This almost falls into the realm of original fic. Jim and Rafe only make brief cameos ‑‑ this is really the ladies' story.
A big thank you to Ronnee for lending me AJ from time to time and letting me play in her world. Thank you so much, dear heart!
The Bonds of Friendship
“What do you mean you are sewing patches on all the kid’s clothes?” From her position near the bed, Katy watched in amazement as AJ began sorting through McKenna’s closet.
“Just what I said. They need to be marked. Protected.”
“From what? She’s barely old enough to walk?” Katy’s tone was a mixture of amazement, amusement, and total confusion.
A deep masculine laugh sounded from the doorway, causing both women to turn.
“What?” Both women asked in unison.
“Nothing.” Jim leaned his long frame against the doorway and prepared to watch the rest of the discussion between his wife and his little sister. Because both of them were rather strong willed, it could be an interesting battle.
“You will stay out of this.” Katy admonished her husband.
“Just pretend I’m not even here.”
“Ha.” AJ infused the short sound with a healthy dose of disbelief.
“What?” He was slightly defensive. “I’m just here to watch.”
“Us have an argument.” AJ finished the sentence when he didn’t have any intention of continuing.
“Now would I do that?” He held up his hands in the classic gesture of supplication.
“Yes.” Once again, both women answered in unison. Turning towards each other, they shared a slight smile.
They were now united against a common enemy. Jim.
At that moment a lifelong friendship was formed between the two women.
Turning back to their tormentor, they both began to smile slightly. Belatedly realizing their intention, he began to back away slightly. “Um, come on now. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“We know you didn’t dear.” Katy stood in preparation for heading towards the door.
“Kitten?” He turned to AJ, hoping to find some sympathy in the depths of her crystal green eyes. Not finding any sympathy there, he turned back to his wife. “Kit, sweetheart.”
“Yes, dear?” She displayed her most innocent face to her husband.
“Um, maybe I’ll leave now.” He started backing towards the door, even as she advanced towards it. “Have fun.” He almost turned and fled, but you never show your back to your enemy.
“I think that’s a good idea.” Katy almost shut the door in the husband’s face as he hastily retreated to the outer room.
“Now, tell me what all this protection stuff is about?” After firmly locking the door behind her, Katy turned back to the other woman, still standing half in and half out of McKenna’s small closet.
“You really want to know?” AJ emerged with a handful of clothes.
“Yes, I do. You can tell me while we work.” Katy took part of the large pile of clothes from AJ. “So, where’s the best place?”
“How about up on the roof? No one will bother us up there.” AJ referred to the small greenhouse Jim and Brian had constructed on the roof of the building housing the loft. When her own garden had been too persnickety to grow some of the more specialized herbs she wanted, Jim had offered the roof of the building for a specialized greenhouse. Once completed, she’d warned all the babies to stay away. As a result, hardly anyone except her every went up there. It would be the perfect place for the two women to talk.
Katy nodded. “Anything else we need?”
“No. I have all the patches and thread here.” AJ patted her vest slightly. “Though, we might need something to drink.” AJ reached over and grabbed the clothes in Katy’s hands, freeing her to stop in the kitchen.
Emerging from the bedroom, the two women were met by the amused glances of Rafe and Ellison.
Easily detouring past them, AJ made her way over to the stairs that had been set back along the wall connecting the two sides of the loft.
Katy, on the other hand, had to detour past the two men. Ignoring both of their questioning glances she picked up the necessary implements for a good girl talk. A bottle of scotch for her, a bottle of Piranha Liquor for AJ, soda, cheese, crackers, and glasses filled with ice, were all carefully placed on a tray with high edges so nothing would fall off on the way upstairs.
“Should I even ask?” Jim inquired as she detoured back past him, stopping momentarily to place a brief kiss on his cheek.
“Nope. Ellie and Blair will be home with the kids soon. Make sure McKenna gets a bath before you put her to bed.” She smiled serenely at her husband before following AJ up the stairs.
Kit emerged from the stairwell into the rare bright sunshine of a spring day in Cascade. Blinking quickly, in the mid-afternoon sun, she ducked into the open door of the greenhouse. Allowing her eyes a moment to adjust to the oddly falling shadows caused by the riot of plants, she stopped just after she passed over the threshold.
Her vision cleared and she was greeted by a profusion of color and foliage. “It’s beautiful.” She breathed quietly, not wanting to disturb the quiet of the place. “Now I see why you like it up here so much.” Katy had been reluctant to invade an area that was so obviously AJ’s domain, and now she regretted it.
“Thank you.” AJ looked pleased by her praise. “You haven’t been up here before?”
“No.” Kit moved further into the room, spying a small table and chairs hidden in the back corner. Unless you were looking for them, you would easily overlook their presence. The small bistro set was covered in the same green color as provided by many of the plants in the greenhouse, further adding to its camouflage.
Setting the tray on the table, she began sorting out the items. Liquor and soda were poured into glasses. Cheese was carefully cut with the pairing knife built into the side of the tray. Crackers were placed next to the cheese. Her preparations finally complete, Katy sank into the chair just behind her, handing AJ a glass as she did so.
“So how do you do it?” Katy asked, as AJ sank into her own chair.
“Do what?” The younger woman took a small sip of the distinctive liquor – the pleasure it brought her apparent on her face.
“Make all these things grow like this.”
AJ shrugged her shoulders in response. “I don’t know. They just do. They wouldn’t grow at our house, but they will grow here.” She shrugged again. “Why don’t you ever come up here?”
“I’m not sure,” Katy began cautiously. “I guess I just didn’t want to invade your territory.” She answered the question honestly, realizing this was an afternoon for baring their souls.
The younger woman nodded, hearing the unspoken words of caution. They had always spent time together, but any attempts at true friendship were cautious. “You are welcome to come up anytime.” She issued the formal invitation, so common from her upbringing.
“Thank you.” Katy nodded her acceptance of the gift AJ had just bestowed. Smiling impishly, she changed the subject. “Now, tell me about these protective symbols.” She gently fingered on of McKenna’s soft sweatshirts sitting at her feet.
AJ nodded – acceptance of the friendship offered and given – before smiling back. “The gangs call them Ghosts,” she began.
For the next several hours the two women sat safely ensconced in AJ’s greenhouse, away from the common daily worries of husbands and children and jobs.
AJ explained to Kit about the tribe in Cascade. How all the children – and the adults were part of it – and as such needed to display the protective symbols. Especially the children, as they were the most likely to get lost. The symbols would tell everyone where they belonged if anything happened.
She also admitted to making sure the street gangs knew not to mess with those wearing the Ghost symbols. Anyone who did would face the wrath of the tribe. The words “it’s happened before,” hung unspoken between them. Katy was too afraid to ask whether it had been in Cascade or back in the jungle. And AJ was too afraid of upsetting the older woman to explain.
Katy told AJ what it was like living with two sentinels. They’d shared enough history at family gatherings that Katy knew the chances of AJ having sentinels of her own. AJ carefully noted some of the more interesting quirks in her ever present journal, wanting to make sure the next generations would know. Would remember.
They talked about Jim’s overprotective streak, especially when it came to the women in his life. Both had felt the effects of the Blessed Protector syndrome on more than one occasion. AJ shared her experiences with it before he met Katy – and even a few after the other woman hadn’t heard about. They laughed about him being an Blessed Protector in overdrive when it came to his daughter. Katy regaling AJ with stories about making sure the baby could sleep, and keeping her company at all hours of the night.
They discussed McKenna and Ian’s fondness for one another, even at their early age. The ramifications of the two being sentinel and guide. The thought that theirs was a bond no mortal force could destroy.
They both talked of their lives before. How they ended up where they were. Why they loved the two men sitting downstairs. How they felt about their children and the steps they would take to protect them.
Through it all, the two women sewed patches on all of McKenna’s clothes – making sure they would be clearly visible to anyone who happened to spot the little girl on the street.
Whether it was the small amount of alcohol both had consumed, the intimacy of the place, or the warm sunshine of the afternoon, neither really knew, but they bonded – became friends. When they finally fell asleep, to worn from the afternoon of conversation, both knew they’d forged lasting bonds that could survive whatever life chose to throw at them.
When Jim and Brian came to collect them hours later, they found them asleep amongst the plants. Sharing a smile, they gently picked up their respective wives and took them back downstairs.
Somehow, they knew.