Chapter 13

Paris, France – 1957

Janice heard her name being called. It was gentle and soft. She struggled to open her eyes. Everything was white and blurry at first but finally the face above her came into focus.

"Mel?" she asked; unsure of whether to trust her eyes or not.

"Can’t leave ya alone for a minute huh?" Mel smiled but she looked unsettled. "Always finding trouble aren’t ya?" she added.

"Yeah," Janice agreed starting to sit up and get a better look around at her surroundings. "You know me – trouble and I go hand and hand. . .Where am I?"

"At a hospital not far from the museum. You collapsed on the street today and some kind folks called the ambulance. I got a call at the hotel about 15 minutes ago and I raced down here."

"You raced huh?" Janice asked with a cocky grin. "Thought you wanted to keep things professional Mel?" she teased. Mel gave a bashful grin but didn’t reply or meet Janice’s eyes. Janice reached out and took the belle’s hand in hers. "When we get to the hotel we’ll talk things over some more alright?"

Mel nodded her agreement and offered an apology which Janice cut off with a raised finger. "No Mel," Janice told her. "We both said things we didn’t really mean so let’s just set it aside for now and deal with it once I’m outta here okay?"

Mel nodded again as the doctor began to come in. "Dr. Covington. . .How are you feeling?" he asked in his native tongue. Janice replied back in French.

"Just fine," she answered, "What happen to me?"

"It appears that you’ve suffered a mild stroke."

"What?!" Janice and Mel both exclaimed.

"Yes, it appears so," the doctor as he took out his thermometer and popped it in Janice’s mouth, leaving her mute. He possessed her arm next and began to wrap the pressure cuff around her for a reading. "According to Miss. Pappas’ you smoke too much, you drink too much and you don’t eat regularly."

Janice cast a scowl at her partner since words were not an option at this point. The doctor caught Janice’s look and came to Mel’s defense. "Now don’t blame her," he chuckled. "We needed a history on you and she filled out the form. It’s not as if she ‘ratted’ you out."

The doctor removed the cuff and he told Janice that things looked good so far. In a day or two she could be released. "But once you’re out," he warned her, "No smoking."

Mel nodded in agreement with a smug grin. She wanted Janice to give up those smelly cigars for years – now she had her chance.

"And no drinking," he continued as he stole the thermometer back from Janice’s mouth, making notes.

Mel nodded right along her grin getting larger and larger.

"And make sure you eat properly on a regular basis," he concluded as he went to the door.

Mel couldn’t be more happy with the outcome of this incident and she now smiled from ear to ear. All her little pet peeves of Janice’s would have to be dealt with now whether the archeologist liked it or not. Oh yes, Mel was happy. . .at least until the doctor turned in after thought.

"Oh yes," he said calling over his shoulder. "It probably isn’t an issue since you’re unmarried but no sexual activity either."

The door closed. The doctor was gone. Mel’s smile fell instantly.

"That’s it!" Janice said starting to get outta bed. Mel rushed over and tried to stop her. "Move it Mel! I gotta have a word with this . . .this . . .doctor. . . I’ll start to eat more often. I’ll stop drinking. . .Hell, I’ll stop smoking!! But there is no way on earth I’m going to stop . . ." Janice didn’t say the words but she exaggerated greatly with her hands and the point she made wasn’t lost on Mel.

Mel tried to gently steer Janice back to the mattress with reassurances. "Please get into bed. You shouldn’t be up yet. I’ll go speak with him alright?"

Janice reluctantly complied, ranting the entire time with comments like ‘Who the hell does he think he is?’ and ‘Where did he get his license to practice medicine? In a Cracker Jack box?’ and on and on. She still ranted even as Mel left the room, moving swiftly down the hall to find the doctor. She spotted him and called out making him stop.

"Yes Miss Pappas?"

"This no smoking, drinking, sex thing. . .how long is that in effect for?"

"For forever," he answered. "Are you alright?" he added taking Mel by the elbow.

Mel’s sharp intake of breath as a result of this surprising news made all the heads around them turn in her direction. "Ahh. . . yes doctor I’m fine. . .Just a little surprised that Miss Covington is hereby doomed to a life of celibacy. I find it very hard to believe that her heart isn’t good enough for such . . .activities."

"It’s not the activity of sex as much as the result," he answered.

"You mean she can have sexual relations but not an orgasm?" Mel asked, making sure to whisper the last word bashfully.

"No. . .I’m sorry I’m not making myself clear," he said scratching his head.

Mel agreed. "No I have to admit I’m very confused right now."

"Over here," the doctor said leading her to a near by bench as they took a seat in the waiting area. "Miss Covington shouldn’t have a child. Her heart may not be strong enough and given her age it’s dangerous any way. I’m afraid the strain of childbirth could kill her."

"But sexual activity will not?" Mel asked just to clarify.

"Right," the doctor agreed. "She shouldn’t run the risk of conception – conception and labor could be the true problem and why I say she should avoid sexual relations. She should wait at least two weeks before she does anything strenuous though – whether sex or walking a few flights of stairs. . .See that she doesn’t overindulge in any thing for a while. With a change in lifestyle and a new diet Miss Covington has the chance to grow to be a very old woman."

Mel brightened considerable. "Thank you doctor," she said shaking his hand. "Thank you very much."

Mel didn’t wait for his reply she darted back to her room. She knew she had a ranting lover to control with the good news.

A week later Janice was sitting in their hotel room, a bunch of scrolls and museum items littering their suite. Since Janice couldn’t go to work, Janice had ‘the work’ brought to her.

Mel had just returned from the kitchen area with a cup of coffee for Janice, since scotch was now out of the question. Janice had to admit Mel looked pretty damn radiant today – sleeveless blouse and a flowing floor length skirt. She snagged the translator and brought her down to her lap.

"How ‘bout a lil cream ‘n sugar?" Janice whispered, trying to unhook Mel’s buttons.

Mel put her hand over Janice’s, stopping her explorative efforts. "The only ‘cream n sugar’ you’re gettin’ Dr. Covington is in that cup of coffee. Doctors orders."

Mel rose and she playfully swatted Janice’s arm. Janice reached out and swatted Mel’s backside in return making the southerner yelp. Both women grinned devilishly at each other. This was shaping up to be the longest two weeks of Janice’s life.

Ever since the doctor told her she couldn’t have Mel, she never wanted her more in her life.

‘Correction,’ Janice told herself. ‘You haven’t wanted her this much since you became lovers’. Looking back now she wondered how she ever survived having Mel that close without. . .having Mel. . .That old feeling of ‘look but don’t touch’ was in effect again and although she protest it, in some sadistic way (she figured) she enjoyed it. She knew, however, that Mel Pappas wouldn’t be getting any rest come the 14th day of her recovery.

"Come on Mel," Janice whined. "I feel fine. The ole ticker is in great shape. Trust me on this."

"Janice," Mel said sternly. "I’d rather not take that chance. Besides it’s only one more week. We’ve been apart longer than that before. . .you’ll make it."

"Yes we have been apart longer but that was different. We were on different continents for cryin out loud. I didn’t see you everyday looking so beautiful and so goddamn sexy. I mean really: Did you have to wear that long skirt? You know that drives me nuts," she answered slinking over to Mel on her hands and knees like a predatory cat.

Janice got one hand on the loveseat that Mel was sitting on before the translator stopped her with a firm hand to the shoulder.

"I’m not trying to tease Janice. I don’t have anything clean besides this skirt. I figured it was better than wearing nothing at all. . .Besides didn’t ya once tell me I could make a gunny sack look sexy?" Mel teased. "Don’t blame yer libido on my wardrobe please."

Janice buried her head in Mel’s lap with a groan. "Oh pretty please Mel. . .Okay how about this? You don’t have to lay a finger on me. Let me do all the work. I promise I won’t get too excited."

Mel laughed out loud. "Yeah right! I don’t believe that for a second. I’m not the same gullible gal ya met 17 years ago Janice."

Janice smiled and looked into Mel’s eyes, "No you’re not the same gal but I’ll tell ya what sweetheart."

"What’s that?"

"I love you more now than I did then. And I’m sure the same time next year, I’ll love you even more although today that seems impossible because I already love you so much."

Mel sighed, "That’s sweet Janice."

She stroked the archeologists’ face tenderly and Janice pushed herself up softly, delivering a tender kiss to Mel’s lips. When the translator didn’t protest Janice went back for another. Then another. And another.

"Na ah," Mel said pulling away. "I won’t let ya seduce me Janice Covington. The doctor said no."

Janice plopped herself down next to Mel in defeat on the loveseat. "Alright," Janice agreed. "No means no and I won’t ask again. . . It’s just that I know how much you like to ‘break the rules’. . .Remember that afternoon in the lecture hall? You ended up spread eagle on my desk that day."

"Janice," Mel warned in a threatening tone.

"Or how about that beach in Madrid? Great god above, we both ended up with sand in places we never knew we had," Janice laughed.

"Yes I remember Janice," Mel said irritated, picking up a scroll with the intention to begin work again.

"And that time we were in Asia and we went to that spa. You remember that? Oh sweetheart! That was wild! I figured you’d stop as soon as that other woman walked in and found us. But oh no! You kept right on going."

"I WAS drunk at the time," Mel said pulling her glasses down to scold Janice with her eyes. "And no I DO NOT remember. You, on the other hand, have a perfect memory of my lapse of judgement."

"Lapse of judgement?!" Janice exclaimed. "Sweetheart that was one of the most erotic experiences of my life. . .You hands all over me. . . That strangers eyes all over us. . ."

"It’s comforting to know ya like to think of us as a live sex act!" Mel said tossing the scroll on the table angrily.

"Not at all," Janice corrected. "It’s not the actual act that I find so erotic Mel. It’s the fact that your desire was so great that nothing would stop you. Neither of us was ashamed of expressing our love that night. That’s what was so appealing – even though someone else was present you couldn’t contain your passion for me. . .and vice versa."

Mel calmed instantly at Janice’s words. And in some respect she was jealous that Janice had that memory and she didn’t. She just remembered waking up the next day in their hotel room, buck naked with a foul taste in her mouth and a pounding headache.

"All the more reason for us to wait another week Janice," Mel grinned. "I want to spend many, many more years of passion with ya. I’m willing to wait until yer well." Janice started to protest once more. "I know ya think ya feel better Janice but, please sweetheart, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it if I did anything now. I’d be too worried about you. Okay?"

Janice gave up on her afternoon conquest in light of Mel’s heartfelt request. It was cute for awhile. A nice little joke of sorts. But Mel was putting her foot down now. . .without really putting her foot down. And like usual, Janice was helpless but to comply.

"Yeah. Okay," Janice agreed. "but you gotta promise to wear that dress next Tuesday when I’m off probation. Deal?"

Mel smiled as she picked the scroll back up "Deal!"

Chapter 14

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis, around 500 bc

Lye jumped around outside trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue. Gabrielle watched from inside the cabin as Xena put the finishing touches on his snow fort. She watched as the retired warrior got the young boys attention with the means of a well-directed snowball. Lye didn’t stop to turn around to see what happened. Quickly he bent over making a ball of his own, charging the warrior.

Gabrielle could tell he was laughing as he charged his momma and she had to chuckle along. Lye was very scholarly. He loved books and drawing. A very creative soul like the bard herself but he also was a very rough and tumble lad. He enjoyed to ‘mix it up’ as Xena would call it when they wrestled around.

Lye leaped on Xena’s back as she tried to flee in mock terror, yelling and flailing her arms about. Gabrielle’s laugh deepened when she watched both of them tumble to the snow. Myra began to get restless in her play area that Xena had made the year of Lye’s birth. When a villager’s child got burned on the fireplace, Xena decided to make a ‘gate’ for Lye so he could play if they needed to tend to other matters. She remembered watching Xena sand down the wood to a smooth finish. She was sure that Xena resolved that nothing bad would ever happen to their children. Not even a splinter.

As she watched Lye and Xena playfully arguing upon entering the doorway, Gabrielle could have never hoped for a better ‘husband’ or ‘father’ for her children.

"Got you best," Xena taunted the boy.

"Did not!" Lye answered adamantly.

"You wanna go back out there and settle this once and for all?" Xena asked tower over the boy. The words were harsh but the smile on her face was wide.

"Let’s ask mom," he said turning to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle, who finished collecting Myra, looked at the two in the doorway.

"Who got who best mom?" he asked with a big grin. He was cocky like Autolycus with Xena’s ‘killer eyebrow’. He was gonna be a handful when he got older. That was for sure.

"Well," Gabrielle began as she examined the pair. "Since you’re momma looks like she got covered in an avalanche. . .I’d have to say you won."

"Yes!!" Lye said triumphantly as Xena argued at the same time.

"I demand another vote!" Xena grumbled. "Myra what do you thing?"

"Na ah," Lye argued. "Babies don’t count. You can’t ask babies what they think cause they don’t talk right mom?"

"He’s got ya there," Gabrielle informed Xena.

"Oh brother," Xena said hanging her head in defeat taking off Lye’s boots. "Go get outta those wet clothes before you catch a fever," she grinned.

"Momma?" he asked Xena as she hung onto her shoulders for support as she pulled the shoes from his feet.

"Yes Lye?"

"How can you catch a fever if you’re cold to begin with? I mean wouldn’t you be more cold and not hot?"

"I don’t know Lye," Xena answered honestly.

"But when you catch a fever you get hot, not cold. So you really should leave your clothes on so you don’t get hot?"

"Lye," Xena sighed frustrated. "Go get changed."

Lye realized this was the end of the debate and he scurried to his room.

"Our little Plato," Xena said shaking her head as Gabrielle chuckled.

"He’s at that age," the bard told her partner.

"Yes but everything?" Xena asked. "How does this work? Who is that person? Why did this happen? Everything Gabrielle – absolutely everything is a question," she whispered.

"He wants to know how the world works. He’s gotta wonderful teacher in you," the bard complimented.

"That’s debatable," Xena sighed, stripping down to her long johns.

"What makes you say that?" the bard asked concerned.

"See? Another question," Xena teased. "Now I know where he gets it from."

"And now I know where he gets his evasiveness from," Gabrielle countered.

Xena smiled and nodded. "Point one to Gabrielle."

Gabrielle led Xena to the fire as she cradled Myra. Once seated, Gabrielle handed the baby to the warrior. "I’ll get you some warm clothes," she said, going to their bedroom. Once back, Gabrielle took the baby so Xena could dress.

"You never answered my question," she continued. "Why are your parenting skills debatable?"

"So now parenting is a skill?" Xena joked.

"Oh yes," Gabrielle grinned. "And you have –

"You don’t have to say it," Xena said with a kiss cutting her short. Xena paused a moment and wondered aloud. "I’m just worried that I won’t always be there and that my past will catch up with HIM. . .I don’t know Gabrielle. I just wonder sometimes if I’m cut out for this . . .family life."

"You can’t be serious. You’re knee deep in family life Xena. . .Are you . . .restless? Do you want to leave?"

The bard wasn’t even sure if she was truly asking these questions. It scared her but what scared her more is that Xena wasn’t answering. "Xena?" the concern was evident in her voice.

"Oh no!" Xena quickly came back from her thoughts. "I don’t want to leave. I just think that sometimes. . .I’m not the best parent I can be."

"You know what I was thinking just before you came in?"

"What?"

"I was thinking about how lucky I am to have you. Not just you – but that you were the best choice I could have made as my life partner. You’re a wonderful wife and mother. I’m very lucky and blessed to have you. . .And so is Lye and Myra."

Almost on cue, Lye came running out of his bedroom and into Xena’s arms.

"Is it cocoa time momma?" he asked snuggling tighter into her embrace.

Xena looked at the boy. Then her daughter. And then the bard. She was taking in the ‘family’ she wasn’t sure she could lead but realized they were all doing just fine. Gabrielle smiled as Xena offered her a wink of acceptance.

"Sounds like a plan Sport! You get the chocolate. I’ll get the goats milk."

"Gabrielle?" Xena asked starting to turn.

"Yes, one for me too of course."

As Xena went back to her task she smiled. Yes. She and the bard knew each other well. And although it wasn’t always perfect, and at times there would be doubts, life was good.

 

Chapter 15

Delittee Adoption Agency, Paris, France – 1957

Mel sat nervously in the small office. Her white gloved hands strumming on the chair arms.

"Please relax sweetheart," Janice whispered. Although anxious herself, and wonder just where in the hell that agency woman was at, Janice tried to calm her lover.

Suddenly the door opened and a petite woman walked inside. "I’m sorry I’m late," she apologized. "We have an adoption today and I was making last minute plans."

"That’s fine," Mel said friendly. "We’re in no hurry."

The woman smiled warmly before opening a file and reading through it.

"It says here that you are interested in adopting Monique, correct?"

"Yes, ma’am," the southerner nodded.

"She is a special needs child, meaning that she has no hearing."

"I understand," Mel nodded.

"She’s also spent two weeks with another family," the director informed her.

"I understand that as well," Mel nodded once more.

The woman went back looking into the file.

"I must admit it seems highly unorthodox to give a child to an unmarried woman. Especially a child which, to be honest, will be quite expensive to maintain."

Mel froze and Janice caught it.

"Mel hand me your pocketbook," Janice ordered warmly.

Mel did as she was asked and Janice took out Mel’s checkbook and opened the ledger. She leaned over and showed the directory the figure inside.

"That’s American dollars," she smiled. "Feel free to contact Miss Pappas bank to confirm if you like."

The directors eyes widened and she shook off her disbelieve. "Well, we’d have to confirm this information of course but it looks like you have the means to supply the child."

"Good, then where does she sign?" Janice pushed.

"It’s not that easy Miss. . ." The director let the sentence hang.

"Miss Covington," Janice told her.

"Well, Miss Covington," the director began again, "We like to have some idea or reason behind Miss Pappas motives of adoption."

"I want to have a child," Mel announced. "And I realize I’m not getting any younger. I feel like I need something here. Someone that I can love and teach things to. Someone that will be here long after I’m gone."

"That’s all well and good Miss Pappas. But you are not a young woman. You’re approaching middle age."

"All the more reason for her to adopt," Janice butted in.

The director looked annoyed. Mel felt grateful.

"In what way?" the director asked Janice.

"She’s reached a point in her life where having a baby could be dangerous. Not only to the child but herself as well. Miss Pappas has been single for many years. . .Most men regard her intellect and beauty with fear. Hence, she’s unmarried.

She may be too old to have a child now but not to old to care for one. If God above sees fit to keep Melinda here until her life expectance, the child will be an adult by the time Melinda’s life ends. It’s the perfect time for Miss Pappas to care for a child," Janice concluded.

"Alright," the director reluctantly agreed. "I can see your point. But keep in mind that this child will require special schooling-

"Miss Pappas father was the Dean of South Caroline University. She has many friends on the faculty, myself included, that could help put her in touch with people who would find the right program for Monique."

The directory made a note on the paper. "You do realize however all the paperwork that would be involved as far as citizenship and the like. It could be a very long time before-

"Like she said. We’ve got time. If you start the paperwork today, I’m sure it would be done before my partner and I finish up our research here and head back to the states."

The director smiled at Janice. "You’ve thought of everything haven’t you?" she asked the pair.

Janice gave a cocky grin in return.

"There isn’t one single reason that Miss Pappas shouldn’t be allowed to adopt this child," Janice began, "She’s a very caring, loving individual. I’ve worked with Miss Pappas for over 17 years now. She’s my best friend in the world and she’d make a wonderful mother. Monique needs a mother. And Mel needs a child. Looks like a perfect match to me. . .The alternative is to turn Mel away. But what you’ll have is a child that can’t get adopted because she’s ‘used goods’ and a woman who’d spend her life wonder ‘what if’. . .So I’ll ask again. . . Where does she sign?"

Mel didn’t know if Janice’s speech would work but she knew one thing for sure. She never loved Janice more than at this moment. Quietly and with a growing grin, the director reached into her desk and pulled out a form.

"If you would put your signature here on the ‘x’ Miss Pappas," she said handing Mel the document and a pen.

Mel didn’t move at first. She looked over to Janice who nodded toward the director. Mel seemed startled, disbelieving that IT was actually happening. It was the worst signature of her life but she couldn’t control her shaking hands.

"I have all the information on the forms but if I need you I can contact you at the hotel correct?"

"Yes ma’am," Mel nodded.

The director began to stand up and Janice followed her lead. Mel however had to be lead up by Janice by the elbow. When the director reached for Mel’s hand, the translator took it and shook it almost violently. The director had to smile. Janice could see that the director was comfortable with the pairing of Monique and Mel already.

"Thank you very much," Janice said extending her hand so Mel would free her grip on the director. The director took Janice’s hand and noticed the strength of the shake, the almost ‘manly’ nature of it. Janice saw a flash of recognition in the director’s eyes as if she knew the true nature of Jan and Mel’s relationship.

"I’ll be contacting you. . . both," she added with a wink. "Give me about two days to get things going okay?"

"Thank you again," Janice added with a nod of agreement.

"My pleasure," she smiled again.

Janice had to lead Mel out of the room. The southerner still didn’t quite have her barring on the situation yet. They closed the door behind them and proceeded down the empty corridor. From what seemed like out of nowhere, Mel started to cry. Janice took her in her arms and tried to calm her sobs.

"Shhh," Janice coaxed. "It’s okay Mel. Everything’s fine. . .Why are you crying sweetheart?"

"Because I love ya so much. . . Ya did just what ya said ya would do. Ya went in there and got us a child. I froze Janice. I didn’t know what to do but ya stepped up and-

She didn’t finish. She pulled Janice into a searing kiss before pulling back, tears staining her face.

"Boy if that’s the kind of reception I get in public for one kid let’s have lots and lots more," Janice teased as she wiped Mel’s face with the back of her fingers, pushing the tear tracks away.

Mel darted away and gave a quick look around to see if they had been noticed. Janice chuckled. It had been years since they had let their guard down like that in public and Mel’s reaction humor her.

"Don’t worry sweetheart," Janice reassured as she started to walk again. "Nobody saw us . . . But I do want you to remember that I’m officially off probation today."

Although she couldn’t see it, she knew her lover, who was swaying in front of her, was grinning from ear to ear. Mel didn’t add anything else she just watched Janice with dogged determination as she planned her ‘attack’ for when they got home.

They arrived at the hotel and Janice paid the driver. Once up to their suite, Janice walked ahead and unlocked the door. She barely had time to pull the key out when Mel’s lips where claiming hers.

Janice’s back crashed into the small foyer wall but their lips never broke contact. Mel pulled back for an instant to kick the door shut with her foot. Next she pulled Janice’s leather jacket down to her elbows, effectively wrapping the archeologist up, making escape an impossibility as she reclaimed Janice’s lips.

Janice loved this side of Mel. The one that had the southerner belle losing her inhibitions and ‘good graces’ she was taught all through her life. Southern refinement flew out the window at these moments. Janice knew. . . .she was going to be taken.

Mel gave up those beautiful lips and started to work on Janice’s ear, nibbling on the lobe.

"I’m gonna show ya just how grateful I am for what ya’ve done today," Mel’s whispered breath tickling the archeologist’s wet ear. "I’m gonna prove to ya how much I love ya. I’m gonna worship every inch of that strong, firm body of yours Janice Covington."

Janice’s voice caught between a sigh and a moan at Mel’s words. Suddenly the belle jumped back; her loving hands shooting away from Janice’s body as if it were on fire.

"Are ya all right?!" Mel exclaimed.

"I’m . . .fine," Janice replied trying to get an understanding of what was transpiring. "I’m better than fine actually," she said feeling herself smirk; her eyebrow mischievous going into her bangs. She pulled Mel back to her with a firm grip on the translator’s hips.

She could tell however that Mel wasn’t quite as amorous as she was moments before.

"What is it Mel?" she whispered.

"I’m worried," Mel mumbled before slipping away, traveling into the living area.

"Worried?!" Janice exclaimed as she followed her. What did Mel have to worry about? They had a new shipment of finds coming this week. The adoption agency was starting on Monique’s paper work. Life couldn’t be better. Mel had everything she wanted and if she didn’t have it right now – the reality of it was not that far away.

"About you," Mel said moving to the sofa. Janice promptly took a seat next to her.

"Look if it’s about the adoption –

"No," Mel cut her off. "It’s not that. I know if ya didn’t feel ready for this ya wouldn’t have made the case ya did today on my behalf."

Janice was dumbfounded and the look on her face showed it. The look didn’t happen often, Mel noted. Janice was often quite sure of herself and her surroundings so when these rare occasions did occur Mel couldn’t help but smile. It made her superhero Janice seem all the more human. This time was no different and Janice’s look of confusion grew larger to see the ‘worried’ belle grinning at her.

"You have to help me out here Mel-

"It’s you," Mel said affectionately as she stroked Janice’s face. "What will happen if you. . .get too. . .excited?" Mel asked struggling with the words of how to delicately express herself.

"Welllllll," Janice smiled wiggling her eyebrows. "I might have an orgasm."

Mel chuckled. "No silly – that’s not what I meant."

"Well what do you mean? Are you talking about my ticker?" Janice grinned as she lightly tapped her chest.

Mel lost her smiled and she nodded weakly. "Janice I’d never be able to live with myself if anything happened to you, especially if we were. . .well . . . you know. . .".

Janice realized in an instant what happened. The sound she made earlier was one of deep desire but it could also be mistaken for one of pain. ‘Come to think of it, it is a pain’, Janice thought. ‘Well maybe not a pain perhaps – just a strong, throbbing ache that is nowhere near my heart’.

Janice put her hands over Mel’s, which were collected in the translators lap.

"Mel, listen to me," Janice began. "I feel fine and I believe God takes us when he wants us. . .so it doesn’t matter if I’m watching Jackie Gleason, teaching classes or making love to you. . .When it’s my time to go. . .it’s my time to go. . .But if you ask me how I feel right now I must confess my heart is racing. . .Not because it’s ‘broken’. . .It’s because I’m so crazy in love with you. You can be moody, overprotective and down right unreasonable. . .but know this. . .I always have faith in ‘us’ and for every characteristic you have that infuriates me at times, you have ten more that I love. I love you Mel and I just want to show you how much."

Mel rose up long enough to hike up her skirt and straddle Janice. "Are you sure?" Mel whispered cupping Janice face in her hands.

"I’m positive," Janice replied as her hands crept under the cotton material of Mel’s skirt, moving high and higher with slow grace until finding their mark at the apex of Mel’s legs. "Seems like I’m not the only one ‘crazy in love’," Janice teased upon finding the wetness gathered there.

"No," Mel whispered sincerely, "You’re not."

Janice took one hand away while keep the other firm in place. She capture Mel’s back with her palm and forearm bringing her closer. She leaned in and inhaled the sweet smell of her lover’s flowery perfume. Next she placed the most delicate of kisses between Mel’s cleavage. Kisses that began to multiply and wander over to her breasts – first one and then the other as her fingers below began to set a steady pace.

Mel rocked above Janice; her eyes closed lightly. She reached down and played delicately with the archeologist nipples before adding more force behind her caresses. Janice felt like she herself just might explode as Mel snaked her tongue out to moisten her drying lips – lips that were becoming dry thanks to the small sighs and moans that were escaping the translators lips.

Their pace was slow and leisurely – more an expression of affection than a moment of passion. Mel’s moans became deeper; her sighs coming now as grunts. When Mel broke into light sweat and a stream of ‘Oh Jan’s’, Janice was done for. The constant stimulation to her breasts and Mel’s words did her in. Janice loved seeing Mel so engrossed that she couldn’t finish her name. It was only in bed when Mel called her Jan and the archeologist knew that, if anything did tear them apart, no one would ever be able to use that ‘nickname’ in her presence. That belonged to Mel and Mel alone. Janice knew that not only her name belonged to Mel but even herself as well and with that thought, she began to tumble over the pinnacle.

It was difficult but Janice said nothing – she gave no expression of ecstasy, for fear of frightening Mel again. Janice knew her lover was close to release and she didn’t want anything to startle her from her relaxed yet wanton state.

"Oh God Jan!" Mel exclaimed as her head fell backwards, her dark hair cascading down past the middle of her back. Mel’s hands released Janice and took up residence on the back of the sofa – her nails digging into the upholstery. Janice could feel Mel’s lips quivering, both sets of lips, as she reached in for a kiss.

Breathing hard and spent, Mel settled her forehead on Janice’s shoulder, kissing an exposed part of the archeologist neck.

"See?" Janice began as she stroked Mel’s back tenderly and supportively. "I’m still here."

"Yeah," Mel agreed, "But you didn’t . . .you know. . ."

"Explode?" Janice laughed.

Mel giggled and blushed red. "Yeah."

"Sure I did," Janice smirked. "I just kept things . . .quiet this time. . .I wanted to prove it’s okay to love me and I didn’t want to upset you again with. . .how should I say this. . .suggestive noises?"

Mel snuggled back into Janice’s shoulder and scooted next to her so both of her long legs covered Janice’s lap. "You know you really are a sweetheart to put me first like that. . .to put me at ease."

"Yeah," Janice joked, falling into her cranky fašade. "Well . . . Don’t let it get around. I have a reputation to protect ya know."

"Janice Covington," Mel announced, before kissing her lover on the lips. "Yer secret is safe with me."

Chapter 16

Ancient Greece, Amphipolis around 500 bc

Cyrene raised an eyebrow as she watched Gabrielle searching through Xena’s old bedroom. The bard turned and caught the expression. ‘Like mother, like daughter’, she thought as she watched the facial gesture.

"I don’t mean to be nosy but. . .what in Tartarus are you doing dear?" Cyrene asked stepping into the room.

"I’m looking for a scroll. One I wrote about Xena," she informed her.

"Well that narrows it down," Cyrene teased. "Perhaps you could be more specific."

Gabrielle smiled. "Ha. Ha. Very funny. . .Very true. I will agree most of my work is about Xena." Gabrielle paused and watched the eyebrow expression return again to Cyrene’s face. "Alright ALL of my work is about Xena," the bard smiled.

Gabrielle looked under the bed and she found a box of scrolls. She placed the box on top of the feather mattress and she began to search through them. "It’s one I wrote not long after Lye was born. . .I thought it was at home but I can’t find it. . .and I know we didn’t take it on the trip to Egypt so it must be somewhere."

Cyrene took a spot on the bed and began to open one, "What’s the scroll about sweetie?"

"Xena being a parent. . .After the other night here at the tavern, she’s been having doubts. . ." Cyrene looked concerned but Gabrielle smiled and patted her hand. "It’s okay. . .She and I talked about it. I just wanted to show her how I view her as a mother. Something to reinforce the points I made to her . . . but I can’t find the scroll anywhere."

Cyrene began to read the one in her hand. Soon Gabrielle heard the surprised sigh Cyrene made and she looked at the older woman who was blushing deeply. "That’s not it," Cyrene said causally catching Gabrielle’s eye and quickly rewrapping it. "but it certainly is . . .colorful. That’s for sure."

It was obvious to the bard that Cyrene had stumbled across a more ‘descriptive’ scroll that dealt with her expressing her love for Xena.

"I should warn you-

"Too late. This is far too much information for a mother to read," Cyrene chuckled.

Now the bard blushed and rubbed the back of her neck in discomfort.

"I’m sorry," Gabrielle apologized.

"That’s okay," Cyrene smiled. "It’s obvious my daughter is loved very much. . .very, very much," she joked.

Gabrielle prayed she didn’t turn even redder at the comments. "Perhaps I should. . ."

"Do this yourself?" Cyrene offered. Gabrielle nodded meekly with a grin. "Not a problem," Cyrene smiled. She rose and walked back to the doorway. "By the way, Xena’s looking for you downstairs. Should I send her up or tell her you’ll be down?"

"You can send her up," Gabrielle smiled. "And again I’m sorry about. . ."

"Don’t be sorry," Cyrene grinned warmly. "That scroll isn’t anything I didn’t already know," she jabbed once more before pausing in thought. "I’m very fortunate to see my daughter happy. Something I never thought I’d see. Xena actual smiles now and I know that you’re the one that put that smile there sweetie. . .I’ll send her up."

"Thank you Cyrene," Gabrielle replied.

Cyrene’s response was a kiss blown through the air. Gabrielle went back to digging through her box. Moments later Xena was standing in the doorway – Myra in her arms, Lye wrapped around her leg. Oh yeah, Xena was knee deep in family all right – literally in fact.

"Hey gorgeous," Xena smirked. "The tavern lady downstairs told me I could find a beautiful strawberry blonde up here. . .Minimal rates too," she added slyly in a low, quiet voice.

Gabrielle walked over and pulled Xena’s head down to whisper in her ear, "Minimal rates huh? You’re so beautiful I just might do ya for free."

"Be careful," Xena replied in a teasing warning. "Don’t want to get me too shaken. I might drop this little bundle in my arms."

"Well then," Gabrielle said outstretching her arms. "Perhaps I should take over then."

Xena handed their daughter over and scooped up Lye. "What’cha doin up here?" Xena asked.

"Looking for a scroll actually. One I wrote about parenthood."

"Parenthood?" Xena asked. "Why? Are you still worried about my brief lapse of confidence?"

Gabrielle grinned. "Not worried. . .Just wanting to plant more facts behind my point is all."

"Oh yes!" Xena teased. "My plotting and charting and analytical bard. . .Wouldn’t have ya any other way ya know?"

"Good answer," Gabrielle replied in a mock threat. "You better keep yourself in line."

"Yes ma’am," Xena said with a small bow. "I know my place. . .Right under that thumb of yours."

Gabrielle tossed a pillow hitting her target as both of them chuckled. Even Lye laughed. Of course he didn’t understand what the dialog meant but having Mommy hit him with the pillow was pretty fun.

"Being under my thumb isn’t always such a bad place to be if I remember correctly," Gabrielle replied in a seductive grin.

Their son rested his head on Xena’s shoulder so Xena placed her hands over Lye’s other ear and whispered with a smile, "Please! There are children present!"

She tried to say the line with dead seriousness but she knew Gabrielle would never fall for it anyway. The bard knew her too well.

"Well maybe we should go home and put the kids to bed?" Gabrielle offered.

"Don’t you want to look for your scroll?" Xena answered.

"Nah. It’s okay," Gabrielle said as she placed Myra on the bed to stuff the scrolls back under it. "Besides you know how I feel about it all."

"Such as?" Xena offered as Gabrielle collected Myra in her arms.

"Such as, all women should be as lucky to have a mate like you. . . Of course they can’t have YOU. YOU belong to ME. . .Ya got that warrior?"

"Oh yes bard," Xena said wrapping her arm around Gabrielle’s waist and leading her out the door. "But possessions goes both ways ya know?" Xena added as her hand cupped her bondmate’s bottom.

"Oooh," Gabrielle sighed. "It sure does."

"We GOTTA get these kids to bed as soon as we get home," Xena said in impatience. Gabrielle simply laughed.

 

Chapter 17

Mel sat on the sofa sipping her coffee organizing a pile of scrolls. There were lots of them but so far nothing with writing on them. Janice and Mel lost hope with each new day that passed. Not that it wasn’t a ‘find’. The institute would have a wonderful display to put forth, one piece in particular – it was a chest or strong box lined with rubies. It would make a wonderful edition to their ancient times exhibit but as for being Xena related, it was useless.

Mel had two more scrolls from this find to observe. She didn’t take her time in opening it. Quickly she unwrapped it, taking little care in its preservation. She flung it open so the parchment rolled toward the floor, snapping sharply but not breaking as it unfolded.

When Mel noticed the handwriting on it she stopped its dramatic swinging motion by grabbing the bottom of it. The first word Mel read made her take a sharp intake of breath - so sharp in fact that Janice looked up from across the room.

"What is it?" Janice asked.

Mel simple uttered the first word on the page.

"Xena."

That got Janice’s attention. She scurried to her feet. A box full of ancient dinning wear she had been searching through was quickly forgotten.

"You found a scroll?!" Janice asked on the short trip over.

Mel just nodded and her lips moved silently as she read it.

"Mel?!" Janice said trying to get the belle to look at her. "What have you got?"

Mel put the parchment down to look at her partner. "I haven’t found anything in all this mess until now. . .See?" the translator offered by turning the scroll around.

Sure enough the first word was Xena. "Did Gabrielle write it?"

"I don’t know," Mel smirked, trying not to let Janice’s nosiness aggravate her. "You won’t let me read it," she added.

It was the southerners gentle way of putting her foot down and saying ‘leave me alone so I can work’ – a way of being firm yet gentle at the same time. Janice respected the soft-spoken authority that belonged to her partner. She even perhaps envied it on some level. Janice’s character as a hot head was known on all four points of the world.

Without any more discussion, Janice unrolled the last scroll. It had writing as well. Mel tried to look at it over Janice’s shoulder to see what was written but the archeologist pulled away, hiding the parchment from her lover.

"Nah uhh," Janice tisked. "This one’s mine. That one’s yours," she grinned.

Mel sighed in frustration but she had to smile as well. Turnabout was fair play.

"Okay then Miss Covington I’ll make a deal," she countered with a seductive tone rising to her voice.

"What’s that?" Janice replied, as she felt the hairs on the make of her neck rise up to scratch her collar.

"I’ll show you mine if you show me yours."

Janice smiled. She was grateful that after all these years Mel still liked to play, tease and eventually please her.

"We’re still talking about the scrolls right?" Janice smiled.

"Why of course my dear doctor? What did you think?"

Oh yeah. Mel still had it.

"The scrolls . . .of course," Janice said handing her parchment over to Mel without further argument. The belle never being one to gloat, just smiled in victory.

She held the parchment so she and Janice could both see it and read at their own pace. Over the years Janice’s pace picked up considerably thanks to all of Mel’s late night sessions but Mel was still the stronger of the two – especially with syntax. It was obvious to the translator that this scroll was not written my Gabrielle. Not only was the bards named mentioned in it (which was very rare) but the handwriting was different. With that in mind Mel dug into the text and the two women began to read.

"I’m not sure why I’m doing this. Legacy. That’s what Gabrielle called it when we were in Egypt a few weeks ago when she did the same thing. I called her crazy but as I sit here tonight missing my son, Lyceus, it just seems like the thing to do. I’d tell Gabrielle about this but I’m sure she’d never let me live it down. Not that I’m complaining. It’s one of the things I love most about her – she never lets me off the hook easy. She challenges the choices I make. Perhaps if I had met her earlier in my life, things would have been much different. But we can’t change the past can we?

As I said, I have a son. I’ve had two sons actually but Solan is gone. He would have been 16 this year – a man practically. . ."

The words stopped Janice and Mel in their tracks and they exchanged a look of disbelief. Both of them started to calculate what they knew about the warrior. When she was a warlord. When she met Gabrielle. When the first child was born. . .well at least what they THOUGHT was the first child. Their curiosity of the remaining letter however pulled them back in. They could calculate later.

"Gabrielle has been trying to have our second child together with my brother but so far it’s been unsuccessful. She takes things so hard. She thinks that it’s her fault but perhaps her prior experience with motherhood has damaged her in someway. It wouldn’t surprise me. Perhaps Dayhak’s gift to her – leave her sterile so Hope would be her one and only. So not only has the past left us with many painful memories but also doubts in our future."

Mel pulled the parchment away and the two women’s eyes met.

"Hold on," Mel sighed. "Did I just read what I thought I read?"

"You mean that BOTH Xena and Gabrielle have had children and nothing was ever written about either one?"

"Yeah," Mel nodded, looking off across the room.

"What is it?" Janice asked.

Mel got pulled back from her thoughts by Janice’s voice. "Nothing. . .just thinking."

"About. . .?"

Mel settled back, trying to find a starting place. "Both of them have had children right?"

Janice nodded.

"Nothing has ever been spoken about either correct?"

Janice nodded again.

"From what we’ve found an entire year is missing from their lives."

"But that doesn’t mean it isn’t out there somewhere," Janice replied.

Mel shrugged and went back to the scroll, "Guess you’re right."

"No. Wait," Janice said placing her hand on Mel’s forearm. "What’s your point?"

"Maybe the two are intertwined."

It was obvious Janice didn’t see where Mel was coming from so she continued. "I mean maybe Gabrielle had something to do with Solan’s death and maybe the pregnancy had something to do with that."

"What makes you say that?" Janice asked.

Mel reflected a bit before continuing. "Perhaps, Xena had to make a choice of some kind. . .Think about it. Gabrielle was a very loving person – she would have mentioned the child, BOTH of the children. Something prevented it though."

"Maybe it was just too painful to write about – losing a child can be devastating. Especially to someone loving like Gabrielle."

"I’d agree but it’s the fact that a year – AN ENTIRE YEAR - is missing from their lives. And look at Xena’s words about the child Gabrielle had. . .What was her name?. . .Hope. . .See how she talks about Hope and pain and. . ." Mel didn’t go on. Her mind was active again.

"So you think that somehow this child Solan died as a result of . . .of what?"

"I don’t know," Mel shrugged. "And from the looks of what we’ve found so far we might not ever know."

"Nah," Janice said rising up and starting to pace. "Gabrielle would have wrote about it. She worked everything out on paper – EVERYTHING. She would have written something."

"Perhaps she did," Mel offered. "But perhaps she destroyed it herself. We might not ever know."

Janice knew that was true. If only Xena could come back into Mel’s body for a few minutes she could ask the warrior herself. Perhaps they never would know. But they did have more left to read and with that thought, Janice took her seat next to Mel again and they proceeded on with their reading.

"Anyway, it’s in the past. And as I said we can’t change the past. Our future however does look bright. And Gabrielle is a wonderful mother to Lye. He adores her to death and she does have a habit of overindulging him from time to time. My mother tells me not to worry. With Gabrielle’s carefree attitude on most things and my demand for discipline we even each other out and we’re on the path to having a well rounded child.

I’m firm with him but that’s because I love him. He has to know there are limits. I never had that. And there are many parts of myself that I don’t want him to follow. I also know he has the capacity for it.

My only hope is he gets Autolycus’ temperament and my physical skills to aid him if trouble does arise in his life as far as what’s in his blood. Gabrielle will teach him to see the beauty in things and the need to preserve it, not destroy it. That’s something that’s taken me years to understand. But if Gabrielle can teach me I’m sure Lye will be no problem.

The scroll I’ve enclosed here is Gabrielle’s. As I said she doesn’t know I’m doing this. She’s sound asleep in our bed here in Gaul. The King sent word to us for help on our way back from Egypt. Gabrielle, like always, convinced me to lead a hand. It’s only a few extra days travel if we pushed she said. So here I sit. The woman can talk me into anything.

But, tomorrow, we leave and I can’t wait to see Lye. I guess I just wanted to leave this scroll because, although Gabrielle has a biased opinion, it shows more than the daring stuff I do which she often embellishes upon. She calls it poetic license or something like that. I guess I’d like people to know that the warrior princess was just a human. . .not the hero Gabrielle so often pumps me up to be. Truth be known I like the hero status but the only one whose opinion matters to me is Gabrielle’s – she is my light. She is my source. Without her, there would be no hero."

Mel and Janice exchanged a brief look and dived into Gabrielle’s scroll. To say that Xena peaked their interest with her introduction was an understatement. Two sets of eyes zeroed in on the new parchment now before them.

"Xena. . .My bondmate. My lover. Lye’s mother. Amphipolis’ mayor. . . Xena has many roles now. All of them are important to me. This scroll however is about her challenges with motherhood.

Xena has many skills – parenting wasn’t always one of them. . .until now. Our son is still quite young but I see each day how she learns more and more about being a mother. Watching the former Destroyer of Nations change a diaper for the first time was a rare treat. Here’s a woman who could make parchment fly yet couldn’t make heads or tails of a white piece of cloth to put on her son’s bare bottom. I tired not to laugh. Honest I did. I just couldn’t help myself. And by the end she and I were both laughing.

She was so nervous about motherhood at the beginning. Her past, not so much the future, was her main concern. She didn’t want Lye hurt by all the pain she had caused years before. It’s understandable. Xena was not a good person but she learned about love. She realized she had the best opportunity now by having a child and teaching him all the things she didn’t understand until later in life. She also has a playmate to pal around with too. A nice cover for her to have a ‘second childhood’.

Lye’s toys are made from the best-sanded down wood. His clothes are made from the heaviest cotton for winter. His summer clothes are comfortable so he doesn’t rash. Xena has taken every step to insure that our son is health and happy but even though she takes great care bad things still happen.

Last winter was tough. Lye, then two winters old, came down with a fever. Many people in the village had it and many people died. Xena sat with him 20 hours a day for over a week – only sleeping when I forced her too, only eating when I brought her something. When she wasn’t watching over his bed she was mixing and matching healing herbs, looking for something – ANYTHING – that would take away the illness.

Autolycus had come to visit that week and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealous as I saw the two of them watching Lye sleep. I knew Lye was my son but there was no denying Autolycus’ presence in the child as well as the fact that Lye would never be of my blood.

As I watched them I wondered if Xena had made the right choice. Was she better off with Autolycus? Did she need a husband instead of a bondmate? Would Lye be better off if he had his mother AND his father in his life? Looking back I know it was from lack of sleep and health that made me cast doubt on whether she and I had made the right choice.

Auto didn’t want to put us out so he stayed at mother’s inn. After he left for the evening, Xena and I fought bitterly. I was determined to leave. She was determined I stay. I thought Lye needed something that I couldn’t give him. She felt I could be the best influence on his life. I felt like an outsider that night and I took all my rage and insecurity out on Xena. She took my rage and insecurity and turned it into passion and hope.

After I realized how ridiculous the arguments had been (and she put my mind at ease) we ended up in bed making love. Hardly no sleep. Hardly no nourishment. And the woman still had stamina. But it wasn’t just her stamina that surprised me that night, it was her love. Her love to see that Lye was brought up the best way possible. Her love to see that I understood her and stayed with her.

The next morning we woke up late. Lye climbed into bed with the two of us. Xena felt him and knew his temperature had dropped. And he smiled again. I don’t think I’ve seen Xena return a smile as big as she did that morning. And that’s what I remember most.

All the thanks, all the praise, all the tokens of esteem Xena received over the years while being ‘the warrior princess’, didn’t mean as much as this young boys smile. It was the greatest gift she ever got. She loves our son . . .and me. . .and she’s the right choice. . . the only choice. . . for me.

Things will be hard at times, I’ve learned. But Lye has a head start on the other village children. Not because he’s the son of ‘The Warrior Princess’. Because he’s the son of Xena, devoted mother."

Janice and Mel sat silent for a few moments. Mel started to sip her coffee again as Janice rewrapped the scroll.

"Even Xena had doubts about being a mother," Mel finally spoke. "And Gabrielle had doubts of her own as well. . .Does it make you feel any better to know you’re not alone? Insecurity goes back a long way," Mel added with a grin.

Janice smiled as well but didn’t look at her partner. She opted to play with the ends of the paper instead.

"Yeah," Janice answered. "I guess it does. . .Things will work out right?"

"Yes Janice," Mel replied. "Things won’t be easy like Gabrielle wrote. . .but they will ‘work out’ just fine."

Epilog

As a ‘bonus payment’ for working on the artifact research, the French institute ‘gave’ Janice and Mel the latest scrolls so they could do more analysis on them – returning them at their leisure. However, that wasn’t the only thing they left France with. A beautiful 14-week-old baby girl was also in their ‘possession’.

Mel knew after the first few days just where Gabrielle was coming from in her remarks about Xena’s parenting style. Janice was always a stickler for details. Soon she found out that her lover’s parenting skills fell under the same scrutiny. Did she wrap the diaper tight enough? Yet not too tight? Did she burp her enough after feeding? Did she make sure Monique’s cap was secure before they went outside? It would have been enough to drive anyone else nuts but Mel knew it was just Janice being . . . Janice.

In fact, she loved knowing that Janice had an interest in the baby. She even overheard Janice doing ‘baby talk’ to Monique one evening although Janice swore up and down it was Mel’s ‘imagination’. Imagination or not, it looked like Janice and Monique were well on their way to bonding. And Mel was delighted to say the least.

Mel snuggled into the airliner seat with Monique cuddled up in her arms. Janice sat to the left of her, making sure the diaper bag had all the necessities for the long trip home. Mel couldn’t help but smile. Janice caught the smile.

"What?!" Janice asked in her temperamental tone. "I’m making sure we got everything. I never thought someone so little could need so much stuff. Hell, I’m a grown woman and I don’t require this much."

Mel chuckled at Janice’s attempt of brash complaints as a mask for her caring nature. She simply leaned over to Janice’s ear and whispered.

"I love you Janice," she sighed affectionately, letting Janice know she hadn’t been fooled.

Janice looked at her partner and their daughter. The fact that Monique was ‘their daughter’ finally hit home for the first time. ‘Scatter to the Winds’ Janice Covington now had a family and she wondered at what point she had become her father. With that realization she notice something else. She felt like her FATHER – not her mother, who ducked out years before. Yeah. . .she was in this one for the duration.

"I love you too Mel," Janice replied feeling the plane start it’s taxi. She leaned over and kissed Monique on the crown and settled back into her seat eyes closed.

Yes, it may not always be easy but one way or another it would ‘work out’.

The End

Please email any compliments, complaints, etc., etc. to cnwinters@hotmail.com and as always, thanks for reading.

 


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