~ A Janice and Mel Adventure ~
by Harlequin

Disclaimer: These characters belong to Universal and Renaissance Pictures. This is written for fun and no copyright infringement was intended. (But oh how I wish I owned these characters. *sigh*)

Subtext: Actually it's maintext, there are two women in love in this story, nothing graphic but consider yourself warned.

Violence/Language: Most definitely. This story does happen to have Janice Covington in it and she gets rather pissed off at times, okay a lot of the time, all right most of the time. This also just happens to be set during WWII so there will be quite a bit of semi-graphic violence.

Timeline: Okay everyone, for this to be the correct WWII timeline just pretend that Janice and Mel met one year earlier than shown in 'The Xena Scrolls.'

Extra Disclaimer: I do not know, nor pretend to know anything about the archeology profession. In other words, everything about the profession that is portrayed in this story comes from my imagination.

All comments can be sent to me via email at tklein@iname.com, I love feedback so feel free to bombard me. Now on with the story!

Part One

Mel was suddenly startled awake as thunder rattled her bedroom window. A sever thunderstorm was raging outside, quite a common occurrence this time of year here in Charleston, SC. She could hear the branches of the old oak tree outside the window scratching back and forth across the pane. A howling wind was whipping about and had successfully blown some of the lawn furniture across the yard. She instinctively reached beside her in search of her lover and was disappointed to find herself once again alone.

Mel and Janice had been business partners and friends for the last four years and much, much more to each other for the last three. Soon after their first meeting in Macedonian they began traversing all over the world together in Janice's quest to find more Xena scrolls, and soon that quest was not just Janice's any more, it had become Mel's too. In that first year they became closer and closer until finally one stormy night in a rundown hotel in Maracoo Mel finally took the bull by the horns, or in Janice's case the 'Mad Dog' by the muzzle, and confessed her deepest feelings in her own very ackward way. Every time she went back to that night in her memory Mel couldn't help but smile.

It had been pouring down rain so she and Janice checked into the first hotel they could find. It was rundown and roach infested but at least it was dry. They got a room, deciding to share to save money and went up to try and get some sleep.

Mel entered their 'room' first and stopped dead in her tracks causing Janice to smash into her back. "Mel! What the hell ya stopping in the middle of the fucking door for?" Janice was in rare form this evening making Mel blush bright pink each time her opened her mouth it seemed. Janice was in what Melinda refereed to 'sailor mouth mode.'

"Well Ja-uyn, there seems to only be one bed, and it's a single." Mel's heart was pounding in her chest at this site. More and more over the passing months her feelings for Janice kept becoming more and more overwhelming. She was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with her. But she knew there wasn't, her daddy had given her a very full education in every aspect of life, he made sure she was not prejudice against anything. Melinda was very proud of this and the prospect that she might be a...oh what had her daddy called it, homosexual, was not frightening. She knew other people would not look kindly upon her if she was, but sometimes you just had to take what life threw at you. She just wondered if there was something wrong with her courage wise, she just could not bring herself to express her true, all consuming feelings to Janice. The only thing Mel could come up with in her mind as to why she couldn't breach this subject wit!h her best friend was fear. Fear of losing Janice completely if she found how she felt disgusting. Mel knew most people would not be accepting of her having fallen hopelessly in love with another woman, especially one like Janice Covington.

"So what's the problem with that sweetheart? Not like we ain't never shared a sleeping cot before when we've been short of em on sites."

"Well Ja-yun, yes that's true, but this is a really small bed, we'll almost have to sleep on top of one another." Mel was not prepared for Janice's next words and nearly fainted.

"That's just fine with me sweetheart."

Mel could not believe her ears, she could have swore that Janice was very pleased with this revelation. Could it be that her greatest fantasy was true, that Janice felt the same way about her? "Ja-yun, are you sure that's okay?"

"Yeah, it's fine, I don't mind if you don't." With that said Janice began stripping out of her boots and kakies leaving her in just boxer shorts and a kaki shirt.

"Oh my." Mel had turned white as her mamma's finest linens. She was having the hardest time breathing too. This was getting bad, she knew it was now or never if she didn't confront Janice tonight she was going to drive herself insane over these feelings. "Janice, we need to have a lill' talk."

Janice plopped down on the bed and stretched out in a perfectly relaxed position. "Sure Mel honey, what's on your mind. You can talk to me about anything, you know that."

Mel had to sit down, her heart was pounding a mile and minute and she could feel herself beginning to sweat. "Well Ja-yun, we've been partners and friends for nearly a year now. And um.....Oh my, I have no idea how to go about this, I'm just so darn scared."

Janice knew that Mel must be really troubled over something if she was resorting to using the word 'darned.' She got up and went over and kneeled down in front of Mel placing her hands on the tall southerners knees in a comforting gesture. "Mel, hey, come on, look at me, whatever this is you can tell me, I'm right here."

Mel looked down to Janice's small callused hands covering her knees and took a deep breathe. She slowly looked up into Janice's concerned eyes. "Oh Ja-yun, I'm so afraid you're gonna hate me for this or think of me as some disgusting pervert."

"Sweetheart, I'll never think any such things of you, no matter what you have to tell me, and I'm not going anywhere you hear me! It's you and me, together, through everything. You hear!"

"Oh Ja-yun, please don't think bad of me but....I....I've, I think, no, I know I've fallen hopelessly in love with you." To say Janice was stunned was putting it mildly. She fell back to a sitting position in front of where Melinda was her hands sliding from Mel's knees into her own lap with a loud smack, and just sat there completely at a loss. She couldn't believe it, Mel was in love with her. In love with HER, 'Mad Dog' Covington. It was her wildest dream come true, and here she was making Mel suffer because she was sitting there like a mute child in shock.

"Janice, I'm sorry, I'll go now, I'll get a room of my own and be headed back for the States before you know it. Don't worry, you'll never have to see me again...."

It was just a whisper but Mel heard it and looked over at Janice completely taken aback by what she was seeing. "You love me......." There Janice was sitting on the floor a lone tear tracking down her cheek and many more ready to follow it's lead. "You love me? Why...why me, of all people, Mel, I'm no good, no one except my father has ever loved me."

Mel got out of her chair and kneeled down in front of Janice unable to believe that the person before her was the resilient Janice Covington. There were tears of sorrow and joy running down her strong face freely and she was having a very hard time breathing. "Janice...are you saying no one has ever expressed an interest in you like this?" Mel was regaining some composure and confidence now. It was amazing how quickly the tables had turned.

The most sorrowful expression Mel had ever seen came over Janice's face as she spoke. "Oh sure many people have said they love me, but every time it's just been a game, ploys for power, a way to get something that they wanted or for me to get what I wanted. Oh Mel! I have loved, not just as a friend, but fell in love with you that first time you walked into my tent in Macedonia. I've been so afraid that you would find me abnormal and disgusting that I've kept to myself. Oh God....I.....oh geeze, fuck me." And with that Janice 'Mad Dog' Covington fainted dead away.

Mel was shocked to say the least, that hadn't gone exactly as she thought it was going to go, but she'd take it. There was a joy swelling so fast in her heart that she was sure it would burst at any moment. Her wildest dream had just come true Janice, her Janice loved her and she loved Janice. She finally, for the first time in her life felt complete. Mel gingerly picked Janice up off the floor and situated her onto the bed, she was so light and seemed so fragile not at all like the self assured and brazen woman the rest of the world knew her to be. She then sat there waiting for her to wake back up, simply holding her hand running her thumb back and forth across that back of Janice's hand.

Janice finally started to come around. "Holy shit, did ya get the license number of the fucking truck that hit me?" Janice looked up into the most beautiful set of blue eyes she had ever seen. "Mel, please tell what I just experienced was not a dream."

"No, Ja-yun, it was not a dream." And with that Janice leaned up and kissed Mel smack on the lips. She was tentative at first but the longer their lips were in contact the more heated the kiss became. They finally broke apart, the need for air out weighing the need for continued contact. "Oh Janice, I love you so much."

"I love you too sweetheart, I love you too." Janice pulled Mel down beside her and they spent the whole night snuggled in each others arms. In the morning they woke spooned together, Janice's back pressed and held firmly to Mel's front. They had a good long talk that morning deciding to take things slowly. But, of course, that didn't last long. The simple act of getting dressed turned into a kissing match witch ultimately led to their fist sweet and mind blowing love making session.

The wistful smile left Mel's face as she looked at the empty space next to her in the large queen sized bed. Mel knew there would be no going back to sleep for her tonight so she got up, donned her robe and made her way down stairs to make herself some coffee.

Janice had been 'missing' for nine days now. Mel knew she was becoming more and more restless being stuck here in South Carolina due to the war. With the war still ragging it seemed that there was no one in their right mind who would finance a dig. Mel had tried to discuss Jan's restlessness with her and even suggested using some of her ample inheritance for a dig, but the discussion turned into a full fledged fight, or that's at least how Janice saw it. She was the one doing all the ranting and raving, and she had ended up storming out the door nine days ago and Mel hadn't been able to track her down since, she hoped that she was still in the country. Mel also knew that the way people had been talking about her and Janice and their relationship was really grating on Jan's nerves. Being that they had actually been living in Charleston for nearly a year now made the rumors fly. Mel now feared that the rumors had had a part in Janice up and leaving. There was no doubt in!

Mel's mind that Jan would leave so that the socialites of Columbia would not 'disown' Mel. Janice knew that Mel had important connections in that world and that those connections were sometimes the deciding factor in whether or not they got the funding they needed.

With each passing day Mel grew more and more worried about her Janice. She started wandering around the huge mansion that she and Janice shared, she had inherited it when her father had died. It had seemed so empty until Janice came to live with her here, and now it felt empty once again with her missing.

She finally ended up in the study they shared for working on scrolls and various other arechologyical finds. It was a large room, one of the largest in the mammoth house. The room itself was two stories with books covering three of the four walls and a balcony running where the ceiling for the second floor should have been. There were more books in this one room of the Pappas mansion than there were in the entire main library of The University of South Carolina. The fourth wall was almost solid windows with an amazing view of their spacious backyard, and the horse pastures that Mel insisted stay active even after her father's death. There was a beautiful spiral staircase that led up to the balcony, this balcony gave access to the second floor of books. On one wall there was a break in the bookcases where a large marble fireplace burned almost constantly. Mel knew Jan loved the smell and that the flickering flames helped her beloved concentrate, so she didn't mind the co!

nstant extra heat. In the middle of the room were two extra long black leather couches facing each other with a coffee table between them strewn with Janice and Mel's notes between them. Hand carved endtables sat all throughout the room holding various Victorian lamps that Mel had collected over the years as well as some wonderful artwork. Finally, at the opposite end of the room from the fireplace stood two huge oak desks pushed against each other face to face. One desk was very neat with all the notes and files stacked and in their rightful place. The other, however, was a disaster area, notes strung everywhere, even a half finished roastbeef sandwich was still sitting on a plate in the upper left hand corner next to an ash tray that was overflowing with stubs from Janice's favorite brand of cigars. This desk had 'Janice Covington' written all over it and every time Mel looked at her lovers desk a small smile forced its way onto her face. No matter how much she griped!

at Jan she could not get her to keep her desk more organiz!


Mel sat down in Janice's chair taking in the distinct smell that was her lover; leather, cigar smoke, and a wonderfully spicy smell that to this day Mel could not place. It was then she noticed a piece of crumpled paper next to Janice's waste paper basket. It amazed and amused her that the one thing Janice was very insistent on was that all waste paper make it to and stay in the waste paper basket. She said it was so that unimportant things didn't get somehow mixed in with important notes, but Mel knew that this was just Jan's little way of trying to be more organized. She could see the start of written words in Janice's beautiful hand writing, it said 'For Mel,'

Mel picked up the paper and started to flatten it back out stunned to see that the date on it indicated yesterday. Janice always dated everything, it was a habit that she had picked up from working on dig site logs. Had she somehow slipped into the house last night without Mel realizing it? She must have, that's the only way Mel could explain the date. "Oh my, it's a poem." Mel began to read.

I would walk to the edge of the universe for you

Paint you a crimson sunset over sheltering skies

I could learn all the world dialects for you

Whisper sonnets in your ear discovering truth

I could never worship pagan gods around me

I will only follow the path that leads me to you baby...always

Every step I take for you

I will always defend, never pretend

That every breath I take for love

I could never be wrong, the journey is long

With miles to go before I sleep

Miles to go before I sleep...

I would carry the rock of Gibraltar just for you

Lifted like a pebble from the beach to the skies

I could build you a bridge that spans the oceans wide

But the greatest gift I give you would be to stand by your side

Some can criticize and sit in judgment of us

But they can't take away the love that lives inside us always

Every step I take for you

I will always defend, never pretend

That every breathe I take for love

I could never be wrong, the journey is long

With miles to go before I sleep,

Miles to go before I sleep...

I won't run from the changing signs along the highway

Let the rivers flow to the highest ground created.

Every step I take for you

I will always defend never pretend

Every breath I take for love

I could never be wrong, the journey is long

With miles to go before I sleep

Miles to go before I sleep...

Tears were falling unhindered down Mel's cheeks as she finished reading and brought the crumpled paper to her chest, a ragged sob escaping her mouth. "Oh Janice honey, you are so wonderful, you've done Gabrielle proud." Mel continued to quietly sob until the ringing phone startled her.

It took her a moment to compose herself and reach for the phone that sat on the corner of Janice's desk. "Hello, Pappas residence, Melinda speaking."

"Oh thank God! Miss Pappas, this is Srgt. James Wilson down at the sheriff's office..."

Mel abruptly cut of the srgt. as worry and concern for Janice overtook her. "Oh my, James is it Janice, is she all right what happened, where is she!?"

"Calm down Miss Pappas, I didn't mean to scare you like that. Janice is right here and she's fine, a little drunk, no...make that very drunk, but fine. She's got one heck of a shiner and a few bumps and bruises, but otherwise she's fine. We just had to bring her in, she started a brawl at a bar downtown, there are five people who want to press charges. I'm trying to convince them not to but I thought you might want to come down here and help me out."

Srgt. James Wilson of the sheriff's department was one of the few individuals that knew about the relationship between Mel and Janice and didn't have a problem with it. He'd known Mel for most of his life and had taken quite a liking to Janice when Mel had introduced them three years ago. To James anyone who could make the painfully shy Melinda happy was okay in his book. He wasn't at all surprised to see Janice drunk, but he was surprised to see her smashed this bad and missing her partner.

"Oh James, of course, I'll be right down, James....?"

The phone seemed to be missing a person on the other end, then Mel heard the worst sounding noises coming through her receiver. There was loud yelling and a huge metallic crash, one of the voices definitely belonged to her beloved Janice, then there was a second loud crash and some cursing form James.

"JAMES!!....JAMES...what just happened, I heard Janice yelling?"

"Sorry Miss Pappas, Miss Covington just had a nasty run in with two of our filling cabinets. I was trying to keep from having to put her in a holding cell, but I guess that's not gonna happen. Could you get down here quick please, she sure is a handful this drunk." With that the line went dead.

"Oh Janice, what have you done now?" Mel was up the stairs in a flash getting dressed and grabbing some money from the safe for Janice's bail. Five minutes later she was out the door on her way to the sheriff's office.


When Mel entered the sheriff's office all seemed quiet. James was sitting at his desk doing some paperwork, on Janice no doubt, and the office's loyal golden retriever, Buster, was asleep in a corner. Then Mel's eyes fell on two file cabinets that were definitely the fore mentioned ones that Janice had become closely aquatinted with. One was still lying on its side on the floor with petite boot marks imprinted all over it and the other's doors were ajar with one very small fist print dent gracing the side. Mel was now hoping that Jan hadn't gone and broken any of her fingers.

Mel cleared her throat to get James attention. "Oh, Miss Pappas, sorry I didn't hear you come in. It's been quite a night around here thanks to Miss Covington. She even gave Buster quite a scare and it takes a lot to get a rise out of him these days."

"James, I thought you said there were people who wanted to press charges against Ja-uyn? Where are they?"

"Oh, I finally got them all convinced to not press any charges against her." James boyish face smiled at this statement. "I don't know how I did it but I think the fact that all of them were well on there way to being as drunk as Miss Covington had a lot to do with it. As soon as I told them I could lock them up to for disorderly conduct and public drunkenness they hightailed it out of here."

"Thank you James, you are such a dear friend. Where is Janice, can I see her and pay her bail so we can go home."

"Sure, but I want to warn ya Miss Pappas, she's not in top form right now. I had to have old Doc Riely come down after she had fun with my file cabinets, she accomplished a small fracture to her left hand on one of them. She also has a nasty gash over her right eye, as soon as I put her in a holding cell she started banging her head on the bars and yelling in....um...Greek I believe. She didn't stop till she passed out about ten minutes ago."

James led Mel down the jail house hall to the area were the three holding cells were. Mel had seen Janice in bad shape before, but she was not at all prepared for what she saw when James opened the cell door and led her in to where Jan was still passed out.

"Oh my." Mel was beyond shocked at the condition that Janice was in. She was laying spread eagle on her back on the musty old cot dressed in her favorite motorcycle boots, kakies, and just a white tank top. She was missing the white men's oxford shirt that Mel knew she left the house in all those days ago. There was a long bloody gash above her right eye that had been closed with 17 stitches. Her other eye was a horrid black and blue as well as swelled shut. But what startled Mel the most was how thin and gaunt Janice looked. From the looks of it she probably had not eaten since she stormed out of the house nine days ago. Jan's total lack of care for herself was a constant source of worry for Mel.

Mel kneeled down next to Jan, and stroked her cheek as she fought back tears. Poor Jan...it seemed that the only way she knew how to deal with her restlessness and insecurities was to go out and pick fights. Mel knew that Jan would inflict pain on herself when these feelings became overwhelming. Why couldn't her hard headed little archeologist ever just sit down and talk?

Janice moaned as Mel lightly probed her swollen eye. "James, how many people did she take on? You said there were five who wanted to press charges right, that's not a fair fight." Mel leaned down and kissed Jan's stitches lightly not worrying about the fact that James was standing right there.

"Um, yeah, she actually was taking on seven or eight of em when we got there but only the five who she injured wanted to press charges. You should have seen em Miss Pappas, if you think Miss Covington here looks bad then you would think that these five would need a hospital. Miss Covington sure swings a mean punch."

"Yes, that she does, but she always seems to be on the receiving end of some pretty mean punches herself." The sadness in Mel's voice was clear.

"Yeah...well, I find it amazing that someone as small as Miss Covington here can handle eight big guys that well." James was standing just outside the cell door shuffling his feet. "Um...Miss Pappas? I could um, you know, help you get her home if you like, I'm off shift now, old Ronny should be out at the desk starting his shift. If you'll just go up front and pay her bail I'll carry her out to your car for ya."

"Oh thank you James. I have no idea how I would get her to the car and then from the car to the house all by myself." Actually Mel knew she could carry Janice with minimal effort but she could see that James really wanted to help, he was like a little brother to her, always wanting to do the right thing in her eyes.

Fifteen minutes later Melinda was pulling into the mansion's drive with James right behind her. She let him carry Janice up to their room thanking him over and over for his kindness in this matter and for helping Jan by getting those people to forget about pressing charges. She sent James on his way home to his wife making sure he had some of the fresh baked blueberry muffins that Tessa, Mel's housekeeper and cook, had just finished before they arrived home with Jan.


After James had left Mel went back up to the room she and Janice shared and proceeded to strip Jan down till she was left in just her panties. After three years of hounding her Mel had finally gotten the stubborn woman to quit wearing boxer shorts. Next Mel got a wash rag form the master bath wetting it with nice warm water and cleaned Janice up as good as she could considering that Jan was, at the moment, dead to the world. Finally she slipped a soft cotton T-shirt over her head and left her to sleep while she went downstairs to help Tessa make Jan a nice big breakfast.

Mel walked into the kitchen and was immediately bombarded with the sent of fresh brewed coffee and rising homemade bread. This kitchen was especially designed to Tessa's specifics. When Mel's daddy had hired her to do all his cooking and cleaning so he could concentrate on his academic endeavors and make sure his daughter got the best education possible he had told her that the kitchen would be redone to fit her needs and to tell the remodelers exactly what she wanted, and that she did. Tessa was a wonderfully independent woman for her age. She had just turned 75 and was still keeping the Pappas manor in tip top shape. She was a short woman, not as short as Janice, but dwarfed by Mel. Her salt and pepper hair was always pulled back into and bun and her kind brown eyes spoke of years of joy serving this family. She had worked in this house since Mel was five years old. She was a great guardian to Melinda and got immense joy form having watched her grow from an ackward y!

oungster unsure of her place in the world to a beautiful woman who knew exactly where she wanted to be and what she wanted to be doing. Tessa was also very happy to know that Mel had found her soulmate in the rambunctious and stubborn Janice Covington. Janice and Tessa often butted heads but it was all in jest, the two got along marvelously, much to Mel's delight. Tessa was just ecstatic to see that Jan filled the place in Mel's heart that had for so long been empty. Any fools that called their love for each other unnatural or disgusting be damned in Tessa's eyes. She knew their feelings for each other were genuine and very beautiful. They completed each other in a way that everyone always hopes for but few achieve. They were a special couple indeed and Tessa took great pride in making sure they were fed well and had a clean home, the latter being hard to accomplish with Janice around. She called Jan's chronic messiness 'Yankee chaos.'

Tessa looked up from her dough preparation when she heard Mel enter the kitchen and sigh. "Morning Miz Melinda, long night?" All Tessa had to do was look Mel over once to know that she had been up since a very early hour and that the reason behind it was worry for Miz Jan.

Mel was standing just inside the doorway of the kitchen rubbing her palms across her face in a gesture that showed just how tired she really was. But sleep didn't interest her at the moment, her only concern was getting a large breakfast into her favorite companion. She finished rubbing her face and slipped her glasses back on. "Yes Tessa it was a very long night. The storm woke me and then I got a call from James. As you saw, Janice is home once again, worse for wear."

At the sadness in Mel's voice Tessa walked over and embraced her in a warm bear hug. Miz Jan always seemed to be getting herself into trouble these days. Just a few weeks before this she had gone off and nearly punched a teenage boy for gawking at her and Mel while they were shopping downtown.

"Don't worry Miz Melinda, we'll get Miz Jan all fixed up with a big, gut busting breakfast." Tessa released Mel and went back over to her stove where she was getting all set to start on Jan's favorite, blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs.

Mel smiled and followed Tessa over to the stove to see if she could be of any help and immediately had a package of bacon and a frying pan placed in her hands. "Thank you Tessa...you are the best. I just don't know what I'm going to do about Ja-yun's restlessness." She sighed a heavy, exhausted sigh and went to work frying up the bacon that had been handed to her.

"Don't worry Miz Melinda, you will figure something out, you know her best, better than she knows herself. You will help her not be so restless and insecure, I know this, believe the old woman whippersnapper." A hearty chuckle filled the kitchen as Mel and Tessa continued preparing breakfast.


Half and hour later Mel went back upstairs to check on Janice and see if she was in any condition to eat the wonderful breakfast that Tessa was downstairs putting the finishing touches on. She quietly entered their room to a sight that tugged at her heart strings. Jan was laying in the middle of the bed in a tight fetal ball with the sheets twisted all around her. Her hands were clutched to the side of her head and an expression of great pain was etched onto her face. Mel instantly knew that this was one whopper of a hangover her beloved was suffering, not to mention the extra pain caused by her headbanging routine in the holding cell earlier that morning.

Mel quietly walked over to the bed and knelt down to be level with Janice's face. "Ja..." she was abruptly cut off by a harsh whisper form Janice.

"Shhhhhh, not so loud, and could you maybe tell the air to quit shouting at me?" Not once while she spoke did the lines of pain ease from her face. In fact they intensified as her own voice painfully echoed in her ears. Oh what she wouldn't give to be back in that wonderful drunken oblivion she had finally accomplished last night.

Mel got up and seated herself on the bed next to Jan pulling her lovers head into her lap and lightly stroking the disheveled soft blond hair. Mel couldn't help the soft sobs that started coming out her mouth, nor could she stop the tears that fell onto Jan's silky hair.

Jan noticed Mel's sobs even though the statuesque southerner was trying to hide them and started to chastise herself internally. Why was she always hurting Mel so, she didn't deserve to be tortured like this because of bad habits.

Despite the pain Jan had to comfort her precious Melinda so she began speaking words of comfort through the cotton that was forming in her mouth. "Mel honey, it's okay, I'll be fine. You know me, I've bounced back from worse in my time. Mel...honey...please, stop crying." Jan gingerly pushed herself up to a sitting position and enveloped Mel in her arms and just let her cry out all the worry, tension, and frustration that she had caused this gentle woman who held her heart, body and soul. "I'm sorry sweetheart, I'm so, so sorry."

Through her hiccuping sobs Mel tried to talk to Janice. "Ja-yun...why....why must you do....this to yourself...all the time.....?" Mel's sobs quieted and she was able to speak more clearly. "Why must you go out and get yourself beaten up all the time? I just don't understand."

Janice sighed as Mel straightened up out of her comforting grasp and bombarded her with questions that she couldn't answer. "Mel, I....honestly, I don't know. Can we talk about this later, my head is pounding so much right now I can't see straight." And boy was that ever the truth. As lovely as they were, she didn't think seeing two Melinda's was a good sign.

Mel sighed in frustration and rose from the bed. Every time she asked Jan that question she never got an answer and she knew that she probably would not be able to get her lover to talk about her propensity for going out and intentionally getting into fights this time either. "You can't see strait Ja-yun because in your drunken haze you started beating your head against the holding cell bars early this morning."

Jan was really confused now, the last thing she remembered was breaking some ogre of a guys jaw. "Holding cell, Mel, what are you talking about?"

"You started such a ruckus last night that James was called to the bar by the owner to break it up, he had no choice but to take you in. He tried to keep from putting you in a cell but you were causing too much trouble. Just look at your hand Janice." Jan looked down at her hands just now noticing the clean white plaster covering her left palm and wrist. She could hear the slight anger in Mel's voice.

Jan rubbed her face hard with the palm of her right hand. "Shit!, I'm sorry Mel..."

Mel cut off Jan's apology not wanting to hear it and simply informed her that breakfast was ready. "Tessa has made your favorite this morning, It'll be downstairs waiting for you." With that Mel turned and quickly exited before Janice could utter another sentence.

Janice let her head fall back onto the bed's headboard with a loud thump and enjoyed the searing pain that it sent through her skull. As far as she was concerned she deserved it. "Good going 'Mad Dog,' you've sure fucked up, again."

Janice finally took the time to look around and realized that at least Mel wasn't completely disowning her, she was in their room. The master bedroom was quite large. The center piece of the room was the large queen sized bed that Jan was currently sitting in the middle of. It was a beautiful old Victorian canopy bed that was covered in exquisite sky blue linens that reminded Janice of Mel's eyes. On either side of the bed were two matching night stands that held either Janice's or Mel's personal effects. On Mel's stand was her glasses case, a novel she was currently reading and the alarm clock, she never could trust Janice to set the right time. On Jan's stand was her trusty side arm, an overflowing ashtray, and the novel she was currently reading. The carpet was a rich navy blue that accented the linens and their matching curtains that fanned out perfectly from the two large windows. Each window had a padded seat that was perfect for rainy day snuggling, something th!

at the partners were always doing much to the embarrassment of Tessa on occasion. On the wall opposite the foot of the bed stood Janice and Mel's dressers. When Jan had moved in Melinda had had a matching dresser hand carved for Janice, just looking at it brought a wonderful warm feeling to Janice's heart. Also, between the two dressers was Mel's vanity. The mirror was huge with an amazing hand carved frame around it and there was every type of make-up you could think of and one bottle of perfume scattered about on the polished oak surface. This was the one place where Mel's organization did not shine through. On the wall opposite the windowed wall was a small sofa that had a constantly growing collection of pictures above it. These pictures were all taken on the many expeditions that Janice and Mel had been on together over their four year partnership, including one hastily snapped at their first meeting in Macedonian just after they had emerged safe and sound from Are!

s tomb. The final part of the master bedroom was, of cours!

e, the connected master bath. This room in and of itself was a work of art. I was in the same rich blue tones that accented the bedroom. The tile floor alternated between the sky blue that Jan associated with Mel's eyes and a stunning navy blue, both marbled with white. The fixtures were all striking white porcelain with polished gold taps. The linen closet was the only walk-in linen closet Janice had ever seen and was stuffed full of soft fluffy blue towels. This linen closet, since it was a walk-in one, also held most of Jan and Mel's nicer 'dress' clothes. It still amazed Janice how everything in every room stuck with it's color code. The tub was Melinda's pride and joy, a beautiful clawfooted thing that Jan thought was a bit much for the room, but it served it's purpose well and Janice would have many found memories of soaking in it with her gorgeous lover.

Jan slowly drug herself from the now totally messed up bed and nearly fell flat on her face as an immense wave of dizziness took hold. She knew if she didn't make it to the bathroom quickly she was going to lose the contents of her stomach, what little content there was, all over the carpet. If she did that Mel would have her sleeping in the study for sure. She finally had to give up on walking and got onto her hands and knees and crawled to the bathroom retching into the toilet the minute she knew she would hit her mark.

After an agonizing fifteen minutes of retching and dry heaves Janice was able to pull herself up to the sink and get a good look at her reflection. It was no wonder Mel was sobbing the way she looked. She turned on the cold tap and let it run for a bit before splashing her face to try and wake herself up more fully and get her legs more securely under herself. With that finished Janice slowly and painfully shuffled over to her dresser and found a pair of soft gray cotton pants. Knowing there was no way she'd be able to stand up and put them on she seated herself back on the bed and agonizingly put in one leg at a time. Thank God Mel had put a T-shirt on her last night, she was certain pulling one over her head would send her sprawling to the floor.

Normally when Jan had a hangover, especially one this bad, Mel would be here helping her. It was obvious to Janice that Mel was royally pissed off at her and it caused an ache in Jan's heart that she desperately wanted to go away. She wondered how long it was going to take Mel to get over this little incident, if she got over it at all.

Jan now deemed herself dressed enough to not scandalize Tessa so she started the daunting trek to the kitchen downstairs. She made it to the door of the bedroom simply by flinging herself form the bed to the small couch, the door was luckily right next to that couch. Upon getting out the door Jan used the wall to support herself till she got to the grand curving staircase that led to the vast downstairs of the mansion, here she grabbed onto the banister. Looking down the stairs caused a huge wave of vertigo to wash over Jan and a not so soft moan escaped her lips. Janice closed her eyes fighting down the dizziness and nausea, there was nothing left in her stomach and the thought of more painful dry heaves was not very entertaining. Janice slowly but surely made her way down the huge staircase wondering why it seemed that there were so many more stairs when she was in this condition. Upon reaching the bottom a huge, crashing wave of vertigo grabbed onto her head and refus!

ed to let go causing her to fall to her knees clutching her head in her hands while she squeezed her eyes tightly closed and let out the most pain filled moan that had ever left her lips.

Mel heard the loud thump Janice made when she fell to her knees in the kitchen and was startled to hear such an anguished moan coming from her stubborn little archeologist. Perhaps Jan had hurt her head worse than Doc Riely had thought last night. Mel rushed out of the kitchen with Tessa hot on her heals. She quickly fell to her knees beside Jan who now was laying in a fetal position fighting off double vision and the most horrible vertigo she had ever experienced.

"Janice....Janice honey, can you hear me?" Mel's voice was full of worry and she was now regretting leaving Janice alone to get ready to come down for breakfast. "Ja-yun, please tell me what's wrong."

Janice looked up into Mel's concerned blue eyes and tried to smile as her head was pulled into Melinda's lap. "I'll be fine sweetheart, just didn't expect to be this dizzy or for my head to be pounding quite this much, but I guess I asked for it."

"Honey, maybe I should call Doc Riely, have him come out and check you for a concussion or something, maybe he missed something when he checked you over at the jail last night..."

Janice cut off Mel's worried babbling to reassure her that she would be fine. "No sweetheart, I'm fine, I'd know if I had a concussion." Jan was afraid of what Mel was going to think of her next statement but she had to tell her there was no way around it. "I guess nine straight days of nothing but drinking will do this to you."

Mel was shocked, angry and saddened all at the same time, but she simply leaned down and kissed Janice lightly on the temple and continued gently stroking her hair till Jan was able to sit up and finally stand up. Once on her feet Mel led her into the kitchen and sat her down at the table where Tessa proceeded to load up her plate with blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon. Finally a large steaming mug of coffee with two creams and one sugar was placed in front of her while blue eyes intently watched her.

"Mel, honey, please don't stare at me while I'm eating, you know how I hate that." Janice did hate it when Mel watched her eat, but she knew Melinda was only looking out for her. Janice had a way of forgetting to take care of herself and that included forgetting to eat, and it was true that she had not eaten a single thing for nine days.

"I'm sorry Janice, but I'm going to sit here and watch you eat everything Tessa has put on your plate and then make sure you have seconds."

Janice sighed in frustration, truth be told she wasn't hungry, but she was going to have to eat with Melinda sitting there beside her watching her every move. She even looked like an hawk watching her through her horn rimmed glasses. She couldn't even slip bites to their devoted dog, Argo, who had finally made her way around a scolding Tessa and into the kitchen right to her favorite spot under the table. Argo was, of course, named after Xena's dedicated and well trained war horse. She was a large Husky, German Shepard mix who took great pride in protecting her house and mistresses. She had a knack for making any visitors in the house nervous until she deemed them safe. It had surprised Janice completely when she had wondered home with Argo under her arm that Mel didn't have a fit. She had found the poor pup rummaging through a garbage can at the university three years ago when they were in the states giving a series of lectures on their work from their first year worki!

ng together. Being that she had a huge weakness for animals, especially small furry ones, Janice brought the dog home to where she'd be loved and cherished. Argo started accompanying them to dig sites as soon as she was fully grown to stand all the way to Janice's mid thigh and weigh 150 pounds.

Janice started eating and smirked at the whining sounds that soon started coming from under the table. Argo knew Jan was eating and was wondering why tidbits weren't being passed her way by now.

"It's no wonder that dog weights so darn much Ja-yun, they way you feed her."

"Hey sweetheart, she's gotta be good and strong for digs and protecting the one thing I care most about in this world.....you."

Mel flushed bright pink at the compliment but wasn't going to let Janice get off so easily after the nine days of hell she had just put her through. "Yes Ja-yun, eating is a big part of being strong enough for digs...I can think of some people who seem to ignore that fact."

Janice sighed and looked down at her now empty plate. Tessa left the room sensing the impending heated discussion and Argo followed her quickly as the building tension filled the room. She should have expected that, she had really hurt Mel bad this time. Well....it was about time they had this one out so maybe they could get things back to some semblance of normal. "Mel...I'm so, so sorry...."

Mel abruptly cut Jan off standing so fast that her chair clattered to the floor as she started pacing back and forth in front of her. "NO! no Janice, quit saying you're sorry and explain to me why you do this to yourself!" Mel was once again fighting back tears, but this time she was bound and determined to not let them fall.

Janice put her elbows on the table and cradled her throbbing head in them while she thought of what to say to Mel. How was she supposed to explain something she herself did not understand? She figured the best thing to say was just that. "Mel....how am I supposed to explain this to you when I don't understand it myself. I'm very restless here, I thought I could be happy settled down for a while, and I was until.......ahhhh, but this place is getting to me. All the stares we get, the talk that goes on behind our backs. I guess I'm just longing for a nice desolate dig site where no one questions 'US.'"

"Oh, Ja-yun........"

"No," now it was Janice's turn to interrupt, "let me get this all out before I lose my train of thought due to this pounding." Jan took a deep breath and continued on feeling hot tears building behind her closed eyes as the words came tumbling out of her mouth. "Why do people have to look down upon our relationship, our love? Is it so wrong for me to love you, is love in any form wrong? It is so frustrating for me Mel, just being in the midst's of all this questioning brings up so much insecurity in me." A rueful and disgusted laugh left Janice's lips and a few tears escaped her closed eyes and splashed on the table. "Yes even 'Mad Dog' can be insecure, and when I feel that way I guess the only way I can regain my confidence is to go out and prove myself to anyone stupid enough to get in my way. Prof. Deleany over at the university would be proud. That enough psych mumbo jumbo for ya sweetheart?"

"Oh Ja-yun," Mel knelt down next to where Janice was sitting at the kitchen table placing her fingers gently under her chin and turning Jan's face so they could look into each other's eyes. She was surprised to see tears on her lover's face, she had not heard her voice crack once since she had started talking. "I'm sorry, I never realized.....how insensitive of me, I should have known.....I wish I could punch out every person who has ever said a bad thing about you and every person who has caused you to know such pain. But Ja-yun, I don't doubt our love, and I know it's right, what other's say means nothing, it's what you and I feel that counts."

Finally the hoarseness broke into Janice's voice. "Yeah, I know sweetheart. But it still hurts when others are cruel." With that Janice pulled away from Mel and headed for the backdoor. She needed some time to.....to what?...Jan didn't know, she just knew she needed to be alone for a little while.

Mel watched her go with an ache in her heart. She hated seeing Janice suffer like this, she did not understand why other people's opinions mattered so much to her soulmate. Perhaps it was because Jan was constantly seeking to get the 'right' opinion from other people. She knew Janice still felt an all consuming need to 'avenge' her father's name, even if she said herself that the rumors were true. Even after they had proved the existence of Xena and Gabrielle people's opinions of Janice's father had not changed and those opinions that were held still haunted and hindered Janice's career. No matter how brilliant Janice was, and she was truly a brilliant archeologist, her father's reputation still inhabited her every move. And now to have people questioning who she chose to spend her life with on top of questioning her career was taking a major toll on the rambunctious woman. Mel hoped that the war would end soon so that some normalcy could return to Janice's life, so the!

y could get back onto a dig site and ignore the rest of the world and all their judgmental opinions.

Mel finally left the kitchen after staring after her lover for a moment. She wondered into their study and grabbed the first book off the first shelf and sat in one of the nice soft leather couches in the middle of the room. Perhaps some reading would make her feel better, although she doubted it. The only thing that would maker her feel better was for Janice to feel better and that wasn't going to happen anytime soon, at least Mel didn't think so. Before opening the book she looked out the vast windows of the study and a small smile came to her face. She saw Janice headed for her favorite brooding spot, the hay loft of the main horse barn of the large estate. At least she wasn't leaving again, and from this room Mel would be able to tell when Jan left the barn enabling her to keep tabs on her restless lover, after that last nine day stretch of Jan being missing she wasn't taking any chances.


Janice pulled on a pair of her worn motorcycle boots not bothering to lace them up and headed out the back door of the Pappas mansion. She had truly come to think of this huge, over done house as home, but then again any place that had Melinda Pappas in it was home. But they had been here day in and day out for a year now due to no one willing to finance a dig anywhere because of the war and staying put was finally getting to her. Sure she enjoyed all the leisure time with Mel and even remotely liked the temporary job she did at the University museum. She knew she would have no problem staying here till the war came to and end if people weren't so judgmental about her and Melinda. If Janice was honest with herself she knew where her insecurity came from, but she didn't want to think about it right now, she just wanted to sit in the nice warm hay loft and sulk.

Janice entered the huge barn through a side door and was greeted with a few soft wickers form the barn's many inhabitants. The barn smelled of sweet clover and oats, with a hint of leather soap wafting out of the tack room. Jan was glad that Melinda had decided to keep the horse ranch area of her estate running. She enjoyed helping the stable hands from time to time and often she and Mel would take a whole day and just go riding in the surrounding wilderness of the estate. This was the main barn and it was huge, easily half the size of the house and was a rich mahogany color both inside and out. There were ten, twelve by twelve stalls on each side of the barn with a vast hay loft above them. At the far end was the tack room that held both western and English tack as well as the food mixtures that the vet had made up especially for each horse. It was mid-morning so all of the stall's outside doors were opened into the pasture so only a few of the barns residents were ins!

ide to greet their favorite treat bringer. Janice wandered from stall to stall in a zig zag pattern talking to and petting any horse that happened to be in their stall lazing about.

Janice finally made it to the ladder that lead up into the loft and began the climb overjoyed that her previous bouts with vertigo seemed to have subsided even if the throbbing was still there. She found her favorite spot over in one of the corners where just a snippet of sunlight was shining through and plopped down enjoying the patterns that the dust she sent flying made. She closed her eyes and just breathed in the sounds and smells of the barn, this was such a calming place to her. She couldn't explain it but being here with nothing but hay all around and the wonderful sounds of nature filling her ears put her at ease and made sulking an almost pleasurable experience.

Soon after Janice had settled in for her self-loathing session she heard the tell tale whines of Argo picking her way carefully up the ladder to the loft. It still amazed Janice that the dog had actually found a way to climb the ladder to the loft, she was one very talented and well trained canine. When she reached the top Argo let off one heck of a sneeze and then ambled over to Jan laying down and placing her massive head on her mistress's thigh. Jan idly reached down and started playing with Argo's large pointed ears. Argo may have been a mix of Husky and German Shepard but her face was Husky all the way. Her snout wasn't long enough to be considered shepard and her head was more square than a shepards would be. However, the shepard in her came through in her body type and coloring. She had the lean agile body Jan associated with shepards as well as the black and tan colors, although she was mostly tan with just hints of black along her back, face, and tail. Argo was!

Jan's best friend in times like this, a loyal companion who would just be comforting instead of asking 'whys' and 'hows' all the time.

Over the years Janice had picked up the habit of talking to Argo when she was feeling down or needed to get her thoughts sorted out by talking out loud, and it was very entertaining to watch the dog sit and cock her head back and forth at the words coming out of Jan's mouth. It was something Mel often would sit and watch completely amused. Now was no different. "Well Argo, looks like I've gotten myself into another royal mess with your 'mommy' Mel." At the mention of Mel's name Argo's ears shifted and she sat up putting her head level with Jan's. A chuckle left Jan's throat as she stared into the soft caramel doggy eyes. "Yeah, you perk up at the mention of her name just like I do huh. Argo, help me out here what do I do to make this up to her. Nine days! I left and drank myself silly for nine days." A whine left Argo's throat as she smacked her hefty paw down on Jan's thigh. "Oh, so you missed me to...yeah girl the feeling is mutual." Jan leaned forward and rapped!

her arms around the massive dog with a sigh trying to think of a way to subdue her reckless behavior and make up for her actions over the last nine days.

Janice sat in the loft for the rest of the day, not even realizing when the sun had set and she was shrouded in darkness. Only when Argo was called for dinner and went bounding from the loft did Jan realize how long she'd been sitting there. There was a slight chill in the air and it nipped at Jan's bare arms causing goose bumps to form. She once again started scolding herself, Mel was probably worried sick again. She quickly climbed down the ladder noticing that every stall had a contentedly munching horse in it now. If they had just been fed then it wasn't too late, the horses ate at seven on the dot every night. At least she hadn't missed dinner. Jan slipped out of the barn and quickly started making her way to the house, halfway up the walk a memory came crashing back, they were having dinner guests tonight, she hadn't planned on being back yet so she hadn't worried about it. Now that she was here she knew Mel would insist upon her presence because this was a dinne!

r with three prospective dig backers. Janice hated these kinds of dinners, to much politics and talking in circles for her tastes. She just hoped she had enough time to slip in and change into something more presentable before the guests arrived if they weren't there already.

Jan peeked into the kitchen door seeing Tessa busily preparing that nights feast. She was happily bustling around the large kitchen humming some new Tommy Dorsey tune that Jan had heard on the radio the other day. "Spt! Hey Tessa." Janice slipped the rest of the way into the kitchen and waited for the jovial housekeeper to notice her.

Tessa jumped slightly at the sound of her name being called and whirled on her heels getting an eyeful of a hay covered Janice Covington. "Why Miz. Jan, Miz. Melinda has been wondering if you were ever going to return to the house tonight, you two do have dinner guests this evenin' you know. I'm a guessing that she figured you jus' forgot with bein' gone all those days."

Jan was glad that Tessa didn't seem to be mad at her for her recent trespasses. She knew how protective of Mel Tessa could be. "Um.....where is Mel at the moment Tess, I'm assuming she still wants me present at the dinner." In her heart Janice was guiltily hoping that Mel would tell her to forget it and just stay out of site for the night, but she didn't think that was going to happen.

Tessa chuckled a bit as she looked Jan up and down, she was covered in bits of hay and her clothes were wrinkled and disheveled. To Tessa Jan looked very sweet and innocent like this, she knew that she had spent the whole day up in that loft putting herself down and trying to find ways to make up for her disappearing act. Tessa had often wondered what this dear child had went through in her life to make her such a rough and tumble person and so critical of herself. "She's up in your room gettin' ready for the guests to arrive, you'd best get up there Miz. Janice, tell her how pretty she is in her new outfit." Tessa walked over to where Jan was still rooted in front of the door and gave her a gentle push toward door leading to the main stairs.

Janice slowly walked up to the slightly open door to the room she shared with Mel and peered in. Mel was sitting at her vanity putting on the make-up that Jan knew she really did not need to make her look beautiful. She was half dressed having just her calf length plum skirt on and a half slip covering her torso. Her raven hair still hung loosely around her shoulders as she squinted into the large mirror in order to put on some eyeliner. Janice had always found Mel intensely cute when she had to squint at her reflection to see it clearly and apply the blasted make-up. Janice didn't understand, sometimes she could lose herself just watching her. Right now, seeing her sitting in front of that mirror, her brow crinkled in concentration she was more beautiful than Jan could ever remember. It was times like this that Jan was most aware of just how much she loved Mel. As she stood there in the doorway she knew deep within her heart that every moment of her life, she would lo!

ve Mel with all that she was, all that she would become. Janice's silent watching was cut off as a very noisy Argo came bounding up the stairs and pushed passed her into the room bounding onto the bed causing Mel to turn and look at Jan where she stood framed in the door, backlit in all her mussed and dusty glory.

A small giggle bubbled out of Mel mouth when she saw Janice. It was the cutest thing she had ever seen, her crude and stubborn Janice standing there covered in dust and hay, clothes wrinkled beyond recognition with the most tentative expression on her face Mel had ever seen. How she wished she had a camera at that moment. Mel smiled reassuringly at her lover in order to get her to step into their room. Mel had spent most of the day in their study watching the barn for any sign of Janice. While she had sat there she hadn't gotten much reading done, well not the kind she had intended anyway. She soon realized that Jan would not be back to the house anytime soon if at all that night, Jan often lost track of time and ended up sleeping in that damned loft. So she had gotten out her journal intending to make some new entries. But after she had sat back down, in Jan's favorite spot in the room right in front of the huge fireplace, she had started flipping back through previou!

s entries that had been made she realized she had grabbed the wrong journal and held her lover's thoughts and feelings in her hands. She knew she shouldn't even entertain thoughts of reading what Jan had written just before going missing but she just had to know. Janice had such a hard time talking about her feelings but she could write them down eloquently. Must be a family trait Mel mused. She found herself opening the beautiful leather bound book that matched her journal exactly. Jan had brought them matching journals for their second anniversary together. Jan's handwriting was beautiful, almost as exquisite as her lovely face. She found the entry dated for the day they had had the fight that caused Jan to storm out and began reading. It seemed to be in regards to the afternoon just before the fight. They had spent that afternoon out in the pristine backyard working on lecture notes and scrolls in the warm sunlight that dotted the grass through the tall oak trees.

I gaze at her sitting there, her brow furrowed in thought, the little quirk to her mouth that tells me she knows I'm watching her. She knows that my eyes are touching her from across the yard. She can feel my gaze as if I were beside her breathing in her scent. The breeze caresses her olive skin and I imagine myself doing the same. I notice she touches her cheek in astonishment, almost as if she can feel my mental caress.

As I lean against the tree, I run my hands over the soft cotton covering my arms, aching with a desire to touch her. Now I know that she can sense my touch over the distance that separates us. With my eyes I run my fingers lightly across her forehead and down over her temples. I cup her chin and lift it up, her face rising like the morning sun. I run my imaginary fingers over her lips, urging my soul to touch the luscious dew that is her mouth. It is like nothing I've ever experienced, so sweet and pure. I notice that she is looking at me now, her eyes enfolding me like a flower in the summer rain. She knows my arms ache to hold her, though I keep in control. This is how I feel I must be outside the privacy of our home, outside the thick walls, even in our own backyard. But she knows that underneath all of the control and reservation I am yearning for her. Yearning to be in her arms, touching, absorbing, giving.

For a moment I allow myself to think back to when we met. How she came into my life. I think about how things would have been different if I had not let her in, I would have destroyed myself long ago if not for her. It was only because she practically forced herself upon me that I let her follow. My life was and is dangerous. I'm constantly in one bad fix or another. And I was afraid that her innocence would suffer. But she's shown me how wrong I was. She is strong, and the best person I've ever known, and I lover her. It took me nearly a year to realize and admit that. I tried to fight it. Tried to tell myself that it was wrong, that it was not meant to be. But somehow she worked her way into my heart, and my soul. I wake every day with thoughts of her in my mind, the warmth of her against me. And I thank whomever is responsible for bringing her into my life. For I don't know what I'd do without her, die most likely. She is my life,!

my love, my Melinda.

When Mel had finished reading that short entry she had completely forgiven her often troubled lover. It had given her insight into just how Janice felt and just how profound their love was for her and why people questioning it hurt so bad, no matter who those people were. She had spent the rest of the afternoon writing in her own journal and doing a little work on a translation of some Egyptian hieroglyphs that the university had given Jan for them to work on. But her mind was not on the work but whether or not she should put Jan through the dinner that they had scheduled for this evening. She had finally decided to leave the final decision up to Janice if she came back from the barn in time. At the moment, however, she just needed to convince Jan that everything was okay between them. She had been rather short with Jan this morning and perhaps a little to pushy in her endeavor to get her to talk. She knew how hard it was for Janice to express her inner most feelings a!

nd that pushing often lead to her lover closing off completely.

"Jan honey, I'm so glad to see you, I was beginning to wonder if you were ever going to come back from the barn." Mel got up and closed the sort distance between them and tugged Janice over to their small sofa. She couldn't resist the urge to pull a few of the larger hay stalks form her golden tresses.

"Mel," Jan began tentatively, "I'm real sorry about disappearing for nine days like that, I know you probably hate me and are just waiting for the right time to throw me out on my ass............" Melinda quickly placed two fingers over Jan's soft lips instantly silencing her babbling.

"Janice, I know you know better than that so don't even say things like that." Mel grabbed onto both of Jan's hands bringing them to her lips and kissing each finger lightly. "This afternoon while you were out in the loft, brooding no doubt, I did some thinking and some reading." At this statement a puzzled look came over Jan's oh so young features making a soft grin come to Mel's lips. "I ask you to just hear me out before you comment. I had every intention of just writing in my journal and then working on the project from the University. But as you know since you bought them, our journals are matching. Ja-yun honey, I picked yours up by mistake and for some reason I just could not stop myself from reading your last entry. The one you made the afternoon before our..." Mel hesitated, she hated saying the next word that was perched on the tip of her tongue. "....argument, before you left." An embarrassed look overcame Janice's face and she looked down at their joined !

hands as her shoulders slumped forward. Janice hated admitting that even they had altercations almost as much as Mel did. "I think....I now understand what you've been feeling Jan. I'm so sorry that I didn't realize how....um, bottled up you feel here with everyone judging and making their snide little comments about us. But honey you have to know that that does not in any way change the way I feel about you. I had no idea that you even feel a need to be so reserved even within our own back yard. Ja-yun, please forgive me for being so short sighted."

The pleading tone was clear as day in Mel's voice but Janice felt that it wasn't Mel that needed to be asking for forgiveness. "Mel, there is nothing to forgive, if I could learn to be more open with you, you wouldn't have felt such a pull to read my journal. And sweetheart, feel free to read it anytime you wish, it doesn't bother me." Jan was actually glad that Mel had read her journal, it saved her from giving the long drawn out speech begging for forgiveness that she had come up with while in the loft. "You'd think that since we've been together for three years I'd have no trouble talking to you, but for some reason......I don't know.....my insecurity is such a touchy subject for some reason."

"Oh my sweet Ja-yun," Mel quickly pulled Janice onto her lap and cradled her there not caring that she was getting hay dust all over her skirt, "I understand, I really do....it's your nature honey. You are stubborn and confident and crude and rude and sometimes it makes you noncommunicative, but I wouldn't have you any other way. I love you Janice Covington, with all my heart, body and soul."

"I love you too sweetheart, I love you too." A huge giddy grin plastered itself across Jan's face as she wrapped her arms around Mel's waist and just soaked up the warmth and love that was surrounding her. This is where she belonged, and she knew it, she guessed she always did and it was dumb of her to let insecurity cloud this feeling. She was meant to be in Mel's arms, whether that be here in South Carolina, or on some God forsaken dig. "All is forgiven....?"

"Mmmmmmmmmm," Mel was rocking them both back and forth just reveling in a contact she had been denied of for nine long and tedious days. "Yes, most definitely, all is forgiven."

"Now.......what about this lovely dinner we have this evening? I was down in the kitchen earlier and it looks like Tessa has out done herself once again."

Janice attempted to extract herself from Mel's grasp only to find herself pulled back down more forcefully and have her lips covered in heated passion. The kiss became more and more fervent as hands began roaming and stroking over soft curves and sensitive skin. The need for air forced the lovers apart only to have Janice thread her fingers through Mel's silky black locks and pull her in for another heated exchange. They pulled apart once again the only sound in the room being their ragged breaths.

A cocky smirk came to Jan's lips as she looked deeply into Mel's stunning sky blue eyes. "Gee sweetheart, if I knew talking about Tessa's cooking got you all hot and bothered I'd do it more often."

Mel dissolved into a fit of tear jerking giggles losing her grip on Janice causing her to slip off her lap and thump onto the floor at her feet. This only caused Mel to laugh harder. "Oh honey! I'm sorry, I didn' mean to drop you." Mel was just able to get this out between gasps to catch her breath from all the kissing and laughing.

Jan quickly sprawled out spread eagle at Mel's stokinged feet and presented her with the biggest Cheshire cat grin she could. "Suuuuuurrrrrrreeee you didn't, but I'm glad I make ya laugh my dear." As Mel continued to chuckle Janice scooted around on the floor so her head was between Mel's feet. "Hmmm, I wonder," Jan started to freign talking to herself. "how do I get this lovely lady to stand up now? I'd really like to know if she's wearing my favorite pair of black silk panties." Jan knew Mel would pretend to be disgusted with her crudeness but knew deep down that her innocent companion loved it.

"JA-YUN!" Mel blushed a deep crimson at Jan's words but just could not keep the seductive grin off her face. "You are so vulgar sometimes, what ever am I to do with you?"

"I'll tell ya what to do with me, gimmie a cheap thrill and stand up." Janice quickly wrapped her strong petite hands around Mel's ankles, essentially making it impossible for her to go anywhere without first standing and giving her the 'cheap thrill' she was requesting. She knew she'd get a great view regardless because ever since they had consummated their lover for each other Mel had started doing little things just to please Janice. She had figured out all on her own that Jan got a real kick out of garter belts instead of full panty hose. All of this teasing and fun was doing wonders for pulling Janice out of the deep depression that she had festered out in the loft all day. She just wanted this happy content and loved feeling to never go away.

Jan heard a playful and fully amused harumph come from Mel's luscious lips and then received her wish. Mel slowly stood and moaned as she felt Jan's hands start to caress up and down her shapely caves. She was indeed wearing Janice's favorite panties and garder belt. Whenever possible this is what she wore under her clothes, Tessa had an awful time getting them away from the two for laundry. Either Mel was wearing them or Jan was hiding them somewhere as a momento. It quite amused the bold housekeeper, who at that very moment had just stuck her head in the door to see if the duo was on schedule for being dressed and ready for dinner.

"Oh for goodness sake, doen you two ever stop!" Tessa was to the point that she was hardly even embarrassed anymore when she found the mansions two residents in 'compromising' situations. "Ya'd best be gettin' dressed unless ya plan on keepin' your guests waiting." The amused housekeeper quickly shut the door and ambled off downstairs with a large grin plastered on her face. It sure was good to see that they had made up.

As soon as the door clicked closed announcing the departure of Tessa Jan succumbed to a fit of hiccuping giggles as Mel covered her face with her palms completely embarrassed. Jan gave a final caress to Melinda's shapely legs and got to her feet surprising her lover by wrapping her arms firmly around her waist and nibbling a hot wet trail across the skin just above her barely covered breasts.

A quiet gasp flew past Mel's lips as Janice moved lower nipping at the skin right between her breasts. She hated to stop her petite lover but if they didn't get it in gear the guests would have to eat without them, and that was just plain bad manners. Mel placed her hands on the sides of Janice's face and lifted her head up looking into desire and loved filled emerald eyes. "Ja-yun honey, I have to finish gettin' ready for the dinner." She then leaned down and kissed Jan on each cheek finally kissing her full on the mouth which turned into another passionate exchange that went on for almost a full minute. Finally Mel pulled away and walked back over to her vanity to finish with her make-up.

Jan just stood there and reveled in the love that was surrounding her. She had missed this, it had been so stupid of her to just disappear for nine days and worry her kind and gentle Melinda. Then it struck her. "Wait a minute, did you just say you had to finish getting ready. What happened to us?" Jan was a bit alarmed at this.

Mel heard the worry in Janice's voice and stood and immediately went to her enveloping her in a warm embrace. "Ja-yun, I figured since you had such a rough week you might like to sit this one out, I know how you hate these dinners...." Mel was interrupted by Janice squeezing her waist.

"No, no...I'm not going to send you into a political and social wolfpack that the University picked all alone. Come on help me pick out something 'appropriate' to wear." With that Janice quickly strode for the linen closet where her dress clothes were stored. She chuckled as she thought that they probably had a nice layer of dust settled over them. She never dressed up for anything if she didn't have to.

A beautiful smile came to Mel's lips and tears began to cloud her eyes. That was her Janice, always there for her when she needed her. Mel wasn't particularly looking forward to hosting this dinner all by herself, the presence of her lover and life companion would be a welcome addition to the evening, even if Jan could get a bit bitchy at functions such as this.


Janice ended up dressed in immaculately pressed black slacks with black patton leather shoes and a soft cream colored silk blouse that Mel had bought for her on her birthday last year. The blouse was easily the most feminine thing that Jan owned but she didn't mind wearing it since it was Melinda who had bought it for her. She had even given in to Mel and let the giddy southerner fix her hair into something a bit nicer than it's normal unruliness. Mel had simply taken equal portions of hair on each side of Jan's head and put them in cute little brades that blended in with the rest of her hair. It was practical and highlighted Janice's cute diminutive ears along with getting it off her face so she would not be able to spend the night sweeping it behind her ears. When Jan was doing that it practically shouted to Mel that Janice was either annoyed or bored out of her mind.

Janice was now sitting on one of the couches in the study sucking on a nice scotch with one of her favorite thin cigars clinched between her teeth awaiting the arrival of their dinner guests. She was also watching Mel flit around straightening up things that just did not need straightened. She was enjoying watching this tall magnificent lady move about the room. After having spent four years in the almost constant company of one Janice Covington, Mel had lost much of the shy awkwardness that she had plagued her when they first met. Now her movements were much more assured and very graceful for a woman of her height. When Mel had finished dressing Jan had stood back stunned at her absolutely ravishing appearance, now she was enjoying watching the play of Mel's sleek long limbs and soft curves under the beautiful deep plumb and cream colored fabric. The outfit was simple, a long skirt that came to lay just below Mel's knees with a moderate slit up the back accented with bl!

ack stockings and a slim silver belt at the waist. Her blouse matched Janice's perfectly and she had forgone the sort jacket that went with the out fit when she realized that Jan would, of course, be starting a fire in the study fireplace to help keep herself calm during the inevitable small talk that proceeded dinner.

Getting ready had gone much faster once Janice had intrenched herself in the bathroom. Mel had been able to finish with her make-up and get her hair pinned up without being distracted by her petite companion. In fact they had finished early and were now both very bored. Janice hated waiting and Mel would obsess about her appearance, Jan's appearance, the mansion's appearance, etc. while waiting.

Janice was becoming more and more agitated the more and more Mel kept straightening things. "Mel!, will you quit that and come over here and sit with me. Every thing looks fine." A sheepish grin came to Jan's face as she quickly looked at her disastrous desk. "Well...almost everything." She couldn't help but chuckle when she saw the exasperated look on Mel's face when she realized that Jan was referring to her own desk.

"Janice Covington, I swear...." A full fledged laugh roared from Janice's mouth successfully cutting Mel off.

"Mel, I've been with you for the last four years and never once have I heard you use a good down to earth, full fledged swear word." She couldn't help the giggles that kept bubbling out of her mouth. 'Darn' and 'Heck' were the closest things to swear words that Mel ever got.

Mel harumphed and plopped down next to Janice. "You know what I mean you evil little thing you." Mel was now smiling also as she grabbed up Jan's hand and kissed the back then the palm. "How you ever find anything on that poor excuse for a desk is beyond me. Will you ever get organized my dear?"

"What do you mean will I ever get organized? I know exactly where everything is on that desk." It was true, Jan could walk over there and pick up any file or translation that Mel asked her to without having to rummage one bit. It truly amazed the perpetually over-organized Melinda. "Just because it's not pleasing to the eye does not mean it is not organized and you know it." Jan's cocky grin had returned and she was being much more like the saucy and self assured archeologist that Mel was used to having around.

Mel slouched down and placed her head on Janice's shoulder. She sighed in contentment when Janice gently leaned her head over, mixing silky golden and ebony locks. "Mmmm, yes dear I know." It was so warm and safe here in Jan's presence that Mel started to drift off to sleep. Her breathing evened out with the soft roar of the fire in the fireplace and the light stroking of Jan's hand on her thigh lulling her into a carefree peaceful slumber. Janice peered down into Mel's face as best she could. She was relieved to see that the lines of worry and stress that she had caused over the last nine days were quickly fading from her loves face. This evening was going so well that she wished that the dinner guests were not coming. Ever since she had come back from the loft and they had had their nice, as Mel called them, sensitive chat their relationship and everything that went with it had gotten back to normal.

Janice was so deep in thought that she did not hear Tessa enter the room. "Miz. Covington?" When Jan heard that she was being formally addressed she knew that Tess was not alone and probably had their first arrivals with her. She quickly poked Mel in the ribs to wake her. She smashed out her cigar and stood to face Tessa as soon as Mel's head was off her shoulder. Mel quickly realized that they were no longer alone and did the same. Tessa was standing just in the door to the study with a man and a woman both immaculately dressed and dripping with expensive jewelry.

"Miz. Pappas, Miz. Covington, may I be presentin' to ya Mr. and Mizes. William Vandergarden." Mr. Vandergarden stepped forward gently taking Mel's hand and kissing it. He was slightly taken aback by the glower that Janice gave him but bravely extended his hand to her anyway. She startled him by taking it and shaking it roughly instead of allowing him to kiss the back of it.

Mel now spoke up, this was her department. So many times Janice had been unable to control what was coming out of her mouth and had lost them precious backing for digs. After this had happened twice, with a little coaching form Jan on what were acceptable and unacceptable terms, Melinda had taken over almost all of the talking during meetings such as this. There were three potential backers attending this evening and the Vandergarden's were the richest of the three. "Mr. Vandergarden, it is a pleasure to meet you. Please join us in a drink while we wait for our other guests to arrive."

"Miss Pappas, the pleasure is all mine, and please call me William. And this is my wife, Buffy."

Janice nearly burst out laughing right then and their. Buffy?, who in their right mind names their child Buffy? Mel knew that Janice was near bursting at that so she needed to get onto a different subject or get her lover doing something in order to keep her from offending the Vandergarden's. This was going to be a very long night, and they weren't even five minutes into it yet. "Well then...William and Buffy, I insist that you drop formalities with us to, we're just Melinda and Janice from now on." She put on her winningest smile and turned to Janice. "Janice, why don't you work on getting us some drinks, I'll have my usual. What would you two like, we have quite a well stocked liquor cabinet." That sure was true, mainly because of Janice and her hard drinking ways, although Mel had tempered those a bit over the years.

"I'd adore a scotch on the rocks. What about you dear?" Mr. Vandergarden finally turned to his wife and took her by the elbow as they followed Melinda over to the sitting area.

Mel cringed when she heard the sound of her voice and out of the corner of her eye she caught Jan gafawing silently. Her voice was high pitched nasal and sounded like fingernails on a blackboard. "Oh, a gin and tonic will do for me thank you."

Janice was about to reply but Mel intercepted her comment knowing that her amusement would shine through and ruin the good start they were off to. Not to mention that it was probably some snide sarcastic comment too. "Well you're both in luck, Janice is the best drink mixer this side of the Mason Dixon Line." She smiled at Jan letting her clearly know that she was to keep her mouth shut until she could control its pitch and not let her amusement show through. Offending their guests within the first five minutes would be very bad.

Just as Janice was setting everyone's drinks on the coffee table Tessa entered again announcing the arrival of their second set of guests. "Miz Pappas, Miz Covington, Doctor and Professor Jamieson." The Jamieson's were a professional pair. Dr. Charles Jamieson owned the largest medical practice in the state of North Carolina and his wife Maribell was a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina desperately seeking tenure. They had come a long distance to be at this dinner. Maribell's academic background and Charles' love of history is what brought them into the world of financing archeological digs and they were known throughout out the profession as the most accommodating backers, always attempting to give the head archeologist free reign.

Janice shot Mel a cute smirk and trotted over to greet their newest arrivals. Giving both of them a good solid hand shake as she felt Mel come up behind her. "Good evening, we are so glad that you could take the time to come down this evening." Mel exchanged pleasantries also and they proceeded to get everyone in the room acquainted and make sure they had a drink in hand. Mel was getting slightly worried over the amount of alcohol Janice was taking in. She had had two scotches even before the Vandergarden's had arrived and now she was starting in on the brandy since Dr. Jamieson had requested one.

Once again, just as everyone was getting settled Tessa poked her head in and motioned for Janice to join her in the hall. "Miz. Janice, there was just a call, Mr. and Mizes. Callaway will not be makin' it this evenin.' They's be havin' a family problem to attend to."

"Okay, thanks Tess. That makes my evening, less pompous rich people to deal with." Jan couldn't help but jump for joy on the inside. "How long till dinner is served?"

"'Bout fifteen minutes Miz. Janice. Now you get back in there and be nice, don't be causing no troubles." Tessa chuckled as she headed back toward the kitchen where her sister and two teenage nieces were helping out. Then she turned and shouted over her shoulder to Jan. "You lay off the drinks too Miz. Janice!"

Janice smirked at that comment. So, she had another guardian watching out for her and her main bad habit. As she re-entered every eye turned to her. "Oh, Um...Tessa has just informed me that the Callaway's called and will not be attending this evening due to a family emergency. So it's just us six, and dinner will be served in about fifteen minutes." She finished striding into the room and took up her glass seating herself next to Mel, unconsciously leaning toward the warmth of her love. This simple act got glares from both couples that went unnoticed by Janice but Mel caught causing her to shift uncomfortably under their scrutiny. Janice noticed Mel's shifting and looked up from her glass. The subtle smile that had been on her lips since the evening began faded into a frown as she caught the barely hidden disapproving glares. This was just what Janice was hoping against, these people had obviously heard the rumors about the unnatural little archeologist and her trans!

lator. She leaned away from Mel not catching the disappointment that shadowed her soft blue eyes momentarily. Jan quickly drained her glass and proceeded to open up her favorite whisky downing one glass quickly and pouring a second to sip slowly but not too slowly. This really worried Mel. The evening was going to take a quick downturn if she didn't do something to reassure Jan. But Mel knew that was now impossible, Janice had seen these people's uncalled for disapproval and it was going to hang in the air for the rest of the evening. It made Mel so mad that they had no proof of anything to chastise yet already they had made a decision to do so. At least Janice was keeping her mouth shut.

Janice stood there at the liquor cabinet unsure of whether she wanted to return to her seat next to Mel on the couch or stay as far away from everyone as possible. Her decision was made for her when Maribell shot her a small poorly veiled look. With that Jan headed for her favorite spot in front of the fireplace and plopped down in one of the soft comfortable armchairs and stared into the flickering flames. Argo had quietly wandered into the study as the guests had arrived and took the opportunity of one of her mistresses having moved away from the strangers to beg for some attention. Janice smiled down at their loyal dog and began stroking her silky fur with the tips of the fingers that were just poking through her cast. She decided to spend the night paying close attention to the conversation but not actively participating, she didn't trust herself to keep the snide and crude comments running through her mind to herself. They could take all their money and shove it up !

their asses as far as Janice was concerned right now. The way these people were silently disapproving of something they had nothing to do with and knew nothing about was the main thing about being stuck here that was driving Janice crazy.

Mel spared a quick glance at Janice and sighed. She wasn't able to look long to properly gauge her loves mood though because Mr. Vandergarden was instant on pulling her back into their boring conversation about the weather. She was saved from further boredom when Tessa poked her head in the room announcing that dinner was ready. That was Mel's cue to get these financing discussions underway and see if either of these rich couples was going to cough up the cash they needed for a wartime dig. Mel and Janice both knew it was going to take at least double the funding normally needed because of the war. Sometimes Mel really wished Janice would just let her use some of her ample inheritance. But Jan being Jan she refused and told Mel that they were full partners and she would not let her fully finance a dig for them. She also made a valid point that they would need the money to live comfortably in their old age. That in and of itself comforted Mel, at least Janice allude to !

them being together for many, many years to come.

They all filed into the spacious dinning room and took up seats at the large oak dinning table. The table was one of a kind and had removable pieces so that it seated anywhere from six to twelve people. Before they had know of the Calloway's canceling it had been set for eight, but Tessa had obviously came in and removed some of the pieces when the call had come. From the ceiling of the room hug two beautiful crystal chandeliers both sending a mesmerizing glow over the room. The walls were painted in bright striking white and pale crimson in a style reminiscent of ancient Greece, complete with some gold interlay. One wall was solid windows facing the side yard of the massive estate. From the window one could see part of the area laid out for the training the horses in hunt jumping. The remaining three walls were lined with expensive antique curio cabinets and hutches. All of them displayed Mel's prized collection of fine china. One, of course was partially empty, bein!

g that it's contents were being used this evening. The floor of the room was beautiful polished marble matching the exquisitely painted walls perfectly, and where the table set was a massive hand woven rug straight from China. It had been a birthday present to Mel from Janice. Jan spent the whole year saving for it and had to make a special side trip during one of their visits to a University dig to pick it up. It had been worth all the trouble though, Janice still smiled when she remembered the look on Mel's face when she had lead her in here to see it.

All six places at the table were set and everyone began finding a seat. Both couples taking the sides leaving Jan and Mel at each end. Janice hated this seating arrangement, but it couldn't be avoided. Tessa had truly outdone herself with the meal. The table was filled to capacity laden with a huge turkey with all the trimmings, fresh baked bread, black-eyed peas, a beautiful tossed salad, three different cheeses, a full relish tray, Tessa's special mixed vegetable casserole, steaming baked potatoes with sour cream, and of course for Jan a New York style cheese cake for desert. Janice had insisted when she officially moved into the mansion three years ago that Tessa learn how to make a proper New York cheese cake, and learn she did. Janice said she could give any cook in NY a run for their money. Food had been Jan's only qualm about moving in with Mel. She worried that she wouldn't get food up to the New York quality she was used to even though she could rarely remembe!

r to eat. But low and behold Tessa's cooking had far surpassed her wildest dreams and she ate better here than anywhere else, of course a lot of that had to do with Mel's obsessive hounding that she take better care of herself also.

A few comments were passed about the impressive spread of food, then Mel garnered everyone's attention. "Well...um, who would like the honor of carving?" Mel knew that normally Janice would just take it upon herself to do so but when after a few moments Jan was still in her seat with a rather dower look on her face Mel decided she had better let one of their gentlemen guests have the honor. It made Mel feel horrible that Janice couldn't act as she was accustomed to in her own home, in their home. Yes this was Jan's home too. She had asked Janice to move all of her meager belongings her from New York not long after they had consummated their relationship. It was true that this last year was the longest time that they had ever spent here at one time, but she knew Janice had taken an immediate liking to the place and did truly consider it her home. Her only home now, since she had given up her place in New York. It made Mel want to just say 'To hell with it' when she saw !

Janice hurting like this, and she knew it did indeed hurt her even if you couldn't tell by the look on her face. Mel could see the tight lines of tension around her lover's mouth and almost feel the pain at being shunned in her own home radiating from her eyes. But Mel knew if she were to just say to hell with it and let it all go Janice would be even more upset. This was their lifes work, and these dinners and putting up with these people were all part of what they did.

Mr. Vandergarden took this opportunity to show that he was a proper southern gentleman and offered to carve the turkey. "Why Melinda I'd be delighted to carve this fine bird. Not to toot my own horn, but in my family turkey carving is an art form." He chuckled at his own joke as did everyone else except Janice.

"Don't you listen to him. I've seen him and his father mess up more than one bird in his time." Buffy was giggling as she barbed her husband as he expertly started carving.

An interesting mix of tension, levity, and business sense settled over the room and it's occupants as everyone started eating and Mel delved into the financial discussions. Janice just sat back and quietly ate her meal letting a bit of pride wash over her as she listened to Mel handle these delicate 'negotiations.' Pride that Mel was just so damn good at talking to people like this and pride that she had taught her what to talk about at these kinds of dinners.


Roughly forty minutes later everyone was delving into desert and the discussions were winding down. So far neither couple was too keen on having to give out twice the funding normally needed and Mel was getting frustrated while Janice was getting very annoyed and bitchy. Mel was just glad that Jan had kept quiet and none of their guests attempted to make conversation with her. Until.......

Mr. Vandergarden had been eyeing Janice all night and he now took the opportunity to try and get her to speak up. He had heard from colleagues that she was quite an outspoken woman, but this evening she hadn't said more than three words. He wondered if it had something to do with the rumors about her and Melinda Pappas or the fact that she had a black eye and gash on her face. "Miss Covington, oh...I'm sorry, I mean Janice, you've been awfully quiet this evening. Don't tell me you don't have an opinion on all of this." William Vandergarden hoped that this would draw Janice out, and let him see for himself if she was as unnatural and crude as his colleagues had told him. Most of them had warned him about her and told him that financing a dig that she would be leading was pure lunacy.

"Oh, I'm sorry William, I haven't been feeling very well lately, so you'll have to excuse my lack of participation in conversation this evening." Mel's eyes locked on to Janice as she spoke and a small sigh of relief left her lips as Janice was polite and gave a some what truthful explanation for her quietness. Now she just hoped Mr. Vandergarden didn't push it.

"Um....yes I couldn't help but notice your um.....'condition.' Do you mind my asking what happened?" William was intrigued now, out of the corner of his eye he could see the almost nervous expression that was tugging at Melinda's features. This was very intriguing and as Janice started speaking he saw Miss Pappas flinch at the tone of her friend's voice.

Janice could not help herself. She had sat here the whole night listening to these snippy, pompous, selfish rich people and it had brought her to the end of her rope. She could already tell that it was very improbable that either couple was going to give them the financing they needed so she decided to let the 'Mad Dog' show through. "Oh, no I don't mind ya asking at all." Then Janice looked down the table to Mel and saw the pleading look on her face that screamed at her to please not blow it yet. Just seeing that look in those beautiful blue eye tempered Jan's anger and she quickly came up with a halfway decent answer that didn't recount her adventures at Flanagan's bar. "Um....I was out in our horse barn today." There that wasn't an all out lie. "Had a nasty little run in with some horse hooves. One of our prize stallions took me by surprise when he got spooked and nailed me right in the face." A small, barley visible smirk quirked Janice's mouth as she saw everyon!

e at the table flinch at her explanation, even Mel. "So, as I'm sure you can imagine William I still have quite a headache. It makes concentration for conversation a little daunting." She shot Mel a small smile that only she caught and was rewarded with the same back.

With that Mel cleared her throat to get everyone's attention centered on her once again. "Well....um, if everyone is done here why don't we retire to the study to continue this wonderful conversation we've been having." Mel rose from her seat and everyone else followed suit. Tessa had, of course, been keeping tabs on everything from the side door that lead directly to the kitchen and as soon as everyone was head back toward the study she bussled out to begin clean up. Janice was the last to leave the dinning room and Tess skirted over to her quickly before she could get all the way out the door. Jan turned startled at first. Then she looked into the soft brown eyes of their housekeeper and knew that Tessa understood the perpetual hell she was going through. Tess put the most reassuring look she could on her old weathered face and squeezed Jan's shoulder. With that Janice hurried off to the study before she somehow became the topic of discussion.

When she finally entered the room everyone was just getting seated and Mel was still drilling away trying to get either the Vandergarden's or the Jamieson's to see that a wartime dig would be no different than a non-wartime dig. Not that they really had any idea if that would be true or not, probably not, but Janice believed that she would have no trouble dealing with any military force that they came up against. Mel wasn't so sure, but if anyone could deal with the numerous imposing military forces of the world it would be Janice. She knew how hard it was for Janice to be idle for so long, especially in a somewhat hostile environment. Mel knew deep in her heart that if everyone would just leave them be her lover could be quite happy here. She had seen inklings of it while she had watched her working in the study, or helping in the barns. She had even seen Janice taking actual delight as the University museum allowed her to design and lay out an entire display, and when !

finished that display had garnered more compliments than any other in the history of the museum

Janice decided it was in her best interest to try and avoid conversation. She did however catch Maribell's intriguing question about Egypt. Even though more information on Egypt was not what Jan was itching to go back out into the field looking for the question got Jan's mind working overtime. She quietly climbed the stairs to the balcony to get access to the second floor of bookcases. Janice walked right to their extensive collection of books, scrolls, and maps on Egypt and began searching. Time to impress these stuffy socialites with a little archeological dazzlement. It was clear to Jan that Maribell was hopelessly obsessed with Egypt because she asked yet another question about the area and its rulers. It was apparent that she was hinting around that if the archeologist and her translator would consider an Egyptian dig they might get financing, but that was not what Janice wanted and Mel knew it. An unheard 'Ah Ha' left Jan's lips as she found the leather bound vol!

ume she was searching for. As she started back toward the stairs Mel caught her eye and quirked an eyebrow in question. Janice simply smiled a dazzling smile back and indicated the book with a flick of her chin. Jan was happy to see that Mel immediately understood that she was going to astonish Maribell and probably the rest of their guests with her brilliance by answering the Egypt related questions that had just been thrown out. Janice had picked up on the descret comments that had obviously been thrown at Mel before she entered the study about whether or not she was truly competent and trustworthy enough to lead an expedition. It was an absurd thing to ask of course, but with her reputation Janice knew Mel fielded many questions and comments to that effect. It was about time that she come to her beloved translator's aid by throwing her intelligence around a bit.

Janice walked over to her desk and began a quick and efficient search through the book. Within two minutes she had found exactly what she was looking for. "Excuse me Mel, may I interject for a moment?" That was the most well phrased sentence that Mel had ever heard come out of Janice's mouth.

"Certainly Janice. I'm assuming by the book you have there that you're going to try and answer Maribell's question." Mel used the word 'try' to make it sound like this would be a hard task for her brilliant lover when in fact it was as simple as falling of a log for the skilled archeologist.

"Um, yes, you asked about Pepi the second, correct?" At the positive shake of Maribell's head Janice continued. "You were wondering how he ended up ruling for ninety-six years. Well, it's simple really, he lived to be one hudred years old." She had her finger marking the paragraph on the page of the book and she quoted it directly. Janice found it odd to be quoting her own notes from a dig she had been on with her father just a year before he had died. "His elder brother, the pharaoh Merenra had a reign that lasted only a few years. He suddenly kicked the bucket and Pepi became king while still a child." Janice shrugged. "I guess that is not widely known."

Maribell was very impressed, as was the rest of the small group, with the exception of Mel. She of course knew that the thick leather bound book was Janice's and contained many amazing notes that she herself had taken on her numerous trips to various sites there with her father. "How do you know this? That is in no texts on Egypt that I have ever read. That can't be right." Maribell believed that Janice had to be in error and that the text she was reading from was false.

Janice chuckled outright finding it an odd justice that these were the notes that a total of fifteen universities here in the States had refused to published in their respective archeological journals upon her return from this particular dig. "No, I know it's true, I was at the damn dig site myself You see..." Janice held up the book she had been reading from. "these are notes I took while on in Egypt, I could never get anyone to publish them though, you know with being a woman and my father's reputation and all. It's true most of the stuff in here is now known but there are a few little know facts about ancient Egypt in here." Janice headed back for the stair case that would take her back up to the second floor to put her book away.

"Would you mind terribly if I looked at your notes Miss Covington?" Maribell Jamieson's eyes had latched onto the leather-bound book and she was practically foaming at the mouth to get a look at it.

"Sure I don't see why not, please excuse my sometimes crude language and doodling." Janice smiled and handed over her notes. Little did any of their guests know that that particular book was only one of five volumes of notes taken by Janice on the ancient history of Egypt.

"Oh wow, you have some hieroglyphs in here. What ever do they mean?" Maribell was staring intently at the first page that was covered in Janice's quick sketches of some beautiful hieroglyphs.

"Um...oh those are just my name and the date that particular volume was started on. It never used to be in hieroglyphs, but not long after I met up with Melinda she taught me my name in them and put the date in for me." The appraising looks that were sent Mel's way made her blush a lovely deep pink all the way to her hair line. Mel, however, was just happy that Janice had quickly and efficiently show everyone in the room that she was indeed very good at her chosen profession.


The rest of the evening moved along quickly with Maribell engrossed in Janice's notes and Melinda chatting away with their other guests about financing. It didn't seem as if either couple was going to be willing to cough up the needed funds, but at least Janice had reigned in her normal harsh attitude so that backing after the war might be possible. Janice had spent the rest of the night sitting at her desk pretending to do work, she knew it impressed their guests and gave off an air of over-dedication to her work. Although Janice never really needed to worry about giving off that impression, all one had to do was look in her eyes when she was presented with the prospect of a new dig or a new historical mystery to see the absolute joy she took in her work. But at that moment she was plugging away at a personal journal entry.

Janice stayed in the study lost in thought absent-mindedly stroking Argo while Mel showed their guests out. It had been a very unproductive evening in Jan's eyes because all they had were promises of backing after the war. Not that that wasn't a good thing, but it wasn't what she had hope to accomplish this evening. Those wealthy couples had been their last ditch effort to get a site up and going in one of the three areas Janice wanted to target. So, with the failure to garner funds the hope for setting up a dig while the war was still ragging was shot to hell. She let out a frustrated sigh as she got up and walked over to the window to gaze out at the beautiful night that had settled over the back yard. The sky was cloudless with a million twinkling lights all winking at Janice. There was a soft mist collecting and spreading out from around the bases of the many oak tress that littered the yard, and a beautiful full moon was peaking at her from just over the roof of th!

e main barn in all its silver glory. Janice took a deep breath enjoying the view, letting it calm her and take away the frustration of the last nine days and this evening of listening to pompous rich people, Mel not being included in that particular category of individuals. Janice could listen to her voice all day long no matter what she was talking about, and the voice in question startled her as it whispered seductively right next to her ear. Janice had been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn't even heard Melinda re-enter their study.

"Penny for your thoughts my darling." Mel whispered seductively into Janice's petite ear, kissing it lightly and letting her warm breath create cute little goose bumps along Janice's exquisite neck.

Janice took advantage of their closeness and turned and gently kissed the translator's lips. "Mmm." A hand slipped up and tangled itself in the dark hair as Jan leaned against her partner's deceptively powerful body and went back for a more thorough exploration. She murmered as strong fingers gently slipped up her side and sent pleasant chills across her skin.

"Come on." Mel took a firm hold on Janice and started towards the door intent on taking them up to their room. "It has been a long day, and a very very long week, you need your rest, I can tell your head is still pounding Ja-yun."

Janice grinned and captured a finger of the hand on her shoulder, nibbling it enthusiastically. "Rest?" Her emerald eyes peeked up at Mel mischievously. "Hmmm...if you say so." Janice took hold of Mel's entire hand and lead her out of the study and up the stairs to their room. Mel preceded her in and Janice shut the door after her. "Don't want Tess interrupting to ask some silly question about left-overs now do we?" Janice smirked and then pinned Mel with a look that was equal parts lust and love. She seductively advanced on the tall southerner who backed up till her the backs of her knees were touching their still mussed bed. When Janice was standing toe to toe with Mel she reached up and cupped her face in her uninjured hand pulling her down for a long fervent kiss. When they parted their breathing was ragged and Janice had expertly unbuttoned Mel's silk blouse even with a cast on her hand. Janice pushed Mel down onto the bed straddling her thighs as Mel quickly r!

emoved Janice's shirt and bra. "Mel dear, I thought you said something about rest?" A chuckle left Mel's lips as she quickly pinched one of Jan's nipples getting a low moan in answer.

Janice moved her hands to Mel's shoulders and began fiddling with the silk obstacle. The shirt slipped free of her shoulders and slid against her body in a rapture of sensation. Janice let her over taxed defenses drop and chuckled to herself as she started a slow relentless advance down her partner's body, starting at her collarbone. She moved slowly down Mel's ribs, tracing each one with her tongue and feeling them move faster as the southerners breathing increased. One hand was curled lightly around her partners suddenly exposed muscular thigh and she started a gentle stroking against the soft skin. Janice had expertly removed Mel's skirt without her even noticing. Her gentle caress was rewarded with an incoherent sound from her lover, whose fingers drifted against Janice's body and sent sharp jolts of fire against her nerves as they found familiar places, accompanied by the warm rush that she always associated with their love. The need rose up within her, an insatiab!

le desire to add a physical dimension to the profound emotion they shared, and she surrendered to it, their bodies reaching for each other in sweet familiarity.


Mel lazily drifted up to consciousness with full confidence that this time when she opened her eyes Janice would be right there beside her. She was not disappointed. There curled up on her side with her head resting on Mel's shoulder, arms wrapped securely around her waist and one leg thrown possessively over both of Mel's was 'Mad Dog' Covington. Even with the stitched up gash and the already fading black and blue bruse around her eye Janice looked at peace and oh so innocent. Mel hoped that her playfulness and passion last night was a sign that Janice was going to rebound her efforts to live happily here until the war was over and they could get safely back out in the field. Last night after their passions had cooled and desires had been satisfied they had had another nice long 'sensitive chat.' Janice had told Mel that she would try her damnedest to be happy here until the war was over, and that having her here was the only thing that would ever make it possible. Mel!

had, of course been ecstatic, but told her beloved that if it got to be to much to please let her know so they could talk before Jan went out and started throwing her petite yet powerful fists around. With that settled they had both drifted into a wonderfully peaceful and restive sleep intending to wake to a brand new day both healthy, happy and confident in their love.

Janice stirred, stretching before she even opened her eyes, then exhaled a rested satisfied sigh. She looked up to see the smiling blue eyes of her comfy pillow and companion in the dim morning light. Mel raised her hand to lovingly touch Jan's face. "Hi," she breathed out, more than said. In response, Janice lifted her head for a gentle kiss, then lingered to savor her beloved. With long practiced understanding, Mel stretched and patted Janice's tummy, then released her restless companion. Jan rose from the bed with grace inherent of a strength and agility born of necessity. She uncoiled and stretched her small frame. No matter how many times Melinda watched her rise, she always felt her mouth go dry and her breath catch at the sight of her small yet powerful lover's form. Janice looked down at the sudden intake of breathe and smiled knowingly. "I'm going to head downstairs and see what Tess has whipped up for us this morning. You stay in bed." Mel gladly closed h!

er eyes, pulling the soft, still warm linens back up under her chin surrounding herself in Jan's scent.

When Mel next opened her eyes, there was a warm cup of ginger tea and two still steaming and buttered blueberry muffins waiting for her. Janice was seated over in one of the window seats, she'd been watching the light drizzle that had started sometime during the pre-dawn hours writing in her journal. "Morning again." Mel rolled out of bed wrapping the sheet around her shoulders against the morning chill, or at least the contrasting temperature from the snug nest that she called their bed. She carefully picked up the tea and padded over to where Janice was seated peering over the top of her head to get a look at the dreary weather. Then she looked down at Janice finally noticing what her lover was wearing, white panties, a kaki shirt that was not buttoned and no bra. Both of her eyebrows shot into her hair line. "Janice dear?"

"Hmmmmm......?" came the lazy, content reply, a cute saucy little smirk accompanying it.

"Have you been scandalizing Tessa again?" Mel just knew that Janice had gone down to the kitchen dressed like this. Janice took great pride in her ability to embarrass the stubborn housekeeper, but the longer and longer Janice had lived here the more of a challenge it became. Today had been a great triumph.

A mischievous grin replaced the cocky smirk as Janice turned her head up from her writing to look Mel in the eyes. "Not just Tessa my dear." Janice's smile widened. "Her sister and nieces came this morning to finish helping her with the clean up from last nights dinner." Janice could not help by laugh out loud at the look on Mel's face, it was equal parts shock and pride.

"Why Janice Covington, I never...." Mel was abruptly interrupted by a huge belly laugh from her partner.

"Ha!, wouldn't have thought that they way you were carrying on last night!"

A bright red blush traveled from the tips of Mel's toes to the roots of her ink black hair. She couldn't help but blush but she was loving every minute of it. It was wonderful to have her good old crude and ill-mannered Janice back. This was the loveliest morning she had experienced in nine long stress filled days. Mel just left Janice there in the window seat chuckling as she walked over to her dresser and pulled out some clothing for the day. She pulled on a soft blue cotton button up blouse and matching skirt over the silky blue panties and bra that Janice had bought for her just two weeks prior to her disappearing. She was startled while buttoning up her shirt as Janice called to her from her comfortable perch.

"Mel, come over here a minute." Janice beckoned her lover over without looking up from her writing. When Mel reached her she set her pen and journal down and walked a full circle around Mel taking in her form and how she was dressed.


Janice cut off Mel's question when she reached up and unbuttoned the two top buttons of Mel's shirt. "Much better." A pattoned Janice smirk overcame her features as she took in the raised eyebrow that Mel was giving her. "What?...we have to go to the museum today, I want you looking your best." When the eyebrow refused to return to it's normal position Jan decided to resort to drastic measures. "Oh, I'd best be doing something about that, don't want that beautiful eyebrow getting stuck in your hairline now do we?" She reached up with her injured hand running the tips of her incased fingers through Mel's hair and pulled her down for a fevered kiss, her right hand snaking around behind Mel kneading her perfect, firm ass. When she pulled away and headed for her dresser to find a decent outfit for the day Mel was left standing there, her breath coming in ragged gasps, lips still partially parted, and eyes half closed.

As Janice pulled on a pair of kaki pants, put on a bra and switched the shirt she had had on for a navy blue button up oxford shirt. As she sauntered over to the bed to sit down and tug on her knee high boots a self-satisfied smirk quirked onto her lips. The whole five minutes it took Jan to get dressed Mel had stayed rooted to the spot where Janice had left her. "Mel honey, are you gonna stand there all day? If we don't get a move on I'm going to be late." She chuckled as Mel finally snapped out of the Janice kiss induced trance that had overcome her.

"Oh my..." Left Mel's lips as a barely audible whisper. She turned around to see Jan sitting on the bed in all her self-assured, brazen splendor, fully dressed with her leather jacket laying across her lap. "What you do to me Janice Covington..." Mel purposely strode toward Janice, sat down beside her and wrapped her arms around her in the tightest hug she could manage. She was so happy to have her beloved Janice back and the final bit of stress that had built up over the time that Janice had gone 'missing' finally dissipated with that one wonderful kiss from her love.

"Mel.....I love you sweetheart." Janice returned the hug and drug them both to there feet. "Well now dear, I think it's about time we get our asses in gear and I get down to the museum and see if I still have a job." She shrugged into her jacket and led Mel by the hand to the door snagging both muffins that were still sitting on Mel's nightstand.


The click of Mel's heels and thud of Janice's boots echoed through the seemingly deserted museum as they entered and headed for John Reese's office. John was in his late fifties with a healthy round belly that hung over his waist band and a head of salt and pepper hair that he often pushed his wire rimmed glasses up into to get them off his face when they became annoying. He stood a mear 5'6" and almost always seemed to be in a good mood. This quality made working with the often times annoyed and aggressive Janice Covington bearable. When they reached his office door Janice knocked loudly being that he was a little hard of hearing. Upon hearing the muffled 'come in' shouted through the door Janice and Mel entered.

John looked up and a slightly shocked expression came to his face. "As I live and breath, she's still in the country." Janice simply smirked and shrugged as John came around his large cluttered desk and clapped her on the shoulder. "Well come on girl spill it where you been? I've had an awful time keeping the University from firing you so you owe me an explanation." He covertly winked at Mel and pushed them both into the chairs that sat in front of his desk.

Janice reached behind her head and began the nervous twitch of rubbing the back of her neck as she looked back and forth between John and Mel. "Um...well John, you see that's kind of personal. I'd rather like to keep it to myself." She sheepishly smiled at her 'boss' and was relieved to see the look of understanding that he sent her way. John was not sure what to think about Janice sometimes. He'd known Mel for years and found that a friendship between the pair seemed like such an unlikely thing. But here they were in his office, the best of friends, and perhaps more. He was never sure whether they were more than friends to each other or not. He really didn't think that it would bother him, but if he knew for sure he knew it would take some getting used to. They were, however, an impeccable and brilliant team. In all his years working for the University in many positions he had never seen any two people do more productive work than Janice and Mel.

"All right Jan I understand, but I really did have to talk circles around the University staff assuring them that you'd be back." John had spent three whole days in conferences with the officials in charge of the museum convincing them that firing Janice was a bad idea. "Now, my dears, tell me how is that little project coming?"

Now Mel spoke up. In all her worry about Janice she had done the one thing that she felt could keep her close to her lover, worked on the hieroglyphs, and Janice had spent the half hour drive to the University finishing up her half of the work. "Finished." She quickly opened Jan's briefcase and pulled out a notebook filled with the translations and Janice's interpretations of the importance of what the tablets had said.

"Amazing, you two never cease to amaze me." He took the notebook from Mel's hands and set it on his desk so he could go over it later. "Well now, the officials can just stop all the griping....I've never known anyone to get a translation and interpretation project done so fast." A large smile creased it's way onto John's face, he couldn't help it, his features just had to mirror the two beautiful smiles that were being presented to him from across his desk. "Okay you two, this is all I really need. Since you're finished you can have the whole day of Janice."

They all stood and walked to the door of the office. "Thanks John....although I have no idea what I'm going to do with a whole day free." Janice shot a suggestive lear Mel's way causing the gentle southerner to blush a beautiful shade of red. John shooed them out of his office and walked back over to his desk shaking his head as he picked up the notebook the duo had given him. He opened it up to start reading and, as usual, saw two distinctive sets of handwriting. It was truly amazing how these two worked. Mel would translate a passage and directly underneath the translation would be Janice's 'interpretation.' It was and extremely unusual way for a translator and archeologist to work together, but Jan and Mel had made it into an art form. John loved it because it made the reading easy and all the more fascinating. It was so hard to go back and forth between two different notebooks, which is how most teams such and Janice and Mel would have worked. As he settled in to!

go through the work he couldn't help the bright smile that came to his lips. They were quite a pair indeed.


Instead of heading straight home, Janice and Mel decided to head into town and take a nice leisurely walk through one of Charleston's many lovely parks since the weather had cleared. They parked the car downtown and did a little window shopping on their way to the park. Janice found herself hiding amused grins as Mel oohed and ahhed over many of the new dresses she saw in the shop windows. As they walked by one shop in particular Mel caught Janice by the elbow and pulled her in mumbling something about 'needing' a new outfit. Janice knew darn well that Mel did not need any new clothes, but by the gods that woman could shop.

As the sales lady came over to assist them she eyed Janice precariously and turned her full attention to Mel. Janice didn't mind this, she hated shopping but knew it made Mel happy so she would put up with the nasty looks and the waiting around. In fact Janice hadn't bought herself any new clothes in the last three years. She left all of her shopping up to Mel. Her lover knew what she liked so why should she be bothered with the task if Mel got such a kick out of it. However, she did kind of enjoy it when Mel would insist upon trying stuff on and then model it for her, but until it came to that Janice took a seat next to a bewildered looking old man. He was obviously waiting on his wife. Janice smiled at him, she wondered how long he had been sitting there waiting. Her smile broadened as she heard Mel's excited voice going on about the color fusha. Janice had no idea what this color looked like but she was sure her beloved would look smashing in it. Not five minutes !

later Mel emerged from the dressing room in a stunning outfit of the most beautiful shade of pink Janice had ever seen. The tight skirt clung to Mel in all the right places, the hem coming to the middle of her caves. A matching jacket accented her strong broad shoulders and underneath the jacket was a soft white blouse that showed just the right amount of cleavage. Janice was stunned speechless, she never much like any shade of pink but on Melinda it practically glowed. She couldn't find her voice so she simply mouthed the words 'buy it' to her lover. The broad grin the stretched across Mel's face gave Janice a giddy feeling of joy.

Another five minutes later they were standing at the counter, Mel back in her blue skirt and shirt with Janice standing next to her holding the purchase as she paid. As the sales lady was counting out the change something hanging on the bulitenboard behind the counter caught Janice's eye. "Excuse me Miss, could I see that banner." She pointed to the piece of paper that had caught her attention. The sales lady took the tack form the posted sheet and handed it to Janice then went back to trying to convince Mel that she should also look at their fine selection of shoes. Janice read over the paper quickly then folded it up and stuffed it in her jacket pocket when she heard Mel decline looking at shoes. They headed for the car so they wouldn't have to carry Mel's new outfit around the park with them.

When they finally reached the park Mel was fighting to not let her curiosity get the better of her. She was dying to know what that sheet of paper Janice had pocketed said, but she would wait for Jan to tell her. When they were halfway around the small pound that was the center piece of the park Janice smiled up at her lover. "I'm proud of you Mel, it's been a whole twenty minutes and you haven't asked about that paper yet." She smirked at her love and fished the folded paper out of her pocket.

"Well Ja-yun I figured if it was something important that you'd eventually share it with me. So what is it?" The eagerness in her voice was clear.

Janice couldn't help the chuckle that bubbled out of her throat as she handed the sheet of paper to Mel. She unfolded it and read over it, a slightly confused look came to her face then she re-read it. She was still confused, all the sheet was was a recruiting call for the Women's Army Corps (WAC). However, when she looked down at her smirking companion everything clicked into place and a slightly horrified look took over her features.

Janice noticed the change in her lover's expression and decided that she better start on some damage control. "It's perfect Mel, I can get away for a while and enjoy some action. You know on top of being so fidgety here that it's been killing me that I haven't been able to do anything to help the war effort." When the look didn't leave Mel's face she steered them toward a secluded bench and sat them down. She really didn't want to have this discussion out in public but could see that there was no way around it now. "Mel honey, say something.....please."

After gathering her thoughts Mel looked over at Janice the slightly horrified look still plastered across her angular features. "Janice, you can't be serious. What on earth will I do without you around...what....what if you get hurt or killed. What if......." Mel was silenced when Janice placed two fingers over her soft luscious lips.

"Mel, please don't start in on the 'what ifs,' you know how much I hate that." Janice removed her fingers from Mel's mouth and captured her hands bringing them both up to her own lips and kissing each knuckle. A huge sigh left her lips and she took a deep breath. "Mel don't you understand how perfect this is for me? I don't.....ah...you know I don't want to leave you here all alone, but I think I need to get away from here before there is a repeat of.........." She trailed off letting the words simply echo in her own mind knowing Mel would understand what she was referring to. "Hell, maybe you could join too, it says here that a lot of the positions are secretarial." A hopeful look came over Janice's face. "We could request assignment in London and stay at your dad's old flat, oh Mel it would be a wonderful adventure to add to our growing list."

Mel sighed running her thumbs over the back of Janice's hands ignoring the hard texture of the cast encasing her lovers left one that was to come off in two days. "Janice, this is not an adventure, this is a war. Don't trivialize it, our boys are over there loosing their lives to protect innocent people." Mel knew Janice knew this and if she was honest with herself somehow the thought of having Jan over there near the front lines made things seem all the more winnable. "And you know darn well that no military branch in their right mind will have anything to do with me with my bad eyes." She sighed as a defeated look came over her lovers expressive features. She knew Janice would stay right here, all she had to do was ask her to. But that look of defeat mixed with an adorable pout was making her realize just how good this could be for her beloved. So, she steeled herself and made the decision to give Jan her blessing if she really wanted to go through with this. "Ja-yu!

n," The resigned sight that left her lips made Janice look up and into her pale blue, and very expressive eyes. "I understand...I really do, so if you want to join up I cannot in good conscious ask you not to."

A tentative, questioning smile started to break across Jan's lips. "Mel......are you sure, I can understand you not wanting me to go. Especially because of what I just pulled on you. But I promise that I will be safe and come back to you in one piece." She reached up and cupped Mel's cheeks in her hands pulling her face down and kissing her lightly on the forehead not caring that they were in a public park filled with other people.

Mel sighed again and her voice was barely a whisper causing Janice to strain to hear it. "Oh I know you Janice Covington." She looked up and a wry smile spread across her beautiful lips. "That's a promise that I can count on." She placed her hands over Janice's where they were still resting on her face. "You get over there and teach our boys how to win a war." With that she pulled her lover into a tight embrace burying her nose in the soft silky strands of honey gold hair. She was breathing in Janice's sent. If she was going to let her beloved go off and fight in the war she was going to make sure every nuance of Janice 'Mad Dog' Covington was etched into her brain.


Two days later they were sitting in old Doc Riely's office waiting for the only doctor left for miles around to hurry up and get in his office to remove Janice's cast. Doc Riely was sixty-five years old and not very happy about being pressed into service at the very beginning of his retirement. Every young and middle-aged physician had been drafted or voluntarily went over seas to serve in hospitals all throughout war torn Europe and the South Pacific. Doc Riely just also happened to be of the 'old school' and did not approve of unmarried women over the age of twenty. Janice and Mel both qualified to receive this disapproval from Old Doc. In fact Janice had spent most of the morning trying to convince Melinda that they didn't have to come into his office that she could get the damn cast off with a wood saw. Mel, of course refused this idea immediately and told Jan she cold put up with Old Doc for the few minutes it would take him remove the cast. Janice and Doc Riely di!

d not, in any way shape or form, get along with each other. In fact the only reason he had treated her at the prison was because James had assured him that she was passed out and showing no signs of waking any time soon. So here Janice sat with, to Mel, the most adorable scowl across her face, waiting.

Finally the doctor entered. He did nothing to hide his disapproval of the two women going as far as to cluck his tongue at them. "All right Miss Covington, why are you here again?"

"It's DOCTOR Covington, and I'm here to get this damned thing removed." She waved her incased hand exaggeratedly around in the air. "Is your memory going that quickly that you can't remember something as simple as why a patient has been waiting for half an hour for you to get your sor......." Janice's ranting was quickly silenced as Mel's hand covered her mouth. Luckily Old Doc's back was turned retrieving his equipment so he didn't see this interaction. It would have undoubtedly gotten the doctor in a real tizzy. If he had any inkling that Janice and Mel were more than just friends he would refuse to treat Janice and Mel would have no choice but to let her stubborn lover try and get the cast off with a saw. She knew that having her hand incased and restricted was driving Janice nuts.

Without an apology for the delay Doc fired up his medical saw and approached Janice. "Hold still!" He latched onto her forearm holding it steady as he began cutting. A few minutes later the cast was off and Jan was absently scratching the skin that had been covered. Next Doc cleaned all the dead skin off with some alcohol and tightly wrapped Janice's hand in a ACE bandage.

"What's this....thought it was just a small fracture, should be healed by now." Jan was now bewilderedly looking at her wrapped hand. At least it was less restrictive than the cast.

Doc's gruff reply came as he finished making notes on Janice's chart. "It is healed, but it's best if it's wrapped for a few more days just to make sure." With that he ushered them out of the exam room and left them with his receptionist who also just happened to be his daughter. "Mary, charge for office visit and cast removal." With a final disapproving glance he left them in the front office to pay.

Janice started fishing around in the pockets of her kakies to pay her bill but Mel beat her to it coolly whipping out her check book. She signed and just let her tall lover pay, sometimes Mel could be more stubborn than Jan herself. With great sarcasm Janice addressed Mary. "Your father is such a pleasant man."

A resigned smirk came to the young woman's face. "You're telling me. He hasn't stopped harping me about getting married in the last three years. I keep telling him, 'Pa, there's a war on, there aren't any good men left around right now.'" She took Mel's check not bothering to ask for ID. "Dr. Covington, Miss Pappas, you both have a lovely afternoon."

"You too Mary." They answered in unison causing the young woman to burst out laughing and Jan and Mel to smile at each other in a way that told Mary that they were truly a special pair.


After the quick visit to the doctor's office they headed downtown to the address that had temporarily been set up for WAC recruiting. Today was the first day to go down and sign up and since they had to be in town anyway Janice had convinced Mel to let her go sign up. As the entered the office Janice could see the tension in the set of Mel's jaw. She knew this was hard for her lover, but she also knew that Mel wanted her to do this because it would make Janice happy. The fact that Mel hadn't protested or tried to talk her out of the idea worried Janice a bit, but Jan had to do this. She hated to leave Mel for any length of time but she need this. If she didn't get away for at least a little while she was afraid that she would hurt Mel more than her joining the WAC would. Before reaching the desk where a woman sat in a crisp Army uniform Janice unwrapped her hand and handed the bandage to Mel quietly asking her to put it in her purse. She received a disapproving look bu!

t from her lover but was glad that Mel shoved the offending piece of cloth down into her handbag anyway.

Janice steered Mel over to the seats in the waiting area and headed up to the desk. It looked as though they were the only ones here. It was rather early though. As Jan neared the desk the woman looked up and smiled warmly at her. "Good morning........how can I help you?"

Janice pulled out the paper she had gotten from the store bulletin board and handed it to the woman. "I'm interested in joining up, where do I sign?"

The woman looked her up and down a little taken aback by her bluntness. "Well first we have to do some tests, check you eyesight and what not. So if you'll just follow me Miss....?"

"Doctor, doctor Janice Covington." Janice extended her hand and was glad that the returned handshake was good and solid. She followed the woman through a back door turning just before she went through to give Mel a smile and a wink. She was happy when Mel blushed a beautiful shade of red and returned the smile.

She re-emerged forty-five minutes later having passed every physical and mental test with flying colors. She followed the recruiting woman back to her desk where she was handed a clipboard full of forms that needed filled out. "Okay, these forms are simply emergency contacts, who to inform if you are somehow missing or killed in the line of duty, current address, proof of US citizenship, etc. Just fill them out completely and I'll get you signed up for boot camp." The woman sat back down at her desk and started processing Janice's paperwork. "Oh Doctor Covington, will your friend be signing on too?"

"Um...no, I'm sorry to say that Mel would not be able to pass your eyesight exam. She's near sighted." Janice signed heavily. She knew that Mel could pass every other test they had, probably better than anyone else. If only she weren't so damned near sighted.

"Oh, okay. Well then let me give you this for her to read. It's some literature on our civilian assistants program. She wouldn't be required to pass that exam as long as her eyesight is corrected to at least 20/40 by glasses." Janice took the pamphlets and headed over to where Mel was patiently waiting reading the newest issue of LIFE magazine.

Mel looked up from her reading when she heard Janice approach. She took one look at the clipboard and looked back down. For some reason she had been holding on to a silly notion that Janice would fail some part of the required testing. It had been and extremely unreasonable thought, but it had given her some comfort ever since Janice had suggested joining the Women's Army Corps. She looked up at her lover again and did her best to put a reassuring look on her face. "I take it you passed with flying colors." Now she couldn't help but smile. Janice was brilliant and strong, if they didn't take her Mel would have known that the military was not as smart as it pretended to be.

"Oh yeah, think I surprised little miss recruiting lady over there." Jan plopped down next to Mel and began filling out the forms, some of which were in tripliquet. She sighed, sometimes the government could go overboard on paperwork. "Oh...she gave me these for you." Janice handed the pamphlets she had been given over to Melinda. "They're about a civilian assistants program. She said you'd probably be able to get into it if your eyesight is corrected to 20/40. It is isn't it?"

Mel reached up and tapped her horn rimmed glasses. "Yes it is dear. Actually with my glasses it's 20/20" She opened a pamphlet and began reading. "This is interesting Ja-yun, but I don't think it includes going over seas." She kept on reading though as a thought jumped into her mind. Her father had had some connections in the military, maybe she could get one of them to pull a few strings for her. It was a longshot but worth a try.

When Janice had finished her paperwork and returned it to the recruiting officer she was informed that she was to report to the trainstation in three days to leave for boot camp. All she had to do was arrive on time at platform A and look for the uniformed individuals, they would take care of boarding her boarding pass.


The next three days passed painfully fast for Melinda. She spent every waking and sleeping hour in the presence of her crude little archeologist. She even went as far as insetting that they do everything together, even bathe. Mel followed Janice around the house like a puppy dog never letting her out of touching distance. Janice found this both touching and amusing. The amusing part being watching Mel make like she belonged glued to Janice. Jan had gotten a real kick out of watching Mel out in the barn helping her and the ranch hands. It was the first time Janice had ever seen her do something other than ride the horses and she was glad that it had happened. Mel ended up truly enjoying working out in the stalls and had plans to do it more often, even if her initial reason for being there was to be near Janice. The touching part was seeing Mel doing her best to keep a stiff upper lip and not let Janice know how much the prospect of her heading over seas was tearing her!

up inside.

Now, it was their final evening together before Janice headed off to boot camp. They had to be up bright and early to get Jan to the trainstation on time. Janice was sitting in one of the soft leather arm chairs in front of the fireplace in the study quietly reading through some old notes of Mel's and puffing on the last cigar she'd get to enjoy for some time. Argo was beside her chair softly snoozing having enjoyed half of the food that had been on Jan's plate at dinner. Even though Tessa had made her favorite she just couldn't find it in herself to eat much. Watching Mel fighting off tears was very hard. Mel herself was seated at Janice's feet with her head resting in her lover's lap. With her free hand Janice was idly stroking Mel's silky black tresses. She noticed the even sound of Melinda's breathing and realized that she had fallen into a light doze. Being in front of the warm glow of the fire place always seemed to have that effect on the southerner. She put t!

he notes down on the table beside the chair and snubbed out her cigar so she could concentrate on soaking in the sight and scent of her beloved translator. A few moments later she was aware of Tessa's presence just behind the chair.

"Miz Janice, ifin you don't mind I'd like to stay this evenin' soen I can see you off in the mornin'." Tessa was going to miss having Janice around. She'd have very little cleaning to do with out the chaos prone Yankee around. She also wanted to be there for Melinda. She knew that the southerner was going to have one bumpy morning.

Janice turned and smiled at Tessa. "Tess, I don't mind at all and I know Mel wouldn't have it any other way." She knew that their housekeeper was going to make sure that Mel got through the difficult day. She would be the support that Janice knew Mel would so desperately need as soon as that train left the station.

Tessa came forward and placed a soft kiss on top of Mel's hair and then bestowed one on Janice's cheek. "I'll just be callin' my family, and then head off to bed. Come on doggy... lets leave em in peace." Argo perked up at the name that only Tessa could successfully get her attention with and followed her out of the study.

Janice decided that since they had to be up so early it was best if they followed Tessa's lead and went to bed also. "Mel..." Janice lightly shook Mel's shoulder trying to wake her gently. "Mel honey, wake up....it's time to go to bed." The irony of that statement put a wry smile on Jan's face as Melinda blinked her eyes open and looked up at her. Mel couldn't help but mirror the smile that had quirked onto her lover's lips.

"Hmmmmmm, Ja-yun, did you say something?" A small yawn left her lips as she stretched out the muscles that had grown stiff from her odd position. She hadn't intended to fall asleep, but the glow of the fire and the comforting presence of Janice had done her in.

"Yeah sweetheart, I think we should probably head up to bed. We do have to be up rather early in the morning." Janice stood and reached down for Mel's hands pulling the southerner to her feet with minimal effort. She wrapped her strong arms around Mel's middle squeezing her tightly burrying her face in her lovers chest breathing deep.

Mel sighed and leaned down to place soft feather kisses in Jan's golden hair. "Okay Janice, lets head on up. Where's Argo?" Their faithful dog had somehow figured out in her keen doggy mind that one of her mistresses was going to be leaving for an extended period of time and had started sleeping on the foot of their bed. Mel found it extremely cute, Argo normally just took up nightly residence on the small couch by the door of their room.

"She's with Tessa this evening. Oh yeah, um...Tess decided to stay here tonight to see me off in the morning." Janice noticed the slight flinch from Mel at the mention of her leaving in the morning and squeezed her tighter. After standing there in each other's arms for a few moments they headed up to their room.

A few minutes after reaching the room they were snuggled down, spooned together facing each other. Janice looked up to Mel's face just as she took her trembling bottom lip between her teeth trying her best not to cry. "Mel honey, it's okay.........please don't hold anything in. Cry for goodness sake, make me feel shity about this, I can take it." She reached up and cupped Mel's chin rubbing her fingers across trembling lips as tears finally slipped forth form liquid blue eyes. "Oh sweetheart......." As Mel lowered her head finally succumbing to her rolling emotions Janice scooted up and began kissing away each tear. "It's okay Mel, yeah just let it all out honey." The longer Mel cried the more choking her sobs became and the more labored her breathing got. "Come on now, breath sweetheart, breath......don't go making yourself sick." Mel buried her head in the small space between Janice's neck and shoulder as she took Janice's sound advice and did her best to calm down!

. With her hands Janice was stroking her lover's hair and rubbing gentle calming circles across her back. "You know Mel, I feel like telling them to go to hell now. I didn't realize how much this was hurting you. I thought that if I stayed here much longer I end up hurting you much worse, but if this is how you feel maybe I shouldn't......."

Mel sucked in a large breath and quickly cut Janice off. "No Janice, you go, I know how good this will be for you. I understand your need for adventure and danger." Her sobbing had finally calmed to soft hiccuping. "I don't have to like it but I understand it. I even think I have a little of it in me Ja-yun, just not to the extent you do." She couldn't help the small smile that quirked onto her lips. It was true she craved adventure too, just not as readily as her lover did. She had finally embraced that craving four years ago and ended up on a dig site in Macedonian for her first adventure and met the love of her life. "And yes Janice this will be hard for me and it does hurt, but it will hurt me even more if you stay here and do something that will get you in more trouble than you could possibly stir up over in war ravaged London." Mel pulled her head up from its comfortable resting place to look Janice right in the eye. "I want you to go win this war Janice, for !

me and for yourself. Go over there and make all the difference you can. I'll be right here waiting for you not if, but WHEN you get back." She leaned in and passionately kissed her beautiful lover over and over again till they were so over heated that the blankets and sheets soon found their way to the floor.

The rest of the night was spent in blissful passion, their bodies, hearts, and souls becoming one. Each one half of a beautiful and inseparable whole. No matter how much land and ocean separated them they would each be in the other's heart, carried safe until they would be together again.


The entire household awoke early, each individual preparing for the impending separation in their own way. Tessa spent her time bustling about the kitchen cooking enough food to feed the Army that Janice was joining. Argo followed the housekeeper around the kitchen just waiting for her to drop a tasty morsel. Mel spent her time watching Janice rummage about their room collecting the few things she would need and stuff them unfolded and hap hazardly into a knap sack. Janice so far had simply packed every bit of underwear she owned, she didn't' plan on suffering through Army issue underthings. She also threw in a box of bullets and her gun. She figured that they'd probably make her give it up but there was no harm in trying to take it. Finally Janice wandered over to where Mel was seated on the couch. She looked down into the southerners eyes smiling while caressing her soft cheeks with her callused hands. Then she looked up to the pictures that hung behind the sofa. S!

he scanned each one looking for the perfect picture to take with her. She finally decided and reached up, taking it down and studying it more closely. It was of just Mel, taken on a quick side trip to Egypt. They had been lovers for just over a year and hadn't made it to that particular country yet. Janice knew how much Mel had been wanting to see the great pyramids since they had started traveling form site to site so as a surprise they made this little side trip. The picture was of Mel in local clothing on her camel with the pyramids as an amazing background. It was one of Janice's favorite pictures, first because she wasn't in it and second because Mel looked so radiant and happy in it. She stuffed the picture into her knap sack and looked back down at Mel to see a raised eyebrow looking back at her.

"Mel, if you do that too often your eyebrow is going to get stuck up there." She leaned down and kissed the body part in question.

"Janice dear, I have no qualms about you taking a picture with you, but why that one?" Mel really didn't like that particular picture. She thought it wasn't one of her better photos. All she saw was her mussed hair and sand covered skin and clothes. "It's not a very flattering picture."

"Oh yes it is sweetheart, it shows everything I love about you." Jan smiled as Mel's other eyebrow rose to meet it's twin. "No really Mel, look...." Janice pulled the picture back out and sat down beside her lover. "to me....in this picture I see all your beauty and radiance shining through. You were so happy that day. Do you remember? You were so excited and your excitement just fed into me and for the first time I actually saw the magisty and splendor of the pyramids." Janice looked down at the picture as a wistful smile pulled at her lips. "Every time before, when I had seen those amazing structures, that's all they were to me....pointed structures of rock and sand. You showed me their true power Mel...this picture reminds me of that day, the day you opened my eyes to the beauty of the world around me." Janice looked back up into Mel's eyes, unshed tears glistening in contrast to the amazing smile across her lips.

Mel's eyebrows had come back to normal resting position long before Janice had finished her story and now she just sat there staring in astonishment. "Oh Janice........." She reached over and pulled Jan into her lap placing kiss after kiss on her hair and face. They sat there in each others arms just reveling in the warmth of each other and the intensity of their love until they heard Tessa call them down for breakfast.

The morning meal was a silent affair, no one really knew what to say. Mel had cried out all her worry and frustration last night, and she and Janice had expressed their love with both words and actions. Janice now knew that Mel understood her reason for joining the WAC and that she was okay with it. Or okay as one could be expected to be when your soulmate was going to be heading into a war zone. Mel had confidence in her lover, that she would be safe, and she knew that Janice had been in some very dangerous situations throughout her life. She doubted that any were as life threatening as war, although this was Janice Covington she was thinking about.

They reached the trainstation early and Janice was able to check in and receive her boarding pass rather quickly. Now they stood huddled together; Tessa, Argo, Mel, and Janice, at platform A awaiting the arrival of the train that would whisk Janice away to basic training. Even though they were in public Janice had taken Mel into her arms in a warm, loving embrace stroking her back as they talked about mundane things such as the weather and the Yankee's prospects at winning the pennant. They were receiving some wary stares but at this point Janice just did not care. If she was going to be away from her beloved Mel for so long she needed this as much as the southerner did.

Finally the train arrived and the recruits were called to board. The train was an express so it only stopped long enough to pick up its new passengers then it was on its way again. As the last call was sent out Janice reluctantly let go of Mel and reached up to pull her down into a long fevered kiss. Gasps and rude comments were heard but the two lovers were deaf to them all caught up the emotion and passion they shared.

Janice turned to Tessa and issued her key 'order' to the housekeeper. "Tess, you keep her well fed for me, don't go letting her go on a hunger strike." She smiled down at Tessa and wrapped her in a tight hug. "I will miss you." The housekeeper was at a loss for words and simply squeezed Janice back with all her might. Then she turned to her exquisite lover. Her voice was such a low raspy whisper that Mel had to strain to hear it. "I love you Mel, I'll come back to you in one piece sweetheart." Mel could hear the tears trying to break through in Jan's voice and it caused the teardrops stinging her electric blue eyes to begin to fall.

"I love you too Janice.....be careful, I can't live without you." Janice placed a final kiss on Mel's wet cheek and ran to where the recruiting officer was tapping his foot waiting for her. She boarded quickly and found her seat glad that it was by a window. By the time she had stowed her knap sack the train was slowly moving out of the station. She looked out the window immediately finding Mel's eyes and mouthing 'I love you' to her. As the train picked up speed she had to turn uncomfortably in her seat to keep eye contact finally ending up with her face pressed to the glass like an eager child. Then, before she knew it, the train was out of the station and her view of her beloved Melinda obscured by trees and buildings whisking by. She turned around and sat down dejectedly as her newest adventure began. There was such and empty feeling accompanying the excitement of this new exploit. The emptiness, she knew, was being caused by the fact that over the last four years!

she had grown so used to having Mel in her life and along for the ride that it was a physical pain to be doing this without her. She decided that the best thing to do at this point was to just mentally prepare herself for the training and work ahead. Soon the clacking of the train on the tracks had lulled her into a peaceful slumber, dreaming about the beautiful woman who so tightly held her heart and soul.

Mel held the gaze of her lover until the train was out of the station. At that point she couldn't hold back the crashing emotions any longer. She fell to her knees and wrapped her arms around Argo's neck and began sobbing into the soft silky fur. Tessa knew this was coming, she had seen signs of a classic breakdown all morning so she did her best to comfort Mel, stroking her head and murmuring comforting words telling her that her tough little Yankee would go over there and win the war.

Finally Mel regained her composure and looked up to Tessa mouthing an apology as she got to her feet. They started back to the car arm in arm, Argo glued to Mel's knee. Upon reaching the mansion Mel went directly to the study and sat down at Janice's desk. Mel noticed the way that Argo was practically glued to her and guessed that Janice had taken their faithful dog aside and given her the 'protect' command. Janice had spent tons of time training Argo and perhaps her most amazing accomplishment was this one command. Janice had taught Argo the meaning of the word protect, meaning that once Argo was given this word and a person to associate it with she would make her main priority keeping that person safe. Mel couldn't help but smile as she reached down to scratch he dogs silky ears for a moment in a show of praise. She sighed at the empty feeling that had taken up residence in the once warm mansion. Mel rummaged around Janice's desk until she found some of their station!

ary and started penning the first of many letters that she would send off to her beloved Janice. Perhaps it was a little premature to start a letter just a few hours after Janice had headed off, but she wanted to do everything in her power to keep connected with Janice. So here she writing for the first time a phrase that she would write many times more.... 'Dear Janice, I love you...............'

To Be Continued

Extra Disclaimer: Janice's poem - "Miles To Go" By Celine Dion, written by Corey Hart.