Part 1 of 2

By Kristo>

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Janice Covington, Melinda Pappas, Xena, Gabrielle, Autolycus and Lila belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures along with the television series XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS. (Hercules belongs to Greek legend.) This story is written as nonprofit fan fiction only and no copyright infringement is intended.

  1. This story contains semi-graphic descriptions of violence.
  2. This adventure story depicts two semi-graphic romantic/sexual relationships (one between two women and one between a woman and a man).
  3. If any of the things mentioned above are illegal in your geographical area, would likely induce nightmares during your sleep cycle or you are under the age of 18 , do not read this story.
This story is a blended major revision of two short stories: GODDESS OF DESIRE and MAD DOG’S SACRED TREASURE (because they go together), unfinished until now and not classified as alternative fan fiction until now, copyright June, 1997. It is recommended that you see the XENA SCROLLS episode of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS before reading this story.

Chapter One ~ DISCOVERY

It was the year 1944 and the world remained at war with itself. Two tired women waged their own war with the Macedonian weather, perspiration beading their heated skin. During several years of working together the relationship between these women had been tested many times and grown stronger because of it. More than business partners, Dr. Janice Covington (small strawberry blond archeologist) and Dr. Melinda Pappas (tall ebony-haired anthropologist) shared their lives as they journeyed the world in quest of the Xena Scrolls.

At first Melinda Pappas had seemed typical of a spoiled southern belle to Janice, allowing wealth to place her above those who had to labor for the things they needed. One look at Mel’s elegant attire, precise makeup and hearing that heavy southern accent, and Janice pre-judged her as having just about every elitist and excessively feminine (and therefore negative) characteristic she could think of. Soon however, she began to value Mel’s gracious, gentle soul. She found in Mel those qualities that she herself lacked. Mel, who was childlike in her innocence yet possessed wisdom beyond her years, presented a paradox for Janice. And Janice, being unable to completely prevent it, loved Mel. She loved the southern belle more than she did anyone, even more than her deceased father.

Janice had been without a mother early in her childhood and with no woman in her life to take her mother’s place, she had missed a great deal of feminine nurturance although she chose to think of her father as all any child could need. So what if he did not have a sterling reputation. He had loved her and she knew it and so what else was there? Love was too tender an emotion for Janice to dwell on yet she realized love added something to her life. The closest Janice could come to putting a label on that ‘something’ was a sense of belonging. An anchor that held her steady.

She no longer felt alone because of Mel and that was enough to keep ghosts from her past at bay. During those times when they had been apart the past three years, especially the last year, memories of Mel was enough for Janice to feel she was not really alone no matter where she was or what she was doing. She felt connected with Mel even after she had lain with a man, although those instances had become rare. It was rare indeed for Janice to drink and lose herself in a sexual encounter. Hard drinking and sex went together for her. But there had been none of that for a long time. In fact, it had been longer than she cared to remember. <I’ll be damned! I don’t remember at all. Is Mel’s virginity and near teetotaling contagious? No...I can’t blame her, although today I’d really like to.>

After confronting her pride Janice came to appreciate Mel’s money for the practical way it enabled their search for the scrolls. Finding the scrolls had been her father’s lifetime ambition and one of the few things Janice inherited from Harry Covington. She was as obsessed as he had been about the ancient Greek legend of the warrior princess, Xena. Perhaps even more so.

And Mel, who judged Janice to be arrogant and unlady-like to say the least, came to admire her independent spirit. (Janice was a bit arrogant and definitely unlady-like.) Janice had the ability to focus on whatever she was after with a no-nonsense fierceness that broke through barriers. Barriers that seemed impenetrable to Mel. In Janice, Mel found the same combination of strength and weakness that she had loved in her grandfather. The same charming quality that defied description. The closest she could come to describing Janice’s charm was "earthy", but this did not capture her magnetism and her passionate nature. Janice lived according to a basic ethical standard without apology: work hard, do your best and always tell the truth. Most people could not keep this outwardly simple commitment but Mel believed that Janice always would. Integrity was extremely important to her unusual friend, even more important than her relationships with other people it seemed. Mel also knew that Janice had brief affairs with men without benefit of commitment beyond a night, but she couldn’t think of Janice as immoral although it pained her to think of her friend being intimate with a near stranger. More than a year ago Mel wisely began to refrain from questioning Janice about her outings and miraculously, she had not had to suffer the hated words, "I won’t be back until the morning," for a long time.

And Mel knew that some people called Janice "Mad Dog Covington" behind her back because of her wildness and the rumors that she had killed more than a few people who dared to cross her in her travels. Mel did not believe the rumors and had never given them enough credit to ask her friend about them. She had only seen Janice shoot a gun in self defense, the day they met. There were lots of bullets flying that day. Janice saved her life. Mel felt safe with Janice from then on. She had seen Janice physically fight a few times since then but always in self defense and never to the death. Janice was clearly a skilled fighter but she could not imagine her killing anyone.

Janice was one of the most moral persons she had ever known. <Why, Janice is the most honest and forthright person I’ve ever known. Just like Granddaddy Simon, the good Lord rest his soul.>

Mel had realized soon after they met that she enjoyed getting her way whenever they disagreed. <It gives me such a wonderful feeling of power when she gives in to me...I don’t really know why. Or why I look for things to do for her. It must be my maternal instinct.> Since knowing Janice, her grief over Simon Pappas’ death was no longer a source of anguish in her heart. Mel had not given a voice to it, but Janice was part of her family. Perhaps the most important part, since she had few close relatives. But lately Janice was in a dark mood, too irritable for Mel to be comfortable around. Perspiration stung the delicate tissue of Mel’s clear blue eyes as she turned away from her friend to concentrate on the task at hand.

Janice fumed and tried to put the image of a tightly rolled cigar out of her mind. <How in the hell could I have forgotten to pack enough cigars! If I had only known we were going to be at this site forever and a day...I can’t believe Mel doesn’t know the sound of that brush she’s using on the clay jars goes straight to my spinal column. How can she stand it?> Janice forced the tightly clenched muscles of her jaw to relax.

They seemed to be in the right location to unearth the "Tales of Ares" series of Xena Scrolls but so far they had unearthed nothing but clay pottery. There was no stone vault to be found here. And the vault housed the Ares scrolls. The month before, Janice and Mel had found the last piece of an ancient map pin-pointing Poteidaia as the resting place for the vault. It made sense that at least some of the scrolls could be found at the site of the author’s village. But then, maybe this was too simple. Janice wondered if she had missed something perhaps not so obvious.

Janice calculated that it had been about a month since either she or Mel had the pleasure of feeling clean and comfortable. God she wanted a long soak in a cool tub with a big cigar. Her head ached as she scowled in Mel’s direction. Mel became increasingly anxious with each bit of increased hostility in her tough friend’s demeanor. It was not easy walking on eggs every waking moment. Mel knew something had to change soon or she was going to show Dr. Covington that a southern lady is not a dumping ground for her frustration, or whatever it was that had her wound tighter than Granddaddy Simon’s gold and diamond-studded pocket watch. She lifted the last of the two foot clay jars to place it in a crate next to the others. To her horror the jar slipped from her arms and shattered on the ground. Shocked, she bent down and picked up a scroll that was yellowed with age. Mind dazed and voice shaking, Mel unrolled part of the delicate parchment and began to translate ancient Grecian symbols into southern United States of America English. In an instant, Janice appeared at Mel’s side. "Mel, I could kiss you!"

Mel abruptly paused in mid-sentence when she heard the words and tone of voice so uncharacteristic of her friend. If she had not already been sitting on the ground she would have fallen, she was so astounded. Mel looked up into Janice’s face flushed with excitement. Ice blue eyes, partially hidden behind a pair of black-framed glasses, locked with sparkling green ones. "What? What did you say?" The scroll was forgotten.

"I said I could kiss you for breaking this jar. If you hadn’t dropped it we wouldn’t have known that the scrolls were inside for at least another month. We’d have to x-ray them to determine the best way to open them...You know. Well we will probably have to do that with the rest of the jars anyway. But here you are, saving us a lot of time and frustration. And what do you want to bet the whole Ares series is right here...Right here! Hey Mel! Good God, we’ve found them!" Janice bent down and planted a quick, hearty kiss on Mel’s cheek before collapsing beside her to gaze lovingly at the precious scroll in Mel’s hands.

Mel felt a lingering warmth on her cheek. She could hardly believe the change in Janice. She had never seen her so happy. Euphoric, actually. Janice would never have expressed herself this way months ago. Mel let one of her hands move from the scroll to her cheek and tucked away the awareness that Janice was softening. <And not a minute too soon. My Lord, if she stopped smoking she would be perfect company.>


Columns of white marble lined both sides of the great hall at the Pappas mansion. Janice was trying to makes herself as at home as possible on Mel’s turf. It was a much bigger place than Mel had let on. It was elegant. It was formal. Janice wondered if she could talk Mel into loaning her enough money to rent a warehouse to store the crates from Greece. A place where she would be comfortable while deciphering, identifying and categorizing their archeological treasure over the next several months. It had been quite a struggle to convince the Greek government to allow them to remove the clay jars from its jurisdiction. But by some miraculous intervention and Mel’s money, they and the scrolls made it safely to South Carolina. Now if Janice could only find a place that was not only safe but also comfortable. No way was she going to make it long here at the gilded castle Mel called home. <Home. Right. Sure can’t picture a good game of poker happening in this place. Or being allowed to wear my own clothes.> "Mel, why did you bring me here?"

Mel Pappas entered the great hall in time to hear the faint echo of Janice’s question. "Why I brought you here with me to work in a comfortable setting Janice. What else? Besides, in all this time you have never been to my home. Now I guess I don’t have to ask what you think of it...Can you think of a better place to enjoy the work we have to do?"

Mel stepped closer to Janice, pulling on her arm as she led her to a velvet couch under a large picture of an imposingly handsome man. "My Grandfather, Simon Pappas", Mel indicated by nodding toward the gold-framed picture. "It was painted when he was in the prime of life. Wasn’t he something?"

Janice smelled the scent of fresh rose petals that radiated from Mel. <I really don’t want roses in my bath water.> "Yes he was. You have his eyes."

"And his nose. We both had our noses broken right up here on the bridge", Mel touched her nose.

Searching for signs of imperfection, Janice was disappointed. "I don’t see anything."

Mel took the index finger of one of her friend’s hands and rubbed it down the bridge of her nose.

Janice felt a slight bump. "Okay, it was broken. How did it happen?"

"Well, there isn’t anything glamorous about it I’m afraid. I was running down the stairs, tripped on the runner and kaboom!... my nose met the railing. Not at all like the brawling fight that broke my Granddaddy’s nose." Mel sat on the couch and tugged Janice down beside her.

Janice smiled in a brief display if humorous warmth, "I bet it hurt just as much, though."

Mel enjoyed the unusual display of sensitivity from Janice and returned the smile with a bright one of her own. "So...Can you?" Mel’s raised eyebrows added emphasis to her inquiry.

"Can I what?" Janice raised her own eyebrows.

"Can you think of a better place to enjoy the work we have to do?

"Yes Mel, I can think of a better place."

"Really? Where?"

"Well, not a specific place but a type of place. Someplace I can relax."

Janice could see the disappointment on her Mel’s face. <I’m just being


"Now Janice just wait till you’ve bathed, eaten one of the best meals this side of the Mississippi and met my aunt. You are going to love her and she’ll make you feel so welcome that you wouldn’t dream of leaving. Just you wait and see if you don’t."

"Hmmm. How long do you think I should wait?"

"One week. Just a week. That’s all I’m asking of you. If you still want to go someplace else after that then so be it."

"Can I keep wearing my own clothes here?"

"Uh...sure, okay."

"You had to think about it didn’t you?"

"A little."

"Uh huh. I thought as much. Mel, I am never going to change just to impress people. You should know that about me by now. We’ve had ‘the clothes’ conversation before."

"Oh my Janice, please don’t take offense. Its just that I’d like to see you in something other than brown khaki and leather once in a while. How about impressing me with some color? Would that be so bad?"

"I’ll think about it." <I think I’d rather stick pins in my eyes. There’s nothing wrong with khaki, and leather just gets better with age.>

"Really?", Mel beamed. <Success at long last! I can’t wait to get her into Mrs. Alexander’s shop.>

Mel’s broad smile made Janice feel unsettled.<She’s trapped me somehow. What’s she thinking?

She’s going to drag me into some fancy store and make me buy some frilly girl stuff. Hell!> "I said I’d think about it, Mel. That’s all, just think."

"I heard you." Her smile remained. She had her prey bagged and she knew it.

"Well, will you come with me?"

Mel could not keep the snort from coming to full bloom in her nose. "Sweet Jesus! Of course I’ll go with you. Otherwise you’ll only buy more brown khaki and leather."

Janice rolled her eyes in frustration. "No Mel, I mean will you come with me a week from another place to live and work on the scrolls."

"Oh..." Mel frowned. "Well, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it." Janice was clearly disappointed at her friend’s hesitation. Facial musical pinched her eyes, nose and mouth closer together. <Sweet Jesus. That’s almost a pout.> "Okay. I’ve thought about it. Of course I’ll go with you Janice. If you decide to go. But I’ll want to approve of a new place too. You do want me to go with you don’t you?"

"Well yes. Otherwise I’d have to ask for a loan."

"Janice you know you can ask anytime." A tone of hurt rang in her voice.

<I’ve done it again. Why do I word things badly with her? I wonder why she puts up with me.> "Well it’s more than that. I think of us as more than friends. I mean we are partners...with the scrolls. You’re a lot more accurate at deciphering them then I could ever hope to be. It is more than a skill with you. You have a gift. And I’d... miss you... if you didn’t come with me." <There. Damn that was uncomfortable.> Mel’s smile returned. An endearingly crooked smile. And Janice knew she had been forgiven. <Okay, it was worth it.>

Truthfully, Mel felt a bit shy at her friend’s extravagant praise. <Extravagant for her.> "Thank you Janice. I’d miss you too. And since we found them together they are ours. Right? I mean that’s how I think of the scrolls. That they belong to us. At least for now."

"Yeah. For now. What do you think of the Smithsonian as a final resting place? The Xena Scrolls are not American history but they are exceptional."

"I don’t know. I’ll think about it." Mel did not want to think about anyone else owning the scrolls.

"Okay Mel. So we will talk about going somewhere else in a week. Now which way to the bath? I can smell more of myself than I want."

Half an hour later Janice was immersed in something wonderful. It no longer mattered that she was surrounded by floating rose petals. Before lowering her compact body into the deepest, warmest bath she had ever been in, she found a box of fat Cuban cigars. <I’m dead and gone to heaven. Ha! Who’d a thought!> Her tired eyes closed while a satisfied sigh slipped around the cigar held in place between her pink lips by strong white teeth.

Mel sat at a massive French writing desk in her bedroom next to the garden bath occupied by Janice. Mel smiled with contentment as she listened to Janice’s slightly off-key rendition of a bawdy song. She remembered her granddaddy singing the same song to her. When her grandmother reprimanded him for exposing their granddaughter to such a coarse song he laughed with good humor and informed her that he was merely teaching Melinda how to count. >From one to ninety-nine. "It doesn’t matter if it’s beer or bunnies. Numbers are numbers my dear."

Janice’s voice lowered until it became background entertainment in Mel’s ears. Mel concentrated on the scroll. This particular scroll was the first one rescued after thousands of years in darkness. It was an open door to another time and place. It was history as recorded by the friend of her ancient relative, Xena the Warrior Princess. Mel thrilled at the memory of sharing her body with Xena almost a year ago. She remembered the confidence, the passion and the power that belonged to Xena. For a brief time it was hers too, as Xena battled Ares.

Looking at the symbols, she caught her lower lip between perfect teeth. Then she began to speak the words the symbols represented. She was reading a dialogue between Xena and Ares, the ancient God of War. Ares had recruited Xena to help him reclaim his sword and with the sword, his godhood. At this time he had no godly powers and was almost human. He sought to seduce Xena into a longer and stronger partnership with him. Ares asked Xena if she wanted the sword for herself:

ARES: "You’d make a magnificent Goddess of War."

XENA: "Forget it Ares. How did you get to be a god anyway? Don’t they have some kind of character requirements?"

ARES: "You miss the point. For the job I had, my character is perfect. You know where you would shine? As the Goddess of Desire."

XENA: "I said forget it Ares."

ARES: "Well, you’d be back in your old body and you’d get to live forever."

XENA: "With you? I’d rather die."

Mel’s vision blurred. The symbols on the scroll began to swim about on the parchment like the fish in the atrium pond outside her bedroom. Mel placed her fingers over her closed eyes and lightly rubbed. When she opened her eyes she was no longer alone in her bedroom. A dark and fiercely handsome man dressed in black leather that clung tightly to his wonderfully muscled body stood close to her. He began to speak to Mel in a voice so wicked and rich that Mel shivered and closed her eyes for a moment before she realized what was happening.

"We meet again Melinda. In a much more pleasant place I must say. No tomb here. Yes. I like it. Oh, there’s no need to fear me this time. You’ve opened my scrolls and brought me you. We can help each other. Beautiful Melinda, you look so like Xena. You have the same passionate nature, its just been dormant in you. And now it’s time for you to wake up."

Mel shook her head and reached out to touch the vision, then dropped her arm limply to her side when she stared into his eyes of darkly burning fire. "Oh my sweet Jesus you are Ares, in my home.

"Uh huh."

"In South Carolina...?"

"Yes. It is me and this is where I am. <Wake up Melinda.> I like it here. Its not Mount Olympus but it has appeal."

"My goodness....what ever do you want here? Xena’s not here, you know."

"No, she isn’t. But I’m not here because of Xena. I’m here because of you. To offer you a gift. All you need to do is say ‘yes’".

Mel was having trouble breathing. Her body felt weighted down. "And what will happen if I say ‘yes’?"

Ares moved closer to Mel who trembled in response. Lightly placing a strong finger under her chin he leaned ever so slightly down until his lips brushed the hair covering her burning ear. She could not move away. The smile on the god’s face was wickedly sensuous. "You become Melinda: Goddess of Desire." Mel was ill-prepared to deal with the mighty Ares, the formidable and seductive god whom she had unwittingly called forth from the tomb of his captivity. The god’s extreme good looks and delicious tone of voice were overloading her senses and taking a toll on her grasp of reality. She was but a gentle descendant of the fierce warrior princess. Ares looked into her beautiful eyes. "So what will it be Melinda? Will you accept the gift of immortality? The power to create desire? Xena was a coward. But you, Melinda, you are not." Again his lips caressed Mel’s ear. "Say ‘yes’ and together we will rule this world."

Suddenly Janice’s voice could be heard loudly in the background. "Mel! Mel, come here. I’m stuck in here!"

Mel’s attention shifted from Ares to Janice and back. "I don’t know why you’ve chosen me Ares but you’re wasting both my time and yours. I know Xena, remember. She was inside me once. She has more courage than anyone I’ve ever known. Go back where you came from because I already have everything I need. Why would I want to create desire?" She looked pleadingly into the dark eyes of the god.

Encouraged by Mel’s response, Ares dark eyes glittered. <She is interested, although she doesn’t know it.> "Your passionate nature is waking up, my beauty. I will return tomorrow night for your answer." He lifted Mel’s well formed hand with newly manicured, polished nails and turned it over to receive his kiss. "Until tomorrow night." As soon as Mel felt the tingle of his kiss on her palm he was gone from her sight. Both relief and dread filled her.

Meanwhile, Janice was angry. <Where in the name of Ares was Mel? Now why did I use that god’s name? Must be the discovery of the scrolls. Mel said she’d just be in the next room. Why isn’t she here?> "Mel, I mean it. I am not playing around here. I’m really stuck! Mel!"

Hearing the pitiful cry for her she headed for the door to the garden bath on unsteady legs and quickly opened the door. Janice sat with her hand lodged in the drain, naked and shivering in the huge empty bath. "Don’t even think about laughing Mel. I think I’ve pulled my shoulder out and damnit to hell, I’m stuck in here !"

Suddenly another door to the large flower-filled room burst open. A middle-aged woman with an aristocratic aura stood in the doorway, a question on her lips just before staring at Mel with curiosity. "What is all the noise about?"

Hard as she tried, Mel was not able to prevent her laughter from exploding into the room. Two pairs of eyes stared at her in astonished silence. Finally able to control her breathing well enough to talk, Mel cleared her throat nervously and tried to look apologetic. "Aunt Helen, you finally get to meet Dr. Janice Covington", and with that simple statement Mel fell into another fit of nervous laughter.

Chapter Three ~ ARES

Since she no longer had episodes of drinking and losing herself in a night of mindless sexual adventure, food and kick-boxing were the main sources of stress relief left for Janice. Anyone who witnessed her eating style was amazed that she continued to have an athletic build. Janice knew she would have to buy several new sets of clothes if she ever stopped her daily exercises. But she loved the adrenaline rush produced by strenuous physical activity and the relaxation that always followed. <My waistline is not at risk.> And she loved the challenge of a good fight, whenever she could find a willing partner. That was not often and she was almost never partnered by the same person more than once or twice. She was fast as lightening and her legs were powerful. She was small and all the more dangerous because of it. There were a several people who were no longer among the living because they had underestimated Janice’s ability to defend herself. She was not afraid to kill if that’s what it took to survive during her travels. She had not had to fight so savagely since meeting Mel, and for this she was grateful. Mel did not approve of violence and Janice knew she may not be able to accept the violent part of her if she were to ever see more than a few little kicks and punches. Putting unpleasant thoughts away, Janice joined Aunt Helen and Mel for dinner in the main dining hall of the Pappas mansion.

Looking at the long table laden with food, Janice knew she was going to enjoy her good fortune and drown her anger at being held captive by a bathtub earlier in the day. After all, it had been the biggest bathtub she’d ever encountered. And it had tried to swallow the golden friendship ring Mel had given her before they left Greece.

Helen Pappas, Melinda’s charitable and wise aunt, observed Janice wince in pain whenever she used her right arm reaching for another helping of every item of food left on the long table. <How can someone less than five and a half feet tall consume more than their height in food? If she eats like this regularly she must have an extremely high metabolism or she wouldn’t have the kind of muscle tone I had such a clear view of today.> Inwardly smiling, Helen recalled that her niece’s friend was not embarrassed by the exposure but she was certainly angry about being caught in the grip of an inanimate object.

Janice had dislocated her shoulder and had a considerable bruise on her hand. If it hadn’t been for Helen’s surprising knowledge of plumbing, Janice would still have her hand caught in the bathtub drain. Helen remembered how relieved Janice was when her ring was recovered. She had hugged the bedsheet Mel had wrapped around her tightly to herself and finally replaced the frown on her brow with a smile as she returned the ring to her finger. <The ring means a lot to her, that’s evident.> "Tell me Dr. Covington, how is your shoulder? Are you sure you won’t let me send for the good Dr. Anderson?"

Lost in the pleasure of being thoroughly saturated with food, Janice heard Aunt Helen’s question as if from a great distance. "Huh? Oh, its okay now. I put it back into place. It’ll be as good as new in a day or two. Thanks for asking but there’s no need to be worried about me Mrs. Pappas." Janice wondered why Helen remained unmarried since the death of her husband, choosing to live in the largest mansion in the south all alone except for house attendants and the times when Mel stayed at home.

Aunt Helen was not surprised to hear Janice brush off her injury or the concern for her. <She reminds me of daddy. Why, there is something untamed about here alright. She is almost primitive. It’s the way she looks right into my eyes so very directly and with such keen interest. Soul to soul. Quite intense, this small one. Oh my, Melinda has always sought depth in her relationships. And challenge. I imagine Dr. Janice Covington presents quite a challenge to Melinda. I can see the attraction. Now I have the answer to why she chooses to work with her instead of staying here with me or doing anything else she has the means to do. But the day will come when Melinda will want to settle down and raise a family. She hasn’t met the right man yet but she will. And then what? Sweet Jesus Helen, where are you letting your mind wander to? Let the young ones live their life without your concerns spilling out at them.> But Helen was concerned. Melinda had eaten almost nothing. "What’s wrong Melinda? Its not like you to be so quiet."

Mel shifted her gaze from her plate to her aunt. How could she tell anyone about Ares without sounding insane? Janice might believe her since she had met him once herself. What if she had dreamed it all? What if she had only fallen asleep at the writing desk and had a nightmare about Ares. She remembered the feel of hot breath against her ear. A very vivid dream. The more she thought about it the less she was inclined to share the source of her anxiety. Ares offering her the title of "Goddess of Desire"? Janice and even her beloved Aunt Helen would never let her live it down. "I’m just tired Aunt Helen. Too tired to eat I guess. Don’t worry about me either. I’ll be fine after a good night’s rest."

Aunt Helen realized there would be no after dinner party tonight. She had been looking forward to hearing all about their adventures of the past six months, perhaps even enjoy a card game or two. But that would have to wait. "Okay you two, I’ll leave you to your own devices for the night and see you in the morning. It is a...pleasure to finally meet you Dr. Covington and I hope you will consider this your home for as long as you like."

"Uh, thank you Mrs. Pappas. Your hospitality is just as Mel said it would be. And please call me Janice." With twinkling eyes she added, "In case you didn’t know, I’m not a formal kind of person and I don’t think of myself as a doctor unless I am presenting my work."

Aunt Helen smiled warmly. "I have gathered that you are not the formal type at all...Janice. And I look forward to hearing all about the work you and Melinda have been doing. I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight."

Mel watched her aunt depart and looked expectantly at Janice. "Well?"

A well known expression came across Janice’s mouth: lips curled upward at the left corner in a half-smile known as ‘the smirk’. "Okay. You win. She is as welcoming as you said. The food, your aunt...everything here is great." <except for the demon of a bathtub.> "I’ll stay, Mel."

For the moment Mel completely forgot her anxiety over her dream". "Oh Janice, I’m so relieved that you’ve changed your mind. You won’t regret it, I promise." Smiling brilliantly at her friend, her clear blue eyes shone with happiness.

Chapter Four ~ LIKE A DREAM

The following morning Aunt Helen’s curiosity was satisfied as Mel told her of the adventures she and Janice had searching for the Xena Scrolls and finding the Ares series of scrolls during the past six months. Janice enjoyed listening to Mel’s telling of it, throwing in an occasional detail or two when Mel or Helen asked her for these things. Towards the noon hour Mel’s lack of sleep was catching up with her and Janice knew something was wrong but darned if Mel would confide in her. She encouraged Mel to take a nap after lunch and that’s when Mel reeled in her prey. "I will take a nap if you will let me take you shopping for clothes afterward."

Janice was trapped. <Maybe Mel isn’t feeling well because of ‘the clothes’. Hard to believe, but what else would it be? Damn! Friendship can really be a pain in the ass.> "Okay Mel. I’ll do it. Now go get some sleep because I don’t want to hear from you for at least a couple hours."

The thrill of victory ran through Mel. <Finally! But sweet Jesus, I am too excited to sleep.> In truth, she was sound asleep a few minutes after laying down on her four poster bed. She dreamed of Ares. Once again Ares whispered hotly in her ear, making her body feel heavy. She tried to move away but found she could not. Then the wickedly handsome face of Ares became the passionate face of her best friend, framed with long strawberry blond hair. Instead of sparkling green, her eyes were black as a moonless night. Janice moved closer. She enveloped Mel’s waist with smooth, strong arms and pulled Mel’s hips hard against her taut abdomen. Intense and raw, desire blazed from the dark eyes focused upward on Mel’s full red lips. Mel’s heart beat wildly. A devine ache pulsed to life within her, stronger with each heartbeat. She grasped Janice’s shoulders and watched her lips advance slowly nearer to her own. She was going to be kissed.

Janice moved one hand up to the back of Mel’s neck and ran the other around the small of her back, then down to caress her butt. Janice’s voice was an alluring growl, rumbling deep in her chest. "Are you ready? This is going to be so much better than a kiss on the cheek."

Oh yes, she was going to be well and truly kissed without a doubt. "Oh my", she moaned and closed her eyes in anticipation of this savage woman’s lips seizing her own. The deep muscles of Mel’s vagina began to tighten and relax in a series of excited spasms. Her pelvis moved powerfully against Janice. Uncontrollable sweetness filled her and robbed her of breath. Tremors coursed through her as she waited...but lips did not touch.

Opening her eyes Mel saw tears trailing down Janice’s face. Janice release Mel from her embrace. "I’m wearing the wrong clothes. Look Mel...I’m wearing black leather. I can’t do this. I have no color! Please Mel, help me! I’m stuck!" Mel grabbed onto her friend’s hands but her grip was not strong enough and Janice slipped further away. She grabbed onto the black clothes but Janice’s body slipped out of them and she disappeared down the bathtub drain.

Mel woke with her heart pounding mightily in her heaving chest. <Have I lost my mind? Oh, I want you that way?> Reaching under her dress she felt her wetness through the silk between her legs. <Sweet Jesus!> The thumping of her heart brought to her immediate awareness the extent of her torturous devotion. Surely this was not happening. Fate could not be so cruel...Her best friend. <Such craving...Oh, such lust!> Silent tears coursed down her own cheeks. <I can’t let this be true. I won’t let it be true. I’m not like that. Janice is not like that. Oh my Lord!> Mel lay back on her bed. "Mercy," she breathed, "I’m an invert." Ever the observant scholar, Mel was suddenly struck with a revelation. <I think I just had my first orgasm. Sweet Jesus, I KNOW I did!> Giggling like the girl she suddenly was, her words were muffled by a pillow she pulled to her face. "Oh my. I am one woman out of...whatever....." <Oh, such rapture!>

When her pulse returned to its normal rhythm and her face was dry Mel reset her bedside clock for another hour, then changed her mind. <No, I can’t go back to sleep now.> She took a bracing cold shower before dressing for the shopping spree that had lost some of its appeal. <Relax. Nothing happened, you big idiot. It was just a dream. Seeing Ares yesterday and almost getting kissed by Janice today...and wanting a lot more...just nightmares. I’m just really over-the-top tired. I’ll get a blessed night’s sleep tonight and then everything will be fine again.>

Chapter Five ~ HORROR of SHOPPING

An hour later Mel and Janice drove through the countryside. Palmetto trees lined the road and Janice knew they were getting close to Columbia, the capital of South Carolina and its largest city. Janice took her eyes of the road for a minute and looked at Mel with concern. "I really wouldn’t mind doing this another say, some day next year." <Oops. Not even a smile. I’ve never seen Mel like this. She won’t look at me. I hate not knowing what’s going on. I don’t know how to help her.> "I was thinking about buying a red velvet dress with matching red pumps...and sparkling sequins...What do you think Mel?...Mel?"

"Hmmmm? What do I think about what."

"I am worried about you. Maybe you’d feel better if you talked about whatever it is that’s bothering you."

<Not likely, my friend.> "I’m just tired. It’s not like you to fuss over me." <I shouldn’t make her suffer because of my anxiety. Snap out of it woman.>

"Yeah? Well you’ve been so distracted its a good thing I’m driving or we’d be in a ditch right now."

"You always drive", Mel looked at her and smiled.

<That’s better.> "And this time I have no idea where we are headed so tell me where to turn before its too late...Do you want to drive?"

"No", Mel laughed. "I’m okay. Really Janice, I’m alright."

"Uh huh. Hope so. Maybe you should have a cigar. They always relax me."

Mel rolled her eyes. "The only reason I tolerate being in the same room with the smelly things is because I would rarely enjoy your company otherwise."

"True. And I tolerate your smelly things too, for the same reason."

"I don’t have smelly things...What things?"

"What would you call the constant assortment of perfumes you wear, if not downright smelly?"

"Dear Lord, my perfume is a fragrant bouquet, not a reeking stench."

"Uh about a reeking bouquet?"

"How about changing the subject because we’re going to be entering civilized territory soon Janice."

"Is that a warning?"

" any barbarians lurking around." Mel adjusted her glasses and smiled with satisfaction.

"Hmmm." <Yeah, back to normal.>

Arriving at Mrs. Alexander’s Fine Clothier’s, Janice was uncharacteristically nervous. "Miss Pappas, the presence of one our our leading citizens is always an honor." (Mel’s father, winner of the Noble Prize, had been almost a celebrity in South Carolina and his only child was well liked by society not only because she was rich, but because she had followed in her father’s footsteps by becoming an anthropologist too.) After addressing Mel the saleswoman looked curiously at Janice whose eyes scanned the shop from one end to the other before coming to rest on the nightgown-clad mannequin beside her.

Touching Janice’s sleeve to gain her attention, Mel smiled sweetly at the saleswoman. "And its a pleasure for my friend and I to shop in your store. Janice, this is Mrs. Alexander, the best clothier in the south. Mrs. Alexander, this is my friend, Janice Covington. We are interested in looking at your summer outfits. Casual and colorful, please."

"Your timing couldn’t be better. My summer order arrived just this week. I’ll set you up in the dressing room and bring an assortment for you both to try on." Following Mrs. Alexander, Mel pulled Janice behind her whispering, "Don’t look so forlorn Janice, this really won’t hurt you." Janice grunted, choosing not to give voice to the pain she already felt.

Mrs. Alexander left them in a large open room lined with mirrors while she made selections for the young women. Screens allowed privacy as the two shed clothing, hanging their garments on racks stationed nearby.

"Thanks for coming Janice. Now relax a little bit and you might enjoy this experience. The feel of silk is wonderful."

Janice glared. "What about sweat stains? You’ve got to admit its awfully humid around here."

"Perspiration Janice, not sweat."

"Perspiration...sweat...what’s the difference? No matter what you call it, it still makes those ugly underarm stains."

"Watch it Janice. We are in civilized territory right now."

"What’s so civilized about standing naked in a room full of mirrors?"



"Put your underwear back on."

"Really? Thanks. I thought Mrs. Alexander told us to strip."

"She said, ‘Hang your clothes on the racks.’ You’ve never shopped in a women’s store before have you?"

"Yes I have. Just not one like this. I guess I am more used to men’s stores.

That’s what my pop introduced me to and I am not complaining."

Mel walked around the screens. "No kidding. I don’t think those boxer shorts are going to go very well with your new wardrobe."


"Trust me."

"Alright. I’ll get some women’s underwear. But the frilly things don’t last. You know after a few washes they’re shot to hell. The material is too thin. Why can’t women’s clothes be more like men’s? It’s not right."

"But consider the variety of clothes we have compared to men. We have so much to pick from. I just love it! " Mel winked at her friend, her good humor returning at last. Mrs. Alexander pushed two racks loaded with colorful clothing into the room, one for Janice and one for Mel.

Janice cleared her throat. "Ahem. Mrs. Alexander, I would like to see your underwear before I go any further."

"Excuse me?

"You underwear, I want to buy some...panties." <Even the word sounds frilly.>

"Oh. Of course", the woman sighed. "I will bring a selection to you. I’ll be back in a few minutes."

"Alright. And please only bring white ones. And not too tight, the bigger the better."

Mrs. Alexander left to do the bidding of her unusual customer, hoping she would find something to her liking.

Janice smugly confronted Mel. "How was that for civilized?"

Busily adjusting the buttons on a classic yellow and blue summer dress, Mel’s hands stilled for a moment. Thoughtfully she addressed the woman across from her. "Not bad for a start...But you’re still a yank with a lot to learn yet before I’d call you ‘civilized’."

"Don’t flatter me so much or you’ll spoil me." <Tell me how you really feel,




"Hmmm, I like that." <It sounds like an endearment the way she says it.>

"Really?...Snob, then."

"Ouch." Coming out from behind the screen Mel twirled, showing off the cut of the dress. "What do you think?"

"Even in casual clothing you look formal. Maybe its because your hair is up," Janice puzzled, looking intently.

Taking off her glasses and removing hairpins, Mel ran fingers through her long hair, shaking the glistening black strands free to flow over pale shoulders and cloth covered breasts. "Better?"

<She’s kind of cute when her eyes are unfocused. Hey, look at that...the blue color in the dress matches her eyes...sort of...mmmmm...beautiful...> Janice was entranced.

Mel watched her friend’s face. <Is it because I’m not wearing my glasses or

is that a smile I’ve never seen before?>

<’Beautiful’? Whoa! Where in the hell did that come from? ‘Good’, that’s how she looks. She looks good.> "Yep. I like it. You look good. That’s a good look for you."

"You think so"

"I think so."

"Really? You’re not just saying that are make me feel good, I mean?"

"Mel, you know I don’t just say things. I like your dress!" <I feel

dizzy...sick. The lights are so bright...all these mirrors. Unh.>

"Well good then," <Sweet Jesus! She was near to shouting at me.> "I’ll take it."

"Please do." <Breathe in...ahhhh, better.>

Mrs. Alexander returned, white garments hanging from the rack she pulled to a stop in front of Janice. "And a red one for special occasions." She revealed a red pair of satin panties with black trim. "This can bring out a whole new side of a woman’s personality."

Janice smirked. "I think not Mrs. Alexander, but thanks for the thought." Janice changed undergarments and reached for the first item on the large clothing rack. A dress.

"Too colorful?" Mrs., Alexander inquired.

"Too something," Janice smirked again. <Yep, I’m going to throw my guts up pretty soon.>

Noticing Janice’s pallor Mel laughed gently and added, "Too dangerous Mrs. Alexander. She won’t allow that. I am going to buy this dress and then I’m going to help Miss Covington find something she likes." <Poor baby! I didn’t realize shopping for clothes would be this hard on her.>

The clothier whispered into Mel’s ear before leaving the dressing room. "I think your friend will need a lot of help. I’ll be close by if you want anything else Miss Pappas."

Janice dutifully held up a brown pantsuit. "This might be alright."

<You are so predictable.> "Yes. And we are looking for color. Since everything else you own is brown too, lets look for something similar in a different color.

<You make it sound so easy> Janice found one in black. "This?"

Clearing her throat, Mel shook off the ghost of a feeling from her dream world. She smiled at Janice indulgently. "Color Janice, color."

"Black isn’t a color? Really, I am learning so much this afternoon."

"Hmmm." <Brat, brat, brat.> Reaching for the rack and finding a light green suit, Mel quickly removed it from the hangar and held it up while Janice eased her arms and shoulders into the soft material. The green slacks slid up her thighs and fit snugly around her slim hips. "Perfect. Just add a short sleeved white silk blouse under this and you’ve got a lovely new look."

Mel appraised her appearance in the array of mirrors covering the walls. <Hey. Not bad. I could get a date easy. And no frills.> "Yeah. It does feel kind of good. But will it last longer than one or two washings without falling apart or wrinkling."

"Janice dear, have you never heard of dry-cleaning and cold water washing?"

An hour later they helped Mrs., Alexander close her shop after carrying armfuls of packages to their car. Driving home, they both felt they had won the shopping battle. With Mel’s help Janice made detailed strategy notes on the proper care and feeding of women’s clothing as soon as they made it home. It was complicated but they refrained from trying to take each other prisoner during this severe testing of their powers of endurance. Mel wisely decided to keep her suggestions about makeup to herself...for now.


It had been another long day. Night had fallen and the air was cool, inviting the tired duo to remain on the third floor balcony adjoined to Mel’s bedroom suit. They had just begun to relax and now it was almost time to say goodnight. The breeze that gently ruffled their hair carried the scent of yellow jasmine. Mel’s thoughts drifted to the Ares scrolls. "I know we’re both tired but before we say goodnight, tell me everything you know about Ares and Xena", she requested.

"Mel, you already know everything I know about Ares and Xena." Nevertheless, Janice elaborated on her favorite subject. "Ares couldn’t accept the fact that Xena would not return to her warlord him. She was his most skilled and passionate follower, obsessed with conquest. Ares could find no suitable replacement for her after she chose to fight against the very thing she had stood for under the mentorship of Ares: oppression... the cruel exercise of power. So far the Ares scrolls have shown us nothing different. Are you concerned that the scrolls will reveal that Xena returns to cruelty?

To Ares?"

Mel handed her friend a glass of her favorite beverage: scotch whiskey. Straight on the rocks. Mel fixed herself the same, deciding her usual glass of wine would not suffice tonight. She took a dainty sip and gasped, "Sweet Je...<cough, *hack>...sus <wheeze>".

"It takes a while to adjust to the taste", Janice placed a comforting hand on Mel’s convulsing shoulders. Mel glared at Janice before sitting down. She regained her breath and her southern belle composure.

"No Janice. I’m not at all concerned that we’ll discover Xena returned to her warlord ways...back to Ares. I just hoped you knew something more about the relationship between them . Something I didn’t already know."

Now Janice saw a red flag pop up in her mind’s eye. She reclined on a white whicker chair next to Mel and gazed into the the quiet darkness. Taking a hearty mouthful of cold scotch she savored the burn that began in her mouth and traveled down her throat. She pulled a cigar from her shirt pocket and lit it. "Why would you hope that? What’s going on that your not telling me about? Spit it out Mel."

Mel downed her drink without a gasp this time, prepared for the fire it brought. "Nothing to tell really. I was only intrigued by what I read in the scroll yesterday...When Ares offered Xena to opportunity to be a goddess." She reached for the bottle of scotch and poured more of the potent liquer into her empty glass adding some ice from a bucket nearby.

Janice watched Mel with increasing concern. It was not like Mel to drink hard liquor. And she never had more than one drink of anything alcoholic in one sitting. "I don’t buy that. What’s up. Don’t put me off. You know you can tell me anything."

Unsure of the truth behind Janice’s words, Mel decided to change the subject. "Ares and Xena aren’t what I want to talk about right now." I have an idea that I want to talk to you about. It came to me on our way home from Greece."

Once again irritated to find something beyond her ability to control, Janice wisely chose to restrain her aggressive nature. "I know what you’re doing, changing directions here, but I’ll bite. What’s your idea?"

Nearly finished with her second drink, Mel was already pouring more of the mind numbing, inhibition-lowering liquid into her glass.

Janice couldn’t help herself now. "I think you’ve had enough to drink..."

Mel silenced her with a withering look. <This is a switch.> "I think you will like my idea even if you don’t like my drinking."

"Don’t look at me like that Mel. I’m not trying to be your parent and I’m not trying to be a hypocrite. I just don’t want you to regret anything in the morning."

"Well now, you just let me worry about how I’ll feel in the morning. Now listen. Janice, I’d like to open a museum in honor of your father. What better place to put the Xena Scrolls than the ‘Harry Covington Museum of Xena History’? After all, he spent his life searching for the scrolls. And if we put them in his museum, well...we wouldn’t have to hand them over to anyone else." Mel looked expectantly into the clear green eyes of her friend, which was not as easy to do as it had been before she had poured the last drink. She was beginning to feel quite good. <The suit matches her eyes perfectly. Should I tell her that? Where are my thoughts headed? I wonder. I don’t want to have to wonder. I enjoyed seeing Janice without any clothes today.

She’s magnificent. I noticed. Is that wrong? Oh sweet Jesus, I’m blushing. It

must be wrong. But Janice is like my sister. That’s how we think of each other...that’s how I love her. No! I won’t be afraid to love Janice just because of a nightmare.>

For several moments Janice sat speechless. What a generous friend she had in Mel. Her best friend. She could not think of a better gift than to be able to honor her father this way. She loved the idea. And she loved Mel. Maybe it was time to tell her so. "I love your idea. Thanks Mel. Thanks for thinking of such a public way to honor my father and his work." Janice took Mel’s hand in her own. With tears blurring her vision she gazed deeply into Mel’s ice blue eyes. "And I love you Mel. I am so lucky to have a friend like you. I have wondered sometimes how you put up with me...Why you put up with me."

Sensing how difficult it was for Janice to say these things, Mel squeezed the hand holding her own tightly. <This is so good, to hear you say it. And I need to tell you how special you are to me.> "I love you too Janice. You fill a place in my life that needed filling when my grandfather passed away." Suddenly laughing, "That’s why I ‘put up’ with you. You are so like him, you know. Did I ever tell you that? He was strong in a special kind of way. There was a charm about him that made you want to stay close, except when he got into one of his moods sometimes."

Now it was the smaller woman’s turn to blush. She did not like feeling so overwhelmed by the words of her friend and her own emotions. She could not remember the last time she had blushed. <I’m a defenseless pile of mush. I’m mush! I have to get away.> "No, you never told me that before...Uh, it’s getting late and I want to be clear headed in the morning. Thanks for everything you’ve shared with me Mel. You are very generous and I hope you never have cause to regret being generous with me. See you in the morning." Janice rose from her chair and walked to her bedroom across the hall in hope of escaping her discomfort.

"Never." Mel poured another drink and let her blurring senses drift as her skin appreciated the cool air of this unusual South Carolina night. "I’ll never regret being generous with you."

Chapter Seven ~ ON MOUNT OLYMPUS

Providing a haven for at least one happy couple, Mount Olympus cast a shadow over part of earth while the god Hephaestus and his wife have a recurring argument. "Hephie, my dear husband, Ares may be our brother but he is a coward. He’s wanted Xena for so long he gives the word ‘obsession’ new meaning. Why do you insist on helping him when it can come to no good?"

"Aphrodite, my love, even a god has feelings...especially a god." Hephaestus walked across a bright silver silver floor, his limping gait marking him as unigue among the gods, and stands close to his beautiful wife. "He was trapped in that sarcophagous for centuries. His heart was broken after being betrayed by his most favored. Have you no love for Ares? No compassion?"

The mighty god of war, Ares, appeared before them and flashed a toothy grin. "Thank you my brother." He looked innocently into Aphrodite’s eyes. "Haven’t you missed your brother? I certainly missed our intellectual discussions about the nature of relationships."

Aphrodite, vnever being one to accept scorn from source felt her anger toward her bully of a brother rise to the surface. "Mount Olympus has changed in the thousands of years that you have been entombed. But you haven’t. You know, I am not sure what I missed least, your arrogance or you cowardess. Why can’t you just be grateful that you’ve been released from your tomb and leave the mortals alone? We have other worlds now. Leave Xena’s descendant in peace."

His smile twisted wickedly and Ares crossed the room to a table where he stopped and picked up a woman’s girdle made of gold and silver. "You of all people should understand the driving power of love Aphrodite. And I love what I see in Melinda Pappas every bit as much as I love Xena. Xena betrayed me once too often. But Melinda is in my grasp."

Pulling her husband to her side, Aphrodite shivered. "You do not know what love is Ares. But you might, if you let go of your anger against Zeus like Hephaestus has."

At the mention of his father’s name Ares lost his smile. "Do not talk to me of Zeus. His betrayal is worse than Xena’s. Heph, thanks for forging the Girdle of Desire for Melinda. Its power will bring us together forever."

Hoping Ares and Aphrodite would settle their differences in time, Hephaestus hugged nis wife closer to his side and smiled at his intense brother. "May you and Melinda be as happy as Aphrodite and I."

Ares disappeared from the room. Aphrodite turned to glare at her Husband. "I love you Hephie, but you really aren’t making me happy right now."

"I know you disagree with what I’ve done for Ares. How can I make you happy with me again?" Hephaestus waved his good arm and the room contained a myriad of tantalizing, erotic sights and sounds. "I want the power of my love for you to be all that you can hold."

In disgust, Aphrodite waved her hand and the room returned to its austerity. "I’m really not in the mood for your lust. If you want to show me the power of your love for me then help me bring honor to what I represent to the world below...or ar least what I used to represent. Love, not lust." Hephaestus looked at his beautiful wife and wondered if he would ever be able to differentiate between love and lust. He limped a fine line indeed. He would not ask his wife if she was just a bit jealous that another would soon be know as the Goddess of Desire.


Helen Pappas tossed restlessly. It was no use to lay there any longer.. She craved companionship to pass the sleepless night but would not disturb her niece nor Janice. She softly chuckled to herself as she remembered Janice explaining that she was not the formal type. "Now there’s a perfect example of an understatement". She liked Janice Covington and hoped she would stay on at the Pappas mansion. Sliding from her bed Helen changed into a warm, casual outfit and headed for out of the mansion for a peaceful walk around the estate grounds. She reached the eastern boundary and decided to maintain her easterly course instead of following her usual path. The night air was cool and invited her to continue her midnight journey.

A renewed longing for companionship washed over Helen as she stopped to look up into the night sky. Stars sparkled like diamonds against the black of space. A loneliness gripped her, causing her chest to ache. "I’ve been content living alone for years. Why am I feeling such emptiness tonight?" <Maybe it’s time to get a pet. A big Great Dane like Sasha.> Years ago a boy had given her a puppy that she had instantly and completely fallen in love with. She had not thought of Sasha in a long time. Now she yearned to feel the soft coat of hair and look into the loving eyes of the large dog who had been so important to her years ago. The boy who had given her the puppy had wanted had wanted to be her friend. But her mother would not allow it. The boy was poor. Not even her father could persuade her mother to reconsider. The boy was never forgotten. Everytime she rejoiced in the pleasure of life with the heartful dog, she would think of the boy who had given Sasha to her. And she thought of him tonight. Saul. Suddenly he appeared before her, fully grown and middle-aged. "Oh, Dr. Anderson, what a surprise!" Helen felt her heart jump and her pulse quicken.

The good Dr. Anderson was equally surprised. "Mrs. Pappas? What a coincidence. I couldn’t sleep and decided to take a walk. I was just thinking of you and here you are!" He looked at Helen as if for the first time, taking in her slim figure and delicate, aristocratic features.

Helen was surprised that she enjoyed the doctor’s attention. A long-forgotten thrill ran through her lean body. "Have you noticed how bright the stars are tonight...Saul?"

"Yes...Helen. And have you noticed the fullness of the moon? I’ve never seen it so big." Together the two began walking in the same direction, although neither of them could tell if it was east or west. All too soon the Pappas mansion was in sight. Helen looked shyly up at Saul. "Would you care to join an old acquaintance in a nightcap?"

"Yes Helen, I’d love to join you." His heart swelled with joy, his eyes finding a particularly bright star that he had wished upon earlier in the night. <Thank you for hearing me>, was the thought he sent into the heavens.

As they neared the mansion Helen could see Melinda talking with someone on the balcony. It was someone much taller than Janice. She was wondered who her niece was entertaining at this late hour.


Ares stood on the balcony with Melinda and wondered at her sudden change in heart. He had expected to spend more time convincing her to accept the gift he offered. She had summoned him, her voice sweetly calling him in the night. "I am pleased that you called for me my dear. Are you ready to say ‘yes’ and be reborn?" Dark and dangerous eyes looked intensely into unnervingly blue one that could not be ignored, even behind glasses.

Mel removed her glasses and walked closer to Ares. She had sat on the balcony for an hour after Janice left. Her thoughts had turned strangely dark after she consumed even more scotch. Janice had said the right things but Mel could tell that tonight Janice could hardly wait to get away from her. She thought of herself as plain and uninteresting, someone who must be a bore to everyone, even her best friend. But it did not have to be this way. She could say ‘yes’ to Ares and become the desire of anyone at her whim. She could create desires. She could live forever. How could she anything but ‘yes’? She wanted to be the Goddess of Desire and she wanted to be the Goddess right now!

"Yesh. I mean Yyyesssss."

Ares smelled the liquor on her breath and the mystery was solved. But he, coward that he was, did not hesitate to take advantage of Mel’s altered state of consciousness. "Then here, my beauty." He held out strong arms and offered her the glittering Girdle of Desire. "Take this and put it on. Together we will rule the world."

Mel lifted the gold and silver girdle, amazed at the lightness of it. She held it up and the moonlight was magnified on the surface of the precious metal. Impatient, Ares stood behind her her and wrapped the girdle securely around her hips and abdomen. His hands began to tingle with excitement. Mel’s body glowed and sparks of light shot outward from her skin for a heartstopping moment. She was transforming and Ares saw a glowing blue fire in her eyes. He felt an unutterable attraction to Mel. More than physical. He yearned to possess everything that she was. Even her thoughts. He pulled her toward himself, the heat of her inflaming him almost beyond reason.

The sensation of of his lips on hers was unlike anything he had ever known.

Just when he thought he could pull away, the craving for her grew.

Mel was drunk in more ways than one. She knew the power she held over Ares and it was an intoxicating power. She pulled her lips from his and pushed him from her with one beautiful hand. Her laugh was both soft and strong. She knew Ares could not control his craving for her. "Thanks for the power Ares, but that’s enough for now."

Ares was stunned at how like Xena she was. Her voice even more purringly seductive. Her eyes even more expressive of things that made him ache and want to conquer. He began to wonder if he was a match for this goddess. The look of confidence and challenge in her eyes told him she did not think that he was.

Janice sat in her room, a half-smoked cigar clenched between her teeth. She could not sleep. She felt frustrated and irritable. She had not been this tired since the discovery of the Ares series of Xena Scrolls. She had driven herself on, unable to rest when she was so close to her goal. <I mean our goal. Mel was driving herself pretty hard too.> Deciding she needed fresh air, Janice headed for the balcony that adjoined Mel’s bedroom suite.

Striding onto the balcony, Janice halted in her tracks upon seeing Xena and Ares locked in an embrace. <I must be dreaming.> "Sorry, don’t mind me, I’ll just sleep walk right back to bed." Janice turned to leave but was held in place by an invisible force. She could not move a muscle.

The Goddess of Desire disentangled herself from the arms of Ares and stared at Janice. Looking at her friend with the eyes of a god Mel knew Janice’s deepest desires. Even in her transformed state was moved by the yearning she found in the heart with such a tough covering. She felt sadness that Janice’s deepest desire was impossible. The mother she lost in childhood could never be brought back to her. It was not within Mel’s power. But...perhaps there was something she could do for this person she loved. She placed a new name in Janice’s heart, beside the name of her mother. <Helen.> Mel’s aunt had always wanted a child, why not one fully grown who needs a mother?

The goddess felt a mixture of tenderness and apprehension. In her drunken state she reached out to her friend whom she now knew had never been bored by her. Janice had not been in a hurry to get away from her earlier in the night. She had been in a hurry to get away from her own feelings. To Janice, it was dangerous to say what she felt because she was unused to tenderness and it made her feel weak. To her, weakness meant failure. Janice did not know that tenderness could be an expression of strength. But mostly it was dangerous for Janice to need anyone. She did not want to need anyone, in fact she prided herself in not needing. She survived a motherless, wandering childhood by learning to be independent at all costs. And what a cost she paid. She could not acknowledge the depth of her feelings or needs. Part of her was a stranger to herself, and kept others at arms length. All this the goddess knew, and still she was drawn to her. She smiled with the knowledge that Janice thought she was Xena.

Janice saw Xena approach her and wondered why she could not move. <Damn! I really hate dreams like this, when I’m trapped and paralyzed.> The goddess stood in front of her friend. "It’s me...

Melinda. I accepted the gift from Ares that Xena wouldn’t. You know, to be the Goddess of Desire."

Ares was in a hurry to be alone with Mel and did not appreciate the Gabrielle look-alike’s intrusion. <Thousands of years and its starting to happen all over again.> "Come with me to Mount Olympus Melinda. We have business to discuss. You have no need of your little friend anymore."

The Goddess flashed an angry glance at Ares. "Don’t think for a minute you can tell me what to do just because I accepted your gift." She touched Janice’s arm lightly.

A tingling sensation ran up Janice’s arm. "I feel kind of dizzy. Okay, you’re Mel. Just let me move. You know I hate being stuck, damnit!" Suddenly she was falling forward until the goddess caught her in her arms, sending more prickling sensations through her.

"Here, sit down Janice. I feel a little dizzy myself." They both sat in chairs and finally Ares pulled up a whicker chair also, worshipping Mel with his eyes.

Janice struggled with her thoughts. "Okay Mel, so you’re you and not Xena. And you’re the Goddess of Desire. Why? Have you lost it? You’ve never been attracted to power before."

The Goddess turned her head away, <She really thinks she knows all about me.> "Hmmm. It had alot to do with a bottle of scotch for one thing."

<Did I never realize how really beautiful Mel is. I’ve never seen anyone so damned attractive. She’s a knockout! Absolutely gorgeous. She is a goddess, isn’t she.> "Ahem...And for another thing?"

"That’s none of your business. You really don’t know everything about me, Janice."

"That’s pretty clear to me right now. Are you going away to Mount Olympus with your boyfriend here?"

Before Mel could reply, Ares broke into the conversation. "As a matter of fact, she is."

The goddess tilted her head toward Ares and shot him an expression that caused him to lean back in his chair. "We haven’t really discussed it."

Janice was awed by Melinda: Goddess of Desire. She did not like the feeling. "You know, I liked you better before. I mean you seem so...glitzy now. Your hair...your eyes...your, everything about you! Men are going to drool over you worse than they do over Betty Grable. Damnation! I can feel myself beginning to drool to tell you the truth! Is that what you want?" Janice desperately needed to kiss Mel. To touch and feel her everywhere, body and soul. To make love. <I don’t make love, I have sex...with men. That is I used to...But she’s everything I’ve ever wanted and I’ve got to have her and show her! No, I can’t!> Janice strained to keep her hands from reaching for Mel. Perspiration beaded her skin and her body trembled with desire. <...feel so weak...sick.> Never had she wanted someone so urgently as she did right now. It hurt. <I bet this is what it feels like to be gutshot. Maybe if I don’t look at her...I won’t feel this.> But the Goddess of Desire refused to let the archeaologist ignore her and hard as she tried, Janice could not turn her head away nor keep her eyes closed.

Oh yeah?" Mel’s blue eyes were fierce now, her voice tinged with an echo, unsettling to Janice who was suddenly aware that Mel was fully a goddess. Mel was aware of her power over Janice and was ambivalent. She leaned toward Janice, letting her searing blue gaze rest on her lips before meeting her eyes. "Maybe that’s just what I want and maybe it’s not what I want at all Janice." <What do I want? I want her to stop looking at me like that, with such pain in her eyes. I don’t want to hurt her! I’m a goddess and she thinks she knows more than I do. Ha! Should I tell her?> "I suppose you think you’d make a better goddess than me."

Janice refused to give in. She spoke as calmly as she could, a tremor in her voice. "I didn’t say that...But now that you mention it, this is my dream and you can bet your bottom dollar that I’d make a better goddess, sweetheart." The battle was on.

The goddess pulled Janice to her feet, quickly removed the girdle from her her own waist and wrapped it tightly around Janice’s waist. The metal instantly molded to her smaller form. Ares lunged to his feet. "Melinda! What have you done? By all the gods, you’ve betrayed me, just like Xena!"

Mel was suddenly enjoying herself. "Lighten up Ares. I’m having fun."

The transformation of Janice was astounding. Her hair spilled onto her shoulders in strawberry blond glory. Sparks of light shot off of her skin. Her eyes were ablaze with a green fire.

Ares was impressed with her beauty that had so quickly exceeded his ability to describe. He felt an overwhelming attraction to Janice and was appalled by it. He walked to her and pulled the cigar from between her teeth. "Better."

Janice was aware of her power over Ares. It did not intoxicate her. She wanted to wake up from the worst nightmare of her life. "Get away from me Ares, or by God you’ll never have any more offspring than you do already." Ares was mesmerized and could not help himself from leaning toward Janice to reach her lips with his own. Using powerful legs Janice kicked Ares high into the air and off the balcony. "Now that was a great kick. Maybe it’s not so bad...being a god," she smirked.

Mel rolled on the floor, curled up with laughter, refusing to let her gaze linger on the second Goddess of Desire, lest she be lost. "You are so pretty Janice. But just a little too glitzy. The guys are going to drool over you worse than..." Suddenly Mel could not move...nor could she speak. She was paralyzed for only a moment, the time it took for Janice to pull the offending metal from her body.

"Really Mel," Janice smirked as she held out the girdle. "Do you want it?"

On this night, the battle of the goddess’ ended in a draw with neither of them choosing to keep the girdle. Xena had been right all along. The price of being the Goddess of Desire was too high. And so Ares, the mighty God of War, returned to Mount Olympus with girdle in hand. He had met more than his match in Mel and Janice. Aphrodite was right. He could not replace Xena. After planning his final act of revenge against her, he was finaly ready to move on. He would just be glad that he was released from his tomb and make peace with Zeus. There were other worlds to play with.

Helen Pappas and Saul Anderson stood side by side at the alter in front of the priest. Just before the priest began to speak, Janice and Mel heard Saul as he spoke to his bride to be. "Helen, you are a goddess."

Mel gently squeezed the hand she held as she whispered in her friend’s ear. "You and aunt Helen have grown so close. It must feel strange to watch someone who is like a mother to you get married."

"Its wonderful, Mel. I have you, Helen and now Saul. You’re my family. I couldn’t desire anything more." <I’ve put that painful nightmare behind me.> "Me least not today", Mel added in partial agreement. She could not forget the bizzare dreams she’d had not so long ago . She wondered how many variations of the ‘almost kissed by my best friend’ dream would continue to haunt her nights. <I can talk with her about anything but my dreams. 

Body And Soul Part 2

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