“There is my heart, and then there is you, and I'm not sure there is a difference.”
~~a.r. asher

Hi all,

Well, a little late but here are the Valentine's vignettes for this year.  I only did two this time and they're pretty drabble-y.  After the intensity of "The Messiah" that ended up carrying over into the Christmas story, I was pretty much ready to just write about people eating and making googly eyes.  So that's what I did!

God bless,

The Throwback        Dulcis

The Throwback

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020


Hearing what she thought sounded like alarm in her godfather's voice, JenniAnn abandoned the sandwiches she'd been preparing and ran towards the source of the voice: the ballroom.  To her dismay, she entered the room to find Vincent, Raheem, and Eliot in a huddle around Andrew who was sprawled on the floor.

"Maybe you should go to a doctor," Eliot suggested.

"We could call Portia," Vincent offered.

"What happened?" JenniAnn cried as she knelt beside Andrew.

Forcing a smile, the angel gripped one of her hands.

"I'm getting old, Laja," he jested.

"Andrew..."  JenniAnn caressed his face.  "What happened really?"

"He threw out his back," Raheem replied.

Andrew shook his head to protest but the effort made him wince.

"We should get you into bed," Eliot insisted.  "Laying on this hard floor can't be helping."

"I... I still don't know what happened..." JenniAnn pressed.

Vincent patted her back.

"Back strain, Psyche.  While I'm sure our Andrew here is quite uncomfortable, it's most likely not serious.  Still..."  Vincent eyed Andrew and frowned.

"I shouldn't have tried to lift that many stones on my own..." Andrew lamented.  "Lesson learned."

"Andrew...  You're in human form now," JenniAnn gently admonished.  "You can't push yourself like..."

"I know... I know..." 

When Andrew winced again, JenniAnn's eyes filled with tears.

Noticing, Vincent looked to the other two men. 

"Let's get him moved.  Then Eliot or I can go Below and send word to Portia.  There's no reason not to get an expert opinion," he added when the angel of death began to protest.

"You're right," Andrew admitted.  "And... thanks.  I do think just laying down for a while will..."  He grimaced in pain.

"Do you have any ice packs?" Raheem checked with JenniAnn.

"Hmm?  Oh.  Yeah."

"Good.  Okay..." Raheem sighed as he eyed Andrew.  "It'll probably hurt when we get you onto your feet.  Maybe a stretcher...  Do you have..."

"I don't need a stretcher," Andrew insisted.  "Just... a boost."

"Got it."  Eliot grabbed his left arm while Raheem took his right.  Vincent moved behind Andrew to steady him.

"Count of three," Vincent directed.  "One... two... three..."

JenniAnn gasped in the same instant that Andrew groaned as he was lifted to his feet.

"Okay, here we go.  Let's head to the elevator," Eliot suggested.

"I'm okay on my own now," Andrew assured.  "Thank you."

JenniAnn opened her mouth to protest but, before she could, Andrew clasped her hand.  He obviously didn't intend to exclude her.

Vincent looked on protectively.

"All right... but yell if you need anything.  You, too, Psyche.  We'll stick around for a while yet."

"Thank you," Andrew replied, his voice strained.

"Thanks, Vincent.  I'd almost finished with your sandwiches so once I get Andrew settled, I..."

"We'll take care of them," Raheem interrupted.  "Don't worry.  We'll bring a tray up for you both."

JenniAnn smiled at the trio and nodded.

"Thank you."

Slowly, she and Andrew made their way to the elevator.

"You... you look pale," JenniAnn lamented.

Andrew smiled.

"Turns out I'm a wimp."

"Andrew, no..." JenniAnn chastised him.  "I've heard throwing out your back is really, really painful.  Once you're settled, I'll get some pain relievers.  I... I'm not even sure which ones are best for you.  Adam handled all of that when you came back from Afghanistan.  I could call him."

Andrew didn't relish the idea of his friend showing up and teasing him about his clearly advancing age... but he also didn't need JenniAnn to know that he wasn't a stranger to pain relievers since he'd taken on human form.  He kept a bottle in his workshop.

"Ibuprofen is fine.  Pretty standard."


They stepped off the elevator and headed to their room.

"Do you want to change into your pajamas before you lay down?  Might be easier than having to get back up again."

Andrew nodded.

"Yeah, please.  Good idea."

JenniAnn fetched Andrew's pajamas.  He changed into the top easily enough but it soon became apparent that removing his boots and changing into the pajama bottoms would be an ordeal.

"Can you maybe sit on the edge of the bed?" JenniAnn suggested.  "I can get your boots off."

"Yeah, okay," Andrew agreed, his cheeks coloring with embarrassment.  He sat down only to be hit by a wave of pain.

As JenniAnn worked on his boots, Andrew contemplated his jeans.  He could push them down then step out of them.  But how to get the pajama bottoms up?  If he bent down, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to straighten himself out without screaming... which would only further alarm JenniAnn.

"You know, maybe I'll just stick with my jeans.  They're comfortable enough," he decided

JenniAnn frowned.  The jeans were too tight.  That's why Andrew had worn them... it wouldn't matter if they got dusty or torn while he was working.  He didn't wear them out anymore.  They had to be pinching. 

"Andrew...  We've been together in some capacity or another for twenty years.  I really think it would be okay if I helped you with this.  Besides, you're wearing boxers, aren't you?  Not like I'm gonna see anything.  And this is still way less weird than putting make-up on Joshua while he was only wearing briefs and a loincloth."

Andrew chuckled.  He had to admit she had a point... and the pajamas bottoms would be much more comfortable.

"Yeah.  Okay."


As gently as possible, JenniAnn helped Andrew out of his jeans... wincing every time his face contorted in pain.  Getting the pajama bottoms on was much easier and they both sighed with relief when it was done.

"I'll go downstairs and get some ice packs," JenniAnn offered as Andrew laid down.

The angel of death shook his head.

"No...  Maybe in a little bit.  For right now...  I will take some meds but then..."  He patted her side of the bed.  "Please?"

Unable to resist his request, JenniAnn nodded.  She squeezed his hand then went to the bathroom, returning with some pills and a glass of water.

After Andrew had taken the medication, JenniAnn settled onto her side and gently stroked his face.

"My poor love..."  Her eyes welled.  "It... it's hard to think that... that you're only feeling this right now because..."

"Laja... no."  Andrew squeezed her hand.  "But if your mind must go there... please also think about all the positive things I've felt only because I decided to grow old with you.  Because I'm quite confident that list is way longer.  I'd offer you specifics but, in my current state, it's too cruel to think about."

JenniAnn giggled when he waggled his eye brows.

"Maybe just one..." Andrew continued.  "The way your hair feels against my chest when we cuddle."


"Okay, two.  Your lips against mine..."

"That one I think I can still pull off."

Careful so as not to put any pressure on Andrew's upper body, JenniAnn kissed him.

"I think you can actually count that move as a push-up," he teased once they'd broken apart.

JenniAnn laughed.

Andrew sighed.

"My sweet Laja..."  He brought her hand to his lips.  "There's nothing I wouldn't have gone through for these past several years.  They... they've given me the happiest moments I've ever had outside of Heaven."

JenniAnn smiled through her tears.

"Even happier than when you'd visit Paris?"

Andrew stroked her face.

"Even happier."

"Still...  Next time Joshua comes around, I'm gonna ask him about that.  Even if I can't go with you cause of the kids... I think you deserve a few days there.  I mean to not have let you go since the 1800s?"

Andrew's face colored.

"No.  Don't ask Joshua about it.  It's fine.  Really."


Hating the idea that something related to him could damage JenniAnn's relationship with Joshua... even in so minor a way... Andrew realized he needed to reveal a secret he'd held for several years.

"Laja...  God was going to let me go to Paris a few years ago.  He was totally on board... had everything arranged.  *I* decided not to go."

"What?" JenniAnn exclaimed.  "Why?"

"When it came time, I... no longer wanted to go."

"When was this?"

Andrew sighed.

"February 2008."

"But that..."  JenniAnn cocked her head.  "I don't remember you saying anything about Paris...  I mean... that would have been at the tail-end of things with Eliot or right after so maybe I was a little distracted.  But it still seems like you would have mentioned an impending trip to Paris even though..."

JenniAnn went ashen.

"Laja..."  Momentarily forgetting his back, Andrew moved to hold her but a shot of pain kept him from it.

"Did you not go because of me?" JenniAnn persisted.  "Because I'd just broken up with Eliot?  Did you... skip it so you could babysit me?"

"No!  No...  It wasn't that at all.  Laja...  I stayed because..."  The angel paused, rallying himself.  Everything had to come out.  Now.  "Laja, I stayed because I'd asked God to let me go to Paris because I thought I needed to get away from Dyeland for a while... because I... Eliot had given you a promise ring, Laja.  And... and I thought an engagement ring was next.  Probably on Valentine's Day.  And I... I didn't want to watch you plan your wedding."

JenniAnn gaped.

"So when that didn't happen... and when you ended up breaking up with him instead... I was... happy.  I mean... I felt for you and Eliot.  I did.  But...  I... I hadn't lost you.  And I... just wanted to stay.  With you."  Andrew squeezed JenniAnn's hand.  "I chose to stay.  For me, Laja."

JenniAnn let out a ragged sigh.

"I... I missed you.  And if... if there was any chance of... of us getting back our dances... our hugs... our quiet, late night talks... I didn't want to miss that.  Not for champagne or the Siene or... or even freshly baked croissants," Andrew continued.

In spite of the tumult of emotions she was feeling, JenniAnn laughed.  Then, as carefully as possible, she nestled against the angel.

"I wish I'd known then."

"And I probably should have been more honest but... we've had this discussion before, Laja.  We needed to go slow.  What would you have done if you'd known?"

"Definitely would have heaped lots more affection on you."

"And then I would have wondered if I'd been unintentionally manipulative somehow... or even just that you'd felt like you had to make my decision worth my while."

"I... I think I would have felt that," JenniAnn confessed.  "Doesn't mean I wouldn't have enjoyed whatever happened, though..."

Andrew smiled.

"I'm sure I would have, too.  But... I know I enjoyed how things really unfolded.  And I wouldn't change any of it... when you kissed my hair at your grandma's."

"The first time we slept together... non-colloquially speaking... and with Adam as chaperone."

"I first time we slept together... non-colloquially speaking... without a chaperone."

"When you pulled me onto your lap for the first time..."

"Our first 'real kiss' in the Fields of Gold..."

"Our first baby..."

"Joshua's blessing..."

"When you moved in..."

JenniAnn delicately kissed the angel.

Andrew buried his hand in her hair as her face hovered above his.

"I wouldn't change any of it," he repeated.

"Not even the part where I said we should expand the ballroom and you ended up throwing your back out?" JenniAnn kidded.

Andrew laughed.

"Not even that..."

JenniAnn settled back down beside him.

"Sometimes, though...  Of all the women you've met...  Of all the men, for that matter...  So many, many crazily impressive people...  why... me?"

"Why not you?" Andrew countered.  "You were kind to me.  You weren't afraid of me.  You listened to me.  You fought for me.  And, no, you weren't the only one to do that.  But... there was something different.  Something I didn't understand then... a connection that went so deep... soul deep."

"Anam caras..."


JenniAnn sighed dreamily.

"What did God say when you told Him you weren't going?  To Paris, I mean."

"Well...  Joshua showed up at Serendipity with my hotel information, a little spending money, etc."

"But wouldn't he have known you'd changed your mind?"

Andrew smiled and nodded.

"But you know how he is.  He wanted the experience of me telling him, face-to-face, why I wasn't going.  He just smiled the whole time I rambled.  Then he said 'Good decision.  Paris isn't going anywhere any time soon.  And maybe when you do end up going... you won't be going solo.'"

JenniAnn beamed.

"So... one day... I do want to go to Paris.  With you.  When the kids are a little older and we'll feel better about leaving them for a bit."

"I'd like that..."  She sighed.  "Still really sucks to think of you back then... feeling like you'd need to escape."

"I'd shrug if I could," Andrew responded.  "I mean, yeah, it hurt at the time... but it definitely makes me more grateful for now.  And... it did make me realize... while it was still hard for me to put my finger on what it was I felt for you... there was definitely a physical component.  When you were with Eliot... it wasn't like the times when Monica and Tess were sort of... distant.  It wasn't like when some of the other girls moved on with their lives.  Those times hurt... but with you... I... I couldn't bear it in the same way.  It hurt that I couldn't run up to you and hug you and hold you close and bury my face in your hair and... I was jealous that Eliot could."  He paused and yawned.  "Sorry..."

With tears in her eyes, JenniAnn shook her head.

"No... it's okay.  If you can rest, I think that would be good.  We can pick this up later."

"You're sure?"

"Yes, love."


JenniAnn looked on protectively as Andrew closed his eyes and tried to sleep.  She softly hummed and stroked his arm until his breathing changed and she knew he was asleep.

After waiting a few minutes more, JenniAnn carefully moved away and went to the door.  She started when she found Eliot, just about to knock and with a tray balanced on his hip. 

"Hey...  Just bringing lunch.  How is And..." 

JenniAnn stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind her.

"He's sleeping.  I... I don't want to wake him even though he should probably eat."

Eliot frowned at JenniAnn.

"But everything's okay otherwise?  You look flushed."

JenniAnn began to sniffle.

"He... he didn't go to Paris because of me."

Eliot looked at JenniAnn with confusion.

"Huh?  Was he supposed to have an assignment in Paris today?"

JenniAnn took the tray from Eliot and headed to the library.

"No...  He's been wanting to go to Paris on vacation for a really long time.  One time, it got derailed by an assignment.  But then..." 

Once both she and Eliot were seated in the library, JenniAnn let the whole story spill out.

"Wow..." Eliot exclaimed when she was finished.  "We did a number on him..."

JenniAnn burst into tears.

"Sorry!  Sorry!  Shouldn't have said that," Eliot hurriedly apologized.  "I only meant..."

"But we did!" JenniAnn wailed.  "I did...  You didn't really know how Andrew and I were...  I did."

Eliot pushed a plate towards JenniAnn.

"Please eat.  And, no, I didn't know the extent of things.  But you clearly didn't either.  This wouldn't have come as a shock to you... which it clearly is... if you had."

JenniAnn looked to Eliot, recognizing the wisdom in his words.

"And you didn't know because Andrew chose to keep that from you.  That was his decision, Psyche.  I have to wonder why he told you this now...  Maybe the pain meds..."

JenniAnn shook her head.

"No.  I... I said I was going to ask Joshua to let him go to Paris because I couldn't understand why he hadn't.  So... I'm sure Andrew felt like he had to tell me that Joshua had, in fact, intended for him to go.  But Andrew chose to stay because of me."  JenniAnn sighed and took a bite of her sandwich before continuing.  "He didn't want me to be even a little bit upset with Joshua for his sake."

"Okay, that makes more sense.  He wouldn't want Joshua blamed for something that was his own doing."  Eliot shook his head in wonder.  "You know, sometimes it feels like it couldn't possibly have been us dating.  The idea just feels so... foreign even though I have those memories.  I can't imagine being with anyone other than Brittony... can't imagine having kids other than Galen, Edison, and Eleanor.  But... something feels almost... this is going to sound weird... but... cosmically wrong with you being with anyone other than Andrew.  Like... we were a weird dream that popped up in the middle of your and Andrew's story.  I mean... maybe things still would have turned out more or less the same some other way.  But... I mean... if Andrew was that upset... maybe, eventually, he would have left Dyeland entirely.  And then would we have been at all involved with JCS?  Would we have met Joshua?"

"I... I don't know."  JenniAnn shuddered and clasped the cross around her neck.  "Maybe not."

Eliot smiled softly.

"I was hurt when you gave me back the ring.  Cried a lot.  Read some soppy poetry.  May have written some..."  He chuckled.  "But wow... if you hadn't..." He shook his head then peered at the family tree that stood in the center of the room.  Rising, he moved and caressed the birds that represented his wife and children.  Then he, too, wrapped his fingers around his cross. 

"I just hate the idea that he saw us dance... hug... kiss even.  I can only imagine what it would have felt like to see him with another woman.  Like... daggers in my gut... my heart..." JenniAnn guessed.

"But those same feelings are probably what kept him present once we did break up, Psyche.  He knew he didn't want to face that again.  And, yeah, his gentlemanly nature forced him to be open to the possibility of you finding someone else.  But I can remember you saying he told you it was okay if you found someone while he was in Afghanistan.  You challenged him and he dropped it pretty quickly, didn't he?"


"I think we were all very naive back then... and I'm including Andrew in that," Eliot opined.  "Naive and, at least in some very specific areas, immature.  None of us knew what it really felt like to be in love.  So it was easy for the two of us to trick ourselves into thinking that's what we were feeling.  And it was easy for Andrew to convince himself that the connection between the two of you wasn't true love.  We all needed that weird, messed up period so when we allowed ourselves to truly embrace true love... we'd know it for what it was.  So don't beat yourself up over it, Psyche.  Be grateful for it.  I am."

JenniAnn brushed at her tears and smiled.

"I'm glad I'm not with you... but I'm glad my first boyfriend was and remains smart as all get-out," she complimented.

Eliot laughed.

"I'm glad I'm not with you, too... but I'm glad you're my friend, Psyche.  And you're very smart, too.  You just sometimes over-think.  That's all.  I, for one, am glad that my first girlfriend knew and knows good sense when she hears it.  Thank God you listened to Mick all those years ago!"

"Yes...  Thank God," JenniAnn agreed.  "And thank you for bringing up some lunch.  Hopefully Andrew will be up soon and can enjoy his.  Did you all get to eat?"

"Raheem and I did.  Vincent went in search of Portia.  I'm sure he'll either eat in the Tunnels or grab something when he's back."

"I hope Raheem isn't working alone.  The last thing we need is another person injured!"

Eliot shook his head.

"That's what we decided.  He's going to hang around for a little while, see what Portia says, if you two need anything.  Then we'll both head out."

JenniAnn hugged him.

"Thank you.  I really appreciate it.  I'm sure I'm over-reacting but..."

"But this is the first time Andrew's decision had real, physical consequences.  I get it.  I know it's not exactly the same but I hated seeing how much pain Brittony was in while giving birth to the twins.  I knew, of course, that she'd made the decision with me to try for kids.  But I still felt responsible."

"Yeah...  Like that.  I can't believe he's gonna be 42 on his next birthday.  I mean... not really, of course.  But... physically."

"I can't believe we're getting so close to forty..."  Eliot shook his head and grimaced dramatically.

"You'll get there almost a year before I do," JenniAnn teased.

"And a year and a half before Brittony.  I'm sure she'll make the most of those months... teasing me about having a trophy wife in her thirties."

JenniAnn giggled.

"Knock, knock," a female voice chimed from the hallway.

JenniAnn and Eliot turned to see Portia and Vincent.

"Well... where's our patient?" the doctor asked.

JenniAnn rose and hugged the two.

"Sleeping still, I think.  I can wake him if..."

Portia shook her head.

"Today's been relatively quiet.  I can wait.  Although..."  She eyed JenniAnn's plate.  "That looks really good.  Chicken salad?"

Laughing, JenniAnn nodded.

"Yup.  Let's get you both fed.  Maybe then Andrew will be up."

"Good plan!" Portia agreed.

Before heading downstairs, JenniAnn quickly checked on Andrew.  He was still sleeping, seemingly peacefully.

Vincent rested a hand on JenniAnn's shoulder.

"He's fine, Psyche.  In a couple of days, it will be as if nothing happened."

"Yeah..."  JenniAnn patted his hand then let out a little sigh before heading to the kitchen with the others.


Later that afternoon, Portia examined Andrew and, with JenniAnn present, made her prognosis.

"So...  I really do think we're just looking at a bad case of back strain.  If the pain persists for more than three or four days, then we'll have to run some tests just to be sure there's not something more serious going on.  I highly doubt it'll come to that.  But you, Mister..."  She shot Andrew a look.  "Should start taking precautions.  Get thee a back brace!  And when you feel pain... stop and rest.  Did you feel any pain beforehand?"

Andrew bowed his head, sheepish.


"And you pushed yourself?"

"I thought I'd just slept wrong..."

"Well, even if it was just sleeping wrong, you should have rested or at least focused on lighter tasks," Portia chastened.

"There's no reason to hurry, love," JenniAnn stressed.  "We don't need the ballroom fixed up til next Christmas."

"I know..."  Andrew chuckled.  "But you know I can be a little..."

"Perfectionist.  Hard-working to a fault.  Not one to ask for help," JenniAnn filled in. 

Andrew only smiled at her and squeezed her hand.  He couldn't argue.

"Well, sounds like you're going to be learning some new skills then.  I'm not ordering strict bed rest.  In fact, you should move a bit as you can.  But... no working," Portia insisted in a no-nonsense tone.  "Not for a few days.  Keep icing your back, take the ibuprofen as directed, and I brought some pillows that might help you get comfortable."

"Massages?" JenniAnn asked.

Portia shrugged.

"If it feels good... sure.  But, if not, no.  And don't do anything too deep... just on the off-chance there is some more significant damage which, again, I think is unlikely.  I think this is a classic case of a stubborn man pushing himself and not asking for help," Portia teased.

"Guilty..." Andrew admitted.  "And, thank you, Portia.  Hopefully this is the last time you see me under these circumstances."

"I sure hope so!  But now... I'll leave you, knowing you have the very best nurse you could possible have.  Call if you have any questions or problems, okay?"

"Okay!" JenniAnn agreed.  "Thanks, Portia!  I'll see you out."  She turned to Andrew.  "And then I'll be back to ice your back."

"No hurry, Laja.  I'm really feeling okay," Andrew assured.

The strain in his smile told JenniAnn otherwise but she nodded.

"Okay.  Well, won't be long, in any case."  JenniAnn kissed his temple then left the room with Portia.

"And now... you.  Hold are you holding up?" the doctor inquired with concern.

JenniAnn shrugged.

"Got pretty maudlin earlier but Eliot talked me down.  He was just finishing up when you arrived, actually.  It's just... ya know...  This is on me kinda.  I wanted the bigger ballroom.  But more than that..."

"He aged for you.  I get it.  But, really, if you think about it... Andrew's really no different than anyone else.  We all give each other gray hairs and stress and sleepless nights and wrinkles.  Love changes our bodies.  Persephone left me with stretch marks.  Heck, you have Andrew's name inked onto your body.  And Avi... well... he changed you."  Portia giggled when JenniAnn glanced down at her breasts. 

"He did," JenniAnn agreed with a laugh that ended in a melancholy sigh as her mood rapidly shifted.  "And Andrew already...  I mean... everything that happened in Afghanistan... the brain injury..."

"And I imagine you wouldn't let Max fixate on that, would you?" Portia challenged.


"Just like Joshua won't let us fixate on what he went through for us... remember it, honor it... yes, of course!  But if we focus too much on that and lose sight of the here and now of our relationship with him... not good!"

"Not good at all," JenniAnn agreed.

The two women reached the entryway where Vincent waited with Eliot and Raheem.

"How's he doing, doc?" Eliot asked.

"I expect Andrew to make a full recovery... if he follows my orders and rests."

"I'll make sure he does," JenniAnn vowed.  "Thank you all for your help.  We really appreciate it!"

"It's always good to be here, JenniAnn.  Don't think any more about it," Raheem urged.  "Call if you need anything?"

"Will do."  The two exchanged a hug and then JenniAnn directed her attention to the trio from the Tunnels.  "Thanks for taking care of Andrew... and me.  Vincent, I'll stop by to get the kids after..."

Vincent shook his head.

"Catherine and I will keep them tonight.  I'll bring them by to say good night.  I think you're going to have your hands full as is, Psyche.  Besides, they haven't spent the night with us in a good while."

"If you're sure..."

"Absolutely.  You need to get rest when you can without worrying about them."


JenniAnn hugged her godfather then Portia and Eliot.

"Give Andrew our best, please!" Eliot requested.

"And tell him I'll come yell at him if he's a bad patient!" Portia added.

Laughing, JenniAnn nodded.

"Will do on both counts.  Thank you all, again.  Have a good evening!"

"Take care, Psyche!"

"Be well, Psyche."

"Remember to call..."

With final waves, the four left.

JenniAnn took in and let out a deep breath then went to go see to her charge.


Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

That night, Andrew roused from a fitful sleep.  He was immediately conscious of the pain in his back and shoulders but he knew that wasn't the reason for his insomnia.  He looked over to the side of the bed where JenniAnn was sleeping on her stomach with her face turned away from him.  Reaching out, he gently stroked her hair.

He had reason to believe she'd spent much of her life sleeping like that.  Her parents and Vincent had mentioned it a time or two... generally blaming themselves.  Following the since-discredited advice of the time, they'd put baby JenniAnn to sleep on her stomach.  And so she had remained for over thirty years.

But she didn't sleep like that any more... usually.  She slept on her right side, her cheek settled against Andrew's chest, her left hand often resting over his heart.

And even though she was only a few inches away, Andrew missed his Laja.  He had no doubt she'd chosen to sleep that way lest she jostle him or put additional pressure on his back.  But it still felt... wrong.

Andrew shook his head in both wonder and bemusement.  For eons, when he'd had occasion to sleep, the idea of anyone sleeping beside him had been bizarre... something the humans did.  He sometimes wondered how they managed to not constantly wake each other up.  And how did they not get hot? 

And then Andrew discovered that, with JenniAnn nestled against him, he felt calmer.  On the rare occasion when they didn't sleep in such a way due to restlessness or the odd ache or pain or illness, Andrew felt... off.  And right then he felt downright melancholic.  He knew it was probably just that he was in pain and frustrated with himself over his own foolhardiness.  But the distance felt... wrong.

Wincing, Andrew shifted closer to JenniAnn.  He thought about their earlier conversation about Paris... the City of Love.  He smiled, considering that he had found his own "city of love" in Dyeland City.  Outside of Heaven, it was there he'd felt most loved and most loving. 

It was also where he'd become a better angel.  Andrew knew others saw him as empathetic... and he'd always tried to be.  But it was different now.  When he stood beside death beds and rested a comforting hand on the bereaved spouse, he knew something of their thoughts and feelings.  How would they ever sleep again... alone? 

At odd moments, Andrew already asked himself that question.  Eons of solitariness had been undone by a few years of... her. 

And then there was the not-sleeping...

Andrew knew his younger self would have been surprised by the knowledge that he now struggled to sleep alone.  But he would have been outright shocked... maybe even mortified... if he knew the extent of his and JenniAnn's physical relationship.

JenniAnn sighed in her sleep and Andrew smiled, for a moment wondering if she could sense his thoughts.

He still sometimes struggled to make sense of what he felt when they laid together, skin against skin.  It wasn't arousal... thankfully.  But it felt exhilarating... in a gentle, soft way.  It made him feel loved, obviously.  But something else...


So often, those humans who knew or sensed who he was shrinked away.  They wanted to escape him.  It wasn't personal, of course.  He knew that.  But it still hurt.

But JenniAnn would rest in his arms, vulnerable and yet completely without fear.  She saw him as beautiful.  And it was personal.

She sighed again... but this time it sounded different.  Shaky.  She flinched. 

"Laja..." Andrew murmured.

JenniAnn let out a short, gasping sound.

"Laja!" Andrew repeated. 

Ignoring the pain in his back, he pulled her towards him.

JenniAnn roused, pressing her face against Andrew's T-shirt.

"Laja... were you having a nightmare?" Andrew murmured.

He felt her nod.

"I'm sorry..."  He kissed her hair and gently stroked her back.

JenniAnn's head yanked up and she pulled away.

"Your... your back!"

Andrew smiled sheepishly and reached up to caress her face.

"It's all right.  I, umm, couldn't sleep with you... over there.  I'd rather deal with a little pain than that."

JenniAnn's eyes filled.

"Oh, love..." 

Carefully, she settled into the crook of his arm, snuggled against him but putting no weight on his upper body.

"Better..."  Andrew kissed her hair.  "Do you want to talk about your nightmare?"

"Oh...  It was just... Joshua... the mosque... the shooting.  Like I was there."  JenniAnn shuddered.

"I'm sorry...  No wonder you were shaking."

"Yeah...  But I'm okay now.  Joshua's okay.  All is well..."  She let out a shaky breath.  "So... you really couldn't sleep?  I mean... I was only a few inches away."

"I know...  But... I missed you being right beside me.  I know it's goofy but..."

"It's not goofy.  It's sweet.  And... I missed you, too."

Carefully, JenniAnn hovered over Andrew and kissed him before reclaiming her spot.

Andrew heard her yawn.

"We should try to get more sleep," he suggested.

"But I'm afraid I'll roll and hurt you," JenniAnn replied.

Andrew squeezed her hand.

"I'm sure you won't."

"Okay...  But first, do you need more pills or ice or..."

Andrew shook his head.

"I'm fine, Laja.  Just rest."

"Mmm... kay."

As Andrew gently stroked her hair, JenniAnn tried to fall asleep.  But sleep didn't come.



"Do you... do you think Joshua gets upset by how much I worry?"

Andrew thought for a few moments.

"I think he feels for you.  He wishes you didn't.  But I don't think he's angry.  He knows that the human brain can play tricks.  And... even angels aren't immune from worry.  I think... well, it just happens when you're part of the world.  There's so much out there that's so... sad, troubling, devastating even.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't work on worrying less.  But it means God has compassion for when we do."

"What do you worry about?"

Andrew laughed.

"Trust me.  I can be just as much of a premature worrier as any human.  A couple days ago, I found myself worrying that, as she gets older, Belle is going to look more and more like Badriya.  And I'm going to become overly protective because of that and Belle is going to rebel or develop some sort of complex or...  And on and on.  I talked myself down.  Pounding my worries into a table is very helpful!  But I really had myself going for a few minutes."

"I... I could see that."

Briefly, the two went silent.



JenniAnn sat up and peered down at him.

"About Badriya..."

Andrew noticed a flush to JenniAnn's cheeks and reached up to caress them.


"If... if she had lived...  It's just... the way you spoke about her... I... I sometimes wonder if... if maybe she... if given the time... if maybe you and her..."

Andrew's eye brow crooked up.

"I mean... she's so beautiful and kind and... and I know you wanted to bring her here..."

JenniAnn twisted her claddagh ring.

The angel's eyes went wide.

"Laja, no!"  He squeezed her hand tightly then brought it to his lips.  "I did... and do... care about Badriya very much.  But in a way very similar to how I feel about Monica or Kemara or Emma or any of the other ladies.  Like a brother.  I did want to bring her back here because I knew she'd love spending time with all of you.  I... I loved imagining all that we would expose her to: theatre, museums, books, movies.  All the freedom she would have!  And it still... it breaks my heart that she... she had to die to find that freedom.  But I didn't feel about her the way I do about you.  Had she lived, I firmly believe we'd still be exactly as we are right now."

JenniAnn was quiet save some sniffling.

"How long have you been carrying that?" Andrew gently questioned.

JenniAnn shrugged.

"I mean... it's not like it was top of mind.  Just randomly the thought would come to me..."

"Well, you can put it aside forever now."

"Thank you..."

It was Andrew's turn to sigh.

"I'd really love a dance right about now..."

JenniAnn smiled.

"Maybe tomorrow?  Or the day after?"

"Maybe...  I'm afraid I definitely won't be dipping you."

"I would hope not!" JenniAnn replied with a giggle.

"We should sleep, anyway."


JenniAnn snuggled back down beside Andrew.

"Better," he murmured.


"Love you..."

"Love you, too..."

A few minutes later, both were asleep and dreaming of dancing.


Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Three nights later, Andrew's eyes fluttered open.  Once again, JenniAnn was sleeping at some distance.  But this time with good reason.

The angel smiled at the sight of his anam cara dozing with little Avi tucked up against her.  The little fellow had suffered a rare fussy night and refused to sleep in his crib.

His father understood all too well.

Andrew was just about to drift back to sleep when a noise caught his attention... someone walking in the hallway. 

Takoda and Marty didn't often come down to their floor which left only two possibilities: Belle or Shelby, who was staying over.

Grateful that his back was almost entirely healed, Andrew turned to look at his phone.  It was 3:17 AM. 

Sighing wearily, Andrew got to his feet, slid into his slippers, donned his robe, and moved into the hallway.  It was empty but he could hear the stairs creaking.  Moving forward, he saw Shelby dismount the stairs and head towards the kitchen.

Curious, Andrew followed.

He was surprised when he entered the kitchen to find Shelby filling a cereal bowl, completely oblivious.  Then he realized she had her earbuds in.

Not wanting to startle her, Andrew waved.

Shelby jumped when she caught the motion but then looked up and smiled before pulling the earbuds out.

"Hi," she greeted.  "I couldn't sleep.  Froot Loops?"

Andrew nodded.

"Sure, thanks."

"They are your Froot Loops, after all.  Yours and JenniAnn's," Shelby pointed out with a grin.

Andrew patted her back.

"You're welcome to them, Shel.  You know that."


Andrew flicked on the light above the sink and, with its glow, got a better view of the fifteen-year-old.  Alarmed, he gently cupped her chin and raised her head.

"Sweetie, have you been crying?"

Shelby bit her lip and shook her head.  But the tears welling in her eyes betrayed her.

"Go sit down.  I'll get our cereal, okay?" Andrew offered.


Andrew prepared the two bowls then brought them to the table where Shelby was waiting.

"Do you wanna talk about it?" he offered.

Shelby took a bite and thoughtfully chewed.

Andrew studied her.  Fifteen years old...  Sometimes he could hardly believe it.  Their little Shelby was only two years younger than JenniAnn was when they'd met...

"Psyche was seventeen when you two met, wasn't she?" Shelby asked.

Surprised by the uncannily timed question, Andrew only nodded.

"Do... do you think she loved you... like really loved you... then?" the girl pressed.

Andrew carefully considered his response.

"I think maybe, on some deep level, she knew that we were meant to be together.  I think I did, too, for that matter.  But it was just too much for either of us to consider at the time.  So I think it was more like a crush than real, deep, true love.  We needed to grow into that.  Does that make sense?"

"I guess."

"I don't want to diminish what JenniAnn felt.  But there was definitely something more playful and goofy between us back then.  It felt different... thankfully."

"Why 'thankfully'?"

"Well...  I mean... she was only seventeen, Shel.  That's very, very young to be thinking about a lifetime... eternal... commitment.  Not to mention... it just would have looked... wrong."

"I guess.  So... so when... when you were really in love or... or whatever... what did that feel like for both of you?"

Andrew began to feel queasy.  Maybe Shelby was in love.  He wasn't ready for this...  But he needed to put those feelings aside and help her.

"I think it was different for each of us, Shel.  I don't want to speak for JenniAnn.  I think you should probably have this conversation with her, too, if you really want to know but based on what she's told me... there were butterflies when I was around."  He rested a hand over his stomach.  "And sadness when I wasn't.  And there are still both of those things but they're more...  Well, when two people have been together for a while, those extremes kinda... mellow.  They have to.  Because you still have to get on with the business of life.  As for me... it was like... like I was always carrying this little JenniAnn around with me."  He chuckled.  "Like the old cartoons with the angel and the demon on someone's shoulders, you know?"

Shelby smiled and nodded.

"I'd wander how she'd react to something.  Or even what she'd tell me to do.  I mean not like with my assignments.  Usually.  But like 'Andrew, you need to take a few moments for yourself now.  You're starting to crack up.'"

Shelby giggled.

"And, eventually, I realized that I was imagining that because... well, because I wanted to be with her.  I felt comfortable with her... accepted by her... in a way I hadn't with anyone else except God.  And, what's more, I trusted her, too.  We... we had some rocky patches, Shel.  Things weren't always perfect.  I wasn't always as open as I should have been.  And sometimes that's still a struggle.  But when I realized I could be open and she wouldn't flee... that's when I allowed myself to love her... truly."

"I... I love that.  But... I mean... what... what does it feel like in... in your body?" Shelby questioned, her face flushed.

Andrew, too, blushed.

"Sweetie, since I'm an angel, I... I don't feel things like... like humans do."

"But... but do you ever get butterflies?"

An image popped into Andrew's mind: JenniAnn coming towards him, radiant in her silver and green gown, after he'd returned from Sheol.  He'd felt butterflies then.  And it was far from the only time.

He nodded.

"So... so it's normal to get butterflies?  Even... even for you?"

Something in Shelby's intense, vulnerable gaze made another memory of JenniAnn resurface for Andrew.

"What if you actually were a bird but didn't feel like a bird?"

The queasiness that Andrew had begun to feel dissipated and was replaced by compassion and concern for Shelby.  This conversation wasn't about her dealing with romantic or sexual feelings... it was quite the opposite.

Andrew reached across the table and took one of Shelby's hands in both of his.

"Shel, honey, listen to me, okay?  Like so much, sexuality and romantic inclination exist on a spectrum.  Like... chocolate."  He squeezed her hand and released it.  "Over here..."  He extended his right arm.  "You have people who absolutely love chocolate."  He held out his left arm.  "And, over here, you have people who wouldn't care if they never had a bite of chocolate in their whole life.  And then there are lots and lots of people spread all over the middle.  Got it?"

Shelby nodded.

"So... you might have people who feel sexual or romantic yearning very, very strongly.  And those two aren't the same, by the way.  Like, for example, neither JenniAnn nor I feel sexual longing.  But we do feel a longing... sometimes very strongly... to be romantic with each other.  Okay?"

Shelby gave another nod.

"And sometimes the world can make a person feel very, very weird if they don't feel strong romantic or sexual impulses.  But that doesn't mean they are weird.  Not at all."

Shelby let out a shaky breath and sniffled.

"I... I don't think I... I feel either," she murmured.  "And... and all my friends are starting to get all... all lovey-dovey with each other.  And... and Valentine's Day was just weird.  And... Asher's engaged now and even Violeta keeps talking about some boy from her classes and... and I... I feel so... so weird.  Even... even Belle...  Whenever we play dolls, she always wants the prince and princess to get married."

Andrew smiled gently.

"Shel, Belle is still so young.  She's just mimicking what she sees around her.  And as for Violeta..."  He sighed and dragged his hand through his hair.  "Honestly, I'm not even sure what to make of that right now.  But none of that means there's anything wrong with you.  If 99% of the population thought red was the best color and you were among the 1% who thought blue was better... you wouldn't be weird.  Just different.  And there's nothing wrong with being different.  Ya know who was... and still is... really different?"

Shelby smiled and nodded.


Andrew nodded.

"Joshua.  And, ya know... I really wish JenniAnn was up to talk with you.  I know she often felt very out of place as an asexual.  But so many of us love her just as she is, huh?"

"Very much," Shelby agreed.  "But...  I... I'm happy for you and Psyche.  It... it makes me feel... secure... when I see you two together... acting all, well, lovey-dovey."

Andrew chuckled.

"That's good.  Because I'm not sure we could really stop."

Shelby grinned at him.

"I wouldn't want you to.  But... I don't think I even want that.  So... so what's the word for that?  Is there?"

The angel nodded.

"There is.  It's called aromantic and, you know, most angels are asexual and aromantic.  So you're in good company.  But even among humans, it's a normal thing.  Rare.  But normal."

Shelby let out a soft sigh of relief.

"And... and you won't be disappointed if I never get married or... or have kids?" she asked with some hesitancy.

"Oh Shelby...  No.  We wouldn't be disappointed in you!  We just want you to be happy.  What would really bother us is if you made decisions based on what you thought other people wanted or expected.  Because that can be very, very painful."

"Yeah...  Like... like if Psyche had married Eliot?"


Shelby rose and hugged Andrew.

"I'm glad she didn't."

Andrew returned the hug and kissed Shelby's temple.

"Me too, Shel.  Me too."

Shelby reclaimed her seat and resumed enjoying her cereal.  Andrew followed suit.  The companionable silence was interrupted when JenniAnn shuffled into the kitchen.

"I thought the light was on... and I wondered where you were, Andrew.  What are you two doing up?  Andrew, is your back..."

"Just fine," he assured, rising and pulling out a chair for JenniAnn.  "We just needed a little snack."

Shelby smiled at him then turned her attention to JenniAnn.

"What are you doing up, Psyche?" 

"Avi woke back up and nursed for a bit.  That seemed to calm him and he's back in his crib now.  But then I realized I was thirsty."

"What would you like?  I'll get it for you," Andrew offered, jumping to his feet.

"Thanks, love.  Umm... milk, I think."

"Milk it is."

While Andrew got that, JenniAnn studied Shelby and frowned.

"Is everything okay?  Your eyes look a lil puffy, sweetie."

Shelby bowed her head.

"Oh... I...  Yeah.  I was upset.  But Andrew and I talked and..."  She peered over at JenniAnn.  "Psyche, I... I think I'm asexual.  And aromantic.  But... but that doesn't mean I'm against either!  I... I mean when I write, some of my characters... most of them... they have boyfriends and girlfriends and spouses and everything.  I just... I don't want that."

"Aww, Shel..."  JenniAnn squeezed her hands.  "I know that can be hard.  I... I can remember how off I sometimes felt.  Almost... like a different species."

Shelby nodded in ready agreement.

"But I think you're so mature to be able to talk about this now!  I was several years older than you when I finally did... with Andrew, actually.  And then I couldn't even bring myself to say 'asexual' at first."

Andrew set a glass of milk down in front of JenniAnn then sat back down.

"But you're not alone, sweet girl," JenniAnn continued.  "And while I'm not aromantic..."  She snuck a look at Andrew who grinned happily, causing Shelby to giggle.  "I think I can still understand some of what it feels like.  So I'm always, always here if you need to talk.  I did kinda wonder..."

Shelby's eyes lit up.

"You did?  I mean... you wondered if I was asexual?"

JenniAnn nodded. 

"When Frozen 2 was announced, you were so anxious that Elsa was going to get a boyfriend or girlfriend.  And the truth was... I was, too.  I liked the idea that a Disney princess... no... a Disney queen might be one of us!  So, at first, I thought maybe I was just projecting that onto you but..."

"You weren't!"

JenniAnn smiled.

"I'm just so glad that you knew you could tell us.  But... why were you upset?  Were you worried about how we'd react?"

"I guess I was a little worried you'd be disappointed.  I know how much you love being grandparents and I don't think I'll have kids but... I also thought you'd be pretty cool about it.  I mean... it would be pretty hypocritical not to be."

"Definitely," JenniAnn agreed.

"But it is sometimes hard...  I mean just because I don't want a boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't mean I feel great about being basically the only one of my friends to not be pairing off or dreaming about pairing off.  It's kinda lonely."

"I know, sweetie..."  JenniAnn patted Shelby's hand.  "I remember that.  Is that why you've been spending more time here?"

Shelby nodded.

"When I'm here... it feels basically like it's always felt.  I don't feel different."

"Well, you can spend as much time here as you want," Andrew promised.  "And if you want us to make up a room for you then..."

Shelby shook her head.

"No.  I really like staying with Belle.  It's hard to get too moody around her."

JenniAnn laughed.

"I really do feel like Elsa to her Anna," Shelby continued.  "But I'm not letting a Hans ever, ever get close to her!"

"I'm right with you there!" Andrew agreed.  "Hate that guy..."

JenniAnn raised an eye brow.

"Not sure I've ever heard you say you hated anyone, Andrew."

The angel shrugged.

"He's a fictional character.  Fair game."

"I see..."  JenniAnn smiled and took his hand. 

Shelby looked back and forth between the two and smiled. 

"Belle will know to hang in there and wait for a good guy," she opined.  "She knows what real love looks like.  And even though I don't want that for myself... I... I'm so glad I grew up around it.  Do you remember when you caught me spying on you dancing?"

Andrew chuckled and nodded.

"Very well."

JenniAnn smirked and nodded.

Blushing, Shelby continued to smile.

"It still makes me happy when I see you two dance... at parties, I mean.  I don't spy any more!"

JenniAnn laughed.

"Well, that's good!"

"Why's everyone down here?"

Startled by the voice, the trio turned around to find Belle standing in the doorway to the kitchen.

"Hey, cuddle bug!  What are you doing up?" JenniAnn asked, going to pick up her little girl.

Belle wrapped her arms around her mother's neck.

"Not sleepy," she replied. 

"It seems to be going around," Andrew observed.  "So... speaking of dancing... what say you to this: I'm going to go check on Avi and then if he's still sleeping, maybe the four of us night owls could have a little dance party in the ballroom?" he suggested.  "Just... ignore the mess by the back wall."

The two girls cheered while JenniAnn gave Andrew a dreamy look and nodded. 

"All right then...  I'll meet you in there.  If Little Bud has woken up, I'll bring him with me."



"See you in a bit, love."

Andrew smiled at the three before going to check on his son.  Upstairs, he found Avi contentedly snoozing in his crib.  Andrew kissed his hand then softly rested it against the baby's brow before tip-toeing from the room.  In the ballroom, he found Shelby and Belle already dancing to a song that Andrew instantly knew they must have chosen.

"'She wears high heels, I wear sneakers.  She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers.  Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find that what you're looking for has been here the whole time...'"

JenniAnn smiled and shrugged as he approached.

"Their pick.  But, hey, I guess it kinda works.  I was in high school when we met..."

Andrew chuckled and nodded.

"So you were..." 

He wrapped his arms around JenniAnn's waist and her hands clasped behind his neck.

"Finally..." Andrew murmured into her ear.

"Mmm... hmm..."  JenniAnn beamed up at him as Taylor Swift sung her heart out.

"'If you can see that I'm the one who understands you...  Been here all along so why can't you see... you belong with me?'"

The two smiled as Shelby and Belle sang along, the latter sometimes garbling the words.

"'Standing by and waiting at your back door... All this time, how could you not know?'"

Andrew rested his forehead against JenniAnn's and thought back to another Valentine's weekend ten years before... the weekend when JenniAnn had first learned about his intention of aging along with her, the day when she had come out to him... his bird who didn't feel like a bird.  He remembered standing outside her door... their door now... just wanting to be let in.

"'You belong with me...  Have you ever thought just maybe... You belong with me...  You belong with me...'" he sang.

JenniAnn stretched up to kiss him as the final notes drifted away.

"Every day," she whispered.

Andrew smiled and returned her kiss.  Then they laughed as a sassier, more rocking Swift song started and Belle and Shelby went into hyperdrive.

Together, they watched their girls dance and thanked God for the nest they had made for their own little birds.

The End



Monday, February 17th, 2020

"And we'll see who will be receiving roses... and who will be going home... after this break!"

The man standing at the kitchen counter frowned as he drained a bowl of pasta.  His displeasure only became more obvious as a commercial began.  A woman sauntered around with pouty lips as a voiceover sung the praises of a perfume... or maybe it was a shampoo.  He wasn't really sure.

Thankfully, the glitzy materialism was interrupted by the apartment door swinging open.

"I'm home!  Sorry I'm late.  One of the girls was having a really bad time and..."  Mary... formerly of Bethany but lately of Brooklyn... stopped speaking and giggled at the man... at her beloved Lucius.

"What?" Lucius asked, looking around in confusion.

"You just look so cute in that little apron!" Mary exclaimed, setting down her bag and joining Lucius in the kitchenette.

Lucius blushed.

"I didn't want to get sauce on my shirt."

"I know.  Good thinking."  Mary stretched up and kissed his cheek.  "It smells wonderful!"

"Whole wheat penne with red sauce and roasted tomatoes with olive oil and goat cheese."


"Welcome home!  Now what were you saying about the girl?"

Mary sighed.

"Oh...  She had a bit of a relapse.  Stole a cell phone and sent a Facebook message to her abusive boyfriend."

Lucius looked at Mary in alarm.

"Did she tell him where..."

"No, no.  She instantly felt bad about it and showed me the message.  It said nothing about our location.  It's just... he's not good for her.  She needs to make a clean break."

"Yes...  I'll pray for her."

Mary wrapped her arms around Lucius' waist and gave him a squeeze.

"Thank you."

Lucius beamed at her.

"Of course.  I'm so proud of you.  And... I find I'm liking this role reversal quite well."

Mary surveyed their apartment, noting the new throw pillows and quilt on the couch.  Lucius was quite the homemaker... Abigail's influence remained strong.  There was another addition, too: a cross hanging over the mantle.  Intrigued, Mary approached and studied it.

"It's made of recycled plastic.  There were some artisans down the street trying to raise money for a homeless shelter.  I couldn't resist."

"It's beautiful..."

Lucius bowed his head.


Mary squeezed his hand.

"You know He's forgiven you..."

Lucius sighed.

"I do...  Everything's just... heavier here.  I do think the cross is beautiful but, as I was carrying it home, the thought occurred to me that had I been alive... had I been in Jerusalem... I would have done it.  I... I would have crucified Yeshua."

"We all crucified Yeshua, Lucius.  But... yes, it's horrible to think of being the one who literally did.  But even if that had been you... Yeshu loves Longinus.  He would have still loved you, too."

"Yeah..."  Lucius at last smiled.  He squeezed Mary's hand back then returned to dinner preparations.

As Mary hung up her coat, she became aware of the TV.  She paused for a few moments and watched before turning back to Lucius.

"What is this?  No wonder you're in a mood!  It looks dreadful!"

"It is..." the Roman agreed.  "I should have turned it off.  I was watching the local news as I worked and then suddenly this...  It's one man and so many women...  And he picks the ones he likes.  I think he whittles the number down, week by week.  Like some sort of game."

"Well... I suppose we can't all meet our true loves by getting thrown from donkeys."

Lucius burst out laughing.

Mary turned the TV off.

"I think that's enough of that."

"Definitely.  Abigail would have been appalled.  I think... Mary, I think he slept with more than one of them," Lucius reported in a hushed tone.

Mary smiled to herself.  He could be quite prudish... probably also Abigail's influence.

"I can't say I agree with that choice," she replied.  "But... we also weren't exactly paragons of virtue in our day."

"This is true...  I... I find I can't entirely regret that, though.  Yeshua, forgive me."

"He understands.  If we had waited... we never would have.  And... I couldn't have borne Yakan being my last.  You were my last."

Lucius set down the breadsticks he'd pulled from the oven and embraced Mary and kissed her hair.

Mary sighed contentedly.

The two were interrupted by a pounding on their door.

"Ma!  Open up, would ya?" a voice called in an exaggerated, phony New York accent.

"Yemimah..."  Lucius and Mary smiled at each other then broke apart.

Mary went to the door and flung it open, immediately pulling her daughter into her embrace.

"Hello, baby!  What brings you here?"

Jemima warmly returned her mother's hug then shot a very innocent look at Lucius.

"A little bird told me that Lucius made chocolate torte cake for dessert..."

Laughing, Lucius rolled his eyes.

"I should have known that making anything chocolate would mean you'd crash our evening together," he teased.  "You're welcome to join us, dulcis."

Jemima beamed and moved into Lucius' waiting embrace.

"Thank you.  Everything smells wonderful!"

"It truly does," Mary affirmed.  "Did Yeshu send you, Yemmy?"

Jemima laughed and shook her head.

"No.  I mean... not exactly.  I wasn't joking before.  The Spirit did tell me about the cake and so I came.  But I'm not working or anything.  Just a visit."

"Good!"  Mary squeezed her daughter's hands.  "Come sit!  Can I get you anything to drink?  I, umm, don't even know what we have but..."  She went to the refrigerator.  "Milk, orange juice, wine.  And water, of course."

"There's leftover chocolate syrup from the cake.  You could make her some chocolate milk, Mary," Lucius suggested as he dished out three plates of food.

"Mmm..."  Jemima grinned.

Mary sighed and wagged her finger at Jemima.

"Only because you're immortal.  I would never have let you have chocolate milk with supper in life, Yemmy."

"Yes, Ama..."

"I would have," Lucius whispered with a playful smile.

"You would have utterly spoilt her, Lucius.  And me, too."

"I would certainly have tried."  Lucius gave Mary a squeeze and kissed her temple.

"Aww!" Jemima cooed.

Lucius smiled at her then pulled out chairs for her and Mary.

"Thank you, love."

"Thank you, Abi."

Lucius' face flushed with pride.  Yemimah had taken to calling him that since shortly after her arrival in Heaven.  But to hear it in the world in which they'd been born...

"You're very welcome," he choked out as he distributed the plates.

Mary patted his back once he'd sat down.

"Yemmy, why don't you say the blessing?" she prompted.

"Okay...  Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the ground.  Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates varieties of nourishment.  Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, at whose word all came to be.  Amen."

"Amen," Mary and Lucius echoed.

"I hope it's good..."  Lucius loaded up his fork.

"Only one way to find out..."  Jemima took a bite then gave the cook a thumbs up.

"It's delicious, Lucius.  You've outdone yourself," Mary praised.

"I suppose making pasta should be in my blood," Lucius joked.

"Mine too then," Jemima observed.

Mary smiled at them both.  It felt right to be gathered around the table like this... Yemmy, Lucius, and her.

"How was work, Ama?"

"Good... hard but good.  You know how it is."  Mary patted her daughter's back, remembering her stint as a nurse.

"Yeah...  And you've been keeping busy here, Abi?" Jemima asked.

Lucius nodded.

"Only fair.  Back in our day, your Ama had to stay home while I worked.  I did a little cleaning, a little redecorating.  Re-read some Plato.  I still love the Allegory of the Cave."

"'Imagine this: People live under the earth in a cavelike dwelling. Stretching a long way up toward the daylight is its entrance, toward which the entire cave is gathered...'" Mary recited from memory.

Lucius chuckled.

"Did I read it aloud so often?"

"You did."


"But I loved it every time," Mary assured.

"It reminds me of this: 'For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known,'" Lucius recited.

"Paul," Mary and Jemima said together.

Lucius nodded.

They sat in companionable silence for a few moments, enjoying their dinner, before Jemima spoke again.



"So what do ya think about modern living?" she asked.  "I mean... I know you were here with Ama before, briefly.  But this is different."

Lucius nodded.

"It is.  Modern life is very... loud.  Very colorful.  Very odd."

Jemima laughed.

"How so?"

"He was watching a dating show earlier," Mary informed with a grin.

Lucius wrinkled his nose.

"Ugh.  Well, I can see how that would impact your view of modern life.  When I was here, some of the nurses were obsessed with The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.  But that's not real life.  Even if they do call it reality TV," Jemima counseled.

"I know.  And I have seen many beautiful things," Lucius reported.  "Like this afternoon.  When I was leaving the grocery store, a little old man exited with me.  All he had was a single red rose.  I watched as he approached a little old woman exiting a clothing store.  He gave her the rose and her face lit up so...  Then they linked arms and went off together...  Those are the roses that matter."

"Aww..." Mary and her daughter responded in unison.

"Is that when you bought these?" Jemima asked, caressing a miniature rose bush positioned in the center of the table.

Lucius nodded.

"I decided to go with a plant since we'll be here for a while."

"It's beautiful, Lucius," Mary complimented.  "Thank you for all you've done to make this place feel like home."

Lucius gazed around the apartment.

"It's been my pleasure.  And it does feel like home, doesn't it?  I'm very grateful for this opportunity... with you, sweet Mary."

Mary's face flushed with happiness as Lucius took her hand and brought it to his lips.

Jemima continued to eat, smiling to herself.

"So what have you two been doing to keep yourself busy when Ama's not working?" she questioned after allowing the couple to bask in each other's glow for a few moments.

"We go on walks," Mary replied.  "Sometimes we see shows."

"Go to museums," Lucius continued.  "Oh...  I've been considering talking with that Arthur fellow.  I think I'd like to volunteer my time.  Keep myself busy when you're away, Mary.  I certainly can't hang around here watching that."  He gestured to the TV.

"I think that's a wonderful idea!" Mary encouraged. 

"So... are you two going to introduce yourself to the Friends?" Jemima prodded eagerly.

"Not yet," Mary replied.  "It's not time yet.  They'll... find their way to us when they need us.  But you should definitely speak with Arthur, Lucius.  It's not as if that'd give anything away.  And you'd be wonderful there.  Several of the men have a history with combat," she gently pointed out.

"I figured..."

Mary squeezed his hand.

"I think that's a great idea!" Jemima praised before smiling devilishly.  "If you're still bored, I hear Dan Brown lives somewhere in New England.  You can track him down and give him a piece of your mind, Abi."

"Dan Brown?" Lucius questioned.

Mary rolled her eyes and playfully poked Jemima's arm.

"The fellow who wrote The DaVinci Code, love.  Ignore her."

Jemima giggled.

"Oh, come on!  He'd probably adore meeting a real, live Roman centurion.  Maybe he'd even write a book about you, Abi."

Lucius chuckled and shook his head.

"I think not."

"I wish someone would... albeit not Mr. Brown," Jemima replied, no longer jesting.  "I love your and Ama's story.  Tell me again?"

Lucius and Mary looked to each other and smiled then turned back to Jemima and nodded.

"All right..." Mary began.  "It all started for me when I'd been dismissed from Yakan's house.  I was absolutely heartbroken.  I was riding my donkey, Tabi, and she was scared by a snake.  She was such a good girl... so gentle to ride.  But she never could handle snakes.  So... she threw me.  I passed out and..."

"And I was on my way home from a long, disheartening shift when I spied the most beautiful girl... crumpled in a heap on the side of the road," Lucius continued, winking at Mary.

"And then..." Jemima prompted, eagerly.

"I scooped her up and carried her home."  Lucius' cheeks briefly flushed as he recalled a few catcalls from his fellow Romans which he'd shot down with withering glares.  "Abigail tended to her.  And then I waited with Mary until she awoke."

"That's kinda creepy, Abi... just staring at her as she slept," Jemima teased.

"Oh hush!" Mary countered.  "It was sweet."

"I know, Ama.  I know.  And then what?"

"And when I woke up... I found myself staring into kind, gentle eyes... almost... almost like Yeshua's," Mary recalled.

Lucius bowed his head, touched by the comparison.

"And my life was never the same from that moment on," Mary murmured, her eyes moist and filled with tenderness as she clasped her beloved's hand.


Late that night, Mary awoke feeling thirsty.  She gently extricated herself from Lucius' embrace then made her way to the kitchen.  Once there, she smiled into the living room where Jemima was sleeping, stretched out on a bed that Lucius had made for her on the couch. 

Mary poured herself some juice then approached Jemima.  She gently brushed a few stray hairs away from the girl's face.

Gazing at her daughter, Mary thought of their previous life.  She remembered the tiny baby, healed by Yeshu, cooing in her arms... the toddler who tried her best to make everyone smile even at times of great heartache... the girl who had wept with her when Estephanaus had been martyred... the first of so many, including most of Mary's brothers... and, eventually, Yemimah herself.  But now they were, all of them, eternally safe.  And Yeshu still found ways to surprise and delight her every day.

"Mary, my love, everything okay?" a blurry-eyed Lucius whispered from the hallway.

Mary looked up at him and smiled and nodded.  She stroked Jemima's hair once more then rejoined Lucius in their room.

"Everything's just fine," she assured as she got resettled into bed.  "I was only feeling a little contemplative."  She reached over to caress Lucius' face.  "I can remember, after Yeshu ascended, I still felt him with me... so strongly!  But... there were still hard times.  So... so much death.  And I would miss him... and you.  And Yemmy would snuggle against me.  And I would begin to feel better.  But... I still found myself wishing that... that we had had some time to be a family.  You, me, her...  And Yeshu gave us that in Heaven.  And now... here, too."

Lucius kissed Mary's forehead.

"He has.  So beautifully."

Mary grinned.

"You do spoil her, though...  You don't even like chocolate that much, Lucius.  I think you made that dessert specifically because you knew it would make Yemmy come down here."

Lucius only smiled in response.

Mary laughed and hugged him.

"Well, thank you."

"It was my pleasure.  Anything for my little Dulcis... and her Ama... my Mary."

Lucius smiled as Mary snuggled against him.

"And Mary?"


"If we were on that TV show from earlier... I would give all the roses to you."

Mary giggled.

"That wouldn't make for much of a show, I'm afraid."

Lucius shrugged.

"But it would make me happy."

Mary smiled and kissed him.

"Me too, Lucius... me too."

Content, comfortable, and feeling very grateful, the two drifted to sleep together.

The End

Frozen and Frozen 2
"You Belong With Me" by Taylor Swift
The Bachelor/The Bachelorette
The Allegory of the Cave by Plato
1 Corinthians 13:12- through a glass, darkly
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye for inspiring so many stories with such a large pantheon of characters that I'm now confusing their names and nicknames...

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(Photo Credits: The photographs used on this page are from Touched by an Angel and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions.  They are not being used to seek profit.)