Disclaimer: The characters of Dr. Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas belong to MCA/Universal, Ren Pics and Studios USA, no copyright infringement was intended through their use in this fan fiction.
Subtext Warning: Yes, they are in love, or they will be *g*, if you have a problem with this, you are under age or it is illegal where you live, please do not read.
Notes: This story is part of a new series of Janice and Mel adventures. I like the idea of these characters but thought that the writers of the show really sucked at portraying them. So, I'm taking a bit of liberty with Mel's character...I am not particularly fond of the dizzy Southern Belle, so I'm writing her a little less idiotic and clumsy and a little more suave and sophisticated *g*. Well, and Janice's too. This series will begin in 1937, well before the Xena scrolls episode was set, so various things have been reinvented.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Lauri Dudley for suggesting the historic event in the first place and for giving me info so I could work out the state of the moon on May 3 1937 *g*...never said I wasn't anal. Also to Steph for talking to me while I hit upon the series idea which will enable this to be a hell of a lot more than was originally intended. Hopefully it'll be good *g*.
Feedback: I'm at: archaeobard
Monday, May 3rd, 1937 - 8:00pm
Dr. Janice Covington sighed and allowed herself to relax into the soft back of the lounge in the smoking room of D-LZ 129, the Hindenburg. She'd been visiting a colleague in Frankfurt, Germany to view a set of artefacts that had recently been recovered from a tomb. It was thought that the tomb may have belonged to the woman she and her father had devoted their lives to, Xena...but Janice's trip had disproved that possibility. As a condolence, she had been presented with one of the scrolls that had been recovered. Janice had considered the gesture mildly insulting. It was with a heavy grace that she had made plans for an early return to the States. And it was that heavy grace that had seen her first set foot onto the massive zeppelin.
"Look," Janice had said, leaning over the counter at the Lufthansa office at the airship station, "I was told to come here, get it? Told to. I don't give a shit what you say, I'm going home on that thing out there," she pointed out the large glass window to the airship moored beside the hanger.
"I'm sorry madame, your ticket is not valid for this flight," the clerk had told her.
"Then change it for Christ's sake, it's not like you've got people hanging onto the mooring ropes for a ride, right?"
"That's not the point, madame, your ticket is not for this flight, this flight is twice as expensive, you have not paid full fare."
"You can bill the Goddamn university."
"And which university might that be?"
"Frankfurt, you idiot, the people who purchased the ticket in the first place."
The man opened his mouth as if to speak but thought better of it. He made a few notes and finally a rubber stamp thumped down over her ticket. He pushed the thing back over the counter and showed his teeth in a semblance of a smile.
"Thank you, madame, have a nice flight home."
"Yeah, right," Janice mumbled, grabbing the ticket off the counter and stalking from the room.
She smiled at the memory, sometimes a gruff attitude did get you what you wanted. She glanced at her watch, just after eight. The archaeologist gathered her legs beneath her and rose, making her way through the small, metallic tables. Pulling a cigarillo from the inner pocket of her jacket, she headed over to the central table in the room to retrieve the only lighter that was permitted on board the craft. It was attached to the table with a cord. She smiled grimly to herself through the smoke haze that drifted by her vision as she lit up.
"Damn thing's filled with hydrogen, talk about tempting fate," she mumbled, blowing a few smoke rings casually into the air.
"Actually, the room is lined with asbestos and we're under negative pressure."
Janice turned slowly and had to look up to meet the intelligent blue eyes that were focussed intently on her from behind a set of spectacles. She blew out a plume of smoke and blinked a couple of times.
"So we don't catch fire," the woman smiled crookedly and held out a hand, "Melinda Pappas."
Janice fumbled with her cigarillo a moment, changing hands to shake Melinda's, "Janice Covington," she said as her hand was enveloped in a warm, gentle but strong grasp.
The woman was dressed casually in a stylish, deep maroon ankle length dress with a sensually molded bodice and low neckline that accentuated her ample bust. Soft gathers at her waist tumbled downwards to create a beautifully flowing form. That coupled with the fact that the woman was nearly six foot tall made for a very striking figure.
After a moment too long, Janice realised she still held this woman's hand. She grinned sheepishly and extricated the appendage, quickly shoving it in her pant's pocket and taking a drag of her cigarillo to mask her discomforture.
"You're Southern," Janice commented, moving to the windows and leaning over the safety rail. She glanced casually out at the palely illuminated ground crew preparing for their launch.
"South Carolina, born and bred," the tall woman said, following behind Janice. "Amazing, isn't it?"
"That something this big can be lighter than air."
"I never really thought about it, I'm just going home."
"Which is?" Melinda asked, coming along side the archaeologist at the rail. She rested her elbows on the steel and turned towards the smaller woman, a look of polite interest on her face.
Janice shrugged, "Wherever."
"Ah," a dark eyebrow raised, "a woman of mystery."
Janice straightened up and drew in a deep breath, "There's not much mysterious about me, sweetheart."
The woman stifled a snort, "Do you call every woman you meet 'sweetheart'?"
"Mostly, I find it shocks them."
"Do I appear shocked to you?"
Janice studied the sculptured features and bright, laughing eyes for a moment, but her reply was pre-empted.
A warm smile as Melinda leaned in towards the archaeologist, "I'll let you in on a secret, Janice Covington...I'm not."
Janice swallowed and quickly turned on her heel, gesturing aimlessly with her cigarillo, "Well, it doesn't work with everyone," she said. To divert her attention from the woman who was now leaning gently against the rail, her back to the windows, she disposed of the remains of her cigarillo. Great, now she didn't have anything to do with her hands. Stuffing them both in her pockets, she returned to the rail and looked out again.
"I'd hang on, if I were you," the voice was low.
"Wha-" but at that moment, the small archaeologist found herself stumbling back and grabbing hold of the rail for support as the 'up ship' order was given. The ground crew had let go of the mooring ropes and given the beast of a zeppelin and upward shove. Janice felt the powerful diesel engines hum and throb beneath her feet as the airship turned in north westerly direction heading for Cologne.
The Southerner half smiled, riding the slight bumps as the zeppelin rose slowly towards its destined one thousand feet.
"You should be more careful, Janice Covington."
"Yeah, well..." Janice had to clear her throat. How was it that the use of her full name sounded desperately alluring to her ears when it came from this woman's lips?
Blue eyes studied her a moment, "Have dinner with me tonight, ten o'clock, the Commander's table." She dropped her eyes from Janice's as she shrugged her way past the smaller woman with a whisper of fabric.
Monday, May 3rd, 1937 - 9:45pm
Janice sat on the side of the narrow bed in her berth staring at her boots. She didn't exactly have the correct attire to have dinner at the Commander's table. What did she care anyway? But for some reason she found herself wanting to impress this Melinda Pappas. Impress? Dammit, how did a grave-robbing archaeologist impress someone like that? They didn't, plain and simple. She rummaged through her bag and came up with dark, tailored pant suit. She'd had it made especially for an inaugural dinner at the university, had the artefacts proved to be Xena related. It wasn't exactly an evening gown, but it'd do. Evening gown? Why would she want one of those?
Stripping off her regular pants and shirt and boots, she hurriedly dressed in the suit and the black shoes she had purchased to match. She pulled down the fold away sink directly in front of her bed and stared at her reflection in the small mirror housed there. Not bad. She ran a hand through her long, strawberry blonde hair and sighed. Squaring her shoulders, she shut up the sink so she could actually move. She checked her watch as she slipped from her berth, 9:55pm.
Janice made her way down the narrow corridors towards the dining room. So intent was she on her passage, that stumbled into a man as he scurried around a corner.
"Hey! Watchit!" Janice had grabbed hold of his jacket sleeve and turned angry eyes on the man. Their eyes met and he shook himself clear indignantly and continued hurriedly down the corridor towards the stern of the airship.
"Asshole," Janice muttered, straightening her jacket.
The dining room was a bland, functional room. Extravagance had been set aside for lack of weight. It consisted merely of thin panelled walls and a series of table settings. Of course, on the exterior of the room were the large promenade windows. Janice moved over to one of these now, as her quick scout of the room failed to yield her dinner partner. She'd spotted Commander Pruss as she had entered the room but had declined to introduce herself.
They had past over Cologne a half hour previously and were now drifting over the Netherlands. The moon was in its last quarter and Janice watched the dark, ominous shapes of the landscape moving below, bearly perceptible against the horizon.
"You won't see much tonight," the voice was low and sultry.
How did she do that? Janice scolded herself inwardly and vowed to pay more attention to her surroundings in the future. She sucked in a deep breath as she turned her eyes on the woman who had made her acquaintance less than two hours previously. Jesus the woman knew how to dress. A midnight blue evening gown graced her elegant form. Thin, bunched straps gathered at her shoulders to swoop down with a plunging neckline into a double breasted bodice, clinched slightly at the waist with a narrow belt. Then the soft fabric tumbled over her hips and slithered down her thighs to brush the floor.
"Yeah," Janice cleared her throat, "I don't think I'll be looking at much else tonight."
Mel smiled. She had removed her glasses and her eyes twinkled with hidden mischief, "You flatter me," she said, placing a hand at the small of Janice's back to lead her to Commander Pruss' table.
"Just being honest," Janice said as the two of them crossed the small space to a large table set perfectly with a silver service.
"Then you are a very dangerous woman," Melinda bent slightly to drop the words in the archaeologist's ear. She straightened up and smiled as the Commander of the airship came to greet her. She offered her hand with a dazzling smile as Pruss took it and lightly brushed the backs of her knuckles with his lips.
"You are a vision, as always, Melinda," the Commander said, slightly in awe of the woman before him.
Melinda laughed softly and raised an eyebrow, "And you are too much the gentleman, Max," she threaded her arm through Pruss' uniformed one. "May I introduce Janice Covington, we met earlier this evening and I invited her to table."
Janice started slightly, she'd been watching the interaction between this woman and the Commander. It was clear they were familiar with each other, yet the extent of that familiarity was unknown. Coming back to reality, she held out her hand. Pruss seemed slightly flustered as he resigned himself to shaking her hand as opposed to kissing it. He glanced sideways at Melinda and released the smaller woman's hand.
"How do you do, Miss Covington?" he said with an edgy smile.
"Doctor," Janice corrected, "and I'm doing just fine."
"You are a doctor?" Pruss asked as he ushered both women to his table and pulled back Melinda's chair just to the right of the head. She settled herself and smiled across at Janice who had managed the manoeuvre on her own over the other side. "I didn't realise they allowed women to be doctors," Pruss continued.
Janice shifted her chair slightly closer to the table and bit back her original retort as Pruss settled himself at the head of the table.
"I'm not a medical doctor, Commander, I'm an archaeologist."
"Facinating," Pruss said as a selection of cold meats and salad were neatly placed on his plate, "No wonder Melinda took a liking to you."
Janice looked across at the woman with a quizzical expression, "Melinda was unaware of my occupation, Commander."
The man chuckled, "Melinda knows everyone. I wouldn't be surprised if she took this flight because you would be on it." He popped a piece of smoked ham in his mouth and smiled over to his right.
"I don't know every archaeologist alive because of my father, Max," the Southerner said, obviously not interested in the subject.
"Your father?" Janice asked.
Melinda looked up, "Melvin Pappas."
Janice's fork clattered to the table top, sending strips of sauerkraut halfway across the pristine white tablecloth. A few curious glances were cast in her direction as she hurriedly retrieved her fork and made an attempt to hide the cabbage under the edge of her plate.
She leaned over the table, "The Melvin Pappas?"
Melinda dabbed at the corners of her mouth with a serviette and placed the monogrammed cloth beside her plate before answering, "Yes, the Melvin Pappas," she could not stop the hint of sarcasm in her tone.
Across the table, Janice blinked and sat back. She looked to the Commander who cleared his throat, "Wine?" he offered to dispell the tension suddenly crackling around them.
"Excuse me," Melinda said, rising before Pruss could leap to pull her chair back. She nodded curtly to the Commander and slipped from the room.
Janice sat unmoving for a moment and then rose as Pruss was pushing his chair back, "I'll go," she said and watched as the Commander settled back, "It's my fault."
Monday, May 3rd, 1937 - 10:35pm
The archaeologist eventually found Melinda sitting at one of the tables in the smoking room, an elegant cigarette holder hanging from her fingers. She moved casually between the tables, pulling a cigarillo from her breast pocket and stopping to light it as she came closer to the Southerner. She took a seat opposite the woman and puffed a couple of times on the small cigar. Blue smoke curled around her as she tried to think of a way to broach the subject. Thankfully, Melinda did it for her.
"I'm sorry, I should not have reacted like that, it was rude of me."
Janice shrugged and ashed casually into the silver ashtray provided, "It happens." She sat staring at the woman opposite, waiting for her to continue.
Melinda nervously brought the cigarette holder up to her lips and took a short drag, "I've never had a good relationship with my father," she said around smoke.
Janice snorted, "You think you've had problems, sweetheart."
Blue eyes met green and the tall woman tried to smile, "Yes, I remember, Covington the grave robber, Covington the despoiler of faith. It must have been hard for you."
"It still is. I have to live down his name in everything I do."
Melinda studied the small woman and reached out a hand to finger the cuff of her jacket, "Is that why you have the attitude, Janice Covington?"
Janice shifted her arm away from the Southerner's reach with a small frown, "Partly," she conceeded.
"And the other part?" Melinda said, stubbing out her cigarette and standing.
"It's just me," Janice tried to follow the tall woman with her eyes as she moved behind her. After a moment she felt a set of strong hands on her shoulders.
"Just you..." The hands smoothed over the fabric of Janice's jacket.
"Melinda, what are you doing?" Janice asked, turning in her chair slightly to look up at the tall figure behind her.
Ignoring the question, the Southerner took a deep breath and moved to Janice's side. She held her hand out to the archaeologist, "Walk with me a while?"
Janice blinked and stared at the offered hand. After a moment she accepted the hand up and was a little surprised that the Southerner threaded her arm through Janice's, much as she had done to Pruss earlier in the evening. She abandoned her cigarillo and with a deep breath gestured towards the airlock of the smoking room.
The two women wound their way aimlessly through the corridors of Deck B and up to Deck A. It was late, and they past only a few people, yet those people averted their eyes from the tall, elegantly dressed woman, most obviously walking arm in arm with the shorter woman dressed as a man.
"Doesn't it bother you?" Janice finally asked.
She laughed and turned towards the archaeologist, backing her against the wall, "Should it bother me?" she asked as she reached out a hand to brush a few wisps of wayward hair from about Janice's face.
"I'm glad you think so," Melinda said, hooking her fingers under the lapels of Janice's jacket and running her hand down the fabric. The Southerner felt the smaller woman stiffen under her touch and smiled, "Does it bother you?"
Janice swallowed and tried to meet the tall woman's gaze, "Not the people, no."
"Ah," a slight intake of breath, "then perhaps I am the one bothering you?"
"Yeah, you could say that." Janice shifted her weight from one foot to the other, still highly conscious of Melinda's hands on her lapels resting warmly against her chest.
A sultry smile twitched at the corners of the Southerner's mouth as she let go of the archaeologist's jacket with one hand and curled a strand of the smaller woman's hair behind her ear. Slowly she leaned down towards her, her warm breath tickling against Janice's ear, "Why?"
Janice closed her eyes against the sudden sensation that flooded her, "Jesus," she whispered harshly, "that would be reason number one."
Melinda studied the smaller woman's expression, "And reason number two?" she asked softly before brushing her lips lightly over the archaeologist's. After a moment she straightened and smiled down at the bewildered woman before her, "I'll see you at breakfast, Dr. Covington."
Tuesday, May 4th, 1937 - 1:30am
Janice tossed again in her narrow bed. She had tried to rest, but images of the dark Southerner kept tormenting her. What was that? She didn't even know the woman and she was hardly one to submit to a seduction. She threw an arm over her eyes andgroaned in frustration as she felt the soft and enticing touch of Melinda's lips against her own once more.
"Right! That does it!" Janice swung her lefgs over the egde of her bed and scratched a hand through her tussled hair. She let out a long breath, shaking her head to try and dispell some of the images swirling there.
After a moment of sitting in the dark, she reached a hand out and flicked on the overhead light above her bed, blinking a few times until her eyes became accustomed to the light. She needed a smoke. Grabbing her robe, she struggled with it for a few moments, adjusting it over her shoulders and getting her arms settled. Then with a quiet resolve to banish Melinda Pappas from her mind with tobacco, she eased open the door to her berth and padded down the corridor.
The smoking room was dark, lit only by the emergency lights that cast spidery shadows low against the walls. Janice preferred it that way as she moved over to the central table and lit her cigarillo. She chose one of the bench couches in a far corner and settled down to think. There were more things to worry about than the daughter of Melvin Pappas. Her trip to Germany had been a disaster. So much for the funding she had hoped to procure back in the States for analysis of the Warrior Princess' artefacts. She snorted and took a drag of her cigarillo. What a joke. She wished the Germans had got their claims right before dragging her thousands of miles for nothing. Well, Melinda Pappas wasn't nothing, but she refused to think about that.
Without warning, the zeppelin lurched suddenly, throwing the archaeologist to one side of the couch.
"What the-?" but Janice was unable to continue her expletive as the airship lurched again. A wicked fork of lightning illuminated the smoking room for a moment.
"Great, just what we need," Janice mumbled, righting herself.
"Storms are quite frequent over the North Sea."
Janice jumped and swept her eyes over the darkened room to locate the source of the voice, "What are you doing here?" It was said more harshly than intended.
A long set of legs disentangled themselves and Melinda Pappas rose slowly to her feet, "The same reason you are, no doubt, Janice Covington...I was having trouble sleeping."
Janice shifted slightly on the couch as the Southerner moved to sit by her, "Yeah, well you don't exactly make it easy to sleep."
"Nor do you," Melinda said, letting her sulty gaze settle on Janice in the dim light. Shadows played against Melinda's jawline giving her an intense expression
Janice met the woman's gaze a moment before dropping her eyes. On their downward path, she couldn't help but notice the Southerner's robe was cut blushingly low. "Tell me something," she began after she managed to tear her eyes away, "Do you act like this normally?"
Melinda threw her head back, a chuckle escaping her lips, "Certainly not!" she managed to sound shocked, drawing a hand up to her chest. Then she became serious and levelled Janice once more with piercing blue, "But you intrigue me."
"So I'm a woman of mystery and I intrigue you," Janice said, referring to Melinda's prior comment.
"Yes," it was said simply.
Janice snorted and shook her head, "Why are you here?"
"Same reason you are," a smile twitched at the corner of the Southerner's mouth, "I had business to conduct in Frankfurt and I wanted to go home."
"No, I mean here now, at this point in time with me?"
Melinda paused a moment and crossed her legs, the length of her robe falling open at mid thigh, "Because I am, and I think we understand each other...do we understand each other?"
Janice's mouth suddnely became devoid of moisture as she caught the shadowy glimpse of the tall woman's bare flesh, "Yeah, I'd say we understand each other, but I don't know if we should." She rose slowly and stubbed out her cigarillo, "Breakfast, wasn't it?" she caught the other woman's nod over her shoulder.
Tuesday, May 4th, 1937 - 7:00am
The dining room was already busy by the time Janice emerged from a sleepless night. She tried her best to ignore the glances Melinda kept throwing her way over the breakfast table, concentrating instead on the conversation between Commander Pruss and the Captain.
"Of course we are open to sabotage," Pruss said around a mouthful, "we are a flying advertisement for propaganda."
Captain Lehmann shrugged, "Sabotaging this air ship would do more harm than good, not everyoone on board is a German," he glanced at Janice and Mel respectively.
"That hardly matters to these idiots who declare themselves fighting for a greater good, Lehmann. They only see this ship for what it stands for, not for who's on board." He paused a moment, "Take Spah for instance, he is always making excuses to see that damned dog of his. He has access to parts of the ship that other passengers do not. Therefore, he has ample opportunity for sabotage. And he has the motive, he despises Nazis, take that song he played last night on the piano, it was embarrassing."
Janice blinked a moment, obviously Pruss was referring to an incident that had occurred after she and Melinda had left, "You think the man is out to sabotage this vessel?" she finally asked.
Everyone looked in Melinda's direction as she loudly placed her coffee cup back on its saucer and pierced the two officers with spikes of blue, "I remember as a child looking up into the sky and swearing I could see the world moving...really it was just the clouds. What happened to our innocence, gentlemen?"
Pruss cleared his throat and shoved something about his plate uneasily, "When one has gone through many things, it tends to be lost, Melinda," he met the woman's eyes steadily.
"So you see evil around every corner."
Melinda met Janice's words with a sultry half glare, "Something like that."
Janice snorted, "Gotta tell you sweetheart," she leaned over slightly, "generally it is."
The tall woman smiled crookedly across at the archaeologist, "I'm not evil." The words were said with such a sudden huskiness of voice that even Pruss and Lehmann stopped mid mouthful to stare.
"Oh, I wouldn't be too sure about that," Janice said, her coffee cup slightly shakey in her hand.
A generous peal of laughter echoed from Melinda's throat, "People only see evil where they fear their weakness. With the gentlemen here," she included Pruss and Lehmann with a slight hand gesture, "it is the fear that they will not be able to protect this vessel from sabotage. With you, Janice Covington," Melinda paused a moment, waiting for Janice to place her cup in the saucer, "it's me."
Janice lost the meagre control she had on the fine bone china cup and coffee splashed across the table top in an ugly brown stain to drip over the edge, onto the fine fabric of Melinda's morning dress.
If possible, a look of complete mortification washed over the archaeologist's face as she sat there, staring at the tall woman before her. Pruss and Lehmann seemed fixed in place.
"I...I..." she cleared her throat, "sorry," was all she could manage.
Melinda smiled lasciviously and raised an eyebrow, "I suppose that is one way to undress me, Doctor."
That broke the spell, with Pruss and Lehmann immediately jumping to assist the coffee bespattered beauty. Mel swatted at their hands, clutching napkins lightly, suddenly coy, "Gentlemen, please, show a little decorum!"
A few embarrassed mumblings later the two men were once again in their seats and Mel had fixed Janice with a steady glare.
"It's alright, gentlemen, I believe Dr. Covington will assist me...won't she?"
Janice swallowed hard and glanced briefly at Pruss and Lehmann, who now wore slightly disappointed looks. "Ah, yeah, she will," she said, cursing herself internally.
Melinda Pappas' berth was the same as all the other berths on board the zeppelin, yet to Janice, the already cramped space seemed even smaller than it should have been. She stood with her back to the door and eyes fixed on an imaginary spot against the far wall as Melinda proceeded to undo the clasps of her dress.
The archaeologist snapped her gaze to Melinda and wished she hadn't, for the tall woman stood with a shoulder of her dress hanging provocatively down to her elbow, revealing a tantalising amount of skin.
"Yeah?" she grated.
"Can you come help me with these buttons? They're so small, and I wouldn't call my hands delicate." Mel held up a hand and waggled her long fingers playfully at the archaeologist.
"You, ah, you mangaged to get into the thing in the first place," Janice said, gesturing awkwardly at the dress as she uncharacteristically shuffled her feet.
Melinda smiled and lowered her eyes, "I had a steward help me," she whispered, looking up at Janice from under hooded lids.
"Oh," the smaller woman breathed, feeling an unatural stab of jealousy. She frowned, took a deep breath and moved behind Melinda.
The soft curve of Mel's shoulder rippled slightly with muscle as the tall woman turned her head to offer Janice a half smile, "Well?"
"Huh?" the archaeologist muttered, sweeping her eyes over the exposed portion of Melinda's back. Then she seemed to gather herself with a sigh, "Right, buttons," she said with a new purpose. With trembling hands she began to undo the remainder of the buttons, fumbling slightly whenever her fingers inadvertantly brushed against the warmth of the tall woman's skin. After what seemed like torturous hours, Janice was free of her task and she made to move back to her place by the door. Mel stopped her with a gentle hand.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"You're welcome," Janice responded automatically as Mel shrugged her shoulders, allowing her morning dress to slip completely from her shoulders and pool about her waist. Then she felt herself being drawn to the woman, Mel's fingers brushing her cheek, the subtle warmth of her breasts pressed against her chest through her shirt, a hand at her waist.
In the dim light of the shaded room, Mel's lips hung inches from Janice's. She saw the dark Southerner smile and felt the exhalation of a slow breath against her cheek. Then those lips were against her own, velvety soft and warm, pressing intimately. Despite herself, Janice found that she was responding, snaking a hand around the tall woman's waist, allowing her palm to smooth against the naked flesh of Melinda's back. The Southerner moved in closer and deepened the kiss. It was a tender touch of her tongue that Janice eagerly accepted, groaning into the increased contact. After long moments, Mel broke the kiss that left them both breathless.
Janice searched the blue eyes before her, a little baffled by her body's response to this woman, "Who are you?" she finally asked in a quiet voice.
Janice pulled away from the embrace and shuffled backwards, bumping into the door. She fumbled for the handle and managed to open the thing. She backed out into the hall with a mumbled, "I gotta go."
Mel stood alone with a half smile. She touched her lips briefly with her fingertips in rememberance of the kiss they had shared and her smile broadened, "But you'll be back."
Tuesday, May 4th, 1937 - 11:00am
A brief tapping at Janice's cabin door roused her from her inner comptemplation. For a moment she irrationally feared that it was Melida Pappas at her door. A tinglining shudder ran through her at the thought of confronting the woman again. Yet she put this aside, rose and cracked the door open. There was no Melinda, just a steward with a note. She opened the door wider and accepted the note, thanking the steward casually and asking him to wait, as she stared at the neat script on the envelope. There could be no doubt it was Melinda's hand.
Janice licked her lips and returned to her bunk where she sat a moment, running her fingers over the crisp, white paper. She sniffed at it experimentally and caught the faintest whiff of the tall woman's scent. Despite herself, she found a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
"What are you doing, Covington?" she whispered as she slipped a finger beneath the flap of the envelope and lifted the tab.
Within lay a single piece of white parchment, folded crisply in half. Removing it, she noticed that her hand shook, ever so slightly. She shook her head in disbelief of her body's actions and briskly flipped the folded paper open. Her eyes scanned the flowing text briefly and her breath caught. So, that was the way of it.
The black ink letters had simply said, "I have something you might like - Mel"
Well, two could play at that game. Tossing the note onto her bunk bed, Janice rose and opened her cabin door, startling the steward who had been lounging casually against the wall. Instantly he was straight-backed and waiting for Janice to speak.
"Where is the woman who gave you this note?" she asked with a slight frown.
"The smoking room, madame." came the reply.
"Good," Janice mumbled as she stalked off down the corridor, "I could use one."
At this time of day, the smoking room was well occupied. Janice paused a moment at the glass door which sealed the room in a smokey haze. With a slight hiss of air pressure she entered the room and scouted for Melinda Pappas amongst the passengers gathered in groups, chatting idly as they smoked. At first she didn't spot the woman and frowned, thinking that perhaps she may have left. Then she saw her, sitting alone in the far corner again, silver smoke trailing from her cigarette holder.
Taking a deep breath, Janice put on her best half smile and swaggered over to the lighter, lit a cigarillo before heading to the small table. Two could play at this game.
"So," she said, placing her hands on the metal tabletop, "you have something I might be interested in?" she let her gaze flutter over Mel's chest.
A small smile graced the corners of Melinda's mouth, "I have several things you might be interested in, Dr. Covington," she said, catching Janice's glance and drawing her eyes up to her own. Casually she took a pull of her cigarette and let the smoke curl seductively from her lips.
Janice snorted and shook her head, "You're good, I'll give you that," she rolled her cigarillo between a thumb and forefinger before taking a drag. "But what particular thing do you have right now that I might be interested in?"
"Oh?" Janice raised an eyebrow, "I doubt you would have any 'business' of interest."
"You are a foolish one, aren't you? Don't believe those men when they class me as a socialite living off my father's fortune." Mel leaned forward across the table and placed one of her hands over Janice's, guiding the smaller woman to a seat. "One is not raised as the daughter of Melvin Pappas without an education or without a foothold in the antiquities door. Thankfully, I have a reasonable amount of sense to go with it."
Despite Melinda's attitude, Janice found that she was interested in what was taking place. No doubt the woman had some useless fake artefact she wanted evaluated. She's seen the type before; the seductress interested only in profit.
The tall woman reached along her bench seat and placed a small bag on the table. Keeping an eye on Janice, she undid the clasps and reached inside, removing a small piece of yellowed parchment. Taking care with the fragile piece, she laid it flat on the table and turned it so Janice could look.
"As you can see by the make of the paper, it's authentic," Mel said, keeping a neutral tone.
Janice eyed the artefact on the table and then met Mel's gaze, the atmosphere around them had changed, "Where did you get this?"
Mel shrugged, a slight twinkle in her eye, "I knew you'd be interested."
"Where did you get this?" Janice repeated, a little more forcefully.
"A contact in Berlin."
The tall woman laughed a moment, "I can't disclose that kind of information, Dr. Covington."
"Come on Melinda, do you know what this is?" Janice leant over the table, studying the woman before her intently.
"Of course I know what it is," Mel snorted, "It's a fragment of text written by Gabrielle of Potedeia that your father sold two years ago for the price of five thousand Reichsmarks."
Janice blinked and looked at the fragment, "My...my father sold it?"
"That's what I said."
The archaeologist was shaking her head, "No, you don't understand, my father was looking for evidence of the existance of Gabrielle...why would he sell it?"
"That's simple, money."
"He sold this," Janice picked up the parchment and showed it Melinda, "for a little over a thousand dollars?"
Mel nodded and Janice let the piece drop to the table.
"Of course that's nothing compared to what it's worth," Mel said, raising an eyebrow.
Janice's eyes narrowed, "How much did you pay for it?"
"Eighty thousand Reichsmarks."
Janice sat back a let out a long breath, "Why?" she finally asked.
The tall woman smirked, "Would you believe I was going to give it to you?"
"I was on my way back to the States to give you this artefact as proof of the existence of Gabrielle."
"Waitaminute...you spent twenty thousand dollars on a piece of paper only to give it away?"
"I know your work, Dr. Covington, and I knew your father. I know you are much more capable of proving a truth than he was...money does not cloud your vision as it did his."
Janice thought a moment, "And our meeting here?"
"A pleasant coincidence, wouldn't you say?"
The fragment of scroll stared up at Janice from her bed. She was a mix of emotions. Here, before her was proof of the existance of Gabrielle, yet her father had held the evidence in his hands two years previously and sold it! She could not fathom why. The fact that he had not told her was doubly stupid. She felt like she had wasted the last two years of her life. She could have had this piece and continued the search instead of blundering blindly for the initial evidence.
Then there was Melinda Pappas. A shiver ran through her. What was the woman's game? And now her anxiety rose with the knowledge that she needed the tall woman's help. Janice might as well have been illiterate. She was an archaeologist, not a translator. Staring at the scroll before her was as useless as staring at some code. She could no more read it than she could fly, and it ate at her. Finally too frustrated with herself that she could not think straight, she grabbed the scroll and sauntered from her berth.
"I knew you'd be back," the sultry voice seeped from behind the thin door to Melinda Pappas' berth.
Janice took a deep breath and pushed by the figure hanging in the doorway, "Can you read this?" she demanded, pausing a step within the door and turning to face the tall woman.
"Of course," Mel smiled and gathered a silky robe about her frame. "Forgive me, I was changing for the afternoon."
The archaeologist lowered her eyes to the floor to avoid the hint of ample cleavage that insisted on drifting into her line of sight. Mel seemed to notice her discomfort and it showed in her smile. She moved close to Janice until their body heat mingled. Slowly she reached down and removed the piece of parchment from the archaeologist's hand, allowing her fingers to trail softly over the woman's skin in the process. She felt Janice stiffen and caught the woman's eyes briefly. Raising an eyebrow, she turned away, concentrating on the scroll.
"It isn't much, you realise," Mel said over her shoulder.
"Can..." Janice had to clear her throat, "can you just read it?"
"You could not imagine my guilt, after all we had been through, for me to have unknowingly betrayed Xena like that. Then she asked me to scratch her nose and something changed between us."
"I said it wasn't much, but it's enough." Mel placed the parchment on the top bunk in her berth and turned to the smaller woman. "How about you, Dr. Covington, do you have an itch that's in need of scratching?" She cocked an eyebrow.
Janice said nothing, all conscious thought had left her. She backed away slightly but found herself up against the door with Melinda Pappas advancing on her.
"Don't you think we work well together, Janice?" Mel asked, bringing a hand up to brush a wisp of hair from the blonde woman's face.
Janice could not help but let her eyes close at the tender touch of Mel's fingertips against her cheek. She swallowed and tried to make her voice work, "I think your definition of working is different to mine."
"You think?" Mel whispered, leaning in so her lips were close to Janice's ear, "I think it means that two people with a certain chemistry function extremely well together regardless of the task at hand," she continued, letting her lips brush lightly against the soft skin of Janice's cheek, "What do you think?"
"I think I must be insane," Janice breathed against Mel's lips as they gently caressed hers.
"We all have our faults," Mel said before pressing into the smaller woman and deepening the kiss, probing gently.
Janice found herself responding to the soft enquiry, her passion rising with Melinda's warm touch. She eventually broke from the woman, her breath ragged, one hand supporting herself against the door to Mel's berth.
"Insane, but not above enjoyment, I see," Mel mumbled, gazing at Janice through seductively hooded eyes.
Janice swallowed harshly and wondered what the hell she was doing as she found her hand smoothing down Melinda's robe front against the swell of her breast. A low moan escaped the tall woman's throat and she let her head tilt back to the side, her hair falling in a dark waterfall over her shoulder. Janice's hand continued, easily slipping within the confines of the robe to lightly touch the heated flesh of Mel's breast.
"Yes," Mel breathed, "touch me."
Gaining in confidence, Janice encirlced Mel's breast with her palm, feeling the nipple hard against her. She met Mel's gaze a moment before the woman leaned down for a seering kiss. Despite herself, Janice was moving forward, into the kiss and guiding Melinda towards her bunk.
The tall woman complied, shifting backwards until the backs of her calves bumped against the frame of the bed. With the greatest of ease, she pulled Janice down with her until they were sitting. Mel broke the kiss an raised an eyebrow.
"Well, Dr. Covington," she said with the hint of a smile, reaching out to run the tips of her fingers down the side of the archaeologist's face.
"Well indeed,"Janice responded, leaning in again, but was stopped by Mel's hand.
"I hardly think this is fair," Mel whispered, moving her hand to the buttons of Janice's shirt. She toyed with the first and met Janice's eyes from under her bangs, "Is it?"
Janice shook her head slightly and Mel's smile deepened as her fingers worked their way through the first button and then a second. Janice's breath caught as she felt Mel's warm fingers on the skin of her chest. She found herself leaning involuntarily towards the tall woman, encouraging her to continue her pursuit.
As Mel began to slide her hand beneath the folds of Janice's shirt to cup a breast, the door to her berth burst open and a tall, athletic looking man stook before them, gasping for breath. Janice was on him in a flash, her forearm pressed up under his chin, tilting his head back, the other hand grasping between his legs in a tight fist.
"Who the hell are you?"
End of Part One
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