La Negra Muerte

(Working Title)




"Bloody buggery!" This was bordering on outright ridiculous. Had I not known better, I could have sworn that the branches of tropical undergrowth I was struggling to navigate through were actually slapping me with a purpose. I stopped and took a breath, the rotting humidity of the Amazon jungle filling my lungs.

How did Lady Lara Croft find herself in the midst of a stultifying jungle, three days out from a nearest sign of civilization, which itself would consist of a leaking motorboat and another six hours down the river to a small trading village? I snorted, quite unladylike. How? How I always get myself into these situations - jump first, Lara, and figure out how and where you are going to land during free-fall. "Buggery."

The constant semi-darkness, dark-green luminescence at best, of the jungle seemed to fade to black rapidly. This would not do. I'd been trudging through this God-forsaken wilderness for three days now, and gleaned nothing more than that big, white worms collecting on the flip-side of floppy leaves were edible. Not quite what I had hoped for.

I checked the compass. It was time to turn back. My batteries would barely last if I were to turn back now, and I dared not rely on my innate sense of direction to find my way to the dock. Especially seeing how my innate sense of direction had gotten me three days deep into the jungle in the first place. Brilliant, Lara, brilliant.

With a sigh, I slung back my backpack and turned back. I had another half-hour, maximum, before it would get too dark, and I intended to put as much distance between myself and the depth of the wilderness that gaped behind me. Another night of sleeping suspended between the trees. Another two days of painfully slow hike through the green bloody beast of the tropical forrest. A week spent in the Amazon, and nothing to show for it. Splendid!

Just as I was to take a step forward, something stopped me. Not quite sure what was wrong, I quickly scanned the wild growth around me for any signs of danger. Nothing moved. I had reached, unconsciously, towards the tree I was standing next to for support, and the damp sound of my palm brushing the bark snapped my head around.

That's what it was - it was quiet. Too bloody quiet to be normal, the jungle that, at it's best always seemed to be a host to a multitude of disintegrating, sloshy sounds of decomposition and an array of bird-calls and monkey hollers, was mute. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck struggling to stand up against the dampness of the air and the sweat that covered me whole. Someone was watching me.

Immobile, I ran my eyes across the trunks of the trees around me, raising them to where they sky should be and meeting leaves, and I could see nothing. Nothing but a muted array of green and brown and quickly growing shadows. I closed my eyes and tried to listen, but the deafening sound of my own heart was overwhelming.

Of course, I knew. I should have known from the start. The Black Death. I had dared cross into her territory without asking for permission and set out into the jungle despite all the hushed warnings and sideways glances of the natives in Pachanga, the small trading village where I rented the boat. "Pokalua", they had said, surreptitiously shaking their heads, La Negra Muerte.

I've heard of her, of course. You could hardly move in my circles and not know of the mysterious woman who single-handedly put a stop to looting of most secluded and magnificent of the Mayan temples in the midst of the Amazon. Of course, the flip side of that "Benevolent Phantom" legend was the indisputable fact that some of the most valued Mayan articles for sale on the black markets in the past have had her stamp on them. It seems, if the rumour on the grave robber's grapevine is to be trusted, the Lady Death had switched sides, embraced the light, if thou wilst.

A branch snapped some twenty meters behind me and I twirled, my guns drawn and aiming at the sound even before my eyes futilely tried to distinguish something in the deepening darkness. If you had a chance to spend any time in the tropics you would know how incongruous the sound of a snapping twig is. Nothing in this latitude could be dry enough to snap so audibly. Silence and darkness greeted me, and I shifted nervously, eyes darting around. Then, as if that were the secret signal, a lone monkey squealed in the distance, soon to be greeted by another one. Then another. Then a mosquito landed on my cheek with a loud buzz and, just like that, in a literal blink of an eye, the jungle seemed to spring back to life again.

I slowly holstered my weapons. Well. That was... somewhat noteworthy. I had no idea what had just occurred, but - strangely enough - my little excursion did not seem quite so in vain anymore. With one last look I turned and embraced the darkness. I had a camp to set up.



Looking back at the last two days, I had to laugh at myself. The dampness must have gotten to me. Though the eerie stillness of the jungle did not happen again, I wasn't able to shake the distinct feeling of being watched as I made my way back to the river. It had gotten so bad that I caught myself asking the Death for advice on probable routes as I trekked along. Well, mumbling to myself, was more like it, but somehow I had little doubt that she heard me. And here I thought poor Auntie Roberta was odd. At least the woman was seventy before she started talking to her cat. I had even gone so far as to raise my cup in a toast to La Negra Muerte as I drank my tea at night. At least I hadn't called out, inviting her to join me. Yet.

Well, by the end of the day today I should be able to talk to a real human being and get the forest spirits out of my head. The small boat was where I had left it, no worse for wear. Granted, had it gotten any more wear, I had serious doubts as to whether it would make the six hour trip back down the river. The small motor had started right up, and I got in with a final glance across my shoulder. Maybe I'd finally get some answers back at Pachanga. When I inquired last week I had been told, time after time - she will find you. You don't find her. Quite frankly, this goose chase was getting me quite annoyed. Not to mention that I still had serious misgivings about the whole mission.

Ah, yes. The mission. If my dear Nigel were an ordinary butler, I would not be ankle deep in the Amazon right now, trying to steer the boat while simultaneously scooping out bucketful's of water out of it. Nigel, it seems, besides trying to mould me into a proper English lady that he claims I should be, has another overriding goal in his life. To do good. He's constantly dropping off these annoying 'benefit ball' flyers in my office, or folding the newspapers so I cannot possibly avoid reading the 'precious artifact stolen from the British Museum of History' article. You'd think *I* was on *his* bloody payroll.

It appears one of his friends is in the forefront of alternative cancer research. And the doctor's brilliantly astounding idea was to follow the whims of alternative medicine and go after the alleged cure-all flora, which just happens to be as far away from traces of civilization as possible. Quite surprisingly enough, finances of this particular group of scientists seem to be in not so good a situation, and they could not afford to pay for the services of any of the professional expedition leaders. Not that too many of them would be willing to do embark on such a foolhardy mission anyway.

But, dear Nigel thought differently, and after a week of pouting and puppy-dog looks, I gave in to this idiocy. Of course, dear Nigel, as we speak, is polishing silver in front of the fireplace, listening to Tchaikovski, while I am busy keeping this bloody bucket above the surface of the river teeming with hungry pirhannas!

I had gotten the good doctor on the phone and magnanimously offered my services, and couldn't help but be affected by her infectious optimism and childlike eagerness. She seemed almost tolerable for an American. Until I got stuck here with mosquitoes and irate natives as she was 'finalizing preparations' in the relative civilization of Iquitos, in Peru. When I finally got to meet the woman, I'd have to make sure she realizes I'm here to point the way, not haul any luggage for them or baby-sit the academic types.

All this provided, of course, I am actually able to enlist the help of the mystery "Negra Muerte" woman who seems not only to know the bowels of the jungle as her own front yard, but also have the power to make it impossible for us to find any other guides.

"You won't find her. If she wants to, she'll find you." I couldn't help but mimic the man who rented me this sinking death-trap of a boat. "Bloody stinking shrubbery!" It had to figure that a cure for cancer would not be found somewhere a bit more convenient, like... Scotland. Or Hawaii.



Well, so much for that theory. I'd been sitting under the tarp of the only public building in Pachanga for hours now, waiting in vain for *something* to happen. The little shack on the bank of the river served as a trading post, mail stop, tourist info booth (ha, ha), and a bar. With my back against the bar and facing the river, I had a magnificent view of a whole lot of water. The afternoon downpour had just started and the staccato of torrential rain against the stiff tarp was deafening. So much beauty in such a display of force.

I could smell the Jasmine tea I had ordered before I heard the cup set down by my elbow with a soft thunk. Juan was a good man, despite his reluctance to answer any of my questions. And his boat did get me to where I needed to go and back, just as he promised. Pushing away, I took one last look at the river replenishing itself, before turning to take my tea. "Juan, dear fellow, isn't there anything..." and then I actually saw her. "...a girl could do for fun around here..." Where Juan should have been, leaning casually against the post behind the bar with that I-understand-you-but-can't-do-anything-to-help-you expression on his face, stood the most magnificent woman I had ever seen.

She was leaning casually against the central post as well, but by Lord, that's where all the similarity stopped. Where Juan had to look up to talk to me, this woman stood quite tall at about 1.8 meters in height. Her arms were crossed across her chest and I could see the clear outlines of powerful muscles under her skin. The thing that took me aback was how utterly beautiful she was, sharp, chiseled lines of her face and high cheekbones blending into a visage worthy of Praxiteles. Only, those eyes - those eyes would not be found in the face of the goddess of love, no matter how beautiful they were. Blue of the purest Lapis Lazuli but void of any emotion. Her hair was dark and braided away from her face, blending in with the blackness of her clothes. She waited with detached patience while my white-knuckled grip around the handle of my gun loosened, and I was done with my perusal.

"La Negra Muerte". I never doubted death could be a beautiful experience, and a surprising one at that, but this was not quite what I had imagined.

She inclined her head, and only when her voice lapped at my ears over the noise of the rain, did I realize I had said that out loud. "Some people call me that. However, Lucy should work in this situation."

I blinked, finally. Beautiful and deadly, but with a sense of humor as well? "Lara." I let my hand drop from its hover place near my hip and extend to her. I wouldn't need weapons with her. Not yet. "Lara Croft. I imagine you already know that."

Her full lips twitched into a tiny smirk, but she didn't move. Instead, inclining her head slowly to the other side, she started with my muddy boots and worked her way slowly up to my eyes, with one pointed pause on the way.

I slitted my eyes. I hardly noticed looks like that anymore. I would have noticed someone *not* giving me a once-over. What unnerved me, though, was my immediate reaction to her perusal. I am not a passionate person. I have never had a purely visceral reaction to someone before, my focus was not on sexual pleasures. Probably the one damned stereotype of a British lady I did fit into. But just as I could feel her, dark and heavy in the jungle the past few days, for there was no doubt in my mind that had been her, now, face to face, I could feel her smoldering, and it ignited something within me as well.

She liked what she saw, another thing I was not surprised by. What did surprise me was the fact that I was glad that she did. Realizing she was not going to shake it, I placed my hand back on my hip. Unexpected complications always drew the same response with me - reticence. The fact that I was immediately and strongly attracted to her fit into the category. My response to my body's reaction to this woman was to hide it at all cost until I figured out what the bloody hell was going on with me.

There was one thing that, time after time, I sent silent thanks to my father for. He'd taught me how to play poker. Every Sunday afternoon, tea and sandwiches next to us, we'd take a break from geography and history lessons and play poker for a couple of hours. He'd taught me how to become unreadable. I had taken it a step further and made it a game unto itself. It proved to be a great asset over the years.

I returned her smirk with a matching one of my own and palmed the cup warmed with tea. Turning my back on her, I leaned back against the bar. Jasmin. I took a deep breath, letting the steam from the cup enter my lungs. It smelled like home. Scent of home in my nostrils and a sense of danger at my back. Maybe the Amazon was not such a bad idea after all...

A whoosh of air, and a soft thud and she was standing next to me, her casual pose assumed again against the bar. She was looking at me, but I kept my eyes trained on the muddy river ahead of us and sipped my tea.

"Why do you want to go into the jungle?"

I looked over at her briefly, and then continued my study of the river. I could sense her smile more than I could see it.

"Let me guess - you could tell me, but you'd have to kill me." This time there was a full blown smile on her face. I looked away, a bit more hastily than I had to. "And... you wouldn't want such a beautiful face like mine seen marred in anyway, so you'll just keep your answer to yourself, right?"

Fine. Two can play the buggery game. "Had I desired comedic relief, Miss Death, I can assure you I could have gotten it in London and found it much more entertaining."

She mock-winced and pushed off the bar with a bland "ouch", moving to stand directly in front of me, filling my vista with her face and arms and chest. When I realized what I was looking at, my eyes snapped up and firmly locked with hers. So much for poker-face, Croft...

Her eyes weren't cold, that would not be a fair thing to say. Not as they bored into me right now. They were unnerving, but not cold. Eyes are the windows to the soul. Very poetic, but if true, I wondered how that would relate to what I saw in this woman's eyes. Because, quite frankly, I saw nothing. They were beautiful, large and almond shaped, and almost took away from the beauty of her face since, once you looked at them nothing else could hold your attention, but they were blank. Not curiosity, not desire, not disdain, nothing could be gleaned from them.

Whatever it was she read in mine, though, seemed to satisfy her, as she did a half-nod to herself before leaning back against the bar next to me. There was no more playfulness in her voice than there was in her eyes as she spoke to me again.

"I know what you're looking for and I know where to find it." Her profile was magnificent, wisps of dark hair curling about her ear, the column of her neck, and I had trouble focusing on what she was telling me. I was scared, both my body and my mind were betraying me, all within minutes of meeting her. "I might be willing to bring a sample for your doctors to play with." She turned to look at me and this time there was something in her eyes. Conviction. "What I will not have is a large expedition trampling through the forest. People living there would kill you all rather than have you taint their home... And I'd help them."

Hormones or not, I did not take well to being threatened. "Oh." I smiled sweetly, my lips fully uncovering my teeth. She was smart enough to take it as a warning, not a friendly gesture. "Protecting the rain forest, are you? How valiant, truly. If so..." Time to put dad's lessons to good use. " would be in your best interest to fully cooperate with us. The only reason major pharmaceutical conglomerates are not swarming these woods right now, combing it through with bulldozers, is because the team I am working with is in this for purely scientific reasons. They're keeping what is surely to be a major discovery very hush-hush because they want to have a chance to study the samples in peace and see if they can come up with a synthetic substitute for its supposed miraculous 'cure-all' properties." I kept my eyes on the river, dirty and ravenous, boiling before us.

I had her attention, and that told me that at least she was not totally seeing through my bluff. "See, my 'friends' would take what they need, and then go back to their sterile laboratories in the US, and spend months, years possibly, puzzling over a leaf sample. However..." another sweet smile "...if someone were to whisper something in the right ear, I can assure you, you'd have half a dozen multinationals here within a fortnight, waiving their checkbooks and sectioning off portions of the jungle for 'a close search' with the full support of Peruvian government." The truth was, my scientist 'friends' were running out of grant money fast and no one could care less, but she did not need to know that.

I was still keeping my eyes on the river, feigning nonchalance when I felt her lips almost caress my ear. "If that is true," her voice was husky and her breath sent a shudder down my spine I could not hide even had I sense of mind to try "what is a tomb raider like yourself doing helping them?"

I turned to face her and distance my oversensitive ears from her mouth, but that only brought me almost nose to nose with her. Her eyes were dark and dilated and angry and instinctively I knew how her nickname was born, yet I could not tear my gaze away. The danger of it drew me forward, not away. "Shouldn't you know, Lucy, how sweet redemption can be?" My voice had matched the huskiness of hers and either it's tone, or the meaning of the words made her eyes widen slightly before she moved away and faced the river again. I was unsettled by her and my first instinct was to push her away until I had a chance to calm down. Yet, it would not do to antagonize her.

"Listen." I tried again, making myself sound sincere and reasonable. It was an effort, given the fact I was also trying to banish the vision of her naked and under me out of my mind. "I am not in this for the money nor the fame. If you know anything about me, you should know that. I am just doing a favor for a very good friend of mine." Ah, yes. Dear Nigel. I'd make sure I stuff the next charity ball invitation he presents me with up his arse. Bloody butler.

Though she could not have been more than five centimeters taller than I, the look she gave me down the length of her nose made me feel very small. "Miss Croft, you may owe a favor to a friend of yours, but I owe the jungle folk my life." She looked away again, her jaw muscles tightening, and I could see her eyes search the surface of the river for a few moments before she turned them back to me. When she did, I saw resignation in their depths and I almost flinched. From the twenty minutes I have spent with this woman, I was able to realize how out of place that emotion looked in there. And I was responsible for putting it there. "Their survival depends on their existence and habitat remaining a secret. If the 'civilized' man heard about this tribe, there'd be all sort of thrill-seekers here in no time and the next thing you know, they're on the front page of "National Geographic". I can't allow that to happen."

As she talked to me, an amazing thing happened. The color of her eyes deepened, softened, and - for the first time - I saw a human being before me, not a deadly hunter or an irresistible seductress. She was being honest with me, and I could see the depth of her worry and conviction. And despite the rabid curiosity of an anthropologist within me, I saw the stark truth behind her words. She could not take an expedition of six scientists into the woods and expect all of them to keep their mouths shut about an ancient tribe of the Amazon. That she told *me* was amazing enough. In an instant, before I had a chance to realize it, my loyalties switched. It was not about bringing the doctors to the miracle plant anymore, it was about helping this woman protect her people.

I closed my eyes against her gaze and hung my head. "Buggery." It came out as an exhale, but her quiet chuckle told me she heard it. I looked up, and the breath I exhaled was sharply drawn into my lungs again. Her eyes were sparkling and her lips were curved in a gentle smile. There was a mix of relief and mirth on her face, but it made her absolutely glow in the dimness of the gathering dusk. "Am I truly that easy to read?" Again, it came out husky, and whatever my words asked was negated by the tone of my voice.

Her eyes deepened as she slowly shook her head, never leaving my gaze. "I am not the type to appreciate an easy read."

I could feel my body react to the way she was looking at me and as she stood, waiting, I knew it was my decision to make. Should I, a woman who thrived on the stimuli of danger but had no real experience with desire, give in to the magnetism of a woman who, by all accounts, more than deserved her deadly nickname? A woman which had had my pulse beating between my legs from the moment I laid eyes on her, had me unnerved enough to drop the game of cat and mouse before it even started, a woman watching me with hunger in her eyes right now?


I pushed away from the bar and moved to stand in front of her, stepping between her spread out legs. Her eyes burned into me and, for a moment, I found myself uncommonly shy. My eyes skittered away, and I dropped my head slightly, trying to avoid the brunt of her gaze. Still leaning against the bar, she slid her elbows off the countertop and her large hands settled on my waist, burning through my clothing. Slowly, she pulled me in closer, and I took another small step, the outsides of my thighs brushing the insides of hers, the shorts we were both wearing allowing that first contact of skin against skin, and I closed my eyes at the heat.

I could feel her shifting forward and the feel of her lips and tongue against the skin of my chest above the low scoop of my tanktop was enough to kick-start my motor skills again. I raised my arms, resting my palms against her downturned face, my thumbs caressing her chin. She moved up the side of my neck at a leisurely pace, sucking, and biting gently and I could feel my knees turning to jelly.

When I felt her breath against my ear I knew I had to stop her. Given the ridiculous sensitivity of my ears, I would not be capable of remaining erect for much longer, so I did the only thing that came to mind. I forced her lips away from my ear and covered them with mine.


If there had been any doubt left in my mind as to the prudence of engaging in a sexual act with this woman before, it was gone at the feel of her mouth around my tongue. The hot wetness of that place eclipsed the humidity of the jungle, erased the buzzing of the mosquitoes, silenced the call of the monkeys. Made me ravenous.

I bit her, and she moaned in my mouth, and then her hands were everywhere. Pressing me into her, kneading my breasts, pushing me away, lifting me up. Before I had gathered what was happening, she was sitting on a barstool, leaning back, and I was straddling her lap. And yet we hadn't broken the kiss.

I was absolutely shaking with need, for the first time in my life, and I had to have more of her. I could feel my hips jerking in raw motions against her abdomen, the friction drawing ragged exhales out of me. Breaking the kiss, I fell upon her, raking my teeth down the length of her jaw, nipping at her chin, enveloping her pulse point with my lips and speeding it up with my tongue. A long moan that came out of her buried itself between my legs and thrummed a long note of arousal straight to my core. I tried to keep still, to stop my hips from moving for just a beat. I was going to come on a barstool in Peru simply because I made a woman moan. What would Nigel say?

Her hands grasped my face, lifting my forehead from her shoulder and forcing me to look at her. The heated fire of her gaze made my mouth dry. Then she said those three wonderful words.

"My hut. Now."

Though I almost matched her in height, my lanky frame proved to be easy for her to handle as she lifted us of the chair and planted me on my unsteady feet. "Leave your stuff here. Juan will make sure no one touches it."

My stuff? State-of-the-art tracking equipment and satellite-connection cell phone? Who bloody cared? However, I was able to nod my assent, and with that she grasped my hand and led us into the darkness.

What little I had seen of Pachanga before had seemed to have been *all* that there was of Pachanga. A few dozen rickety huts along a muddy stretch of road, ending with the jungle on one end, and the river on the other. However, I was starting to fully grasp Einstein's concept of relativity as our 100-meter dash to the last of the huts right outside of the forest seemed to take forever. The rain was still falling but did nothing for my hot-red hormones. I was not beyond pushing her against one of the huts, however we finally reached our destination.

She pushed the door and entered, lighting up two oil lamps on either ends of the room. A desk with a large pitcher of water and a washing basin, a large backpack against one wall and, yes, a mosquito-net bed against the other. Perfect. She stood next to it, looking at me.

"Take your clothes off."

I gave her a look and she chuckled, a low, rumbly sound. "If I do it for you, I can assure you they won't be wearable tomorrow."

Good enough. I bent down to unlace my boots, willing my fingers not to tremble, and when I had them off together with soggy socks, I stood up. The sight that greeted me almost made me flop to the floor in most unlady-like fashion.

She was barefoot, top button of her black shorts undone and showing a tuft of dark hair. The rest of her was gloriously displayed to me as she peeled her tanktop off, aware of my eyes on her. Her nipples were erect and I instinctively knew my large hands would be able to cover her breasts completely, reveling in their firmness. Unlike me, she did not have to wear a bra in the chafing humidity of the forest, and I was quickly learning to be thankful for that.

She lowered her arms down, letting her tanktop fall to the fall, and looked at me with a smirk. When she met my eyes though, the teasing smile disappeared and she husked "Hurry", reminding me of what I was doing.

If she was hoping to spare my clothes, it wasn't working, as I tore them off of me with little regard. We met each other half-way, tongues rough and wanton with each other, bodies fully pressed in the humidity of the jungle. God. Holding her against me with one hand, I used my other one to cup her breast, running my palm up and down, pressing in, teasing out, matching the movements of my tongue in her mouth. Her nipple was hard and hot against the skin of my palm, and when I took it between my fingers she sank her teeth into my shoulder, asking for more.

Apparently not one used to simply following the action, she soon stopped my ministrations by a well placed finger. One finger, deep inside me, and so much sensations. Just to remain standing, I had to bring my arms up, linking them behind her neck. She stood her ground, moving within me, tracing patterns of bliss with the tip of her finger. I had to know. "A...ahhhh, piano pl...player?"

She chuckled and nodded, my forehead sliding against the skin of her neck. Cocky one at that, but who was I to complain? Raising my head, I kept my eyes closed but had no problem locating her ear. A gentle bite and a snaking of a tongue later, she gasped and stopped her movements enough to lead us toward the bed. Apparently she was good at mind-reading as well. A woman of many skills.

We fell to the bed and drew the mosquito net closed, taking a moment to gaze at each other in the flickering light of the room. She was laying on her side, facing me, and for the first time I realized how similarly built we were. My dark hair was bound into a single braid as well, and though not in intensity, my eyes matched hers in color. We were nearly the same height, but where I was slim and lanky, she was strong and muscular. Even so, outlined by the light as she was now, I felt her contours matched mine with disturbing accuracy. As she moved, leaning in, a quote that had puzzled me for a while flitted through my mind: Sex between women is mirror geography. I was finally finding the truth behind it.

Lips on my nipple and fingers between my legs took any hope of literary epiphanies out of my head. I fell on my back with a gasp, and Lucy wasted no time positioning herself above and sliding her thighs between my legs. What that woman could do with her tongue! She was sliding it across my breast in long, flat movements, and it's texture was exquisite, roughness of a cat and hunger of a tiger. When her teeth raked across my nipple, I raised my hips in response, meeting the firmness of her thigh with a satisfactory friction. She then did something with her tongue, flitting it across my nipple still caught between her teeth, or sucking on it, or pressing it against the roof of her mouth, but when her fingers entered me with abandon, I promptly stopped the analytical process. I didn't care to know *what* she was doing to me as long as she kept doing it.

With her palm firmly pressed against me and grinding my clitoris with every movement of her fingers, and her mouth devouring my breast, I did what every proper English lady would do. I screamed out my release, clawing at her back and bucking against her arm. She relaxed the arm she was leaning on and fully pressed herself against me, but only when I stopped shuddering with aftershocks did she withdraw her fingers out of me. And slowly sucked each one of them into her mouth while watching me.

The best I could do as I watched her was offer her a shaky smile feeling the fire gather between my legs again. I said the first thing that came to my mind. "Lord, does this make me a lesbian?"

She laughed out loud this time, and lowered herself until all I could see were her eyes, but I could feel every centimeter of her pulsating against me. "No," she said, slowly moving up, her breasts brushing my lips, "but this will." And with that, she straddled my face, pausing above me, open, red and dripping, and I feared I'd die of thirst in the midst of a rainstorm. But she took mercy on me and lowered herself down, and I used my fingers to draw her passion out before I collected it with my tongue. It was exquisite, the feel of her around me, the sounds floating down, and I brought my free hand between my legs, following the pattern of her exhales with my fingers.

Then she was the Amazon, flooding me with her release, and I convulsed under her as she did above me, until we stilled, sated, and breathing raggedly. As she settled next to me, her breathing slowly matching the patter of the rain outside, I dozed off, appreciating the geography lesson.




I kept still when I woke up, though I knew she was not in the room with me. The smell of me, of her, mixed heavily with the dampness of the room and seemed to coat my body like a second skin. Well, this had been a first. Thinking with my... southern regions rather than with my head. And it did not bode well.

There was no time to spend on analyzing what possesed me to do something like this. Never have I succumbed so easily, so willingly, so... impetuously as tonight. And never would I have imagined myself doing... it with a person I heavily depended upon. If I were to make this mission work, I had to make sure we both knew we could rely on each other, with professional detachment. There was nothing quite as unreliable as physicall passion.

Bloody idiot. If this was what men did all the time, leading with their libido, no wonder poor beasts were so easy to command. The trick now was to make it clear that this was not to happen again between us, and still to preserve our tenuous agreement. If she still remembered it. Lord knew I wasn't quite clear on all the details of the conversation we had, the sexual haze had drawn over my eyes mid-way through our interaction at the bar.

And yet... A part of me wondered if there was a way to make it work. To make it possible to mix work with pleasure. Then I glanced back and saw the empty spot beside me, already cold and void of the imprint of her body. If one of us were weak enough to succumb to the call of the flesh on her own, the two of us would not be swayed. I did not know the woman, nor did I trust the elaborate rumors surrounding her, but it was clear to me that we shared more in common than dark good looks. Something told me her thoughts ran in the same pattern as mine, and her absence seemed to confirm it. And yet...

Rolling out of the narrow bed, I quickly donned my shorts and tanktop, foregoing the boots. I had a feeling I wouldn't have to go far. Pausing in the doorway, I let my eyes adjust to the semi-darkness of the night. No electricity, but the moon was full and the trees did not cover it from our view. She was sitting on the narrow deck that ran the length of the hut, long legs stretched across the stair and her back against the rail. She glanced at me, and then continued looking out into the night.

"I... uh..." Eloquent Lara, quite eloquent. I imagined a soft chuckle drifting up to my ears before she looked at me. Even in the silver-spun darkness of the night her eyes glowed a pale blue fire.

"I really wished I had a cigarette now." It was quiet and wistful, and the tone of her voice almost made me disregard the words it sent my way.

A cigarette? O...kaay... "You do?" Not the conversation I wished to have, but...

"Mm-hmmm." She nodded her head. "I always used to have a cigarette after sex." She looked at me. "I haven't had a cigarette in almost a year."

Oh... Buggery. My mouth opened, but nothing came out. I was doing really well here.

She smiled then, teeth glistening in the night, one of those small smiles that said so much. I wish I knew what. Looking out again, her voice was quiet, so quiet the sounds of the night almost drowned it out.

"I really don't want to start smoking again."

Her words registered, and I almost laughed with relief, but then I realized there was nothing to laugh about. I could really like this woman.

I walked over and sat next to her, nudging her slightly. "Nasty habit." I agreed. "Never really picked it up myself. Not quite sure if I should do so now..."

She nodded silently, still llooking ahead. Then she frowned and turned to me. "You... It's not ..." A breath. "It's not personal, you know that, it's just that..."

I let out a chuckle this time. If there had been light, I wondered if I could see her blushing. "I certainly hope not. It would meake me doubt my performance."

She laughed as well and I could feel some of the tension abating. This time when I spoke, I went with the simple truth. "You... I've never reacted to anyone quite like that before. Ever." Even in the darkness I could see her eyebrows wiggling at me. Oh, boy... "But - but you... I - we have a job to do. And even beyond that, Lucy, we..."

She raised her hand. "We're the same type, Lara - rough, unemotional and calculating. I did not sleep with yo tonight to gain anything" she looked at me sideways, mumbling " 'sides an orgasm..." I elbowed her roughly, but she continued, "but - no need to tempt the faith. I won't say this was a mistake, but it wasn't the smartest thing to do, by far, and I don't like to act stupid."

Is this what she thought of herself? Of me? Yet there was an undercurrent of truth to what she was saying, whether she believed her words or not. We were too similar to indulge any thought of emotional involvement and a purely physical one would most likely prove too explosive. But I had to make sure I do something about her self-concept...

"Listen," she stood up, stretching, effectively wrapping up our conversation, "I walked over to Juan's and got your hammock. Why don't you get back to bed and I'll set that up out here? You'll need to call your doctor friends tomorrow early and inform them of the change of plans."

I stood up as well, shaking my finger at her. "A-ha! Ha-ha! That's funny, Deathly!" She scowled at me, but it didn't work very well in the dark. Plus, the woman just gave me the best orgasm of my life, it was rather difficult to be intimidated by her. "And what do you suggest I tell them? 'Oh, sorry chaps, slight change in plans - I do apologize for the inconveniece of flying your arses all the way here, but I can't take you on the tour of the jungle I promised. Toodle-doo, fare thee well.'... Please!" She didn't seem impressed. "Listen, *you* didn't have to deal with that little spitfire that leads that expedition, so why don't you bloody tell her not to come?"





This is, of course, the point at which the Uber-Gabrielle character is introduced. Imagine that. That is also the point at which I think I'd start experimenting with point-of-view and/or voice. As a matter of fact, I had pretty much decided (if I were actually to continue writing this piece), to narrate a part of the story using Uber-Xena's (her name would *not* be Lucy) POV, a part of it using Uber-Gabrielle's and than back to Lara. I wouldn't necessarily stick to first-person narration for all three characters either.

I have a very general idea of what could happen in the plot with this one, so if anyone were interested in trying to write out this pup together with me, or taking it over all together, it wouldn't be an issue. It's pretty much a simple set-up piece as of yet.

(Started - June/July 2001)

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