by Wakar

'Timing is everything,' Janice thought. She had found the scrolls - only to lose them.

Her first reaction was to go after Jack, get them back, never let them out of her possession again. But Melinda had convinced her that Jack would guard them well. And that no time should be lost in examining the other site that Janice thought might contain more of the bard's work. They both agreed there had to be more than what was found in Ares' tomb.

Janice had balked at first, but knew the wisdom of Melinda's argument. With the war escalating there was a chance that travel would be restricted and the site might be put off limits completely. She knew they would need all the evidence they could get if they were to convince the archaeology community of the truth of the Warrior Princess.

So they had continued their trek south and west toward Delphi, and only this morning had made it through a mountain pass just before it had been bombed out of existence.

'Timing,' she though. 'Devil or angel? Blessing or curse?'

As Janice reflected on these things another memory began to surface. She trembled slightly and her small, even teeth clamped hard together threatening to sever the slender cigar lodged between them.

Finally, tired of the struggle to hold it back, her mind replayed the memory she had distracted herself from, ignored, and repressed for the past two days.

Why, she wondered, had she chosen that moment to look up. Melinda had been prattling on in her explanation of why she'd come to the dig site, why she'd sought out the young rebel archaeologist and daughter of a notorious grave robber. Janice had barely listened, thinking more about how Smythe's men had gotten past the guards. But something about the her drew Janice's attention, and just as Melinda finished her speech, Janice had briefly glanced beyond the brim of her hat, up at the face of the woman before her.

For a moment she had frozen. She saw the insecurity in the 'please like me' expressinon, clear intelligence behind the blue eyes, the vulnerability of a woman who, like herself, was struggling to step out of the shadow of a famous father. And she saw the offer of friendship.

In that brief instant her world had shifted. Just for a breath her mind, her heart, and her soul were crystal clear. And she saw that her work, and probably, hopefully, her entire life would forever be entwined with Melinda's. For a heartbeat she had panicked, feeling trapped, bound. Then Smythe, the scrolls and the tomb and claimed her attention. She had turned to the reality of the moment, pushing from her mind the larger picture of her life.

A slow smile turned the corners of her lips then abruptly stopped. Janice blinked and suddenly came out of her reverie. Her hands were on the wheel and the truck sat, idling, on the edge of the road. She remembered the blast that had shaken the truck and destroyed the road behind them. She had reassured Mel that it was probably an isolated terriost job and they had continued, though rather more hurridly, down the mountain, the road finally easing into a broad valley.

Had she been so lost in her thoughts as to forget about driving and let the truck slowly roll to a stop?! She glanced to her right but Mel's face was obscured behind the brim of Janice's slightly tilted hat.

Too embarrassed to ask, Janice wondered how long they'd been sitting there. And why hadn't Melinda said anything? She could feel herself beginning to blush. Then, against the dark backdrop of the tree covered hills ahead of them, she noticed Melinda's reflection in the windsheild. Her head was turned toward Janice, a slight frown playing across her features. For a moment Janice's defensiveness rose. But then she looked closer at the ethereal image and saw, not an expression of anger or exasperation, but one of concern. And something else, something she had never even had from her father. She saw in Melinda's glance, and heard in her silence, the patience that comes with complete trust. Janice's heart overroad her fears and for a moment she allowed herself to revel in the knowledge that she would never again have to carry on alone.

She threw the truck into gear and eased off the clutch. The smile that had begun earlier finally manifested fully. She lifted her head and looked at her new companion, seeing her own smile reflected back at her as they eased out on to the road to continue their journey.

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