A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Xena" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
The university buildings were dimly illuminated against the gusting winter winds that carried a hint of snow across the vacant campus. Maybe we'll have a white Christmas after all, Mel mused as she closed the heavy door behind her, leaving the chilly wind alone to howl its mournful song to the bare trees and empty quad.
It was late in the evening and classes had let out for winter break weeks earlier. With her grades already submitted to the dean, Mel had hoped to spend her holiday working on some rubbings she had gotten from a handful of newly excavated tablets during her summer excursion into Greece. The trip to Greece with Janice had left little time to so much as glance at the writing, and once they had returned, the semester was beginning.
The rubbings however, were spread across the kitchen table in the farmhouse Merrick had bought for her. Just think of it as an early Christmas gift, he had said, handing her the deed and a key.
Nothing, she had thought earlier that day, absolutely nothing could pry her from her home on such a chill and wholly uninviting evening. But then Janice had called and she had dropped everything, leaving her new husband at peace with his patient files, an amused look spread across his face.
"I'll be right back," Mel had assured him. "I'm certain it's nothing of dire importance."
Merrick had smiled, understanding better than Mel did herself, that once the two women got together, nothing was assured. Knowing too, that when she returned home, she would likely not be alone.
And so Mel found herself once again in the depths of the social sciences building, delving ever deeper into the labyrinthine maze of offices and storerooms. Her office, at the end of the corridor, connected to a cluttered storage area and then to the official office of Dr. Janice Covington. Official because, according to the posted office hours, that was where the good doctor was supposed to be; but students and faculty alike knew to check Dr. Pappas' office first if they wanted to find Dr. Covington.
She was surprised to find her own door locked, fully expecting to find her friend within. It would take much longer to hike back through the corridors to the front entrance of Janice's office, so she fished her keys out of her coat pocket and fought with the lock until it turned.
The interior of her tiny office was dark, as was the storeroom. She hesitated before entering the far office. "Janice?" Pushing open the door, light streamed into the storage area, momentarily blinding her.
"Mel, you came."
"Why of course I did, you asked me to. Now what is all of this intrigue?"
Janice stood by her desk, haphazardly setting books and artifacts into a cardboard box. "I've canceled my spring classes."
"But why?" Mel entered the room, noting bare walls and the diminished bookcase.
"That site in Macedonia. The government finally agreed to let me resume my work there. My flight leaves tomorrow." Janice grabbed a stack of folders and dumped them unceremoniously into the box on top of everything else.
"But you've known about that since August," Mel insisted. "Why are you in such a rush now?"
"It's time for me to move on. I mean, come on now! Look at me, a professor, grading papers: that isn't for me. I tried it for a year and a half." A fragment of stone tablet found a niche among the folders.
Mel took a stack of books from Janice's hands before she could deposit them in the box too. "You're going to end up with a box of dust the way you're goin' at it. Just let it alone, I'll come back and finish up for you. But first, I want to know the real reason you're leaving."
The smaller woman turned and stepped closer to the room's single window; for a long time she stared at the dark forms of trees tossing in the wind. "I have to leave, Mel. I couldn't stay even if I wanted to, and the fact of the matter is that I don't want to stay anyway," she sighed heavily. "It all boils down to that damned morality clause."
"What are you talking about, Janice?" Mel was becoming more confused, the longer she listened to her friend.
"I'm not married, everyone knows I'm not married, that I see no point in marriage to begin with, and they wont let me teach in…in my condition."
"In your condition…" Mel repeated the words slowly, trying to make sense out of them. "Oh!" Realization struck like one of Zeus' lightening bolts, and Mel slowly lowered herself down to sit on the desk.
Mel's mind raced through the events of the past few months, "who--"
Janice turned and cut her off, "I don't want to talk about it."
"But what about the baby?"
"Haven't really thought that far ahead, Mel."
"That settles it then."
It was Janice's turn to be confused. "That settles what?"
"Merrick and I will take you to the airport tomorrow and you're coming to the farmhouse tonight. We have a lot to discuss before you leave."
Mel waved at the departing plane until her arm was sore, and still she kept waving.
"Did you tell her?" Merrick placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Maybe it would have been easier for her to carry a child, knowing she wasn't alone."
"No, it would have made it more difficult. You don't understand Janice, Merrick. She and I have seen so much together, have done so much, but this…" Mel paused, "this she can't share, she knows she can't and she isn't going to try."
"But when we visit in the spring she's sure to notice."
"And by then she'll have found a way to deal with her own situation, she'll be able to be happy for us."
"Our little bundle won't arrive until summer you know…"
"I know. Merrick, how would you feel about having a Macedonian baby?"