Disclaimer: The characters of Dr. Janice Covington, Melinda Pappas, Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures, so does Callisto, but really she's a constellation. All other characters belong to me. Any Gods belong to mythology (or do they?). No copyright infringement was intended through the writing of this fan fiction. It was not done for profit, whatever that is.
Subtext Warning: This story implies a loving relationship between two consenting adult women. If this offends you, you are under 18 or it is illegal in the state/country in which you live, please read something else. You have been warned.
Violence Warning: This story contains violence and the aftermath of violent events. If this type of thing bothers you, read no further. The author takes no responsibility for any mess or stain created if this warning is ignored.
Feedback: First attempt, all constructive (or deconstructive) criticism gratefully accepted by the fund on email@example.com .
Acknowledgments: This story was written whilst working in the wilds of an Arabian country with no TV, video, cable and only limited net access. Thanks must go to a couple of friends and colleagues (they know who they are) who finally made me sit down and finish a story even if they think I am insane. Many an hour was passed late at night supplying updates and fielding questions. A big thanks to Alexander Jameson and Dr. Bob Spade for a final edit, and promptly chopping my Jane Austinesque sentences and corny phrasing. Thanks also to my current boss who only teased me a little for down loading Xena stuff off the net at work (they know who they are too). Finally a big thanks to Franco at the RAK Shooting Club for teaching me how to target shoot with various pistols and revolvers. Franco, you've created a monster!
Author's Note: I do realise that the Germans invaded Greece on April 6 1941. Therefore, the time period in which this story is set means that Janice and Mel are working in German occupied territory, but its before Pearl Harbour, so technically it 'ain't that bad. I guess I'm using poetic licence to facilitate this story.
The Sword of Hephaestus
Macedonia c. 350 B.C.
The woman screamed in frustration as the rubble fell from the walls, pinning her on her back. She could see that which she had desperately sought, glinting enticingly a few feet from her outstretched hand. She felt the broken bones of her shoulder grating against each other as she strained to reach the object an impossibly short distance away. An unearthly fire burst through the room as Zeus sent lightning bolt after bolt into the pile of rubble. She could feel the flesh melt from her bones, but still she lived. She could no longer scream, managing only a weak gurgle from her ruined throat. She felt herself separate and drift skyward. The last thing she heard was Zeus' laughter, then all was quiet. She looked down on the scene from above as she continued to fly. Eventually Earth was a mere speck in a sea of bright stars. Silently she screamed.
Near Thessaloniki, Macedonia - May 1941.
"Stupid stupid stupid." Janice Covington sat on her cot in the dig tent that she and translator Melinda Pappas shared, pounding a fist on her knee. The normally assertive archaeologist was almost in tears. They were helping Dr. John Mellard on a site in Macedonia of the same period as the Xena Scrolls; John was studying the architecture and Janice was after further evidence of Xena.
"How could I be so stupid!" she mumbled to herself. She was mortified and had no idea how to rectify the situation. She wished with all her heart that she could take back what she had just done, but she knew this was impossible. She couldnt face Mel Pappas. For all her bravado, Janice was dying inside.
She had kept her emotions in check for the last month, knowing full well that her feelings for the translator would not be reciprocated, she knew, and yet she allowed it to happen. It seemed as if she could not help herself. After all, she was sharing a tent with the woman she so desperately loved, loved so much it hurt. No one could blame her, she tried to reason, it was bound to occur. However, she had lost control. She had caught the woman in an embrace, and brushed her own lips over Mel's. It was a stupid thing to do. The Southerner had ended up giving Janice a stinging slap for her trouble. Mel had bolted from the tent and Janice collapsed on her cot, fighting for calm.
"God! What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do? Dumb Covington, really dumb! Je-sus, I'm gonna die. You've really lost it this time, lost her this time." She sat, hugging herself, rocking back and forth, berating her sheer stupidity. She didnt hear the scratching at the tent flap indicating that someone was actually 'knocking on the door'.
"Dr. Covington!" Janice looked up to see John Mellard, the dig Director looming over her. He was a short, stocky man with a receding hairline and a permanent scowl attached to his face. Janice hung her head in her hands, "Oh God!" she said, turning red to the roots of her strawberry blonde hair.
"I will not have members of my staff assaulting other members of my staff. I do not care how you choose to live your life Covington, God knows, its yours to do with as you please, but when that choosing disrupts the running of this dig I cannot abide it. Do I make myself clear?"
"I'm sorry, look , I'll leave in the morning." She said, not sounding like Janice Covington at all, but rather a guilty school girl.
"I'm not dismissing you, you idiot, you're too good an archaeologist for that, I need you. Just don't let it happen again. Mel's moving to another tent, and you will be working solo from now on."
Mellard turned to leave but Janice called him back, "Did I really upset her that much?" she asked with pleading eyes, she needed to know Mel was okay.
John looked at her, "Janice, she's from South Carolina for God's sake, what did you think you were doing?" he asked with a shake of his head.
"I wasn't John, I wasn't I never mind." Was all she could say.
"Well," it was obvious Janice was hurting, "get yourself cleaned up, dinner's on shortly, just dont sit next to her okay?"
Janice nodded and Mellard left the tent, shaking his head.
Janice sniffed loudly, sitting up straight. She was going to make it through this, she wasn't being fired, she just couldn't be anywhere near Mel. She straightened her hair, wiped her face on her sleeve and boldly sauntered out of her tent.
Dinner was a terrible affair. She sat as far away from Mel as possible, but couldnt help but look her way occasionally. Janice was being ostracised. She suffered through the bland meal and left the meal tent quickly. She took out one of her cigars from her breast pocket and started walking. She didnt know where she was going, she just had to get away. She wandered past the excavation site and stopped to stare at the stone walls protruding from the ground.
Strong structures built to last, but everything ended up in ruins, now uncovered by the shovel and trowel, bagged, tagged and sent away, forever.
Janice shook her head, blowing smoke out in a stream. She found herself looking over the area for which she and Mel were responsible. She smiled as she remembered how well they worked together. Mel was a natural. She never got carried away, even when she found something spectacular. It was never ripped out and held aloft in triumph as some first year students were wont to do. If it was a gold statue or a pottery vessel, it was treated the same, uncovered, recorded, photographed. Only after the object was safely removed would she allow herself a smile of pride. This attitude was especially endearing to Janice as Mel was not a 'real' archaeologist, at least that's what many people said behind her back. She was a linguist, but she loved archaeology. Not content to simply sit and wait for manuscripts to come to her, she got out there and found them.
Janice sat down by the side of their trench, now her trench, and lost herself in thought. She could almost picture Mel bending over a delicate find or hacking with a pick, muscles set at full steam ahead. She worked so smoothly and fluidly as if this was something she was born to do. In truth, Janice was a little envious.
"Goddammit," she muttered, flinging her cigar butt over her shoulder, away from the trench, "this is not working." Slowly she rose, feeling tears prick at her eyes. With a sigh she tried to push her emotions behind an immovable wall and headed back to her tent.
When she arrived, Mel's gear had been removed, the place looked bare, but there was a note on Janice's cot. She picked it up, noting Mel's flowing script. She dreaded what was inside, but she ripped it open with shaking hands.
I should never have told Mellard. I dont know what came over me. I jeopardised your career, it's just that I didnt know. Understand? I'm sorry if I hurt you.
"Oh God!" Janice choked. The woman was blaming herself! What was she thinking? Typical Mel, no one else could ever be wrong. Did she honestly think that she had initiated the incident? This was not acceptable, she had to speak to the woman. Janice stormed out of her tent, searching the other female accommodations until she found the one Mel was now staying in. Mel's now tent mate, Naomi, came to the flap as Janice scratched on it. She stood with her arms crossed, looking like nothing was going to get through her.
"What do you want?" she asked, dripping poison from her tongue.
"I I have to speak with Mel." said Janice, holding her hat in her hands, looking down at the ground.
"Your not welcome here Janice Covington, one attempted rape for the evening is sufficient." The voice was pure acid.
Something flared in Janice, "I didn't attempt to " she realised she was shouting, "to rape her." She said in a softer voice, "I only ." But she trailed off.
"It's alright Naomi," came a quiet voice from inside. Janice tried to peer around the woman blocking the door. "she can come in, we do need to talk." Mel motioned for Naomi to leave.
Naomi began to protest but thought better of it. She sniffed, giving Janice a glare as she sauntered from the tent.
"Hi." Said Janice as she stepped just inside the tent flap, she wanted to keep as much distance between them as she could. Yet she couldn't help but stare at the woman no more than five feet away from her. Mel was silent.
Janice forced her gaze with some difficulty to ground level. "Look, Mel I I'm sorry for earlier. Sometimes I just get carried away, its been a long month." She hung her head. 'God that was lame, you really know the right things to say, don't you Covington?' "I want you to know that it wasn't your fault, you didnt do anything to it wasn't your fault Mel."
"Janice " Mel began, but was cut off.
"No Mel, let me finish, I have some things to say. You're in with Naomi now, and removed from my trench. I can understand you not wanting to have anything more to do with me, in fact, it's probably for the best. I just want you to understand that it was my fault. I'd never mean to hurt you in anyway, and it's obvious I've done that. There's nothing I can do or say to make up for my mistake. I I won't bother you any more." Janice was half way out of the tent before Mel spoke.
"I didnt ask to be moved." Janice stopped in mid stride, "It was John, he moved me and told me I won't be working with you any more."
Janice half turned, glancing nervously at the woman before her.
"You're my friend Janice Covington, one of the best friends I've ever had. I don't want to lose that. I I just wasn't expecting I'm sorry I slapped you." Mel hung her head in her perceived shame.
'Oh god, what to say, what to say?' thought Janice desperately, licking her lips. She swallowed, "Well sweetheart, its hardly the first time." Janice attempted to grin, but suddenly realised the words that had come out of her mouth, 'Je-sus! Now she'll think I'm a hussy. Goddammit Covington, get a grip!'
Mel looked up and saw the stricken look on Janice's face. She couldnt help herself, a half smile played at the corners of her mouth, then a snigger escaped.
"Ah Janice, that's one of the things I just cant help liking about you, you're just so tactless."
This time Janice did manage a grin, an embarrassed grin, but it was still a grin. "Yeah well, I just want you to know that I deserved the slap, and I'll never do anything again to warrant another. I just need to know that you're alright." She turned to walk out the tent flap.
"I'll speak to John." Janice smiled and nodded before exiting the tent. Naomi came busting back in as soon as she was gone, she was sure the woman had been listening outside. Janice didn't care. She headed back to her own tent and sat smoking a cigar on her cot. 'Okay Covington, so she didnt ask to be moved, fine. She doesn't want to lose me, great, good for her, but what the hell am I going to do? I cant just turn this off! Je-sus, I'm gonna have to, arghh, give me strength, she's gonna kill me!' With those thoughts Janice stubbed her cigar out on the ground, removed her boots and clothes and climbed into bed. She lay there staring up at the inside of the tent roof. She finally turned off her lantern and tried to sleep.
Xena heard the insane cackle from behind before she had time to react. She spun, sword in hand, only to be confronted by Callisto dragging Gabrielle backward, knife to her throat.
"Dont think that would be a good idea Xena, do you?" She purred, brown eyes wild, pressing the knife a little harder into Gabrielle's neck. Gabrielle struggled, she was not fully upright, but she clamped on to Callisto's forearm, trying to pull it away from her bared throat.
Xena dropped her blade to the ground, knowing it would be useless against the immortal anyway.
"What do you want Callisto?" she said blankly and dangerously, trying her best to put the struggling Gabrielle out of her mind. She needed to think straight right now.
"Just a little payback Xena. Do you know how long it took me to get out?"
"Not long enough."
Ha, ha, not so clever now are we? Not when I've got your precious bard." To emphasise the point, she drew blood. Xena winced and took half a step forward before she could stop herself.
"Xena " Gabrielle croaked in a hoarse, strangled whisper.
"Dont do this Callisto." Xena said, a hint of desperation in her voice.
Xena thought wildly, "It's too easy."
"Easy," she reaffirmed, nodding her head, "Say bye-bye "
Janice Covington sat bolt upright in her cot, grabbing at her throat. 'Oh God that had been real, so Goddamn real!' She swung her legs over the side and sat there shaking for a moment, wiping the sweat from her brow. She glanced outside, the pale light of dawn was just easing its way through the cracks in the tent. She rose, washed, dressed, went to the latrine and headed to the meal tent.
A few early risers were already sitting, munching away at flat bread and yoghurt, two of whom were Mel and Naomi. Janice cast them a quick glance before sitting at the other end of the huge table. Mellard walked in, appraised the scene and sat at he head as he always did. After a while, the table slowly filled with the rest of the archaeologists employed on the dig.
Janice finished her bread quickly and left the tent to gather her gear from the tent they called the 'office'. She lugged her notes and personal tools over to her trench where her workmen were squatting waiting to begin the day's work. They looked at her expectantly as she pulled out her note book to assess what should be done that day. After a few moments, she simply indicated that the workmen should continue with the deposits they had started the day before on the north side of the wall. They moved off to gather tools and jump in the trench. After about half an hour Janice had them all settled down and working steadily, shifting soil and uncovering more of the wall that ran through the centre of her trench. She sighed and sat back on a rock, beginning the first of today's entries in her meticulous notes. She was so absorbed that she didnt notice the workman who came up beside her until he asked in halting English.
"Miss Jan, where Miss Mel?" It seemed that Western names of more than one syllable were impossible to pronounce. Her workmen wore the only people Janice allowed to call her 'Jan'. Somehow coming from them the abbreviation was comforting.
Janice jumped and looked up at the young man, "Working there." She said pointing, but frowned when 'over there' yielded no Mel.
"No, not there Miss Jan, coming."
A strange expression crossed her face, Melinda Pappas was indeed coming, with John Mellard hot on her heels. Janice stood and motioned the workman away. She could hear the conversation before it was halfway to the trench.
"Dr. Mellard, it is as much my trench as it is hers, and I'm not letting a silly incident prevent me from finishing the work I began, do you understand me?"
"Miss Pappas, the woman assaulted you! I do not think it is wise for you to be associating with her."
"Now you see here," Mel stopped dead and turned towards the Director, pointing her finger, "she did not assault me, nor did she try and rape me. I dont know what your sick mind is thinking, but what ever it is, I dont think it has much to do with what actually happened. Will you let me get on with my work?!" Mel was fuming, no one with any sense would have dared prevent the Southerner from doing anything at that moment.
"Very well Miss Pappas, but I will take no responsibility for her actions, or yours." With that John Mellard stalked off in the direction of his own trench.
The workmen in Janice and Mel's trench were all staring. It was obvious something was going on, but they had no idea what. Janice turned to them, "Work, work, nothing to see." She said. Reluctantly they turned back to their trowelling.
By now Mel was close to the trench and she called out a greeting. Janice smiled.
"Hi Mel, nice to see you could make it." She said flatly as the Southerner came up beside her. She didn't trust her voice with any emotion.
"Oh my, that man! Anyone would have thought you ravished me in the middle of the night when it was just a 'you know' wasn't it? She asked a little hesitantly, glancing at the still curious workmen.
"Ah, yeah Mel, that's all it was, nothing to get too worked up about." Janice frowned. "Hey listen, I was thinking about going down on the south side today, what do you think?" she desperately wanted to change the subject, because she knew full well that it was not just a 'you know' to her.
"South side of the wall. Well," Mel thought about it for a moment, took the note book out of Janice's hands, scanned a few pages and nodded. "The deposits do tend to appear more compact with some burning in that area." She looked at Janice, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" she asked.
"That the south side may be the interior of the structure?"
"Sure am sweetheart." She said with a wink.
"Well then," Mel said pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose with an index finger, "Down we go then."
It took another half hour to get some of the workmen to clean up their work on the north side and shifted to the south, but once they got moving deposit was being shifted quickly.
"Clean the wall." Mel was saying to the workmen as they worked, she took a trowel and brush and indicated that they should clean the wall as they went down, otherwise she and Janice would be left with a dirt encrusted wall all the way to the base of the layer. Cleaning it later would mean causing a mess and probable contamination of deeper deposits. That understood, the workmen continued.
Nothing of great interest was coming out of the layer, a few fragments of bronze and sherds of amphorae, but it was enough to suggest that they were on to something. Janice and Mel spent the morning jumping in and out of the trench, bagging artefacts, checking on workmen and writing notes. They stopped for a half hour lunch break around noon.
After lunch the work on the south side of the wall continued much as before. About three quarters of an hour into the afternoon session one of the workmen stopped work and called out to Janice.
"Miss Jan! Black."
Janice and Mel glanced quickly at each other before jumping into the trench to see what the man was talking about. It was indeed black. Janice scraped around with her trowel, removing more of the current layer. She discovered that underneath lay a dark black deposit, heavily burned. Mel grinned at her and Janice couldnt help but grin back, "Occupation layer." They both said at the same time. This layer of deposit was not like the layers of crud and collapse above, it was directly above a floor, the burnt remains of whatever had been inside the building before it had been destroyed.
Janice patted the workman on the back and congratulated him for stopping so promptly at the colour change. Mel instructed the workers to clear the level off to the black layer. They were not to go below it, but rather to clean off the top of the surface. It would be a new layer. There was only a couple of hours left in the work day, but both Janice and Mel felt that they could get down to the black before knocking off if they both got in and helped. Working side by side with the workmen, they stripped the paler, sandy layer off quickly. By the end of the day, they were all the way down to the new black layer. Photography would have to wait until the morning, but it was there, waiting for them, and it wasn't going anywhere.
That afternoon at the site meeting Janice revealed that they had probably hit an occupation layer of some kind. They described it and everyone agreed. It seemed that the incident of last night was mostly forgotten, but John Mellard remembered. After the meeting was concluded he took Mel aside for a word.
"Melinda," he began, guiding her outside by the elbow. Mel flung a questioning look back at Janice, but she just shrugged. "I'm sorry about the argument this morning. You know I'm only looking out for the best interests of my staff."
"John, it's alright. It was a silly misunderstanding and I over reacted." She interrupted.
"As long as you are sure that's what it was, because you know women like Janice " He said.
"JOHN! I thought better of you than that! How dare you insult Janice in that way. Can't you see that it doesnt matter what type of woman she is?" This man had a way of getting her gander up like no other. She was on the verge of despising him.
"Alright, alright. Listen, if you're not doing anything later, why don't you come to my tent for a drink, I'd like to discuss this new layer with you." He flashed a smile, placing a hand at her lower back.
Mel turned to him, raising an eyebrow, "Dr. Mellard, you sure do have some nerve." She said icily before turning on her heel and letting her long strides take her as far away as possible.
She headed for Janice's tent. She had to tell the woman that she would still be sleeping in Naomi's tent, she felt it would be easier that way. But first she had to vent her anger.
"Janice!" she called before she lifted the tent flap. She did not even know if the woman was going to be in there. Thankfully she was, sitting on her cot, smoking a cigar.
"Give me your gun, is it loaded?" she demanded.
"Yes, but Mel-"
"Just give it to me!" she said, holding out her hand impatiently.
Janice wasn't quite sure what was going on, but she felt under her bed and retrieved the .44 revolver and handed the woman the weapon. Mel checked it and bolted out the door. Janice ran after her.
"Mel, what do you think you are doing? Come back!" the shorter archaeologist practically had to run to keep up with the furious southerner.
Mel stopped just outside of camp, facing the biggest tree she could see. She levelled the gun, holding it with two hands. Janice threw herself, sprawling to the ground hands holding her hat over her ears. Mel pulled the hammer back and fired, cocked and fired, cocked and fired over and over, sending six successive shots from the weapon. The tree took the peppering, sending splinters flying.
"Mel! What the hell!" Janice shouted as Mel finally lowered the smoking weapon. She popped the cylinder and released the spent cartridges allowing them to drop at her feet. She checked the weapon, snapped back the cylinder and turned to Janice as she was rising, handing her the revolver.
"Thankyou." Was all she said before stalking back to Janice's tent.
At the sound of gun fire the camp erupted, everyone dashed out to see what was going on. All they saw was the normally controlled Melinda Pappas hand Janice's gun back and head from the scene.
Janice stood there smiling for a second, 'So she can use a gun!' Then she too bolted to her tent.
Mel sat on her old cot shaking. Janice didnt know what to do. She wanted to comfort the woman, but thought any physical display would be misconstrued. She simply sat opposite Mel on her own cot, staring at her.
"I know what you're thinking." said Mel, staring back at Janice, "Just because I dont like guns doesnt mean I can't use one. Daddy did teach me some things besides syntax you know." The emotion plain in her voice.
Janice was grinning from ear to ear, "I wasn't thinking that!" she lied, "What in God's name brought that on?" she had to know.
"Dr. John I'll-insult-your-friend-and-then-make-a-pass-at-you Mellard." Came the snarled reply.
"Oh Mel, dont try and tell me you were defending my honour?!" She spluttered, not sure why she said it.
Mel just looked at her, "Janice Covington, despite it all, I think you are one of the most honourable people I know, dont you go putting yourself down like that!"
Janice frowned, uncertain of how to continue, "So he insulted me hey?"
"Yes he insulted you."
"What did he say?" She had a pretty good idea she had to ask.
"He he called you one of those women!" stammered Mel.
Janice laughed out loud, "Hell Mel," she cried, throwing her hands in the air, "In case you havent noticed by now, I am one of 'those women'!"
"Fine, but that's no excuse for him to make a pass at me. 'Why dont you come by my tent later for a drink, I'd like to discuss that new layer with you', that's what he said. I couldn't think of a more insensitive, unattractive man if you paid me!" she was fuming again, adrenalin coursing through her veins.
"So that's what all this is about, the bastard! Don't trust him Mel." Janice warned.
"I have no intention of trusting him as far as I can spit!" she swore, and to prove her point she spat on the ground between her feet.
Janice raised an eyebrow, she had never seen Mel so angry, certainly never angry enough to spit, let alone go shooting up trees. This was a new, dangerous, side to Melinda Pappas that Janice liked, perhaps a little too much. She shook her head, trying to clear it of the thoughts that threatened. Lost for anything constructive to say she put on her best southern accent a la Scarlett O'Hara, "Well fiddle dee dee Miss Pappas, where are your manners?"
Mel looked up, her anger washed away at the sight of the constrained archaeologist sitting up prim and proper, trying to act the perfect southern belle. She burst into laugher so strong that her sides hurt.
"I fail to see what is so humorous." Said a cold, steely voice at the tent flap.
The two women stopped laughing, it was John Mellard.
"Miss Pappas, what were you doing endangering the lives of people in this camp? We have guns for protection, not for needless displays of anger." He ran a meaty hand over his balding head.
"Hardly needless John, from what I hear. I dont care what you think of me, but if you hurt her in any way, I swear I'll come after you myself!" Janice growled.
"Ha! That's rich coming from you!" he spat, giving her a condescending sneer.
Janice rose, but was stopped by an iron grip on her forearm, "Don't Janice, he's not worth it." Said Mel.
"That's right," grated the compact archaeologist, looking John Mellard up and down, "he's not. Why don't you just leave?"
John understood the undertone, glanced again at Melinda, gave her a repulsed snort and walked away.
"Oh my, what are we going to do? I don't think I can take another month of this."
"Forget him. We have to work with him, but that's as far as it goes." Said Janice with a scowl.
"I suppose. I'm sorry for the outburst, he just made me so angry. I lost control."
Janice smiled, "Just remind me never to make you lose control with me!"
Mel sniggered reluctantly, "Ill try and remember that." She glanced away from the archaeologist, "I'll be sleeping in Naomi's tent Janice. I don't want to be a distraction for you." She finished.
Janice smiled sadly, looking down at the ground, "Sure Mel, whatever you want to do, that's fine by me."
"Are you really okay with that Janice?" asked Mel, concern fluttering behind her eyes.
Janice took a deep breath, she'd made a big enough fool of her self already, she may as well make a bigger one. She frowned in consternation.
"No, I'm not really okay with that Mel, I'd be lying if I said I was, but I dont want to be selfish, not with this anyway. You mean too much to me to ruin our friendship over my feelings for you." Janice could feel the tears that threatened.
"Mel, don't, please, I I'm having enough trouble dealing with this as it is. I don't trust myself to speak Mel, please don't make me?" Janice peered at her with such a stricken look that Mel crumpled inside. She moved to sit next to Janice on her cot, to comfort her, but the woman stood up, moving away.
"Mel," she sniffed, desperate to get away from those blue eyes that sought her out, "Just go to Naomi's tent, please, I'll be fine. I'll see you at dinner." She turned her back to the southerner, trying to hide her tears, but Mel noticed the slight heaving of her shoulders. She stood, took a step towards Janice, hand outstretched, but dropped it, shaking her head. She exited the tent.
As soon as she heard the tent flap fall back into place Janice whirled and struck blindly at the centre post of the tent with her fist. The whole structure shifted and threatened to collapse, but it managed to stay upright. Janice shook out her hand, swearing. She looked at her knuckles and noticed that they were bleeding. Wrapping a piece of cloth over them she sat on her cot, sobbing.
"Oh God," she begged, "What am I gonna do?" she was beginning to sound like a broken record. "This is so unfair! You've really fallen this time Covington, and there's nothing you can do about it!"
She slowly rose from her cot and curled herself in a ball on Mel's old cot, it still held her faint scent. Tyring to hopelessly comfort herself, she fell asleep.
"Nooooo!" The scream echoed out from the dark haired warrior's throat, full of anguish. Blood gushed from Gabrielle's gashed neck in a crimson flood, drenching her chest and running down her legs. Callisto coldly dropped the spent body and began to laugh.
"Easy Xena, so easy."
An inhuman anger washed over the warrior and she charged the smaller blonde woman, but Callisto was too fast and easily spun out of Xena's clutches.
"Oh Xena, you know better than to let anger mar your judgement." She purred. "No, no, dont be sorry," she began as Xena started for her again. She held up a hand and turned her head to the side a la Gabrielle, "just improve." With that she was gone.
Xena staggered over to Gabrielle's body, the head hanging at an unnatural angle, cut nearly clean through. She sank down to her knees and gathered the remains of the bard in her arms.
"Oh Gabrielle, I'm so sorry " tears caught in her throat and washed down her face, spattering onto the blood covered bard revealing spots of pale skin beneath. "Never this, never this ." she groaned. Time seemed to struggle with itself.
Xena heard the insane cackle from behind before she had time to react. She spun, sword in hand, only to be confronted by Callisto dragging Gabrielle backward, knife to her throat.
"Déjà vu Xena?" Callisto asked with a crooked smile.
Xena shook her head. What was happening?
"Callisto, what game are you playing?" she said, trying to remain calm.
"Game Xena? I don't know what you are talking about." She said innocently with a wicked grin. "What do you think bard?" she looked down at Gabrielle, "Make a good story?"
Gabrielle stared wildly up at the mad woman above her with panic stricken eyes, unable to speak.
"Well? I asked you a question." Callisto applied more pressure to the knife.
Gabrielle flicked a glance to the immobile Xena with imploring eyes, "Callisto don't do this." She managed.
"Mmmm, sounds familiar, doesnt it Xena?" she turned her attention back to the bard, "But I asked you a question!" she screamed, drawing her lips back in a sneer.
"Callisto " began Xena, unable to keep the edge of panic out her voice.
"Uh-uh Warrior Princess, not this time."
"It would make a good story." Came the choked voice of Gabrielle. Xena could only stare at her in wonder.
"Yeah, " Callisto mused, almost to herself, "but you know what would make a better one?" Gabrielle's eyebrows knitted questioningly. "This." Callisto drew the knife across the bard's throat lovingly. The bard choked and gagged, blood spraying. "Pity you won't be around to tell it."
"Janice! JANICE!!" Someone was shaking her, "Janice wake up!" Slowly she rose to consciousness, grabbing at whatever was shaking her. "Oh thank God! Janice, are you okay?"
It was Mel's voice. Janice opened an eye to stare at the woman, "I'm alive?" she asked in a weak voice.
"Of course your alive. Why ever did you think you wouldn't be? Mel said, concern evident in her voice.
"I've just had my damn throat cut!" she swore, opening the other eye and trying to sit up.
"It was a dream Janice, that's all." Mel sat beside her and put her arm around the archaeologist's shoulders. Janice was too distraught to worry about it. "Tell me about it?"
"It was Callisto. This is the second dream I've had. Callisto slit my, ah Gabrielle's throat and Xena was helpless to stop her. It was so real Mel, so real." Janice shook her head, suddenly aware of Mel's close proximity. "What time is it?" she asked.
"About seven. I was coming to get you for dinner, but I heard you screaming, so I came in and saw you thrashing about. I couldn't wake you, I was worried." She finished.
"Thanks, I'm okay now. Just let me freshen up and we'll go to dinner okay?" she rose and brushed her damp hair from her forehead. She moved over to a basin and soaked a cloth, then slowly wiped her face and neck.
"Janice?" asked Mel
"What happened to your hand?"
Janice looked guiltily at her hand, the cloth must have slipped off as she slept. Her knuckles were split and swollen purple. She didn't think she had hit the post that hard, but she must have. "Um, I hit something." she said sheepishly.
"You hit something? Why?" Mel asked, a look of shock on her face.
"Look, I was angry with myself okay, you go around shooting up trees, I hit things." she said with a shrug.
"Come here and let me have a look at that, it looks pretty bad."
"It's fine Mel, just a little swollen." She knew she couldn't let Mel look at her hand without breaking down again.
Mel insisted, reluctantly Janice gave up fighting and flung her hand in Mel's direction.
"Why were you angry with yourself Janice?" she asked as she dabbed at the purple knuckles with a cloth.
"Because I'm so Goddamn stupid Mel."
"Your hardly stupid. Arghh, look at this, it's beginning to fester. Why didnt you clean it properly? Never mind." She scolded like a mother.
"I am stupid. I've gone and done something really dumb-"
"Janice Covington you only go on tearing yourself up inside dont you?" Mel stared at Janice's disbelieving face.
"Excuse me?" asked Janice in desperation.
"It's alright Janice, I understand. I've been doing some thinking, and I understand how you feel about me. I just need some time." She continued to work on Janice's hand, but Janice jerked away.
"What do you mean Mel?" she demanded stepping to the other side of the tent feeling like a caged animal.
"I mean that I need some time to figure out how I feel about you. I do care about you Janice, more than myself, but I have to get my head around this. I cant just drop close to thirty years of a strict southern upbringing in a day Janice." She said.
"What are you saying?" Janice was dumbfounded.
"Oh for crying out loud Janice, maybe you are stupid! Do you love me?" she almost shouted totally exasperated with the archaeologist.
Janice just stared at her, unable to believe what she was hearing, "I well, I, um yes." There, she had said it. Amazingly she felt a weight lift from her shoulders. Mel let out a breath she was not aware of holding, "Right, then just give me some time. Come on, your hand will be fine, let's go to dinner."
Janice grinned, "You really mean that?"
"Of course your hand'll be fine Janice, don't worry."
"No, about needing time?" she asked.
"Well, yes, but time starts now." Mel said sternly.
"Okay." Janice flashed her a smile and strutted out of the tent.
Mel shook her head, somehow being flashed a smile from Janice was much better than being flashed one by John Mellard.
After dinner Janice wanted to speak to Mel about the following day, but thought the 'time thing' had priority. She went and sat alone by the site, staring up at the stars. She frowned a moment as she scanned the night sky, where was the Great Bear, Ursa Major? 'I don't believe it, goddamn, its not there.' She thought desperately, 'Come on Covington, maybe your in the wrong part of the world, maybe it hasn't risen yet, what about clouds?' But she knew these things were wrong, and the night was crystal clear. 'Impossible! Stars just dont fall from the sky Covington, must be some weird anomaly.' Something was tugging at the back of her mind. She shook her head and pulled out a cigar, lighting it she took a long drag, swirling the aromatic smoke around her mouth before discarding it as a plume. Dismissing the missing constellation as something too weird to comprehend, she let her thoughts drift to Mel. She felt relieved that the woman understood how Janice felt about her, but in a way she felt guilty. She didnt want to push her into making a decision about their relationship like this. She doubted Mel could accept her as a lover and was desperately worried that it would end their friendship. Could they survive knowing what they knew?
While Janice sat smoking, Mel had positioned herself on a chair outside Naomi's tent. She could see the excavation area quite clearly, especially the slight, silhouetted figure of Janice Covington and the clouds of smoke that rose around her. She smiled. She did care about the woman, and in a way loved her. She would happily die for the compact archaeologist, she almost did. However, she didnt know whether she could love Janice the way she wanted to be loved. She let her thoughts drift back to the day she first met Janice and grimaced as she remembered thinking that the woman was a rude, selfish, conniving, disrespectful charlatan. In fact the only good thing Mel remembered about her was her eyes, they were such a brilliant shade of green that they could drill through your soul. Now however, she saw Janice as a kind and generous person, she only acted tough so she wouldnt get hurt. Her eyes pricked with tears as she remembered Janice's dejection at discovering she was related to Gabrielle, someone she had always labelled as 'that useless tag-along bard'. Yet Mel could see the strength in Gabrielle, just as she could see the real strength in Janice, the strength Janice herself could not see. Janice was so intent on destroying herself from the inside out she couldn't see that she was hurting others on the outside with her self depleting remarks. "Oh Janice, what am I going to do with you?" she mumbled as she watched the archaeologist rise and walk purposefully to her tent. Mel let her eyes study the woman as she moved with seeming stealth, every action accounted for, nothing wasted. Perfect. And the way her- "Oh my!" Mel almost shouted, sitting bolt upright in the chair, "Where did that come from?" Mel narrowed her eyes and concentrated on finishing the thought. "Well, this is mighty interesting." She said aloud, feeling a blush touch her cheeks.
"Are you okay out there Mel?" shouted Naomi from inside the tent.
"Ah, yes I'm fine thankyou. In fact, I dont think I've felt this good in a long while." She replied with a grin.
"Good to hear Mel."
Mel closed her eyes and let thoughts of Janice wash over her, "So that's how it's going to be." She said finally. "What would Daddy think?" She was still very disconcerted, but at least she wasn't floundering any more. With a sigh she rose and made her way to bed.
"Goddammit! This is getting out of hand." Janice panted as she rolled out of bed in the middle of the night. She sat on the side of her cot and lit a cigar, 'Umph, so's my smoking.' It was the dream again, another rendition of the same incident. Janice couldnt take much more. She stood and paced up and down the seven foot of tent, trying to calm herself, it wasn't working. "Callisto, Callisto " she muttered under her breath between drags on the cigar and waving her free arm around, "What do I know about Callisto?" she asked. "She lived in Arcadia with wild beasts and Artemis .was turned into a bear by Zeus and was shot by Artemis." She frowned deeply, anyway, she was made immortal by being turned in to the constellation " A look of horror crossed her face, "Ursa Major, the Great Bear, which this evening seemed to fall from the sky." She ended with an hysterical laugh. She dashed outside to make sure she wasn't seeing things earlier, or rather not seeing them.
"Oh God!" she shouted and looked around frantically as she realised that she could still not see the constellation. "Just a dream Covington, just a dream. Leave it!" she commanded herself. With willpower she did not know she possessed, she forced herself to walk back inside her tent and lie down. She lay there staring at the tent roof until dawn.
Janice managed to drag herself to the excavation site the next morning. She was exhausted after a sleepless, panic filled night. Mel greeted her with a strange expression.
"Oh my Janice, are you alright? You look a little pale." She pressed her hand to the archaeologist's forehead.
"I'm fine." Mumbled Janice, turning away, "Just dreams, that's all they were." She sounded like she was trying to convince herself of something. "Shall we get started on this layer?" she asked, pulling a camera out of her bag.
"Why dont you do the honours?" she asked, offering the camera to Mel.
Mel took the camera from Janice and hunted up the ranging pole that was currently in Naomi's trench. Positioning it along the base of the wall for scale, she snapped off several shots of the blackish deposit they were about to excavate. She retrieved the pole, and then noted the roll and exposure number of the film plus the new layer number down in the notebook.
"Okay, we're ready to go Janice." She called over to the woman.
Janice nodded and organised several workmen to begin excavating the deposit. She sent a couple to the sieves. She wanted every inch of the dark layer screened, she didnt want to miss anything small but important.
By lunch, they had removed a full four inch layer and had recovered several pots, a bronze lamp and a couple of coins. Each of these was recorded, bagged, tagged and sent to the 'office' for later examination.
At lunch Janice and Mel's trench was the topic of conversation, or rather the objects they were finding. Several other members of the team were despairing that they would ever find any occupation in their area of the site. Janice tried to cheer them up a bit, but it didnt seem to be working. An entire month shifting soil and finding nothing could be really hard on the nerves. John Mellard skulked around, putting in a word here or there, but not really saying much.
The session after lunch was running smoothly, verging on the boring side of things when a shout from one of the workmen brought them both running.
"Miss Jan! Miss Mel! Quick!"
The two women jumped into the trench and squatted by the workmen. What they saw sent their hearts pounding, it was a glint of metal. Janice quickly grabbed a trowel and brush from a nearby workman and began clearing the object carefully. She worked for about half an hour until she had exposed a length of metal some three feet long. It was lying on it's edge at a slightly downward angle. Turning around, she began to work the other way, exposing part of what looked like a hilt. Finally, the entire object was revealed in situ. It was quite obviously a sword. There was a decoration of some kind just below the hilt, but it was obscured by the angle of the blade.
Janice and Mel looked at each other, all they could do was grin. Mel instructed one of the workmen to clean around the object while she dashed for the camera. This had to be recorded. Photos taken, the two women contemplated calling John Mellard over. Technically they should, but neither woman had the inclination. He'd just have to wait until it got to the 'office'.
Mel carefully lifted the sword and laid it on a tray for safer transportation. It was only half an hour to knock off time and she and Janice decided to let the workers off early. They whooped in delight, cleaned up their things and dashed off.
Mel and Janice carried the sword between them to prevent damage from movement and headed to the 'office'. They called over to Mellard on the way. He looked up briefly, saw what they had and bolted after them, abandoning his trench.
"My God! It's magnificent!" he said, his seeming annoyance with the two women temporarily forgotten. He grabbed a brush and began cleaning the object. Janice and Mel stood back, letting him have his perceived moment of glory. "What's it made of?" he asked, "I can't figure it out. Can't be bronze or copper, certainly not iron. Goddamn, the thing's been buried for two and a half thousand years and its damn near perfect. Not a spot of corrosion or rust on it anywhere. I don't believe it. You sure you dug this up?" he glanced at Janice.
Janice shrugged, "Of course we dug the damn thing up, what do you think we've been doing all day? Although I have to agree, it is a bit weird, maybe its some freak preservation. But the bronze we've recovered so far has all been corroded. I don't understand either." She finished. Mel was nodding agreement.
"Hang on, what's this?" he was peering at the decoration under the hilt. He brushed it off a bit more and squinted. "I cant make it out, looks like an inscription or something. Mel? Can you see?" he turned to the translator, indicating for her to come over.
Despite her reluctance to be near Mellard right now, the call of the inscription was greater. She bent over the object, squinted and looked up. "Where's the magnifying glass?" she asked. That sent Mellard and Janice on a wild search until Janice finally held it up triumphantly.
"Ah ha! Gotcha!" She handed the glass to Mel, who peered over the object once more.
"Oh my," she said slowly.
"What is it?!" demanded Janice and Mellard together, looking expectantly at Mel.
Mel straightened, "It's classical Greek, as one might expect-"
"Tell us what it says!" demanded Mellard. Janice was grateful he had been the one to say the words that were right on the tip of her tongue.
"I'm getting to that," she snapped, "It says: 'Sword of Hephaestus, of iron forged, blessed by Zeus, to kill the Bear'." She gasped as Janice fainted dead away.
"Covington! Covington get up!" rough hands were shaking her. She seemed to be getting shaken a lot these days.
"I'm okay! I'm okay." She said, pushing away Mellard's hands as she struggled to rise. She stood shakily, hanging on to the edge of a table for support. "I'm sorry. Damn! I hardly ever faint. Must be the heat." She didnt believe this for a second and nor did Mel.
"Janice, I need to talk with you alone"
Mellard looked at her warily but let the two women leave the tent, besides, the object was far too interesting.
Outside the tent Mel grabbed Janice by the shoulders, stunning the woman. "Janice what's wrong, you never faint like that. Are you ill?" she asked with concern.
Shrugging out of the translator's grasp she shook her head. "Do you know who 'the Bear' is Mel?"
Mel thought for a second, "Of course I do, I'm not dense, its Callisto."
"But Callisto was shot by Artemis with an arrow, not run through with a sword Janice."
"Look at the thing. It doesnt even have a scratch. What did it say? 'Blessed by Zeus'?" she added, a touch of hysteria in her voice.
"Yes, but-" she looked sideways at the archaeologist. "Why do I have the feeling that ya'll not telling me what's really bothering you Janice Covington?"
"Because I'm not."
Mel stood there with her hands on her hips, "C'mon, out with it."
"Did you look at the stars last night Mel?"
"Well yes, yes I did, they were beautiful " She faltered, clearing her throat, "Why?"
"Did you notice anything odd?"
Mel frowned in thought, "No, can't say that I did, but I'm not much of an astronomer Janice. Why dont you just tell me?"
"I was watching too, I couldnt find Ursa Major!"
"The Great Bear?"
"And that, with these dreams I've been having I think there is something rotten in the state of Macedonia Mel."
"What a time for Shakespeare, you cant be serious?"
"Deadly." Said Janice, drawing her finger across her throat.
"There must be another explanation Janice, stars just don't disappear from the sky." Mel said a little sceptically.
"I know that! I tried thinking about it and couldn't come up with an explanation. I just don't know any more Mel. It's all too crazy even for me." She finished lamely.
"Do you want to tell Mellard?"
"NO! He's the last person I'd tell, he'd probably have me dragged away by men in white coats."
"What do you want to do?"
I can't see how we can do anything"
"Yes Mel, these dreams have Xena in them too, in fact, the whole thing seemed to hinge on her reaction. If anything, you're in this deeper than I am."
"In what? Oh my! I'm not sure if I like this."
"Me either. But think of this, so far you've defeated Ares, how hard can Callisto be? And we have the sword "
"Janice, that was Xena, I hardly remember a thing. Besides, Mellard has the sword."
"I'm sure we'll think of something." Janice looked about for a moment, "We should get back, Mellard will wonder where we are."
Mel nodded and they strode back to the 'office'. Mellard was still engrossed in the weapon when they returned.
"I dont understand it," he was muttering to himself, "the only thing missing is the leather grip. The entirety of the metal is intact, nothing!" He threw his hand up in the air, exasperated. He noticed the women re-enter the tent. "Ah, there you are! You said the bronze you recovered from this layer was corroded?" He addressed Janice.
"That's correct, see for yourself." Janice moved to another bench and recovered several bags with bronze fragments and objects. Sure enough each of them was corroded and covered in bronze disease. Basically each object was desperately in need of some conservation. Mellard continued shaking his head. "I can't explain it Covington. This thing is iron, after two and a half thousand yeas it should be a pile of rust."
"There are some things that cannot be explained John, just leave it at that." She sighed, "Listen, we've got to think about some security for this thing. The 'office' is hardly Fort Knox."
Mellard was nodding, "I'll lock it in my trunk tonight and it can be taken to the Archaeological Museum at Thessaloniki tomorrow after work, we have to go into town anyway for supplies."
Janice seemed satisfied and Mel nodded. They were interrupted when Naomi came bursting into the tent. She locked her gaze onto Mellard but suddenly noticed the sword lying on the bench.
"My God! What is that?" she spluttered.
"A sword." Said Janice not bothering to cover the scorn in her voice.
"I can see that! It's incredibly well preserved."
"Uh-huh." Muttered Mel
"Where's it from?"
"Occupation layer, my trench, and Mel's" Janice added with emphasis that was lost on the other archaeologist.
"Right." She nodded, dragging her attention back to Mellard. "Vassos is here to see you, I think its important." She said.
Mellard frowned. Why would their local liaison from the museum come this afternoon? He wasn't scheduled for another two days. Mellard took a last look at the sword before following Naomi outside.
"John!" Vassos greeted Mellard, holding out his hand. Mellard took it in a firm shake. He was a greasy little man with a limp hand shake and hairy knuckles. His small, black eyes darted about nervously.
"Good to see you, you're a little early, but we have something I think you'd be interested in. Do you want to come into the 'office'?"
"We need to talk." He said nervously.
"The 'office' will be fine, and I can show you the object at the same time, come on." He put an arm around the man's shoulders and lead him towards the tent.
Vassos smiled at Janice and Mel as he entered, but a sadness touched his eyes. Janice and Mel returned the smile. Despite the man's sleazy appearance he was genuinely nice.
"John, can we talk alone?" he asked.
John frowned at the two women, they glanced at each other but left the tent. They didn't go far, but remained within earshot a few feet outside.
"What is it?" Mellard asked after the women had left.
"I think we have a problem. You are aware that you have been working in German occupied territory?"
"Of course I'm bloody aware, its been occupied for the last month!" he almost shouted.
"Well it appears that the Nazis have been allowing foreign excavations to continue for their own purposes. I received a communique this morning from Berlin, they are sending a delegation to close down your excavation and take it over."
"Let me finish. They're sending their own team, under the leadership of a Dr. Ursula Gross, other-wise known as SS-Sturmbannführer Gross."
"The SS? I dont believe it?! What would they want with a 350 B.C. site, it's hardly Aryan."
"A section of the SS has been assigned to collect art treasures and objects of archaeological import from all over the occupied territories and remove them to Berlin for display. This has been going on since November '40 John, there's nothing we can do about it."
"Well they're not going to get anything from this site." He growled.
"It would be wise for you to cooperate with the Sturmbannführer when she arrives John, I dont want any blood shed on this excavation."
Mellard sighed, "When with the German team arrive?" he asked, mentally working out how long it would take to hide various objects.
"Tomorrow morning. They are already here, resting in Thessaloniki before heading out."
"Jesus! You only got the message this morning!"
"I know it is short notice "
"Fine. I have to call a meeting." He said, ushering Vassos out the tent flap, he noticed Mel and Janice standing nervously a little way away and glared at them.
"John," Vassos began, before heading for his vehicle, "just dont try to hide anything, its considered an offence punishable by death or at least an interrogation. You dont want that."
"I am an American citizen!"
"I dont care what you are, and nor do they. Dont do anything stupid." He smiled as he got behind the wheel, closed the door and drove off.
John couldnt believe it, all his work was about to be struck by lightening. He walked over to Janice and Mel.
"I assume you heard that?" he asked.
"Most of it." Replied Janice. "Who's this Gross woman?"
"I dont really know, apparently she's an officer, a Major in the SS with a doctorate in something. She's taking over the excavation tomorrow morning."
"What?!" Mel shrieked.
"What can we do about it?" asked Janice, trying not to panic.
"Nothing. How's your German?"
The meeting Mellard called was almost a riot.
"I understand your fears," he was saying to the group of archaeologists gathered around the table in the meal tent, "Any of you are welcome to leave, but I dont know where you can go. Apparently we were only allowed to stay at the grace of the Germans. They thought they could get something out of us. Now they have it, we are the enemy. You leave this site and I dont know what will happen to you."
That almost caused a panic.
"You really know the right things to say Mellard." Muttered Janice.
Mellard ignored her. "Okay, this is what will happen tomorrow morning. Apparently Major Gross is arriving with her team, we are to sign over to them. "
"You can't just do that." Someone shouted.
"What am I going to do? It's only a site, I'm not going to die for it."
"It's your work."
"There'll always be other work. Now, if everyone is clear on what will happen, I think we should all get some sleep." He concluded.
There were a few questions that Mellard answered as best he could, but the truth was that he had no real answers.
After the majority of people had left the tent he pulled Janice and Mel aside. "I'm not letting them get that sword!"
"I had hoped you'd say something like that Mellard." Janice said.
"We could bury it under the store cases at the back of the tent. That would do for a while." Suggested Mel.
"Good, gotta do it now." Janice supplied.
The three of them headed back to the 'office' to re-bury the sword. Fear quickened their steps.
"We need something to wrap it in." said Mel.
Janice found an old piece of tarpaulin and wrapped the blade, securing it with rope. Meanwhile Mellard had taken one of the shovels from the storage tent while Mel was busy shifting crates at the back of the tent. Mellard began digging. After half an hour he had dug a neat trench about two feet deep and three and a half feet long. Mel placed the sword at the base before Janice moved to fill it in. She patted the surface flat and they manoeuvred the crates back over the spot.
"I hope we're doing the right thing." Janice said. "Damn, we just found it!"
"Oh my! Janice, what about the notes?"
"Rip them out." Said Mellard, "Hide them. This is a very important find, I'm not going to allow Dr. Gross to get her black clad hands on it!" he spat.
Janice grinned. "Well, I suppose sleep is in order." She said glancing at Mel who blushed. Janice frowned, a curious look on her face.
The three made their way out of the tent. "Janice," began Mellard, "I know I've said some bad things about you recently, but the truth is that you're a damn good archaeologist. I dont want to loose you to a box car, be careful." He said, placing a hand on her shoulder.
She nodded, getting his meaning.
"Dont worry about me Mellard, I hate pink." She tried to smile.
"What was that all about Janice?" asked Mel after Mellard had walked off to his own tent.
"Nothing that should concern you Mel." Janice said sadly, "Don't worry about it."
"I hate it when you get like this, you're so evasive "
"Just trust me."
Janice didnt get much sleep that night. She couldn't help but think of the sword buried in the 'office'. "To kill the Bear." She muttered. "To kill Callisto, the immortal constellation." Why? She shook her head, sat on the edge of her cot and lit a cigar. She smoked it thoughtfully. Dr. Ursula Gross, she'd never heard of the woman. She didnt like the idea of handing over the excavation, but they had no choice, even the notes had to go.
"SHIT!" she almost screamed, the notes! She bolted from the tent to the 'office' to grab her notebook. Sighing with relief as she put her hands on it she quickly flipped to the last day's entry that included the recovery of the sword. Placing the book on a bench she took a scalpel and ruler and sliced down the spine in a straight line as close to the edge as she could. Flipping to the corresponding pages in that bound set she removed the spares. Replacing the note book with the other equipment, she then walked back to her own tent and burned the extra sheets. She then rolled the notes concerning the sword and slipped them into the hollow frame of her cot. It would have to do for now. She settled back on her cot and closed her eyes.
Xena heard the insane cackle from behind before she had time to react. She spun, sword in hand, only to be confronted by Callisto dragging Gabrielle backward, knife to her throat.
"Oh Gods, not again!" Xena moaned.
"What is it Xena? Something wrong?" asked Callisto with a wicked grin.
Xena shook her head violently, "This has to stop. Just tell me what you want!" she demanded.
"The only thing I've ever wanted from you Xena." Callisto taunted.
"Which is?" Xena watched as she saw Gabrielle grab uselessly at the blonde haired warrior.
"You mean you haven't figured it out yet? I thought more of you than that Xena. Let me show you."
"Nooooo!" Screamed Xena, but it was too late, Gabrielle lay in a bloodied heap on the ground, Callisto nowhere in sight. Xena threw her head back wailed into the night.
"To die! To die Xena, that's what she wants!" shouted Janice as she awoke, once again bathed in sweat. "Oh God, she wants to die!" Janice burst into very uncharacteristic tears, hugging herself. "Je-sus! I cant deal with this! Mel, where are you when I need you?" she asked no-one.
"I'm right here." Said a voice at the tent entrance.
"Christ!" whispered Janice between sobs.
"It's okay Janice," said Mel moving to sit by the stricken archaeologist. "I think you woke the whole camp with your screaming."
"I dont know what's happening to me Mel." she looked at the translator with tear filled eyes. "I think I'm going insane."
"Going?" asked Mel putting her arm around the woman, smiling.
"Dont okay? Just hold me." admitted Janice. Mel complied, wrapping both arms around the archaeologist as she sobbed into Mel's shoulder. Whatever was wrong it was pretty bad for Janice to let down all barriers like this. As far a Janice was concerned, she couldnt have stopped if she had wanted to. It seemed as if all the frustration to do with Mel, the dreams, the mystery of the constellation and the inscription on the sword had all built up to breaking point. That point had finally broken, all over Mel.
Mel held her, stroking her back until she finally calmed.
"I'm sorry." She said, "I shouldn't have lost it like that." She tried to pull back.
"Shh Janice, its okay." Mel still held her. "You do what you need to do. I don't mind."
"Mel, seriously, its okay." She managed to extricate herself. "I don't want to put you in any position-"
"Janice " she looked at the woman more clearly than she had looked at anyone before. "You dont need to be afraid any more, it's okay." She leaned forward and brushed Janice's fringe out of her eyes. She ran her fingers down the side of her face, tracing a line of tears.
Janice shuddered at the unexpected sensation, "Mel, what are you doing?" she asked hesitantly.
"Something I should have done a long time ago. I just didnt realise I wanted to." Her lips were mere inches away from Janice's. Slowly she lent in further and brushed her lips lightly across Janice's.
Janice groaned, "You don't want to do this Mel." She said.
"Yes I do." Mel tried to pull Janice closer but the woman tore herself away from the embrace and stood on rigid legs.
"No you dont. Do you know what the Nazis do to women like me? They send them away and they are never seen again. You dont want to be a statistic Mel, I won't let you."
Mel sat there looking at the woman she loved. "Do you want me to leave?" she asked.
"No, never, but if you stay I dont think I'll be able to live with myself." Janice pleaded.
Mel rose and walked to the tent flap, "Well then, until tomorrow." She said, brushing her hands down her thighs, before disappearing.
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