Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: Warrior Princess and all other associated with the television series of the same name are owned by MCA/ Universal Pictures. This is a work of fan fiction and no copyright infringement is intended.
Subtext: I guess with my writing so far we'll just quit calling it subtext and call it maintext. Yes they are in love with each other.
Violence: Yeah Mel and Xena kick a little ass.
Other: Part Thirty-eight in the series "Raising Melosa". Takes place about six months after "The Green Eyed Monster".
I finished loading our gear onto the horses and adjusted Mels saddle on last time. I looked up and smiled as Ri stood on the porch with Mel and brushed her hand through her hair.
"You listen to every word she says Mel. Its important when youre on the road."
"Yes maam I know." Mel was trying to be patient she really was, but Ri was over doing the overprotective mother bit. I just bit my lip and continued to feign interest in our gear.
"Yes dear?" I smiled just a little.
"Its getting colder at night do you have enough blankets?"
"You packed your cloaks "
"All right warrior theres no reason to be rotten about this. Its my job to worry about you."
"Ri well be fine."
"How long will you be gone."
"A week at the most. Well be back and under foot before you know it."
She came off the porch and I took her in my arms. "Just be careful."
"You know we will. Well be back with at least two nice deer for winter storage."
"You betcha Im expecting Mel to take one down with the new bow of hers."
"Im sure shell try just to please you, but remember Xe this is her first hunt."
"I know, but I have faith." I grinned at her. Leaning in I gave her a kiss. "Make room in the cellar for the meat while were gone okay."
"No problem. Are you sure you have everything?"
"Ri Im sure. Relax."
She nodded and hugged me before turning to Mel and hugging her. "Have a good time."
"We will." Mel replied as she mounted her horse.
I mounted my horse and waited patiently as Ri ran her hands over my gear one last time and did a quick visual check. "Happy?" I grinned as I leaned over and looked at her.
"Yeah I guess so. I love you."
"Love you too. Well be back in a week." I kissed her and then Mel and I rode away from the house.
"Is she gonna be okay?" Mel twisted around and waved one last time at her mother who continued to watch us from the porch of the house.
"Yeah shell be fine. Shes just worried about you."
"You think Im ready right?"
"If I didnt you wouldnt be with me."
We rode north until evening started to settle in and I found a nice spot for our camp. "Ready to stop and set up camp?"
"You have no idea. I think Im about to become a permanent part of my saddle."
"Feeling a little sore there kiddo?"
"Ummm just a little."
"Okay well then lets get settled in." I dismounted and watched as Mel climbed slowly off her horse. She stretched and rubbed her backside, grimacing just a little as she did. "Believe it or not you do get over that." I pulled my gear off my horse and tossed it to the ground.
"Oh I hope so or its gonna be a long week." She began taking her own gear off her horse.
I had to give this kid credit. She always did her job. Even being sore and uncomfortable she continued to do the things she had to do, unloading her gear and taking care or her horse.
"What are we going to do with them." She waved her hand at our mounts.
"Take off their tack bush them down and turn them loose."
"Just turn them loose? Wont they wander off?"
"Nope. Theyll find a spot to graze and theyll stay close."
"Okay if you say so." She pulled her saddle off her horse. She was more tired than she would admit as the saddle came down she stumble backward. I dashed over and caught her before she hit the ground. She looked up at me and grinned. "Thanks."
"No problem." I took her saddle from her and put it with mine. "Listen I can take care of the horses. Why dont you unpack our gear."
She nodded her head and smiled a little, she knew what I was doing, but she was too tired to argue with me. I finished tending to the horses and set them loose. When I returned to camp I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did she have our gear unpacked, but she had camp set up, including a nice fire. I smiled as I approached her, she was sound asleep on her bedroll. I knelt down and brushed her hair back as I pulled a blanket over her.
I watched her sleep as I settled in and made a meal of trail rations. Leaning back against a tree I took a deep breath. It was good to be out again. No matter how happy I was with Ri and the kids back at the village some part of me missed this. Being out in the open. I could feel some of the old urges returning. Another deep breath as I took in the cool clean air I began to relax.
As I watched Mel sleep, my mind wondered back to the very early days on the road with Ri. She would do the same thing. Work herself to exhaustion and then just collapse into her bedroll, but she never complained. She was so young then, so excited about being away from home and traveling around with me. To be honest I had some doubt about her sanity at first. What young girl in her right mind wanted to traipse around with a half crazed ex warlord? Now as I watch our daughter sleep I thank the Gods she did.
I pulled my bedroll over next to Mel and climbed in. Pulling Mel close to me to keep her warm I relaxed and close my eyes listening the to sounds around me. A few small animals were playing in some fallen trees. An owl watched us from the trees over head. There was not danger here, we were safe.
I awoke in the morning to the sound of something sizzling on the fire. A deep breath told me it was fresh trout. I opened my eyes to find Mel hunched over the frying pan tending to the fish. I pushed up and leaned on my elbow as I watched her.
"Good morning sleepyhead." She grinned at me as she poked the fish.
"How long have you been up?"
"Couple of candle marks. I guess I kind of gave out early last night huh?"
"You deserved it. You worked hard." She poured two cups of tea and brought one to me. "So did your mom give you a few pointers about setting up camp?" I sipped my tea. It was good.
"Un-huh. I spent a solid week with her explaining to me how you liked things. She gave me her fish recipe too. You ready to try it?"
"Absolutely." I sat up and ran my fingers through my hair as I watched her serve up our breakfast. "Did you catch these?" I took the plate and sniffed the fish.
"Yeah theres a little stream right over the hill. Its so full of fish they practically jumped into the pan."
"Regardless Im impressed." I tasted the fish. "Hey this is really good."
Thanks." She settled back against the tree I used the night before and began eating her fish. "So when are we going to start tracking?"
"Well actually if youre up to it Id like to put another day of travel under our belt before we start hunting."
"Sure. What ever you think is best. So this is whats its like huh?"
"Being on the road."
"Well this is the gist of it yeah."
"It kind of invigorating isnt it?"
"Yeah it is. Theres nothing like being free."
"Do you regret giving it up?" The tone in her voice was nervous and sounded a little sad. I looked up quickly to see her staring into her plate. "I mean are you sorry you settled down?"
"No. Never. I love your mother and I love you and your brothers and sisters. You have given me more happiness than I ever could have found on the road."
"Really?" She smiled at me.
We headed further north. I was proud of Mel she was paying close attention, listening to everything I said and seemed to take it all the heart.
"Can I ask you a question just between you and me."
"What would happen if I dont take the throne?"
I looked at her. She had her head down studying her reins. "Well Kessa and Rosa would be next in line for it. Mel what are you thinking?"
"Nothing really. Im just not sure I want it."
"Youve got a lot of time before you have to make a decision like that."
"Well not really. I mean I had to start my training when I was seven and Kessa and Rosa will be turning seven soon. Shouldnt they start training too? And I just dont know what to say to Mom. Im afraid shes really going to be upset."
"Do you want me to talk to her?"
"Will you just be with me when I do it?"
"Sure I will."
It was true. Ri wasnt going to be happy about this. I was glad we were going to have a week before we were going to have to deal with it.
As we stopped for the day I could smell the rain moving in and the energy running through my body told me it was probably going to be a nice thunderstorm.
"We should try to find some shelter." I looked around for anything that might do.
"Take a good whiff. What do you smell?"
She sniffed the air. "Horses and sweat. You need a bath."
I cocked an eyebrow. "Try again."
After another attempt she smiled at me. "Rain?"
"Yup a good one too. We need to find good study shelter."
"How about that cave we passed about a quarter of a candle mark ago? We could back track and stay there tonight."
"I didnt see a cave."
"Well it was pretty covered up I just happened to notice as we rode by."
"Then lead on."
We turned our horses around and Mel took the lead. Just as she said there was a cave. It was over grown with vines and a couple of small trees, nothing that I couldnt make short work of with my sword. I cleared the opening and peered in. It was small and uninhabited. I would do for the night. At least wed be dry and warm.
"Its too small for the horses too. I need to get them sheltered. Can you take our gear?"
"You bet." She hauled our gear down and took the first bundle into the cave as I led the horses away.
As I brushed down her horse she came over with her bow and quiver in her hands. "Hey want to let me try and catch our evening meal?"
"Sure." I dropped the brush into the bag and tucked it away with the tack. "What are you thinking of going after?"
"Any elephants in the area?"
I laughed out loud. "No I dont think so. What to try for something a little smaller? A rabbit maybe."
"If you insist."
We went in search of our evening meal. Huddled together in a thick of weeds we found a nice fat rabbit just waiting to be stew. "You sure you want to do this?"
She readied an arrow in her bow and nodded her head. "Yup. I came to learn to hunt."
"Okay. Well then take your time and line up the shot. Try to make it clean. Dont let it suffer if you can help it."
"Got a back up plan in case I miss or mess up the shot?"
I pulled my chakram free and held it up. "You bet. Were going to have rabbit stew tonight one way or the other. Ready?"
"Okay take a deep breath and line up the shot."
She nodded again and did as I instructed. She looked down the shaft, released the breath and the arrow at the same time. It was a good clean shot. The rabbit fell over immediately. We moved out of our cover and over the rabbit. She looked down at it.
"So thats it huh?"
"Thats it. You did a good job."
"Thanks. So mom tells me that you always dressed them for cooking. Can I still hold you to that?"
"Not quite ready to do it?"
"No not just yet."
"No problem. I got it." I leaned over and picked up the rabbit and held it down to my side as we walked back to camp. "Your mom didnt by any chance give you her rabbit stew recipe did she?"
When I awoke the next morning I knew our hunting would be delayed a little longer. The rain poured down and it looked like it was going to last all day. The wind was strong and I knew we werent moving. Mel was still sleeping. It occurred to me as I slipped out from under my eldest child who was using me as a pillow that she had a lot of Ri in her too. For all her playing and arrogance she really was a very sensitive emotional child. It was a good mix.
I readied the fire and put on the tea. Digging around in my pack I found what I knew would be there. The small sack with the dumplings in them. Ri never sent me hunting without them. She had make an extra big serving this time because she knew Id be sharing with Mel. Normally these where an item for the evening meal but I had discovered during my hunting trips that with a good hot cup of tea they made a great morning meal as well.
Mel stirred and lifted her head looking over at me, her dark hair falling over her face. "Its morning isnt it?"
"Yeah it sure is."
"You know it comes far too early in the day."
"Well dont worry about it too much. Were staying put today. Its raining too hard for us to do anything constructive."
"Wont that put us behind schedule? If were late getting home Mom will have the entire amazon nation out looking for us."
I smiled knowing she was right. "No well be okay. Weve got time."
"Okay. Any chance of getting some of that tea?" I handed her a cup as she sat up and looked out the mouth of the cave. "So what do you do when youre stuck in a cave?"
"Well generally I repair my gear, clean my armor and sharpen my sword."
"Oh well our gear is new, your armor is clean and your sword could cut through a rock. So now what?"
"If your mom were here shed tell us a story."
"Look around mom, no bard in the room."
"Hmmm then Im not sure. We could start by having some of these dumplings."
"You got dumplings?" She sat up and peered in my direction. "Youre holding out on me."
"No Im not if I were "
A loud rumble of thunder and a flash of lightening cut my comment short. I heard the horses protesting and I moved to the mouth of the cave. Looking out I could see a tree was about to come down and trap them in the area I had put them.
"Whats wrong?" Mel was at my side.
"Ive got to get the horses. You stay put."
"I can help."
"No Mel stay put Ill be right back." I returned to our sleeping area and got my cloak. I threw it over my shoulders and headed out into the storm. I got the horses free and turned them loose. As I started back for the cave a strong wind blew in and the tree that had been split cracked further sending crashing down on top of me. I knew right away I was pinned, my arms were free but I couldnt budge the tree. I lay back on the ground and cursed every God I could think of.
Mel was at my side, kneeling down at my head. "Mom are you all right?"
"My legs are pinned Mel. Weve got to move the tree."
"Okay just hold still." She shouted over the storm. She moved away from me and returned to the cave. A few moments later she returned with a rope and looped it around the tree. "Im going to see if I can get the horses to pull it off."
"Be careful Mel theyre spooked and you could get hurt."
"You got a better idea? Im all for it." She looked at me as the rain poured down on us both.
"No no I guess I dont. Just be careful."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah you get trapped under a tree and you tell me to be careful. We really need to talk about your thought process " She mumbled as she climbed over the tree and headed for the horses.
A few moments later I felt the tree sliding away. I pulled myself up and away as it slid further from my body. "Mel Im loose." I yelled for her, hoping she could here me. She returned to me and knelt down.
"Can you walk?"
"Yeah I think so." I got up and tried to put weight on my leg. Pain shot up my right leg and I faltered just a bit.
She put her arms around me. "Lean on me. Come on lets go."
She helped me back to the cave and down next to the fire. I took off my cloak and tossed it away. I unlaced my boot and Mel very gently pulled it off as she leaned down to look at my leg. "Get out of those wet clothes. We can take care of this in a moment."
"Mom it looks broken "
"Mel get changed and then well deal with it."
As she changed her clothes I took a look at my leg. It was definitely broken. "Damn." I muttered under my breath. The break was a bad one and the bone poked through the skin. "Mel we need to pack this to keep it from bleeding until we can get home and I can get it set."
"Wont leaving it like that for the trip home be dangerous?"
"Yeah but do we have a choice?"
"I could try to set it. Youll have to tell me what to do."
"Mel you cant "
"Yes I can. Tell me what to do." She moved back to me and tossed my medical kit down by my leg as she knelt and rubbed her hands together. "What do I have to do?"
"Okay." I took a deep breath and leaned back on my hands. "Grab my ankle and pull as hard as you can until you feel it go into place."
"How will I know?"
She looked at me and I nodded. Gripping my leg she gave it a good yank. I felt the bone move but it wasnt set yet. I gritted my teeth, "Again Mel." She gave another yank and it set into place. I fell back and tried to catch my breath.
"Yeah, yeah Im okay."
"The wound need to pack the wound until I can stitch it."
"Okay." I heard her open my bag and start digging through it. Soon I felt her packing the wound and wrapping my leg. "We need to splint it now? Right?"
I just nodded. The pain was really starting to settle in. She moved over to the fire pit and chose two large pieces of kindling. Returning to me she carefully put the splint in place. I couldnt help but groan.
"Sorry I didnt mean to hurt you."
"Sokay " I could feel myself slipping away.
I tried to be easy while splinting her leg but my heart was pounding in my ears so hard it made it difficult to think. I heard her groan and looked up. "Oh no Mom come on stay with me here " I moved up to her face and tried to wake her. "I cant do this with out you! Wake up Please wake up " I felt the tears start to fall from my eyes and I wiped them away. "Okay Mel you can do this her leg is set and all taken care of now what? Youve got to get her home."
I looked out at the raging storm. "Not today. Okay keep the fire going. Keep her warm and dry. Dry " I reached out and touched her clothes, she was soaked. "Okay dry clothes " I moved to her pack and got her spare clothes. Returning to her it dawned on me just what kind of a task Im about to under take. I hope she can hear me enough to be a little help in this endeavor. Wet leather cant be easy to get off. "All right Mom come on scared kid here. You got to help me out a little "
After much struggling and very little help I managed to get her into warm dry clothes. Shes close enough to the fire but I get a blanket and cover her anyhow. "Shock she may go into shock Mel keep her warm " I put another blanket on her and put a pillow under her head. "Hey Mom you really do need to wake up now " She doesnt respond to me. I turn to the fire and put a couple more logs on.
"Hey Grandpa now would be a good time to make an appearance " The fire cracked as I put the wood on. I turned and I watched her. "Nothing comes easy to us does it Mom? Okay Melosa get it together whats next? I told myself. Food how much food do we have?" I gathered up all the food that we had in our packs. Three or fours days worth, thats good and theres plenty of water too.
She moaned softly and I returned to her. "Mom?" She opened her eyes and smiled at me.
"Hey its not your fault."
"We need to get home "
"I know but we cant go anywhere in this storm."
"When the storm stops you go and get help."
"Im not leaving you."
She gripped my arm and looked at me with her best glare. "Mel listen to me "
I glared back. "No you listen to me. Im not leaving you. You can send me to my room when we get home but until then it looks like Im in charge. Live with it!" I pulled my arm loose and moved back to the fire as she fell back to sleep. I wrapped my arms around my legs and waited.
As evening settled she got fussier. I checked her and found she was running a fever. "Okay fever got to cool her down." Taking a few rags from our gear I got them wet with the cold rainwater and placed them on her face and neck. "Mom do you have any idea how scared I am? Im trying not to be...but its so hard. This was just supposed to be an easy hunting trip. Now look at us "
I tried to stay awake. I failed. When I woke in the morning the rain had stopped. I looked at her. Her skin was damp from the sweat of the fever. I knelt down and took her hand. "I promise to get you home." I leaned over and gave her a kiss on the forehead. Her fever was really high. "Oh Gods infection " I unwrapped her leg and found that the wound had become infected. "Dumb Mel, very dumb you didnt clean it first "
I knew what I had to do. I didnt want to but if I didnt she would only get worse and we were still two days from home. I took a dagger from our supplies and lay it in the fire. When I was sure it was hot enough I used it to reopen the wound. After it was open I cleaned it and re-wrapped it. I remembered watching her do this to my pony when she got cut on a rock. It worked for my pony. I hoped it would work for her. "Gods Mom Im so sorry I messed up the first time "
I knew I had to find our horses. I hoped they hadnt been scared away in the storm. Outside the ground was muddy and it made walking difficult. I stopped and whistled. When our horses came trotting though some bushes I never felt more relieved in my life. I actually put my arms around my mares neck and cried. "Good girl thanks for sticking around. Weve got to get Mom home."
I began packing our gear up. I saddled my horse and then went back inside and knelt down next to her. "Im gonna get you home but I cant saddle your horse your saddle is too heavy were going to have to leave it here. Im really sorry. I feel like such a failure first your leg and now this "
"Okay Mel now your gonna need a litter " I picked up her sword and left the cave.
When I got what I needed my arms ached and I was so tired I thought I would collapse. Her sword was heavier than I thought and after a candle mark of hacking down two small trees for a litter they almost refused to move. I rested for a bit and then fashioned what I hoped would be a littler strong enough to hold her. I drug it inside and laid it down next to her.
"Mom come on Mom youve got to help me here." She opened her eyes. "Ive got a litter. Help me slide you on." I lifted her shoulders. I could feel her trying to help me. It took several moments but I finally had her settled on the litter. I covered her back up and then began to think about how to get her from the cave to the horse.
I wrapped a rope around the end of the litter and then took the other end and wrapped it around the horn of my saddle. I give my mare a gently push on her neck and she walked forward, hauling the littler to the mouth of the cave. After that the rest was easy. I tied the litter to her horse and mounted my own and we headed south toward home.
It occurred to me as we rode slowly toward home that it took us two days to get here when we were both healthy. The trip home was bound to take more time. I stayed on the road that we had traveled to get here, hoping I wouldnt run into anyone. All I needed now was someone to give me a hard time. We were moving slowly, but we were moving. I just wanted to be home, I wanted to get Mom home.
I stopped and checked her. She opened her eyes and reached out for me. "Mel where are we?"
"On our way home." I wiped her face again. "Does it hurt bad?"
"Ive felt better."
She took my hand and kissed it. "Thank you Mel. Youre doing very well."
"Im doing the best I can "
"Youre amazing Mel."
"Well I learned from the best. Wed better get started again. We havent gotten very far."
"I need some water."
"Sure hang on." I got a water skin and helped her take a drink. "Im going to leave this with you." I capped the skin and tucked it in next to her. "You okay?" She nodded her head. "Is there anything in your bag I can give you for the pain?"
"No. I dont want anything that will put me out more than I have to be."
"Im thinking its going to take three or four days to get us home."
She nodded. "Probably. You know if youd leave me "
"No! Stop saying that I cant leave you." I could hear my voice straining and feel the tears stinging my eyes.
"All right all right dont cry " Her head fell back and she lost consciousness again.
I mounted my horse and our journey home began again. When I stopped for the night I didnt set up a real camp. I just made a small fire, ate a few trail rations and then curled up next to my mother and fell asleep.
The next day the road had started to dry out and that made traveling easier. We made good time and I was beginning to recognize some of the landmarks of the area. This made me feel a little better. I knew we where getting close to amazon territory. If I were lucky we would run into a patrol that could help me get her the rest of the way home.
I had hoped for amazons. I got two men on foot who didnt look like theyd be interested in helping me get her home. I tried not to make eye contact, hoping they would just let me pass without incident. I should have known better.
"Well what do we have here?" The first man said as he nudged the other in the ribs. "A little amazon." He looked past me to the litter. "And a big amazon."
"Nice horse." The second man said to me as he moved forward.
I drew my staff slowly from the ring on my saddle and held it low and to my side. "Thanks. Now if you dont mind "
"But we do mind." The first man approached from the other side. "Little amazon like you would bring a good price in the slave market "
"Nah Im kinda mouthy and my mom says I have a really bad attitude " I took my right foot out of the stirrup and waited as the second man moved even closer to my left side.
"Well a slavers whip would fix all those problems Im sure of it " The first man said as they both moved quickly forward trying to capture my horses bridle.
I stood in the left stirrup and brought my right leg around making a solid connection to the second mans face with my foot. He stumbled back slightly giving me the room I needed to dismount completely. As my feet hit the ground I gave my mare a hard slap on the rump and she charged forward knocking the first man back slightly.
I knew I couldnt do much damage or hold them off for long but I was going to give it my best shot. I readied the staff and stepped back. The man I had kicked in the face shook his head and looked up at me. I had managed to bust his lip and nose. I could only hope the nose was broken.
The fist man charged me and I side stepped him and he crashed into the ground past me. If I could at least wear them down a little. The second man came at me, slower with more reserve. He wasnt happy about his busted face and his anger was working for him. I had to take that advantage away from him and shift it to work for me. "You know a couple of cold rags will keep that from swelling "
"Oh cute, very cute little amazon. When I get a hold of you Im gonna
I heard her voice behind me. Turning I saw her standing slightly bent, keeping the weight off her leg, holding her sword in her hand.
"Come on boys pick on the big amazon!" She moved forward slightly dragging the injured leg. She still managed a grin that made my heart stop as she twirled her sword in her hand.
The first man drew himself up and pulled a dagger from his belt and charged her. The second man lunged for me. I took swing with my staff and made contact with his knee. He dropped to one knee, holding the one I had just damaged. I heard something whiz by my head and suddenly there was a dagger sticking out of his chest. He looked at me as he fell forward and collapsed on the ground in front of me. I turned to find the first man lying at her feet, his throat cut.
She looked at me and dropped her sword as I moved to her and wrapped my arms around her.
"Mel are you okay?" She hugged me close and ran her hands through my hair
"Im okay scared witless, but Im okay."
I felt her kiss the top of my head. "Lets get home."
I nodded and released my hug. I whistled and my mare returned to us. "Let get you settled back down "
"No I think I can ride. Itll be faster."
"You shouldnt "
"Yeah well Ive always been big on doing things I shouldnt. Help me get this litter untied."
After a few moments the litter was undone and our gear was resettled. "Im sorry I had to leave your saddle ," I said softly as she pulled herself onto her horses bareback.
"Mel its just a saddle. It can be replaced."
I nodded as I mounted my own horse and we headed for home. I looked back at the area in the road. We had moved the bodies and the litter off to the side but there were still two large red stains in the dirt. "Can I make a suggestion?"
"I vote we dont tell mom about this until later."
"Much later." She chuckled at me as we rode down the road.
At camp that night I managed to get her to take something for the pain after we ate and she slept a little. I could tell by watching her that she was never completely asleep. Our little encounter had really set her nerves. Finally I settled down to sleep, knowing we should be home the next day.
"Hey could you be a little rougher with that needle." I growled at Adrin as she stitched up my leg.
"Yes and if you dont be quite Ill prove it." She mumbled back at me with a grin.
I felt Ris hand tighten over mine and I turned to her. The worry etched on her face was unmistakable. "I swear Im never letting you two out of my sight again."
"Hey we did all right. Mels got a good survival instinct. She took good care of me."
"She did a wonderful job getting you back here."
"Yes she did even after I told her to leave me " I grinned at her. "She sounded a lot like you when she told me no."
"There youre done." Adrin cut the thread and wiped her hands on a cloth. "Let me wrap this back up and re-splint it. You know youre going to have to stay off this for several weeks."
"I know." I grumbled as I lay back in bed.
"Im glad I dont have to put up with you." The healer chuckled as she continued to tend to my leg.
Mel entered the room slowly, making her way to the bed. She settled down on the other side of me and took my other hand. "I got you a present."
"Got me a present? Why?"
She gave a quick whistle and Solan came in with a new saddle. He smiled as he brought it to the foot of the bed and sat it down. "You need to get up and around so you can break this in."
I nodded my head as I turned to Mel. "Thank you."
"Well it was the least I could do " She grinned at me.
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