Convert this page to Pilot DOC Format
By Bat Morda
(c) Bat Morda 1997
Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story involving the charactes Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle- well make that Melinda Pappas and Janice Covington. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read something other than this story. Auctually it isn't that big of a deal. Quick little owie- a few stitches and we move right along- still I don't want to be accused of not giving enough warning...
This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
JUST IN CASE I MISSED ANYTHING DISCLAIMER:
Do NOT open back panel; no user serviceable parts inside. Use in a well ventilated area. Pencils, scrap paper, and batteries not included. Can not be read by magnetic strip readers. If surface dulls, dust with a damp cloth and allow to dry; do NOT use abrasive cleaners. If nausea persists blame it on Pestilence and consult your doctor or contact your local poison control center. Some assembly required. No dolphins were injured in the creation of this document and the contents are 100% biodegradable. Reader of this document assumes all property/personal damage inflicted upon themselves and/or other individuals/objects in the past/present/future. Please move completely across each row, filling in each and every available seat to make room for everyone. Do not look directly at the sun, as this may cause permanent retinal damage. FCC compliance is required before operating this unit, please consult the User's Manual for further instructions. Complies with TM-071074, and 18D-PMTRE-DR. The moving platform is traveling at the same speed as your vehicle. No smoking please...please stand clear of the doors...Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas... The Audience Is Listening...THX. Life shouldn't be taken too seriously- you're not getting out alive.
This story takes place three weeks after THE XENA SCROLLS.
"Yes?" Janice asked as she slowly sat back on her knees.
"You don't have to stop what you were doing." Mel finished quietly.
Janice began to unbutton the rest of her shirt, watching Mel watch her. "So do you want me to take this off? Or kiss your perfect breasts?"
"Ah both." Mel replied as Janice brought teasing fingers to her burning skin once more. Her mouth opened in disappointment as Janice shook her head. "What?" Mel asked.
"You take it off." Janice said softly, raising Mel's hands to her unbuttoned shirt. She swallowed, pulse racing, and pushed the material off of the archeologist's shoulders. "Verrrrry nice." Janice murmured at the first touch of Mel's hands on her body when the shirt fell to the bed. Mel gazed in fascination at the muscular body uncovered before her. She trailed her fingers over warm skin, smiling at the shudders and tremors rippling beneath the surface in their wake. Janice sighed and caught her lower lip between her teeth as Mel caressed her breasts, her desire heightening as she watched the southerner explore her body. Straddling Mel's hips, she let her own hands wander once more over her torso, adjusting the white shirt to expose more of the soft flesh beneath as she went.
"Oh, sweet Jesus." Mel gasped as soft lips circled her nipple, gentle suction pulling her deeper into warm depths. Teasing the aroused flesh with tongue and teeth sent wave after wave of desire coursing through her veins. "Yes, Janice, do that." Mel whispered fiercely, then felt the other woman's mouth smile against her flesh.
"Yes ma'am." Janice replied and trailed moist kisses across the Mel's chest to the other breast. As she reveled in the scent of warm skin, delighting in the softness contracting in her mouth, Janice reached out and found one of Mel's hands, guiding it to her own breast.
"That feels too good." Mel gasped, overwhelmed by the sensations rushing through her. Janice pulled back a little, kissing the valley between ample breasts and murmured into the soft skin.
"It gets even better." She promised.
Mel swallowed reflexively. She was not convinced she could handle 'much better'. With a gentle nudge she moved the archeologist forward. Propping herself up on her hands and elbows Janice looked down. "Yes?" She replied to Mel's silent command.
"My turn." Mel murmured, laying claim to one of the doctor's breasts.
"God, yes." Janice encouraged and shifting her hips slightly, she gently began grinding against the woman below her.
"Just like that." She breathed, as Mel swirled her tongue around the sensitive flesh. "Mel, that's wonderful," she panted, gazing at the face so intent on giving her pleasure.
"You feel so good," Mel murmured as she headed for the other breast, "so soft." Janice closed her eyes in ecstacy, the thrumming of Mel's voice against her skin making her dizzy. Janice let her continue for several minutes until her own desire became insistent. Shifting her weight she leaned back form Mel's mouth, helping the other woman sit up. When she did, she eased the white shirt off smooth shoulders gliding her hands over the planes of Mel's back as the shirt fell to the bed. Moving close once more, Mel smiled as the warm softness of Janice's breasts rested against her own.
"I had no idea." Mel whispered, smiling as she gazed into liquid green eyes.
"Neither did I." Janice whispered back, her voice tight with emotion.
Mel stared in wonder. "But you've" She was silenced by gentle fingers against her mouth.
"Never like this." Janice whispered fiercely. "Never with the other half of my soul."
"How can you know that?" Mel asked quietly, voice brimming with emotion at the archeologist's words.
"I felt it the moment I saw you," Janice answered simply, "and fought against it. It scared me Mel, it still does. But I'm through fighting, fighting against it anyway. Fighting for it is another matter." Mel watched as Janice traced light fingers across her thigh.
"If I didn't know better Janice Covington, I'd think that was a proposal." Mel smiled, running her hands over the other woman's shoulders, fingering soft red-gold hair.
"Maybe it is." Janice smiled. "You wouldn't be flirting with me again, would you Mel?" She asked as she trailed her fingers along the inside of an elegant thigh. "Because I really like it when you do."
Mel smiled wickedly. "Would you show me how much you like it Janice?"
Janice's eyes gleamed as she leaned forward to claim Mel's lips once more, her knee resting in between the other woman's thighs, then applying firm pressure to her center. "Oh Christ!" Mel gasped, causing Janice to jump back.
"What? Did I hurt you?" The archeologist asked, scared to death.
Mel shook her head, blushing. "No, I think I wet myself." Mel mumbled, then looked at Janice with surprise when the other woman laughed.
"I'm counting on it." Janice beamed, reaching for the fasteners of Mel's pants. Mel did likewise, and soon two pairs of pants joined the rest of the discarded clothing. "Now, wasn't I going to show you how much I appreciate your flirting?" Janice asked as she stretched out next to Mel on the bed.
"Something like that." Mel murmured in reply, drawing her hand slowly up the side of Janice's body. When she reached the bandaged arm she paused. "How is it?" She asked.
Janice removed her mouth from Mel's breast once more. "Absolutely perfect." She whispered.
"No Janice, your arm." Mel laughed at the gleam in the doctor's eye.
Shrugging, Janice replied, "Since my senses are otherwise engaged, I don't feel a thing: Not in my arm anyway. I'm feeling glorious things everywhere else."
Mel rolled over, tucking Janice beneath her. Propped up on her elbows she gazed down into penatrating green eyes. She didn't doubt the archeologist's words. Janice's touch had a staggering effect on her own body and knowing she could do the same for her left her with a sense of power that made her slightly dizzy. "What things?" She asked, her voice husky.
"For starters," Janice said quietly, gently tracing the outline of Mel's cheek and jaw, "your voice makes me melt. Your eyes set me on fire and I think the feel of your skin is positively addictive."
Throwing her head back at the exquisite feel of Janice's hands caressing her back Mel smiled. "It's clear to me which one of us descended from a bard."
Janice grinned and rolled Mel over noting that her feet only reached as far down as Mel's mid-calf. "Are you saying you have latent warlord tendencies Melinda Pappas?"
"Well you don't want to get on my bad side. Oh my!" Mel glanced up and for the first time since they returned to the boat, noticed the mirror positioned above the bed. Janice followed her gaze.
"Nice view." She chuckled, noting how wide her companion's eyes had grown. Mel gazed in rapt fascination at the sleek body entwined with hers. Strawberry blond tresses lay strewn across her torso as Janice kissed her way downward. The feel of moist, warm lips across her flesh was sublime. It was only after abstract these observations that she realized where Janice was headed.
"Whatwhat are you doing?" She asked, surprised.
"Is there a problem, Mel?" Janice asked gently without the slightest trace of reproach in her voice.
"It looked like you were going to uh kiss me" Mel shook her head embarrassed. Surely she was mistaken.
"There." Janice finished for her, drawing gentle fingers across Mel's soaked labia. "I was hoping to, but I won't if you don't want me to." Mel moaned at the contact as desire surged through her being. Still caressing with slow strokes, Janice drew herself up Mel's body to gaze into her eyes. "Mel," she whispered softly, "remember how my tongue felt inside your mouth?" Mel nodded quickly, her hips arching at the gentle strokes she continued to receive. "Well, imagine it here." To make her point, Janice shifted her finger to caress a slippery, hard bundle of nerves.
"Oh god." Mel groaned at the exquisite touch.
"I thought you'd see it my way." Janice smiled but added, "But if you want me to stop, just say so, okay?"
Mel nodded again, gazing one again up at the mirror, ready for anything. Mesmerized by the sight of Janice's body moving so intimately against her own, she watched in rapt fascination as Janice gently stroked her thighs, urging them apart, then lowered her face to her center. Mel's head snapped to the side and she moaned into the pillow to muffle the sound. Janice raised her head and watched her partner for a moment. When Mel realized the delicious contact was gone she peered down at Janice.
"I'm fine," Mel said in a rush. "Oh god, please don't stop. It's incredible."
"I'm glad you think so." Janice smiled. "But you don't have to worry about keeping quiet. If you want to yell, then yell."
Frowning Mel shot back, "I hate to be the one to tell you, but we're on a crowded smuggling ship. This isn't the back forty."
Janice giggled and eased a hand up Mel's sleek body to fondle a grateful breast. "The other part of my trade. I made Aires get everyone above deck. They're having a loud party up there, and will be until sunrise. No one is below decks but us. I'm sorry, but it's all the privacy I could arrange."
Mel laughed and reached down to tousle the smaller woman's hair. "You traded a speed boat for two baths and some privacy." She stated.
"And the beef bone for Argo, it'll keep her busy for hours."
"Is there anything you didn't think of Janice Covington?"
Janice grinned wickedly. "Yes. How to keep one stunningly beautiful woman from talking so much. Are you sure you're not related to the one named 'Gabby'?" Janice placed a wet kiss on the inside of Mel's thigh, sending a shudder through the body beneath her. She paused to inhale the sweet, musky fragrance of her lover, imprinting every detail she could into her memory. Slowly she drew her hands back down, and gently parting soft folds lowered her lips once more.
Mel groaned again, freely this time, as a skillful tongue sought out her depths. In moments she felt as though she were flying, spinning out of control on wave after wave of heady ecstacy. Her body began to shudder, hips bucking of their own accord. She cried out, the wave of her climax crashing down on her. She couldn't speak, she couldn't move; she was unable to do anything but enjoy the sensations thrumming through her body and soul. When the tremors stopped, Janice slowly withdrew. Cupping a firm hand to Mel's center she moved to rest her head on a heaving breast.
As Mel fought to get her breathing under control, she wrapped her arms around the woman resting on her chest. Still gazing at the mirror above she noted how perfect the two of them looked lying together, legs entwined. "I don't know what to say." Mel finally said.
"You don't have to say anything Mel." Janice murmured, warm breath caressing Mel's chest.
"Is it always that incredible?" She wondered aloud. "I mean I can't believe I haven't heard something. Someone should have told me."
Janice laughed, propping herself up on an elbow as she slowly began to move her other hand. "I guess you haven't been hanging out with the right people," she said, as Mel closed her eyes in pleasure once more.
"Guess not." She sighed as Janice's fingers picked up a rhythm that matched the throbbing of her pulse. With a careful touch she caressed the base of her lover's opening, teasing the hungry flesh. "Yeeeessss," she panted as Janice's fingers teased deeper.
"This might hurt a little." Janice warned, "I don't have"
"Do it." Mel groaned, desperate to uncover every sublime sensation for herself.
Straddling Mel's thigh, Janice positioned herself so she could have the most control with her hand. Carefully, she began to push deeper, using her thumb to caress an engorged clitoris once more. As her partner's panting became louder her own self control began to slip. Driven by the urgency in Mel's voice she pressed harder, rewarded by ardent groans. With a final push she broke through the thin membrane as muscles convulsed around her fingers. Another wave of orgasm surged through Mel's body. She was sure she'd never recover. No one could possibly feel that good and survive.
Blue eyes blinked open to see radiant green watching her with interest. "You are so beautiful." Janice whispered, tenderly moving a stray strand of hair from the corner of Mel's mouth.
"You are so magnificent." Mel whispered back. "Beautiful and magnificent." There was something there in Janice's expression. The vibrancy of her eyes, the flush to her cheeks. Once more, Mel was aware of the power they shared over each other. "Show me." She whispered.
Janice blinked. "Show you what?" She asked, genuinely confused.
Mel dropped her voice even lower. "Show me how to make you feel as exquisite as I'm feeling right now. I want to make love to you Janice Covington, teach me how."
Janice's eyes flared in passion, her lover's words surging into her heart like a bullet. Mel moved to give Janice room to lay down. As she did, she touched one of Mel's hands holding it in her own. After studying it for several moments she gazed into Mel's eyes as she put the hand to her breast, encouraging the exploration of her body. Mel smiled, watching the smaller hand guiding hers, the pads of Janice's fingers warm against her skin.
As Janice's eyes captured her image in the mirror above she sighed happily. The sight of the statuesque woman touching her, loving her, was almost enough to send her over the edge. The dark tresses that spilled against her skin tickled a trail down her abdomen as Mel moved lower. Janice was in heaven. The powerful throbbing of her own heart matched the aching need at her core as she guided Mel's hand to her center.
"Nice." Mel murmured to herself as her fingers slid into warm wetness. A tremor shuddered through Janice's body at the sound, a small precursor to the powerful wave that was building. "You're so soft." Mel whispered, and Janice closed her eyes, focusing all awareness on the arresting voice and sensations rushing through her. Another shudder and Janice realized that too soon it would all be over. The passion that had been building since first meeting Melinda Pappas was destined to be her undoing. Her eyes shot open at the sensation of a warm mouth and tongue joining seeking fingers, picking up the rhythm of her bucking hips, driving her forward.
"God, yes Mel." Janice panted, awed by the sight in the mirror of the dark crown of hair moving with each exquisite touch. She gazed down her body only to find azure eyes watching her, visible just above red gold curls. The sight, of Mel performing such an intimate act almost undid her. It was however, when Mel thrust two fingers deep inside Janice's opening and clasped her lips on the hard knot of nerves, drawing it into her mouth, that Janice's world spun out of control. "MellinDA" Janice groaned as wave after pleasurable wave of sensation crashed through her. Mel held her with her hand and lips until the passionate spasms subsided. Finally, she gently withdrew and curled up alongside Janice's body.
"God woman." Janice stammered when she could finally speak. "You're you're"
"A quick study?" Mel offered with a giggle.
"Among other things," Janice murmured into the raven hair resting on her chest. "Iseverything okay?" She finally asked minutes later when her breathing returned to normal.
Mel looked up and smiled, blissful contentment evident in her features. "Very okay Janice Covington, and thank you for asking."
"Glad to hear it."
Mel traced random patterns on the abdomen in front of her, noting the thin sheen of sweat that covered Janice's body as well as her own. "How long is everyone going to be above deck?" She asked casually.
"Until dawn." Janice replied.
"I'm glad to hear it," Mel smiled. "It'd be a shame to trade something as valuable as a speed boat and not make the most of it."
"I couldn't agree more Melinda Pappas." Janice grinned, green eyes flashing with passion once more.
The summer Gabrielle broke her leg was a pivotal one in our lives. We had been in the mountains of Parnasus, assisting a small village in their relocation when it became clear a nearby volcano was getting ready to erupt. We were almost done when a earthquake hit and destroyed what was left of the village. Gabrielle had been inside the main lodge at the time, her leg broken by a falling ceiling beam. We were fortunate that the break was a clean one. The two bones of her lower leg did not splinter, and I was able to set them in perfect alignment. We had been there for a couple of days recuperating when a messenger arrived.
Hercules had sent word from Thebes. The gods were at work, Ares gathering his forces preparing for a bloodbath. I was torn. I knew I had to go help, but every fiber of my being yearned to stay with Gabrielle. She was my heart, my soul and my life, and she knew it. It was her suggestion that since Poteidaia was on the way to Thebes I could drop her off there. I could continue on to help Herc and she could recover in the company of her family. At the time, it seemed like the perfect solution. Looking back I guess it still was, although there was a time when I'd have given anything to undo that decision. I know more now, and as Gabrielle has told me on numerous occasions, more good came from that decision than ill.
So it was that it was Argo's turn to carry Gabrielle in a travois as we slowly made our way down the mountain. We reached Potedia in three days. For once the fates seemed to be with us. There were no storms, no wandering marauders, no random thugs. It was a blissfully uneventful three days. I stayed the night with Gabrielle in her family home. Lila had taken over their childhood room, so I worked hard with everyone else to convert a large pantry into a suitable room for my bard. She was pleased with the results. To be honest, it was nicer than Lila's room, and that night we quietly made love, christening her new bed. "There, you see Xena." Gabrielle whispered as I rested my head on her thigh, "my leg doesn't hurt at all now."
"That's because all the blood has rushed from your brain." I replied as I gave her sweetness one more kiss before stretching out beside her.
"Possibly." She agreed trailing a finger down my sweat soaked neck. "How long do you think you will be?" she asked softly.
"I don't know," I answered honestly. "Ares is unpredictable. I'll leave at first light and get back as soon as I possibly can."
Gabrielle smiled, giving me a sight I'd carry in my minds eye all the way to Thebes. "I know you will Xena."
It actually took me a little less than two weeks to get back to Potedia. The ride to Thebes was quick, and within days Hercules and I were able to deduce Ares' plans and lay them to waste. Hercules is a smart man and a good one, but he just doesn't have the understanding of military strategy that I do. I was grateful that he realized it and sent for me as soon as he did. Hundreds of lives were saved; the suffering and pain of even more avoided. It wasn't hard to see through Ares plans, it was the same goal as always: to get me back into his fold and torture his half-brother in the process. And once again it was Ares who went back to Mount Olympus empty handed.
I arrived back in Potedia around mid-morning. I noticed immediately that the eyes that greeted me were cold. No one said anything. I was puzzled by the attitude of the villagers and sought out Gabrielle's family. Gabrielle was alone in her room. Everyone else was gone. My voice caught in my throat when she looked at me. Something had happened, something terrible. I wanted to rush to her but she kept me at a distance with her gaze. "What happened?" I whispered.
She just shook her head. "Xena, I want to leave. Now." I nodded. Her expression made it very clear that disagreement on that count would be a big mistake.
"But your leg?" I asked.
"Take me to Amphoplis," she said, "I'll finish recovering at your mother's." She looked at me shyly for a moment. "If you think she'll let me?"
"Of course she will Gabrielle." I said. "You know she thinks of you as another daughter anyway." Gabrielle nodded, and that was all that was said.
When we were ready to leave I felt a bit nervous. Her family hadn't shown up, and I felt bad leaving without saying goodbye. I said as much to Gabrielle.
"The others will tell them I'm gone." She replied, nodding to the curious looks aimed in our direction. "That's all they need to know. I've already said my goodbyes to my father. He's the only one who'd be interested anyway."
"Gabrielle, can you tell me what happened?" I finally asked, feeling helpless.
She shook her head, "Not here Xena. Give me some time when we get to Amphoplis, but not here."
I nodded, what else could I do?
The journey to Amphoplis was uneventful. As I suspected my mother was overjoyed to see Gabrielle. She was happy to see me too, but Gabrielle had found a special place in my mother's heart. I suspect it was a chance for my mother to envision a daughter untainted by violence and bloodshed. Since I was determined to stick around until Gabrielle's leg recovered, I made myself useful around the tavern. The roof needed mending, wood needed chopping, and an assortment of tables and chairs were in need of repair. When I changed Gabrielle's splint for the first time, I noticed some severe bruising. I asked her about it. She shook her head and said she'd fallen out of bed. I suspected she was lying, but didn't want to press the issue. The bones were still in alignment, and although it would be painful, and had set her back in her healing, she was essentially fine. I would press the issue later, when she was less fragile, if she neglected to tell me the truth before. My mother insisted on moving into my old room in the loft so Gabrielle and I could share her's downstairs. Gabrielle was still unable to manage stairs, and mother had made it clear to me that she was aware of the nature of our relationship.
"I'm glad you've settled down Xena." She said one morning over breakfast, while Gabrielle was bathing.
"Settled?" I asked, "I wouldn't exactly call my life settled."
Mother smiled, "I mean Gabrielle." She replied, "trust me, that's more settled then I ever hoped you be. Although a long time ago I fantasized about grandchildren"
I forced a smile on my face. I had not told her about Solon, and didn't know if I'd ever have the courage to do so. What good was knowing about a grandson when he could never know his grandmother?
A couple of days later, I came in from chores to get some water. I noticed mother and Gabrielle at the table, talking. The tavern was closed; they were the only ones inside. As soon as I entered, mother squeezed Gabrielle's shoulder and left. "Xena," Gabrielle whispered, "we need to talk."
I nodded and sat down across from her. "Before I tell you Xena, you must promise me that you won't go crazy. I don't want you to do anything. I will handle this how I choose to handle this."
"Why don't you just tell me." I urged.
"No.'' She was adamant. "I want your word that you won't do anything, and I mean anything without talking it over with me first."
"Very well," I said, "you have my word."
She nodded. She was silent a few moments, clearly putting her thoughts in order, choosing her words. My apprehension grew; something very serious had happened.
"When we arrived in Poteidaia," she began, "most of the villagers were out on a hunt."
"Right," I confirmed. "We saw a heard of deer not far from the village on our way in."
She nodded. "The hunters returned two days after you left. It was a very successful hunt. It is a village tradition that when a big hunt is that successful, a lot of celebrating goes on." I nodded. We had a similar custom in Amphipolis.
"Okay." She said, shifting to another part of her story. "I don't know if you know this, but Perdicus has a brother. A younger brother." I shook my head, I didn't know. "His name is Erasmus. Lila mentioned her betrothed"
"Right. She said something about it while we were fixing up your room. She didn't say his name, so can I assume it's Erasmus?"
"Yes." Gabrielle confirmed, tears starting to well up in her eyes. "The night of the hunt celebration Erasmus came to my room." My blood went cold. "He," she shrugged, "raped me."
"What?!" I lept to my feet, warlord fury coursing through my veins. Gabrielle stilled me with a look and reluctantly I sat back down.
"He was drunk, completely. He was so so angry. He blamed me for Perdicus' death, and said some equally unkind things. My staff was by the door, he grabbed it and hit me with it once, at my broken leg. I'm sorry Xena," she said, "there was no point in struggling or fighting. If I would have fought back I'd have had to kill him, hurting him would only have made him angrier. As for struggling he was looking for an excuse to hurt me, any excuse. I'm sorry Xena, I chose not to fight."
I stared at her wide-eyed. With what she just told me, she was worried how I'd feel? "He should die," I finally said.
"No Xena." She replied fiercely. "He was right. If I hadn't married Perdicus, he would still be alive."
"That's not true Gabrielle." I said quietly, "He threw down his sword in the middle of a battle. If you hadn't married him, he'd be dead by some sword other than Callisto's. Gabrielle," I urged gently, "if you didn't travel with me, if you weren't my soul, Perdicus would still be alive. It was Callisto's hate for me, it had very little to do with you."
Gabrielle took a deep breath. "Regardless of why, Perdicus is dead and Erasmus hadn't let go of his grief. He took it out on me, now it's over and done with."
"Did you tell someone?" I asked.
She laughed bitterly. "Yeah, I told my mother, my father and my sister. My father was the only one who believed me, finally convinced by the bruise on my leg when he changed the dressings of my splint. Mother and Lila accused me of trying to destroy Lila's chances at happiness. They said some things even more unkind then Erasmus had."
"About me?" I offered.
She shook her head, leveling blazing green eyes at me. "No Xena, about us. Xena, I love you above all others, I would go to Tarterus and back for you, and you know it. My family does not understand it. Your mother does, so does your brother. They are my family now."
"I'm going back there." I said, starting to get up again.
"You'll do no such thing." She said evenly, "Xena, think I'm pregnant. If I'm going to have a child I want you here, not rotting in some jail, arrested for murder."
"Oh, Gabrielle, I'm so sorry." I said, turning back around. "I might be able to"
"No." She said quietly. "I've been thinking about it. Trust me, the thought crossed my mind, but if I am pregnant, I will keep the baby. It isn't the child's fault how it got here, after all. Besides, I think we would make good parents."
I sat back down. This was too much too fast. "Parents?" I mumbled, stunned.
Gabrielle smiled, "Funny, I think that was the expression my father wore when he found out about Lila."
That was the first of several conversations on the subject. It took time, Gabrielle talking about her experience in varying degrees of detail, until it was finally out of her system. The wound had been lanced and drained, now it just needed to heal. There would be a scar, and I always regretted that, but Gabrielle and I moved on. I waited until she was ready, until she approached me in bed before attempting to make love. When she did, I tried with every fiber of my being to erase the cruelty that she'd suffered. While nothing could really erase it, I think she appreciated my efforts.
As The Fates would have it, she was with child. My mother couldn't have been happier. Somehow, we all saw the pregnancy as a completely separate issue from how she got in that condition. It was necessary, in all fairness to the unborn child, to separate it from it's conception. Gabrielle was genuinely happy during her pregnancy. I think because she got to order me around mercilessly. I was hard at work building an addition to the tavern that would serve as our home. Mother and I were adjusting to being around each other again, and thanks to Gabrielle, she truly liked the person I had become.
My nervousness grew as her time approached. Mother teased me often, telling me that I acted like a nervous father. I didn't have the heart to tell her my concern was from having gone through the experience myself. Still, I suspected bearing a child alone in the woods was a bit more stressful than surrounded by loved ones.
One morning, as Gabrielle and I lay in an exhausted heap together, I heard a commotion outside. A centaur had come to Amphipolis looking for me. Gabrielle and I talked to him alone, and my heart broke. A fire had broken out in their village. Solon, attempting to save others, had been trapped by burning debris and lay dying at his uncle's house. I had been sent for to say good-bye to my son. I spun at the sound of a anguished gasp. Mother had overheard the conversation from where she stood in the doorway. I explained the whole story to her, right there and then, about Solon's birth and my reunion with him ten years later. Gods, that was eight years ago. Solon was a man now.
"You have to go to him." Mother and Gabrielle said in unison.
"But the baby" I protested.
"Gabrielle will be fine." Mother assured me. "Remember Xena, I've had three. We have a skilled healer nearby if there is any trouble. She will be fine."
"You have to do this Xena," Gabrielle implored. "You won't be able to live with yourself if you don't."
It was with a heavy heart that I set out for the centaur village. I pushed Argo as hard as I dared, respectful of her gaining years. It took me three days to arrive. I was escorted to the room where my son lay dying, my eyes welling with tears as I saw his pained face. He was indeed a man now. He'd grown tall and strong. He was handsome, and I suppose looked more like me than his father, although his hair had stayed light. But I knew his eyes, they were mine. He smiled when he saw me in the doorway. "I sent for you Xena," he whispered.
"I'm here." I said taking his hand as I sat on a chair by the bed. His back had been broken and his skin had been badly burned in places. Inwardly I screamed in frustration because there was nothing I could do to save my son.
"I have a favor to ask of you. The wall that fell on me, I tried to save my wife, but I was not able to. I did save our daughter though. I want her to go with you." He gasped, struggling against unseen forces, then continued. "I want you to raise her."
"What?" I objected. "She should be here with your family."
He shook his head. "She should be with her family. Her name is Xena, after her grandmother."
I could do nothing but stare in disbelief. Solon knew. He laughed at my expression. "Of course I knew," he said. "But uncle Kaleipus didn't tell me. Look at my eyes Xena. There is only one other person with eyes this color, well two now. I asked uncle when I suspected, and he doesn't lie very well. Still, he tried to protect you by protecting me from the truth."
"Solon, I'm so sorry." I began.
"I know mother. I know why you did what you did. I know who you were, and who you became. What you did you did for me. And while I was very angry at first, now as a father I understand. Please mother, I'm dying. Promise me you'll raise Xena and love her so I can cross over in peace."
I nodded. "I'll love her as I've always loved my son," I whispered.
Solon sent for little Xena. It was then I did the one thing for him I could. I pinched several nerves on his neck. He was no longer in pain, but he didn't have much time. His body was giving up. Xena was indeed my descendant. The hair, the eyes, the defiant glare. She looked like a much shorter version of me. She was two years old. She sat on Solon's chest. He smiled, it didn't hurt. She listened with all the maturity she could muster as he explained he was going away to join her mother and that she needed to go with me. She cried, but when Solon did cross over and I opened my arms to her, she went to them willingly.
We left for home the next day. She'd already lost so much, I couldn't imagine how she'd ever pull through. But she did. I explained where we were going, who we would see, where she would live. She wasn't afraid of Argo, and for me that was a good sign. She rode well, and by the end of the week we were home.
Sure enough, Gabrielle had given birth. Xena and I entered our bedroom to see Gabrielle cradling a beautiful baby. "Xena," Gabrielle said, and we both turned our heads, "meet Lyceus." I cried at that, much to the confusion of little Xena, who answered to Xe more often than not. She called me Na and both of us were usually called our full name when we were in trouble.
My mother was positively beaming. I guess for her it was like watching Lyceus and me all over again, except that this time there was no Cortese, no warlord, no redemption. Toris was a good uncle, when he was around, and was fond of both children. Since Lyceus took to calling Gabrielle Mama, so did Xena. Since Xena called me Na or NaNa, Lyceus did too.
When they were old enough, they traveled with us. I slowly extracted myself from the 'hero business'. I could do more good raising healthy, bright children then I could traveling and handling petty disputes, so I stayed home more and more. When we did journey though, few negative comments were ever directed at my family. I certainly never heard anyone complain more than once, and they always apologized.
Gabrielle and I were very proud of our children. They were a source of constant joy for us, and there was never a dull moment. Lyceus was a charmer, able to talk his way out of almost anything. Xena was a hot head, and had inherited my tendency for direct confrontation. The village soon learned that they were an unstoppable team. They were also an anchor for us when life began to take it's toll. Argo was the first of our family to depart, followed many years later by mother.
By then, Xe and Ly had grown and moved on with families of their own. They visited often and in time we had our own grandchildren and great-grandchildren to spoil. They were there for Gabrielle after I died. I had broken my neck in a riding accident long after I should have known not to get on a horse. I think Gabrielle understood though. I would never have been able to wait for my body to slowly wither. Gabrielle and I were reunited sooner than I expected, our bodies resting side by side in the family crypt. Over the years, we were joined by several others before our children and their children had scattered to the winds weaving their lives in a rich tapestry. When all is said and done, I would not have changed a single thing
Chapter 7: Playing House
Janice Covington smiled to herself as she drove the brand new pick up truck toward home. Argo sat in the passenger seat, head out the window, still amazed by all the new smells of the region. Home. Janice still had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn't dreaming. Everything that had happened in the six weeks since her return from Leesto's island all seemed too good to be true. But there it was as she rounded a now familiar bend in the road. On Franklin street the imposing white mansion, itself a spared relic from the civil war, loomed into view. She parked the car outside the front door as Argo leapt from the passenger window and bounded up the steps to the front door.
Once inside, Janice quickly removed her high heels and pillbox shaped hat. The new dress code was the only nightmarish quality to the new direction her life had taken. The house was warm and inviting, most of the moving boxes having been unpacked. Aside from her books, Janice didn't own much in the way of material possessions. Some research equipment and artifacts from previous digs waited patiently for their unpacking. Until a room in the sprawling mansion was set aside as a study, they were best left in the moving crates. Janice gazed around the entryway. The grand works of art and furnishings were still taking some getting used to. It was not hard to believe Melinda Pappas grew up surrounded by such finery, but to be pampered and adventurous was an unusual combination. "Well, did you get it?" Mel called from the second floor as she hurried down the stairs to join her love.
"Of course I got it." Janice smiled back. "You are looking at the newest faculty member of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill."
"Oh, that's wonderful Janice!" Mel declared, kissing her soundly, then quickly breaking away to look around the room.
"Honestly Mel," Janice laughed, "kissing isn't something 'Dora hasn't seen us do before. Not by a long shot," she added under her breath, "I wouldn't worry about it."
"Yes, well," Mel replied primly as she headed for the stairs, "come upstairs. There is something I want to show you."
Janice followed, grinning from ear to ear. "Is it something I've seen before?" She asked hopefully.
Mel glanced back, her own eyes smiling with promise. "As a matter of fact, no." With a wink she added, "But later, yes. So what will you be teaching?"
"I love it when you say yes." Janice sighed and followed Mel up the stairs. "Starting in the fall I'll be teaching Pre-Myceanian Culture and Customs, Advanced Archeology and a special lecture series on Xena, once we've analyzed the scrolls that is. It's going to be a busy summer." They stopped at a door at the far end of the elegant hallway. "What, I actually get to enter the mysterious room that has been off limits since my arrival?"
"Off limits my eye." Mel objected. "You've been fixated with exploring every facet of the bedroom since you got here."
"Only when you're in it."
Mel ignored the comment and opened the heavy wooden door. Beyond was a large room, comfortably decorated in warm tones of mahogany and leather. A study with two great desks were positioned face to face at one end of the room. A fire place and comfortable couches dominating the other. Book cases recessed in the wall rose to the ceiling near the desks, filled with the books from Janice's former home. Several large windows were behind one of the desks, on the far side from the fire place looking behind the huge house in to the expansive fields beyond. Peach trees dotted the landscape with a spectacular view of the horizon. Bright flowers sat poised in an elegant vase on a small table in front of the fire place, adding color to the warm coziness of the room.
"It's incredible," Janice gasped, stepping inside. "Did you do this?" She breathed recognizing the familiar book spines instantly.
"Well, 'Dora helped, but I had to do something to keep my mind off my loneliness while you were interviewing at the University." Mel beamed. Janice was as pleasantly surprised as she hoped she'd be.
As Janice moved to the book case. Something caught her eye on the far desk. A hat rested over a coiled bullwhip. "What's this?" She asked, moving to the desk and picking up the hat.
"Try it on." Mel suggested, grinning from ear to ear. Janice complied, beaming as the hat covered her head with the feel of a custom fit. "I was hoping it'd fit," Mel explained. "See, daddy ordered a couple of hats from this European hat maker. It was an extravagant gift when mama was still around. Anyway, of the three he received, one was too small. Daddy never threw anything away, so it's been waiting for you in this study ever since."
Janice grinned too overcome with happiness and emotion to speak. "And the whip?" she finally asked, picking up the expertly made bullwhip. It was well worn but in excellent condition.
"A gift from me and Xena to you. A little 'welcome home' something."
"Mel, you are the best!" Janice exclaimed, her voice tight with emotion as she moved to take the statuesque woman in her arms once more.
"Well you did seem rather attached to your hat," Mel said when their kiss broke.
Janice grinned. "Yeah, I won it in a poker game with a former colleague. It belonged to Henry Jones Junior; Indy, when I was able to call him a friend."
"You're no longer friends?" Mel asked.
Janice shook her head, still grinning. "Nope. He caught me with the daughter of his mentor." She paused for a moment thinking, "Marion Marion Ravenwood, that was her name. He was pretty pissed I'd um." Janice looked up to see Mel arching her eyebrow knowingly. "Well, you get the picture. He also taught me how to use a bullwhip." She finished, hoping to redirect the conversation.
Mel just smiled. Janice's passionate nature was one of the reasons she loved her. "You are incorrigible you know. Is there any end to the trouble you can get yourself into?"
"Well I've got a specific partner in crime these days" Janice voice dropped off as Mel turned to gaze out the large window. "What is it? What did I say?" Janice asked, worried.
"It isn't you Janice." Mel smiled. "I'm just having some trouble adjusting to this." She finished.
"What about this?" Janice asked, joining Mel by the window, standing close but not touching.
"I think I should say something to 'Dora, explain our situation. But I'm not quite sure what to say."
Janice paused a moment, her brow furrowed in thought. "Mel," she began gently, "I've been here a total of three days. In that time 'Dora has walked in on us making love a total of four times. While I think it surprised her the first two, I think she's gotten over it and has realized that knocking on a door and entering without waiting for an answer first is not a good idea."
Mel's cheeks flushed crimson at the memory. It was true that Janice appeared much less embarrassed by the situation. Walking in on others, or being walked in on were not new experiences for her. In fact the archeologist had seemed perfectly content readjusting a sheet and answering whatever question 'Dora had interrupted them to ask. "I hope you aren't thinking of letting her go?" Janice asked. Since meeting the formidable black woman three days prior, an understanding had been forged between the two. Without words, they had agreed to be partners in the task of looking out for Mel and seeing that she was happy.
"I would never do that," Mel replied. "Pandora started working for my father when I was just a baby, before mother left. She was little more than a child herself at the time. Still, she's always been the closest thing I've had to a mother." Mel turned, her eyes brimming with unshed tears. "Janice, I'm afraid she's going to leave me. Leave us."
Janice shook her head. "Don't be silly Mel. Pandora isn't stupid. She's got a good thing, working for you. The housework is light; you never make a mess. She's only has to cook for two, her children are welcome in your home, as are their friends after school, and she's well paid. You told me yourself that her husband hasn't been able to work since that accident on the railroad. Why would she give all this up? Just because her employer has a female lover?"
"You've said yourself that people have a problem with it. What if 'Dora thinks her children shouldn't come 'round? How many times have you been called names or threatened? On that ship Silvus" Mel asked, searching the shorter woman's face.
"Forget Silvus, Mel." Janice countered. "The man is an idiot. As for 'Dora's kids shit Mel, you are the sweetest, most generous person I've ever met. 'Sides, Pandora's youngest, Thea, is crazy about Argo. Wild horses won't keep her out of your orchard playing tag with Argo." Wrapping her arm's around Mel, she murmured into the taller woman's shoulder. "If you're that concerned, why don't you just talk to 'Dora. Let her tell you you're overreacting if you won't listen to me. I love you Mel. I don't want that to be something that makes you sad."
Returning Janice's warm embrace Mel was afraid she might start crying. "I love you too Janice, and it doesn't make me sad. It's just so complicated. I mean, what about the University?"
"What about them?" Janice asked, pressing her lips to an exposed collar bone.
"What will they think?"
"About me living in the home of Melinda Pappas?" Janice asked stepping away from Mel to look her in the face once more. "I suspect a number of eligible bachelors will be very disappointed, and possibly make some crass remarks. I also know that the board of directors will do everything possible to accommodate my abrasive personality because they want to impress you. They know it was you who paid off Sal Monious since he didn't get any artifacts for his museum. They are ecstatic to have Argo's saddle in their museum's collection. They are willing to finance future expeditions for us and will patiently wait for me to transcribe the Xena Scrolls and publish my findings. Mel, they are more than happy to overlook what I do in bed. They have too much at stake to pretend otherwise. Hell, they even said Argo was welcome on campus and asked if you'd consider joining me at the faculty mixer. They want your money Mel. I'm sorry, but get used to them bending over backwards to impress you, they're going to be at it for a long time."
Mel shrugged, it was nothing new. She'd learned to spot long ago when people were only interested in her finances. Suddenly a new fear crept to mind, "You don't think that's why they hired you ?"
Janice shook her head. "I'm not that insecure about my work. I know my research is worth it's weight in gold. They want hard cash and credible research. I'm sure they just find the fact that I'm crazy in love with you, a bonus."
The discussion came to an abrupt end when a crisp knock sounded at the door. "Come in," both women replied in unison. Several more moments passed before the door slowly opened.
"I'm not interrupting anything?" Pandora asked, her eyes still averted as she entered the study.
"Honestly 'Dora, we're not going to do it in here." Janice quipped under her breath, "yet."
"Janice!" Mel protested, cheeks flaming once more.
Pandora laughed. The more she got to know the outspoken archeologist the more she liked her. "With a wolf like you Miz Covington, ya never know." She replied.
"Wolf?" Janice repeated, beaming, "I like the sound of that."
"You would." Mel added, then turned to face the newcomer. "'Dora, there is something I'd like to explain about Janice and myself. About the nature of our relationship"
Pandora was a large woman, fifteen years older than Mel, although she didn't seem it. Her eyes shown with youthful mischief, her body having aged more from giving birth to six children. She shook her head, smiling with her white teeth shining in bright contrast to her dark skin. "I'm not blind Miz Pappas. It's clear to me how ya'll feel about each other."
Mel blushed. This was not getting any easier. "Yes, but I'm concerned you" She floundered, not quite knowing what to say.
"What Mel is trying to say," Janice interjected, "is that she's concerned you might feel differently about her, knowing about me, well us."
The smile faded from Pandora's face as she studied the taller woman. "Is that what you think Miz Pappas?" she softly asked. Mel nodded. "Well then, I didn't teach you as well as I thought I did." She finished sadly.
"It isn't that 'Dora" Mel tried to explain.
"Don't tell me what it is or it isn't Melinda Pappas. I've taken care of you since before I had any babies of my own, and I've treated ya'll the same. Your daddy was a good man, he taught me a lot, things I've tried to teach all my babies. Your daddy never judged anyone by anything other than their deeds. He traveled the world over, and knew people of every stripe. He treated them all with equal respect no matter if they ate monkey for breakfast or wore a lamp shade on their head for a hat. Miz Pappas, honey, love is love. It ain't a bad thing, can't be. When all the hate is gone from the world, then maybe we can get picky about love, but not 'till then. Frankly, I don't care what the two of you do in bed, or the bathtub," she added wryly. "Although I wouldn't mind my husband being a fly on the wall, I reckon ya'll could teach him a thing or two." She finished with a wink at Janice.
"Six kids 'Dora, I don't think he needs any help." Janice observed.
"I'm not complaining, mind you." 'Dora explained, "it's just that ya'll carry on so it sound like ya'll havin' sucha good time."
"Does that mean you won't be leaving?" Mel asked hopefully.
"Leave? Never child, not as long as ya'll have me. 'Sides, now with Miz Wolf in residence, I gots someone to pick up after."
Relieved, all three women shared a laugh. "What did you want to see us about?" Janice asked, "or was it just to see what we were up to?"
'Dora slapped playfully at Janice's arm, muttering "Damn wolf" under her breath. "I was cleaning the black tuxedo jacket, when I found these in the pocket." She held out her hand, and resting in her large palm were the matching necklaces from the auction.
"That's right." Janice exclaimed, "I saw Xena put them in her pocket when we were in Leesto's study. With everything that happened, I forgot all about them."
Mel took the necklaces from Pandora, studying the intricate detail. The housekeeper was about to leave when Mel looked up as she reached the door. "'Dora, have you seen Argo's pack?"
"Yes ma'am, it's in the barn with a few boxes still needin' to be unpacked."
"Could you get it for me?"
Pandora withdrew with a smile, and quietly closed the study door behind her.
"What was that about?" Janice asked, looking at the artifacts resting in her lover's elegant fingers.
"I brought a couple of things with me when I went to your house. I put them in Argo's pack and forgot all about them. I think it's time I showed you now though." She looked back at the necklaces. "What should we do with them?" She asked.
"Keep them? Wear them? I don't know," Janice shrugged.
"I don't think we should wear them unless it's a special occasion." Mel considered. "But, the staff and breastplate, I'm sure they'd want us to hold on to them. What about the scrolls, do you plan to keep them?"
Janice shook her head, "I'd like to send them back to Jack Kleinman in New Jersey, when we're done transcribing them. Leesto might still be interested, and I'm sure Jack will be clueless enough to stash them in an attic somewhere and forget about them. If they're in a museum, Leesto will have a goal. If she can't find them"
Pandora returned to the study carrying Argo's small pack. She handed it to Mel who rummaged through it's contents, withdrawing a small pouch and a scroll case. "What's this?" Janice asked when she was handed the velvet pouch.
"A little something I had made when I parted ways with you in Macedonia. I said I had to get some things in order. I had these made while I was up to it."
Opening the pouch Janice spilled the contents into her hand. Two tiny circles, silver inlaid with gold, each on a thin chain rested in her palm. "Tiny chakrams!" Janice exclaimed.
Mel nodded, "yes one side of each has a pattern from Xena's chakram, the other side is smooth."
"Two halves of the whole." Janice observed as Mel smiled.
"Pick one." She said. Janice made a grand show of closing her eyes and blindly selecting one of the necklaces. Her fingers touched on the necklace with the square pattern as Mel nodded her approval. "Most fitting." She decided, slipping the chain around Janice's neck and hooking the delicate clasp. Janice returned the favor and in moments both women were sporting similar, but not identical, necklaces.
"And you had these made before" Janice observed.
"I guess I had my hopes up on some level." Mel confided. "I'm glad it worked out this way."
"And what is this?" Janice asked as she picked up the scroll case.
"When Jack drove off in Macedonia, this scroll fell out of the bag. I've already translated it, it wasn't written by Gabrielle. I think this is the only scroll written by Xena."
"You are amazing Mel" Janice beamed. "This is going to be an incredible summer. Translating the scrolls, doing research for our next dig"
Mel joined in her lover's happiness. Our next dig, I like the sound of that."
"Of course Mel, we're partners, in every way. I wouldn't dream of an expedition without you. You're as indispensable as Argo!" Mel smiled, knowing she was just paid the highest of compliments. "As long as we're upstairs," Janice continued, "wasn't there something else you wanted to show me?"
"'Dora is right Janice, you are a wolf."
They headed back down the hall toward the bedroom when Pandora intercepted them. "Oh no you don't." She warned, "Miz Covington has a guest, ya'll can 'take a nap' later." She said with a conspirital nod toward the bedroom.
"A guest?" Janice asked, surprised. "Who?"
'Dora smiled. "A woman. From the university, long red hair and mighty pretty. She talks funny though. Still, I'd keep an eye on my wolf if I was you Miz Pappas."
Janice laughed, "Pandora, a smart woman like you deserves a raise."
"I won't argue with that." She agreed. "'Specially if I'm going to look after that horse you insist on calling a dog. Thank the lord she'll be with ya'll at the university."
"Did you catch our guests name?" Mel asked.
Pandora nodded, "Said her name was Doctor Fiona Cyrene. I showed her into the living room. If ya'll can postpone your 'nap' I'll bring some iced tea."
Janice quickly looked down at her bare feet and uncomfortable skirt. "Shit, I gotta change clothes. Can you keep her busy for a few minutes while I change?" she implored.
Mel smiled. "Red head?" she asked Pandora. "Sounds like my cup of tea. Take your time Janice," she teased as she headed down the elegant stairs.
"Christ, I've created a monster." Janice muttered as she dashed for the bedroom door.
"You've created something Miz Covington." Pandora agreed watching Mel descend the stairs.
Janice entered the living room a short time later, dressed in a casual pant suit. To her surprise, it was vacant. Pandora arrived just after her, carrying a large glass of iced tea. "Miz Pappas and Doctor Cyrene are out back." 'Dora said, then added in a hushed voice, "I'd watch that one if I were you Miz Covington. She's got hungry eyes like you. Not quite as love struck when she looks as Melinda, but there is an interest there, same as you."
"Interest in Mel?" Janice wondered aloud, accepting the offered glass.
"In all women." Pandora replied.
"Another wolf?" Janice asked.
"I'd best get to guarding the sheep then hadn't I?" Janice smiled as she headed for the back.
Pandora shook her head. "She only has eyes for her wolf Miz Covington." She said before Janice was out of ear shot.
Janice quietly walked the length of the porch attached to the back of the huge house. Mel and their guest were engaged in conversation at the far end, looking off towards the peach trees. Argo sat with them until she saw her mistress approach, then quickly bounded over to receive some attention behind the ears. "Janice," Mel said warmly as she approached, "I'd like you to meet Doctor Fiona Cyrene, your new officemate."
Janice and Fiona shook hands warmly. "Doctor Cyrene, the Irish archeologist?" Janice asked.
"One and the same, Doctor Covington, but I'd thank you to call me Fi, all my friends do." Fioana smiled, which set her freckles dancing across her cheeks. She was the same height as Janice with slightly shorter hair. It was wavy and deep red which Janice noticed kept Mel's attention riveted. Appearing several years older than Mel, she spoke with a thick irish brouge, her blue-gray eyes sparkling.
Janice smiled ."Only if you call me Janice."
"Very well Janice. Melinda was just showing me the orchard. You've a lovely home here." Fiona smiled at Mel as well as Janice as she spoke. Her words could be taken a number of ways, but Janice agreed with Pandora, this woman was a charmer.
"Yes, yes I do." Janice agreed, smiling at Mel. "Shall we go inside?" She suggested, leading the way to the living room.
"I heard you were interviewing at the university. I was on campus this morning and found out just after you'd left that you accepted the position." Fiona explained as they entered the grand living room. "It will be nice to have another 'foreigner' in the department."
Janice laughed. "You're right, I've been introduced as the 'yankee professor' more than once today."
"Yes, were your research on Xena not so outstanding, you'd find your office in the basement. As it is, you'll be rooming with the other archeologist no one can understand instead. Is this Xena's?" Fiona asked as she walked to the brick fireplace. Mounted above were the bronze breastplate and a restored fighting staff.
"Yes," Mel explained, joining the archeologist, "the breastplate was Xena's and the staff belonged to Gabrielle."
"Gabrielle the bard?" Fiona asked.
"You've heard of her." Janice's eyes widened in appreciation. She was impressed.
"Oh, yes. My research assistant is quite the follower of your research Janice." Janice watched the irish woman's eyes quickly take in the chakram necklaces that she and Mel were wearing. "She said she spoke to you after your lecture at Stanford."
"Really." Janice replied, surprised and a little concerned as she watched Mel's eyes narrow.
Fioana nodded, "Yes, her name is Flora Gates."
"Really!" Mel said brightening.
"Yes," Fiona smiled at Mel, confidant that they were speaking the same unspoken language. "She just got her degree. I was quite impressed by her thesis. She's been doing some research for me since she arrived six weeks ago."
"Does she live on campus?" Mel asked, quite delighted Flora Gates was out of circulation.
Fiona shook her head shyly, "We share a house near the University."
"Well then, you will have to bring her 'round for dinner some evening. Wouldn't that be nice Janice?"
Janice smiled, Mel was indeed getting the hang of it. "Yes that would be nice."
"So," Fiona asked as she took a seat on one of the comfortable living room couches, "now that you've recovered the scrolls, what's next?"
Shrugging Janice sipped her tea. "This summer we will be going through the scrolls, translating them. I think the next task would be to find the lost city of Amphipolis. I'd like to see for myself where Xena came from."
"Did she die there?" Fi asked, eyes sparkling with interest.
Mel nodded, "I think so. I believe one of the scrolls was written by Xena. It suggests as much."
"You're a Xena expert as well Melinda?" The Irish archeologist asked, intrigued.
Janice grinned, "Mel is quite the expert on ancient syntax. She also has some unique insight when it comes to interpreting artifacts. While it isn't the most scientific of methods, I don't think she's been wrong yet."
"So you're partners then?" Fiona asked, worried she might have mistakenly read too much into their relationship, as she gazed at Mel once more.
"Oh yes!" Mel stated emphatically, smiling at Janice. "As a matter of fact I just found out that I'm as helpful on an expedition as the dog."
Janice blushed, "I meant that in a nice way Mel."
Fiona laughed as she stood up. "Well I really should be going. I had strict instructions not to overstay my welcome. It was very nice meeting you both. I look forward to that dinner, and will be seeing you on campus Janice."
Janice smiled shaking the older woman's hand warmly. "I look forward to it Fi."
Later that night Janice lay awake watching clouds move in front of the moon outside the bedroom window. Mel was curled up at her side, dark tresses spilling over her shoulder, warm breath against her breast. Argo lay on the floor next to the bed sleeping soundly. She thought briefly about her father, and how his life's work sat secure on two desks in their study. She didn't have to wonder if he would have been proud, she knew he was. She did wonder though if he knew or suspected, he was the descendant of Gabrielle. The Bard. It probably wouldn't have made much difference to him if he'd known, she decided. It did make a difference to her though. Xena's words at the auction about the necklaces haunted her. Even though the deed had been done centuries ago, someone had disturbed the final rest of the Warrior Princess and her love. That angered Janice, and she was determined to find out who and why. Not so she could set things right, but to at least understand what had happened.
Melinda sighed in her sleep shifting the course of the archeologist's thoughts. For so long her family had consisted of one dog and a few poker buddies, the dog being the only one she could trust. That had changed so dramatically in the space of a few weeks. The mere sight of Melinda made her heart sing, the presence of Pandora and her children were immeasurably comforting. She had a place she belonged to now, and while she still thought about the adventure of travel, the thought of home and hearth had even more appeal.
Janice looked down as she felt Mel's breathing shift and her lover's eyes open. Mel smiled as she drew a warm hand up Janice's nude torso, stopping as it cupped around a soft breast. "Can't sleep?" she inquired sleepily.
"I'm too happy." Janice admitted. "I don't want to miss a second of holding you." Janice snuggled Mel tighter, tracing lazy patterns across her lover's exquisite back with a gentle finger. "What woke you up?" she finally asked.
Mel shrugged, her own hands beginning casual exploration. "I don't know. It's odd though, I wasn't dreaming. Do you realize I haven't had any dreams about Xena since aboard the The Gauntlet?"
As Mel propped herself up on her elbows, Janice considered her words. She had heard about the vivid nature of her lover's dreams and having seen the possessions for herself, was hoping the details they provided would aid in her research. If she could prove her findings scientifically at a later date, how she got the ideas in the first place wouldn't be an issue. "Maybe Xena told you all you needed to know. Or perhaps she's taking a break."
Shaking her head, Mel smiled as Janice's body twitched, tickled by her long hair. "I don't think so. I think she's gone. Still, I don't mind. I mean, I'll miss her and all, but she deserves the rest."
"Mighty generous of you Mel." Janice quipped.
"I can be merciful." Mel smiled, "Still there is someone else I can think of who doesn't deserve any rest at all." Azure eyes burned with need as she leaned down for a soulful kiss. The kiss was followed by another, then more until the moon was no longer visible in the bedroom window.
Finally collapsing in happy exhaustion Janice rested her head against Mel's breast. She smiled as her lover's breathing slowed then deepened with blissful sleep. Knowing she was headed there herself, she was lulled to sleep by the now familiar heartbeat and breathing that thrummed in harmony with her own.
I didn't take the task of documenting Xena's deeds lightly. I well knew that the world would have been happy to keep alive the memory of the old Xena, people are so fond of villains. But Xena changed, and like it or not, the world would have to change too. From that day a once-warlord saved a group of girls from Poteidaia I knew on some level it was my destiny to be with her. Later, I realized it was to preserve her deeds for posterity. Later still, I realized it was to be her friend. To teach her things she'd never had time or the luxury of adolescence to learn. With all she'd been through, all she'd done, Xena did not know how to love, really love without reservation. I taught her that. What I didn't expect though, was that she'd teach me the same lesson. It was after a well lived life with my warrior princess that I realized where our legacy really lay. The written word would take hold in local folk lore or it wouldn't. The only history I could be certain of passing down was to our children. Even so, I guess it didn't really matter. Xena never really cared what strangers thought of her. I knew the truth, as did everyone else who loved her, and was loved by her in return. When the time finally came for me to put down my pen for the last time, I looked forward with girlish giddiness to the reunion that would await me on the other side. I was not disappointed. How could I be. I knew I was her soul and she was mine, there is simply no end to love like that.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. It all started that day Draco's men arrived. I'd gone with Lila and the others to the stream to do laundry...