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The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Janice and Mel are owned by
MCA/Universal and no copyright infringement is intended by this work.
This piece is essentially an "alt" adventure with some hurt/comfort. The
depiction of the physical intimacy between the heroines is left mostly
to the reader's imagination. As in most X:WP fanfiction there is some
violence and peril to the main characters, but I'm not one to go in for
reading too much gore much less writing it so it's kept to a minimum.
I have to give special thanks to my editor, Benet, an absolute gem I
Lunacy's beta reader registry, whose extraordinary patience and editing
resulted in dramatic improvement to this piece. (Thanks, Benet, for all
Where You Go, I Go
Part 3 of 5
Janice woke with a stabbing pain in her
head and then realized there was an even worse
one shooting up her legs. She lay for a moment, taking in shallow
what little strength she had. Miraculously, she knew where she was and
why she was
there but she had no idea how long she'd been out. She was lying on her
side in a near
fetal position and she could feel cold rock against her back. With a
push of sheer
will she rolled herself into a sitting position and waited for her body
its painful protests, the worst, not surprisingly, came from her
It had happened in what seemed like slow motion. Santos had cut the rope
and she saw
the anguish flare in Mel's crystal blue eyes. As she fell Janice focused
on her parachute
training, keeping her body in control and falling straight down,
awaiting the impact with the ground then timing the bending of her
ankles, knees and hips to absorb
the momentum of the fall. If she had had some room to drop and roll she
escaped injury entirely, but she had lurched sideways and that had sent
slamming into the wall and she blacked out.
She slowly tilted her head back and could see almost forty feet of
smooth wall above
her. The well was about four feet in diameter and so smooth sided that
finding handholds was out of the question. A dim light filtered down to
her and she
examined the ropes on her hands, deciding that was her first problem to
Painfully, she moved to her knees then ran her hands around the floor of
rejoicing when she found a rough stone protruding slightly. She began
sawing the rope against the stone and was soon rewarded with fraying
nearly cried when the rope broke and her hands were freed. She sat back
and her fingers flew
to the bindings on her feet, surprised and a little indignant to find
she was tied
up with her own whip. She coiled the leather and secured it to her
Her fear for Mel was driving her nearly insane. She was impervious to
pain and she
struggled to her feet, relieved that her ankles were able to support
her. Her hand
raked her hair back from her face and she felt a stickiness on her face
the absurd blue paint. It almost made her laugh.
She took a deep breath then pressed her shoulders and arms against the
wall of the
well and lifted one leg, stretching till her foot pressed against the
far side of
the well. She brought her other leg up and held herself suspended above
and then began to alternate sliding her back and her feet up inch by
Jorge and Miguel heaved Mel
unceremoniously onto the altar. They had grunted and groaned
as they carried their unconscious burden to the top of the pyramid.
Santos was already
there, making preparations for their second offering to the gods.
Santos had lit two pole torches that stood sunken in holes at the ends
of the large
stone slab that functioned as an altar. He laid out the sacrificial
knife and other
supplies for the ritual and began chanting to summon the sun god. His
to the sun as it neared its western most position before disappearing
over the horizon and
he took it as a good omen that the sky was lit with streaks of red...
With an almost euphoric glee he tore Mel's shirt open then cut her bra
away with a
knife, exposing her bare breasts. He untied her hands and lifted her
arms over her
head to where Jorge stood with two leather leads tied through slots in
Miguel stood at the other end, fastening similar leather restraints to
Mel's ankles, effectively
tying her spreadeagle on the altar.
As he had with Janice, Santos splashed Mel's face with water till she
The agony in her eyes attested to her awareness of her surroundings but
she did not
struggle in the least.
The altar was at the western edge of the top of the pyramid and faced
sun. Santos took up the tub of blue paint from the corner of the altar
he had set
his supplies on and smeared a streak down the left side of Mel's face,
it evenly with his fingers till the entire side of her face was a solid
blue. He began to chant
then picked up a sting ray spine and sliced himself again then took his
finger and made more designs on his arms and chest then turned towards
Miguel and Jorge joined the chanting as Santos used his own blood to
designs on Mel's face. They continued to chant as he drew a bloody
symbol over her
heart and then reached for the sacrificial knife.
Santos held the thin curved blade over his head in supplication to his
Ahau." he shouted to the sky. "I offer to you the heart of the
being of light." He
brought the blade high and started the plunge of his arm towards Mel's
A whoosh of air and a loud crack and Janice's whip wrapped itself around
Janice yanked hard on the leather, jerking Santos' arm back and sending
flying over the edge of the platform and bouncing down the face of the
Mel's eyes blinked in disbelief at the sight of her lover. Her heart,
which only moments
before had felt dead to her, now beat wildly with joy.
"Janice!" She shared an exultant
glance that lasted but a heartbeat but was enough to communicate all the
love that bound their souls together.
"Get her!" Santos clutched his wrist and yanked the whip from
Janice's hand, quickly
unwinding it from his wrist and dropping it to the ground. He ran to the
the pyramid to see the sacrificial knife ricocheting briskly off the
far below and he ran down the steps after the blade.
Jorge charged towards Janice, expecting to have no difficulty throttling
archaeologist, but just as he was about to close his arms around her she
and rolled forward as the bulky man rushed past. She bounced to her feet
one of the pole torches from the shallow hole in which it stood. She
knocked the unwieldy
torch from the end and found herself with a long thin pole for a
Jorge swung around to face the feisty blond, his eyes bulging in rage.
He pulled his
machete from his belt and advanced towards her. Miguel scurried to his
side and pulled
him to a halt, brandishing a pistol from the holster at his waist and
grinning triumphantly. "That'll be enough of that, Dr.
Covington," he sneered.
Mel pulled savagely against the leather bindings with no success. Her
when she saw Miguel draw the gun and she waited breathlessly to see what
Janice grinned broadly and began a slow walk towards the two men,
the pole horizontally in front of her. "I think you'd better
rethink what you're
doing," she said with gentle confidence, continuing to walk slowly
towards the men.
Jorge and Miguel exchanged glances. Mel held her breath, mesmerized by
Janice's calming tone.
"If you pull that trigger and I die from a bullet instead of your
you're gods aren't going to be too happy." She held her voice soft
and low as she
continued to close the distance, now less than ten feet separating them.
can bet your friend Santos will be really pissed too." She finished
with a sympathetic smile
that held the confused gazes of the men. She stopped and stood
for their reaction. The two men looked to each other for direction and
in the instant
their eyes left her she sprang forward, bringing the pole down hard
against Miguel's gun
hand and sending the weapon skittering away.
Miguel pulled his machete from his belt and the two men ran towards
deadly blades flashing in the dwindling rays of the setting sun. Janice
their overhead blows with her impromptu staff then dropped the pole
one end into Jorge's ribs and hearing a satisfying crack. She dropped to
one knee and viciously
whipped the other end around, nailing Miguel in the knee as she fluidly
her feet and brought herself back to a standing position, her staff
in her hands.
Janice felt a strange wave of deja vu at the feeling of the wood in her
she cast a quick look to Mel and caught her lover's adoring gaze
directed at her.
The look energized her and she turned her attention back to the bumbling
dared to try to harm the woman she loved. She drove forward, pummeling
the men with quick strong
strokes and easily avoiding the panicked slashing of their blades. She
back further and further, closer to the edge of the pyramid. With one
cracked Jorge's hand and sent his machete clattering to his feet, the
return stroke caught
him soundly on the chin and a final thrust to the chest sent him
his arms windmilling wildly trying to regain his balance but to no avail
as his momentum carried him over the edge of the pyramid and he tumbled
from sight with a scream
of pain and rage that abruptly ended. The sounds of the impact of his
down the steps of the pyramid continued for a few minutes longer.
Miguel and Janice faced each other, gasping for air and listening to the
of Jorge's downfall. When the sounds stopped they tensed, each waiting
for the other
to make the first move. "You can walk away from this, Miguel. Just
put down the machete, turn around and go." Janice offered Miguel
his life, knowing with certainty that
she would win, but knowing with equal certainty that the Mayan priest
would not be
astute enough to accept her offer.
"I'll take my chances against you," he snarled and began to
move in an arc, limping
from the blow Janice had landed on his knee. He held his machete in
front of him
like a sword and continued a slow lateral movement that Janice realized
him to where her whip lay. Janice began moving herself towards the
machete Jorge had dropped,
and they each seemed to concede the other the weapon. Simultaneously
their objectives and picked up their prizes. They now stood some twenty
ready for a showdown. Janice stood at the end of the pyramid while
Miguel stood halfway
between her and Mel.
Janice hung the machete on her belt then grasped her staff with both
get this over with," she growled, advancing towards Miguel who
stood calmly waiting
The whip whistled sharply past Janice's ear as she ducked low to avoid
it. She dropped,
executing a forward roll that brought her closer to the Mayan but he
and stayed out of range of her staff. Again the whip lashed out, Janice
stinging tip on her staff but Miguel snapped it back quickly and sent it
again, biting her deeply on the arm and drawing a streak of blood.
"Not too bad with
that thing," Janice complimented as she moved in a lateral arc,
trying to maneuver
around him so she might have a shot at getting to Mel.
Mel craned her neck, trying to watch the violent ballet that danced
outside her restricted
field of vision. She listened to the snap of the whip and the shuffle of
did the only thing she could do in the situation...she waited. Several
sharp cracks sounded in quick succession and she heard a pained gasp
from Janice. She called anxiously,
"Janice, are you ok?"
"Yes, love, I'm fine," Janice replied, though she now sported
another bleeding welt
on her arm. She set her jaw and waited for the next strike, determined
to end the
standoff. She lowered her staff and stepped closer, offering an
Miguel flung the whip back then flicked it forward with all his might.
in and took the cutting lash on her thigh but she was close enough now
to use her
staff. She grabbed one end of the staff and swung it in a wide arc,
missing the hand
that held the whip but connecting with his shoulder and forcing him off
balance. She pushed
forward, ignoring the shooting pain from her thigh and swinging wildly,
blow, this one to his gut, bending him over in pain. Miguel gasped,
trying to catch his breath and Janice moved in for the kill. With all
her might she brought the
staff savagely against the side of his head and then reversed the
movement of the
stick and smashed the other end into his jaw. He dropped in a heap and
Cautiously, Janice approached the still form, using her staff to roll
him onto his
side, she saw blood flowing from his nose and mouth. He was dead and she
more than a flood of relief. She retrieved her whip from the dead man's
quickly coiled it and tied it to her belt as she headed to the altar.
She pulled the machete
from her belt and severed Mel's bonds then replaced the machete on it's
pulled the woman she loved into her arms in a passionate embrace.
Mel nearly was the death of the archaeologist, hugging her so hard she
was close to
strangulation and kissing her so much she was close to asphyxiation but
think of a more pleasant way to go. Besides, she was getting in some
and kisses herself. They stood in each others arms just reveling in
caressing and holding, loving and cherishing, whispering each others
names and shedding
a few tears of joy and relief as the waning light from the setting sun
bathed them in a soft pale glow.
"You forgot one little thing," a deep gravelly voice growled.
Janice whirled to see Santos standing there with the knife in one hand
and a pistol
in the other. She pushed Mel behind her and faced their former guide.
Santos, the sun is setting and we're still alive... it's too late.
"I know that, Covington, it's too late for the sacrifice, but that
doesn't mean you're
not going to die." He leveled the pistol at Janice's heart.
Janice tensed, her mind flashing quickly through her limited options.
Santos was fifteen
feet away, he'd gun her down for sure if she tried to jump at him. She
saw his finger
tighten on the trigger and she just reacted. Her right hand swung
forward and grabbed the machete at her side, continuing the forward
motion she threw the weapon at
Santos with as much force as she could muster. That sense of slow motion
had experienced earlier at the well seemed to happen again and she saw
of awareness in Santos' eyes right before the blade plunged into his
heart. His arm jerked
up and the gun fired and Janice felt the bullet whiz past her ear. Blood
from the corner of Santos' mouth as he fell to his knees then pitched
he crumbled to the ground. Time returned to its normal speed.
Mel spun violently and pitched backwards, falling hard to the ground and
her left shoulder. In stunned disbelief Janice saw wetness spreading out
her lover's hand and she dove to her knees at her side. "Oh my god,
Mel, lay still."
Her eyes darted wildly, landing on Santos backpack. She dumped the pack
out to find
food provisions, clothes and, unbelievably, one of the med kits.
Janice's hands shook as she ripped open packages of bandages and layered
gauze to make a suitable bandage for the heavily bleeding wound.
"Hold on, Mel, it'll
be another minute," she soothed. She pulled Mel's hand away and
felt a wave of panic
at the stream of blood flowing from the wound. She pressed the wad of
gauze to the wound
and taped it in place with long strips of surgical tape. "It'll be
ok, Mel, just
relax and breath," she comforted, applying pressure to the
Mel took in a sharp breath as Janice worked. "Doesn't the bullet
have to come out?"
she said through gritted teeth.
"If I try to take it out now you could bleed to death. It's going
to have to wait
till we can get you to the hospital in Telas." Janice searched
through the contents
of Santos' pack. Selecting a shirt from the small pile of clothing, she
into a spiral then threaded it under Mel's arm and behind her neck to
make a sling for her
left arm."Try not to move that shoulder, Mel. That bullet could be
a real problem."
Janice looked up to see the last rays of the sun disappear from the sky.
her bloodied hands on her pants then collapsed next to Mel. She tried to
concerned by the trembling she was feeling throughout her body.
"Janice?" Mel's voice sounded frightened and weak. "Is it
just me shaking or are we
experiencing an earthquake?"
"Holy shit!" Janice gasped as she realized it wasn't her body
trembling but the earth
beneath them. A loud crack sounded as the vibrations intensified. Janice
the pyramid shifting under them. "We gotta get off this pile of
rocks!" She yelped,
jumping to her feet and grabbing the med kit then reaching an arm down
to help her companion
Mel struggled to her feet, blanching at the pain in her shoulder and
to her knees before Janice caught her arm and steadied her. They started
long steep stairway, Janice holding tightly to Mel to help her keep her
The trembling of the earth subsided for a few minutes but then began
again with a greater intensity
and they froze where they were, finding it too difficult to continue
during the intense quake. Again the quaking subsided and they continued
down, reaching the base of the pyramid only seconds before an even more
violent tremor struck.
At the base of the pyramid they found their backpacks as well as Jorge's
and the rifles, canteens and other items that had been taken from them
day. Janice hurriedly stuffed the med kit she carried into her own
slipped the pack on. She grabbed canteens and a rifle, slinging their
straps over her shoulder
and hooked a machete to her belt. She grabbed Mel's pack and one of the
started dragging them away from the pyramid towards the stairs that
would take them off the plateau.
Mel grabbed the shoulder straps of the remaining pack, dragging it along
right hand. "Leave it, Mel!" Janice yelled when she saw what
her partner was doing.
"It might have something we need," Mel argued, staggering
A pattering of small stones from the pyramid pelted them as they
hastened away. The
trembling earth quieted beneath their feet but they continued moving to
ground of the plain. They could hear the stressing of stone grinding
and knew the structure would more than likely collapse if the seismic
Mel was in agony as each breath tortured her shoulder, she ignored the
pain and struggled
after Janice. A wave of nausea struck her and she fell dizzily to her
was instantly at her side, wrapping her arms around her waist for
Janice looked back to the dark shape of the pyramid. They'd covered
about 100 yards
but it was far too little distance if the structure collapsed in their
"Mel, love, we gotta go. Leave the pack and just get moving. You
can lean on me."
Mel nodded her understanding and staggered to her feet. "I can make
it on my own,"
she insisted bravely and willed her legs to carry her.
Janice grabbed the packs she had dropped when she had rushed to Mel's
dragging them along. "We need to put as much distance between us
and the pyramid
as we can."
A series of mild aftershocks vibrated under their feet as they stumbled
along in the
dark. Though Janice could not see Mel's face she knew from her ragged
she was in a lot of pain. Mel stumbled and sprawled to the ground and
that was as far as they were going to get. She crumbled beside her
lover, rolling her
gently onto her back and cradling her head on her thigh.
"I'm sorry, Janice, I can't go any further," she groaned in
apologetic despair, panting
for breath and wincing at the sharp pains that seared her shoulder with
"It's ok, Mel, we'll be fine here," Janice assured with a
doubtful glance towards
Another quake started as a gentle vibration then intensified and became
a force of
unimaginable kinetic energy under their feet. The violent rumbling
large stones from the pyramid and it was clearly the beginning of the
end for the
structure as the stones slammed into lower ones on their way down,
dislodging more stones
which dislodged even more stones and the roar of the avalanche pounded
them as they
watched the structure collapse.
It almost looked as though the top of the pyramid swayed towards them
back and then disappeared as it crumbled down the back side towards the
As the weight of the falling stones crashed into the temple an
incredible boom echoed into the night as the temple itself collapsed and
a mushroom cloud of dirt and dust
rose high into the sky, obliterating the stars.
A hailstorm of debris pelted them and Janice covered Mel's body with her
her from the stinging material. After several minutes, the earthquake
seemed to fade
until not the slightest vibration could be felt and all that was left
was the falling of dirt and small pebbles which sounded like the patter
of a soft spring rain.
When the last of the debris stopped falling, Janice rolled off of Mel
and sat up.
"How ya doing, Mel," she asked anxiously.
"I've had better days," she understated. "Do you think
"I sure as hell hope so," Janice replied.
Janice shrugged out of her backpack and fished out her flashlight,
running the beam
to Mel's pain stricken face. She pulled a canteen over her head and
moved to help
Mel sit up for a drink. Mel sipped slowly, though her throat was
Janice pulled another canteen from her shoulder and drank deeply,
slaking the dire thirst
that had tormented her since the well.
"Since the pyramid was kind enough to collapse in the other
direction we're safe here
even if there are more quakes. I'd say this is where we camp tonight.
You just lay
back and rest and let me take care of things," Janice dictated.
First on Janice's list was to inspect Mel's shoulder. She pulled the
gauze away to see a trickle of fresh blood seep from the wound. With the
illuminating her work she gently cleaned the wound with water and a few
but when she doused it with the cleanser from the med kit Mel gasped and
a few stinging tears
coursed down her face, streaking the blue paint Santos had coated half
her face with.
With the wound tended, Janice focused on making Mel more comfortable.
the three backpacks she had salvaged was a total of four sleeping bags
and she layered
three of them together for a bed for Mel. With Mel settled, Janice poked
the packs till she found several ration tins and a couple of metal
spoons. "Dinner time,
my love." She indicated the tins she held in her hand.
Mel shook her head. "I'm not hungry," she declined, feeling
nauseous at the thought
Janice knelt beside her partner. "I know your stomach is probably
not up for this
right now, but you're gonna need your strength. We've got a long hike
ahead of us
and we gotta do it as fast as possible to get that shoulder treated. Ya
Reluctantly, Mel agreed. Janice helped her to sit up then settled
herself beside her
to share their repast.
With their dinner done and another satisfying draught from the canteen,
out on the sleeping bag with Janice's thigh for a pillow as Janice used
a damp cloth
to wipe the blood and paint from Mel's face. "At least that damn
blue paint's water
soluble. I couldn't stand having that on my face all the way to
Telas," Mel grumbled
as her eyes fluttered closed and Janice's gentle touches lulled her into
to her exhaustion.
Mel woke to see Janice's dejected figure
seated amidst the strewn contents of the
backpacks. Despite the fogginess that clouded Mel's head, she could
the the self-condemnation written in extra-large print across her
"A beautiful woman like you should never frown," she called
with a gentle smile.
Janice's eyes snapped to Mel's face as some of the concern eased. She
picked up a
canteen and padded over to Mel, helping her partner to sit up for a
a woman like you should never have to face such danger," she
"Janice, this is not your fault." Mel fixed an even gaze on
her lover. "Don't even
try to blame yourself for this. I insisted on coming."
"But Mel - " Janice started to respond, only to be silenced by
a gentle finger against
"Don't start. We have too many real problems right now to end up
fighting about that."
She smiled gently, cupping Janice's face in her hand. "Let it
go. Let's just figure
out what we're going to do."
Janice sighed, more than willing to avoid the argument, but unmoved in
that she was to blame for their situation. The worried look in her soft
held a clear message that things were...pretty bad.
"I've been thinking about this for a couple of hours now,"
Janice started wearily.
"The first day we hiked about half a day. The second day was a
solid day of walking
and yesterday was about a half day of hiking." Janice wrinkled her
forehead as she
considered their course of action. "With the trail marked, and the
first part of our
trek taking us downhill instead of uphill we should save some
time." Janice paused
to see if Mel followed her train of thought. Her partner gave a brief
nod and Janice
continued. "But with that bullet wound we won't be able to move
very fast... have to
take a lot of rest breaks, and with the heat and humidity wearing you
we get out of the mountains it could take three, maybe even four days
then the trip down the river. Could be as many as five days till we get
you to a hospital."
"I'll be ok, Janice. We just need to take it easy and get through
this," Mel said
with a confident smile.
"That's what I'm hoping. But if that wound keeps bleeding or gets
infected we're going
to have one hell of a problem." Janice was frowning deeply.
"Well, it's not like we've got any other options anyhow. When do we
"First, you eat while I figure out what we're taking with us.
Luckily we've got several
canteens and a water purification kit. We got one med kit, but we went
lot of the bandages yesterday. We'll take one backpack and two bedrolls
and as much
food as I can fit in the pack."
When she'd finished packing and had strapped one of the tents to her
settled beside Mel with a change of clothing for them both. She helped
off her shirt which was stiff with dried blood and blue paint. Janice
when she saw the darkened gauze on her lover's shoulder. "I don't
like the looks of
that. Let's redress that wound." She pulled the adhesive tape off
as gently as she
could but Mel's sharp intake of breath gave away how much it hurt. The
over the wound seemed dry and Janice redressed the wound before helping
Mel into a clean shirt.
She then slung a couple of looped straps she had cut from a backpack
over Mel's neck.
"Your new and improved sling," she explained as she gently
pulled Mel's left arm
through the loops.
"I was hoping the second med kit was in one of the packs. I
retrieved the other pack
you'd tried to drag, but it must have been with Ernesto or Roberto. Not
left in this kit." She took a closer look at Mel's bandaged
shoulder. " If the
wound reopens it could be a problem."
"I'll be careful," Mel pledged, adjusting her new sling then
rewarding her medic with
a soft kiss.
Janice pulled off her own blood-and-paint-encrusted shirt.
"Janice," Mel gasped, "your
back... all those scratches!"
The archaeologist quickly pulled on her clean shirt. "Yeah got a
little scraped up
climbing out of that well. It's fine," she assured. She walked
over to the backpack,
hefting it into place with a grimace when it landed on her injured
back. "Time to
go," she announced as she reached for canteens and her rifle.
Mel grabbed the two sleeping bags and slung their straps over her good
give me those," Janice growled.
"I can carry this little bit," Mel insisted stubbornly. Janice
glowered, but let
her have her way.
Mel cast a last look at the rubble that had been the temple and pyramid
that had nearly
cost them their lives. "It seems to me the prophecy was
fulfilled... if the gods
did not get their sacrifices they would destroy the temple and take back
Janice cast a hard look at the pile of stones. "They can keep
it." She turned away
from the temple as they began their journey home.
Descending the stone staircase to the
forest below was not as trouble-free as Janice
had hoped. Mel was a bit light-headed from the blood loss, and the pain
in her shoulder
and the stairs made her dizzy. But they took it slow as Janice held her
tightly about the waist to keep her steady. Finally, with great relief,
they emerged from the
cavern entrance into the forest.
They followed their path in reverse along the sheer rock face atop which
temple lay in ruins. Janice scanned for the point where they had first
the forest, spotting the familiar "X" that had been hacked
into the tree to mark
"Janice, look," Mel gasped and Janice spun around to see what
had grabbed her companion's
attention. Mel pointed a little ways ahead to two figures slumped
against the rock
face. "Ernesto and Roberto," she cringed.
"Wait here," Janice ordered, dropping her pack and heading
towards the forms.
"What are you doing," Mel asked, tamping down a feeling of
"They had the other med kit. I want it," Janice called back as
she approached the
Their packs where several yards away. Apparently, they had been on a
rest break when
Santos killed them. The bodies were crawling with insects and Janice
cringed at the
sight as she gave the rancid corpses a wide berth to get to the
backpacks. The short
glance she spared them told her the story -- a small feathered object
from each of their necks... poison blow darts, a Mayan specialty.
Janice found two canteens resting atop the pack, each half full. She
slung the straps
over her neck before rummaging through the first pack, pausing when she
small wooden box. Setting it aside, she resumed her hunt for the coveted
which she finally found at the bottom of the pack. She collected the
kit and the wooden box,
then headed back to Mel.
She tucked the med kit into her own backpack then set about prying the
open with her machete.
"What's that," Mel asked from her resting place.
"It's the homing beacon. I don't know if our employer is still
going to be interested
in that heap of rubble up there, but I figured we've come this far, and
so much trouble, I might as well take a minute and get this thing
working." She extracted the odd metal object and flipped a couple
of switches then placed it on a niche
on the rock face.
"Is it working?"
Janice felt a subtle hum from the box. "I suppose." She
shrugged, then headed over
to struggle into her pack before heading into the forest.
Through the course of the morning they
managed a good pace with Janice wielding her
machete to clear their way. Janice kept a steady eye on Mel, calling
breaks whenever she caught her lover stumbling. By mid-afternoon they
from the mountains and had reached the low flat jungle where the thicker
more pronounced heat slowed them down. To add to their misery, a
downpour left them uncomfortably wet for hours, thanks to the
Mel tried to keep alert, watching for the marked trees to keep them on
she turned her head quickly or moved her arm, the pain in her shoulder
up. But by and large, the sling held her arm immobile and she could
Just as Janice was ready to find a place to set up camp, they spotted
the river they
had followed on their way in. Mel sighed in relief. The tree marks
so vital since they could now follow the river.
Janice sat Mel down with a canteen and their backpack while she cleared
an area big
enough for their tent and a fire. She quickly had the tent set up then
wood for the fire, getting the flames going with the first batch so Mel
could prepare a meal.
Janice emerged from the woods with a bundle of branches and threw them
on a growing
pile. "One more load ought to do it," she muttered tiredly
with a glance at the now-darkening
sky. She headed into the brush once more then returned several minutes
later with her arms heavily burdened.
It wasn't the most savory concoction Mel had ever cooked, but to the
hungry duo it
was quite satisfying. As the night settled heavily around them and the
jungle creatures began their prowl, Mel lazed exhaustedly in Janice's
the crackling campfire.
Janice kissed the back of Mel's neck. "We did better than I'd hoped
today," she said.
"But you have to tell me when you need a rest. You have to pace
yourself. We have
a long way to go."
Mel patted the hand that rested lightly on her stomach. "I was
fine," she insisted.
Janice gave her partner another kiss. "Liar," she whispered
in her partner's ear,
feeling a slight shudder pass through Mel's body at the warm breath.
go to bed. You need your sleep."
"I'll gladly go to bed," Mel replied warmly, "provided I have some
"I have to stay here, keep the fire going. That's our best
protection against night
predators. I'll have to catnap, get up periodically to add wood to the
fire. If I
get too comfortable, I'll fall asleep and the fire will go
"Can't I just sleep here, in your arms?" Mel suggested.
"As much as I'd like that, I think you'd be lots more comfortable
in the tent and
that means a more restful sleep. Besides, the mosquitoes will be drawn
to a sweet
thing like you and eat you alive." Janice smiled and kissed her again.
tell ya what, I'll come stay with you till you fall asleep."
Mel groused, "That's the best deal I'm going to get?"
"Yep, take it or leave it."
Reluctantly, Mel struggled to her feet with Janice's help and ducked
into the tent
followed by Janice who settled Mel onto the sleeping bags then curled
next to her
with an arm wrapped lightly around Mel's waist.
Mel squirmed a little, trying to get comfortable with the soft throbbing
in her shoulder.
The dull ache did little to prevent her from yielding to her exhaustion
and she was
softly snoring within a matter of moments.
Janice stayed next to her sleeping lover for almost an hour before
herself from Mel's grasp and heading out to feed the fire. She settled
some rocks, her sleeping bag clutched around her in the chilled night
air. Her thoughts settled heavily on her responsibility for their
situation and she vowed that
if they got out of this one alive she would never expose Mel to such
Mel woke to a stiffness in her shoulder
that sent a sharp pain when she tried to move.
She waited a minute till the pain subsided then cautiously rolled into a
position, trying to keep the shoulder as steady as possible.
"Mel," Janice called. "You up?"
"Yeah," Mel replied, stifling a cry of pain. She managed to
get to her feet just as
Janice poked her head in the tent.
"How's the shoulder?"
"Fine, just fine," Mel assured as she followed Janice out of
"I should check the wound," Janice said, reaching for the
buttons on Mel's shirt.
Mel pulled back. "Later, I gotta take care of some business
first," she said as she
headed to the woods.
"Mel, ya don't have to go into the woods." Janice called after
her. "It's only the
two of us."
Mel waved her good arm and continued on. When she was out of sight she
shirt open and lifted the edge of the bandage to examine the wound. It
swollen with an angry red ring surrounding it. The dark red crust seemed
Mel wasn't too pleased with the whole thing in general. She pulled the
bandage back over the
wound and ran her fingers down the adhesive tape that held it in place.
muttered then proceeded with answering nature's call.
By the time Mel returned, the archaeologist had taken down the tent. Mel
a drawn tiredness in her lover's face from her less-than-restful
sauntered over to her partner and wrapped her good arm around her,
drawing her in
for a quick kiss and long embrace.
Janice snuggled her arms around Mel and returned the kiss and embrace.
that wound, have some breakfast and hit the trail."
"I just checked the wound. It's fine. Let's just pull out some
trail bars and get
going," Mel replied.
Janice raised an eyebrow. "Wow, aren't we the go-getter today? You
must be feeling
better." She sighed in relief.
Mel gave Janice an odd smile. "The sooner we get moving the
The weather turned against them on the
second day as the temperature soared to the
high nineties, the humidity well above 90%. Janice's initial assumption
was feeling better gave way to deep concern as by mid-morning Mel's
Taking a hard look at her companion on one of their rest stops she could
how stiffly she held the injured shoulder.
"We should check that shoulder while we're stopped," Janice
"It's fine," Mel assured, taking another swig of water from
her canteen. "This canteen's
Janice frowned. "We've got three more full canteens. Just leave
that one behind when
its empty. The full canteens should get us through today and tomorrow.
to find a fresh water source after that." Janice upped her tone to one
"Now, I want to get a look at that shoulder."
"I told you, it's fine. Now will you stop treating me like a baby
and let's get moving,"
Mel growled uncharacteristically.
Janice stared at her partner who stared angrily back. "All
right," Janice relented
By late afternoon Mel wasn't just
stumbling, she was staggering. Janice had forcibly
relieved her of the light sleeping bags, insisting that they stop much
for longer breaks.
Janice called a halt to their progress for the day. She dropped her pack
Mel to sit and do nothing while she set up camp. She settled her lover
fallen tree then knelt beside her, extending a canteen to her. Mel
the water then passed the canteen back to Janice who hovered worriedly
at her lover's
"Thanks," Mel muttered before sinking into the tree supporting
Janice leaned in to plant a kiss on her Mel's brow and froze with her
lips on Mel's
forehead. She sat back and brought her hand up to confirm what her lips
"Mel! You're burning up!"
"Well, it's hotter than hell in this jungle," Mel explained
"No, that's fever," Janice groaned. She moved her hands to
Mel's shirt and frantically
began undoing the buttons.
"Honey, I'm not in the mood," Mel joked lamely, knowing the
jig was up.
Her hands shaking like a leaf in a tornado, Janice gently peeled back
to see the blazing inflammation of Mel's shoulder and thin yellow liquid
the very center of the crusty mass. She flicked her eyes to Mel's face.
you tell me," she demanded angrily.
"Because there's nothing you can do and it'd just worry you
more," Mel responded with
Janice stared at the festering wound. "Damn it, Mel. I could have
given you something
for the pain." Her voice was thick with emotion.
"I couldn't take anything...wouldn't have been able to
Janice gaped at her lover, unable to disagree with the woman's logic.
She went to
her backpack, pulling out one of the med kits. Frustrated, she rummaged
kit till she found several vials of pills. She sorted through them
until she found
something suitable - morphine. Shaking a pill into her hand, she
returned to Mel with a
canteen. "This is enough to block the pain for now. I'll give you
two more after
we eat and you'll have a great night's sleep."
Mel took the pill and obediently swallowed it before leaning back
against the tree,
silently bearing the pain until the drug took effect.
Janice, fueled by anger and fear, threw herself into setting up camp. In
she had the tent up, fire roaring, wood piled high and a meal cooked.
dropped exhaustedly beside her lightly-dozing lover, waking her to eat
the darkness of night closed over them like a thick blanket.
Mel tried to focus her eyes on Janice's face but couldn't get the two
images of Janice
to merge until she squinted her eyes halfway closed. "Janice, I
believe you're cookin'
has improved," she mumbled sincerely as she finished off her
Janice snorted. "It's the drugs, Mel. Anything would taste good to
you right now."
Mel raised an eyebrow and grinned drunkenly. "That so?"
"Yeah. That's so," Janice answered. "And now, I think
it's time for two more happy
pills." Janice pulled Mel's hand up and gave her two pills to take,
holding the canteen
out to her.
"Oh, that sounds good. I like being happy." Mel swallowed the
pills and washed them
down with a swig from the canteen. The dull drugged look in Mel's eyes
with a wave of sad despair.
"And I like to see you happy." Janice moved beside Mel and put
an arm under her lover's
good arm. "Let's get you off to bed before you can't
With Janice's help Mel lurched to her feet. "Oh, yeah... bed. Have
I ever told you
how much I like going to bed with you?" The drugs were certainly
having a loosening
affect on Mel.
Janice staggered with Mel's weight leaning heavily on her. "Well,
maybe not in so
many words, but I kind of got that idea," Janice assured as she
nearly carried Mel
to the tent. She managed to ease Mel to the sleeping bags without
hurting her. Of
course with all the morphine, Mel wasn't likely to feel much anyhow. She
tucked the sleeping
bag around her companion then slid down next to her to hold her for a
Mel lay on her back, her head turned towards her lover. Janice lay on
her side with
a soft wet clothe wiping the fevered perspiration from Mel's brow. The
was on and in the dim light Janice could see the crystal blue eyes that
her heart every time she gazed into them. She realized that at that
moment the eyes seemed
clear and alert.
"Yeah, Mel." Janice choked down a lump in her throat.
"You know how much I love you." Her voice was low but
"Yes, of course I do." She dabbed the clothe gently over
"If I don't make it," she whispered, "always remember
Janice's heart nearly stopped at the agony of the very thought.
"Don't talk like that,
Mel. You'll make it." She pressed her lips against Mel's forehead,
her lips trembling
against the hot flesh.
"Janice, can I have a real kiss before I nod off?"
Janice wiped a tear from the corner of her eye then leaned in to capture
with her own. The kiss was soft and easy. Mel's lips lingered a moment
relaxed back with a contented smile. She sighed, closing her eyes. Her
slowed to that of a deep sleep.
Tears trickled down Janice's cheeks as her worry overwhelmed her. She
Mel's hair and held her lover in her arms till she had to leave the tent
the fire and guard the camp as best she could. She settled at her post,
with her head in her hands, crying softly in despair. "Please don't
die, Mel. It'll
never happen again. I swear it. No matter what I have to do, you'll
because of me again."
Janice allowed herself to doze lightly for
short periods before jerking awake to restock
the fire and check on Mel. The worry and exhaustion waged a war over
her, for in
her waking moments, she had nothing to occupy her mind but the gravity
of their situation, and in her brief periods of sleep she was tormented
Just after dawn Janice crawled into the tent to find Mel was awake. She
beside her lover and could feel the intense heat rising from her body.
"Hi." Mel managed a weak smile of greeting.
"Hi, love. How ya feeling?"
"Oh, a lot better than last night. The sleep sure helped. But you
look like hell,
Janice. Did you get any sleep?"
"I got a couple of hours. I'll be ok." Janice placed her hand
on Mel's forehead. "You're
really burning up."
Janice removed the bandage as gently as she could but Mel winced and a
how much the injury hurt. The sight of the wound made Janice wince as
well. A thick
yellow discharge wetly crusted the wound and the entire shoulder was
swollen, evidencing the poisonous infection.
"It looks pretty bad, Mel. We gotta get it treated soon."
"How much further do you think we have to go?" Mel gritted as
Janice rebandaged the
"I wish I knew. I'd guess we're better than half way, but with all
the breaks we've
had to take it's going to take a lot longer then I thought."
"Perhaps too long?" Mel whispered.
Janice grabbed Mel's hand and held it tight, nodding to answer Mel's
her voice could not speak the words.
The day was one of torture for both Janice
Mel suffered visibly from the relentless pain in her shoulder. With
every breath she
took, her shoulder throbbed. Her vision blurred constantly and dizziness
to her knees several times, bringing their progress to a halt. Each time
Janice ran to her side and held her tight as if by holding her she
could stop the violent
chills that now racked her body.
Janice's suffering was more intense. Seeing her lover in such pain, how
had depleted her lover's strength, and how the infection spread
the woman's body...it was all tearing Janice apart. The fear of losing
Mel had grown
to an all-too-real possibility and her despair at being unable to do
anything was driving
It was early afternoon when Mel stumbled and fell hard, lying on the
for air. Janice was at her side in an instant, rolling her onto her back
her head onto her lap for a cushion. "Just rest, love. Lie
still," she crooned with
a comforting hand, stroking the dark tresses. The archaeologist could
see Mel wincing
from the hit the shoulder had taken when she fell. "I think you'd
better take something
for the pain."
Mel's eyes fixed sadly on Janice's face. "It'll make me even
woozier. I won't be able
to walk without your help," she wheezed.
Janice pulled the vial of pills from her pocket and handed Mel a pill
and a canteen.
"Hey, you can lean on me anytime you want." Janice smiled
With Janice's help, Mel eased herself upright to swallow the pill,
chasing it with
a deep draught of water. She handed the canteen back to Janice then
leaned back into
her lap. Janice slung the canteen strap around her neck. "Aren't
you gonna take
a drink," Mel queried.
"No. I'm not thirsty," Janice responded.
"As I recall you didn't drink the last time we stopped either."
Mel's eyes narrowed
in mild suspicion. "Janice, are we running low on water?"
Janice hesitated, not wanting to concern Mel with their latest problem.
But her partner
had asked a direct question and there was no use hiding it any longer.
to half a canteen," she admitted softly.
"So you just thought you'd give it all to me?" Mel was visibly
"I thought we'd find something before it got to be a real
problem," Janice tried to
"Only half a canteen and no telling how much further we have to go?
Sounds like a
real problem to me. Why didn't you say something?"
"Because I didn't want to worry you."
"Seems to me we've gotta focus on that as our top problem for now."
Mel reached up
her hand to stroke the anguished face of her lover. The morphine was
kick in and her vision blurred a little. "You can move quicker without
me. Let me
here to rest while you go find water."
"Mel, I can't leave you here alone," Janice started to protest
vehemently. "We can't
stop. We can't afford the time. I've got to get you to a
"You have to do it, love. In this heat, without water we'll both be
dead by tomorrow.
I'll be ok, you've got to do this."
Janice paused, considering their situation. Mel undoubtedly needed a
good break this
time -- there was no doubt about that. But leaving her alone in a jungle
in her condition...
it seemed inconceivable. Still, the water was vital for both of them.
She eased out from behind Mel and went to where she'd dropped her pack
and retrieved the sleeping
bags. She laid one out beside Mel and helped her companion to move to it
the other one up as a pillow.
Janice knelt beside Mel and held out her pistol. "You need me, just
fire a shot. I'll
Taking the gun, Mel managed a saucy grin for her lover. "Then
expect to hear gunshots
till I'm out of bullets because I always need you, love."
Janice chuckled then leaned down for a quick kiss. Mel changed the plan,
right hand behind Janice's neck and holding her for a long sweet sharing
love and passion.
"I love you, Mel," Janice husked.