chuckled.  "JenniAnn is no doubt thrilled by that, too."

"Very.  I can't wait until you can see them together!  Josh, the way she looks at him and him at her and both of them at Annabelle...  And maybe it's just in my head but I swear she looks more at them than anyone else.  She knows they're hers."

"She does."

The priest beamed.  "Well, of course they won't leave her for more than a few minutes at a time so they're cooped up in that hospital room... not too many ways to express that joy and energy.  So I suggested JenniAnn write a letter... to you.  She did.  Andrew, too.  He also tucked some photos in his envelope of everyone's visits.  He thought you might want them."

Joshua nodded, his eyes welling.

"Andrew distracted JenniAnn while I grabbed her letter for you.  So...  sit down, read, look, I'll be back in a little bit."  Fr. Mike hugged him then hurried out the door.

Joshua sunk onto his bed and eagerly opened the envelope from Andrew.  He spent a few moments with each photo then set them down in front of him and admired the whole series, truly feeling the happiness that each image captured.  Then he moved onto the letters.  As he read Andrew's and JenniAnn's words, they seemed as near as they'd always been.  He let each word comfort him and hung onto the voice of his Father, reminding him that their reunion would come soon.


February 9th, 2014

The following morning, Andrew recorded as JenniAnn dressed Annabelle.  The angel chuckled as the baby made a face when her mother slid a hat onto her head.

"You may have a lot of hair but it's not enough to keep you warm out there, sweetheart!" JenniAnn assured.  She bent to kiss her forehead.  "You look so cute!  Grandma's got good tastes, huh?"  She fingered the soft, fleece sleeper covered in butterflies and daisies that her mother had bought.  She scooped Annabelle  up and then stepped towards the door and smiled and waved to Andrew and the camera.  "Could you please pan around so we can see the whole room?"

"Good idea," Andrew agreed.  He moved to the center of the room and spun.  "So this is where we stayed for the first four days of your life, Annabelle."

"This is where you got told your first story," JenniAnn added.

Andrew turned to the bed.  "And we were right over there when we gave you a bottle for the first time."

"And that window... that's where Uncle Andrew and I would stand when we prayed for... for you."

Andrew filmed a few seconds of the view outside the window then he panned around the room once more and ended with Annabelle and JenniAnn.  "And there you are... almost time to go and meet your Grandpa Vincent and so many other friends and then... then we'll go home.  We love you so much, Annabelle."

JenniAnn snuggled her closer.  "Always."

His eyes misting, Andrew turned off the camera. 

JenniAnn laid Annabelle back down in her bassinet.  "Let's wait til Portia's here to escort us out before we put on her coat.  I don't want her to overheat."

Andrew smiled.  "Good idea."  He moved beside her and sighed as they both gazed down at Annabelle.

"Were we this happy in your vision?" JenniAnn asked, peering up at Andrew.

Andrew wrapped his arms around her and shook his head.  "We were happy but no.  I... I don't think God would have let me feel this... this overwhelming joy until she... she was ours to keep.  I couldn't have spent a month and a half not feeling this after I... I had."

JenniAnn's eyes welled and she reached up to kiss his cheek.  "I love you so much."

"I love you, too, my Laja."  Andrew's heart swelled as he held her and they resumed watching over Annabelle together until Portia came to officially release their girl.


Allison madly snapped photos as Andrew and JenniAnn exited the hospital with the latter holding Annabelle and Robert and Portia trailing them with their bags.  Once Andrew had displayed his car seat acumen, Annabelle was officially released from the hospital.  Allison and JenniAnn hopped into the backseat with the baby while Andrew settled into driver's seat of the Jolly Green with Robert and Portia in the passenger's seats.  Once the door was closed, the five adults silently stared at each other for a moment.  The day they'd waited for had finally come and they needed a few moments for the reality of that to sink in. 

"So are... are we ready?" Andrew asked.

JenniAnn leaned forward and took his hand.  "Yes."

Andrew brought her hand to his lips then, once everyone was buckled in, he pulled away from the curb and headed to Cora's house from which they would make their way to the Tunnels. 

Annabelle was headed home.


Andrew beamed as he stepped into JenniAnn's chamber and came face to face with Catherine, Vincent, and Jacob.  "There's more baby stuff than there is baby," he noted wryly before setting the bags down.  "We'll deal with that later."  He met Vincent's expectant gaze.  "She got waylaid by well-wishers but it's you she most wants to see."

As Catherine hugged her husband's arm, she remembered the past few nights.  She had woken up many times to find Vincent no longer in bed but instead pacing the room.  He had to see Annabelle and JenniAnn... and soon.  "Go.  Declare godparent's rights."

Vincent nodded, ready to do so but then JenniAnn appeared, Annabelle swaddled in her arms.

"We're here."

Transfixed, Vincent could only stare at the two.

JenniAnn closed the distance.  "Vincent, I... I want you to meet your granddaughter.  This is Annabelle Luna.  Annabelle, this is your Grandpa Vincent."

Vincent pulled them both to him and kissed JenniAnn's forehead.  "Psyche..."  He caressed her face then gazed down at the infant.  "She's..."  No photographs and no phone calls could have prepared Vincent for the feelings that swelled up inside him.  He could scarcely believe this little one was somehow his but she was and he adored her.  "Psyche... she's so beautiful."

"You want to hold her?" 

Vincent eagerly accepted the baby.  "Annabelle..." he cooed.  "Psyche, she's... so precious.  I am so... so very happy for you."

Andrew watched as JenniAnn rested her head on Vincent's shoulder and took Catherine's hand in hers.  He smiled at her as she spoke the words they both felt so strongly.

"Thank you both for teaching me that... that love's always worth it.  Even when the way is difficult.  I was so little when you two were first... well, finding your way.  But I was old enough to realize it wasn't always easy.  And yet... you taught me to stick with the one I loved no matter what and because of that... we have our Annabelle."

Andrew drew closer and set a hand on each of their backs.

"Psyche..."  Catherine kissed her cousin's hair and reached back to pat Andrew's hand.  "Thank you.  And I'm very, very glad we have this little girl.  And I call dibs after Vincent."

Annabelle's parents laughed.

JenniAnn nodded.  "You got it."

Andrew grinned, moving to face them.  "You can probably also have her at 1 AM.  Or 2:15... 4:30..."  His smile became more tender and more serious when he looked to Annabelle snuggled in her grandpa's arms.  "But you'll have to fight me for her." 

Just as Andrew began to feel stricken by the memories of how desperate Annabelle's situation had been in the beginning, JenniAnn embraced him tightly.  All was well.

As all four of the adults basked in the beauty and wondrousness of what had come to pass, a voice boomed from the corridor.

"Delivery for Princess Psyche Dwynwen Chandler!"

Devin entered the room, his arms laden.  After setting down the largest package, he held some flowers out to JenniAnn.  "For mom."  Next came a brightly colored plush bear.  "For baby."

"Thank you, Devin.  They're beautiful."  JenniAnn hugged the man after admiring the gifts.  "And Annabelle will love the bear.  You want to meet her?"

Nodding, Devin stared at Vincent and Annabelle.

JenniAnn pulled him closer.  "Devin, this is Annabelle Luna.  Annabelle, this is Devin.  Your... great uncle."

"God, kid...  She's beautiful.  Look at those tiny hands!" Devin enthused.

Vincent beamed.  "They're perfect."  Curious, he looked to the abandoned package.  "Devin, what is that you brought with you?"

"Oh that?  That's for the rest of us.  A door."  Devin looked to JenniAnn with a teasing grin.  "I love you, kid.  And this little one, too.  But..."

"You got that to muffle the crying, didn't you?"


Catherine punched her brother-in-law in the arm as she laughed and rolled her eyes.  "Typical..."

Devin shrugged.  "Well, now, it's also to give the girls their privacy.  Mommy and baby time..." 

Andrew smiled when Devin caught his eyes.

"Mommy and baby and uncle time is important without a bunch of..."

"Hello!" an aged but still booming voice called.  Father shuffled into the chamber with a small band of other well-wishers trailing in behind him.  "Where is she?  Let me see her."

Vincent made the most of his last few moments holding Annabelle before others, his wife included, would want their turn.

Andrew watched, deeply moved, as he saw Vincent kiss the baby then close his eyes.  He pulled JenniAnn to him.  "Look," he whispered.  "A benediction from Grandpa."

JenniAnn's eyes welled, knowing that whatever words Vincent was praying, they would be ones of pure love and hope.  Those feelings surrounded her as her parents and many of their friends swarmed into the chamber.

Andrew rested his chin on his friend's hair.  "Whatever happens, whatever comes... Annabelle will have no shortage of people to remind her that she is loved."

JenniAnn beamed, recognizing that this knowledge was among the greatest assurances any parent could receive.


Though Andrew had been thankful to find that a cot had been brought into JenniAnn's room for his benefit, for the time being he was content to remain with her and Annabelle on the bed.  The baby was dozing between the adults and neither could take their eyes off her. 

JenniAnn's cheeks flushed when she finally looked away from Annabelle and met Andrew's gaze.  "Vincent said he and Devin put up a bed in her nursery back home.  Are you... I mean do you want... to stay?"

Smiling dreamily, Andrew nodded.  "Yes."

JenniAnn smiled.  "Kay."  She was somewhat concerned about how she would adjust to sleeping alone in a room but it would practically be the same room so long as she kept the door between the two open.  She reached over and rested her hand on his scruffy cheek.

"I should shave before the ceremony tomorrow.  Tess... nicely... said I look like a ragamuffin.  But it's true."

"I like ragamuffins."

"Okay then I won't."

JenniAnn laughed.  "Well, I don't mean you can't shave.  I'm fine either way."

"I think I can think of better ways to spend that chunk of time in the morning.  Besides..."  Andrew caught himself before he announced that he'd fit right in with Joshua.  "I like it myself," he covered.

Annabelle stirred and opened her mouth as if she was ready to start crying then seemed to decide she was too tired to bother. 

Andrew chuckled.  "Well then..."

JenniAnn gently patted her tummy.

"Why don't you sing to her?"

"You have a much better voice."

Andrew stroked her hair.  "I like your voice."

JenniAnn smiled softly and began to sing "Child of Mine" until Annabelle drifted back to sleep.


February 10th, 2014

After Annabelle's Naming Ceremony was over, everyone gathered for dinner together.  A line of well-wishers snaked through the dining hall, each eager to greet Annabelle and congratulate Andrew and JenniAnn.  Shelby stood near the cradle, acting every bit the protective big sister.

After several minutes, Fr. Mike found himself at the head of the line.  He hugged Andrew and JenniAnn.  "Beautiful ceremony!  And Annabelle was a perfect angel up there with all those people staring at her."

JenniAnn beamed.  "Let's hope her patience lasts til Spring when you pour that water over her."

The priest laughed.  "No worries even if she fusses.  Trust me.  I've seen it all.  One time I baptized a toddler and he was so irritated he kicked me in the shin.  It was a truly holy occasion."

"That's mean!" Shelby exclaimed.

Fr. Mike ruffled her hair.  "He was just confused and didn't understand."

Andrew chuckled.  "Well, I can assure you that Annabelle won't be causing bruises."

"Annabelle will never hurt anyone," Shelby insisted as she straightened the bow in the baby's hair.

Touched by her unquestioning devotion, Fr. Mike knelt down.  "I brought you something I thought maybe you could share with Annabelle."  He produced a book from his bag.

"Frozen!" Shelby shrieked.  Weeks before Andrew, JenniAnn, Kemara, Rose, Max, Violeta, and Owen had taken several of the children to see the movie and Shelby had yet to get over it.  "I can read it to her!  Can't I?" she implored.

"You bet," Andrew agreed. 

"I think that's absolutely the perfect book for the two of you to read together," JenniAnn added.  She squeezed Fr. Mike's hand appreciatively.

Not wanting to waste any time, Shelby plopped into a chair by the cradle and began to read aloud.

"It's a hit, Fr. Mike.  Thanks."  Andrew hugged him.

"I'm glad and you're welcome.  I brought a couple things."  Fr. Mike handed a small box to JenniAnn.

"Her first rosary..."  She kissed Fr. Mike's cheek.  "Thank you, Fr. Mike.  It's beautiful and means so much coming from you."

"You're very welcome.  Now this..."  He held up a bag.  "I have to confess that I was so excited for you both that I couldn't resist telling an old friend.  Don't worry.  I didn't get into specifics."  Fr. Mike grinned.  That didn't mean the friend didn't know the specifics...

Andrew's eye brow crooked upward.  It wasn't like Fr. Mike to be at all indiscreet.  Which meant he likely knew the 'old friend' himself.

"He was so touched that he made this for you three and asked me to bring it to you.  He's a woodcarver... among other things.  A real Renaissance man."

Andrew bowed his head.  That settled it.  Joshua had sent a gift.

"Aww... how sweet!"  JenniAnn accepted the bag, pulled away the tissue paper, and removed the statue.  "Oh..."  She sighed.  "But how..."  She shook her head.  The white butterfly was surely just a coincidence.  Or Jesus had whispered of it to the woodcarver.   

Andrew circled his arm around her waist.  He knew she was remembering the white butterfly in the woods... just as he was.  That night she had been plagued by the sufferings of children.  The butterfly had given her hope in God's healing love... now Annabelle had done the same.  The sculpture was perfect.

"It's beautiful," JenniAnn finally choked out.  "Please thank him.  If we write him a note... could you bring it to him?"

Fr. Mike nodded.  "Of course."

For a few moments, JenniAnn buried her face in Andrew's shoulder until she regained composure and recommenced visiting with her friends.


As he prepared to go Above, Andrew watched Allison and Robert fuss over Annabelle.  He hoped that stepping away might have the added benefit of giving them more quality time with their granddaughter.

"I wish we could stay longer," Robert lamented.  "But mother's not backing off this visit with her cousins and I guess I don't blame her with everyone getting so... old.  But..." 

JenniAnn reached for her father's hand.  "You can come see her as soon as you get back," she reassured.  "Just use the portal."

"But a week is an eternity!" Allison whined as she kissed Annabelle's hair.  "Isn't it?  Isn't it, sweetie?" 

Andrew chuckled at the baby talk.  He'd always wondered why humans did that... until he'd started doing it himself.

"Andrew, you'll be back before we leave?" Robert questioned.

Buttoning his coat, the angel turned around and nodded effusively.  "Oh yeah.  I'll only be an hour or two.  Just need to do something Above."

Robert smiled.  "Good."

JenniAnn approached Andrew and hugged him.  He'd seemed so happy all day and yet there was a touch of sadness to him.  "Everything all right?" she whispered.

Andrew smiled gently.  "Everything's wonderful.  I just..."  He looked back over at Allison and Robert.

JenniAnn noticed the wistfulness in his gaze.  She blushed, wishing she'd realized what was going on earlier.  Andrew had been able to introduce many of his friends to Annabelle but only she had been able to see her own parents welcome their baby.  "Are you going to spend a lil time with your Dad?"

Touched that she'd gathered as much, Andrew sighed and kissed her hair.  "Yes."

"Good."  JenniAnn turned back to Annabelle and her grandparents.  "They love and trust you now more than ever," she murmured.

"I... I'm glad."  Andrew had felt as much but was relieved to have it verified.  While Allison and Robert had once regarded him with a confused chill, they'd warmed to him long ago... but enough to entrust their only grandchild to him?  He beamed.  It certainly seemed so.

JenniAnn grabbed his scarf and set it around his neck.  "Go.  And please... tell Him thank You for me a-and that I love Him."

Andrew brushed at the tear that slid down his cheek.  "I will, Laja."

"Thanks."  JenniAnn sucked in a deep breath and let it out.  "Now go so you can be back in time for coffee and cake!"

Andrew chuckled.  "Definitely."  He hugged her then kissed Annabelle and bid the Chandlers adieu. 

After making his way to the nearest exit, Andrew hurried along the now-familiar path to Joshua's apartment.  He trekked up the stairs, smiling as he did.  While still a work in progress, they were improved since Joshua had arrived.  Much of the building was looking better. 

When he reached room 333, Andrew knocked. 

Joshua's face lit up when he opened the door and found Andrew.  He ushered him inside then pulled him into a hug.

"Thank you," the angel murmured as he wept with joy in his Creator's arms.

"You're very welcome.  Come sit.  You look a little tired."

Andrew gratefully sunk into a chair.  The brisk walk might not have been the best idea when he hadn't slept much...

"How is everyone?" Joshua questioned eagerly.

"Unbelievably happy.  Well... Allison and Robert wish they could stay longer but otherwise... blissful.  A-and JenniAnn sends her love and thanks."  Andrew smiled when Joshua pressed a bottle of ginger ale into his hand.  "Thanks."

"My pleasure."

Andrew took a sip.  "It's been wonderful watching JenniAnn introduce Annabelle to her grandparents.  I feel such... amazing happiness.  But...  It's made me miss you and the Father even though I... I know you're always there."

Touched, Joshua squeezed Andrew's hand.  "Yes.  But human form sometimes makes it harder to feel that."  He sighed.  "But for now we have some time so... you want to look at some cradle plans?"

His eyes brimming again, Andrew nodded.  "I'd love to."  He smiled tenderly when Joshua pulled a sketchbook off the table. 

"So these are just a few ideas I had," Joshua began as he flipped to the front of the pad.

"Roses..."  Andrew reached out to touch the page.

Joshua smiled.  "Yeah.  I thought it might be a nice touch to carve some in.  Do you think a rocking cradle or a swinging one?  Both would be safe but I think JenniAnn might feel like a rocking one is more solid.  But since she knows it's coming from you..."

The angel of death soaked in Joshua's excitement and happiness as he rattled off all the possibilities for Annabelle's cradle.  But no single element was more important to Andrew than knowing that Annabelle would drift to sleep in a cradle made by his hands and those of the One who had made them all.


February 13th, 2014

When Owen had decided the nursery had been aired out enough, he and Vincent escorted Andrew, JenniAnn, and Annabelle to Willowveil. 

"You ready?" the artist asked as he excitedly stood outside the closed door. 

"Very," Andrew answered as JenniAnn nodded while wiping some drool from her daughter's face. 

As soon as the door was opened, Lulu and Fawn rushed in to investigate the "new" room.

"Oh..."  JenniAnn spun slowly as she stood in the middle of the room.  "Oh Annabelle look what everyone did for you...  The ceiling...  And... everything..."

"You know, if I'd known this all was coming, I would have bought stock in Kleenex beforehand," Owen teased as he handed his friend a tissue. 

JenniAnn laughed, hugging him with her free arm then embracing her godfather.  "It's so beautiful!"

Andrew hugged the two men.  "It really is."  He gaped at the ceiling.  "How did you do that?"

"I sketched it out.  Got help with the painting.  Vampires help when one's painting a ceiling."

JenniAnn smiled, remembering Logan's unusual painting technique.  "I don't know how we'll begin to repay everyone for all this time and effort."

"You won't," Vincent countered.  "The time was given freely and willingly and with love.  Your happiness and your continued love is the only repayment any of us should desire."

"That we can handle," Andrew murmured.  He walked around the room with Annabelle and JenniAnn, taking in all the personal touches.  The quilt from Mary and her circle, books from JenniAnn's childhood that her parents had brought along in addition to several of Vincent's choosing, the dog from the angels of death.  Andrew laughed when he noticed the scented candles were strategically placed near the changing table.  The coffee table was covered in handmade gifts from JenniAnn's students.  In keeping with the room's theme, Owen had done small paintings of friendly moons and stars and suns and hung them on the walls.  Andrew approached the crib Catherine was lending them until he could finish Annabelle's cradle. 

JenniAnn sighed.  "Just wait til you see what Uncle Andrew is making you, Annabelle," she cooed. 

Andrew smiled.  The day before he'd presented JenniAnn with the final plans from Joshua.  She'd sobbed for five minutes straight and then clung to him for another five.  As Andrew thought of the time he and Joshua would spend on the cradle, he fingered the beautiful mobile hanging above the crib.

Vincent chuckled when Annabelle angled around to find the source of the chiming noise.  "From Monica and Arthur.  They purchased it from a friend they made in the Philippines.  It's meant to be a wind chime but we thought it would make for a good mobile."

"A very good one," Andrew agreed as Annabelle studied it.

"Open the dresser," Owen directed.  "A gift from Eliot and Brittony, by the way."

JenniAnn rested her fingers on the beautiful oaken piece.  "It's beautiful."

"That Celtic cross with the bedtime blessing on top is from Kemara," Vincent explained.  "And the framed poem beside it is from Miss Lee."

"Aww... Kemara and Ivy..."  JenniAnn snuggled Annabelle.  "We're very blessed, aren't we, sweetheart?"

"Very."  Andrew opened a drawer and smiled. 

Owen and Vincent stepped nearer to explain the origins of the pieces if needed.

JenniAnn laughed as Andrew held up a crimson and gold jumper, tights, and shirt ensemble.  "Max and Rose?"

Owen grinned.  "Obviously."

"A frilly dress!" JenniAnn exclaimed as Andrew moved to the next piece.

"From Mick and Beth.  There are matching shoes, as well."

Next was a sleeper covered in rainbow music notes.

"Tess," Andrew correctly guessed.  He laughed when he pulled out a set of superhero T-shirts.  "Logan got into the baby clothes buying spree?"

"Very exuberantly... but then is there anything Logan doesn't do with exuberance?"

JenniAnn smiled.  "And that is why we love him."

Owen nodded.  "That drawer below is filled with clothes from Raquel.  She wants so much to be here but the ship doesn't dock until next week... so I guess she decided to drown her sorrows by buying out a boutique."

Andrew marveled at the generosity everyone had shown.  Soon Owen was waving a tissue at him.  Chuckling, he took it and wiped at his eyes.

Owen stooped down.  "One more thing."  He opened the bottom drawer which contained one lone garment.

JenniAnn gasped in admiration as Owen held it up.  She reached out to touch the immaculate white baptismal gown.

Vincent took her other hand in his, smiling when her fingers looped around one of his.  "I found some Irish lace when I was going through my mother's things.  Catherine and I kept some... in hopes it may one day trim bridal handkerchiefs.  But as for the rest... Catherine and your mother bought the gown and Monica and Tess helped add the trim."

Teary-eyed, Andrew took Annabelle so JenniAnn could focus on her godfather.  She threw her arms around him and sobbed into his sweater, grateful and glad and humbled and uplifted all at once.

After nuzzling Annabelle's hair, Andrew looked up to see that Owen was sniffling.  He grabbed a tissue and handed it to him with a knowing smile.

"Okay, fine.  So I'm just as much a sap as the rest of you."  Owen grinned and let the tears of happiness fall.


February 14th, 2014

"It's so hard to decide how to dress her!  Everyone gave such cute stuff!"

Andrew made faces at Annabelle as JenniAnn looked through her wardrobe.  "We'll have plenty of time to show it all off, Laja."

JenniAnn turned to face him and smiled.  "Yeah."  Late in the night, she'd been seized by the sudden panic that somehow everything would fall through but Andrew's assurance and faith had cured her of that.  And maybe because of the dreamy comfort she'd felt after that, Annabelle's nickname had slipped from her lips.  "Belle, how do you feel about going Gryffindor today?"

Andrew stood up and sat the baby on her changing table.  "I don't know about Belle but it sounds like a plan to me.  Besides, crimson is appropriate for Valentine's Day, right?"


Soon they had Belle cleaned up, dressed, fed, and ready for her first visit to the Cafe. 

"Should we bring the car seat?" JenniAnn asked.

Andrew chuckled.  "You think there might actually be a moment that someone's not holding her?"

JenniAnn grinned.  "No, guess not."

"So we ready?"

"Just let me..."  JenniAnn dug through the diaper bag, double-checking to make sure they had everything they might need.  "Yep, we're good."

"Then off we go!  Your first Valentine's party, Belle!" Andrew gushed as he headed to the door.

"Oh wait..."

Andrew halted.  "What is it?"

JenniAnn stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek.  "Just wanted to say thank you.  And I love you."

Andrew returned the kiss.  "You're welcome and thank you and... I love you, too.  Both of you."  He kissed Annabelle's cheek before they set off on the quick walk to the Cafe.

Unsurprisingly, they were swarmed when they stepped inside... and the first to reach them was Raquel.

"I thought you couldn't get here until next week!" Andrew cried as he hugged her.

Once he'd let her go, Raquel pulled JenniAnn to her.  "You'll both have to forgive Owen and me for a small lie.  Nico and I docked this morning but we wanted to surprise you.  He'll be by later today.  Now... let me see this little girl I've heard so much about."

Andrew placed Belle in her arms.

"Oh sweet pea..." Raquel murmured. 

Shelby ran up and tugged at JenniAnn's arm.  "Come sit by me!  We saved you all a spot towards the front."

JenniAnn obediently followed with Andrew and Raquel.

After everyone had settled back down, Rose and Max stood in front of the screen. 

"So..." Rose began.  "We hope this year's video doesn't seem too thrown together but, for obvious reasons, there was a last minute switch in producers."  She beamed at Andrew and JenniAnn.

"Nonetheless, we hope we did justice to this tradition that Andrew and JenniAnn have kept going for a while.  It meant a lot to Rose and me to take this over because, well, we were just so happy about Annabelle but also..."  Max's eyes flooded.  "I know I haven't been here as long as some of you but I... I couldn't love you all more if... if I'd always been here.  I hope the way Rose and I feel about you... about our family... comes through."  He swiped at a tear and smiled.  "But whether it does or doesn't, I think we can all agree that the video has a really adorable finale."

With that, the couple sat down on the floor near Andrew and JenniAnn and began the video.

As "The Circle Game" started up, childhood photos of each human present morphed into current photos.  For the angels, Violeta and Eli had smuggled old photographs out of Records.  The crowd laughed as, in many cases, sober tintypes gave way to wacky digital photos. 

"This is an adorable idea!" JenniAnn enthused, squeezing Rose's and Max's shoulders.

They beamed as the video progressed, incorporating clips from all their holidays and celebrations together, their trip to Alaska, and all the other adventures and mundane occurrences that had comprised their shared lives during the previous year. 

A lump caught in Andrew's throat as a photograph Arthur had snapped before Christmas Mass glided across the screen.  He heard Violeta and Monica both gasp nearby.  Unknowingly, Arthur had captured Joshua, Yosef, and Maryam, too. 

"Love..." JenniAnn whispered, pressing a tissue into his hand when she noticed he was crying.

Andrew squeezed her hand and smiled to reassure her as another song began and photographs from the last week cycled by.  The sentiment of the song couldn't have matched what he felt more perfectly if he'd chosen it himself.

"Sometimes I sit on my front porch swing,
just soaking up the day.
I think to myself, I think to myself
this world is a beautiful place.
I have been blessed.
And I feel like I've found my way."


Joshua stared at the laptop screen as the video neared its end.  He didn't care that Mike was seeing him cry so.  He hadn't made "Jesus wept" the most eye-catchingly short passage in the Bible for no reason.

"I thank God for all I've been given
at the end of every day.
I have been blessed
with so much more than I deserve
to be here with the ones that love me,
to love them so much it hurts.
I have been blessed."

Fr. Mike hugged Joshua when the video ended.  "So... so thanks for that.  We really have been blessed."

Joshua nodded, returned the hug, and dried his eyes.  "Thank you for bringing me that."

"You're welcome.  Andrew and Violeta packed up some of the food for us, too."  The priest began to unload the cooler.  "When you were hungry... I gave you neon pink Valentine's cookies and TLS sandwiches also shaped like hearts.  Oh and Violeta went through the conversation hearts and handpicked the ones she thought were appropriate for you to have," the priest joked, hoping to make Joshua laugh.

He succeeded. 

"Good job on the photo-bomb, by the way."

Joshua laughed again.  "I didn't even realize we'd done that!"

"It's going to be lotsa of fun when they watch that again after your time with them."

Joshua beamed, already imagining what that time might be like.

"And you might want to get some ear plugs for when JenniAnn finds out you made that statue.  She can shriek in decibels that I didn't even realize existed.  But I guess you did."

"Yes and I'll prepare myself."

After saying a blessing, Joshua dug into the leftovers with Fr. Mike.  "Hmm...  Actually, I think this is RBLS, not TLS.  Yeah, it is."


"Roast beef like substance.  Adam's really improving.  It's delicious."

Fr. Mike shook his head in bemusement.  "Only in Dyeland..."

Joshua smirked and glanced back at the laptop.  He sighed happily.  St. Patrick's Day was less than a month away... the next holiday.  And when it arrived, he would be among them. 

Joshua smiled.



February 17th, 2014

Andrew hugged Annabelle.  "Belle, I'll see you tonight, okay?  I have to go meet my next assignment."

The baby voiced her disapproval by spitting up on his sweater.

"After I change..."  The angel wiped her face then set her back down in the cradle that he had presented to her and JenniAnn the previous night.  JenniAnn had clung to him for ten minutes... at least five of which Andrew was sure were owed to Joshua.

JenniAnn giggled.  She yanked another sweater off the top of the stack of laundry she was folding then picked Annabelle up.

After hastily changing, Andrew grinned.  "Okay, now I'm off!"  He kissed Annabelle's hair and then her mother's.  "Be back by 6:00.  Call if you need me to pick anything up.  And I'll just be in Manhattan if..."

JenniAnn squeezed his hand.  "We'll be just fine.  And Violeta's gonna be by within the hour to help."

Andrew took in a deep breath and nodded.  "Right."

"I'll text you photos if Belle does anything excessively cute."

The angel smiled.  "Thank you."  He hugged her again then stepped into the hall, surfacing in an alley near St. Genesius' Community Theatre.  He entered and, finding no one in the lobby, followed the music into the theatre proper.

"'I don't know how to love him.  What to do, how to move him?  I've been changed, yes really changed. ,'" a young woman on the stage sang.  She looked curiously at Andrew but kept singing.  "'In these past few days, when I've seen myself, I seem like someone else.'"

"Feel it, sweetheart.  You love this man and you feel him slipping away... headed for something terrible."

Andrew's gaze traveled to a woman in the audience.  A shawl was wrapped tightly around her thin shoulders and her head was wrapped in a brightly colored scarf.  Though she couldn't see him, he smiled tenderly.  Not wanting to alarm the actress, the angel didn't come any nearer. 

"'I don't know how to take this.  I don't see why he moves me.  He's a man.  He's just a man,'" the woman intoned, her eyes filling with tears.

"There it is!"

"Mary" struggled with the next line, her voice growing shaky.  "'And I've had s-so many men before, in very many ways, he... he's just o-one more.'"

Andrew bowed his head.  Though not perfect, the rawness suited the song.

"Emma..." her listener murmured, moved.

"'Should I bring him down?'"  The singer fell to her knees, her hair hiding her face.  "'Should I scream and shout?'"

Andrew was enthralled through the rest of the song.  This woman would sing to Joshua night after night... 

When the song ended, the woman in the audience gingerly stood and clapped. 
"Beautiful, Emma!  Brava!  Now come down here, please."

Andrew took the opportunity to approach.  His steps alerted the woman to his presence.  She turned and smiled at him.

"You must be Andrew from the hospice!" she greeted, sticking her hand out.

As Andrew returned her smile and her handshake, he noticed her cheeks were sallow and her skin pale but her eyes flickered with life and joy.  "Yes, ma'am."

"Lucy, please."

Emma hopped off the stage and curiously approached them.  "Hospice?"

"I'm happy to meet you, Lucy.  I..."  Andrew paused, not sure what Emma knew.

Lucy rested an arm around the younger woman's shoulders.  "Andrew, this is Emma.  Our Mary Magdalene.  Emma, this is Andrew.  He's going to be helping me out until I shuffle off this old mortal coil."

Though it caused Emma to wince, Andrew was pleased by Lucy's fearless and matter-of-fact attitude.

"B-but not yet," Emma sputtered.
Lucy kissed her temple.  "Now don't worry, darling.  I'm going to a good place."

Emma forced a smile for her and for Andrew.  "Pleased to meet you, Andrew."

Andrew shook her hand.  "And I'm very pleased to meet you.  You have a beautiful voice."

Emma blushed.  "Thank you."

"Emma is also helping my husband, Doug the Director.  You'll get to meet him soon.  Now, come along backstage, Andrew.  I want you to meet everyone."

Andrew swallowed the lump in his throat as Lucy took his hand and led him away.

So it began.


Outside the theatre, a man walked down the street and merrily hummed.  After a while, he began to sing quietly to himself and, upon discovering no one paid him any mind, his volume increased.

"Pre-eeee-eee-pare ye the way of the Lord," he chortled as he paused in front of a telephone pole and tacked a flier up.  He continued to sing as he wandered into a restaurant, pausing his song only to ask if he could post his flier on their community bulletin board.  After doing so, he continued down the street.

"Pre-eeee-eee-pare ye the..."

"What do you think you're doing there, young man?" a deep voice demanded.

The man with the fliers tensed then turned around, his face breaking into a smile when he saw the source of the question.  "Yeshua!"

Joshua grinned back and, after setting down the groceries he was carrying, pulled the man into a hug.  "Greetings, Yohannan!"  He glanced down at the papers.  "Really, what are you doing?"

Beaming Yohannan held the papers out for his cousin to read.

"'Carpentry.  Stonework.  Woodcarving.  Good Rates.  Honest Work,'" Joshua read.  "'Call Joshua Davidson at...'  Yohannan... what is this number?  I don't even have a phone."

Yohannan tilted his head towards an empty bus stop and when Joshua had followed him inside, he pulled a bright red cell phone from the pocket of his jeans.  "I do.  I'll get word to you when people call."  He admired the phone.  "Such a small thing and yet so much in it.  If I had one of these back then...  I could have been a voice crying out in the wilderness and on Twitter.  Although I do not care at all for the limitations... only 140 letters?"

Joshua laughed.  "It would have been a trial for you... and for me for that matter.  So... you don't think I can get work on my own?" he teased.

"Yes... but I've been reading files.  That Emma is not a very trusting sort.  She'll want to investigate you before you're hired.  So I put you on Yelp, too."

Joshua blinked.  "You got on Yelp?"

Yohannan shrugged.  "It's my job.  I prepare your way."

"Yeah, about that...  You do realize that song you were singing is not actually in the musical I'm going to be in, right?"  Joshua hoped Yohannan wasn't setting himself up for disappointment.

"Oh yes.  But I was already dead when Jesus Christ Superstar's plot begins so I don't have a song in that one...  It would have been quite macabre, actually, if I had."  Yohannan wrinkled his nose.

Joshua was laughing so hard tears were forming.  Yohannan had always had a very dark sense of humor...  "Well, thank you for your efforts.  Good ideas all.  Now..."

Yohannan's phone rang.  "This is Yohannan, personal assistant to Mr. Davidson.  Yes.  I will tell him.  I see..."

Joshua curiously waited for his cousin to hang up.

"Come on," Yohannan beckoned for Joshua to leave the bus stop. 

"Where are we going?"

"To your apartment.  Our mothers have lunch waiting."

Joshua's face lit up.  "Ama and Elizabeth!"

"Your friend Mike asked your Ama to come... something about want versus need.  We came, as well."

Joshua smiled lovingly.  The priest, who had seen him struggle with being closer to Andrew's family yet further away than ever, had sensed he wanted his own family near.  "I am grateful."  He slung his free arm around his cousin's shoulders as they began to walk away.

Before they got too far, Joshua looked back once more at St. Genesius', knowing Andrew would effectively deal with everything that would arise there until he returned...  Soon.

The End

Author's note:  So... *that* was surprising.  For many years, I've planned for Annabelle's arrival and the beginnings of "Uncle Andrew."  However, I didn't account for the feelings I would have when push came to shove.  For a while now I've had this vision of Andrew finding a baby and then wanting to bring her home to JenniAnn.  And there was that.  But then I also couldn't shake this feeling that, while Andrew would never turn away from God as Kelly did, he would probably harbor wishes to raise the baby himself after sharing such an intense introduction.  So I just couldn't imagine it as cut and dried as "JenniAnn is the parent, Andrew is the uncle" anymore.  In keeping with the Dyeland tradition of nothing making sense on paper and yet somehow working... Annabelle belongs equally to Andrew and JenniAnn.  Happy medium!  I don't feel like LJA stole a baby from Andrew and Andrew doesn't have to give up his job which woulda really screwed some things up. 

Before I get to the credits...  This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for providing this single girl with many years of quality Valentine's Day fun.  I've been writing a Valentine's story for years now and, honestly, it's one of my favorite holiday traditions.  So thank you, John, for that!  Happy Valentine's Day!

Cultural references:

"The Circle Game" by Joni Mitchell
Jesus Christ Superstar
Les Miserables
Peter Pan
Chants by Hildegard of Bingen
"Tender Shepherd" from Peter Pan
Revelation 5:5
John 20:13
Matthew 26:15
1 Timothy 6:15
Revelation 17:14
Revelation 19:16
Genesis 18:14
Ruth 1
Luke 2:52
Luke 22:42
Matthew 6:10
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
1 Thessalonians 5:1-2
"Find Your Wings" by Mark Harris
Matthew 2:1
Jeremiah 29:11
Genesis 37
Three Men and a Baby
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
"Tell Me Why"
A Man of No Importance
Othello by William Shakespeare
The Smurfs
"Abide with Me" composed by Henry F. Lyte and William H. Monk
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
"Autumn to May" by  Peter Yarrow and Noel (Paul) Stookey
"Child of Mine" by Carole King
"Blessed" by Martina McBride
John 11:35
Matthew 25:35


JABB 405

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