Issue 10: Listen to My Heart

"I still don't understand why we have a room here," Pablo says as he and Andi walk hand-in-hand from the elevator to the ballroom.

The reception doesn't start for a while — even Andrea's two crazy college friends who think being five minutes early is ten minutes late won't show up for at least another twenty minutes. But she wants to see what sort of magic Bobby and the Brown Palace staff have cast on the room before anyone else arrives.

"Because it's our wedding night?"

"But we're only ten minutes away from our house, especially if we stay late enough to avoid all the traffic."

She shrugs. "Because we'll have privacy?"

"Justin and Nicole will be upstairs, and he's not twelve."

"Because you can't say no to Maddie?"

He glances at her and sighs. "Well, you're right about that. She's scary."

Andi giggles. "No scarier than I am!"

He chuckles. "Maybe not. But I'm pretty sure you wouldn't hurt me."

She Gibbs slaps him. "Neither would Maddie. Unless you deserved it, in which case I'd have to hurt you, too. Think before you make accusations like that," she says while trying not to laugh. "Any other objections?"


"Thank goodness. I was running out of counter-arguments!"

He laughs as he opens the door to the ballroom for her.

Andrea steps inside and is officially awed. She's fairly sure her jaw isn't hanging open, but it probably should be. The room is dazzling. She takes note of the young man hurrying in their direction but dismisses him as a potential threat as she gazes around the room. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she tucks that thought away for future contemplation — that even at her wedding reception, she at least considers the possibility of persons with hostile intent. Pablo would blame Maddie, of course. She probably shouldn't mention it to him.

"I'm sorry, you can't come in yet," the young man says. "Mr. Tompkins is on his break, and the bride and groom aren't here yet."

Pablo chuckles. "We are the bride and groom. Or the groom and bride."

"Oh. Oh! Mr. and Mrs. Garcia, I'm so sorry!"

Okay, that takes her attention away from the room. Andi smiles at the hotel staff person and points to Pablo.

"Mr. Garcia."

Then she points to herself.

"Ms. Yazzie."

He blinks as he processes that little bit of information, then thumps his forehead with the heel of his hand.

"Duh! Why do I keep assuming everyone sticks to old traditions?"

Pablo shrugs. "Because more people do than don't? Because when couples arm wrestle over their name, it's the guy who usually wins?" He looks at Andi. "I still think you cheated."

She wraps her arm around his waist and hugs him. "And I think your delusions are adorable. Why do you think I married you?" Glancing at the young man's name tag, she readjusts her shawl before holding out a hand to shake his. "You can call me Andrea, and this is Pablo. You'll be working with Bobby tonight, I take it?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am. Um, Andrea. He's an awful lot of fun to work with."

"Are we talking about the Bobby Tompkins that spent the last six months driving us — but mostly Andrea — out of our minds?" Pablo asks. "Not possible!"

He escapes Andrea's embrace enough to shake Jordan's hand, too.

The staffer shrugs. "Well, I can't say that I know anything outside of his work with us, but he's been amazing. He knows exactly what he wants to be done, which isn't as common as you'd think with wedding planners. I think he's got the chefs eating out of his hand... so to speak," he said, chuckling. "Sometimes, they have problems working together... something about too many dominant personalities in the same room. But they all love him."

Andi nods. "That part sounds like the Bobby we know and love, at any rate." She looks around again. "This was all his doing?"

"The idea, absolutely." Jordan nodded enthusiastically. "We've had other folks coming in and wanting a Starlight theme, but for them, it was just all about making everything as glitzy as possible. Mr. Tompkins played us a song... some of the words were stars fading, but I linger on. Said that was the feeling he wanted to capture."

"Dream a Little Dream of Me..." She smiles. "I'd say you nailed it. It's romantic without being gaudy."

Pablo smiles. "If I didn't how impossible it was, I'd say he got a look at Madeline's outfit months ago and used that as his inspiration."

She chuckles. "It would seem that his faith in his goddess, Martha Stewart, has not been misplaced."

Jordan looks around, no doubt to make sure Bobby isn't sneaking up on him, before leaning in slightly and whispering, "Martha Stewart's got nothing on him." Then he steps back as though nothing had been said at all.

"I'll let Mr. Tompkins know you're here when he returns. Congratulations from all of us at the Brown Palace."

Pablo watches with bemusement as Jordan returns to his task of setting up one of the buffet tables.

"Did he just say Bobby is better at this than Martha Stewart would be?"

Andi nods as she looks around the room again. "That's what I heard, too, yep."

The Grand Ballroom is a considerably bigger space than they need. But Bobby had solved that problem by placing several food stations around the room and arranging for a dance floor that is probably twice the size the Brown Palace typically provides. There is a fair-sized station for the DJ on one side of the room, and a Steinway grand piano near one corner of the dance floor. The round tables aren't set up in regimented rows, nor are they squeezed close together. There are groupings of two or three tables spread out across the entire floor. In other words, there is plenty of room for people to wander around and chat — the whole point of a party if anyone had asked Andrea.

Oh, Bobby had pitched his fit, of course. The thought of a combination buffet and home-style serving for a wedding had made him start twitching. Still not a heart attack, Pablo had muttered at one point. But Andi had wanted something that was comfortable and cozy and truly in keeping with the traditions of a family gathering. Bobby had wanted elegant, unpronounceable foods in tiny portions with an army of waiters. They compromised with the buffet... and all the various types of bread will be on the tables. He had also started keening softly when she had mentioned there would be no head table. It turned into a full-out wail when she then told him there would be no assigned seating either.

Pablo is still waiting for the heart attack, though.

The ceiling is lit to give the impression of a night sky full of stars. The chandelier in the center of the room looks like diamonds dripping down. There is plenty of illumination, of course, from the many wall sconces. No one will need to worry that one of the kids — or Pablo's grandparents, who are nearly as goofy as Henry — will get lost in the dark. Pablo's grandparents might start a game of Hide-and-Seek, anyway.

Andrea is already in love with Pablo's family.

She had put her foot down when Bobby wanted to have a live band playing. After further suggestions of a string quartet and a mini-concert by Harmony, Pablo had also invoked the Rule of the Foot — except he had threatened to kick Bobby's skinny behind with his.

She tugs on Pablo's hand, and they walk over to the table directly under the chandelier. She isn't sure if she should laugh or be appalled. Every other table in the room has a centerpiece of blue and white flowers, with accents of gold and silver. In the center of this table are two... dolls? They look something like the cake toppers one might find at a traditional wedding, except these look eerily like Pablo and her, right down to the clothing. And they're not Barbie doll size, either. Nope, these are closer in size to the American Girl dolls.

Bobby had come in and thought he was sneaking up behind them.

"Pretty amazing, aren't they?" he asks, very proud of his achievement.

Andi stares with horrified fascination at them. "I thought I was your friend, Bobby."

"You are my friend, Andi! I love you! I wouldn't have a unique centerpiece like this made for just anyone, you know."

She turns to look at him. "This is your way of getting even, isn't it?"

"Whatever do you mean, Andi?" he asked innocently.

She squeezes Pablo's hand tightly, still looking at Bobby. "Remind me to use my Kung Fu hands on him later."

Pablo is still staring at the dolls, but she senses his nod. "Absolutely. And you'll remind me to shoot out his knees?"

"You got it."

Bobby looks at Andi, then at Pablo, and finally at the dolls. "You don't like them?" He sounds genuinely puzzled.

"How can I tell?" she asks, allowing a slight tremor to enter her voice. "They terrify me!"

"But I thought..." Bobby's voice just trails off, and he looks incredibly sad.

"Hmm, that was probably the first problem," the detective says.

"Well, he was trying to do something special," his new wife notes.

"True," Pablo says, now looking at Bobby as well. "But hasn't he known you for years?"

Bobby, still not understanding what is wrong with the dolls, attempts to placate them. Well, Andrea, anyway.

"I made an angel food cake just for you."

She looks over at the enormous, entirely too big cake that looks almost like it's nestled in a shrine. Apparently, she hasn't been to enough weddings in her life because that just seems... strange? Well, the cake is lovely. But it has its own little tulle canopy over it, and odd little doodads all around it.


Seriously... her idea of "simple" and Bobby's idea of "simple" are at least two time zones away from one another.

"Well..." she pauses and looks back at the dolls. Is she the only person who thinks an entirely too realistic-looking doll of themselves is creepy? Nope, Pablo is with her on this one, at least.

"Okay, I'll only Gibbs slap you a few times." In this case, she thinks she's going to define "few" as "at least two dozen."

"I still get to shoot him, though, right?" Pablo asks.

"Yes, but only one knee."

He, too, pauses to consider the dolls and looks over at the cake.

"What's the rest of the cake's flavor?" he asks, almost sounding innocent.

"Ah, well, since I made you your own cake," Bobby says, "and, um, most people like chocolate, I made the bottom layer chocolate. There's a white layer, too! And, um, a yellow layer and a marble layer."

Pablo nods. "Okay. Just one knee. I like cake."

As Andi looks over Bobby's shoulder, she can see a curly-haired moppet peek through the door. She grins and waves.

"Kimberly! Come on in! You brought your folks and Nate, I hope."

She smiles as brightly as a happy, healthy five-year-old possibly can and pushes one of the double doors open to reveal her parents behind her. Michael is helping her push the door open, and Martha is carrying four-month-old Nate in her arms.

"Hi, Aunt Andi! Hi, Uncle Pablo! Happy getting married day!"

Her parents chuckle, as do Andi and Pablo.

"Thank you, Kimberly," Pablo says. "I'm so glad all of you came to our party."

"Nate would say happy wedding day, too, except he doesn't really talk very well yet," Kimberly says solemnly.

"We understand," Andi says. "It's just nice that he's thinking happy thoughts for us, too."

Martha laughs. "We didn't mean to be so early, I promise. But someone was very excited about seeing you, and there was virtually no traffic at all."

Andi turns a bemused Bobby around to face them — and the door — as they approach.

"Bobby, these are our friends Michael and Martha Varano, their daughter Kimberly, and their son Nate. Folks, this is my best friend Bobby Tompkins, who pulled all of this together for us."

As handshakes, hugs, and greetings are exchanged, she briefly wonders how many times she's going to need to introduce people this afternoon... that is until she remembers that it's not her job at her own wedding. It feels weird.

"I'm sure it's been wonderful to have your families here," Michael says. "You all had a good Christmas, I hope."

She smiles as Pablo links his arm with hers. "Despite having a large family, it couldn't have been more peaceful. Yours was beautiful as well, I hope."

They haven't had a chance to chat in the past few days. So here they are, just a group of superheroes exchanging updates. Yep. Christmas Day was quiet. Nothing going on that DPD couldn't handle.

Martha smiles at the children. "It was a beautiful Christmas, thank you."

It was marvelous that their dad didn't need to go out on patrol that day.

Andi and Pablo exchange a smile. This time next year, they'll be hoping none of them need to go out on patrol.

"Oh, Andrea," Michael says, almost as an afterthought. "I checked out those new stores in the outlet mall that your friend mentioned." He shakes his head and almost, but not quite, rolls his eyes. "Definitely not worth the drive down there."

"Really? Well, Ms. Forsythe will either be pleased to hear someone took the time to check them out or disappointed that she'll need to make the drive herself."

Michael chuckles. "Both would be true, I'd venture to guess."

Detective Forsythe of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office had given Ninja a call about another gang of hoodlums terrorizing shoppers and store clerks down at the outlet mall and asked her to look into it. She had passed the information on to Peregrine... figuring that one or the other of them would get down there this week. Apparently, Peregrine took care of the problem, or at least the core of the problem, so that Forsythe and her people could do the mop-up work... leaving Ninja out of it entirely. Which, as Michael has noted, was both good news and bad news for Forsythe as Ninja always manage to say or do something crazy enough to make her laugh.

Kimberly climbs up on one of the chairs and looks at the dolls. Actually, she seems entirely too entranced by them.

"Mommy, did you see the dolls?" A ring of wonder is in her voice. "They looked just like Aunt Andi and Uncle Pablo!"

"I'm glad someone appreciates them," Bobby mutters under his breath, not realizing that Andi can hear him.

Martha looks over her daughter's shoulder. "Goodness! That certainly is an accurate likeness of you both."

"I met the nicest lady online who makes custom dolls," Bobby explains. "When I found out she lives right here in the Denver area, well, I just had to meet her!" He gives the bride and groom a disapproving look. "These two didn't give me nearly enough time, but Connie is retired and said she'd love the challenge. So here they are!"

Martha gasps and stares at Bobby. "You don't mean Connie Marshall, do you?"

"Why, yes!" Bobby exclaims. "You know her, too?"

"I know of her. She was one of the best doll doctors in the country. I thought she retired years ago."

Bobby waves a hand dismissively. "Oh, well, yes. But she's just about as sweet as Andi's grandmother, and she said the project was exciting."

"They're the prettiest dolls I've ever seen," Kimberly says.

Andi looks at the two frightening things. Then she looks at the joy on Kimberly's face. She has a terrible, terrible idea. She looks at Pablo.

Should I?

He barely twitches an eyebrow. I wish you would.

She slips out from his embrace and walks to the other side of the table. From there she can pick up the dolls, which are fortunately attached to stands. She carries them back to Kimberly.

"I think one of my favorite girls should have the prettiest dolls she's ever seen, then."

Both Bobby and Martha gasp.

Fortunately, Michael remains level-headed. "Are you sure, Andrea? You both have nieces, don't you? Shouldn't you keep them in the family?"

Kimberly climbs down from the chair and stands between her parents.

"Why can't we consider you family, too?"

"But Andi!!" They probably aren't going to get a heart attack out of Bobby today, but every little bit of torture helps.

"But Andi, nothing," she says, shaking the Andrea doll in his face. "Maybe, just maybe when I was eight I would have appreciated a doll with my eight year old face on it. I'm an adult. This doll has an adult face. I would have to rent a storage unit for these things. You made me watch that movie with the Chucky doll! I'd have to rent a storage unit in New York, for gods' sakes!"

"No, not New York," Pablo says. "Madeline's kids go to school in New York."

"Oh. You're right. It would have to be in Florida then. Or maybe South Africa!"

"But they're not scary to me, Aunt Andi," Kimberly says, looking up at her parents, confused by all the fuss.

Andi takes a deep breath as she eyes Bobby. "Watch this," she says, "because this is your own fault for making me watch that horrifying movie." Then she turns and hands the Andrea doll to Kimberly, who holds it as though it's almost as precious as her little brother.

"Oh, thank you, Aunt Andi!"

"You're very welcome, Kimberly."

"Andrea, you really don't need to..." Martha starts to say but stops when she sees the smile on Andi's face. "Well. Maybe you do."

"Andi, you can't just give them away!"

Ah, poor Bobby. If they didn't creep her out so much, Andrea might almost feel sorry for him. She's sure he went to a lot of trouble and expense to get them made.

"It's my party, and I'll do what I want to," she sings, "do what I want to, do what I want to! And you would, too, if the doll looked like you!"

"Hey, that was pretty good improvising," Pablo says.

"I have my moments."

"Did I hear Andi singing out here?" David asks as he comes in from some secret door... possibly from the kitchen.

"She's giving her doll away!" Bobby says, horrified.

"No, I'm giving them both away," Andi clarifies.

That said, she lifts Michael's arm, tucks the Pablo doll under it, and lowers his arm again. Then she smiles even more happily as she looks at Kimberly.

"There are only two things I'd like you to remember about the dolls, Kimberly, okay? Now, I'm sure I don't really have to tell you, but it will make Bobby feel better if I do. You ready?"

She nods, eyes wide and expression serious.

"Take good care of the dolls. And when you share them with Nate — I know you'd do that because you're such a marvelous big sister — help him take good care of them, too. Can you do that?"

Kimberly nods. "Oh, yes, Aunt Andi! I can do that! And I will!"

Andrea looks at Kimmy's parents, who are doing their damnedest not to smile, let alone laugh. She looks at Pablo, who looks utterly relieved. Then she breathes a sigh of relief before turning to Bobby.

"Gosh, that was fun! This is turning into a great party already!" She beams at him. "I've always said you know how to throw a party, Bobby!"

He looks a little bit like a fish as he opens and closes his mouth, but no sound comes out.

She smiles at David. "Hope you brought the smelling salts."

He just smiles. "I've learned my lesson. When you two are at the party, one of us will need them." Then he winks.

"Good!" She takes off her shawl and lets the soft fabrics and tiny beads puddle in the middle of the table where the dolls had been, arranging it artfully. Semi-artfully? Whatever... she thinks it looks nice.

"Ooh, Kimberly! You'll like Pablo's niece, Melissa, I think. She's very special. She's..." She turns to Pablo. "Four?"

He nods. "Just turned four in October."

"If I show her how to take care of them, is it okay if we play with the dolls together?"

"I certainly don't see why not!"

"I think it would be great," Pablo says. "Her mom will be thrilled." He considers the doll under Michael's arm. "And I will be teased for the rest of my life."

Bobby just sniffs. "Well." Then he glares at the newlyweds. "You two should be by the door. Where's your receiving line?"

The two of them look at one another.

"Since when do parties have receiving lines?" he asks.

"No clue. And you can't really make a line out of two people anyway."

"No, but once we get more people here, we can form up a conga line."

"True, but if my dad or uncles or — heaven forfend! — Henry is around, it will definitely turn into a bunny hop."

"That's okay! The bunny hop is fun, too." Pablo smiles angelically at Bobby. "I hope you told the DJ to bring music so we can do the Chicken Dance, too."

Bobby begins a soft but unusually high-pitched whine, and Andi looks at him with concern.

"I think you need a tune-up, dear. Or your transmission is going. Or something."

David clamps his jaws shut so that he doesn't start laughing. After a moment, he says, as he gently tugs on Bobby's sleeve, "Sweetie, let's go make sure the doors are propped open correctly, and the food people are doing all the right things, okay? And that nice DJ should be here any minute now."

They wait until Bobby and David are out of earshot and then Pablo sighs. "That's probably the best we're going to get out of him today. But to be honest, I wouldn't expect him to fall apart tonight. He'll be on his best behavior to impress Madeline."

Andi grins. "If he can keep from squealing with delight and turning Hank into a room decoration, that will impress me. But I know my sister has higher standards."

They probably won't have a whole lot of time to just chat with Michael and Martha, but they manage to talk about absolutely ordinary things as the family chooses a table off to one side... just in case Nate gets tired and cranky, Martha claims. His big sister, on the other hand, insists that he'll be perfectly well behaved.

Andi needs to remember to ask Talia when their hellions will arrive.

# # #

It's taken a bit of corralling to get everyone back into the car and then back to the hotel, mostly due to the fact that the twins are inseparable from Billy. Madeline finally suggests that Billy come to the hotel with them and they can all hang out in their suite while Madeline takes care of a couple things — namely the collection of Charles and Hank from the airport. Talia comes over within seconds of the suggestion and asks if she can join them too. It's a good thing she had decided to rent the eight-seater SUV as they have now exceeded the capacity of both Humvees. As it was, one of the Humvees will now also need to be driven to the Brown Palace.

On the return trip to the Golden, Madeline merely pulls into the roundabout out front to let her passengers disembark. Billy and the twins practically tumble out, followed only slightly more seriously by Leon and Jenny who have occasionally broken off from staring at each other to interact with the back seat circus. Talia has been chuckling too and wears a knowing smile while watching Leon and Jenny. Logan is the last to exit.

"Good luck, darlin'," Madeline says to him. "I'll call when I'm almost back from the airport."

He nods then leans in for a kiss before exiting the car. She drives away while he follows their pack inside.

The interior of the car is stunningly silent once she's the lone occupant. It doesn't bother her, though, as she heads back into traffic and toward the airport — not DIA but Rocky Mountain Metropolitan. It's closer and more private. She had arranged a charter flight for Charles and Hank from Westchester to RMM and had informed them that she would collect them herself. The reason for that is two-fold: Firstly, she wants to visit with just them by herself. Secondly, she figures it's more secure than hiring out a car. People could still be stupid about Hank's appearance, and she isn't going to risk anyone ruining Andi and Pablo's day.

She drives up to the gate and is directed to the appropriate waiting area for her expected plane. There's covered parking and indoor seating. She pulls her royal blue silk and wool wrap about her shoulders and goes inside to wait; the flight will be arriving shortly.

A young man approaches her. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Jacobs. I am Marcus. Might I be able to offer you something warm to drink, coffee or tea, while you wait for your arrivals?"

"Green tea would be lovely."

"Any sweetener?"

"One sugar, please."

"Very good, Madam. There is an assortment of pastries, fruits, and cheese on the sidebar as well."

"Thank you. I will pass."

Madeline knows there will be copious amounts of food at the reception.

Marcus brings her the tea, and she sips at it as she relaxes into one of the club chairs. She's done with it by the time the flight lands and taxies to the private hangar. She watches as first the wheelchair is brought down then as Charles allows himself to be carried to it by the flight staff. Hank descends the stairs immediately afterward and stands beside Charles.

Presumably, the one attendant says something to the effect of, "This way, gentlemen," and leads them toward the tarmac-side hangar entrance. He opens the door and holds it long enough for them to get inside, then returns to the plane.

"Charles, Hank," Madeline greets them both, warmly hugging each of them. "I'm very glad you could make the journey. You both look quite dapper."

"Madeline, I assure you, it is our utmost pleasure," Charles replies. "And you are lovely as ever."

"I concur," agrees Hank. "Where is the rest of your lovely family?"

"Waiting for us at our hotel. A couple of Andi's cousins joined us on the drive back since we had a couple of hours between the ceremony and reception. I believe they are keeping the children entertained. The car is this way."

The three of them speak more freely once ensconced in the SUV.

"It's nice to get together outside of a world-ending event," Madeline tells them.

"Most assuredly, Madeline." Charles chuckles. "I take it you have managed to stay out of trouble recently then."

"A step ahead of it more likely," Hank teases.

"Guilty as charged," Madeline admits with a laugh. "Trouble does pretty much always seem to know where I am. How are your new staff members doing?"

"Quite well. They are a good fit," Charles says.

"Yes, they are," Hank adds. "It's been quite helpful to have an assistant."

"Excellent! When we come back that way, I'd like to go over all that stuff we found back in October. But I don't want to talk about it today. On more intriguing subjects, Leon and Jenny have become even closer. Do you see what I've been seeing these last couple of days?"

Charles chuckles again. "They are quite a pair. Even so, it's time for Leon to really think about his higher studies. He's slightly ahead of her, so they may have to endure a slight separation."

"What did you have in mind, Charles?"

"Advanced mathematics and physics are his strong subjects. He could go into theoretical work, possibly research and development."

"With you there at the school? Or maybe he should expand his horizons a bit. Are you thinking he might become an X-man?"

"Everyone has to make their own choice, but I would not turn him away."

"And your opinion, Hank?" she asks as she glances in her rearview mirror to see him.

"Any branch of physics — practical, applied, theoretical. I do think it would be good for him to expand his horizons, though. He's been with us longer than many usually are."

"And your feelings, Madeline?" Charles prompts.

"I just want him to be happy, though if he chose to study in France..."

"And what of the twins?"

"Not yet. I'm not ready, and I don't think Logan is yet either. Maybe in three or four years. Not that they haven't already started asking and pointing out that Leon was their age when he started there."

"But Leon's gifts manifested quite early," Charles says. "He maybe should have come earlier, but I know none of you were ready for that, especially his mother."

"Most especially his mother," Madeline agrees. "Their gifts are manifesting, though. Em has claws like Logan and burgeoning Empathy. Vin has been testing his telepathy, not always intentionally either.

"One of the cousins, Billy, has been intrigued by Leon's description of the school, even Em's and Vin's. He may want to visit to see what it is like. He's certainly older than your typical students though you wouldn't know it by his behavior much of the time. He's definitely still a kid at heart. He's a shapeshifter. Em adores him. You'll have a chance to meet him when we pick up everyone from the Golden. From what I understand, he hasn't been outside of the Nation much. And, Hank, don't be surprised if he tries to imitate you."

"I will consider myself duly warned," Hank tells her.

"We don't need to go over to the reception right away, but if we do, you'll be able to catch up with Andi and Pablo before most everyone descends. What's your preference?"

"How long will it take to get everyone in the cars?"

"Good point."

Hank leans forward. "How was your visit with Jenny's family?"

"Nice. Different. A little odd for me. Her parents are lovely people, and Timothee isn't that different from Em and Vin. And fortunately I have a somewhat regular job to talk about when that sort of discussion comes up... not there is much common ground with a rancher and an artist."

"But you are quite adept at blending into your surroundings, Madeline," Charles says with a wink.

"Flatterer," she replies in the same vein. "I wasn't working."

"By and by," says Hank, "The students that visited Fashion Week are still talking about it."

"Heavens, that was four months ago! You would think something else would have caught their attention by now."

"They were very impressed by you and your staff. And it gives the girls an excuse to talk to Leon."

"The fact that he is utterly smitten with Jenny notwithstanding?"


Madeline laughs. "I'm glad it's you dealing with it, and not me."

"Not much to 'deal with.' Leon is oblivious. And Jenny is just as smitten with him."

"Yes, I had noticed."

She presses the call button on the steering wheel and instructs her phone to call Logan's. "We're about ten minutes out. Meet us out front?"

"We'll be ready, darlin'."

Charles chuckles as she disconnects. "Loquacious as ever. So our welcoming committee will be waiting."

"That's the plan. I hope you are prepared to field many questions. There is an abundance of curiosity in the family."

"Eager students of all ages are always welcome."

Madeline laughs again, but otherwise, they fall silent for the last few minutes before pulling into the hotel's drive. As promised, the entire group is waiting for them out front. There's the normal jostling from Em, Vin, and Billy and the near complete-obliviousness of the teens in love. Logan stands by patiently with Talia at his side.

Logan comes around to the driver's side when she stops and parks the car. Madeline rolls down her window. "Did you already make seating arrangements?"

He nods. "Leon and Jenny will ride with me."

As he finishes, the rear passenger door is opened.

"Hi, Professors," Leon and Jenny both say.

"Hi, Mom."

"Hi, Mrs. Jacobs."

Em and Vin echo them a moment later. Vin clambers into the back and looks expectantly at Billy who just stands there staring at Hank with his mouth open.

Talia elbows Billy in the ribs. "Billy Yazzie, mind your manners and quit staring."

Billy jumps at the sharpness of her elbow. "What? Huh? Oh, yeah, right."

Madeline turns in her seat to look over. "Charles, Hank... meet Talia Yazzie and Billy Yazzie, two of the cousins. Talia, Billy... this is Doctor Henry McCoy that seems to have Billy's undivided attention and Professor Charles Xavier.

"Nice to meet you both, Professor, Doctor," Talia tells them, then elbows Billy again.

"Oh, yeah. Nice to meet you. I guess we're riding with you."

He moves to take the next seat in the second row, but Talia stops him. "In the back with you, Billy. Remember, you said you'd sit with Em and Vin."

"Oh, yeah, right, I did. Scoot over, Vin, I'm coming in."

"I'm already all the way over, Billy," Vin says in exasperation.

Em is seated only a few seconds after Billy slides all the way in. Talia gives Billy a warning look before climbing in herself.

Hank is smiling. "It is a great pleasure to meet both of you."

"Indeed," Charles echoes. "So, young Billy, Madeline tells me you might be interested in visiting our school."

Madeline and Logan share a look and a quick kiss.

"Off to the races," she whispers. "See you there."

He nods before sauntering away toward the Humvee where Leon and Jenny are waiting.

Billy has yet to answer Charles.

"Billy!" Talia chastises. "Pay attention and stop trying to figure out how to become Doctor McCoy."

"I wasn't..." The words die on his lips at her look.

"Please call me Hank, Miss Yazzie."

Talia smiles over at him. "And I'm not Miss Anything. Just Talia."

"Talia it is then."

She looks at Charles now. "I'm sorry, Professor. Billy's always a bit goofy, but this is bad even for him. He's just lucky Andi isn't here. But I'm going to tell her, Billy!"

"What? No, Talia, please, it's just that he's…" And Billy waves at Hank.

"Oh, for heaven's sake, Billy, you've turned yourself into a purple cow and any assorted number of animals and cartoon characters. Leave Doctor McCoy alone. Now, answer Professor Xavier."

He does manage to look chagrined as he looks at Charles. "Sorry. Um, yeah, Leon was telling me about your school. How everyone there is, well, like us. And I thought it would be neat to visit, and Talia said it would be okay to leave for a visit. I mean if you don't mind. Em and Vin will go there too at some point, right?"

"Yeah, we will," Vin speaks up.


Vincent and Madeline's eyes meet in the rearview mirror.

"When mom and dad say okay anyway," he adds quickly.

There's a giggle from Em. "Mom, if Billy goes this year, can we too?"

"Yes, you may also visit, Emelia." There's a hint of warning in Madeline's tone.

They are eager, Charles says.

Madeline just nods.

Young Emelia's query seems to have more to do with Billy than with the school.

She nods again, holding in a grin.


"Yes, Madeline?"

"I should warn you. Andi's friend Bobby will be there. She seems to think he may have a somewhat similar reaction to your visage."

"Well, there are certainly worse reactions," he says with a chuckle before shifting to address Billy. "And what is it you do when not turning yourself into a cartoon?"

It's another fairly short drive for which Madeline is grateful. Hank has the kids, including Billy, well in hand. Talia even manages a conversation with Charles. She seems very interested in him.

The Infinity SUV and the Humvee park side by side. Logan is out and at the back of the SUV listening for the locks to disengage before Madeline has even turned off the engine. He raises the back and easily lifted out Xavier's wheelchair then brings it forward.

"Charles?" he asks.

"Yes, thank you, Logan."

Madeline, Hank, Talia and the kids all exit via the driver's side while Logan helps Charles into his chair. After a quick lock-up of all the vehicles, they all troop inside with Madeline and Hank leading the way and Logan and Charles bringing up the rear — the better to keep an eye on Billy and the twins. Wayfinding directs them to where they need to be, and soon they're entering the ballroom.

The bride and groom have already arrived ahead of them.

Rene steps into place beside Madeline as she and Hank enter.

"Andi, Pablo," she calls out, "The circus is here. We do seem to have added another clown since our arrival though."

Andi is watching Kimberly talking to her little brother, now awake in his mother's arms. It's so sweet that she loves him so much. There's no pretending there. It's possible that they do understand one another — after all, those two have been able to communicate with her when they absolutely shouldn't have. The fact that Michael and Martha are perfectly content with allowing their children to be exactly who they are is an inspiration. She has a feeling she's going to be calling Martha quite a lot. Andi also suspects Martha won't laugh at her as much as Maddie would.

When Maddie announces herself, Bobby squeals. Oh, no... not in fright. She swears to the Gods, Buddhas, and Spirits that he sounds like a teenage girl at a concert for whoever the favorite singing idol of the moment might be. For a person with hypersensitive hearing?

Andrea winces.

Even without super-sensitive hearing, Madeline cringes. Em and Logan do so even more.

"Billy, you're forgiven for just staring," Madeline says as the newlyweds approach.

Pablo is kind enough not to laugh at the spectacle Bobby is making of himself.

"It's bad, isn't it?"

"I think Bobby is designing some kind of outfit in his head as we speak.

"Gods, poor Hank." She takes a deep breath. "Well, I'd better Kung Fu him. You can shoot him later."

Hand in hand, they walk toward Maddie and her family. Squad? Nah, she's not working. As Andi smiles at Charles and Hank, raising an eyebrow at Rene, she's angling toward Bobby.

"It's so good to see you again, Charles... Hank. Excuse me for just a moment, will you?"

By this time, she has stepped up behind Bobby and has smacked him on the back of the head. That is not a Gibbs slap. Leroy Jethro Gibbs never hit anyone as hard as she hit Bobby. Oh, not enough to hurt him, but he does stop his infernal wailing immediately.

The look he gives her is one of utter disbelief.

"Did... did you just hit me, Andi?"

"Were you the one just screeching like a crazy person?"

David nods. "I'm afraid that was him."

She returns the nod. "Then yes, Bobby. I just hit you."

"You're a librarian!"

Andrea looks at Pablo, who just shrugs. "Oh, fat lot of help you are, Husband." But she does wink at him before looking at Bobby again.

"Until I got laid off at the beginning of the month, I was, indeed, a librarian." She thoughtfully studies the ceiling for a moment. "Though one might say 'once a librarian, always a librarian.'" Shrugging, she looks back at her best friend. "I am also a Taiji Master, and that was part of a pose called White Crane Spreads Its Wings. You were in the crane's way.

"Also? My friend Hank is not a rock star, and if you've scared the baby with your caterwauling, I'm going to be quite upset with you."

"Oh, Nate wasn't scared, Aunt Andi!" Kimberly volunteers.

Andi glares at Bobby anyway before leading Pablo over to the group with Maddie. At least Bobby's antics have allowed everyone to enter the ballroom.

"Pablo, you didn't get to meet Charles and Hank at Halloween."

"I didn't," he says softly enough that Bobby can't hear over his own sniffling, "and from the way you talked about them, I had at least expected them to be glowing!" He smiles at them in that slightly bemused way of his that means he is deliriously happy, in a publicly appropriate way.

Andi chuckles. "Charles... Hank... my husband, Pablo Garcia."

Then she pats Pablo's hand. "They are glowing, dear."

"A pleasure to meet you, Pablo. And congratulations on the happy occasion," Charles says as he shakes Pablo's hand.

"I humbly echo my friend's sentiments, Pablo. May many happy years lie ahead of you both," Hank says.

While Pablo shakes hands with Charles and Hank, she gives Rene the more appropriate hug and slightly more appropriate kiss that wouldn't have gone over very well at the Coliseum. "I'm glad you're here, Rene."

"Where else would I be but with my family, Andi?" Rene offers with a charming smile and a twinkle in his eye.

She smiles at Rene. "I love you, too, Brother."

Pablo accepts the men's kind words graciously, always the gentleman. "Thank you, Professor... Doctor. If the past few months have been any indication, we'll have happiness to share."

Andi only needs to take a step back into Pablo's embrace, wrapping her arm around his waist so she can face Charles and Hank again.

"However," Pablo continues as he looks at her, "I think I'd prefer less of the crazy stuff. Please?"

She laughs. "Darling, I'm a Magnet for Weird. I can't promise anything so drastic."

Pablo looks over at Talia, who raises her hands in a defensive posture.

"No, no, no... leave me out of this, you two!" she says, laughing.

Even if she knows any of the crazy stuff that will happen — and Andi is fairly sure she does — she'll never tell. The bride exhales a sigh of contentment. It's better that way.

Hank shakes his head. "Call me Hank, please. It's only the young ones like my students over there that I insist on formality." His head dips toward Jenny and Leon, who are unashamedly holding hands and looking at all the decorations. Jenny has a look of delighted wonder on her face.

"I insist you call me Charles. If you keep up with the Professor bit, I will only address you as Detective," Charles teases.

Pablo chuckles. "Even my wife calls me 'Detective' when she's in one of her—" He stops when he feels the jab in his ribs. "Well, first names work just fine."

"It means a lot to me, to us that you're here," his wife, the jabber, says to Charles and Hank. "I have quite a few messages for you both from some folks up north that a mutual friend asked me to pass along. Later, though."

"We were surprised and delighted by the invitation, Andrea," Charles answers. "And yes, I believe Madeline had other things she wanted to talk about later as well."

As she looks at Maddie, Andi suspects that her eyes have the partially glazed-over look to them that always seems to happen when she tries to follow the tangled knots of qi. But there's a connection between them that is almost blindingly bright; it's the qi that represents the fusing of a torn soul. It is vibrant enough to tint the colors of the Pentad connection; it is sufficiently brilliant to brighten and strengthen what the five of them have become. As she traces the connection Maddie has with Charles, she smiles.

Andrea loves that she can see all the connections that lead to him, but he's invisible to her other sight.

"All things considered, Charles, it really shouldn't have been that much of a surprise."

Charles merely shrugs and smiles. Far be it for him to contradict the bride on her day.

"For now... welcome to the party! Our friends Michael and Martha are already here. I believe you met Michael on one of your return trips that day, Hank. Their children are—"

Kimberly walks up, not the least bit shy, and stops in front of Charles. She has the terrifying Andi doll in her arms.

"My grandpa is bald, too," she announces. "Daddy says when a person gets really, really smart, their hair gets intin... intem... intimidated and falls out. Only for men, though. You must be very smart!" Her gaze travels to Hank, and she grins delightfully. "You are really handsome and pretty. Will you come say hi to my brother Nate? I think he would like to see you. Blue is his favorite color." She giggles. "At least, it is today."

Andrea has managed not to laugh.

When little Kimberly approaches and addresses Charles, Madeline presses her lips together in a mirthful smile. She is saved, somewhat, by Logan coming up behind her and rests his hands on her hips.

"Precocious," he rumbles softly.

Madeline nods in emphatic agreement.

"This is Michael and Martha's daughter, Kimberly Varano," Andrea says. "Kimberly, this very smart man is Professor Charles Xavier, and his handsome friend is Doctor Hank McCoy."

She bounces on her toes a couple of times. "I know another Doctor McCoy!! He's on the TV sometimes, and he says 'Dam it, Jim' a lot. My mommy and daddy say I shouldn't say that because it's a different kind of dam than the beavers make."

Andi blinks. The world is full of Trekkies! Little bold ones at that.

Charles half bows to the child. "It's a very great pleasure to meet you, Miss Kimberly."

Hank laughs at the Star Trek reference before telling her, "I should like very much to one day be able to travel on a spaceship and explore the universe just like that Doctor McCoy."

Em is no longer stuck to Billy's side but looking longingly toward the food. Her nose even twitches a bit.

"Hi, Aunt Andi, Tio Pablo," she does manage to say.

Em's pull toward the food reminds Andi that she didn't get enough at lunch either. Two PBJs and a piece of frybread? Nope, definitely not enough!

"Hi, Em... hi, Vin. This is only slightly more formal than lunch was — and only because Bobby refused to serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches." She glances over at said wedding planner, who looks dazed and confused. David just shrugs and pats his jacket pocket. "So if you're hungry..." It's her turn to shrug as she looks at their parents.

Pablo laughs. "Oh, just go get yourselves some food, guys. Bobby swore by Martha Stewart that there would be plenty of food."

"Roast wildebeest even!"

Pablo sighs. "Beef... roast beef, Andi."

She rolls her eyes and addresses the twins. "Sometimes, he puts his imagination down for a nap. He insists the wild boar is actually ham."

Em grins at Andi and then looks at Pablo. "Could be worse. Could be roast moose."

Vin pulls a disgusted face as he agrees with his sister.

Madeline whispers to Logan, "You didn't?!"

His reply is a non-committal rumble.

Andi nods at the twins' opinion of moose. "Can't imagine moose would be very good without a lot of prep. And good spices."

"Can we, mom?" Vin asks, pointedly ignoring Logan for the moment.

"Go ahead, kids," Madeline tells them. "Try to leave something for the rest of us though, okay?"

"Sure, mom," Em says before happily dashing off towards the food with her brother at her heels.

She chuckles as they head off for the food. Then, as her cousin starts to move in the same direction, Andi points a finger at Billy. "Don't you move."

She grins and looks at the twins' older brother. Oh, yes... he and his Jenny have the real deal there.

"I didn't get to say it before when the whole family was swarming all over us, but it's wonderful to see you again, Leon. And Jenny, thanks again for joining our family."

She means that in more than one way, of course. It's an acknowledgment of her presence at today's ceremony and party, but it's also a heartfelt appreciation for the light she's brought into her nephew's life.

Leon and Jenny both blush.

Ah, and teenagers! Once more, Andi finds that she appreciates her adolescence in rural China.

"You, too, Aunt Andi," Leon says.

"Thank you," Jenny says with a somewhat self-conscious smile. "Um, is it okay if I call you Aunt Andi, too?"

"Of course! The whole concept of 'family' is somewhat loose, so 'Aunt Andi' is just fine." Her gaze follows Jenny's across the lighted ceiling.

"If you want to know how they pulled off this bit of artistic magic," she adds with a chuckle, "talk to Bobby, the dazed and confused guy over there. Don't worry, David — that's his fiancé — brought some smelling salts. Ought to get him back to coherency pretty quickly."

"It really is beautiful in here," Jenny agrees.

Andi smiles and takes another look around the room. "Bobby really is a genius, isn't he? I suppose his only fault is that sometimes he's a mad genius." She steps a little closer so she can conspiratorially whisper to Leon and Jenny. "Avoid his costume parties. And anything that has a theme he hatched." She lets them have some privacy to talk about whatever teens talk about in a beautiful room.

Then Andi looks at her cousin and stares at him for a few seconds, which makes him nervous.

"William Jefferson Yazzie the Third..."

"Ut oh."

"Exactly, favorite cousin of mine... ut oh." She shakes her head, the disappointment obvious. Looking at Talia, Andi can see her trying not to laugh.

"Tali, am I going to need anything stronger than the Mom Voice to convince your brother that imitating my friend Hank is something he isn't going to do? Ever?"

Talia looks at Billy, then at Hank, then at Billy again. He's looking even more nervous than when Andi stared at him.

Finally, Talia shakes her head. "Nope. That — and possibly a reminder of his current mortification — will be plenty."

"Wonderful! Get out of here, Billy. Shoo. Scat. And Tali, I do have another question for you..."

"Oh, no, you don't," she says, sternly. Sternly!! "You know better."

"But Talia... it's a question you wanted to answer before I was ready to ask it! Remember? Back in Flagstaff?"

Andi pouts a little, and Talia blinks.

"Oh. That one. Okay, sure. June 28." Then she narrows her eyes at her cousin. "You're planning to do something crazy, aren't you? All of you? I still get queasy even thinking about the five of you together."

Andi laughs. "When am I not, Talia? It's my idiom. Apparently. Hmm, cutting things a little close, but we should be fine." She nods.

Pablo sighs and looks at Rene as he tightens his arm around Andi slightly.

"You're not leaving me out of this one."

Rene looks over to Andi and then to Pablo. "When you see what's needed, you may wish she had.

Madeline gives Rene's hand a squeeze, and even Logan's eyes are briefly hooded.

Pablo gives his wife an odd look, and she just shakes her head. "I'll tell you before you need to know, Pablito. But today is not the day for it." Then Andi rests her head against his shoulder for a moment. "No. Rene and I going to need you there, for sure. Rene will need his Brothers and his Wife... and his Sister, but she's going to need her Husband to keep her from choking the life out of an FBI agent."

Taking in the expressions of the others in the Pentad, and the feelings thrumming through their connection, he nods but says nothing.

Talia clears her throat.

"Oh. Okay, maybe the Army Special Forces can manage that... the ones who aren't helping Rene. Thanks for reminding me, Cousin."

"Well, I do try to keep people from doing the little things they'll regret later."

"Oh, I'm not sure I'd regret wringing Van Dorn's neck."


"Yes, Pablo."

"Tell Ninja to go back to sleep before you scare Bobby and David."

"Yes, dear." She's able to smile weakly. "I did do some checking into the background of this Brennan woman Van Dorn raved about. At least he wasn't wrong about that. She gives a damn, and then some."

In an effort to chase away the sudden coolness of the atmosphere, Madeline says, "Oh, I should introduce Hank and Charles to our fan club directly. You did say David has smelling salts on him, right, Andi? He may just need them for himself. Rene, love, you may not want to be wholly visible for this one."

Maddie elicits a more natural and cheerful smile from her sister. "Oh, yes. He has the smelling salts. But he also promised to behave himself like a respectable doctor of psychology should." She snickers as she looks over at the DJ booth, where a young man has snuck in and is setting things up. "While you introduce Charles and Hank, I'm going to make sure the children..." She pats Pablo's arm. "...will be able to do the Chicken Dance. Oh, don't forget to say hi to Nate," she says, winking to Kimberly who is still looking up at Hank.

The little girl nods. "Nate has the Pablo doll, and mommy is making sure he's being very careful with it."

Fortunately — or maybe, unfortunately — Andi doesn't see any other friends or family hanging around the doorway outside the ballroom. Could Deb and Clara have actually tried to be ordinary humans for once?

Nah! They must have found someone to natter at.

"Is this thing you won't tell me about really that awful, Andi?" Pablo asks as they walk across the room.

She hesitates, not wanting to mar this day for him.

"It is. And that's why I won't talk about it today. Not on our wedding day."

"I accept that. This will be a day of joy, and we won't speak of the hardships ahead." He squeezes her hand. "Even though we know they're out there."

"You're a wise man sometimes, Husband."

"I do have my moments, don't I?"

She just rolls her eyes at him. No sense letting the DJ know the newlyweds are crazy people. It's too early.

The young man is hefting some equipment onto the platform. He's wearing jeans, sneakers, and a dress shirt with sleeves rolled up that's the same color blue as Pablo's shirt — or as close as Andi can tell in this light. When he turns around, she can see his tie, which is predominantly silver, purple, and gold and looks like an optical illusion. Especially when he moves, which he does almost constantly. She's seen qi signatures that look like that... humans don't have qi signatures like that.

And unless her eyes have suddenly gone bad — they haven't — or she's hallucinating — doubtful — he's also wearing glitter.

That's when her smile turns into a grin.

There's purple and blue, quite a lot of both, really. And then there's the iridescent sort that keeps changing color. Unless that's his qi.



"You're staring at the DJ."

"No, I'm not."

"Um, yeah... you are."

She shakes her head. "No. I'm looking at his..." She sketches an outline of his aura.

Pablo sighs. "You'll have to excuse my wife. She's an aging hippie... ow! And she sees auras."

The DJ laughs. "It's not the weirdest thing I've ever heard, trust me." He reaches out a hand to shake ours, then pauses. "How do you feel about the transfer of glitter?"

Andi looks down at her dress and the million pounds of beads, and then at the borrowed jewelry that her husband is wearing. Then she chuckles.

"Under other circumstances, I'd say bring it on. But I suspect my mother and grandmother would insist I locate every speck of glitter — all the visible bits and then all the bits that are hidden behind and inside all these beads — and make me remove it all with tweezers. And I'm pretty that would be more difficult than Master Chen's mother telling me to pick out all the grains of rice she'd dumped in a snowbank. With chopsticks. During my first winter with them."

"There's this newfangled thing called a vacuum cleaner," Pablo says. "And the even more modern invention of canned air."

She nods. "Yep. And remember the part where I said Mama and Tita would make me use tweezers? They'd know."

"All the way from Arizona, they're going to know?"

"You know, the last time I looked — and that was just a few hours ago — you have a mother, too." She gives him one of Ninja's grins.

"Hmm. You're right. Mothers are... scarier than most things."

The DJ is grinning and looking from one to the other of us. "Are you two always like this?"



Andi pauses and stares at Pablo for a few seconds before turning back to the DJ. "He's right. Sometimes we're worse."

"Still not as bad as drag queens, I'll bet. Considerably less name-calling."

She can't disagree with that. "Oh, considerably. I save the vile name-calling for people who irritate me severely. I'm not sure I've even gotten to that point with Bobby more than once or twice." Well, she would guess it depends on whether she counts Ninja's encounter with Bobby in the mix.

"And speaking of Bobby, how in the world did he find you? Just curious really, because I have a friend who frequents most of the bars around here and she's never mentioned a DJ who sports glitter and has such fascinating ink." She nods at the tattoos on his arms.

Also, Ninja has never seen anyone around Denver with a qi signature that looks suspiciously close to little Aliza's did, she thinks. Now, I'm not saying that the DJ is a Bodhisattva... not yet, anyway. But he's damn close.

"Bobby's the one who looks like Hank Azaria?"

She practically snorts, and Pablo bursts out laughing.

"Yes, but never mention that in his presence. He hates it." Pablo glances back at the group surrounding Madeline and Bobby. "I learned that the hard way."

"Well, I was impressed that you had even watched The Birdcage, let alone knew who the actors were."

"Next to Nathan Lane and Robin Williams, it's hard to remember anyone else is even in the movie. I'm DJ J-Clef, by the way. You can call me Jake." He nods in the general direction of the currently largest group in the room. "His partner David was my contact. I'm pretty sure we'd never manage a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon thing."

"Hmm, I seem to recall David mentioning something about talking to his chorus director while he was shamelessly flirting with me."

"That's certainly not helpful, Pablo. David is almost always shamelessly flirting with you."

"Maybe he'll stop now that we're married."

"You're so adorable when you're delusional, dear. As long as your ears keep turning pink, he'll keep it up."

Pablo sighs. "Okay, does it help that you were trying to keep Bobby from freaking out about something in the other room?"

She shrugs. "Not really. The last few months have been hell on him. I think planning this party is the only thing that kept him even partially sane. And planning Leon's party is going to help, too."

Pablo nods and then smiles at Jake. "As I'm coming to learn, thanks to my lovely bride and her friends, the connections in the LGBTQ community are more tangled and complex than a skein of yarn that's been in the paws of a kitten for a week."

"That's a pretty good analogy. I've got a lot of contacts in Philly and New York City. I've traveled a bit with some of the girls when they do special shows." Jake was connecting all his equipment with cables as he talked. "Someone talked to someone and, after way too many phone calls, I had myself a gig for a couple of weeks over at Tracks. Since I'm in town for Drag Nation tomorrow night, one of David's contacts reached out... and here I am."

"Cool! I've been to a couple of the shows over at Tracks and—"

"You have? You never mentioned it!"

She looks at Pablo. "It was a couple of years ago. Anna had been talking it up, and Anita decided we all had to go." Andi chuckles. "Turns out it was just the two of them, Kevin, and me. But we had a fantastic time."

I'm more interested in the fact that Ninja has never mentioned it.

They contract with a private security company. The biggest problem is the occasional rowdy drunk. Not even my friends in Patrol need to worry about them. I gotta hand it to the security folks... they take care of problems before they get out of hand and even walk the offending patrons to their cars or call them a cab to make sure they get where they're going safely.

There's a lot I don't know, isn't there?


"Hmm. Well, color me silly."

Andi giggles at him. "So, from what I hear from my friends," she says to Jake, "getting a gig there — either as a DJ or a performer — is really a big deal. So congrats! I hope you're enjoying it."

"Loving it, really... not that I want to leave the East Coast for more than a few weeks at a time." It seems that everything is connected and he begins flipping switches to turn on his equipment. "David didn't give me any specific playlist... just generally mellow tunes through dinner, dance music afterward, and back to mellow when things should start winding down." He grins, eyes crinkling with silent laughter and a flare of joyful qi shining through the glitter. "Oh, and that I should be prepared for odd requests."

Andi and Pablo look at each other. "Odd? I don't know about that," he says. "Is the Chicken Dance an odd request?"

Jake is trying not to laugh, which just makes his aura all the brighter. "Not for a wedding, no. The Hokey Pokey is also a favorite."

"Oooh! I had forgotten about that one!" Andi says. "The kids will love it."

Pablo rolls his eyes. "And so will your entire family."

"True. I'm not going to deny that. Oh, wait... I do have a special request." She has to reach into the folds of her leggings to pull out a piece of paper. "What?" she asks Pablo as he stares at her. "There are no pockets in this thing, and you know I don't own a purse!"

Unfolding the piece of paper, she hands it to Jake. "If you have this, could you play it during the dance part of the evening? It's a present for my sister. Kind of a thank you for everything she's done for us."

Jake looks at the piece of paper then goes to his computer to begin a search. "I'm not sure I'll have it, but if it exists on the internet, I can make it happen."

"Awesome! Now, David probably forgot to tell you that you shouldn't overwork yourself. Take breaks, enjoy the food! Several people know how to play the piano... very well even! And they'd probably like a chance to play a Steinway grand." She looks at Pablo. "Am I forgetting anything?"

"Other than my mom and Poppa Lorenzo like to waltz, I don't think so."

"Ah, yeah, my grandparents love to waltz, too. My dad and his brother like to polka, but Mama and Aunt Alicia will have nothing to do with it. Maybe you skip polkas, or Dad and Uncle Junior will be fighting over who's going to lead. Hmm, or they can just take turns dancing with Clara."

"I think Ladonna likes them, but she generally tries to turn every polka into a salsa dance."

Andi snickers. "She should dance with Uncle Junior." She looks at Jake again. "I guess just have fun back there."

"It's why I do what I do," he responds. "And I like making people happy."

# # #

Justin and Nicole have been waiting for Chris outside his room. Well, perhaps waiting for him wouldn't be as accurate as saying they've been outside his room and standing against the railing so they could ogle the Brown Palace's lobby.

"I know we have Christmas decorations in Chicago, Nicole! But I think the vast majority of establishments around town have forgotten the meaning of the word tasteful."

Nicole laughs as she stands shoulder to shoulder with him. "Maybe so. I've just never seen you so entranced by Christmas decorations before."

"I've never been anywhere but Chicago and Flagstaff for Christmas before. I barely remember Christmases in Japan. This is just... nice."

They turn when Chris comes out of his room dressed in his best suit — well, his only suit, really.

"Oooh, your mom did get you one of the Larry Begay ties! It looks great," Justin says. "Very classy."

Justin is dressed in a loose long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and boots. As Chris will soon find out, the collared, V-neck shirt was the uniform of the day for the men in Justin's family. Justin's shirt is a dark rose color, a few shades lighter than Nicole's elegantly plain short-sleeved wine-colored dress. As Chris will also discover, Justin wears far less jewelry than most of his relatives — the belt cinching his shirt at the waist is made of hammered silver discs tied together with leather, and he wears a bolo tie that is only slightly larger than Chris's. Rather than bracelets, his cuffs are intricately embroidered and lightly beaded. He wears his long hair loose — something Chris has rarely seen.

The trip from Chris's room to the ballroom via the elevator is short enough, and Chris's own nervousness is enough for him not to notice that Justin has become increasingly tense.

"What the heck is wrong with you, Justin?" Nicole whispers just before entering the ballroom.

"We're being followed," he whispers back.

Nicole looked around the hall, rolled her eyes, and shook her head. "You're losing it, buddy."

Chris forces himself not to look immediately, but he does sneak some glances behind them. However, he never sees anyone suspicious. Upon reaching the ballroom, he stops at the entrance and stares at the spectacular sight. After a moment, he follows Justin and Nicole inside.

Chris looks at Nicole and shrugs. "I didn't see anyone, did you?"

She shakes her head. "It's possible that he's demented," she whispers with a chuckle. Nicole pauses to admire the room with Chris, Leon, and Jenny. Other than Talia, she seemed to be the one person who could put the two teens at ease.


"Right?" Jenny said. "Aunt Andi told me to talk to her friend Bobby about how all this was put together." She glances at the group that included Leon's mom. "I think I'll wait a bit."

Nicole nods and then looks over at the group. Her eyes widen. "Um, I might be from the big city and everything," she murmurs to the teens, "but I've never seen a blue-furred person before. Who is that?"

They both look a little self-conscious. "That's Professor McCoy from our school. You can just see Professor Xavier next to Mrs. Jacobs," Jenny replies.

"Oh, cool," Justin said. "He's the guy Andi's spreading rumors about. Now I see why." Seeing his sister and Pablo with the DJ, he looks at Nicole and then shifts his eyes toward Andi. "I'm going to go see Andi and Pablo for a minute. Back in a flash!"

Nicole sighs again. "He thinks we were being followed," she says to the teens. "I'm sure we were. No one from Pablo's family is here yet, and neither is most of Andi's family. I don't know what's gotten into him."

"Do you guys want something to drink?" Chris asks. "I'll go get them if you find us a table. What will you have?"

Nicole smiles gratefully. "That would be wonderful, Chris, thanks. A ginger ale would be nice for now."

"I'll go with you," Leon offers. "You've only got two hands." His smile is tentative, yet sincere. "A seltzer, right, Jenny?"

She smiled brightly and nodded. "Thanks."

Nicole watches Chris with the younger man, and she smiles. "Leon is pretty cool." She chuckles. "Well, I don't have to tell you that, of course. But as an objective observer..." Nicole nods. "I wouldn't mind having a younger brother who was a hundred times smarter than me if he was that nice.

"Hey, I thought Talia was with you guys?" She looks around the room, definitely puzzled. "Wonder where she wandered off to... I wanted to pick her brain about an anniversary present for Papa and Tita, in case Justin and I can't make it out to Flagstaff next year."

Jenny looks over at Billy and the whole group with Leon's family and the professors. "Gee, that's funny. She was here just a minute ago."

Chris smiles at the offer to help. "Thanks. Leon, right?"

"Right. Hard to remember so many people, huh?" As Leon walks with Chris toward the far corner of the ballroom, he seems to relax a bit.

"Mom didn't tell us much about you," he says, sounding almost embarrassed. "Well, maybe she did, and Jenny and I weren't really listening. Um, something about recovering from the Virus and a friend of Uncle Justin?"

"Yeah, I work with Justin in Chicago," Chris replies. "I had nothing better to do for Christmas, so he insisted that I crash Andi and Pablo's reception. And yes, I got the Virus. According to my roommates, it supposedly almost killed me."

"I guess it must be hard, huh? You know, finding out you have powers when you're so old." The young man blinks. "Oh, sorry, I didn't mean that the way it sounded! I just mean... you know... you're past twenty and everything, and the Virus usually doesn't have much of an effect when... Um. I should stop talking."

Chris laughs. "It's fine. No offense taken. And it is weird, especially since I didn't know anything like this was possible. You kind of think you're losing your mind, like you're imaging you can do things." He shrugs slightly. "Justin and your family have been a huge help. I'm much more comfortable with the idea now."

Leon just kind of shrugs and looks perhaps a touch embarrassed. "Actually, no, I don't know. I've been able to, um, well, my mom calls it that thing that I do since I was about four. From what Professor Xavier has said, manifesting that early is pretty unusual."

He points to a pair of preteens loading up plates farther down the buffet tables.

"Even my brother and sister are just coming into theirs." He brightens suddenly. "Hey, so I guess we're both outliers. Mine hit early and yours hit late. Well, except mine's not 'cause of the Virus."

# # #

Meanwhile, Justin has walked around the large group of people — new people to meet! Later! — toward his sister. She and Pablo are finishing up their chat with the DJ as he approaches.

"Some strange women were following me and Nicole and Chris on our way down here," he says without preamble.

Andrea sighs. "Justin, both Pablo and I have friends you haven't met. Why are you acting like there's some nefarious plot afoot?"

"Because they were scary looking?"

At the slow, subtle change in Andi expression, Pablo says, "Before your sister finds a way to throw you out a window, maybe you could define 'scary looking' for us."

"You know that wicked and evil look Andi gets when she's plotting something? That."

The newlyweds exchange a glance and then shrugged.

"Probably," Andi says. "I wouldn't put it past them."

"Wouldn't put what past whom? And did I miss something here?"

"Andi!! Where are you?" calls a voice from the doorway.

"Yeah, don't hide from us, Andrea!" calls out another voice.

"Yep. It's them." Andi moves in front of Pablo to lean against him, her arms crossed over his as he wraps them around her waist.

"Woo hoo!!! There she is!!"

"PABLO!! Hey, Pablo, wanna hear a Physics joke?"

Pablo laughs. "No, thank you, Deb. I think I'm too old for your physics jokes. Hi, Clara. It's good to see you both again."

The two women practically run across the room — a feat more easily accomplished by the darker-haired woman with frizzy hair wearing the peasant blouse, loose skirt, and sandals than the brunette with straight shoulder-length hair wearing the navy pinstripe suit and pumps. They engulf Andi and Pablo in a hug, chattering at about a mile a minute and making absolutely no sense.

Justin merely stares at the lot of them. After a minute or so of incomprehensible speech and laughter, Andi finally says, "Okay, okay! Enough! You two are as crazy as ever. You need to meet my brother because he thinks you're both crazy stalkers."

"Well, we are crazy," says the frizzy-haired woman.

"But we're not usually stalkers," says the other woman.

"Unless he's single and hot."

"Right, we could make an exception for that."

Pablo shakes his head, grinning. "You two haven't changed a bit."

They both stare at him.

"Oh, now stop it," Andi says, grinning just as broadly. "Everyone is in the Friend Zone unless they explicitly tell you they aren't."

Then both stare at Andi then, though that didn't last long before they begin talking over each other again.

"That's your evil plot, Andrea..."

"Yeah, putting all the cute guys in the Friend Zone...

"So you can keep them all to yourself...

"Which isn't fair at all...

"Nope, not fair at all!"

Andi laughs. "Hello! The three of us agreed that Pablo was in the Friend Zone back then. And it wasn't until this past summer that he figured out how to escape."


"I guess that's okay."

"I would have thought he was smarter than that, though."

"Yeah, me too."

Andrea rolls her eyes. "Justin, this is Deb Franco," she says, nodding to the frizzy-haired woman, "and this is Clara Horacek." She nods to the other woman. "Ladies — and I use the term loosely — my brother, Justin Yazzie. He has an absolutely delightful girlfriend. I highly approve of her. So if you don't behave, I'll have to bust out a few Aikido moves to protect him."

Pablo is laughing hard enough that he can't speak.

"I have my own Aikido moves, but thank you, Andi. And..." He looks skeptically at his sister's reputed college roommates. "Nice to meet you. I think."

"Oooh, he's so cute!" Deb says.

Clara pokes her arm. "Friend Zone."

"So? I can still appreciate a fine specimen."

"Right. And remember what happened when you did that to Pablo?"

Deb pauses a moment. "Hmm. Only Andi got free lunches for a whole month. But Justin can't keep us away from the food today!"

"I take it back," Pablo says. "They've gotten worse."

Justin looks at his brother-in-law. "How long did you put up with this?"

"Just two years," Pablo replies. "Although the physics jokes did bend the nature of reality, so there were times when I would have sworn it was two decades."

Deb looks at him side-eyed. "I'm not sure if that's a compliment or an insult."

"I'd guess an insult," Clara says, preparing to glare.

"Ah! But if you work with the hypothesis that it's possible to modify the nature of reality," Andi interjects, "then you almost have to look at it as a compliment."

"You're just defending him because you married him," Deb says.

Andi laughs. "I'm defending him because I've heard your jokes, Deb! There's a possibility that my genius nephew would understand what you're talking about and not fall into a coma. The rest of us haven't taken the Defense Against the Dark Arts class."

Deb nods, mollified. "Okay. I'll accept your current rationalization. Except for the part about the Dark Arts. Physics isn't the Dark Arts, you wacky librarian! And we need to meet the rest of your family, including this sister you adopted!"

"Oooh, I saw a blue guy over there, and I'm pretty sure he's not from the Blue Man Group, either." Clara shifts her gaze toward Hank for a moment before looking at Andi and Pablo. "There's a story here that you haven't told us!"

Andi stares pointedly at Justin, who looks dazed by the chatter.

"Huh? Oh, right. That would be Doctor Hank McCoy, I believe. He's the one Andrea has been spreading rumors about."

"Rumors?!" Clara claps her hands. "Tell, tell!!"

After glancing at Andrea again — and she just smiles much too sweetly for him to trust her — Justin clears his throat. "Um, yes. The rumor is that Doctor McCoy diagnosed and, ah, reversed whatever problem Andi had so that she could, you know, get pregnant."

Stunned silence is followed by more rapid-fire chattering.


"You're pregnant?"


"Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God!!"

"That's wonderful, Andi!! Oh, you must be so happy!!"

Once more, the bride and groom are enveloped in a massive hug. Pablo looks over the heads of the women and winked at Justin.

Rumors are beautiful things. People hear what they want to hear. For the two women who had learned the story of Andrea's miscarriage not too many months after it had happened, Doctor McCoy is now officially a hero. The fact that he is a mutant with blue fur is absolutely, completely, utterly irrelevant.

# # #

Madeline winks at Logan then moves to slip her arm through Hank's. "In case I need to protect you from the crazy man, or you the same for me," she tells him with a chuckle before escorting him toward Bobby and David.

Logan and Charles walk and roll along beside them.

"Hello again, Bobby and David," Madeline says to them. "May I introduce you to some very dear friends of mine? This is Charles Xavier and Hank McCoy. Charles runs the school my oldest attends, and Hank is one of the instructors there.

"Charles, Hank... This is Bobby Tompkins, Andi's friend and neighbor and orchestrator of this event. The handsome man behind him is his intended, David McNair."

Bobby stares at Hank with the same sort of fascination Billy had — except in Bobby's case, he's doing exactly what Andi had predicted he would do. He's measuring the man for a gold lamé suit.

"Bobby." David taps Bobby on the shoulder, but it has no effect. Rolling his eyes apologetically at Madeline, he pinches the back of Bobby's hand.

"Ow! David! You pinched me!"

"Indeed I did," he replies, perhaps a touch too cheerfully for Bobby's liking. "You were staring at Professor McCoy."

"I most certainly was not!"

David sighs. "Of course not, dear. It's a pleasure to meet you, Professors. We haven't had a chance to meet Madeline's oldest yet, but the twins are absolutely delightful."

He smiles at Madeline. "I promised Andi I wouldn't be a fanboy today. And to keep Bobby from having another breakdown. But you really must let me gush about the House of Beauvoir fashions some time."

Bobby just tsks as he turns a bit, and pats David's arm. "Please don't do that, David. It's undignified."

A pained expression crosses David's features when Bobby turns back to look at Charles and Hank. It's more than worry, really... although, after a glance at the bride, he collects himself and is once more the cheerful, charming, gregarious David that the newlyweds know and love.

"Yes, it's very nice to meet you," Bobby echoes David's sentiment. "Our Andi did mention guests from out of town."

"Most of the guests are from out of town," David whispers.

This time Bobby rolls his eyes. "Only two guests from out of town coming in today."

"Ah. Of course."

Madeline returns David's smile. "How about when the two of you come to Paris so your beloved can help plan a sixteenth birthday party? I might even be able to arrange a tour."

Before Charles or Hank has a chance to respond, the family's laconic whirling dervish strolls up to the group.

"Hey, Cousin Madeline! Hey, Cousin Elder! How are you? Was that the best wedding ceremony ever? Hi, guys! You did this place up real nice here, Bobby. Bet my cousin-twin loves it! You gonna sing for us, Dave? Andi says you're even better than Pablo! Hiya, Doctor Blue! How's that nice boy who's a shifter like my baby brother? He's probably having a great time out there with you, isn't he? And I didn't say a word about you to my brother, either. I promised Andi. And heya, New Person!"

Her smiles becomes a full-fledged grin at Henry's arrival. "Heya, Cousin Henry."

When Henry pauses to take a breath, Bobby murmurs, "He prefers 'David.'"

Henry takes his eyes off Charles to stare at Bobby.

"Really?" He looks at David for a second before looking at the floor. "Did Andi tell me that? She did? Well, then why didn't you remind me? No, it's not a funny trick! Tricks about names aren't funny tricks. People are mighty peculiar about them. Coyote! I'm surprised at you!"

He sighs and looks at David again. "Heya, man. I'm sorry about that. I'll remember on my own next time."

Then Henry looks at Madeline and grins. "Coyote... what can ya do, right? Always up to its tricky tricksy ways!"

"Heya, Doctor Blue, Andi's been saying..." He looks down at Coyote again. "Now you want to get all honest and truth-telling?" He sighs dramatically. "Fine." Looking up at Hank again, he continues, "Somebody — and even Coyote doesn't know who — started the rumor that you're the reason Andi and Pablo are gonna have kids. Hoo boy! Your guardian Spirit ought to be Coyote, too, 'cause—"

He stops and rubs the back of his head, and glares across the room at his cousin-twin for a second.

"I tell ya, Madeline, she just keeps getting spookier. She never used to be able to do that."

Her mouth twitches as she makes a supreme effort to keep from laughing through his rambling and subsequent Gibbs slapping.

"Henry, stop telling tales about Coyote. You know I can see and hear it too."

Bobby is doing his fish impression, although a light shake from David brings him out of it quickly enough. He looks up at David.

"Did he say Andi and Pablo are going to have a baby?"

David looks at Henry and shakes his head as if to clear it.

"Honestly? I'm not sure what he said."

"Bobby, David, allow me to translate," Madeline says. "Hank here, through the miracle of science, has found a way for Andi and Pablo to have children. Not nearly as many as Pablo thinks, as the man is possibly certifiable, but at least one or two."

Sister mine, the honor of telling Bobby and David the good news is still yours.

# # #

Chris orders drinks as he and Leon continue to chat.

"I guess we are outliers," he says with a smile. "So... your gifts are hereditary?" he asks, wondering if it's polite to ask questions. He certainly isn't going to ask what the teen could do — that definitely seemed impolite.

When the drinks are ready, he tips the bartender and thanks him, then takes two of the drinks, leaving the others for Leon.

The teen nods as he got the drinks for Jenny and himself.

"Yeah, I get it from my father like Em and Vin get theirs from Dad. Professor says it typically only inherits from the male parent, but he thinks our case might be special 'cause it's rare to have more than one kid in a family be like us. He thinks there might be a latent gene that Mom carries since she's a common factor.

It's apparent that this kind of talk is a matter of everyday conversation for him.

"You're lucky to have so many people who understand these things around you," Chris says. "That's a lot of support."

This makes him think of his own family and Brad and Miranda. He loves them all and he knows they love him, but that conversation is still going to be difficult.

Leon nods at Chris's statement about support. "It is. I'm lucky that way. All the other kids at school, it's just them and sometimes the families don't handle it too well."

Chris looks around and sees that Nicole has found a table off to one side.

The girl Leon had been standing with earlier is crossing the room toward them and he smiles brightly at her.

After he and Leon make their way over there, Chris hands Nicole her drink and takes a seat next to her.

"Jenny's family isn't like that though," Leon says. "They're really great. I got to spend Christmas with them. It was really different.

Jenny sits down next to Leon and scoots her chair a little closer to his.

"Different how?" she asks.

"Besides it being the first Christmas I didn't spend in France, we always celebrate Saint Nikolas' Day, not Christmas. So that's different," he offers with a shrug. "Hey, maybe you can come celebrate with us next year."

"I'd like that. Hopefully, mom and dad will be okay with it. I think they will."

Leon suddenly remembers he had already been in a conversation and flushed. "Oh, sorry, Chris.

"Oh, and if you need support, you can always talk to Professor Xavier. He keeps in contact with my Mom, and it usually doesn't have anything to do with me."

Chris just smiles and waves away the apology. Young and in love... that's sweet, he thinks.

# # #

Justin studies his sister's two friends. They've certainly taken the bait. But like everyone else who knows Andi, anything that would make it possible for her and Pablo to have children is a gift from the Creator. And nobody would really understand the mysticism and... okay, supernatural forces involved in setting things right for them. Even those in the family who hold most closely to their spiritual convictions would be... Well, that's what Andi is trying to do here, isn't it? Keep things simple? A scientific answer, no matter how vague, will help most people feel comfortable.

And even Pablo's mom and oldest sister, as well as their own mother, aren't entirely wrong in believing it's a miracle, a gift from God, or a blessing by the Great Spirit. They might be even more right than a scientific explanation could provide. Hell, Andi has explained it to him — while keeping it all very PG-13 rated — and he doesn't quite understand it. He accepts it, of course. Andi wouldn't lie about something like that. But even as a biochemist, he has a hard time coming up with a scientific model to fit all the data — except when he factors in the fact that his sister is a mutant, one of the Cursed. But she had said her Curse was the reason she couldn't stay pregnant, so why would it be so far-fetched to believe that the same Curse could, when modified and attenuated by the spiritual connection she has with Pablo, nullify the very problem it created in the first place? The fact that the spiritual connection is something she can actually see and measure even if no one else can — again because of her Curse — makes the hypothesis more compelling. It can't be tested in the lab, of course. And with a sample size of only one?

"Does your brother do that often?" Deb asks, pointing at Justin.

Andi snickers. "I'm not really sure. We'd probably have to check with Nicole and his buddy Chris to find out if he does this when he's back in Chicago." She watches Justin for a few seconds and then grins at Deb.

"He looks like Pablo does when you tell Physics jokes."

"I didn't do it!"

"Huh?" Justin says.

"You were in a Physics joke coma without the benefit of having heard the Physics joke," Clara informs him.

"What? Oh. No, I was thinking Science things... hypotheses that can't really be tested kinds of stuff."

"That makes for a pretty awful hypothesis then," Deb remarks with a raised eyebrow. "I come up with amazingly cool ideas that I can't even begin to hypothesize about because I have to wait for other geniuses to build the equipment I'd need to test with."

"My problem would be finding enough people in the trial group to make it a valid study." Justin pauses, staring off into the distance. "Hmm. I wonder if the equipment we have could even measure all the variables I'd need to track. That is a good point." He blinks and comes back to current reality, then shrugs. "Well, maybe not this year... could be more like five or ten years."

"Isn't that just the story of my life," Deb says with a sigh. She tilts her head toward Clara. "This one here has already written two books and is working on a third!"

Clara laughs. "Yes, and people are so interested in the ethnomusicology of the many regions of Eastern Europe!"

Deb shook her head. "I've known you for more than ten years, and I still don't know what you're talking about."

Andi chuckle. "None of us understand you either, Deb, so don't worry. We love you, anyway."

"I'm so glad." She looks over at the group around Andrea's best friend and her Sister. "Who the heck is that? Does he ever stop talking?"

Andi, Justin, and Pablo all laugh. "That's Henry," Justin says as though that explained everything.

"He's talking to the floor, Andi. Does he have... issues?"

"Nah, he's just talking to his guardian Spirit."

"His what?" Clara asks.

Andi realizes that she hadn't talked a whole lot about my family's religious beliefs back in college. She thinks that probably made sense at the time — both Deb and Clara were laid back agnostics, and the three of them talked more about Buddhism as a philosophical system.

"Kind of like a guardian angel? But not exactly."

"And he talks to his?"

"Often. His guardian Spirit is Coyote, the Trickster. It pretty much means Henry is the perpetual class clown." Andi isn't sure what Coyote is saying to Henry, but for once, her cousin actually seems surprised.

Clara watches until Henry is no longer focused on Coyote before asking Andi, "So do you have one of these Spirits, too? How come you never told us?"

"I do. And back then, it hadn't really taken much of an interest in my life. So I guess it just didn't seem like something worth mentioning." She shrugs.

"Would we have obsessed over it?" Deb asks Clara.

Clara ponders for a few moments and then shrugs. "Maybe? But if we did, it probably wouldn't have been for more than a couple of weeks. Maybe it would have depended on when Andi told us about it."

"Yep. If it was after that thing with the asshole, we might have obsessed longer." Deb looks at Pablo and grins. "Or not. We were busy teasing Pablo and Denise, weren't we?"

"Oh, that we were! We had some great times." Clara sighs. "I still miss Denise."

Pablo and Andi nod. "We all do," he says. "What happened still seems senseless but..." He shrugs. "Time gives you perspective on a lot of stuff."

Andi notices Justin watching her carefully. "What?"

"Oh, just remembering the story you told me the other day. I'm surprised Raven left you alone for so long."

Pablo does his very best not to groan; she doesn't even bother trying to hide hers. "Thank goodness for small favors. I'd be in a happy home inside a rubber room by now."

Her brother smiles. "Nah, you'd have figured something out.

"So your... guardian Spirit, right? It's this Raven character?"

"No. Well, not anymore. It was back then, but..."

She looks over at the doorway where Tommy, Ladonna, and her kids are just walking in. Tommy and Ladonna are chatting; Melissa is holding Tommy's hand and looking up at him instead of where she's going. Andi smiles at them.

"Well, several life-changing experiences and then other stuff happened, and so I got new guardian Spirits. It's a story that gives Cousin Medicine Man migraines."

"Me, too," Pablo says under his breath, just barely loud enough for Andi to hear him.

"Yeah, but cousin Medicine Man isn't here, is he?" asks Deb.

"Who's cousin Medicine Man anyway?" Clara asks.

"I am," Tommy says, coming up behind them as Melissa makes an end run around the lot of them right for Andi. She wraps her arms around the bride's legs and giggles as she looks up.


Clara jumps and Deb squawks on they turn on Tommy, ready to deliver some harsh words. However, they just stop and stare instead.

"Tommy, Ladonna, these are my college roommates, Deb Franco and Clara Horacek. Deb, Clara... Ha'atathli Tommy Dehiya, also known as Cousin Medicine Man, and Ladonna Nazario, Pablo's middle sister. That's Anton Junior with her, and I've got Melissa over here."


"She's been saying that all day," Ladonna says, bemused. "And sure, I remember Pablo mentioning you two. Not nearly as much as he talked about Andrea... but still. You made him laugh."

Tommy just nods politely to his cousin's friends.

Deb and Clara look at her with big, sad puppy dog eyes.

"Friend Zone?" Deb whines.

Andi nods, and she'd swear that they're both going to start crying.

"Well, okay," Justin says. "I think we're even Steven on the stalking charges. No need to press charges, Detective. I'm going to go hang with Chris... and warn him about these two. Nice meeting you finally, by the way."

"He's shiny, too, Tia Andi!"

She smiles, bends down, and picks Melissa up. "He's full of love, sweetheart. Of course, he's shiny. Love makes people shiny."

The little girl looks at Andi quizzically. "Just love?"

Andi looks at Ladonna, who looks completely baffled...

Then at Tommy, who is smiling enigmatically...

And finally at her friends, who shrug, pass one hand each over their respective heads, and almost inaudibly say whoosh.

"What's got you confused, Melissa?"

"The shiny."

She sounds so sad, and Andi has to remember that she's only four. I suppose if I saw the emanations of love at four, I'd have been confused too. Hell, I was thirteen when the Curse took me, and I was beyond confused then. She just hugs the little one.

"Don't worry, Melissa. Just enjoy it. Pretty things are nice to look at, aren't they?"

She nods slowly. "But why, Tia Andi?"

Andi sighs softly as Ladonna interrupts.

"Should I be worried about her? God knows the kids have had a hard time without their Papa."

Andi looks at her sister-in-law — at the concern on her face, at the worry in her aura, at the pain in her heart from losing her husband. At least she's dealing with it better than her brother did when his first wife was killed. She shakes her head.

"I don't think, Ladonna. You know that children are a lot more perceptive about the world around them than most people give them credit for. Melissa is just picking up on all the concentrated happiness we have here today. I suppose she just doesn't have a way to express it except to describe it as shiny." Andi smiles at Ladonna. "Come on, you can't deny that there are people here who are practically glowing."

Ladonna returns the smile. "The two of you being the biggest examples of that."

She can feel Pablo's joy swirling around them, which causes Melissa to giggle again.

"I suppose we are just a bit on the delirious side of happy," he says.

"A bit?" Tommy chuckles. "Cousin, that is an understatement. And given how happy the whole family is to see Andrea so happy, I'm not surprised the children are picking up on it."

Is that really all there is to it, Andi? Pablo asks.

Oh, hell no. I think your niece has a gift, and I think she's going to need training at some point. It's possible that it's an odd combination of empathy and seeing qi... or it could be something else entirely. But at four years old, she doesn't have the vocabulary to explain it.

Is it going to wind up getting her in trouble?

If your sister accepts the simple explanation, I doubt it. It's a passive gift, and I suspect Tommy's theory of compounded happiness makes everything so much shinier, as Melissa calls it.

But why did she start the whole 'shiny' business back when we were visiting out in Los Angeles?

Ladonna nods. "I guess you're right. Even Anton Junior has been less shy than usual.

Melissa leans and reaches around Andi so she can touch Pablo's face.

"Tio Pabo shiny! Not worry, Tio!"

Andi can't see his face, but by the reaction of his sister, her cousin, and her two friends, his expression must be one of those Kodak moments. Deb and Clara are both laughing at him, Ladonna is chuckling, and Tommy has returned to smiling enigmatically.

Because I'm a nuclear power plant, Pablo darling. And you're a halogen light. A big one.

She chuckles and kisses the little girl's cheek. "Hey, Melissa, our friends Michael and Martha brought their daughter Kimberly with them. I'll bet you'd like her. She's probably shiny, too, because she loves her baby brother a whole lot."

"Yay! Baby! Baby! Down, down, Tia Andi!" She wiggles in an effort to get down, something Andi isn't going to prevent.

She's been stabbed and shot and even killed... and sometimes she thinks flailing child limbs are worse. She'd really like to avoid those today. As she sets Melissa down again, Andi grins at her mother.

"Michael and Martha are at the table off to the side there. You can't miss them. I think Kimberly is still trying to get Doctor McCoy to visit her baby brother." She nods toward Hank as she straightens up. "They're good folks, and Kimberly is a real sweetheart."

"Boo! Mama, Mama! Boo!" Melissa first points at Hank, but then seems to realize that our color scheme really was all about blue. And silver. And gold. "Boo, boo, boo!" She spins around looking at all the shades of blue around her.

Ladonna laughs. "It's her favorite color if you haven't guessed."

Andi chuckles. "Kimberly says blue is her baby brother's favorite color, which is why she's trying to get Doctor McCoy to go over and visit with her family."

Ladonna nods, just accepting Hank for who he is, and takes Melissa's hand to stop her from spinning around. "Okay, baby. I see. Lots of blue." She looks back at her brother and sister-in-law. "Kids are so accepting of things we've been conditioned to think are odd. In the process of trying not to impose my own... well, prejudices on them, I think I've become more open-minded in the process. You two are going to have a great time as parents." She winks at Pablo. "And that's not a threat, brother dear. I honestly believe you'll enjoy yourselves."

As Andi watches her heading over toward Michael and Martha, she mutters, "Well, one of us will, anyway."


She looks at Tommy. "Yes, cousin?"

"You'll be fine."

"Ha. I don't believe that when Pablo tells me. I don't even believe that when Talia tells me. Why should I believe you?"

"Because I know you... probably better than you know yourself."

She gives him a good stink eye, as Pablo continues to hold her steady.

You'll manage to be a good mother despite yourself, Cousin.

"I'll be right here with you all the way, love," Pablo whispers.

She sighs deeply before turning to her friends. "Nope. Don't care what any of them say. I'm terrified."

They both nod.

"I'd freak out about being a mom, too," Clara says. "Even if I had an awesome guy like Pablo and despite the fact that my mom is one of my biggest fans."

"And I'd probably turn my kid into a science experiment!" Deb says. "Without even realizing it. I've been told I'm a little ditzy sometimes."

Clara puts an arm around her shoulders. "Only a tiny bit... not enough to experiment on your kids." Then she snickers. "Probably not."

"See?" Deb laughs. "It would take a village just to keep me in line!"

Andi smiles as she rests her arms over Pablo's. "You two are playing this game to get me to stop freaking out, aren't you?"

"She's gotten smarter," Clara murmurs to Deb, not realizing Andi can hear. "It doesn't take any time at all now for her to catch us."

"Is it working?" Deb asks.

"A little," Andi admits.

"Good! Because we have a lot more material!"

# # #

Justin walks over to the table and sits down beside Nicole. "My sister exhausts me."

Then he smiles at the teens, both of whom return the smile.

"Hi, I'm Justin. You must be Leon and Jenny. Welcome to the family, wish we could have met before this, but your younger siblings are great, and I've heard... nope, not a whole whole lot about you, Leon, and not a darn thing about you, Jenny, and please... somebody shut me up."

"Not much to tell," Jenny tells him.

Nichole laughs as she poked him in the side. "Good grief! What's gotten into, Justin? Have you been drinking?"

"No, I have not been drinking. You've already forgotten that I don't like to drink?" He sighs theatrically. "Oh, woe! All the stars in the universe are aligned against me."

For Nicole and Chris, this isn't particularly odd behavior from someone who probably should have been a theater major. He's often this dramatic at home and at work, usually in ways that made Nicole laugh. At work, it's just one of his ways to coax Chris back to the real world.

Chris laughs at Justin's antics. "When he does this, I just laugh and play along. It seems to make him happy," he says with a wink to Nicole.

Justin leans over and rests his head on Nicole's shoulder. "Did I mention that Andrea also makes me crazy?"

Nicole snickers. "Once or twice. But you love her. And she loves you. And I think she's awesome. So there. End of story. By the way, you sure you're twenty five and not ten?"

He sighs more normally.

"I'm fairly confident about my age, and you ask me that every time I start acting like my theater friends, so... it's all good."

"I'm glad we've cleared that up. For the moment. Jenny and I were discussing the decorations. From the bit I overheard from Chris and Leon, they were talking about some of the same stuff your family was discussing with him yesterday."

Justin sits up and runs his hands through his hair as he looks around the table. "Well, the decorations are actually pretty great. And Chris is going to be fine because Talia said so. Where the heck did she go, anyway? Mom said she went with Billy and Madeline and all the rest of the family to fetch the Professors."

Nicole shrugs. "I haven't seen her."

"Huh. That's weird."

Both Leon and Jenny look around.

"Yeah, she did ride over with Mom and the others. Dad drove us," Leon said. "I can try to find her if you want."

Tilting his head, Justin gives Leon a puzzled expression before shaking his head and smiling.

"Oh, no, no, no! Stay, stay... no need for you to leave your fair lady's side." Taking Nicole's hand, he kisses her knuckles. "I shouldn't have left my lovely Nicole alone for so long."


"Yes, oh, most beloved?"

"Knock it off."

He sighs. "I suppose quotes from The Princess Bride and Ladyhawke are out of the question tonight."

"It depends... do you want me to let your family know you've flipped your lid."

"Nope. Absolutely not."

"Then stop acting like a combination of your cousin Billy and someone who flunked out of theater school."


"Uh huh. And true."

"Yes, ma'am. Switching to scientist mode."

Nicole rolls her eyes. "You can't just be Justin, that guy I met in Econ 101?"

"He was dull. Plus, my sister is a magnet for weird, and I think she poured some of it on me. And it doesn't help that her friend is hugging the blue Doctor." He shakes his head. "I'm just saying it's a weird sight and it could take a while to erase."

She looks over at Andi's best friend, her sister, and the professors. "Fine, Bobby isn't exactly normal, but your sister warned us that he's bonkers. Wasn't that the word she used?"

"I think that was Ninja's nickname for him, but... sure."

"Also, no more caffeine for you, buddy."

"Okay. You're right about that. I am pretty wired. I forgot how strong Mom's tea was."

He looks back at Leon and Jenny for a minute, going back to the previous topic of conversation.

"Talia has reasons for everything she does. If she's wandered off, I'm sure there was something she thought she needed to do." Justin shrugs. "With our family, it could be anything from helping Papa tune his ukulele to convincing our dads to stop their comedy act long enough to get on the elevator to helping Yani with the baby.

"I wouldn't worry about it." He smiles a little sheepishly. "I guess I just miss seeing her."

Then he looks across at Chris. "Oh! I should warn you, the stalkers were Andi's college roommates. And while they seem to be very nice women, they might be even crazier than I am. Hmm..." He looks back at the two women still chatting with Andi, Pablo, and Tommy. "Deb is a physicist... you and she might have some interesting conversation, Leon." He nods toward Chris. "We'll just wait for Pablo's sister to show up and talk about Biology and Chemistry."

Nicole looks at the three men at the take before turning to Jenny. "I guess we can talk business and fashion," she says with a grin. "Unless you've got a science major, too. In which case, I might have to desert the loopy knight here and practice my Spanish with Pablo's other sisters."

"Ah!" Chris says, nodding at Justin's explanation of the 'stalkers.' "So, you're saying you weren't being stalked? They were simply walking here? Good work, detective," he says, laughing. "Remind me not to trust your gut feelings."

"Oh, no! I'm saying no such thing." Justin crosses his arms and rests them on the table as he speaks to Chris. "They admitted that they were following us. Something about following around all the good looking guys and if I'm a target, so are you." He looks at Nicole and tilts his head toward Chris. "Tell him."

Nicole sighs. "You play this game at work too? Good grief! Between you seeing stalkers—"

"Hey, now! They admitted it!"

"—and poor Chris with a roommate who plays matchmaker all the time, it's a wonder he's ever managed to have an unchaperoned date!"

Nicole looks at Chris. "They have let you have unchaperoned dates, I hope."

"That's not fair, Nicole. Even Andi told them to chill out. Put everyone at the reception in the Friend Zone."

Nicole looks back at him with an expression of disbelief. "Really? That's a bit far-fetched, and your sister is only across the room. I'll ask her, you know."

"Really. Honest! But it's not like Chris can't get out of the Friend Zone if he wants!"

"Well, I should hope not!"

"They did admit to being crazy."

Nicole shakes her head but smiles. "Justin, your whole family is crazy. You're crazy. If Chris puts up with your brand of crazy, he must be crazy, too. Quit worrying about it."

Justin looks at her for several long moments as his smile grows to match hers. "Okay. If Chris wants to look for love in all the wrong places, who am I to stop him?"

She reaches over and tweaks an ear. "Ha! Lucky you don't wear earrings like Cousin Tommy, or that would have really hurt. And bad song lyrics are also off the list for today."

He's still grinning as he rubs his ear. "But you'll leave me no choice, my dear, except to talk about mitochondrial DNA and recessive genes."

She pats his hand before turning to Jenny and Leon. "He lies," she whispers. "Watch this..."

Turning back to Justin, she says, "Andi said your mom, aunts, and grandma were all planning to descend on the kitchen staff and insist on taking over so they could make frybread."

Justin's eyes light up.


Nicole nods. "However, it turns out that two of the cooks are Hopi and suggested it to Bobby weeks ago."

"Wow," he says with a near-reverent tone of voice.

Nicole winks at the teens. "Genetic discussion averted. For now."

# # #

"That would be wonderful, Madeline!" David smiles happily. "It certainly isn't the time to chat about the party for your son, but as you can see..." He looks around the room at the subtle emphasis of eternal love exemplified by the recreation of a starlit night sky, as well as the creative ways Bobby has incorporated every single request Andrea had made. "...I think even Pablo is convinced that Bobby can pull together a tasteful party."

When she mentions being able to see and hear his guardian Spirit, Henry looks at Madeline with such an expression of shock on his face that it's downright comical. He blinks once or twice before looking over at his cousin-twin.

"How'd she do that?" he mutters. "All sorts of people seeing the Spirits! How's a person supposed to keep track? Man, I feel sorry for Tommy."

At the same time, Bobby's hands fly up to cover his mouth, and he barely stops himself from squealing. A rather high-pitched, drawn-out wail came from somewhere inside his head — uncharitable people might say it was coming out of his ears and that he sounded like a teakettle.

That, of course, brought Henry's attention back to him, and he looks even more confused — if that was even possible.

The Warrior's sister has informed him that your friend, Doctor McCoy, has found a scientific way to enable the Warrior and her Mate to have young ones of their own. It is a delightful deception. I approve!

Well, isn't that what I said? And he's going to pop a gasket somewhere. But that ain't gonna be good for anyone. And what's the deal with Cousin Madeline seeing you and hearing you? That's mighty peculiar if you ask me.

Coyote chuckles. You need reminding, my young one, that sometimes you go too far with your acts. I conferred with Fox, who suggested I allow Cat's warrior to know of my presence with you. The Spirit pauses and gives the impression of shrugging. Just as the Warrior has received gifts from her Sister, Cat's warrior has no doubt received a portion of the Warrior's gift for seeing the Sibling Spirits.

Henry glances at Andi again and then at Madeline before his attention is wrested away by Bobby's quick dash over to Doctor McCoy. His mouth hangs open as Bobby wraps his arms around Hank in a hug and starts babbling.

"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!! Thank you! I really can be Auntie Uncle Bobby! Thank you, thank you!"

David is there in a heartbeat... okay, maybe two or three. But Henry has seen how fast Cousin Logan can move. David isn't that fast, but he is pretty fast for a regular guy.

"Bobby, honey. I'm sure that Professor McCoy doesn't need a hysterical queen being all clingy. And it's a wonderful thing that someday you'll get to be an Auntie Uncle."

David looks at Hank and shrugs, while his eyes hold that look of painful worry again. "Sorry about that, Professor. Bobby's been rather emotional lately." He simply mouths the word family.

"Oh. Yes. Right. Sorry." Bobby allows himself to be pulled back a few steps. "It's just such... such wonderful news. I don't know what came over me."

Henry nods slowly. "Heya, Bobby, you been workin' too hard, man. You and that nice man of yours come out and visit me. We'll move the rocks around in my courtyard. Except for them being so fickle and all, it's what Andi calls very zen. I just call it relaxing. I don't even mind them needin' to be moved back to where they started." He grins broadly. "I like to make Andi think I mind, but I don't."

Bobby stares at Henry. "What?"

"Awesome! It's settled then!" Henry practically beams with happiness. "You come back from visiting with Cousin Madeline and Cousin Elder, then come out to Phoenix."

This time, Bobby merely blinks. "I need to check with Andi to make sure everything is fine."

David watches him for a moment as he walks in Andi's direction, then turns back to the others and sighs. "He's been kind of a mess lately and in my professional opinion ought to be in therapy. Putting this party together for Andi has helped, and getting a party organized for your son will be good for him, too, Madeline." He claps Henry on his shoulder. "Heck, even moving rocks sounds like something that will help."

For once, Henry steps away from his role of the eternal innocent jester and shakes his head. "Nah, man, I think he needs more than parties and rock-moving. He's got himself a broken spirit. Needs some powerful medicine. I know Andi and Tita did their best, but he might need Cousin Tommy's help." He notes the look on David's face. "Hey, don't knock the mojo of our Medicine Man. Besides, you put that boy in the middle of our family for a day, and his spirit can't help but come back together."

He, too, watches Bobby walk across the room. "She has magic, too, you know. Andi, I mean. Never met anyone ever with that much love. Even Tita says so."

"I'd have to agree," David says quietly. "A lesser person would have pushed him down a flight of stairs months ago."

Henry smiles cheerfully. "Nah, Andi likes imitating that nice Gibbs fellow from the TV. Never seen him push anyone down the stairs." He pauses and thinks about the show for a moment. "Well, I guess I haven't seen all the episodes. But Pablo won't let her near his guns, so your Bobby is probably pretty safe."

# # #

Andi chuckles at her friends' enthusiasm. More than any of the friends she made in college, these two were most instrumental in helping her navigate the path to feeling like she belonged in the States once again. There's very little outside of her Curse that they don't know about Andi.

"I should probably encourage your cousin-twin to keep his behavior somewhere within the bounds of respectable," Tommy says. "Clara... Deb... it was nice to meet you."

As he turns to join Maddie and her group, Andi's friends sigh out their disappointment, and she chuckles.

My cousin-twin may behave more sanely than usual, Cousin, I say to Tommy. I had a lovely conversation with Coyote yesterday, and I believe Fox also spoke with its Sibling. The Spirits, at least, understand the importance of this day.

Tommy just nods, but that's when Bobby heads in their direction. She catches Maddie's comment and knows they're in for a storm.

"Batten down the hatches," Pablo murmurs, "we have an incoming tsunami."

"Andi," Bobby says as he stops a few paces away from Pablo and her.

"Bobby. Hello again, dear." She smiles at him, trying to ignore the mess of his aura. "Gals, I know I've mentioned Bobby almost as much as I've talked about Pablo—"

"At least!" Clara claims.

"Sometimes even more often," Deb declares.

"Well, then... I'd like to formally introduce you to Bobby Tompkins, the genius responsible for today's festivities, my best friend, and my next-door neighbor. Oh! And a follower of the goddess Martha Stewart." She winks at them.

"Bobby, these are my two closest friends from college, Clara Horacek and Deb Franco. Deb's a physicist at MIT, and Clara is an ethnomusicologist and cultural anthropologist working in... some Eastern European country or another. She keeps moving around. I can't keep track."

"It's wonderful to finally meet you, Bobby," Clara says. "And I'll be heading back to Belarus."

"Totally wonderful!" Deb agrees.

Bobby blinks and nods to them. "Yes. Very nice meeting you." Then he turns on Andi again.

"Andi, how could you not tell me about Doctor McCoy?"

She knows her expression is just about as puzzled as her friends' expressions are, but she's not as worried as Pablo's qi indicates he is.

"What should I have told you that I didn't tell you?" There's no sense explaining something that he's not currently obsessing about. He won't remember a damn thing. It might be the fact that Hank is blue... but with Bobby? Who knows?

"That he's been working with you and Pablo so you can have children," he responds brusquely.

Before she can even formulate an answer that isn't going to push him into another one of his funks, her friends each grab one of his hands and start bouncing while shaking his arms in their enthusiasm.

"Isn't it amazing?"

"We couldn't believe it either!"

"We just can't wait for the baby!!!"

"Oh, my God, we'll have to come back to Denver for that!"

"It's so EXCITING!!!!"

Bobby blinks rapidly and pulls his arms away. "What are you talking about??"

"Andi and Pablo are having a baby!" Deb says, while still bouncing up and down on her toes.

"Andi!!! You didn't tell ME???"

"Well, we just found out a few minutes ago," Clara points out.

Pablo and Andi sigh at the same time. Not just because of Bobby either — the thought of these two very large bundles of frenetic energy spending days or even weeks in Denver boggles their minds.

"Bobby, I didn't want to say anything until I was absolutely sure."

You actually didn't want to tell him at all, Pablo reminds her.

I know. The next six months are going to be awful. And were those two as bouncy as Billy when we were in college?

No... compared to this, they were as calm as Tita.


"And I convinced Andi to wait until we could tell our families first," Pablo says, taking the blame. "We didn't tell them until this morning after the ceremony."

Bobby sniffs. "Well. Fine. I might not speak to you for a month, Pablo."

"That's fair. Maybe you could keep your fiancé from flirting with me for a month, too," Pablo says with a grin.

Bobby just glares at him.

Andi feels a familiar tug on her ear.

Coyote's young charge has recommended one of the great ceremonies for him, Opossum says. I think even Coyote is surprised by your cousin's wisdom.

Coyote isn't the only one. The world has gone mad! Henry... being sensible? Andi hopes it's not a sign of the End Times.

"Well, would it make you feel better, Bobby, if you're the first person we tell — outside of the family, of course — that we're actually having twins?"

She has never seen his qi realign itself so fast and so well. Yep, she thinks that just might have been the right thing to say.

"You are?"

"You are???!?" echo Clara and Deb.

The parents-to-be both nod.

While their friends start their bouncing dance of celebration again, Bobby does his best to hug both Pablo and Andi at the same time. He's not very successful, so Pablo moves out the way so Bobby can hug Andi. And then he hugs both of them again.

"There," she whispers to Bobby, "does that help?"

He nods and then whispers back, "I'm sorry I've been so awful. I didn't realize what you guys were going through."

"Oh, piffle. You're always a lunatic, best friend of mine. I only worry when your beloved David gets those worry lines on his handsome face." She pulls back a bit so she can tap his nose with a finger. "And you've been going through some awful stuff yourself, sweetie. Even if I didn't know what it was until recently, I could tell something was wrong. We're best friends! How could I not know something was bothering you?" She smiles, hoping to keep his mind and heart at ease. "And, no. I'm not naming either of them after you."

Finally, Bobby smiles. "I really am sorry for being so..." He shrugs. "You know."

"Yeah, I know."

Deb and Clara are still bouncing and dancing and generally acting like Billy does when he's overjoyed.

"Still not naming them after you," Pablo says. "Or David."

Bobby nods. "Just be healthy and happy, and that will be good enough for us."

Andi takes a step back, and Pablo is there to wrap an arm around her waist again. Then she laughs. "So you say, Bobby. But I know you."

She smiles as she shakes her head. "If you two don't stop bouncing like that, I might throw up on you."

The two crazy women stop moving immediately. They don't just stop their delirious dancing, they stand completely still. And they grin like maniacs.

# # #

Chris smiles and then laughs at Justin and Nicole. They remind him so much of Brad and Miranda, which tells him that he'll be attending another wedding one of these days. The love they feel for each other is plain to see.

He's still smiling when he answers Nicole's question.

"Oh, I get plenty of unchaperoned times out. I know she's always looking for that person she thinks is right for me," he says. "It's a priority for her, probably because she wants everyone to be as happy as she is." He chuckles. "She and Brad keep assuring me that I'm not a third wheel living with them, but I'm pretty sure Miranda would much prefer that it was four of us."

His smile brightens as he shakes his head ruefully. "I think I've become a bigger challenge than she originally imagined, mostly because my work can absorb all my thinking and I've completely missed at least a couple of the dates she's set up."

He thinks about how crazy mad she'd been the first time, but she'd come around to realizing that he hadn't done it on purpose — he just had a much higher priority that moment and completely and utterly forgot. Fortunately, Miranda hadn't ever been able to stay mad at him.

He leans back, enjoying Nicole and Justin, but he's also looking to find these crazy people Justin spoke of. Not to date, of course, but to at least see what they look like in case he does have to avoid them.

"Hey, I'm going to give my congratulations to Andi and Pablo," he says as he stands up.

"I'll be right back."

He heads over to the couple and, when there's a moment where they aren't in a conversation or being accosted with hugs, he offers his hand to Pablo and offers Andi a small hug.

"Congratulations to both of you. And thanks again for helping me out. It means a lot to me."

Andrea is actually relieved when she sees Chris approach.

"Hi, Chris! I'm so happy you could join us today!"

"What she said, man," Pablo adds as he shakes Chris's hand.

The hug he offers is a welcome and heartfelt gift.

"Thank you. And if you haven't figured it out yet, it's all part of the package when you make friends with anyone in this family. It means a lot to all of us to be able to help our friends."

Bobby is nodding like a bobblehead, which makes Andi chuckle.

"The two temporary statuettes are my college roommates, Deb Franco and Clara Horachek. Deb does physics. Clara writes books about the people and culture of Eastern Europe but especially their music. I think."

With a semi-grand, not terribly sweeping gesture, she introduces Bobby. "Bobby Tompkins is the mad genius behind this soiree, my best friend, and my neighbor."

"Guys, this is Chris Adams, a friend of Justin's and probably his coolest coworker." She refrains from snickering at her own joke. "I have come to that very scientific deduction because Chris is the only coworker Justin has mentioned more than twice."

Bobby has returned to what passes for normal and shakes Chris's hand. "It takes a bit to get used to the whole family. They have a saying about Yazzies and bringing home friends..."

"A Yazzie never brings someone home that isn't worthy of being part of the family," Pablo offers quietly.

Bobby nods. "Exactly. And it's... well, I kind of freaked out about it."

Chris shakes hands with everyone, although he inwardly groans at Andi's introduction.

"It's nice to meet all of you. And yes, it's quite overwhelming. I'm just starting to accept it all and relax a bit."

"Deb and I are both from small families," Clara says, still trying to remain motionless. "That summer between junior and senior years? Mind blown!"

Unfortunately, Clara's simple statement is all the provocation Deb needs to start her... overly enthusiastic celebration again.

"They're having twins!!!" she blurts out, causing Clara to join her refrain and once again begin the dance of... well, the gods only know.

"They need therapy," Andi says to no one in particular.

"I could arrest them," Pablo offers. "Disturbing the peace seems reasonable."

Bobby looks at the two of them...

"Andi's having a baby! Pablo's having a baby!!!" Deb nearly sings.

"Yeah!" Clara agrees enthusiastically.

Then Bobby looks at his best friend and her new husband...

"No, I'm the one having the babies. Clara! That's not how biology works!" Andrea sighs. Again.

"Baby biology! Baby biology! Baby biology!" they chant together.

Chris's smile grows at the enthusiasm Andi's friends are displaying. "Well, double congratulations then," he says to her. "That's great news! And twins? Really? That's great!"

He doesn't think of dating much. Work consumes him, but he does occasionally think about having a family. For some reason, Chris doesn't really seem to put the two together.

Finally, Bobby looks at Chris. "You know, there's something not right about this situation. These two," he says, pointing to Andi and then Pablo, "threatened physical harm to my person. And those two only get threatened with arrest. You're an impartial, mostly outside third party, Chris. Do you think that's at all fair?"

Andi's two friends are still bouncing around like marbles in a pinball machine.

Wisely, and to his credit, Chris declines to get involved in Bobby's machinations merely by not answering and watching the two women act... well, possibly a little crazy. This is even beyond Miranda-level excitement!

"Hey. Are you two going to behave?"

"Technically, they are behaving — they're just behaving childishly," Tommy says, completely deadpan. His qi, however, is caroming around as wildly as Clara and Deb are trying to do physically. Like the rest of the family, he's beyond thrilled for Andrea and Pablo.

"You're not helping, Ha'atathli Dehiya."

He smiles unapologetically.

"I'm going to ask Puma to sit on your head while you're sleeping. At this rate, Pablo's cousins are going to become my favorite cousins."

She looks over at the group around Maddie and grins. "David?" she calls over to him. "I think these two ninnies could use your professional help."

The two ninnies in question look at David as he walks toward them. "OooooOOOOOooo!!" they say in unison.

"HEY!" Bobby declares indignantly.

Deb sighs and Clara very sadly intones, "Friend Zone."

"Uh huh. Not only that but GBF Friend Zone."

David slides an arm around Bobby's shoulders as he smiles cheerfully at the group. "I'm sure you don't mean my dear Bobby or your super sexy man, do you?"

Andi snickers. "Not this time, no. I mean my college roommates. Introduce yourselves around while I introduce Chris to Charles and Hank."

Linking arms with her brother's friend, she sighs with relief. "Thanks, it really is great. I think. The baby thing is definitely more of a big deal to most of our family and friends than the wedding, mostly because I thought I'd never be able to even have kids. Pablo is overjoyed enough for both of us." She tilts her head in her husband's direction; he shrugs as he grins. "Times ten, maybe. I'm just trying not to freak out."

Then she manages a chuckle. "The family does tend to act like a steamroller at times, and most folks don't get the full force of them all at once. It's possible only Cynthia has been close to this much of the Yazzie welcoming force. Well, Daniel was too when he married Yani, but he's Diné and understands. Cynthia is bilagáana like you and my ex-roommates, they also have relatively small families. When Sam brought her home for the first time, I understand Cynthia kind of looked like a deer in a car's headlights." Andi smiles at him. "Don't worry. You get used to it. Cynthia will tell you so."

As he listens to Andi talk about her family, Chris can't help but smile. This family certainly is a force of nature; he can only imagine how he'll feel around his own family after experiencing all of this.

She switches topics because, as Clara had said, being around all the Yazzies does tend to blow one's mind.

"I can't imagine a better ally to have in your corner of our little community than Charles," she continues more circumspectly and softly. "But Hank is quite the brilliant scientist, so you might find his expertise more useful. Either way, they're both genuinely good people."

As they approach, Andi watches Kimberly holding Hank's hand and staring up at him wistfully. Clearly, Pablo sees it too.

"Our kids will be just as sweet."

She gives him a side-eye and whispers to Chris, "He's got some kind of brain damage. Our hellions have been talking to me since before I even knew I was pregnant. In my dreams. I'm pretty sure they're not going to be angelic. But I let him have his delusions."

"Heya, cousin-twin!! Already tossing Pablo's shoes out of your hogan?"

Andi rolls her eyes at Henry, unlinks her arm from Chris's and rests a hand on his shoulder for moral support. Pablo laughs at Henry's joke as he slips an arm around Andi's waist again.

"Charles, Hank, Miss Kimberly, this is Chris Adams. He's Justin's friend and does science stuff with him. Chris... Charles Xavier, the headmaster at Leon's and Jenny's school... Doctor Hank McCoy, who does science stuff out there, too... and Kimberly Varano, daughter of our friends Michael and Martha."

Kimberly breaks off her semi-hero worship of Hank to look up at Chris, blinks... and then blinks again.

"I'm pleased to meet you, Mr. Adams," she says in that precocious way young children sometimes have. "Mommy and Daddy say I can be a scientist if I want. Is it hard?"

Charles Xavier's smile is warm and welcoming as he extends a hand in greeting. "A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Adams." While his words are common, his tone is indicative of utmost sincerity.

Hank McCoy, the blue-furred man standing next to Xavier's wheelchair, smiles as well, sharply pointed canines peeking out from the sides. His expression is jovial and welcoming, almost a counterpoint to the aristocratic studiousness of his friend. He also extends a hand in greeting.

"Well met, Mr. Adams," he says cheerfully. "And what branch of science do you play in?"

Chris answers the little girl first. "Hard? No, not really. You just have to be really, really curious," he says with a wink.

Then he shakes hands with the two men.

"Chemistry, but there's a considerable amount of biology involved, as well. Justin and I often work very closely together on projects," he says simply. He's never been good at talking about himself.

"Ah, biochemistry!" Hank says happily. "I dabble a bit myself. I had hoped young Leon would take an interest, but his propensity is for physics and mathematics instead."

Hank is obviously warming to his subject. Madeline grasps Charles's hand and shares an amused smile with him as well as with Logan.

"So," Hank continues, "what is your focus? Any problem, in particular, that might be trying to solve?"

Andrea pats Pablo's arm and gives him an apologetic look before stepping to Hank's side and linking an arm through his.

"Now, Hank... I'm absolutely going to let you and Chris talk about science to your respective hearts' content, but we need to get Miss Kimberly back to her rightful guardians, don't you think?"

A gentle tug on Hank's arm is met with an expression, and shifting aura, of such comic confusion — at least, to her anyway — that she can barely refrain from laughing.

"Come on, Hank," she says quietly, "this might be a party for Pablo and me, but you're the hero of the day... as false as the underlying premise is and as reluctant as you are to accept the title. Making a little girl happy, then spending the rest of the evening with the science nerds is a perfect cover!"

"Oh. Well." He looks down at Kimberly, who is now holding his other hand with both of hers. "Why, yes. Of course. You're absolutely right, Andrea."

"You know," she says more conversationally, "Maddie could have warned me that you get just as spacey as my brother gets." She grins and steers him — and Chris as well by linking her free arm with his as she circles around — toward the table where Perry and his family sit chatting with Ladonna and her children. "And Chris here needs to meet Michael, so we can gather up all the rocks at one time, all of which I will deposit with Henry, so you'll both be free to talk science until Nicole and Jenny find somewhere else to be."

Gosh, she can't believe how happy this makes her! No, no... not the dragging people around or playing Hostess With the Mostest. It's putting a bunch of like-minded science types together to talk shop at a party. Given the science nerds in question, they might just come up with a way to cure... well, something this evening.

They barely get close enough for even Andrea to hear what they're saying when Melissa sees then and starts clapping her hands and tries to bounce in the highchair the staff has procured.

"Mama! Mama!! Shiny! Pretty, pretty, shiny! Boo!!! Shiny!"

Andi starts giggling. She can't help it.

"You certainly have a solid fan-base in the under six set, Hank."

Ladonna is sighing and shaking her head, but smiling radiantly. Michael and Martha are grinning as well. Andi releases both men's arms, at which point, Kimberly tugs Hank a little closer to her brother. Throwing proper introduction etiquette to the winds, the bride just introduces people willy-nilly.

"This is Doctor Hank McCoy, who is, of course, blue and apparently shiny. He's an instructor at my nephew's school, a dear friend of my sister's, and — cover your ears, Hank — one of the kindest and most incredible people I know. And this is Chris Adams, my brother's friend and lab mate and a pretty smart guy who's come to share our special day with us. Guys... Pablo's sister, Ladonna Nazario and her children Anton Junior and Melissa... our friends Michael and Martha Varano and their son Nate."

There are various greetings — Anton being suddenly shy and ducking his head, Melissa exclaiming that Chris is also shiny, Ladonna firing off a bit of Spanish so quickly that Andi only grasps that she's thanking Hank profusely, Kimberly telling her brother about Hank, and everyone generally making the newcomers welcome. Overwhelmed maybe, but unconditionally and quite definitely welcomed.

"Oh, I believe we have a mutual friend in Chicago, Chris," Michael says when greetings have subsided to a reasonable level. "She and I chatted recently... I'd enjoy a chance to catch up on the news from your point of view whenever you have the opportunity." He chuckles. "This party already feels like a roller coaster ride, so enjoy it until it wears you out."

Chris lets himself be led around by Andrea. He greets people, shakes hands, and smiles. Rollercoaster, whirlwind... yep. Everything all rolled into one, he thinks.

"A mutual friend? Who's that?" he asks, wondering if he means Emerald Shark or perhaps someone else.

Michael raises an eyebrow — more as an approval of Chris's circumspection than anything else — and smiles.

"Em, one of the divers who works with the Coast Guard out there." Although he fudges a bit on Emerald Shark's designation as a diver, it isn't really that far off. "We chat fairly often, and after you had mentioned your trip out here, she asked me to keep you out of trouble."

Martha chuckles. "I always thought she was a worrywart, but she's a big city gal, and I guess that's what they do. Michael and I are from Mattoon — high school sweethearts — went to U of I at Urbana, and came out here when he got a job offer."

"Hey, hey, hey!" Ladonna says with a laugh. "I'm from L.A., and I don't spend my time worrying about my friends coming out here to visit my big brother." She pauses and glances over her shoulder at said brother. "I usually just worry about him. I don't think I'm gonna have to worry anymore. Andi has been wonderful for him."

Michael looks at Andi and winks.

"From what Ladonna has been telling us, Chris, Andrea's family can be a little intense."

Ladonna laughs. "Look at you, being concerned about the guy who's had days to get used to this! Just wait until my baby sister gets here!" She turns in her seat to look at Chris. "I hope you like to listen. Blanca loves to hear herself talk."

"Oh, that's not fair, Ladonna," Andi replies with a chuckle. "Justin says she listens just as much as she talks during their conversations."

Her sister-in-law shrugs expressively. "Oh, sure. If you start talking science, she's good at listening."

"Good thing Chris can talk science then, isn't it?"

"Si. Oh, and don't bother flirting with her, Chris. She's as dense as my brother and my new sister-in-law. Some guy is going to have to club her over the head and drag her off by her hair to get her to notice him."

Chris laughs. "I don't think anyone has anything to worry about. My friends say the same thing about me."

Andi smiles at Chris and then nods in agreement with Ladonna. She adds in an entirely serious tone, "At which point her brother and new sister-in-law will find the guy who clubbed her over the head — possibly hurting that brilliant brain of hers — and make him regret his life choices."

Ladonna blinks at her. "Damn, girl! When you said that family is important, you weren't kidding!"

Andi leans down and gives her a hug. "I never kid about family, Ladonna."

Standing again, she looks at all the people around the table and smiles.

"Well, my work here is done! I'm sure you can find Justin right where you left him, Chris. It looks like he's appointed himself Official Big Brother to Leon and Jenny for the day. I'll have to tease him about it later. Ignore the Matchmaker here, but be careful — there are going to be a lot of them at the party.

"Hank, you'll probably find the science geeks near Chris or Leon. Or..." She points in the direction of the group containing her college roommates. "...Deb is one of the over-caffeinated and highly excited bobbleheads over there. She's the one who does her 'fancy clothes' shopping at thrift stores. And Ren Faires. Oh, and she's a physicist who might be almost as smart as my nephew."

As she walks back to her husband's side, Andi hears Michael say with laughter in his voice, "I suspect she's the one running the roller coaster, too."

To which his wife replies, "Silly man! Andrea is the center of the whirlwind."

"Shiny, Mama!! Pabo an' Ani sooo shiny!"

Ladonna looks back at her daughter, love lighting her eyes, and a peaceful expression on her face. "You and all this shiny! You tryin' to make Mama nutty again, querido niña?"

Kimberly looks at Melissa, then up at Hank, studying him for another minute before saying to Melissa, "Shiny is the same as kind and happy, huh? They sure are!"

Melissa bounces a few more times, clapping her hands. "Mama! Kimmy be my friend."

The two mothers look across the table and try to hide their mirth.

"I'll write letters to Missy... is it okay to call you Missy? And your mama can read them for you until you learn to read. I'll write stories for your brother, too, okay? I tell stories to my brother. He likes them!"

Anton looks up then, seeming to see Kimberly for the first time. "I draw pictures," he says, his voice just barely above a whisper.

Ladonna nodded proudly. "Beautiful pictures, too," she says as she leans over to hug him. "I can draw stick figures. His papa wasn't much good at drawing or painting either, but could do wonders with a camera." She shrugs. "Elvia says talents just spring up like flowers in the cracks of the sidewalk. Andi got him a nice set of pencils, some of those expensive colored ones, too. And good quality drawing paper." She looks a little bemused at the extravagance of the gift. "I told her it was too much and you'd have thought it was the best compliment I could have given her."

Martha just smiles knowingly as Michael says, "She likes to encourage talent. And unless Pablo had a pained look on his face, I'd say the actual cost of the items in question wasn't a problem."

"I can draw some pictures for Kim, can't I, Mama? Please?"

Ladonna looks at her son, then around the table again, and shrugs. "Looks like the kids have decided. All we can do is go along with the plots they're hatching."

Martha chuckles again. "When they're plotting out things like this? I'd actively encourage it." Nate wakes up then, stretching and wiggling in her arms. "Well, good afternoon, my little man. Did you have a good nap?" The baby's response is a gurgle and a smile.

Kimberly's attention is immediately focused on her baby brother.

"Nate, look! It's Doctor McCoy! See how blue he is!"

She has to let go of Hank's hand with one of her own so she can set her Andi doll — which she had tucked under her arm — on the table. Nate giggles and squeals as Martha sits him up in her lap, and he catches sight of Hank. His eyes go wide, and his mouth forms a perfect little "O."

"See, Doctor McCoy, I told you Nate would like you!"

The little one starts bouncing even more energetically than Melissa had, swinging his arms in a typically uncoordinated way as Martha lifts him up so he can exercise his legs.

"Good heavens, Nathaniel, you don't need to start training for the diving team yet!" she says with a laugh as her son lurches forward to reach out for Hank's hand, missing by quite a bit.

"He wants to hold your hand, Doctor McCoy," Kimberly informs him and everyone else around the table.

Martha smiles. "Of course, he does, sweetie. He likes to hold everyone's hands. It's part of how babies get strength in their hands."

"Mommy, that isn't what I meant!"

Michael, who has just been watching and listening to everything, tries to hide a smile. "Kimmy..."

"Sorry, Daddy. Sorry, Mommy." She looks up at Hank again.

"While your mother is right, dear," Hank says, "I have it on good authority from people with far more experience than I that infants also benefit from exposure to different tactile sensations." He pauses as he smiles at Kimberly. "That's a fancy way of saying babies practice using their sense of touch by feeling different things."

And with that, he holds out his hand to Nate, who grasped a finger with both chubby hands and sits very still as he makes cooing sounds that might — or might not — have been some sort of communication.

Melissa watches with fascination, quiet for a moment, something that makes Ladonna softly sigh with relief.

"Mama?" Anton whispers. "Is science what Tia Blanca does?"

"Sure is, honey. Mister Adams does science, and Tia Andi's brother does science. You remember Tio Justin, right?"

Anton nods and points to the table where Justin sits. "He's funny. Can I do science, too?"

"Of course! You know Tia Elvia uses science as a nurse. Almost the same kind of science as Tia Blanca. And Tio Charles uses a different kind of science in his job."

The youngster nods slowly. "There's lots of different kinds of science, huh?"

"That's the truth! There's so many of them that even I don't know what all of them are."

Anton smiles for the first time. "Can we look them up on the computer when we go home and find out?"

"You got yourself a deal, hijo."

He nods more enthusiastically but then seems to turn in on himself again. "But what if it's too hard, Mama? Doing science, I mean?"

Kimberly looks over and bites her lip almost pensively before speaking up. "Mister Adams told me that it wasn't really hard, Anton. You just have to be really, really curious." She looks back at Chris for confirmation.

Ladonna looks over her shoulder at Chris again. "That's some good advice there. I know you mean it as something generic. After all, that applies to a lot of things besides science, right?" She winks at him, pauses, and turns serious again. "Anton Junior's had a hard time of it since his Papa was killed in the war. Reminding him to stay curious might be the best thing to help him along."

"Mama! MAMA!!! Shiny!!"

Ladonna laughs. "Honest to God, I have no idea what's gotten into this girl, but I think that means she approves. Of what? I have no idea. But Andi's friend didn't dump glitter on you..."

"Oh, are you talking about Bobby?" Martha asks. "He's a devoted follower of Martha Stewart and wouldn't dump glitter. He would artfully sprinkle it."

"Well, in either case, you didn't get attacked by the guy. He needs some Xanax if you ask me. But this shiny thing?"

She looks at her daughter. "Do you need to visit the eye doctor, Lissa?"

Melissa claps her hands again. "Silly Mama!! Love you, Mama!"

Ladonna chuckles. "Bribery like that will get you pretty darn far, you silly child."

For a moment, there is relative calm at the table. It's like being in the eye of the storm and gives Chris a chance to quietly thank Michael.

"I appreciate that. I think she worries too much — probably not so much about me, but more about me doing something embarrassing. It was quite a shock meeting her, especially in a mall. I know I have so much to learn still, starting with figuring out what exactly I can do and not do. I know I want to help people, but that's about it. I don't know if I really want to be in her league. But honestly, I really don't know. It's all so new to me."

# # #

Andi slides in between Pablo and the still insubstantial Rene, and nudges him with her hip — it's actually easier than Gibbs slapping him when he's insubstantial like this.

"What's gotten into you, Brother dear? There are only two people who are going to freak out if they see you, and I'm not even sure they'd freak out." She pauses, considers what she knows of Jeffco's top sheriff and her midwife, what she knows of Joe and Amanda as long-time friends to Maddie and Rene, and finally shrugs. "Okay, maybe they would freak out, but mostly I think it would just be super-duper confusing."

She glances at her Sister before shrugging again.

"You know what? Why don't you go ask Fox and Eagle if they can show you how to change your appearance enough so that Joe and Amanda won't recognize you, huh?"

"Andi? Who you talking to there?"

She looks over at Henry and rolls her eyes.

"Who do you think I'm talking to, Henry?"

"Oh, hey, Cousin Spirit! Didn't see you there."

Coyote seems to think that's terribly funny, but Andi thinks it's just way too obvious to be humorous and merely sighs.


"Yeah, Andi?"

"You know I love you, right?"

"Sure, Andi. I'm your favorite cousin." He grins like a ninny, probably because he is a ninny.

"You are not!" Billy says from a nearby table. "I am."

Andi rests her head on Pablo's shoulder. "All of your cousins who couldn't make it here today are officially my favorite cousins."

He laughs. "There are only three of them unless you want to count their children, too."

"Sure, why not? They aren't here either."

He holds her snugly as he looks at Henry. "Henry, please don't tease Andi today, okay? I know that she puts up with you and your insanity a lot better than I do, but we're kind of stressed by all of this."

"Henry, are you teasing your cousin again?"

Tita's voice is like a shower of peace that washes over Andrea. She suspects that if she looks toward her grandmother, she'd see Deer with her. It doesn't matter. Even before the Spirits became all too present in Andi's life, Tita always brought peace and comfort with her.


"More like absolutely and positively," Uncle Junior says, "knowing you and seeing the look on the bride's face. What do you think, dear?"

Andi lifts her head to look toward the doorway at her family. Papa is trying to contain his mirth. Dad and Uncle Junior are not. Uncle Leon is staying out of the lunacy for the moment.

"I think we arrived just in time to save Andi," Aunt Alicia says.

"As always, your wisdom is only exceeded by your beauty."

"Good grief, Junior, I haven't seen you this sappy since you started courting Alicia," Aunt Sonia remarks, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh, he always gets loopy like this at weddings, Sonia. It's why I don't let him go to many of them."

Aunt Alicia is also in a mood for teasing today, she can see. Andi gives Pablo a quick hug before walking over to greet her elders.

"I'm sure his parents will straighten Henry out, my dear," Tita says.

Andi chuckles. "If they could, they'd ground him and not let him fly his airplanes."

"Or at the very least insist that he not tell that ridiculous story about his guardian Spirit flying the plane for him!" Papa says.

"Coyote doesn't even go with him. It told me so."

Papa smiles. "I am still getting used to you having more familiarity with the Spirits than your cousin, Granddaughter."

She shrugs. "Some days, I remember when I didn't and think things were easier then."

"Well, you must live life as it is given to you," Tita reminds her. "I'm sure you'll do just fine. Now, I know your mother insisted that we should try to keep this celebration very casual and allow people to introduce themselves as the opportunity presents itself, but your Papa and I would like very much for you to introduce us to your honored guests." She looks across the room where Hank is making friends with a baby. "Well, perhaps just one... for now."

Andi smiles as she hugs Tita. When she wants to grow up, she'll want to be the kind of person Tita is, with her strength and courage. She can't not be who she is, but maybe someday she can be gracious instead of snarky. Well, at least, gracious in addition to being snarky.

"Of course. I'd be delighted."

As she turns back toward the rest of the Pentad and Charles, Andi watches Aunt Alicia drag Henry off by his ear — he needs to hunch over so she can do it, too, and he's still grinning — and deposits him in a chair at a table adjacent to the one Andi's parents have claimed.

"Henry is having more fun than he should," she says.

Papa pats her arm as he escorts her back to her husband. "He'll settle down. His favorite cousin is getting married."

"I hope you're right about the settling down part, Papa."

She takes Pablo's hand again as Papa releases her arm.

"Papa, Tita, I'd like you to meet Professor Charles Xavier, who is the headmaster at young Leon's school." Relaxing again, she can smile again without trying to force it. "Charles... my grandparents, William and Kai Yazzie."

As Papa shakes hands with Charles, enfolding the other man's hand in both of his as is his custom, he says, "So you are the dear friend of our new granddaughter! You must call us Papa and Tita, too, then, yes?"

Tita laughs. "Well, if that is too personal, our friends call my husband Bill. However, even our friends have been calling me Tita since my eldest grandchild was born, and that was quite some time ago."

While she, too, shakes his hand, she also bends down to whisper, "And although she won't say anything about the circumstances, we understand you have been a blessing to Andrea in her work. So we thank you for that."

She stands beside Papa and links an arm with his and looks at Madeline and Logan. "It is so good to see you today, Grandchildren. You must tell me the story of your dress later, Madeline. It is quite lovely."

Pablo moves a bit so that he's standing behind Andi with his arms circling her. She can be calm for a moment, she can simply be present and watch the activity around her. Blanca waves as she walks by, making a beeline for Justin. Andi isn't the least bit surprised.

What is surprising is watching Talia join her little brother and the twins behind them, instead of Justin and the rest of them on the other side of the room. She seems... a little, well, 'off' is the only way Andi can describe it. But then Pablo's Momma and Rosalia's Papa come in, signal that they'll join the happy couple later, and walk over to chat with Andrea's parents.

For a moment, for just this moment, there is a modicum of serenity in the Grand Ballroom. Andi will take what she can get.

# # #

Ladonna looks over her shoulder at Chris, a puzzled expression on her face. However, before she can say anything, a golden whirlwind in the form of her baby sister arrived at the table.

"Hey, sis... Anton, Missy. How are you guys?"

"I'm gonna draw pictures for Kimberly," Anton says shyly.

"Shiny!" is Melissa's response.

"You're bananas, kid," the newcomer says to her niece.

"Yeah, she'd been doing this shiny thing all day."

"I know. It was almost all she said at the wedding. And you draw wonderful pictures, Anton. Kimberly is going to love them."

"I thought you were kidding when you said you were going to change clothes for the reception," Ladonna says.

"Hey, Pablo said we could dress up and be princesses if we wanted!" She laughs as she bends down to kiss her sister's cheek. "You know I never get to dress up anymore."

She wears a gown of shimmery gold — not lamé, that would have been too tacky for her tastes — that Madeline would have certainly recognized, as it's one of the more elegant designs from the House of Beauvoir. With a square neckline, the simple string of pearls with a drop pendant looks exquisite; the cap sleeves show off well-toned arms. The tulip style skirt swishes around her legs as she twists. With her three-inch heels, she's taller than her new sister-in-law and nearly as tall as her brother — that's without her glossy black hair that is piled on top of her head in intricate braids.

Reaching over to shake his hand and then Martha's, she says to Michael, "Hi, I'm Blanca, Pablo's little sister. You must be Michael and Martha, right? And Nate, too, huh?"

"And I'm Kimberly!" says the precocious tyke and Hank's biggest fan.

Blanca beams at her. "I'm very pleased to meet you, Kimberly. Just you wait until Anton starts sending you his pictures. He's really good."

Looking at the girl's parents again, she continues, "Andi told me about how you guys all work at the homeless shelter and the food bank together. That is so awesome. I told Pablo he needs to quit slacking off and get out there more, but he had this dumb excuse about solving crimes."

She grins and rolls her eyes, then looks at Hank. Kimberly, of course, is holding one hand and the baby holds one finger of the other. Both look mesmerized by him. Blanca chuckles.

"I'd shake your hand, too, Doctor McCoy, but you have more important people claiming your attention." The young woman's smile is understanding, and her eyes say more than enough — take care of the little ones first. Always take care of the children first. "I'm sure you've heard it already, and you'll probably be hearing it all night, but thank you from the bottom of my heart for the miracle you've given Andi and my brother."

"Please, call me Hank," the blue-furred man replies. "And it was nothing, really."

Blanca smiles knowingly. "Giving everyone else credit just like Andi does, huh? That's cool."

"Shiny, Tia Banca! Shiny!"

"You're gonna drive your Mamacita nutty, Missy," she says, giggling.

Then she steps over to shake Chris's hand. "And you gotta be Justin's lab buddy from work. Chris, right? Oh, man, I am so excited to meet you! Justin said the three of us can geek out together and talk about science stuff."

By this time, Michael is chuckling softly. "You're quite the force of nature, Blanca. Chris, we can chat later about our mutual friend if you'd like. I suspect a conversation of the sort this young lady suggests would be far over my head."

Chris had been talking with Michael when he feels the presence of the golden hurricane he discovered was Pablo's sister, Blanca. In a way, it's good that he had been introduced to other family members first so that he's a little more prepared for this force of nature. He can't help but smile; her enthusiasm and personality are highly infectious.

"You know Andi's older nephew is a nerd like you, too, don't you?" Ladonna looks at her sister and grins. "You're all going to sit over there in the corner and talk about science, aren't you?"

"Nuh uh. I'm gonna dance, too!"

Hank softly clears his throat. "I would enjoy talking science with all you young people," he says. "In some ways, young Leon is far ahead of me but, to be truthful, I prefer the health sciences that you two and Andrea's brother are working with."

He glances at the children again and smiles.

"I just seem to be a little busy at the moment."

"You spend time with los niños, Hank," Blanca says. "Come on, Chris! Hey, do you think we can make Justin's head spin? That would be fun. He's so crazy! He cracks me up every time we talk. He must be so much fun to work with. Ooh, he mentioned that you came out here because your whole family was going to be gone and your roommates too. Hope you don't get mad at him 'cause he told me about your sister and that stalker loser of a boyfriend she had. Man, I'd have kicked him in los cojones right into intensive care. Your sister is probably more ladylike and proper than I am. My sisters, they just roll their eyes up in their heads because I'm a tomboy."

She pauses for a moment and grins at him. "I ain't quiet and shy either. Could you tell?" At that, she giggles.

"Nah, I don't mind. Claire wouldn't have kicked him — it's the lawyer in her, always thinking of the consequences. Looking back, I wish I had, though," he says, not really smiling.

By this time, they've reached the table where Justin, Nicole, Leon, and Jenny waited. Blanca had had some time after the wedding ceremony to chat with all of them, so she just waggles her fingers and says, "Hi, guys!" to them.

Jenny stares at her dress as Blanca sits in the empty seat beside her.

"I thought you were kidding when you said you and your sister made a replica of one of Mrs. Jacobs' company's dresses. That's amazing work, Blanca!"

"Thanks. It was mostly Elvie, but I know my way around pleats."

"You look like Blanca ran you over, buddy," Justin says to Chris with a chuckle. "I forgot to warn you that she can be talkative sometimes."

She looks around the room, her eyes catching on her brother.

"You know what, Justin? I'm gonna let you slide on that for now. Your sister's made my big brother so happy that I'm in a forgiving mood." She looks back at Justin, smiling. "We need to get our geek talk on before I get all weepy and totally ruin my tough tomboy image."

"I think you've already ruined it with the dress," Nicole says.

"Well, if I get weepy, I'll wind up blowing my nose on the tablecloth, and eventually word will get back to my Momma, and even Pablo won't be able to save me then." She grins at Nicole and winks.

"So, Chris..." She plants one elbow on the table and rests her chin in her palm, giving him her full attention. "Clean water for everyone — that's what Justin says your goal is. How's your project coming?"

Some people found Blanca's ability to dress up like a princess and still trash talk at a hundred words a minute disconcerting. Most people took that in stride, though. It's the way she stops on a dime and gets down to serious matters that makes everyone in her family except her brother just shake their heads in wonder.

Chris had wanted to compliment her on her dress, but he really can't get a word in. It's not a bad thing — goodness knows he isn't used to talking a lot, and she makes sure there are no awkward silences. However, when she asks about his work, he smiles and nods.

"That's the goal. We've made some progress, but there is still a long way to go... so many different situations around the world to consider."

"Sure, that makes sense," Blanca says in response. "It's gotta make your head feel like it's gonna explode with all the variables, huh? I mean, just in California we have so many different ecosystems that I gotta give props to the folks who can keep track of what's what."

She shoots a look at Justin. "And you don't even start on your crazy idea that your cousin and his computer are going to revolutionize the way we do science."

Justin laughs and raises his hands in surrender. "You're never going to let me live that one down, are you? One joke about magical computers and I'm forever branded a crazy man."

"You are a crazy man, Justin," Nicole says, reassuring him. "You want to stop the spread of a virus developed as a biological weapon when your grandfather was a young man. It's a good kind of crazy, but you're still crazy."

"You want to stop the Virus??" Jenny asks.

Justin glances at Chris before turning to Jenny. "Honestly? I don't think it's possible. People have been trying to develop vaccines and antidotes for two generations now. I'm pretty smart, but people who are exponentially smarter than I am have tried and failed." He shakes his head. "At this point, I'd be satisfied with making sure people don't die or scare people into thinking they're dying."

He looks at Chris again. "Your roommates are amazing, dude, but I think Miranda is still a little scared that you're just going to drop dead in the middle of the kitchen someday." Then he smiles at his labmate. "I think I reassured her that the kitchen is a safe space. If you're going to drop dead — and you're not — it would be at work."

"Hey, hey, hey, wait!" Blanca looks at the people around the table and finally brings her attention back to Chris. They can almost see the proverbial gears turning in her head as she thinks things through.

"Have you told your family? I mean, well, I see you've told Justin and if Justin knows then his whole family knows because, apparently, that's how his family works. But I just found out this morning that my brother..." She shakes her head to clear it. "Well, he didn't get hit with the Virus. It was more like a curse from the 'Coatl, but Andi's family all knows about it, and he didn't tell any of us."

Blanca doesn't look as much angry as she looks, well, profoundly sad. Her mother might have even said heartbroken.

"Blanca, Pablo was having a hard time of it. Andi didn't tell me most of what's going on with her until this week." Justin speaks softly; he understands how Blanca feels. "And I was there — right there in our base housing, usually sitting with Mom in the room with her — when her Curse hit. I was a terrified six year old boy who thought his beloved sister was dying. We've both had about two decades to deal with what happened back then, and it's only this week that Andi told me what it means for her to have the gifts she has. How long has Pablo had? A few months?"

He takes a deep breath and accepts the hug Nicole gives him with a smile.

"You can be mad at him, Blanca. I do understand that. I've been pissed off at Andi for years. But don't blame him, okay? I think he's been just as scared as Andi has been all these years.

"And if it's any consolation, I don't think he's as dense as she is. He would have told you once he got over being terrified."

Blanca looks at Justin, and a plethora of emotions flow across her features — fear, anger, stubbornness, protectiveness.

"He didn't want to tell me."

"Blanca. Pablo is a cop. I'm willing to bet that it's harder for him to wrap his brain around all of it than it is for scientists or librarians or nurses or just plain goofballs. From what Andi said, from what I heard, Pablo saying when the family talked with Chris, I think he's still having a hard time with it."

Justin gives her a crooked smile that's more like her brother's than his sister's smiles.

"He's not going to admit it, and you know it. And he's not going to admit that he still has that cultural machismo rattling around in his brain either."

Blanca narrows her eyes and just glares at Justin. "You think you know my brother better than I do?"

Justin shakes his head and grins. This time, however, he looks a lot like his sister in her wicked phase, as he often calls it.

"Hell no! I just know how many times Andi has mentioned that she's going to Gibbs slap him or crack him over the head with her big stick. But she does recognize that he's a gentleman and can't ever stop being who he is. They'll spend the rest of their lives teasing one another and loving one another, and the rest of us should stop worrying about them."

Blanca is quiet for a moment, her eyes flickering between Justin and Nicole.

"You know I feel about Pablo the same way you feel about Andi, right?"

"Yeah. I know."

"So not worrying about them is bullshit."

"I know that, too. I didn't say we weren't still going to worry. I just said we don't have a valid reason to worry." He looks at Nicole, he looks at Leon and Jenny, he looks at Chris, and finally looks at Blanca again. "Other than the fact that we love them, of course."

She nods once. "Okay. Just so we're clear on that." Then her dark, piercing eyes focus on Chris again.

"So. Have you told your family? Cuz if me and Justin are any kind of guides to go by, you maybe ought to consider it."

# # #

As Andi introduce her grandparents to Charles, Rene disappears — presumably to chat with his Sibling Spirits about trying not to freak out the two friends he and Maddie made when they lived here. When he was alive, or at least a different version of alive. Although with Rene, one never really knew what he was up to.

"Please call me Charles, dear lady. And whatever small assistance I could provide for your granddaughter does not come close to the good she has done for one of my dearest friends and your other granddaughter."

Andi leans her head back against Pablo's shoulder and smiles. Given the opportunity, Tita and Charles could probably stay well within the boundaries of truth and still spend an hour telling each all the ways in which they believe she might be the greatest thing since... Well, maybe not sliced bread. Andi thinks Tita is more a fan of indoor plumbing.

Blanca makes a sharp change in direction, heading for Ladonna and everyone else at that table. Andi stares at her for a few seconds.

"Why does that dress look familiar? That's not what she was wearing at the ceremony."

"It's... ah... one of Madeline's designs. Well, her company's." Pablo looks over at our Sister and Elder Brother and — wait, is that guilt Andi sees bubbling through his qi? Oh, yes, it is!

"You didn't sell a kidney without telling me so she could buy it, did you? I don't think kidneys grow back. Well, probably not yours. Mine might."

"No!" He looks positively horrified at the idea. "God, no. She saw it in a magazine and thought it was — and I quote — very princess-like. She probably twisted Elvia's arm half off to get her help in making it." His eyes follow his sister. "Or Elvia just volunteered. It could have gone either way."

Blanca's determined glide across the room and their conversation draw in Maddie's attention enough that she raises an eyebrow and watches Blanca.

"Hmm. Interesting. I'm pretty sure we're not selling that design in gold, although Jenny would probably know better than I do," she says as she returns to her brilliantly chosen task of leaning against Logan while watching the door.

"From what I can tell, it's not a cheap knock-off, so if your sisters put that together from nothing but a picture, they've got more talent than the majority of people on this planet."

And that was that. Andi chuckles.

You're going to wind up putting a gold version out, aren't you?

Madeline doesn't even look at Andi when she responds, but her lips twitch in a smile. Of course. Honestly, some of the colors I see in our catalogs look awful on people with darker complexions. Hell, I'll probably make sure she gets one of our tags to sew into the dress.

Don't worry, I won't tell anyone what a nice person you are.

That's when Maddie's eyes do flicker in her Sister's direction. Good. I wouldn't want to have to kill you.

Andi grins and goes back to watching people, one of her favorite activities.

# # #

Madeline wanders away from the centers of attention, taking Logan with her. They stop briefly to check on their children.

"You two keeping Billy out of trouble?" she asks as they come up to the table.

"Of course, Mom," Vin pipes up; Em merely nods since she has just taken a bite of food.

"Hey!" Billy says, grinning.

Madeline just laughs. She briefly touches Talia on the shoulder and gives her a soft smile before they move on. Bypassing Hank and his fan club, they head over to the bar. While waiting for their drinks, Madeline makes eye contact with Leon. He returns her smile but continues with the conversation before him.

"Those two are adorable," she tells Logan as they are given their wine and continue their circuit of the ballroom.

"They are," he agrees. "Do you think they've figured it out yet?"

"I'd say they're getting close. Charles urges caution, but he can see it too."

"And the rest of us will be meeting her parents in a few days. Ranchers you said?"

"Yes. Good size property from what I could tell. Necessary I suppose for cattle. Not my forte. You didn't really have them eat moose, did you?"

"We were living off the land. Not a lot of meat options up there."

"But it was cooked?"

"I'm not a complete savage," he says with a grin.

She shakes her head and chuckles. "What does moose taste like?"

He shrugs. "Moose."

"Okay, what is it similar to?"

"Venison a bit. Buffalo too."

"I've never had buffalo either."

"Beef but more wild. We should go up there. You can try it."

"Those are sizeable animals. What would we do with the rest?"

"Share with the nearby Nations."

"Made some new friends, did you?"

"They… remembered me."


"Seems I have a cabin up in the mountains."

"That does not surprise me. Was it Kayla's People?"

He shakes his head. "No. Not the Siksikawa. The Sayisi Dene. They are further north."

"Did you go up to it?"

"No. Next time. With you."

"In the summer then, so I don't freeze too much."

"Of course," he chuckles and leans in close to breathe in her ear, "But you know I would keep you warm."

Warm laughter bubbles up as she turns to face him. "You'd better."

The inevitable kiss follows.

"Love, Wolverine."

"Love, Madeline."

A warm chuckle sounds behind them. "Break it up, you two, before you give the kids more ideas."

Both turn toward Rene, Madeline holding her hand out to him.

"And where have you been hiding, mijn liefde?"

He takes her hand and offers his charming smile. "Here and there. Watching Leon and Jenny mostly."

"You see it too?" Logan asks.

Rene nods. "Yes. Leon's much more settled than I was at that age."

"Your mother said as much," Logan tells him. "She seemed quite pleased about it too."

"I imagine she is," Rene admits. "I was—"

"The Tony Stark of your day?" Logan interrupts.

Madeline nearly spits out her wine but manages to swallow it without choking.

"At least I didn't have a towering skyscraper in self homage."

"You do have a point there. There is a bit more substance to your flash than his."

"Merci beaucoup, mon frere," Rene laughs. "That is very kind of you to say."

# # #

There's a fascinating group of people over there with Blanca — she hopes Michael can ease Chris's mind a little about the whole superhero thing. She isn't sure Chris is really ready for it, though. Oh, chatting with Michael? Sure. But going out on the streets of Chicago? She just doesn't know. He'll know when he's ready. After all, Tommy gently nagged her for years before the Warrior woke and she took up the staff.

Everything happens as it should happen and when it should happen, for the greatest good of all concerned.

Glancing at Maddie and Logan — who are practically glowing, although Andi's thinks she's the only one who can see it, though Ladonna's youngest can certainly sense more things around her than most — she reflects on Rene's situation, too. She'd like to think the Bakers will accept the weirdness, but he and Maddie know them better than she does. However, after seeing Amanda for her appointment last Monday and dealing with Dennison's folks on Saturday, Andi felt like it had been important to let Joe in on the big secret. Maybe it had just been acknowledging how important Ninja's law enforcement contacts are to her to a couple of idiots who don't even think she should exist. Maybe it was Abe's little speech in which he tried hard to embarrass her — failing only because his utter sincerity had been something she could almost touch — when he tried to help the elder Dennisons see how much Ninja did for the County Sheriffs Offices.

Andi had realized that the relationship she has with her midwife and Ninja's relationship with the Jeffco top cop is complicated by the existence of the Pentad. Not in a bad way. It just makes things... well, annoyingly complex. Despite feeling like far too many people know both sides of who she is, Ninja had taken advantage of knowing Sheriff Baker's schedule and had asked to drop by the day after visiting with Dennison's folks.

"The grapevine says you made an incredible impression on some out-of-town visitors yesterday," Joe says as I leaned against his wall, my staff cradled in the crook of my arm.

"Grapes talk too much. And the grape in Boulder County made more of an impression — at least, more of a positive one. Damn fool tried to embarrass me."

Joe laughs. "Come on, Ninja, how long have you been working with Goldman? Longer than you've been working with me and my folks, I know that. He speaks his truth from his heart."

"Yeah. And I'm the snarky bitch who got painted as a hero around these here parts with his down-home country cowboy charm," I say with a hint of my usual Ninja smile. "Made it sound like I wave my staff around and rainbows appear. And I — just possibly — might ride a midnight black unicorn."

"Aren't unicorns supposed to be white?"

"Baker, unicorns are myths. Myths don't have colors. And do you think I could get away with riding a white unicorn in this get-up?"

"It would be a change, that's for sure."

"Exactly. And I only put up with that shit for Dennison's sake." I shake my head. "They're worse than some of the crazies around here. I feel sorry for the kid."

He eyes me carefully.

Of all her contacts in law enforcement, Ninja thinks Joe is the sharpest of the lot. They're all damn fine, including that lunatic in Arapahoe County, but Joe... Well, there's just something more to Joe Baker. She could put it down to his association with Maddie and Rene all those years ago, but she won't because he's just that damn good. And it's why she's been trying to work with Davis... mostly.

"You didn't come to chat about my colleagues in neighboring counties, however. What's on your mind?"

He's leaning against the edge of his desk with his arms crossed, a pose that seems habitual for Pablo as well when he's at work and staring at the departmental whiteboard.

You came to tell him this, you idiot. Just do it. It isn't a sign of craziness to talk to yourself as long as you don't use your outside voice. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

"I happen to know you and your lovely wife will be attending a wedding come Thursday."

His eyebrow merely twitches, and everything about his manner is calm... only slightly inquisitive. "You know the bride or groom?"

I shrug. "Both. Figured I ought to let you know beforehand that I'm the bride."

His eyebrow goes up and stays up for a moment. "I met the bride at Lin's place earlier this month. She didn't look much like you."

He isn't tensing up in that way people do when they're nervous. And it doesn't even seem like he disbelieves me. I think he just wants to know how it's possible.

"True. A lot of shit went down around Halloween. Some of my abilities got an upgrade. Added a few, too. For a while there, I really believed I was losing my mind and turning into a nuclear power plant." I meet his eyes, holding his gaze. I've already trusted his wife. Maddie and Rene are their friends. Maybe right now I'm was piggybacking on my Sister's trust and friendship.

"I adopted Maddie into my family, which started a cascading effect that..." I sigh, searching for the right words and not finding any that work very well. "Part of the story is hers to tell, and when she's ready, I think she'll be happy to share it with you and Amanda. But our stories were weirdly connected before I ever met her, and since the morning after we met at your place that connection has gotten... well, impossible to break might be a term I'd use."

I sigh again, close my eyes, and lean my head against the wall. "I'm a magnet for weird — or so my husband to be will tell you — and the shit about past lives is too freaky even for me. I start talking about fragmented souls and my cousin the shaman won't even listen to me. He's way too dignified to stick his fingers in his ears but he sure as hell wants to do just that."

When I open my eyes and raise my head again, he's just watching me. Calmly. More calmly, in fact, than when I toy with his people out in the lobby.

"Well, the magic is a little easier for me to accept — guardian Spirit gift with a healthy dose of my own power."

I pull a bit of Fox's magic around me and change my appearance to the one I'd used on them that night for the dinner party.

"This one is subtle, just enough for your cop's spidey senses not to tingle."

He nods. "You're right. Without the staff, I wouldn't have a reason to make a connection."

I drop all the illusions then and lean the staff against the door jamb. "This is how my family sees me. Most of my friends, too, although in a forward-thinking way, I've started adding some gray to my hair for my closest friends."

Joe gestures to my outfit. "The jeans and shirt are an illusion, though?"

I grin and shake my head. "Nope. My uniform was. I could have made the staff an illusion, too, but I needed the security blanket."


"Hey, have you ever come out to someone? It isn't easy, and it doesn't get easier every time you do it. I only pretend to believe my gay friends when they lay that bullshit on me."

This time, Joe shakes his head.

I have one more illusion to lay on him — the one I plan to use on Wright. It causes Joe to actually blink.

"And this is...?"

"You're not the only one of my professional contacts who will be at the wedding. There's a beat cop I see nearly every time I'm out on the streets of Denver. My husband — in his infinite wisdom — decided to invite him to the reception, too." I shrug. "I can't really blame him. He and Wright had been friends for years before a mutual friend was killed on duty. They reconnected, not surprisingly, just after Halloween. I invited you and Amanda pretty much on instinct. Pablo's invitation to Wright was just as impulsive.

"The problem is that Wright is the smartest and most observant cop on the streets of Denver and I've been working with him for nine years."

I pull the illusion of my uniform back around me. "Even without the staff, that man would be staring daggers at me all night trying to figure out where he'd seen me before. And he'd figure it out, too." I retrieve my staff and lean it against my shoulder.

"I told Amanda about this part of my life when I saw her last Monday and asked her not to mention it to you—"

"She didn't."

"I know. She said she wouldn't, that you keep your jobs separate. But listen, I know about keeping secrets. It's one thing for me to keep secrets from most of the world, and this is a secret I'm happy to keep forever. I just didn't want to be the reason for one spouse to be keeping secrets from the other."

Joe chuckles. "You're about to get married, Ninja. A few decades from now, you'll understand that in a partnership like this, when both spouses understand the need for confidentiality, it isn't the problem you imagine it to be." He pauses for a moment, then nods. "But thank you for your concern."

I shrug. "Well, my husband is still in the early stages of the learning curve. Ticks him off when I keep things from him." I roll my eyes. "Given his job, I shouldn't be surprised but..." I guess I was surprised by Pablo's reaction, despite the fact that I think I know where he's coming from.

"Ninja, give Garcia time. Based on what I know about you and what I've heard about him, there are bound to be a few clashes. Amanda and I have entirely different jobs. While you and your detective are both in law enforcement, your jobs aren't the same."

He doesn't quite snort — that wouldn't be in his idiom — as he gives me a look that I've seen from every one of my contacts at one time or another.

"I think you understand this better than he does: there's the law, where I have to stay, where he has to stay, where all of us you work with day in and day out have to stay.

"And then there are you and Peregrine who can do things we can't. None of us are happy about stepping outside the scope of the law. And yet, with the threat from people who are more than mere humans, there are occasions when someone needs to cross the line. And from what I've seen, you've never strayed so far from the line that it's ever been a concern for anyone but your detective."

That's when I laugh. "You weren't paying attention at Halloween, were you? Sanchez was over at Costo buying out their entire stock of antacids."

"That nonsense was you? And here I thought it was an Army operation."

Like all good cops, Baker has a sense of snark I can appreciate. It's there, but it doesn't compete with mine.

"I'm glad you think so. Masterson might not be so pleased, but I believe he's starting to get used to being blamed for anything huge I..." I look at him levelly, preparing myself to lie through my teeth while telling the truth. That 'whole truth, not all of the truth, and maybe a few white lies' kind of thing. "Fine, a pal and I get ourselves into."

"The incident in Idaho Springs."


He stares at me, and I get the feeling he's trying to see inside my brain.

"Ask you no questions, and you'll tell me no lies? That's what we have going on here, I take it."

I shrug. "Some stories are not mine to tell. If the other people involved wanted to be in the spotlight, you'd know about it."

He half sits, half leans on the edge of his desk for a moment before standing and closing the distance between us. He holds out a hand.

"Congratulations on officially cementing your relationship with your detective, Ninja. I hope the two of you will be as happy as Amanda and I have been." As we shake hands, he adds, "And thank you for your trust."

I merely nod at his good wishes.

"Trust doesn't always come readily for me in either of my roles and far less so in this one. I get good vibes from you, Baker, but honestly? That Jacobs woman vouched for you, and that counts for a whole hell of a lot in my book."

He smiles. "I know what you mean. Now... get out of my office. I have work to do."

Come to think of it, of all the LEOs she works with, Masterson is the only one who doesn't do that casual 'leaning on the desk' thing. Of course, Masterson is with the Army. It's probably against their rules or something.

"You okay, dear?"

She looks up at Pablo and smiles. "Just shearing sheep." At his adorably confused expression, she chuckles and amends, "Woolgathering. Thinking deep random thoughts?"

"I hope they were about your husband."

"Partially, yes."

"Hmm." He looks around the room. All of their respective family members have arrived. Andi's coworkers are starting to filter in.

"If we're going to get any food this evening, we should probably get some now."

She nods. "Just get me a plate of protein. I can nibble on everything else for the rest of the day." She chuckles softly. "Can't have the bride fainting on her wedding day. Give me a sec... I want to chat with Talia."

He smiles. "Uh huh. At this point, I'm almost entirely certain Mother Earth wouldn't allow you to faint." He kisses her softly. "Don't be long."

Andi waggles her fingers at those around them as they turn and head for the buffet nearest the table Billy and the twins have claimed. She slips into the chair next to Talia.

"I am your favorite cousin, right, Andi?" Billy asks almost immediately.

"He keeps telling us that you are, Aunt Andi," Vin offers.

"Because he's the youngest," Em adds.

"Uh huh," she says, looking at the lunatic. "You can't entertain them with cartoon characters, so it's going to be the tall tales, is that it?" She looks at Talia then. "You haven't smacked him yet."

"Still working up the energy. He's got about five minutes before he loses an earlobe."

"Ut oh."

Andi grins at Billy. "Yep. Ut oh. Also, I've decided that Pablo's cousins are my favorite cousins today. So there." She sticks her tongue out at him for good measure.

After glancing at Em and Vin, he looks down at his empty place. "Oh, gosh. I wonder how that happened. I'm out of food. Maybe I should get more."

As the twins giggle at his ridiculous performance, he gets up and heads over to the buffet where Pablo is filling a couple of plates. The twins, of course, follow him.

"They love him," Andi says to Talia.

She smiles. "We all do. Sometimes it actually goes to his head, and he needs to be reminded to come back to earth."

"Tali, are you okay? You look a little pale. Not here..." She circles her own face with a finger. "...but here." She taps her cousin's breastbone gently, right over the heart chakra.

Talia shakes her head slightly. "No. Not really." When she looks at Andi, her eyes appear hollow and empty.

"You saw something."

She nods.

Andi closes her eyes for a few seconds before looking at Talia again. "Something I need to worry about today?"

"No," she whispers.

"Good. Then give me your hand."

"Huh?" she says even as she's placing one hand between Andi's.

"New trick I learned."

Slowly and gently, Andi allows Mother's love and energy to flow through her to her cousin. Talia's eyes grow wide and then wider.

"Wow," is all she can say as Andi releases her hand.

"Yep. If this is something I'll need to worry about at some point, you'll let me know? Wait, of course, you'll let me know. Will you at least give me some warning?"

She pauses as she takes a few deep breaths. "As much as I can. It's... well, it's pretty far out, so the incidental details could change between now and then. But..."

She just presses her lips together and says nothing else.

"But it's one of those inevitable things that no one can change even if they wanted to. And based on your reaction, I'd say people would very much want to change it. Including you, am I right?"

Talia only nods.

"Okay, cousin. I get it. Your Curse can be as much of an asshole as mine. Are you going to be all right, though?"

"Sure, sure. Just... just give me a few more minutes to process it all, and I'll be back to my cheerful self. Tita and Deer have already helped. Giraffe is sticking around for a bit to make sure I'm fine." She smiles in what is probably supposed to be an encouraging way.

Andi leans over and kisses her temple. "You're all my favorites, you know," she whispers before getting up. At least Talia manages a real smile.

She waves to people she knows as they enter the ballroom and ogle the magnificence Bobby and the Brown Palace staff put together, or nod at the folks heading toward tables and the buffet stations. But Andrea's ultimate goal is the plate of meats and cheeses that Pablo is setting down on the table. She snatches a cube of cheese — mmm, sharp cheddar! — and pops it in her mouth before wrapping her arms around him.

"I thought you wanted food," he says, laughing. When she lifts her head to look into his eyes, he laughs again. "Quick and sneaky." His eyes flicker to Tali for an instant and, just for a moment, the detective steps in. "Is she okay?"

She swallows her food before speaking because her grandmother, mother, and aunts are all close enough to knock her over the head if she doesn't.

"She will be. I guess she had one of her Seeings and it shook her up."

"That isn't good, is it." Detective Garcia is definitely not asking a question.

"No. But it isn't something we have to worry about today."

"But someday?"

Andi nods. "Far out. I asked her to warn me."

"Will that help? A warning, I mean."

She looks up at him. "No. Well, maybe... in some ways. But it's a thing that is certain, even if some of the details she sees today will be different. And before you ask, I didn't push for more information — even to ask who I should be worried about — and I won't. She and I both have our Curses. They're strangely symmetrical. And we try not to make each other's Curses any worse. In ten, fifteen, twenty years, will I remember the conversation I just had with her? Yes. Will it help me then? No. So the best thing I can do right now, the best thing all of us can do right now is to let Talia deal with her Curse in her way."

She glances over her shoulder and watches as Billy sets a plate of food in front of his sister, puts down his own plate, and then wraps his arms around her from behind. It's probably not Andi's imagination that he's pretending to be Elastic Man and encircling her several times around. The twins are looking from the cousins to Pablo's grandparents, who are engaged in an animated conversation at the next table and don't notice Billy's odd malformation. When Talia smiles and pretends to bite Billy's arm, Andi sighs and looks back up with a smile into her husband's eyes.

"She'll be okay now."

"Charles is going to have his hands full with Billy."

"Nah. First of all, I'm pretty sure Charles has dealt with crazier people than my cousin. Second, Billy will probably behave himself better than he does when surrounded by family."

"You have a lot of faith in people."

Both of her eyebrows climb toward her hairline. "You are surprised by this, Husband?"

"Sometimes. Yes. I shouldn't be, should I?"

She shrugs. "At times, I think I have too much faith and not enough trust. I guess I'm a work in progress." Then she chuckles. "Grandmaster Chen would be pleased by that — the fact that I haven't gotten stuck in my ways, that I recognize I'm still learning and growing, that I'm admitting it. Everything usually works out in the end, though, right?"

"So far."

"Then why worry about the future that we can't control when we have our family and friends all around us on this day?"

That's when I hear the sound of a frequently heard voice, recognize the familiar cadence of footsteps despite the carpeting.

"You have your magic working?" Pablo asks as he looks over my shoulder.

She takes his hand and smiles. "What do you think?"

He looks down at her and chuckles. "Oh, yes. It's working. It's very disconcerting."

"Well, that's the whole point, silly."

"I know. Let's do this thing, shall we?" He drapes an arm over her shoulders as she turns.

"Jim! So glad you could make it," he says to Ninja's contact on the third watch. "I'd like you to meet my wife, Andrea." Pablo's eyes glitter as he looks at her. "Andi, Jim Wright and his wife, Kendall. Jim, Denise, and I were good friends."

Pablo could have warned her. Pablo should have warned her!

She stares at the transformation Wright has made to his face in the last month. Month? Yep, it's been about that long since Ninja has run into him.

"Pablo!" She lightly slaps his chest. "You are a very bad person for not telling me your friend looked like Spock from the Mirror Universe!"

Pablo laughs. "I swear I didn't know until just now. I haven't seen him since... that incident after Halloween."

You're in deep shit, Detective Garcia. You saw him from across the room and could have said something. You brat.

"Let's not speak of that day, please." Andrea smiles and shakes hands with the Wrights. "It's very nice to finally meet you, Jim. In the past couple of months, I've heard quite a lot about you. Kendall, it's a pleasure to meet you, as well. And your sari is exquisite. It looks Indian... maybe from Kerala? And you are Hindu, too, I gather," glancing at the bindi on her forehead. "It's a religion I'll admit I haven't studied nearly enough."

Wright looks at her for several seconds, and she just smiles. She's stared him down more than once as Ninja, generally when he was pissed as hell about something. Then he actually glares at Pablo.

"Garcia, you neglected to inform me that one, your new bride was a Trekkie and two, she's a frakking know-it-all."

"We like to call ourselves Librarians."

"You married a librarian, Garcia??!"

Kendall is laughing at both of them. "I am sure your Pablo neglected to tell you my nationality, too, although to be fair to him, we had only met a few times in the past." Her smile fades a little — she knows neither man has healed completely from their friend's murder. "And I was not wearing my traditional outfit any of those times. And indeed, I have chosen to follow the feminine trinity."

"I have to admit I was expecting to be inundated by elephants when we first started dating," Wright says, smiling at Kendall in a way I'm fairly sure no one in the Denver Police Department has ever seen. He looks, well, kind and friendly.

"That would be..." Andi needs to think back to the research assistance she provided for one of Naropa's students a few years back. "...Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati, right? So, no. Probably not many elephants." She smiles at Wright. "Parvati is Ganesha's mother, though, I think."

Kendall nods. "Exactly so. And you are correct — I am originally from the Kerala State in India. You have a good eye."

"And I thought your views on the epitome of high fashion was getting your socks to match your polo shirts," Pablo says, eyeing her suspiciously. "This is Madeline's fault, too."

Andi giggles. "I believe we've established that I am a Librarian and we have the magic of books and the internet available on a wide-ranging number of topics."

And stop blaming my sister for every little thing, Husband. If anyone is going to be blamed for my knowledge of fashion, it's going to be my best friend and his beloved. Although I'll grant that the sari variations of India might have been an internet rabbit hole I fell into when I was learning more about Maddie's ancestral home. It just kind of expanded from there. You know how those rabbit holes are.

Pablo just looks at his wife and sighs. Wright, on the other hand, looks at Pablo again.

"Garcia, your bride is terrifying. And you know I don't scare easily."

Pablo laughs. "Well, maybe Andi should be the police officer in the family then. You're terrified of her and every rookie that rides with you either quits or tells horror stories for years."

"Pablo, dear, that's not even a little bit funny," Andi says. She's more than half-serious.

"And it's defamation, too," Wright adds. "My trainees love me."

Pablo eyes him and proves he's been paying attention to Ninja when he grins at Wright.

"Nope. Agars is on the mend. Martinez will probably pull through. Tryon is still telling whoppers, and your current rookie won't even speak."

Pablo is exaggerating, of course. While she's happy that Agars made detective, she never let Ninja down when she was still in Patrol. Neither has Martinez or Tryon. Of course, neither has Wright himself, but he's the training officer. Ninja expects more from him.

"You know what really keeps them in line? Aside from my stellar training regime? Working with that sneaky Super that you know, Garcia. Hell, I might just give up the training life and keep my current trainee on. Damn, that boy makes me laugh every time she shows up."

Pablo looks at Andi with an expression that's hard to translate.

What does that look mean?

I might have told him that you might be jealous of Ninja.

Well, aren't you an ass? Good thing I pay attention to my brother's acting nonsense and listen to your undercover stories, isn't it?

She sighs heavily.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Andrea," Wright says, "I didn't mean to bring up a sore subject. But I swear you don't have anything to be jealous about. That Ninja is not Garcia's type." He pauses as he looks at Kendall and then shrugs. "Honestly? I don't think she's anyone's type."

She takes his hand just as Papa and Tita like to do, and gives it a gentle squeeze as she looks into his eyes. "That means so much coming from you, Jim. I'm not really jealous, at least I don't think so. You've known Pablo even longer than I have, so your opinion is very much appreciated. Thank you."

"Ah, yes, ma'am. You just give me a call if you need some sense knocked into him."

"I'll do that." Then she looks at Kendall, knowing she's about to dunk herself into a big vat of hot water. "And if Pablo and Jim are going to renew their friendship, perhaps we can at least do lunch sometime."

"I would like that very much, Andrea."

Andi glances over their shoulders and absolutely beams with happiness.

"Captain! It's so wonderful to see you!"

"Oh, shit," Wright mutters. "I need to get out of here."

"Andrea, I didn't realize you knew Officer Wright," Sanchez says, smiling in a way that may have also been learned from Ninja. There's a lot of that going around today.

"I just met him and Kendall a few minutes ago, much to my delight. Angelina, how are you?"

"Very well, thank you, Andrea. That last list of books you sent was captivating. Kendall, it's been months... are you doing well?"

"Oh, yes! It was just a case of walking pneumonia. Fit as a fiddle again." She chuckles. "I have never understood quite what that means."

Andi chuckles as well. "Me either. And I didn't realize you all knew one another." Absolute truth! This should be fun, especially given the way Wright is trying to escape so very diligently.

"I've been trying to get Wright here to take the jump to detective for years," says Sanchez, laughing.

"I might have said something of the sort recently, as well," Pablo adds.

Andi blinks and looks from Sanchez to Pablo. She knows Pablo had nagged him because Wright told Ninja. Then she looks at Kendall, who shrugs with one shoulder.

"My dear husband believes he better serves the City in his current job. Who am I to contradict him?" She looks at Angelina with a smile. "Even when my friend tells me a detective's life is a safer one."

"And besides," interjects the subject of the conversation, "the Super says I belong on the streets doing exactly what I do."

"Terrifying rookies," says Pablo.

Once again, Andrea looks from Sanchez, who has an eyebrow raised in surprise, to Pablo, who seems to find all of this very amusing. This time she looks at Wright.

"Well, I'm no expert on what any of you do..."

That's true.

Hush, Pablo!

"...but I'm inclined to agree with Kendall. Do the job you think is the best for you." She looks up at Pablo. "You're a very clever detective, Detective, but you have a passion for it." She smiles softly. "Even on the days that it frustrates you."

She turns back to Sanchez. "And if one of the City's Supers actually vouched for Jim..."

Sanchez doesn't quite groan. "She did."

Andi manages not to chuckle. This conversation is the one in which the Super is vouching for Wright to Sanchez. But it's good to see how fast he is on the uptake.

Then she shrugs and looks at Wright. "You're probably right about serving the City right where you are. You do seem to have a passion for it, after all."

Wright looks at Pablo. "I take it back, whatever it was I implied about librarians. You've got yourself a wise woman there, Garcia."

Before they walk off to find a table, Kendall says, "Angelina and I are in a book group together. I will have her give you a call when we start the next book if you would like."

"I'd love it! Thank you."

Once they're out of earshot, Sanchez leans over to hug her and whispers, "I have no idea what game you're playing, Ninja, but I'll find out."

"Who needs him more?" she whispers back. "You, in your dusty office? Or me, out on the streets watching my back?"

He just looks at her as he steps back to give Angelina space to hug the bride, too.

She notes that Deb and Clara and still being whirling dervishes, but they've started chatting up people they don't even know — which is typical for both of them. Andi suspects that's why they were the perfect college roommates for her.

"Rodrigo told me you're expecting, Andrea. Congratulations on that, as well. May your children be the joy to you that ours have been to us."

"Thank you, Angelina. You're very kind."

Sanchez looks at Pablo for a few seconds before turning his gaze back to Andi.

"To answer your question," he says, taking his wife's hand, "you do."

Ninja nods. "Thanks, Captain."

"What was that all about?" Pablo asks as they follow Wright and Kendall.

"Oh, just reinforcing Wright's assertion that he belongs on the streets," she says innocently.

"Uh huh."

The newlyweds have a few seconds of free time, and Andi grabs another cube of cheese from her plate as she looks around the room. Blanca is sitting with Justin and Nicole, Leon and Jenny, and Chris. She looks upset.

"Is Blanca okay, dear?" she asks.

"Maybe? She's mad at me for keeping secrets."

"Oh. Yeah. Justin was too. Mad at me, I mean. You should talk to her."

"I will. I even promised. We'll get together tomorrow."

"You need a bodyguard?"

He laughs. "You know, I just might."

# # #

Chris had been about to answer Blanca's question when she and Justin started their little back and forth discussion. He just closes his mouth and waits until they're finished.

"I haven't," he says sheepishly and quickly holds up his hands defensively, continuing before she can burn him with her look. "I'm going to! Andi, Pablo, and a couple dozen other people convinced me I should — and I believe them. I'll tell them when I get home. I can't exactly do that over the phone."

He shrugs slightly, almost apologetically. "I didn't tell them at first because I didn't understand this myself. I thought I was losing my mind, that it was an aftereffect of being sick. I could do weird things, see and hear people that weren't really there. I didn't trust myself with this, let another anyone else."

Smiling, he continues, "I did talk to Justin, though. I didn't keep it all bottled up. And now I understand it all a bit more. I've had time to figure out some things, and I've gotten lots of good advice. And it doesn't seem likely that all this will go away, so I'll tell them."

He glances at Justin for a second.

"I know they'll think I'm still sick or imagining this. But now I can show them a little bit without hurting anyone. I also trust all of them — my parents, my sister, my two roommates.

"So, yes, I will tell them when I get home," he says, noting that the look in her eyes has calmed somewhat.

Blanca peers at Chris for a moment before smiling again.

"Okay. That's good."

"And it was only a half dozen people, although with all the Spirits and the crazy stuff—"

"Yo, Fence Straddler," Blanca says, interrupting Justin. "I gave some ghost or spirit dude a piece of my mind this morning. I got no problem giving you a piece of it, too."

Justin stares at Blanca for a second before turning to Nicole. "What did she say?"

Nicole flicks the side of his head. "Biochemist. Not a biologist. Not a chemist. God, Justin, you're dense today."

"Yes, ma'am? Of course, ma'am?"

"Oh, knock it off," she says, laughing. "And if I got all that, I believe when she had her conversation with her brother, Leon's father was there, and she needed to share her opinion with him, too."

"You..." Justin blinks and stares at Blanca again, this time with his mouth open until Nicole taps his chin. "Um. Remember what I said about doing your postgraduate work in Chicago? I lied. Go to Denver. Telling off the Spirits? Even one that used to be human? No, no, no, no... You'd break Chicago. I like Chicago. I don't want you breaking Chicago. Stick with Andi. She does that shit, too. I don't think you can break Denver because if you could, Andi would have already done it."

Nicole jabs him in the ribs, causing Jenny to chuckle.

Blanca sniffs aristocratically in Justin's general direction before looking at Leon. "Sorry, I didn't know he was your dad. Well, I didn't actually know who he was at first. And he explained some stuff when my idiot brother wouldn't, so I guess he's pretty cool."

Leon nods and hastily reassures Blanca, "That's okay. And Logan is my dad. Papa... Rene..."

Jenny squeezes his hand under the table. "It's okay, Leon. It's hard to know how to relate to someone you haven't seen for most of your life. I thought you decided 'father' was good for now. In public, anyway. Right?"

Leon nods again. "Right. Um, so my father probably wasn't even upset or anything because it would have turned into a big deal if he was, I guess." He manages to smile at Tio Pablo's sister. "Anyway, it sounds like you were talking to him like Aunt Andi does, and he really likes her because she helped him get out of... well, I really don't understand what she does except she's maybe better at martial arts than even my mom. So... well, I didn't mean to interrupt your conversation with Mister... er, Chris."

Blanca looks at Leon and Jenny, then grins happily. "You guys are cool. The way this family got stuck together like a crazy Escher building is way confusing, but I'm glad we're related."

She turns back to Chris, shaking her head. "I talk a lot. I know that. My momma and my sisters? They tell me all the time. I don't mean to make folks' eyes glaze over when I start runnin' my mouth, but it always seems to happen. So lemme start over, and maybe the peanut gallery..." She looks directly at Justin, who just puts both hands over his mouth, puffs out his cheeks, and crosses his eyes. This causes Blanca to roll her eyes and mutter in Spanish for a few seconds before once again giving Chris her attention.

"Nah, big deal news like that? Phone calls probably aren't a good idea; you're right about that. I think maybe I would have freaked out if Pablo had the guts to tell me about his deal. But I've heard about some folks that got hit with the Virus." She nods again. "The crazy parts might not be the same — like your voices and stuff — but that's kind of normal, I guess.

"Why do you believe they're gonna think you're sick, though? I mean... this stuff happens to random people. And you trust them." She shrugs. "Me? I wouldn't lead with the voices and hallucinations, but that was part of being sick with the Virus, wasn't it? And you're better now.

"What kind of stuff can you do? Oh. No, you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. But my brother is a dork, so the only people I know with any sort of gifts are the Supers out in L.A., and for sure I don't know any of them well enough to talk to!"

Blanca chuckles. "I don't want you thinkin' I have this idea you're some celebrity because I don't. You're just some guy, and some shit happened. Not that you're just some guy either, 'cause you're Justin's friend and all. Um. Yeah, there I go again. I guess what I'm trying to say is maybe if you talk about the stuff you got going on, I can maybe understand my brother better. Or not."

Then she grins.

"Or tell me about your family and roommates! Just please don't let me keep running my mouth all night, okay?"

Her eyes glitter with merriment. It's clear that she's interested in Chris's gifts and his support circle back home. It's just as evident that she absolutely needs some kind of diversion to keep her from using all the words — and possibly all the oxygen — allocated for their table.

He shrugs at her question. "There are stories of people who come down with the Virus and become Supers, but I doubt anyone in my family or either of my roommates knows anyone personally. So, I think the whole idea seems a bit comic bookish. At least, I know that's how I thought of it. So I can imagine them thinking the same thing."

Chris looks around the table before looking back at Blanca.

"Maybe I'll be completely wrong. Brad, one of my roommates, will probably think it's the coolest thing he's ever seen. Miranda may well immediately take my temperature, and then continue doing it several times a day. My sister will have a thousand questions, and I know my parents will worry. Mom will worry that it's killing me, she'll be worried that I might do dangerous things, she'll worry that I'll never find a normal girl and have kids.

"Oh, wait," he says with a self-deprecating smile, "that last one is already true.

"I can freeze things. It's great for making popsicles." He grins. "I don't have much control, so I'm really apprehensive about trying it on bigger things or getting creative with it."

Blanca grins. "Yeah, I get you there about moms. Sometimes it seems like all they do is worry." She laughs then. "My sisters even turned into worry moms." She nods and rolls her eyes. "You'd think with three of her kids married and having six, well, five grandkids, she'd stop pestering me. No way. And she drives Elvie and Ladonna batty with all her worrying about the little ones. You know... ever since Pablo's first wife and son got killed? Did Justin tell you about that?"

"No." Justin shrugs. "Andi told me about them, but, well, it never really seemed like a topic to bring up."

Blanca nods again. "Yeah, folks don't like to talk about that. You know that he didn't tell her until this year, and he's known her, like, forever. I love my brother, but he's an idiot sometimes.

"Anyway," she says, giving her attention to Chris again, "moms are always gonna worry, and I just figure it's so I don't have to, you know? I'm not interested in settling down until I finish school, maybe even get started on my career. Elvie understands, mostly, but Ladonna thinks I'm nuts."

"Some of us yearn for parenthood more than others," Nicole says. "And some of us are terrified of the idea."

Justin raises an eyebrow and regards her intently for a moment. "You're still in the 'not quite terrified but not in any hurry' camp, right?"

She chuckles. "Yes, dear. You'll know the moment my opinion changes."

Justin grins.

Blanca, on the other hand, shakes her head. "You heard about Pablo and his outrageous idea that he and Andi ought to have a dozen kids, right?"

Both Nicole and Justin groan and nod. Even the teens, who appear fascinated by the conversation, nod.

"Yeah. He's a moron. Andi's one of the terrified ones. We're so happy for them, of course, and the help Doctor Blue over there gave them, but my sisters worry about her. You know, about being scared to be a mom and all."

"But Professor—" Leon starts before he cuts himself off, blushing a little. "Um, never mind."

"Hey, don't worry." Justin smiles at Leon, and then at Blanca. "Andi has Pablo, doesn't she? And she's got her whole extended family. We've got a bigger family than you do, Blanca, so... You know. Don't worry so much. Andi's going to freak out until she decides to stop freaking out."

"Uh huh. Sure. Fine. That just leaves me with your buddy, Chris, to worry about and he's already got a mom." She laughs, going from serious back to silly in a heartbeat. "You just be yourself, man. Making popsicles sounds like a great idea!"

She taps her chin, and her eyes sparkle with mischief. "Let's see, frozen margaritas would be good. Wine popsicles. I guess you'd have to use juice for the kids." She turns to Jenny and Leon for a moment. "I won't tattle if you want one of the wine popsicles. You're practically grownups already."

Then she sits back in her chair and chuckles. "Okay, I'm getting slap happy here. But your people sound like good folks, Chris. And trust me, your mom doesn't really care what kind of girl you bring home as long as you love her. Normal is overrated, you know? If she's like any other mom I've ever met, including my own, she just wants you to be happy."

"Yes, Mom is going to be Mom no matter what I do," he says. "Unfortunately, I think I have three of them when I add in Miranda and Claire. For some reason, the two of them I'm completely incapable of being on my own," Chris says, rolling his eyes. "I think they believe I'll forget to eat and drink and sleep and just die at my desk or something."

"Well, you do forget to eat sometimes," Justin reminds him. "But I won't put up with any dying in the office nonsense." He looks over at Blanca. "I make sure he eats. So I guess sometimes he's got four moms. Or three moms and a dad?"

Nicole Gibbs slaps him as Chris just shakes his head at his friend.

"Thanks, buddy." Then he shrugs and addresses Blanca again.

"It's either that or, until they have their own children, they see me as some sort of substitute. I love them both, but I know when I tell them my news, it's only going to get worse. They'll probably both start worrying that I'll melt or something," he says, laughing.

Nicole preemptively pokes Justin in the ribs.

"Hey! What was that for?"

"For the dying monologue of the Wicked Witch of the West that I know you were just about to launch into, that's what."

Leon snorted. "There is no way anyone can be a worse worrier than my mom. She insisted the school I go to install new security systems before I could go there."

Jenny looks at him questioningly. "There's more than one?"

The young man smiles and nods. "Yeah, but she wouldn't give me any details."

"Well, you know, she's normally on the other side of the Atlantic. So maybe she's a little justified," Jenny says.

Nicole chuckles. "You've got us all beat, Leon, hands down. But that's going to make Billy's folks feel better when he goes out there."

Justin nods. "Uncle Junior is good at hiding it, but you can see it around Aunt Alicia's eyes even when she's smiling." He signs and wraps an arm around Nicole's shoulders. "She's not even listening to Talia, so you know she's freaked out."

"Hey, what's going on over here?" Susan asks as she and Charlie claim chairs at the adjacent table. "Is this a serious discussion I hear? At a wedding? It better not be. Hi, Leon! You think we can talk anyone into having a Dance tonight? And you must be Jenny," she says, reaching out to shake the girl's hand. "Gorgeous dress. It's one of Madeline's, isn't it?"

Jenny takes Susan's hand and nods. "Yes, House of Beauvoir. Mrs. Jacobs' company designs some fantastic dresses. Blanca's dress is one of their designs, but she made it herself. Well, with her sister."

Susan's eyes widen. "Seriously? That's amazing work, Blanca. Just don't team up with Charlie's mom and Aunt Sandy. Did you see how many beads were on Andi's outfit?"

"I did. What's the deal with dancing? There's a dance floor. There's a DJ." Blanca looks at Susan and Charlie with a puzzled expression.

Charlie laughs. "No Dance. Papa said so. Tita said so. And most importantly, Andi said so."

Justin leans forward and rests his arms on the table. "They're all afraid that one of our traditional Dances would be an invitation to the Spirits to join the party," he explains to Blanca and Chris... and Nicole, too, for that matter. "Well, sure, technically, it would be. But after hearing what happened out at Uncle Leon's place when most of the family got to meet Madeline and you guys..." He nods toward Leon and then tilts his head at the twins across the room. "Well, Andi figured maybe we should keep things low-key and do the Bunny Hop. And maybe the Macarena."

Charlie stares at him for a few seconds. "Cousin-Twin, you have lost your mind. Nicole, if you find it, there's a slight possibility it can be replaced. But I have my doubts if he's talking about dancing the Macarena."

Justin leans toward Chris and says in a loud whisper, "I shouldn't mention that we sometimes do it at work, huh? Don't worry, your secret's safe with me. Our secret is safe?" He shakes his head. "I guess it isn't," he continues in a normal tone of voice. "But don't listen to Charlie. He's just jealous."

Chris just shakes his head and looks at Nicole.

"I hope you can fix him, Nicole. He does need worrying over," he says, laughing.

Justin merely rolls his eyes, and Nicole shrugs as she smiles.

"I don't think he's broken yet," she says. "He's just warped. A lot."

Charlie laughs at both Chris's and Nicole's comments.

"Justin has always been like this. Well, maybe not when he was still in Japan, but ever since he got back to the States when we were seven, he's been..." Charlie waves a hand at his cousin. "Well, I guess warped is as good a description as any. Not like my baby brother, who's in an entirely different category of crazy, but just a guy who wants to make folks smile."

He pretends to look at Justin with disgust but certainly can't pull it off.

"Ew. You're making me get all mushy and stuff. You're so gross."

Justin chuckles. "Good one! You haven't used that line in nearly a decade!"

Blanca looks around the table and at the two cousins beside them at the other table. "I know I'm missing something here with you guys talking about Talia."

"Oh." Charlie blinks. "Right, I forgot. Sorry. I thought Justin just naturally blabbed all the family secrets already," he says with a grin.

"Nah, I just gushed about my sister."

Charlie rolls his eyes. "He's such a dweeb. My sister is a precog, though she's really private about it. She hardly ever answers questions about the future unless it's critical information. Well, except for Billy. He's such a pest that he'll keep asking and asking until a reasonable person would thump him over the head."

"Andi would toss him across a field."

Charlie snorts at Justin's comment. "And he'd love it too." Turning back to Blanca, he continues, "Billy is a shapeshifter and don't ask for a demonstration, or you'll wind up seeing something ghastly."

"I heard he treated the twins to both Mickey Mouse and Spongebob Squarepants," Nicole says.

Charlie just leans forward to rest his head in his hands and groans, causing Susan to laugh. "He did, and they love him, which is great. I think Cousin Madeline was a little worried for all three of you," she says nodding to Leon. "I'm glad we were able to make you all feel comfortable with us that first day."

Leon smiles a bit shyly but nods.

She beams at him as she pats Charlie's back. "How about you, Blanca? Totally freaked out yet by the family?"

Blanca raises an eyebrow and looks over at her brother. "Nah, I don't think so. Maybe I'm still too annoyed with that brother of mine." She looks back at Susan. "You guys are really cool. I like how open and honest you are about stuff."

"Mostly, anyway," Justin says, taking a moment to stare daggers at the bride. Then he sighs. "Ah, heck, if I didn't live so far away, she wouldn't be freaking out so much and worried about me, and probably wouldn't have forgotten that I'm an adult. Right?"

"Right," Susan agrees.

Justin nods. "Andi will knock some sense into Pablo. And if you come at him from the other side, he isn't going to have much choice about spilling all the beans," he tells Blanca confidently.

As seems to be the tradition for both the Yazzie family and the Garcia family, the conversation has swirled and spiraled through several topics and between most of the people at the two tables. Finally, however, Justin brings it all back to Chris, looking at him with one eyebrow raised. "And, um, buddy? Like I said, you already forget to eat lunch half the time. Miranda is well aware of your bad habits. She calls me every time you leave your lunch on the kitchen counter." Then he smiles, joking set aside for a moment. "Sure, she worries about you. Your bout with the Virus freaked her out. I get the impression when I talk to her that you're family, like a brother."

He nods in his sister's direction. "She's a lot like Andi I think — both of them define 'family' in a pretty fluid way."

Justin looks at Nicole, and she shrugs. "I haven't talked to her, so I only have second-hand impressions of your friends, Chris. But if you're going to trust them with this kind of secret, you probably need to let them have the space to freak out if they need to. If I'm going to be honest, there are things Justin told me — just stuff he learned the other day — that really freak me out about Andi. Not in a bad way! I don't want to make it sound like I'm scared for her or even worried about her, either. It's just..."

She sighs and shrugs, but Susan nods.

"I know what you mean, Nicole. She's like this impossibly powerful person — and I'm pretty sure we magnify some of it based on our cultural traditions — and we don't really quite understand now to just... be with all that information."

Justin rolls his eyes. "Pay no attention to them. What I'm saying is that you're family for Miranda. So she's just going to be who she is no matter what. And if she gets totally hysterical, just make her a frozen margarita!"

"Or daiquiri!" Susan adds with a grin.

Charlie looks up then. "Or run away from home."

Susan Gibbs slaps him.

Chris nods. "I know she feels that way, both her and Brad. They've let me live with them all this time when they'd probably prefer to have some more privacy. I get that. I'll tell them. Just having Brad there will do wonders for Miranda. Him, I'm not worried about at all. I can see him saying something like 'Hey, now I don't need to get up when I want more ice in my drink,'" he says doing a fair imitation of his roommate's voice.

"The bottom line is they're amazing people. They'll be supportive. And I feel kind of stupid for not telling them before."

Blanca leans over and whispers to Chris, "That's the spirit! Never give up. Never surrender."

Justin grins wickedly. "Great! Now that we have you in the mood to be brave and daring, I think we should get the DJ to play some of the right music and teach you some of the easy line dances."

Nicole claps her hands. "Love those! We still need to get to one of the bars on the North Side that have Western Nights."

"I hope the dancing starts soon," Jenny says to Leon with a giggle. "But not line dancing."

# # #

To Andrea's delight, they actually have enough time to sit down and eat half the food Pablo brought them before the last of their guests arrive; only Joe and Amanda Baker have yet to arrive. Given that he's a cop and she's a midwife, Andi finds that she's not the least bit surprised.

She loves watching people... she always has. Hank has been semi-permanently captured by the youngest children to the point that Michael pulls up another chair for him and Kimberly climbs into his lap. It's really quite sweet. Her family and Pablo's family are intermingling so naturally that it seems like they've known one another for years rather than months — or in a few instances, just since this morning. Her friends and coworkers are chatting with just about everyone. Steve and his husband have found a good spot from which to ogle the bartender — Stephanie and her husband, and Detective Winter and his wife have joined them. And if she knows Steph, Andi is sure she's leading the rest of the table on a dizzying ride of hilarious stories about Steve. Andi also suspects even Gene hasn't heard all of them.

Pablo's oldest nephew, Julio, has joined the twins and her cousins at their table. Billy is entertaining the three youngsters, and Talia is applying love taps to the back of his head as needed. Tommy alternately grins and sighs. Celeste and her husband seem to be having a delightful time chatting with Pablo's grandparents. Anna is engaged in a rapid-fire conversation in Spanish with his aunt and uncles, stopping long enough to greet Mrs. Kumata and her husband — and continuing on in English, drawing the newcomers into the conversation with ease.

People are just being... family.

Andrea sighs happily.

"You should sigh like that more often," says Rene from her right.

"Maybe. But so should you."

He shrugs but his eyes sparkle as he watches Maddie and Logan walk around the room.

"Shouldn't you be promenading with them?" Pablo asks.

"No. I can enjoy watching Maddie from here."

Andi studies him for a moment, only able to be utterly confident of his emotions that he chooses to share. He's enigmatic this evening and, as Melissa continues to point out, it's very shiny in here.

"Neither one of us understood what it would mean for you when you agreed to let me help you. Do you regret any of it?" She's serious; his existence is so different now. He may actually have to wait forever for his Maddie. Or close enough that will seem like it.

He fixes his gaze on her. "Are you out of your mind, Andrea Yazzie? What I said then is what I still believe in my heart now. I'll never regret accepting your help." He leans over and kisses her cheek. "I'm her Guardian Angel, and you've made so much possible for us that I can't thank you enough. Stop second-guessing yourself, Sister."

She smiles at his words, she smiles as Pablo slips his hand around hers under the table. "I guess I'm still a little insecure sometimes."

"Bullshit," Rene responds with that far too charming smile of his. "You're insane, not insecure."

"It pains me to have to agree with Rene about this on our wedding day, dear, but you are crazy."

"I suppose there are worse things to be," Andi agrees.

"Oui. You could be thoroughly ordinary and utterly predictable."

Pablo's snicker can't be heard over the announcement Jake is making.

"I have it on good authority that our bride and groom are somewhat unconventional in their thinking. Rather than follow tradition and sharing their first dance, well, first, we're going to kick off the evening with the dance for the bride and her father, the groom and his mother. The music was requested by Mr. Yazzie as a gift to his daughter. The bride and groom's traditional first dance will follow." Andi can almost hear the grin in the DJ's voice. "And then we'll get this party started!"

"Oooh, you rebel, you," Rene whispers as her dad escorts Pablo's mom over to their table.

"I hope you approve of my choice, Andrea," Dad says as he holds out a hand to her.

"It's perfect, Daddy," she says as they take the first steps onto the dance floor to the strains of the most beautiful waltz ever written.

Blue Danube

"I remembered how much you loved it," he replies with his characteristic good cheer. "Always trying to convince the convalescing soldiers to dance with you on Saturday nights."

"Even most of the men in wheelchairs let me spin them around the floor. I was a thoroughly enchanting nine year old."

He chuckles. "Yes, you were. You even had the temerity to tell a Major that a polka is not a waltz."

"I was right. He was wrong."

Dad laughs. "True. However, it's not often one can watch a child wrap an officer around her finger so adroitly. And by the way, you're still enchanting."

"Thank you, Daddy. And I still tell the military folks off when they're wrong." She giggles as the tempo increases, and she swirls under his outstretched arm.

"Goodness, you've gotten tall, my fierce warrior!"

"Yes. It happens, you know."

"All too sadly. I hope you manage to keep your chastisements to the enlisted men."

"Of course not! I told a Colonel and his Lieutenant that they were a couple of hovering nervous Nellies." She pauses that thought through another up-tempo section. "To be fair, though, I had saved the Lieutenant's life, and I think they were a little freaked out. It was Halloween, so you know what that means, right? It was as if they'd never seen anyone ever heal before. They're Special Forces, Dad. You know, the best. Silly men."

He chuckles. "You do have a tendency to unnerve people, daughter of mine. It's a good thing we're used to you." He's quiet through several minutes of the song, no doubt remembering their days in Japan. "Hmm, I see you even remembered to add your little hop step in here."

"I am — as Brother Rene reminded me — a rebel. Besides, it's fun."

"I don't think I'll be trying to toss you in the air, however."

She giggles again. "No, no. Mama would be quite cross if I allowed you to throw your back out with nonsense like that."

"I would hear about it for months." His smile almost made him appear to be glowing. "You've so loved, dear. You know that."

"I do, Daddy," She smiles as the waltz slows to its finish. "I'm so lucky."

Pablo walks over. "May I cut in, sir?"

"Under the condition that you never call me 'sir' again, son." Dad places his daughter's hands in Pablo's. "Take care of her. Well, at least as much as she'll let you."

"I will, Dad."

Andi simply stares into Pablo's deep brown eyes as the DJ starts playing "their song." The tempo is much more consistent, and it's a slow, beautiful song.

Can You Feel the Love Tonight

"How did you override Bobby's song for us?" she whispers.

"Oh, our fabulous DJ merely refused to admit that he had the Elvis song that your best friend thought was more appropriate."

"I like him. Very clever." She waits until the end of the first verse before asking, "But he does have it, right? Because Mama and Dad really like it."

Pablo chuckles. "Of course. And the Louis Armstrong one Papa and Tita like so much."

Their dance is less energetic and — yes, even Andrea will admit it — more sensual than the previous once; it's also a shorter song. For a moment, they just stand together with their arms wrapped around each other on the dance floor. For a moment, they are alone together in the universe.

"And now it's time for a Dancin' Party, folks," Jake says, returning them to the present as he starts the next song playing.

Dancin' Party

Pablo and Andrea return to their table so she can finish her snack and watch as Justin and Nicole nearly levitate from their seats, Charlie and Susan laugh as they walk hand in hand to the dance floor, Jenny urges Leon up from his chair, and Blanca holds her hand out to Chris.

"Come on, Chemistry. If Justin can do this, so can you."

Andi chuckles and leans against Pablo as she watches. "She'll do fine in grad school."

"She reminds me of you. Or you remind me of her." He laughs. "It's confusing."

"Nah. She's your baby sister, and I'm a shy librarian."

Rene practically chokes on absolutely nothing, but Pablo nods.

"That must be it."

Chris has been enjoying the first two wedding party dances, when suddenly the music picks up. Before he really grasps what's happening, Justin and Nicole are up, and Blanca is taking his hand.

He has a smile on his face, but it's mixed with more than just a twinge of fear.

"Oh, this is a really bad idea. My sister and roommate have both categorically told me that I have zero rhythm. You could be in great danger," he says to Blanca, hoping she might change her mind.

As she and Pablo finish their snacks, Andi watches his sister with Chris. She has a feeling Blanca would just toss Chris over her shoulder and carry him onto the dance floor if she had the strength.

"I kind of feel sorry for him," she says as she nods in their direction.

Pablo shrugs. "She won't hurt him. Probably."

"I'm more concerned about innocent bystanders getting run over as he tries to escape your sister."

They watch as Blanca practically poses Chris — shoulders even, arms bent — before she grabs his hips and starts twisting them slowly back and forth.

"Are you sure she's not trying to kill him?"

Her husband looks up from the last bit of vegetables on his plate and laughs. "She's trying to teach him the Twist. I did the same thing to her when she was five."

"More gently, I hope."

"Andi, dear," Pablo says patiently while trying not to laugh too hard — at her. "Blanca won't hurt him. Me? Yes, absolutely. She's still mad at me. But Chris? No."

"Hmm. Maybe you should have Jake switch things up," I mutter as Dancin' Party flows into Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and His Comets. Blanca is still trying to keep Chris moving.

Pablo rolls his eyes at me. "Blanca is laughing. Chris doesn't seem to mind the attention of a pretty girl. Let the children have their fun, dear."

"I'll go have a word with the DJ," Rene says, "although from some of the whispers I'm hearing from your coworkers, you might regret it, Sister."

Chris is definitely enjoying the attention of the lovely Blanca and, to his credit, he has really relaxed a lot since he first landed. He feels comfortable with this whole crazy clan and for one of the few times in his life, Chris just laughs and has fun.

He lets Bianca twist his hips then he gives it a go himself. He knows he probably looks ridiculous, but he goes with it as best he can while smiling and laughing. At one point, he moves in very close to Bianca to speak in her ear over the noise.

"You're remarkably composed to not be laughing at me right now," he says before backing up to continue the dance, still smiling.

She chuckles at his comment. "Nah. Hardly anybody is born knowing about this stuff. Okay, maybe that sexy guy who's a ghost or something. And you don't wanna see my brother-in-law dancing! You think you're bad?"

That's when Blanca did laugh, although it was about Charles Delagarza and not Chris.

Andi watches Rene as he makes his way over to the DJ booth, then grins in Maddie and Logan's direction. "Depending on who he's been spying on, we're either in for a Swing Fest, or Anna and I are going to have another Dance Off."

Pablo groans. "One. Just one dance."

She laughs. "Oh, come on. You know more than one line dance."

"I categorically deny it. And I'll dance all night when you start taking Charlie's DJ up on his offer."

She gives him a good stink eye. "I go there when I'm working. I'm not there to have fun. Brat."

He just grins at her. "Let's go to Ms. C's next week."

"Next week we'll be in Wyoming with Jenny's family. And then we'll be on our honeymoon."

He lifts her hand to his lips and kisses it. "I can wait."

When the 50s classic ends, Jake starts up the next song, causing squeals of happiness to cross the room between Stephanie and Anna.

"According to my lovely assistant, David, this is the easiest line dance you'll ever learn," Jake says over the first few bars of Achy Breaky Heart. David grins from the DJ booth, and Andi barely has time to take Pablo's hand when Anna grabs her other one and pulls her to her feet.

Both Andi and Pablo are laughing.

"Don't think I'm letting you win, chica, just because it's your day."

"I'm going to beat you fair and square, Anna."

Electric Slide

David isn't wrong. The Electric Slide is a relatively straightforward eighteen count dance. Susan and Charlie are bracketing Leon and Jenny, Justin and Nicole get Chris between them with Blanca next to Justin. All of Andi's coworkers and a couple of Pablo's have joined them, as well as several of her cousins. As usual, the dance floor is crowded. Pablo can barely stop laughing; Andi and Anna are grinning like a couple of fools.

As the song nears its end, David's voice sounds out over the speakers.

"That was the easy one, folks. Next up is the Boot Scootin' Boogie, which isn't too difficult either. You newbies might want to take a breather, though. Things are going to start heating up after this one."

Boot Scootin' Boogie

Chris even tries the first line dance, but it really proves his two left feet theory as he constantly goes left when he should go right, back when he was meant to go up. When they're offered an out, he knows for everyone's sake around him, he really needs to accept.

"This was a lot of fun. Thank you," he says with a big smile, giving Blanca's hand a squeeze. "But I could take out half the people in here if the dance gets more complicated," he says before sitting down.

As they reorient to the front of the room, Pablo — the big sissy — Jenny and Chris all sit down. Over the sound of the opening bars, Andi can hear Jenny laughing and saying to Chris, "I don't know about you, but this is so not my kind of dancing!" She thinks it's admirable that her nephew is doing his best to keep up with Charlie and Susan.

"Yeah, I know what you mean about the line dancing. Andi loves it; I don't get it. Pablo says she's going to be the last person standing, though." She shrugged, but then she returned his smile.

"Weddings are supposed to be fun! And if Justin hadn't warned me about you, I'd swear you just flirted with me, man."

And that's all it takes for Chris to take on a definite reddish tint.

He's certainly enjoying Blanca's company — she's gorgeous after all. And if he steps back, he'll realize he definitely was just flirting with her. He had wondered at one point if she was flirting with him, but like Miranda had pointed out to him countless times, he is completely clueless when a girl is sending out signals. And since he's so bad, he just always assumes they aren't flirting.

The wink she gives him makes him blush all over again, and he looks to his own glass of beer, quickly taking a drink even though the glass is clearly empty.

"Trust me, I get plenty of matchmaking. It's not just Miranda. I also have an older sister and a mother. Sounds like neither Chicago or L.A. are safe," he says with a smile.

He can't help but study her face a bit longer this time, and he finds himself staring into her beautiful eyes. He quickly picks up the glass again but sets it down this time, realizing that it's empty before he goes to take a sip.

"Maybe someday. I guess a part of me thinks the thunderstruck thing is real and I'll know it. I'm pretty sure my family believes that if it happens, I'll miss it. I mean if it's that obvious, is it possible to miss it?"

# # #

Rene returns to Madeline and Logan; within moments, the three of them are laughing as the warmth of their love for one another shines brightly. They stay together as they watch dancers on the floor, casually grazing from the buffet tables. As more people drift over to partake, they collect actual plates and make their way to their table.

After seating Madeline, Logan leans over her shoulder. "Be right back, darlin'. Checking the other buffet table."

"All right, darlin'."

Madeline and Rene continue to watch the very entertaining dancers that included their son. Logan does go to the other buffet table but also stops to briefly speak with the DJ. He returns with two more plates and rejoins his Mate and Brother. They enjoy their food and the entertainment before them, welcoming Pablo back to the table when he finally calls it quits.

"I think you need more practice, Pablo," Madeline tells him.

He takes a long drink of water before answering. "I didn't see you three out there."

"Not our scene," Rene says succinctly.

Logan shakes his head. "Nope. Doesn't look anything like a bar fight."

"And we want to keep it that way," Madeline quickly interjects.

# # #

Andi knows her biggest competition is Anna. She's good. She competes. What Anna keeps forgetting is that Andi is just as good as she is, and the only reason she doesn't compete... Well, she never could tell anyone about the Ninja gig. Andi always had some lame excuse that Anna never believed. At least the reality of raising children will keep her safe from Anna's dance team out at Stampede.

"Okay, kids, you've been warned," David says. "Don't let the slower tempo of Reggae Cowboy lull you into a false sense of security. Keep those hips loose, boys and girls."

Reggae Cowboy

"Wish I had my hat," Anna says at the first dip.

Andi chuckles. "Suck it up like the rest of us who don't own one."

"I ought to get you one. It would look hot on you."

"And get crushed by my motorcycle helmet," she replies, snickering.


"Not according to Pablo."

"Fine, you win that one."

When the song ends, Steve, Gene, Nicole, Leon, Deb, Blanca, Kevin, and Celeste all head for their seats.

Both Leon and Jenny are laughing as they leave the dance floor somewhere in the line dancing contest. They make a beeline for their table and the water.

"Crazy," Jenny giggles and fans herself. "I'm so glad I could come, though, Leon. I was a little worried my folks wouldn't let me."

"Colorado is closer than Paris, and they let you go there."

"But the Professor was with us."

"And my mom's entire family is here," he chuckles. "But I'm glad you came too."

She had downed half a glass of water before looking at Chris again and winking.

"You keep practicing that. You're a nice guy, Chris. I hear there are millions of people in Chicago, so that means thousands of nice girls." She nodded decisively. "One of them is right for you."

She grinned mischievously. "Or you can come out to California sometime. You think your roommate is dangerous with the matchmaking?" Blanca chuckled. "Between my Mama and sisters, they'll have you married off in a week. Why do you think I'm considering someplace that isn't L.A. for grad school?"

Right about then, the two teens returned from their extra line dances. Mostly, Blanca was watching the dancers, especially Andi and her friend Anna, but she couldn't help overhear Leon's comment. She leaned over to whisper to Jenny with real joy in her voice.

"I don't want to scare you or anything, but his aunt just married my brother, so most of the people in the room are related to him."

"These aren't the Country Roads of John Denver. He was an excellent singer, but if you want to dance you need Hermes House Band. Fair warning to those of you I don't know..." David looks at Andi's cousins in particular. "If you don't know this one, you'd better sit yourselves down."

Country Roads

Billy and Henry look at one another and laugh. "Bring it on, Music Man," Henry calls out.

It's definitely a more complex set, made even more exciting by the tempo shift just past the middle of the song. That's what usually trips most people up, but Anna, Charlie, Susan, and Andi are in perfect sync.

"Hey, your cousins are good."

She just nods and smiles as they link hands for a few bars. "So are the loons behind us."

It's one of the few songs that almost requires a bow and pause at the end, and Anita, Stephanie, Seth, Cecelia, and Clara take the opportunity to sit down. David and Jake exchange a glance, and David points to something on the computer monitor Jake has in front of him.

"How about some Wishful Thinking while our outstanding dancers go about Slapping Leather for this next one? I have to admit I we're getting to the point where I'd be sitting down."

Wishful Thinking

"Ready to concede defeat yet, Yazzie?"

"Never, Morales. Never."

She's not surprised that Susan, Charlie, Julia, Sam, and Cynthia are still with them, and only mildly impressed that Billy, Henry, and Tyrone are still game. Andi hadn't realized her brother would be able to keep up, although he looks like he's wearing out despite the enormous grin on his face. Anita's husband, Theo, seems to be a ringer, as is Celeste's husband, Bradford. Huh, and Pablo's fellow detective Araminta and Detective Winter's wife, Abigail, are keeping up exceptionally well.

"Well, that was more fun than a barrel of monkeys," David says as he looks at the people left on the dance floor. Justin is the only one to sit down after that last dance. "Let's get Jake to start Tim McGraw's I Like It, I Love It while our dancers get down with the Tush Push. Ah, if only I could get my fiancé to learn this one. He's got such a cute little tush."

I Like It, I Love It

Bobby appears to be mortified by David's comment, but Aunt Alicia is whispering something that calms him down almost immediately. She's good at that — nearly as good as Tita is.

"Your buddy knows his dances, Andi." Anna side-eyes the bride something fierce. "You need to bring him around sometime."

She waits until they've turned all the way around to the front of the room again before answering.

"He sings with Harmony. He's engaged to Bobby. You think he's going to be able to find a night that doesn't conflict with his rehearsals and my crazy friend's mood swings?"

She laughs. "Okay. Fair point."

As she looks over at the DJ booth in the last few measures of the song, Andi decides that David's grin might be classified as evil. "We're moving into the advanced category, folks. Lorrie Morgan is going to sing a true blue Country song, Do You Still Wanna Buy Me That Drink, while we see how many folks can dance Brotherhood."

There's some good-natured groaning as Sam, Cynthia, Henry, Brad, and Theo decide to sit the next one out.

Do You Still Wanna Buy Me That Drink

"You been holding out on me, chica," Anna says with a grin. "When did you learn this one?"

"The last time Charlie and Susan were in town. They were checking out the Grizzly Rose as a place for a gig. Saw the dance, liked it, and had YouTube help me with the rest."

Anna gives her a stink eye. "YouTube is cheating."

"I'm still moving, aren't I?"

"Shouldn't you be passing out in your condition, by the way?"

Andi laughs and just keeps right on dancing.

"Definitely need to get you a hat, girl."

When the dance is over, Andi watches Billy head back to his table and pretend to melt, which amuses the three youngsters. Julia, Tyrone, Araminta, and Abigail also give up, leaving Anna staring at Charlie and Susan.

"Now it's time for a good old fashioned Cajun Hoedown by Karen McDawn as our remaining dancers light up the floor with Firestorm."

David is having way too much fun.

Cajun Hoedown

"You two think you can keep up with me?"

Susan grins. "Most of the time, we can keep up with Andi. You two look evenly matched. Let's see if her friend is going to wipe us out."

Almost everyone in the room is watching the four of them. Pablo catches Andi's eyes and raises an eyebrow.

Are you sure you're not overdoing it, dear?

She grins at him. Overdoing what, beloved? This is less strenuous than a sparring session with Maddie.

Well, I'm exhausted watching you.

That's fair. Your salsa dancing exhausts me.

As the song comes to a close, Charlie and Susan shake hands with Anna, and each of them hugs Andi.

"That's it for us," Charlie says. "There aren't too many dances more intense than that one, and if your crazy friend has any more up his sleeve..."

She chuckles. "David knows about this little competition that Anna and I have. Trust me, there's more."

"Well, ladies, I guess Jake here is going to have to pull out the big guns." David nods to his partner in crime. "Kyle Bennett Band's Money Can't Buy Love." Then he looks at the two women left on the dance floor. "Fast As a Shark... Are you two ready?"

"I lead," Andi say to Anna.

"Oh, be my guest. Your friend is a wicked man. Did you pay him off?"

"Nope. I don't think Bobby would have let him take my money anyway." She tips an imaginary hat in David's direction and grins.

Money Can't Buy Love

Like Brotherhood, Andi learned Fast As a Shark mostly from watching videos, although it does seem to be fairly well-liked among the die-hard dancers at Charlie's. She won't dance when she's working, but that doesn't mean she isn't watching every little step, stomp and turn they're making. It's not really a couple's dance, except for a few steps near the beginning. For the majority of the dance, Anna is beside her — she just drops back when there are alternating moves for two lines of dancers.

She can tell that Anna's on her last reserves of energy. Andi isn't pulling any qi from Mother, although it's not easy to keep her from wanting to share while she's concentrating on dances that aren't as familiar as the earlier ones. But she is doing her best to just use her own energy here.

Still, Andi knows she has an unfair advantage. Just because she feels like she has more control over the amount of energy she can hold doesn't mean she isn't still a freaking nuclear power plant.

When the song ends, Anna bows elaborately — as she always does; she just doesn't have her hat tonight.

"Still champion, Yazzie. Kudos. One of these days, though..."

Andi chuckles as she drapes an arm around her friend's shoulders. "Give me four months, and I'll be lucky to manage the Cowboy Hustle."

"When are you due? You know your crazy ex-coworkers are going to want to throw some kind of party for you and Pablo and the kid."

"Kids, and the end of June."

"Twins? Hey, double congrats!" She hugs Andi as they make it back to the head table. "Pablo, you get this woman some food, pronto. She worked her ass off beating me."

"I know. I was watching the whole thing." He hooks a thumb over his shoulder. "I've sent one of the lackeys to fetch food."

Henry walks up with two plates of food. "Are you calling me a lackey, Pablo? Man, that's not nice. Hey, Cousin-Twin, nice dancing there. I didn't know what you'd like, so I got you a little of everything. You did real good too, Miss Anna. Would you like me to fetch you some food, too?"

Anna laughs. "No, thanks, Henry. I think I can manage on my own."

"Okay. I sure don't mind, even though I'm not a lackey. The professor is off rolling around somewhere... how 'bout you come sit over with us?"


Andi sits down and rests her head on Pablo's shoulder for a few seconds. "Well, that was a fun workout. Not quite as much fun as sparring, but we're in public."

"Oh, good grief," Pablo mutters.

Madeline points over at her. "Hydrate, youngster," she orders.

Andi giggles. "Yes, ma'am. Right away, ma'am."

"Brat." Madeline laughs.

After downing an entire glass of water, Andi chuckles, sits up straight, and picks up a slice of turkey from one of the plates. "Give me a chance to get some protein into my personage, and I'll be ready for the Swing Fest," she says to Maddie.

"Um... dear? I don't know many of those dances."

"No problem," she replies with a smile. "I love dancing with Papa. And since your boss is more afraid of me than I am of him now, I'll dance with him, too."

He sighs. "Oh, good grief."

The line dances do, indeed, get more complicated. A lot more complicated. And a lot faster, too.

"Man, it's a good thing we got out when we did!" Blanca says to Chris. "I think that last one would have broken parts of my body that I don't even think I have!"

"I doubt that," he replies. "I have a feeling that you can hang with any of them on the dance floor."

# # #

Logan looks over his shoulder then nudges Madeline and stands up. He holds his hand out to her. The look on her face is of the 'what are you up to?' variety. Rising, she takes his hand. He pauses to catch both Andi's and Pablo's eyes.

"Now we'll show you youngsters how it's done."

As they walk to the dance floor, a horn section starts up. Madeline grins, and they spin around the dance floor.


They had all lapsed into silence while continuing to watch the dance contest to its conclusion, Leon and Jenny with their fingers laced together. Finally, the country stuff ends with Andi winning with what seemed like ease. The tempo of the music changes, and Madeline and Logan take the floor. A blush rises in Jenny's cheeks as she watches and scoots in closer to Leon. As the second song starts up, Rene appears beside them.

"You don't mind if I borrow your girl, do you, son?" he asks Leon.

Leon flounders for words but shakes his head no.

Rene made a bow to Jenny and held out his hand. "My lady?"

She blushes more and giggles but allows Rene to lead her to the dance floor. Leon watches his father teach his girlfriend new dance steps, watches her blush but also laugh when she missteps, once getting Rene's toes. All the boy can think about is how beautiful she is. As the song nears its end, Rene waves Leon in to take his place.

Mambo Italiano

Blanca isn't very good at swing dancing; the rhythms are just... well, not quite right. Pablo had promised there would be salsa at some point, so she's content just to watch. She knows Pablo doesn't care for this sort of dancing either, but apparently, Andi is a dancing queen. Blanca envies her gracefulness — well, just a little bit. She glances at Leon as his ghost dad teaches his girlfriend one of the dances. They're both so sweet.

And it's pretty darn obvious to her that they're smitten. Pablo had that same look on his face every time he came back home and started talking about Andi. Elvia and Ladonna said it was the same look he had whenever he talked about Rosalia. She had just been too young at the time to notice.

Damn, it's so fantastic that Andi was able to make him happy again! Blanca sighs with contentment.

At the end of the second song, Rene cuts in.


As the tango starts up, Leon looks a bit nervous.

"I don't know how to tango," he whispers to Jenny.

She shakes her head, "Me either."

"Watch us," Madeline tells them. "But don't worry if you can't follow all of it. Just enjoy."

Logan is back after the next but doesn't let Rene go anywhere. This time, they take turns. Madeline is glad she had made a slight adjustment to the traditional costume that gives her more freedom of movement. These two are certainly having a good time playing off one another with her in the middle. Her smile tells everyone how she did not mind one iota.

Andi drinks two entire glasses of water before she can no longer resist the pull of the music.

"You sure you won't dance with me, Husband?"

"I fear for my life. Either I'll simply hurt myself, or I'll hurt myself, and you'll wind up healing me and getting hurt in the process, and then I'd hurt myself again trying to keep you from falling over while you heal."

She stares at him for a full ten seconds before shaking her head. "You're so strange." And then she kisses him thoroughly and properly before glancing around the room, grinning and making her way to the table where her brother is hiding out with Chris. Andi holds out her hand to Justin. Nicole giggles.

"Noooo! No, please don't make me dance the Old People dances," Justin whines.

"Well, let's see. How shall I torment thee? Let me count the ways!

"It's my wedding day.

"I'm your big sister.

"You love, love, love me!

"And I could just pick you up and carry you to the dance floor."

She smiles sweetly.

"Or you could come quietly and dance with me."

"Only because I love you," he says as he stands and takes her hand. They reach the dance floor just as Rene cuts in on Logan. "I don't understand those three."

She grins at him. "Does it matter?"

He grins back. "Nope. They're happy. You and Pablo are happy. The five of you are happy. It makes no sense, which annoys the scientist in me. But as your brother? I love you all. By the way, you realize we're dancing the tango, right?"

"Uh huh. So?"

He laughs. "Not exactly a dance meant to be danced with one's brother."

"Oh, piffle."

At the end of the song, Papa is at her elbow and Justin bows. "I shall defer to the better dancer," he quips. "But I had fun, Sis. Thanks for making me dance."


Papa chuckles as they move expertly around the floor. "While your sister has the attention of her two heart-mates, I believe there may be a line out the door for the honor of dancing with the bride today."

"Oh, don't be silly, Papa! I don't think we invited that many people!"

"I am glad to see you so happy."

"And I am glad for you to see me so happy." How to express in words the fear she had experienced in August when Tita was sick — had been attacked, really — and the subsequent journey of heart and soul that has led to this day? As the song ends, and Papa softly kisses her cheek, she realizes that words are not necessary. He knows. He understands.

"Your Tita and I plan to share many more days of happiness with our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren."

All About That Bass

The youngsters try a couple more but finally give up.

Just before Leon and Jenny come back to the table, Blanca leans over and nudges Chris's shoulder. "You see my brother over there?" She nods in Pablo's direction. "You and me, we're like him. We haven't found the right person yet, you know? But when we do?" She smiles as she watches Pablo watching Andi. "We'll know. I want to be as happy as they are."

"Aren't we supposed to have all the energy?" Leon jokingly asks as they return to their table and water.

They look to see who else is back at the table and notice Blanca and Chris.

"Wow," Jenny said, "you two don't even look like you are breathing hard. Why don't you go back out?"

Blanca laughs when the teens sit down again.

"Chica, I'm saving my energy for the salsa dancing. That's some serious exercise." Pointing to their plates, she adds, "You should revive yourselves because I'm gonna teach you two how to salsa, too."

As the conversation turns to salsa dancing, Chris leans back in his chair. There is no way he is trying that!

Michael takes her hand next and starts laughing as the next song begins. "And here I thought I'd have a chance to dazzle you with my fancy footwork. Your grandfather dances a mean jitterbug."

"That he does. I usually line dance to the country version of this song."

"And a sensible Cha Cha works well, too. But shouldn't Pablo be up here?"

She giggles. "I think he broke his dance muscles."

"That isn't possible, you know."

"Oh, I'm sure Jake's got some Salsa music lined up for later. His sisters will make sure he gets out here." Andi laughs. "I'll be sitting most of those out. Blanca has already staked her claim to her big brother."

"It's good to see you outside of the working relationship we have. Thanks for inviting us."

"I'm glad you and Martha and the kids are here. And no, I don't think Kimberly is monopolizing Hank too much."

"Actually, I stopped worrying about it after he started telling Melissa some story that made no sense to me but enthralled her. I'm pretty sure it was English."

"He loves the kids. My gods, you should have seen him in Commerce City."

Michael just smiles for several measures. "You said they abandoned you for him, and I saw them with you. I'm going to stop worrying about the rest of the night. By the way, Chris seems like a good guy. Nervous as hell about all of this, but that's understandable."

She nods. "You have him pegged. My brother thinks highly of him. My family has welcomed him. It's all too new to him. But he's got a protector... well, protectress of some sort, so I suspect he'll be okay. She tried to slap me when I attempted to scan him."

"Ah, that doesn't sound good, Andrea."

"No, it's fine. I have plenty of my own protectors, as you know. I just hope she's not a crazy deity like that Aztec fruitcake."

"No comment."

"See? You're the smart one. I barge in where angels fear to tread."

"Hmm. Are you sure you're not angling for a demigod position of your own?"

"It would be rude of me to knock you unconscious, so I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that."

He laughs. "Warrior it is, then. And the police seem to be circling us, looking for an opening."

She giggles as the song ends. "Let me know if you and Martha want a turn around the floor. I'll be happy to hold Nate."

"As you wish, fair lady," he says, placing her hand in Captain Sanchez's.

Bad Romance

"You look lovely, Andrea," he says, "and you have made my number one detective happier than I thought possible."

"Thank you, Captain. I believe he makes me just as happy."

Sanchez tilts his head, catching the beat of the music. "Do you know the Lindy Hop?"

She grins. "Absolutely!"

Having seen Rodrigo and Angelina at many of the DPL charity events, Andi knows from observation that they're both excellent dancers. Now she can verify it from personal experience — at least in his case.

"How have you managed to keep Officer Wright from connecting the bride to my favorite superhero? He's too smart to be a street cop, you know."

"He's the best training officer DPD has, and don't you dare take him away from me. I need him. And I thought I was your least favorite. Or have you forgiven me for the ulcer I caused at Halloween?"

"First, it wasn't quite an ulcer, although there were several migraines involved. Second, you had help from your sister. Third, yes, I've forgiven you. And fourth, answer my question."

She laughs. "Thank you. And the simple answer is magic. Actually, that's the complicated answer, too. It just takes more words to explain the magic."

"I'll pass if you don't mind."

"Not at all. My brother thinks it's both wonderful and creepy. Our favorite detective just thinks it's creepy. My Sister, her Mate, and her Husband don't seem to have much of an opinion unless there's a tactical advantage to it."

"They're the practical ones. And I can see the tactical advantage in this case." He pauses. "I understand Wright was also Jackson's friend. That was a devastating day for the City, and most especially those of you who knew her."

Andi smiles sadly. "She's why I do what I do for you and all the others. I'd have eventually gotten here, I think. But..."

He nods as the song ends. "That was the kick in the ass you needed."

"Exactly so."

He spins her around, and she finds herself facing the aforementioned Officer Wright. She smiles brightly.

Bright Lights Late Nights

"I do hope you know the Jitterbug, Officer Wright."

"One of the few swing dances I do know, but you'll need to forgive me in advance if I step on your feet, Mrs. Garcia. And don't expect any of that fancy flipping."

"I shall endeavor to keep my feet well away from yours, and also refrain from trying to flip you over, as well. However, I will be forced to quote extensively from the Bard's repertoire of insults if you insist on the appellation of Mrs. Garcia. Ms. Yazzie would be acceptable, although I prefer Andrea."

He stares for a second and then blinks. "Dear God, Garcia really did marry a librarian. Or are you a school teacher?"

"Librarian, currently unemployed. That last round of City budget cuts, you know." She manages a shrug.

"That sucks."

"Yes, but all of you in the police department and your brothers and sisters in the fire department were spared because of our sacrifice. Pablo was a bit unnerved at first, but now he thinks it's wonderful that I'll have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom."

"Do I hear a hint of sarcasm in your tone, Andrea?"

"My goodness, sir! You should be a detective!"

"I've arrested people for lesser offenses, I'll have you know."

She giggles. "Pablo did mention that you've been adamant about turning down every offer, request, and demand that you join the ranks of detectives. Good for you for sticking to your principles!"

He grins. "I have more to offer where I am. Even that superhero friend of his agrees."

Andi pretends to study him for a moment. "Don't mind my impertinence, but if you know this superhero well enough that he or she is vouching for your skills, would this superhero not also be your friend?"

It's his turn to stare again. "Me? Friends with Ninja? Andrea, she scares the crap out of me, and that's the God's honest truth."

She affects a quizzical expression. "You've lost me. Completely. Oh, I suppose I don't know everything, nothing more than what Pablo shares with me. But I got the impression that she's... Well, as dedicated to the people of Denver as both you and Pablo are."

"She is." He's quiet for long enough that Andi expects they'll finish out the song in silence. But finally, he says, "It goes back to Denise. Pablo says she was your friend, too."

She nods. "And I still miss her."

"Well, what happened then was a tragedy caused by misunderstanding. Because of it, I lost a good friend. We all did. I don't want to lose another friend in a tragedy caused by a deliberate attack."

She smiles; it's her Librarian smile, the one full of considerate understanding. "I think it's too late for that, Jim. It sounds like you've already put her in the Friend category."

That gives him pause, but he mutters, "Damn it!"

"Well, if it's any consolation — and I would completely understand if it isn't — Pablo claims she's quite capable of taking care of herself."

"It's not a consolation."

Andi just nods again. As the dance ends, she says, "It isn't for Pablo, either." She watches him walk back to his table; he looks thoughtful. She suspects there will be an interesting conversation in their future.

At the tap on my shoulder, she turns to find Tommy standing there. "Tommy! Are you really going to dance a non-ceremonial dance with me?"


He laughs. "It's safer than the ceremonials ones lately. Up for a bit of the Charleston?"

"I'm game if you are."

The Charleston is a fun dance and doesn't always lend itself to much in the way of conversation. The great thing about Tommy is that dialogue isn't really necessary.

You're glowing with happiness, Andi.

And when one's cousin is a telepath, a conversation is still just as easily accomplished dancing the Charleston as dancing the waltz.

That still tickles, you know. Only you make my head tickle when you talk to me. And of course, I'm happy! I'm deliriously happy.

He laughs. You mention it every time I talk to you this way. Has it ever occurred to you that I do it on purpose?

Get out! No way! She pauses as she side-eyes him ever so sternly. Really?

For a smart person, Cousin, you're a little clueless. In the beginning, it was unintentional. Once I figured out what I was doing wrong, no one's head has gotten tickled but yours.

You are such a brat!

It makes you smile. Your smile is a sign of happiness. Can you blame me for wanting to see my favorite Cousin be happy?

She smiles at him. No. But you're still a brat.

Neither of them says anything for most of the remainder of the song.

Just seeing you makes me happy, you know. You don't have to tickle my brain to get me to smile, Ha'atathli Dehiya.

He grins at her. So noted, Warrior Yazzie.

As the last song ends, Madeline points to the table. "Two to one is hardly fair. You two got breathers."

The three of them laugh and slide their arms around one another as they head for rest and refreshment and to let others have the floor.

As the song ends, Tommy offers Andi his arm. "May I escort you back to your Husband, dear cousin?"

Linking arms with him, she laughs. "Good grief, Tommy, you've become almost as goofy as our cousins.

"It's a special occasion. I think I've earned a little goofiness. After all, you and your Pentad haven't done anything outrageous all day."

"Okay, fair point." She stands on tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "We'll try to keep it that way just for you."

She grins as he walks back to the table he's sharing with Talia and the four children. Yes, yes. Billy isn't technically a child. Sometimes he doesn't do a particularly good job convincing anyone of that. At the moment, he seems to be missing. Andi suspects that she should be worried.

Pablo has refilled her glass of water, and she reaches for it as she sits down. She looks at the plates of food that are now currently empty.

"What happened to my snack?"

"Billy happened."

"The buffet is closer to him than my food! I might need to hurt him."

Pablo laughs. "He came over to chat. He likes watching you dance. The four of you were cracking him up. He ate all your food. Pretty simple."

She looks at Pablo with the saddest expression she can muster. He grins and points at the buffet station near the DJ booth. Billy is just turning around with a plate that's definitely overloaded.

"Henry has more sense."

Pablo shrugs. "Billy is less annoying?"

"Okay, usually."

# # #

Eventually, Andi and Pablo wander over to the table the Varanos share with Ladonna, her children, and Hank.

"Are you sure you don't mind, Andrea?" Martha asks as she places Nate in Andi's arms.

"I suppose I should get used to being around babies, right? I don't think I've held an infant since Justin was born." She chuckles as she looks at the little one staring up at her. "No, no, Martha. I don't mind. You and Michael enjoy your dancing."

"He likes you!" Kimberly proclaims.

Andi smiles at the youngster. "I hope that means he's not going to pee all over me."

Both she and Anton giggle. "Daddy changed his diaper a little while ago."

"Shiny!" Melissa says as Andi takes Martha's seat and Pablo sits next to his nephew.

Ladonna rolls her eyes and sighs. "You are going to drive your Mama crazy, niña."

"I'm gonna draw lots of pictures for Kimberly, Tio Pablo," Anton says. He's a very shy child, but it's great to see he's formed a connection with Kimberly. "Mama will put them in the mail for me."

"That's a marvelous idea, Anton," Pablo says, hugging the boy. "You're a very generous artist."

"She's just attuned to all the love around here, Ladonna," Andi reminds her sister-in-law. "And Melissa, sweetie, I know you can say other words besides 'shiny.' You're not fooling anyone." She winks at her, causing her to giggle in that infectious way that only very small children have.

"Si, Tia Andi! Si! Pretty! Mama pretty! You pretty. Kimmie pretty. Tio Pabo pretty!" She leans over in her high chair, trying to touch Hank's arm. Smiling, he sets his hand on the side of the chair so she wouldn't accidentally fall over. "Boo pretty!! See, Tia Andi? Pretty, pretty boo."

Andi chuckles. "I sure hope that means blue because the first thing that comes to a librarian's mind when someone is called Boo would be Boo Radley."

Ladonna laughs. "She does still have trouble with her Ls, yes."

"But isn't it fair to say Boo Radley could be... well, whichever the right word is — metaphor, allegory, simile," Pablo says. "Fine, probably not a simile. But Boo represents the good person — and Hank's a good person — who's the target of the evils of humanity."

Andi just stares at him while Hank chuckles.


"I thought you didn't pay attention when you were in school."

He smiles at her and shrugs. "I didn't. To Kill a Mockingbird was one of Rosalia's favorite books."

"Ah!" she says, nodding knowingly. "That explains it. Well, then I'll thank her soul once more for stuffing some smarts into my husband's head."

Ladonna gives Andi an odd look. "It doesn't bother you to talk about Rosa and Juan?"

"Oh, good grief, no! Absolutely not!" She looks down again at Nate, who's only a few months younger than Juan was when he was killed. She has to make a conscious effort to keep her eyes from glowing from the overabundance of love and gratitude she feels.


Andi smiles and looks at Melissa. "Okay, just this once, you're right." Then she looks at Melissa's mother. "Ladonna, I want Pablo to be whole and healed as much as any human can possibly be after a loss like that. Talking about Rosalia and Juan helps him to heal. And the more I learn about how amazing she was, the more I want to know about her. Oh, sure, we wouldn't all be here today like this if a tragedy hadn't happened all those years ago. We can't change the past, but we can appreciate the gifts it gave us."

Hank has been convinced by Melissa to extricate her from her chair confinement, and she sits on his lap, looking around at everyone else at the table.

"Shiny," she says again before reaching over to take Kimberly's hand. "Pretty Kimmy! Say, say!"

Kimberly laughs. "I think what Melissa wants to say, Miss Ladonna, is that Aunt Andi loves..." She pauses; Andi suspects she's trying to work out relationships in her head. "...Aunt Rosa and little Juan even though she didn't ever meet them." The youngster looks at her for confirmation.

"Exactly right! I don't know if you've ever read the Guardians of the Galaxy comics—"

"Oooh! I have!" Pablo exclaims.

She rolls her eyes. "It figures. Anyway, one of the characters is this tree-like guy, and all he ever says is 'I am Groot.' Kind of like Melissa's shiny, except we know Melissa can say things other than that. And part of the story was how the others around him learned how to decipher all the different ways I am Groot could be interpreted."

Ladonna looks at her daughter, studies her really.

"Are you going to keep up this shiny stuff even after we go home."

Melissa looks up at Hank as though to ask his opinion. He just tilts his head at her. "My Boo!" And then she looks at Ladonna. "No, Mama. Sometime? Anton hep me."

"Si, Mama! I can help Melissa learn new words! It will be fun."

Ladonna sighs. "Well, thank goodness for that. I hope yours aren't quite so goofy as this one, Andi," she says, tilting her head towards Melissa.

"You'll share being friends with Doctor McCoy, won't you, Missy?" Kimberly asks. "Nate really likes blue, and he really likes Doctor McCoy."

"Share! Nate Boo! My Boo! Nice Boo."

Pablo seems to be having a hard time not laughing over his niece's exclamations.

Melissa pats Hank's chest and curls herself up to get more comfortable in his lap. To keep her from falling, Hank wraps his arms around her, which makes her sigh with contentment. As her eyes begin to flutter closed, she whispers, "Nice Boo." From one breath to the next, she goes from half-awake to fully asleep.

"I'll take her and put her to bed, Hank," Ladonna says.

"Oh, no, no. That's truly unnecessary, Ladonna," he replies, smiling as he looks at the sleeping child. "I so rarely have the opportunity to spend time with the little ones. I truly don't mind in the least." He nods to Andi. "No more than our Andrea minds holding young Nate."

"Hey, Sis," Pablo says as he stands, "come dance with me. You deserve a break, too."

"Oh, I don't know, Pablo..."

"Go on, Ladonna," Andi says. "Hank and I have things totally under control."

"At least one of us does," Hank agrees.

"Okay, Hank totally has things under control," she adds, grinning.

Ladonna laughs as she takes her brother's hand and stands up. "You two... well, you make me laugh."

Andi breathes a sigh of relief — well, partial relief anyway — as they make their way to the dance floor.

"Miss Ladonna doesn't understand special folks, does she, Aunt Andi?" Kimberly asks.

"Not yet, honey. Melissa is going to have to teach her. But Pablo will help her, too."

"Not you?"

"Oh, if she needs my help, sure. But I think mostly she'll need her brother's help."

"Oh." Kimberly looked confused.

"Sometimes, when things are really hard to understand for grownups, it helps to have the family they grew up with nearby to help them."

"Tia Elvia and Tio Charles live nearby, Tia Andi," Anton says.

"Yes, indeed, Anton. And your cousins, too. All of you can help your Mama understand that your sister is a special little girl."

He nods. "Like Kimberly. Except different. But still special." He gets very shy and barely looks at her. "That's why Melissa keeps saying you're all shiny, huh? 'Cause she knows when other people are special?"

She looks at him more closely. Anton is perfectly normal. He doesn't have a special gift or mutation. But holy shit, that boy is smart!

"Could be, Anton. She's still really little, so it's hard to say for sure what sort of special things she'll be able to do when she grows up. Isn't that right, Hank?"

"Quite right. I work with older children with special abilities, and it's very rare to see someone so young show any signs of special abilities at all."

"Seems to be getting less rare, though," Andi says, nodding across the room toward Maddie's children.

"Well, yes. But one family of anomalous data points almost proves the point."

"Good thing my children and I are considered part of the family, then, isn't it?" She winks at him.

He blinks.

Ooops. Did she forget to tell Hank about the Hellions' pre-birth antics?

"A... nom... a... lus. What does that mean?" Anton asks.

She grins at Hank before looking at Anton and then Kimberly.

"Do you know what it means, Kimberly?"

She shakes her head.

"Wonderful! It's a learning moment! It means something that isn't expected, maybe a little surprising. Scientists like the word. It helps them describe things that aren't part of a pattern that all their other data shows."

"Like a messed up drawing?"

"Hmm, maybe more like a nice drawing with a scribble off to the side that doesn't make sense with the drawing."

"Oh! Cool! I bet Tia Blanca knows that word."

"I'm sure she does," Andi assures him. "She probably knows all kinds of interesting science words." She smiles at him and raises an eyebrow. "I think you might be smart enough to be a scientist, too."

"Oh, no, Tia Andi. I just want to draw things."

"Did you know that some of the best artists — especially artists who draw pictures of nature — are scientists and artists?"

"Really?" His eyes light up with excitement.


"I could be a scientist and an artist??"

"Anton, dear, you can be anything you want. Well, unless you want to be something evil, then I'd have to have your Tio Pablo arrest you right away."

He giggles.

"Really, Anton. You don't have to be just one thing. And you don't have to know all the things you want to do when you're only six."

"I don't have to know either, do I, Aunt Andi?" Kimberly asks.

"Nope. When you get all the way to high school, the grownups will start thinking you're ready to decide what you want to do for the whole rest of your life. And maybe you will! I didn't know until I was in college. Some people try a lot of different kinds of things before they find the job that makes them the happiest."

Kimberly grinned. "Being a mommy makes my Mommy the happiest!"

Andi leans over to kiss her forehead. "I know. I can see love even better than Melissa can."

"Oooh, that's so nice! What does it look like?"

She can see Hank watching her with interest — he's just as interested in her Curse as he is in how she explains it to Kim.

"It depends. Every person looks different. They look like different colors and sometimes they're sparkly or shiny — like Melissa says. Some people have so much love inside that it's like looking right at a really big, bright light bulb."

Kimberly looks at Andi shyly. "What does Nate look like?"

She looks down at him and smiles as he coos and blows bubbles. "Kind of like sparkly blue tinsel. He really does like the color blue a lot." Then she looks at Kimberly. "And before you ask, you look like a rainbow that's been braided. And Anton..." She looks over at him. "You look kind of like a tree that's glowing from the inside with very bright green leaves."

"And Melissa?" he asks.

She meets Hank's gaze for a moment before looking at the bundle of girl in his lap. "Melissa looks like a star."

# # #

"Ha! If you aren't safe from matchmaking in Chicago or L.A., maybe you should stay in Denver. Come to think of it, maybe I should stay in Denver." Blanca looks over at Pablo, who is now dancing with Ladonna. "Pablo is definitely not a matchmaker. And from the things I've heard about her best friend, I'd say Andi is totally anti-matchmaking." She points out Bobby, the fabulous coordinator of the event. "He thinks everyone ought to be in love, and I guess he's only gotten worse since his hunky man proposed."

She giggles as she looks back at Chris. "Andi says the best way to deal with Bobby is to either pretend you don't know who Martha Stewart is or to act like you're totally unimpressed by her. Don't bring up her jail time, though." She shrugs. "I guess that gives him some kind of hissy fit or something."

As she watches the dancers and the folks wandering through the room, she does her best to ignore Chris's discomfort. She had gone to high school with some guys who were beyond shy, and once she got to college, she discovered most of the guys in the science sections were a lot like Chris — super smart, but not great on interpreting signals the gals around them were sending out. For a long time, she figured Andi was the same way because Pablo would come home to visit and talk about nothing but Andrea this and Andrea that. He figured she was just oblivious to all the little ways he was showing that he liked her because she had been raised in Japan and China. And wouldn't you know it? She had been ignoring him the whole time! She knew, but ignored him!

She's weird, this new sister-in-law of hers. But Blanca figures that just confirms the fact that Andi is perfect for her goofy brother.

She shakes her head and smiles at Chris's comment.

"Maybe if I knew the dances I could keep up. But I never could get the hang of anything that looks more like a gymnastics routine than a dance." She lets her gaze wander around the room again. "Nah, I'll let Andi be the dancing queen. It seems like it's more a part of who she is than who I am."

She does turn and give him an odd look at his question. Glancing at Leon and Jenny, then across the room at her eldest sister, and finally staring for perhaps too long at her brother, she purses her lips as she considers his question. Finally, Blanca looks at Chris and nods.

"That's a good question actually. If this thunderstruck thing is so obvious, how can anyone possibly miss it? It should be impossible."

Then she chuckles as she attempts to keep the mood light. Yet she still finds the proposition a fascinating one.

"We could look at it from a scientific perspective. What if the Instant True Love Phenomenon is like something in a quantum state? Unless you observe it, you have no idea what's going on with it. And the act of observing it has an effect on the phenomenon."

Leaning back in her chair, she crosses her arms but then immediately brings one hand up to tap her chin with her forefinger.

"If you experience it or observe someone who has experienced it, that means that it's real. But not experiencing it, or not seeing someone first hand who has experienced it, isn't proof that it doesn't exist. It's hard to prove a negative."

Blanca points to her two older sisters. "Ladonna says she knew Anton was the guy for her after their first date. And Anton always said the same thing about her. So if you ask Ladonna, it's a real thing."

She sighs. "Maybe that's why she doesn't want to start dating again. Yeah, she claims she's still in mourning for Anton, but he was an amazing person, and I don't think he'd want her to miss out on the chance to have happiness again. I mean, Pablo got hit with the True Love thing twice in one lifetime! Why shouldn't Ladonna?

"But Elvia and Charles?" She laughs. "They went through four years of high school together and were the best of friends. And then they had two years of community college, too. Their stories are slightly different, but basically, Charles said to Elvie one day, 'Hey, do you think we ought to go on a date?' And Elvie says, 'Sure, why not? But don't go messing up this friendship we have here.' And then they dated for three years before they decided that, yep, they were madly in love."

"I guess Charlie and I are about halfway between both extremes," Susan says from the next table. "I'd see him here and there, mostly at pow wows, and thought he was a great drummer and singer."

Charlie nods. "I sure noticed Susan dancing, but I'm pretty sure it was just the dress at first. You don't often see such vibrant colors on the dancers."

"It's because most of the pow wow outfits are passed down through the generations," Susan said. "My mom helped me make my own, so..." She shrugs.

"Anyway," Charlie continues, "I caught her singing one day and was blown away. I swear she could go out on her own and get a recording contract and become famous. That's how good she is."

Susan blushes. "Oh, stop. I'm not that good."

"Good thing I'm here to settle arguments, huh, Charlie?" Henry grins at the two of them.

"Not usually, Henry," Charlie says, rolling his eyes. "But please, if you'd do us the favor of settling this, I'm sure you'll have our eternal gratitude."

"Hoo boy, you've been spending too much time with my cousin-twin! You're starting to sound like her!"

Charlie reaches over and pulls on his brother's ear. "I've been spending time with our sister and my fiancée, doofus."

Blanca is trying not to giggle at their antics.

"Ow, ow, ow, ow!! Okay, okay!" Henry rubs his ear, making enough of a fuss that someone watching might have thought Charlie had tried to slice his ear clean off. He leans forward to address Susan, who is on Charlie's other side.

"You really are that good. Talia and Billy agree, so it's not me trying to mess with you."

Susan blinks. "Wow. Gee, Henry. Thanks."

Charlie smiles and puts an arm around Susan's waist. "Anyway, when the guys and I were talking about getting serious with our band, I asked Susan if she'd like to be our lead singer." He shrugs and looks at Chris. "I had to get past the little bit of hero worship I had before I realized that Susan and I really clicked."

She nods her agreement. "I didn't have the hero worship thing, but the more I got to know Charlie and his family and his friends, the more I realized that I really liked being around him." She looks at him, then rests her head on his shoulder as she looks at Chris and Blanca. "Sometimes there isn't a moment of being thunderstruck, Chris. Talia talks like you do, wondering if she'll recognize her Mr. Right when she meets him. And she's a precognitive! Sometimes it's just... I don't know... getting to know someone and realizing one day that you want to spend the rest of your life with them."

Henry is nodding again. "I think that happens most. But Talia told me I'm going to get smacked in the head by love, so I'm pretty sure that happens, too."

"Henry, I suspect Talia meant that you'll meet someone," Charlie says wryly, "and after knowing you for years and you being the clueless ninny that you are, your future bride is going to hit you over the head with a rock."

Henry stares at Charlie for several long seconds. "You think so? Really?"

"Knowing you? Yeah. Most likely."

"Oh. Well, I like rocks. They like me. If some nice woman is going to take the time to pick out a rock to smack me with, then I guess I ought to marry her, huh?"

Blanca looks from Henry, who seems utterly sincere, to Charlie, who is rolling his eyes. Then she leans over and whispers to Chris, "Don't be like this Henry goof. If you're not hit over the head — figuratively, I hope — just keep the faith. That's what I'm doing."

Chris listens to each of them in turn, nodding and smiling where appropriate.

"All good advice, but I'm sure that it's different for everyone. And hopefully, I'll recognize the signs, although my roommate and sister are probably certain I won't."

He shrugs and then smiles.

"And if I don't recognize them, I'm also certain the same two people will point them out to me."

"My mom said she and my father wouldn't admit they loved each other until he almost died," Leon tells the table. "Then they married a week later. It was weird, she never really talked about him unless it was with my grandmere, and then it was always to say how much I look like him. I don't see it. Anyway, I think if you really care about someone, you should tell them."

"I do, about you and your father," Jenny says with a smile. "I see it, especially in the eyes. Although he's an awful flirt! I'm glad you aren't like that."

She giggles then thinking that the girls who follow him around were bad enough. Flirting would just encourage them!

# # #

When Andi sees Jake heading back to the DJ booth, she nods and glances at Maddie for an instant. He gives her a thumbs up.

"Ladies and Gents, this next song is a special request from the bride as a gift to her sister..."

"Oh, that's sweet of Aunt Andi," Jenny comments.

As Maddie and Rene both look at her, Andi just smiles and mouths, "I love you."

As the strains of the song start, both Madeline and Rene look at Andi then each other. Madeline blinks back sudden moisture, and Rene stands, his hand out to her. She accepts it wordlessly, and they step onto the dance floor. Years and the ballroom seem to fall away from them as they wend through the dance to a song that means so much to both of them. Logan is content to watch from his seat at the table.

Jenny watches as Madeline and Rene take the floor and begin to dance. She nudges Leon to look over at them.

"They certainly aren't hiding their love anymore," she sighs.

Leon squeezes Jenny's hand but looks away from the dance to try to find Andi. He directs his thoughts to only her.

Thanks again, Aunt Andi, for what you did for my mom.

La Mer

At the far end of the room, the ballroom doors open to admit a last set of guests. Joe and Amanda Baker have finally arrived.

She and Pablo stand off to the side of the dance floor, arms around each other, as they watch Maddie and Rene dance.

"Gods, there's so much love it's almost blinding."

"I can see a little of it. I wish I could see it the way you do."

"Remember how I showed you what the Spirits' natural forms look like to me?" She feels him nod. "It's kind of like that. And the way they've folded Logan into their love is..."

She's actually speechless. She's a storyteller, she's a librarian, she loves how words can be strung together to describe just about everything.

But this? Words are inadequate.


"Better than that."

# # #

Andi had heard Leon's thanks, but it takes more than a little while to make her way over to him.

Of course, her lunatic cousin-twin thinks she is there to chat with him. Ah, Henry... Instead, she walks right over to Leon and holds out both hands to him.

"Aw, Aunt Andi, I need a rest from dancing."

She chuckles. "I'm giving you one. Get yourself over here, Nephew." When he stands, she wraps him in a hug and just whispers, "You are welcome. My talking inside other people's heads skill is erratic."

From her experience of teens, they're not the most demonstrative people in the world. But Leon has parents who have never been afraid to show him that they care about him. She loosens her hold on him but doesn't let him off the hook just yet. Resting her hands on his shoulders, she smiles and nods just once.

"I'd do it all again, too. I've got her back. Your Dad and your Father have her back. Uncle Pablo has her back. You live your life now, Leon Jacobs. Your Mom's got a hell of a safety net."

And love Jenny just as must as your Father loves your Mom.

He looks startled and starts to blush.

I can see it, Leon. It's part of my gift. You have the real deal here, kiddo. You don't need to rush it. But don't be as dense as your folks were or as Pablo and I were, okay?

He nods — barely, but he smiles, too.

"Well," she says, clapping her hands together softly and chuckling, "the center of attention needs to go back to being the center of attention." She points a finger at Henry.

"What? I didn't do anything!"

"I know. You still owe me a dance!"

"Oh. Sure, Andi! As soon as that nice DJ plays the Chicken Dance, I can show your friend Anna that you're not the best at everything." He grins. "She's nice."

"Yes, she is. And I've already told her that you're the Chicken Dance Champ. You better watch out for Pablo's niece, Maralisa, though. I hear she's pretty good, too."

# # #

Andi is vaguely aware of the disturbance of qi at the doorway, but it's so hard to take her eyes from Maddie and Rene. It's only when Logan gets up that she shifts her attention.

"Oh. Joe and Amanda are here."

"And your detective can tell they're freaked out."

"That's putting it mildly."

Logan gets them seated at the table, but Andi places a hand on Pablo's arm to keep him from joining them.

"Not yet," she whispers. "Give them time."

Pablo merely nods.

# # #

Amanda sees her patient comfortably settled with her newborn daughters, and sighs happily. Today has been a good day. She drops a kiss on the forehead of Vivienne and Justine each, then hugs Natalia and Jeanine before she leaves. Joe is waiting patiently for her when she arrives home.

"How did it go?" he asks as he helps her bring her bag in from the car.

"Everything is perfect. They have two healthy babies," she answers as she enters the house. "I need to clean up. You don't think we will be too late, do you?"

"I'm sure Andi will understand and make some remark that it was better your job than mine."

She smiles. "Lin too probably."

Amanda quickly cleans up and changes, and they are on their way.

"What was the last wedding we went to?" she muses as Joe drives.

"Wasn't it Danny and Laura?"

"Maybe. That was something like seven years ago, I think. No, it must be more than that. Bradley is nine now. So that would be eleven years. This is going to be fun. I'm so glad Andi told you. That would have been tough to explain."

"I think I could have managed."

"Well, of course, you could. I'm talking about me. And Lin and her new partner and the kids are going to be there. It's great how they hit it off right away."

"Kind of like you and Lin did."

"That was mostly my professional side that took over."

"Your professional side isn't what made you stop. You couldn't tell she was pregnant until she came around the car. That was your heart."

"Guilty, officer."

Amanda suddenly digs through her purse and lets out a relieved sigh. "I thought I had forgotten the envelope."

"Didn't Andi say no gifts?"

"Yes, but I think these will come in handy, possibly within the next couple years."


"Babysitting coupons."

He laughs.

To Amanda, it seems to take extra long to get to the Brown Palace, but here they are at last. The concierge directs them to the ballroom. Joe opens the door for her and steps to her side as she looks around to orient herself.

"Looks like everything is still in full swing," she stage whispers to him.

"There's Andi," he says, pointing out the bride as they walk further into the room. "We should go say hello to the happy couple."

"Of course, I was just trying to spot Lin. Oh, there she is on the dance floor..."

Amanda comes to a sudden stop. "Oh. Joe? That man she's dancing with..."

"...looks just like Rene," he finishes.

Logan turns toward them and urges them forward. When neither move, he rises and ushers them to the table. "Both of you should sit down. You look like you're about to fall over."

Amanda lets herself be seated, but Joe clamps onto Logan's arm.

"What's going on here?" he asks, an edge to his voice. "Who's Lin dancing with?"

Logan recognizes the protectiveness in Joe's tone. "It's all right, Joe. He's a close friend, very close. We'll try to explain it when they are done."

"I'd prefer if it were explained now," Joe answers, but he does look at Logan.

He has seen in their brief meeting before that the man is protective of Lin and her kids. His cop's instincts tell him he can be trusted absolutely when it comes to her. He nods and also takes a seat. "Okay."

"Can I get you something to drink?" Logan offers.

"Red wine," Amanda immediately answers.

"Bourbon," Joe says.

Logan returns quickly with the drinks and sets them down in front of Joe and Amanda. Joe drinks half his glass in a single swallow. Logan pats them both on the shoulder. Fortunately for Joe and Amanda, the song had been nearly at its end when they arrived.

Madeline and Rene embrace tightly as the last of the song fades away, then walk arm in arm back to the table. When she sees the expressions on the new arrivals, she says, "We probably should have warned them."

Joe's eyes are riveted on Rene. He's glad he never brings his gun on social outings. Rene and Madeline separate and walk around the table, she to Amanda, he to Joe.

"Bon soire, Joe," Rene says. "I am who you think I am."

"But you're…"

"Dead? Yes, I am that too. Sort of, anyway. I'm a Spirit."

"Look real enough to me."

"I am," Rene says and extends his hand in greeting.

Somewhat suspicious, Joe reaches out to shake Rene's hand and finds it surprisingly solid. "How?"

"I like Maddie's explanation. Magic. Specifically First Nations magic. It's more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it. The bride there can explain it better, but your eyes may glaze over."

On the other side of the table, Madeline embraces Amanda.

"So glad you could make it, Amanda," she tells her as she hugs her.

Amanda latches on tightly. "Are you okay, Lin?"

"Couldn't be better, Amanda, I swear."

"But he looks just like Rene."

"Amanda, that's because he is Rene."


"Look. Really look at him. That is my Rene."

Amanda turns to look at Rene just as he is using the magic explanation. Her eye catches on Logan.

Logan gives her a reassuring smile. "It's complicated, but we've got it worked out."

She seems to recover more quickly than her husband. She looks at Logan, Rene, and Madeline each in turn. "You two, no, you three best come over soon and explain all this."

"For that, we need Andi too," Madeline says. "So it might have to wait until after their honeymoon."

"Okay," Amanda nods and stands up. "Come here and give me a hug, you scoundrel."

Joe hasn't quite let go, so Rene becomes slightly less substantial to escape the hold and give Amanda a hug. Madeline slips by and hugs Joe. "Are you going to be all right, Chief Baker?"

"Maybe. I think more bourbon might help."

"We can arrange that. And no need to worry about getting back on the road. There's plenty of room here."

# # #

It's not until the song is over and Sister and Spirit Brother greet their friends that Andi nudges Pablo to the table. "Well, I don't know how any of us could have warned them," she mutters in response to Maddie's comment. She's not even sure Logan heard her. It doesn't matter.

Once they seem to almost be settled, she sighs. Oh, they are both so good at faking it. Qi doesn't lie; they're still plenty confused and more than a little freaked out by Rene.

She slides into her chair and looks up at Pablo. "Go toss Henry out of his chair and drag the extra over, will you, dear?"

"Henry?" He nods. "Sure. If anyone deserves it, he does."

Andi grins as he walks off, then looks at Joe and Amanda, her grin fading to a smile.

"I probably babbled about Rene when I saw Amanda, and I don't doubt she just put it down to Andi being a nervous bride to be and expectant mother." She shrugs. "All of which was probably true, by the way. And Joe, I said that some stories weren't mine to share." She looks at her Spirit Brother beside her then back at the Sheriff. "Maddie and Rene's explanation isn't a lot more complicated than 'magic.' Well, sure, if you want all the technical aspects of it, it's incredibly complex and, yes, your eyes will glaze over. Hell, my eyes glaze over and I understand this shit."

Pablo carries a chair over and sets it beside her. Henry is standing — barely — and pantomiming his death scene. She glances at the floor beside him. Yep. Coyote is laughing.

"Interesting show your cousin is putting on for us," Pablo says nonchalantly, as though every single thing about the past several minutes has been utterly normal. It's a testament to her husband's adaptability that his qi does nothing more than flicker with concern for Joe and Amanda.

"He's entertaining Coyote." Then she rolls her eyes. "Fine, it's possible he's also trying to convince Joe and Amanda that he's weirder than the existence of our Spirit Brother." She looks at the Bakers again. "Is he succeeding?"

The two of them exchange a glance, then Amanda shakes her head while Joe finishes his glass of bourbon. "Not really, no," she says.

"Henry?" She barely raises her voice, and he pauses his death scene.

"Yeah, Andi?"

"Knock it off."

Henry blinks and looks at Coyote, then at Joe and Amanda.

"You sure, Andi?"

"Sure enough to start singing."

"Oh. Okay. Hey, I'll bet there's an extra chair over by Charlie. I'll just go claim that one."

She sighs.

"I know you love him dearly, Maddie. And you know I love him, too. He's my cousin-twin, how could I not love him? But give it thirty-something years, and every once in a while, you'll want to Gibbs slap him, too." Andi smiles at her, though. "Still, that was pretty thoughtful of him to try to help."

Justin comes over just then carrying a bottle of bourbon and a bottle of red wine. "Henry says somebody over here needs to get rip-roaring drunk. I suspect Henry exaggerated again."



"I told you about Joe and Amanda."

"Yep, you did... Oh. Oh!" He puts the bottles down on the table and goes over to hug Amanda. "You're gonna take good care of my sister and her babies, right? Of course you are. Andi trusts you. Madeline trusts you. Thank you! The whole family is going to want to meet you because Andi is pretty special and I'm not talking about the stuff she does with you, Sheriff. Eldest of the eldest of the eldest kind of thing." He looks at her. "You aren't the seventh generation eldest, are you?"

She snorts. "Fourth. And one of these two hellions will be fifth. I'm not that special!"

"Right. Try telling the rest of the family that, dork."

"Children," Pablo says in what might be a tone of warning, causing both Justin and Andi to burst out laughing. "What? I'm practicing."

"Uh huh," is all she says.

Justin pats Maddie and then Rene on the tops of their heads.

"You two are both very naughty, causing your friends over here to have the need for rip-roaring alcohol consumption. Shame on you." He grins like a complete goof — Andi suspects he's been hanging around both Billy and Henry too much. "Ha ha! Gotta love me! I'm the baby!"

She groans. "You and Charlie have been having flashbacks to your childhoods, haven't you?"

He nods.

She waves him away. "Go protect your friend from Pablo's sister."

"Huh? Blanca is cool. We're talking brainiac science stuff. Well, until Leon joins in and then we all feel like we're back in grade school. Dang, Madeline... Rene... did you know he's smarter than half the professors I know? Whoa! And what a nice kid. Okay, I'm forgiving you a little for freaking out your friends."

Then he turns on his heel and walks off. Andi stares after him.

"What the hell was that?" Pablo asks.

"I have no idea." She manages to blink.

"Has he been drinking?" Pablo asks suspiciously.

She turns and gives Pablo a puzzled look. "He drinks as much as I do."

"You don't drink."

"Exactly." She shrugs. "Maybe he's nervous about his announcement."

"What announcement?"

"Who are you and what have you done with my husband? I'm quite certain my husband was with us the other morning when I insisted they announce their engagement tonight. That whole adding to the joy of the day. You remember?"


She looks around the table, and her eyes fasten on Logan. "You and me, pal?" she says, pointing to each of them. "We're the only sane ones left at this table. And I'm not sure about us."

Amanda chuckles. "Thank you. That exhibition helped."

Andi looks at her qi and nods. Then she looks at Joe, pushes the bottle of bourbon in his direction, and says, "Drink. You still need it."

He looks at her, then over to the corner where her brother and cousins are being... well, themselves.

"Did you plan all that madness?"

"Oh, you give me too much credit, Chief. Henry is Henry and is constrained only by the limits of his overactive imagination. His guardian Spirit is Coyote the Trickster, which, in this case, means Henry plays the role of the court jester. My brother is probably kind of nervous, but his appreciation for Amanda is as real as this table." She raps on said piece of furniture with her knuckles. "My family's concern for me is just as real. It's not because of who I am or what I do. It's about family. It's only because of who I am and what I can do that made it possible for Pablo and me to have children. My family knows the truth; everyone else thinks Hank over there is the hero."

She reaches over and takes Rene's hand in hers.

"This is all about family, too. Maddie and Rene call it magic, but what it boils down to at a fundamental level is family. And love. That's not really magic. Magical, yes. But actual magic? Nah. Because of who I am and what I can do, I was able to reconnect a family because their love was and is a physical thing that even death couldn't and can't break."

She looks at Maddie and then Logan. The three of them are still shining brilliantly; Andi has no doubt that she and Pablo match their wattage.

"Love, not magic, allowed the three of them to find their perfect balance." She takes Pablo's hand, too, and tries not to get lost in his eyes. "Love, not magic, allowed the five of us to find a perfect balance."

She looks at Joe again. "Because of who I am and what I can do, we cemented a bond among us that's unbreakable and will transcend death just as Maddie and Rene's love has."

She releases both men's hands, plants her elbows on the table, and rests her chin on interlaced fingers as she looks at Joe.

"The name you and the other LEOs around the area are familiar with doesn't even come close anymore to defining who I am and what I do when I'm doing that job. I've got some flat-out bizarre metaphysical nonsense happening around me far too often — Pablo here claims I'm a magnet for weird and I've gotten to the point of believing him."

She closes her eyes and sighs. It's far easier to see the qi this way, and today she runs the risk of getting lost in its beauty.

It's not until the song is over and Sister and Spirit Brother greet their friends that Andi nudges Pablo to the table. "Well, I don't know how any of us could have warned them," she mutters in response to Maddie's comment. She's not even sure Logan heard her. It doesn't matter.

Once they seem to almost be settled, she sighs. Oh, they are both so good at faking it. Qi doesn't lie; they're still plenty confused and more than a little freaked out by Rene.

She slides into her chair and looks up at Pablo. "Go toss Henry out of his chair and drag the extra over, will you, dear?"

"Henry?" He nods. "Sure. If anyone deserves it, he does."

Andi grins as he walks off, then looks at Joe and Amanda, her grin fading to a smile.

"I probably babbled about Rene when I saw Amanda, and I don't doubt she just put it down to Andi being a nervous bride to be and expectant mother." She shrugs. "All of which was probably true, by the way. And Joe, I said that some stories weren't mine to share." She looks at her Spirit Brother beside her then back at the Sheriff. "Maddie and Rene's explanation isn't a lot more complicated than 'magic.' Well, sure, if you want all the technical aspects of it, it's incredibly complex and, yes, your eyes will glaze over. Hell, my eyes glaze over and I understand this shit."

Pablo carries a chair over and sets it beside her. Henry is standing — barely — and pantomiming his death scene. She glances at the floor beside him. Yep. Coyote is laughing.

"Interesting show your cousin is putting on for us," Pablo says nonchalantly, as though every single thing about the past several minutes has been utterly normal. It's a testament to her husband's adaptability that his qi does nothing more than flicker with concern for Joe and Amanda.

"He's entertaining Coyote." Then she rolls her eyes. "Fine, it's possible he's also trying to convince Joe and Amanda that he's weirder than the existence of our Spirit Brother." She looks at the Bakers again. "Is he succeeding?"

The two of them exchange a glance, then Amanda shakes her head while Joe finishes his glass of bourbon. "Not really, no," she says.

"Henry?" She barely raises her voice, and he pauses his death scene.

"Yeah, Andi?"

"Knock it off."

Henry blinks and looks at Coyote, then at Joe and Amanda.

"You sure, Andi?"

"Sure enough to start singing."

"Oh. Okay. Hey, I'll bet there's an extra chair over by Charlie. I'll just go claim that one."

She sighs.

"I know you love him dearly, Maddie. And you know I love him, too. He's my cousin-twin, how could I not love him? But give it thirty-something years, and every once in a while, you'll want to Gibbs slap him, too." Andi smiles at her, though. "Still, that was pretty thoughtful of him to try to help."

Justin comes over just then carrying a bottle of bourbon and a bottle of red wine. "Henry says somebody over here needs to get rip-roaring drunk. I suspect Henry exaggerated again."



"I told you about Joe and Amanda."

"Yep, you did... Oh. Oh!" He puts the bottles down on the table and goes over to hug Amanda. "You're gonna take good care of my sister and her babies, right? Of course you are. Andi trusts you. Madeline trusts you. Thank you! The whole family is going to want to meet you because Andi is pretty special and I'm not talking about the stuff she does with you, Sheriff. Eldest of the eldest of the eldest kind of thing." He looks at her. "You aren't the seventh generation eldest, are you?"

She snorts. "Fourth. And one of these two hellions will be fifth. I'm not that special!"

"Right. Try telling the rest of the family that, dork."

"Children," Pablo says in what might be a tone of warning, causing both Justin and Andi to burst out laughing. "What? I'm practicing."

"Uh huh," is all she says.

Justin pats Maddie and then Rene on the tops of their heads.

"You two are both very naughty causing your friends over here to have the need for rip-roaring alcohol consumption. Shame on you." He grins like a complete goof — Andi suspects he's been hanging around both Billy and Henry too much. "Ha ha! Gotta love me! I'm the baby!"

She groans. "You and Charlie have been having flashbacks to your childhoods, haven't you?"

He nods.

She waves him away. "Go protect your friend from Pablo's sister."

"Huh? Blanca is cool. We're talking brainiac science stuff. Well, until Leon joins in and then we all feel like we're back in grade school. Dang, Madeline... Rene... did you know he's smarter than half the professors I know? Whoa! And what a nice kid. Okay, I'm going to forgive you a little for freaking out your friends."

Then he turns on his heel and walks off. Andi stares after him.

"What the hell was that?" Pablo asks.

"I have no idea." She manages to blink.

"Has he been drinking?" Pablo asks suspiciously.

She turns and gives Pablo a puzzled look. "He drinks as much as I do."

"You don't drink."

"Exactly." She shrugs. "Maybe he's nervous about his announcement."

"What announcement?"

"Who are you, and what have you done with my husband? I'm quite certain my husband was with us the other morning when I insisted they announce their engagement tonight. That whole adding to the joy of the day. You remember?"


She looks around the table, and her eyes fasten on Logan. "You and me, pal?" she says, pointing to each of them. "We're the only sane ones left at this table. And I'm not sure about us."

Amanda chuckles. "Thank you. That exhibition helped."

Andi looks at her qi and nods. Then she looks at Joe, pushes the bottle of bourbon in his direction, and says, "Drink. You still need it."

He looks at her, then over to the corner where her brother and cousins are being... well, themselves.

"Did you plan all that madness?"

"Oh, you give me too much credit, Chief. Henry is Henry and is constrained only by the limits of his overactive imagination. His guardian Spirit is Coyote the Trickster, which, in this case, means Henry plays the role of the court jester. My brother is probably kind of nervous, but his appreciation for Amanda is as real as this table." She raps on said piece of furniture with her knuckles. "My family's concern for me is just as real. It's not because of who I am or what I do. It's about family. It's only because of who I am and what I can do that made it possible for Pablo and me to have children. My family knows the truth; everyone else thinks Hank over there is the hero."

She reaches over and takes Rene's hand in hers.

"This is all about family, too. Maddie and Rene call it magic, but what it boils down to at a fundamental level is family. And love. That's not really magic. Magical, yes. But actual magic? Nah. Because of who I am and what I can do, I was able to reconnect a family because their love was and is a physical thing that even death couldn't and can't break."

She looks at Maddie and then Logan. The three of them are still shining brilliantly; Andi has no doubt that she and Pablo match their wattage.

"Love, not magic, allowed the three of them to find their perfect balance." She takes Pablo's hand, too, and tries not to get lost in his eyes. "Love, not magic, allowed the five of us to find a perfect balance."

She looks at Joe again. "Because of who I am and what I can do, we cemented a bond among us that's unbreakable and will transcend death just as Maddie and Rene's love has."

She releases both men's hands, plants her elbows on the table, and rests her chin on interlaced fingers as she looks at Joe.

"The name you and the other LEOs around the area are familiar with doesn't even come close anymore to defining who I am and what I do when I'm doing that job. I've got some flat-out bizarre metaphysical nonsense happening around me far too often — Pablo here claims I'm a magnet for weird and I've gotten to the point of believing him."

She closes her eyes and sighs. It's far easier to see the qi this way, and today she runs the risk of getting lost in its beauty.

# # #

The evening is flowing into the night, and some of their guests have already departed. Of all the parties that Bobby has orchestrated, this has to be his crowning achievement!

"Let's thank Bobby for all his hard work," Pablo says, taking Andi's hand and turning toward the corner where her best friend and his beloved stand with arms around one another's waists. "We should probably thank him for not passing out, and thank David for being so calm about meeting the famous Madeline Jacobs."

She chuckles as she walks with him across the room. "They have been extremely well-behaved, haven't they? Though, to be fair, David did meet Maddie already and was utterly chill about the whole thing."

"I figured that was only because he had just proposed to Bobby and it was a one-time deal. In either case, it's probably their wedding gift to us. They'll be back to their usual level of lunacy tomorrow," he responds with a grin.

Jake announces his last break for the night, and Andi suspects that the arm wrestling or dice rolling or coin tossing that had determined who would get to play the piano and in what order has already been completed. Heck, for all she knows, they're all playing Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock. And apparently, David has won whichever contest determined the winner, as he and Bobby are strolling arm in arm toward the side of the dance floor toward the Steinway.

Andi and Pablo get caught up for a few minutes saying goodbye to Rodrigo and Angelina.

"I understand that you're spending a few days with family before heading off on your honeymoon," the Captain says, looking pointedly at Pablo.

"Yes, sir. Most folks will be leaving on Saturday, and then we're going to head up to Wyoming to take Jenny and Leon back to her parents' place."

"She's a charming young woman," Angelina notes. "She and your nephew seem quite happy."

Andi nods. "I'm not sure they're quite ready to admit that they're meant for each other, but I don't think it will be long. They're smart kids."

Pablo laughs. "Sometimes the smart ones are the most clueless," he says, nudging me.

"I wasn't clueless, Detective Garcia. I was ignoring you."

Captain Sanchez just shakes his head. "And you'll be leaving from there as well?"

"Oh, no! No, Justin and Nicole and Chris all have a flight out of DIA on the second," she says, "and since Henry is leaving on the third, and Pablo and I are leaving on the fourth, it just makes sense to drive back down and not change our plans." She chuckles. "Maddie would have been happy to make all the arrangements, but there's no sense in spoiling my cousin. He'll just make up some crazy story and will be insufferable for months."

"Fortunately, he stays in Phoenix. Most of the time." Pablo sighs. "Ah, if only he stayed there all the time!"

Andi rolls her eyes. "Oh, you know you love him, too. And I have ideas for keeping him from eating all our food."


"Sure! We'll just store it at Bobby's house!"

"That's cra—" He stops and blinks. "Huh. That might actually work."

"Now that you have that crisis averted," the Captain says dryly, "I want to remind you, Detective, that I will be furious if I see you in the office before the twenty-first." Then he stares at Andi. "I'd like to prohibit you from wandering the streets at night after you get back, but I'm pretty sure you'd go out and get yourself into trouble just to spite me."

She looks at him with big innocent eyes... well, her best approximation of innocent. "Me? No! Never!" She reaches out and rests a hand on his arm, her expression turning more serious. She is cognizant of Angelina's presence and tries to keep her statement as neutral as possible. "I do need to check in with some folks when I get back, but we'll do our best to stay on vacation until Monday. You make sure no one gets killed so that Detective Garcia doesn't feel the urge to rush back to work, and I'll make sure he forgets he wants to rush back to work." She winks at Sanchez.

"Hmm." He eyes the both of them. "Please take all the time allotted. Don't get into any trouble in South America." Then he smiles. "Congratulations, and enjoy your time together."

She watches them walk away, noting the beautiful connection they have to one another. "Shiny."

Pablo laughs. "I feel a little sorry for Ladonna."

"Oh, I think she'll be okay. She has a wonderful family — including a fantastic brother — who is going to help her anytime she starts to freak out because her daughter is special."

"Yes, dear."

David is playing something that could be Brahms as we approach the piano. Rather than interrupt the piece, Pablo looks back across the room.

"This has been a wonderful day."

She smiles and nods. "That it has."

He turns back to her and takes both her hands in his, looking into her eyes. She risks getting lost in his eyes and barely notices when David finishes the Brahms and begins the first few notes of another song.

She does, however, notice when Pablo begins singing, although aside from Bobby and David, she's not sure anyone else does. At first.

Listen to My Heart - Bill McKinley

Here we are, you and I at last, in the right place, at the right time.
Every dream I've dreamed has come to pass, 'cause you're right here, and your all mine.
I can't believe the years of holding back are through,
And I can finally share what's in my heart, with you...
Listen, listen.

Listen to my heart, listen to it sing.
Listen to my voice, it wants to tell you everything.
There's so much to say, I don't know where to start.
But if you want to know the love I'm feeling,
Listen to my heart.

As Pablo holds her hands over his heart, Andi is vaguely aware that the room has become extremely quiet. David's playing and Pablo's singing are the only sounds she can hear.

All my life, I've been on a road, going one way, toward one dream.
The road would wind, and down it I would go, always searching, never finding.
But even in my darkest hour I always knew
That some way, somehow, the road would lead to you.
And words can't express how my heart's filled with happiness.
Listen to it.

And as he sings, she can see in their minds' eyes those terrible, terrible days after Denise had been shot... an echo of the aftermath of his last undercover assignment... and the horror of his experience with Quetzalcoatl. But they're followed by the memory of the night they reforged their Bond on Lookout Mountain.

Listen to my heart, listen to it sing.
Listen to my voice, it wants to tell you everything.
Listen to my song, listen to it soar.
I've waited all my life for this one moment.
I'm not waiting anymore.

Although she knows that today would not be possible had events not played out exactly as they did, she feels her own heart cry for those many years that some might say they wasted. But they have so many years ahead of them... more than anyone can imagine; more than she could possibly count right now.

Listen to my heart, as it cries for all the years that it was lonely.
Listen to my heart, as it smiles to know that now after so long,
I can finally sing my song.
And you're here, and you're listening, you're listening.

I listen, and I hear you, my beloved.

Because their lives are changing irrevocably, and so wondrously... because she shares his joy... because their joy echoes between them... she joins him on the last chorus. It's not until several bars in that she realizes David and Bobby are singing harmony... and know that the three of them must have been planning this for a couple of months.

Listen to my voice, and it will tell you everything.
All about a life that's just about to start.
And if you want to know how much I love you,
Listen to my heart. Listen to my heart.
Listen to my heart.

She brings his hands to her lips and kisses them. "Thank you... for the serenade, for sharing your heart, for binding your life and your fate to mine," she says softly.

Obviously, a wedding reception is not a time for private moments. They are first enveloped by Bobby and David.

"It was David's idea, the harmonies and logistics, I mean," Bobby says. "Your sexy husband wanted to sing for you, so this is our wedding present to both of you."

"Thanks, guys," Pablo says. "It was perfect."

"It was. And I love Bill McKinley's arrangement of it so much!" She nudges Bobby with a shoulder. "And here I thought your gift to us was your impeccable behavior this afternoon and evening."

David chuckles. "That's part of it, too."

Their mothers arrive then, effusive in their praise for Pablo's singing, and David's playing, and the beautiful harmonies at the end by everyone. Of course, if they don't start mingling again, the corner is going to turn into another receiving line, so Andi tugs Pablo's hand, and they excuse themselves.

She's fairly sure she hears both Mama and Momma Garcia trying to talk Bobby into opening his own little restaurant, and she wants no part of that madness.

# # #

Daniel plays some Chopin, and then Pablo's aunt and uncle seem to talk themselves into taking a turn at the piano. Andi stares at them as their hands dance across the keyboard in a couple of ragtime duets.

"Whoa! That was incredible!"

"Damn, even I didn't know they could do that," Pablo says. "People have been holding out on me."

When Jake takes back the DJ booth for his last set, Pablo's entire family — including Elvia's two boys — take to the dance floor for salsa dancing. Only because Julio drags her out on the floor does she even attempt one dance. Okay, sure... he's eleven and couldn't drag her anywhere that she didn't want to go. But he's eleven, and he's sweet, and he's a pretty good teacher.

However, Andi finds it so much more delightful to watch the dancing. Pablo and Blanca are having a magnificent time. Even Justin and Nicole make an attempt before apparently realizing that they're no more gifted at salsa dancing than they are the complicated line dances.

After the third or fourth song, Talia comes over to sit next to Andi at the abandoned table near the corner of the dance floor. Wright left not long after Sanchez did; Deb and Clara are entertaining Andi's parents. Good grief, they're nearly as goofy as Henry and Billy!

"Yes, I'm feeling better. Yes, Maddie's friends are going to be fine. Yes, you'll be able to enjoy your honeymoon in peace," Talia says with a smile.

"Has Tommy been reading my mind?"

That elicits a soft chuckle. "I just know you, Andi. I figured those would be your top three questions."

"Actually, I would have stopped at just two." She smiles at Tali. "Maddie said her place in Suriname is beautiful and peaceful and relaxing. I trust her."

"I would hope so after all you've been through."

She shrugs. "Sometimes, it's good to just say the words out loud."

"You crack me up, Cousin. You're wicked scary powerful, but you feel like you have to make sure the universe knows the obvious."

"What? Saying things like 'I love you' and 'I trust you' are things that should be rationed?"

Tali laughs. "No, silly. Saying that you trust your little gang of five with your life, your heart, and your soul is so apparent that you don't need to tell the rest of us. Even my ding-a-ling eldest brother understands that."

"Hmm. Well, if Henry the ding-a-ling can see it, then surely it must be obvious!"

"Exactly. Oh. You won't believe the weird stuff he came up with earlier!"

"You might be surprised at what I'll believe these days. What's he claiming now?"

"I guess some of the folks over at the other table were talking about that kind of love that comes up and music starts playing, and a rainbow ends at someone's feet, and the two lovebirds live happily ever after. Sometimes it involves someone being slapped in the face with a fish, I think."

"What?? Is Henry on some sort of acid trip?"

She giggles. "It was actually your brother who came up with that scenario."

"There is something seriously wrong with that boy."

"To be fair, I think he was aiming for outrageously insane."

"Nailed it."

"Well, you remember when Henry was pestering me every other week about his love life, and I told him that he's going to get smacked in the head by love?"

"How could I forget? He spent that whole summer pretending he was debating with me about how that was possible. I never said a word, but a debate happened nonetheless. In retrospect, he was probably having a conversation with Coyote."

"Well, he did conclude, at the time, that Coyote was going to jump on his head and knock him to the ground in front of his True Love. But apparently today, my middle brother gave him a new idea: he's going to be so clueless about it that this woman will wind up hitting him with a rock."

"That does sound like Henry." Andi pauses for a few seconds, then looks at her cousin. "Will she? Because that would be hilarious."

"No." Talia looks around to make sure none of her brothers are in earshot then leans over and whispers, "He'll be so clueless that you wind up Gibbs slapping him."

Andi grins happily. "Ooh! I can't wait!"

"You have a few years yet. But your crazy brother wanted to know about his friend Chris. I guess he's... well, kind of like your friend Bobby was when you first met him."

"Not possible. Bobby was impossible to be around. He started his matchmaking nonsense the day after I closed on the house."

"No, no, not like that. Just the whole feeling of missing out on love because he won't recognize it."

"Ah! Yeah, Bobby was pretty bad for a while. What did you tell Justin?"

"The truth. That there's someone back in Chicago and she isn't looking for love almost as much as Chris isn't looking for love. You know some futures are more likely to happen than others, right? Well, I think Chris is going to recognize her right off, although maybe not as his True Love. What he does after that is all up to him. It could go either way."

"Gee, helpful much?"

She shrugs. "It's not like I know her name or anything. And Chris is a shy kind of guy. He might have to move out of his comfort zone. I didn't see that she's the sort of person to just grab him by the hair and drag him off to her lair or anything."

Andi snickers. "Didn't you once tell me that my True Love was going to consider something of the sort?"

"I did. Can you honestly say that you believe Pablo never had that thought once in the past eleven years?"

"Nope. I'm pretty sure he had worse thoughts than that when he got back from Quetzalcoatl's training camp."

"Sorry. I wish I could have warned you about that."

She shrugs this time. "We might need to test our hypothesis a few more times, but it seems pretty solid at this point. If other dimensions are involved, everything is up in the air, nothing is settled, and it's more likely that you won't have a clue."

"Yeah, but I still feel like I should have seen something."

"How much of the insanity involving Quetzalcoatl did you actually see?"

She opens her mouth to speak, then closes it. After a couple of seconds, her brows draw together, and she finally frowns.

"If it involved at least two of your gang of five, in any combination, and no one else? Nothing. Even before you formed your Pentad."

"Another data point. Although, in this case, I think it was just Quetzalcoatl screwing with things."

"You really dislike that winged snake."


Talia smiles and rests her head on Andi's shoulder; in turn, she wraps an arm around Tali.

"Think we'll be able to get away from Denver and see the family more often?"

Andi can feel the qi of laughter Talia keeps bottled up.

"It's all up to you and Pablo, you know that. It's always been up to you. Just make the time, and we'll be there for you. Stop asking silly questions."

"Okay." She just breathes in the joy of her family and the handful or so of friends still here. "Is Billy going to be safe out in New York? Really?"

"Yep. Really. Your Charles is... well, he's incredible."

"He really is. He's the only person I've never been able to get a reading on since my Curse hit. It's so soothing."

"Your Curse is that annoying?"

"Sometimes. But more like... hmm. Have you ever had a really good massage?"


Andi giggles. "Well, it's kind of like that. Even more relaxing than doing my Taiji."

"Here I got all freaked out when my Curse didn't work right... and you enjoy it."

She tilts her head to rest it against Talia's. "It's just Charles, so I wouldn't say my Curse isn't working right. Some people are easier to see with my Curse, some are a little more confusing until I grok who they are. Take Logan, for instance. His qi isn't as easy to read as, say, yours. But since forming the Pentad, there's a deeper level of understanding about him and how he just exists in the world. But his daughter? Em isn't very difficult to read at all. Normal folks are a piece of cake. People with a mutation — like Billy or the majority of people in Commerce City — just take the right focus. If someone has been hit by the Virus, like Chris and Michael, they're still as easy to read as a normal person is.

"But Charles? If I close my eyes, I can't see where he is. I know where everyone else in the room is, just not him. It's almost as if our Curses are equally powerful and so they're balanced. I'm pretty sure he couldn't get inside my mind unless I let him. I think it's fascinating."

"You're a strange one, Andi."

"Thank you."

She snickers but becomes serious again all too quickly.

"Um, those other things you won't stop worrying about? Yes, whatever you're doing out in the mines is going to be rough, and you're all going to get through it. Together. Also, you and Pablo will be great parents."

"I was worrying too loudly, huh?"

"Yep. You can stop now."

"No, I can't. But I'll try to tone it down a bit."

Talia sighs. "Fine. I told Sam and Cynthia not to worry. They still worry. I tell you not to worry. You still worry. I tell Billy not to worry. He still worries. Well, less after today, but still."

"Just because we have a precog in the family doesn't mean we're not going to keep right on being human, silly."

She raises her head and gives Andi a hug. "I need to take care of Little Kai for a bit. We don't want Yani and Daniel sneaking off before the big announcement." She winks before walking off.

# # #

As the last dance on Pablo's section of the playlist ends, Jake has one more announcement.

"I've got one more song for you folks tonight, but I wanted to thank all of you for your enthusiasm and unusual requests. I got a good workout. I wanted to give a special shout out to David and Bobby for snagging me into this gig, and for Andrea and Pablo for making me feel like I was part of the family.

"This last one is also a special request from the bride, a waltz whose importance will — and I quote — become apparent to anyone who is still awake."

And then he starts playing Ravel's Bolero. Andi takes Pablo's hand, and they made our way over to the dance floor. They take their time because the piece begins pianissimo with a couple of snare drums and pizzicato on the bass. They have the dance floor to themselves for the first half of the song.

That's when Justin and Nicole join them, Justin cutting in to dance with Andi, and Pablo offering his hand to Nicole.

"How did you know this was Nicole's favorite waltz? I know I didn't tell you."

She chuckles. "Little Brother, it's amazing what you can do with a telephone these days. I just called her mother and asked."

"Seems like cheating."

"What, doing whatever seemed reasonable to make sure you two have your favorite music for announcing your engagement?"

"Hmm. When you put it like that, maybe it isn't cheating."

She smiles. "I love you, Justin. I hope you and Nicole are every bit as happy as Pablo and I are."

He looks down at her and smiles, too. "So far, so good."

When the melody line is being carried by most of the orchestra, she whispers, "That's our cue to switch partners."

Pablo is at her elbow, and they continue dancing through most of the remainder of the piece. However, as the finale begins, they step off the dance floor, once more arm-in-arm and watching people they love expressing their feelings through music and dance.

"If Melissa was awake—"

"She is," Andi interrupts him. "She's mesmerized."

"Hmm. That would explain the lack of exclamations about shiny things."

She chuckles. "They are shiny."

When the dance ends, Justin and Nicole stand for a moment together with their foreheads touching before turning, arms going around each other's waist, to face Mama and Dad.

Justin clears his throat. "First of all, this is Andi's fault. She insisted." He glances at his sister and winks, then looks at Nicole for a second — oh, yes, very shiny! — before looking at his parents again.

"But Andi's right, as usual. What better time to share with our family that Nicole and I are going to get married than right now? We don't have a date yet, but it will be in Chicago. That means no winter wedding."

"Oh, come on, Justin," Nicole says teasingly. "You're not afraid of a little snow, are you?"

"Of course not! I'm afraid of a lot of snow!"

Nicole laughs and looks out across the room. "Bobby? If you're available to hang out in Chicago for a little while, I'd love it if you'd do all the planning."

Justin nods. "Despite the reputation that Andi tried to convince us you have, you did a fantastic job here. My mom is kind of far away, and I've seen the kind of parties Nicole's mom puts together."

"Please, Obi-Wan Tompkins, you're our only hope!"

David's booming laugh rings out. "Don't you worry, kids. Bobby's just fainted..."

He hasn't. He's merely stunned.

"...I'll talk him into it."

As most of the family surrounds the couple, Andi looks over at David, who is watching from the DJ booth as Jake is shutting down all his equipment. She gives them a double thumbs-up, and David winks.

"That was very cleverly done, Warrior Yazzie."

"Thank you, Ha'atathli Dehiya. Pablo and I might actually be able to sneak out."

"I'm surprised you don't just pull out your cloak of invisibility and make a run for it."

"Unfortunately, there's only one cloak, and it doesn't fit Pablo."

Pablo shrugs and tilts his head toward Justin and Nicole. "That's all the magic we need right now, Tommy."

Tommy chuckles. "Well, you should get out of here then. I'm sure Aunt Sandra will want to do something appropriately traditional, and I believe it's my job to convince her that a Dance or a Sing would be about as much as a bilagáana family can handle."

"Hmm. Based on what Justin's told me about Nicole's family, you might just want to go with a Sing. A simple one. And we should both ask the Spirits to, ah, skip that one."

He raises an eyebrow, and she shrugs.

"They're not quite as wealthy as Chris's friend Miranda's family, but they're definitely snootier."

"So noted. Now get out of here, you two."

They only stop to say goodnight to Maddie and Logan and Rene. Andi hopes they can spend some time with Hank and Charles before they leave. She feels like they just didn't get nearly enough time to spend with them.

However, Pablo's thoughts are not anywhere near those of friendly conversations with friends. She takes his hand, returns his grin, and lets him lead her from the room back toward their bridal suite upstairs.

© Kelly Naylor and ividia kt