Ok, here's the deal. Anyone who wants to is welcome to participate in this story -- we've sometimes ended up with multiple parallel storylines going. Although I like using historic settings, past experience has taught me not to wince visibly if things go off in un-historic tangents.

Who wants to play?

Heather Rose Jones

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The wind lashed the bare branches against the window of the small room over the stable. Anne pulled the blankets tighter around her, trying to shut out the noise of the storm so she could sleep. She'd been on her feet all day serving down in the inn's common room and she'd be up again before the crack of dawn. This was her own time, and she wanted to spend it sleeping, not worrying that the roof would be blown off.

She missed the sound at the window the first time. Then there came a second *tink* -- different from the scratchy hiss of the branches. Then a third time -- *clonk*. Someone was throwing stones at the glass pane! Only the thought that the next one might break the glass forced her out of bed and over to the window. She could see nothing through the cheap rippled glass and cautiously eased the frame open.

The next pebble hit her squarely on the nose.

She cursed loudly -- the sort of curse that would have gotten her turned off of her position if she'd said it before the customers.

A voice drifted faintly up from the shadows below. "Sweet Jesus, I'm sorry!" And then even more faintly, "I need your help."

The voice was vaguely familiar, but then she heard so many travellers' voices every day. It could be any of them. And why her? Why the middle of the night? Anne leaned out farther, but there was still nothing to see but shadows and the swirl of blowing leaves. It was the devil-spirit in her that sent her tiptoeing down the stairs in her shift with only a blanket wrapped around her. No honest person would be asking her help in such a way -- but honest people had never much interested Anne. At least the stairs opened directly into the stableyard (her room had originally been built for the grooms and stableboys) and there was no danger of meeting anyone on the way.

She felt her way under the trees where the voice had come from and gave a muffled yelp as a strong arm clamped over her mouth and drew her deep into the shadows. A voice in her ear said, "Shhh," and when she nodded, the hand released her. Then a lantern was unveiled and Anne had a chance to see who had called her out on such a wild night.

The clothes were that of a highwayman -- a long dark cloak and high, black-leather boots, two pistols stuck in the belt, and a black silk scarf covering the lower part of the face. "I need your help," the stranger repeated, throwing back the cloak on one side to reveal a dark stain spreading across one sleeve. "I've been shot."

Anne fumbled to unbutton the stranger's coat and peel it back to see the damage, but as her hand slipped inside, it encountered something more startling than the rest of the situation put together. She looked up into the stranger's eyes -- eyes that wavered between amusement and exhaustion. "You're a woman!" Anne said, wonderingly.

Next?

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Anne stepped back and looked at the stranger who had slumped against a tree. There was something familiar about her, something all too familiar about those eyes as they held hers. "You don't recognise me, do you?" the stranger asked. Anne caught her breath as she felt a tightening in her belly in response to the voice. "You!" she gasped. "Why have you come back here? You promised to stay away."

"I need your help, Anne, you have to help me. Please?" the woman's voice was a mixture of demand and pleading, her scarf falling from her face, revealing the familiar features of the woman. "If they find me..." the woman fell into a faint and as Anne caught her she heard voices rousing the inn-keeper at the front of the building. Half carrying and half dragging her, Anne took the woman inside and up into her room, where she laid her on her bed.

"And i thought it would be the last time i would see you in my bed, Catherine", Anne said to herself, memories filling her head for the moment. "I swear, you'll be the death of me... death of both of us by the look", she said, as she remembered the woman's wounds. Quickly she removed her visitors coat, washed her arm with the little water she had left in her room, and using Catherine's scarf, tightly bound the wound as best she could. It wasn't as bad as it had looked, a surface wound, where the bullet had scraped the muscle on her upper arm. Catherine stirred as she felt Anne's hands on her body, trying to make her comfortable. Her eyes opened for a moment, "Just like old times, Anne", Catherine tried to joke, before pain once more caused her to pass out. Anne watched her until her breathing relaxed and the woman appeared to sleep.

Noises in the stable yard brought Anne to her window. Four strangers there, on horses, were talking with the inn-keeper, who was holding a fifth horse. "Not from hereabouts, that one", Anne thought, as she looked at the horse. "It hasn't been pulling any ploughs or carting farmers around the place". She couldn't hear the discussion, but as the riders turned to leave one of them shouted back: "Keep his horse here then, he will be back for it, and we will be waiting for him".

Anne looked across at the woman in her bed and sighed. "Will i ever be rid of you?" she asked the sleeping woman. Knowing she would have to be awake early, depite her lost sleep tonight Anne climbed onto her bed beside the woman, pulling her blanket and Catherine's cloak over them both. She daren't have the keeper waking her in the morning and finding Catherine here with her. Her mind full of questions, she eventually slept, comforted despite herself by the familiar breathing of her companion.

Next????

ali,
bare feet


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As the women slept, they moved around one another in the familiar unique twighlit dance known only by old lovers.

As their sleep deepened, each soothed by the warmth of the other, the Watcher stepped out of the shadows.

She sighed. It was all going wrong. Catherine was suposed to have left forever, and her going was supposed to make room for the Participant.

Those were the rules: in every expedition there was to be a Keeper, who was supposed to take care of the practicalities, the Watcher, who - well, watched, and the Participant, who did the actual field research.

The Watcher drew herself to her full height. Small and beautifully rounded, with magnificent rolls of sumptious flesh, she was a paragon of desirability in her society.

She was highly qualified.

She held a double first in Trans-Spacial Studies and Human Psychology, had a Doctorate in the Development of Alternative Sexuality in Humans, and had finally trained in The Design of Experiments at the Institute of Inter-Dimensional Studies.

She was eminently qualified to bring back the answers her society so desperately needed to move to the next level of their development, but it was all going wrong.

Emphemia Labra, BSc(Hons)., PhD., DipIDS, and Official Watcher, swore under her breath and kicked out at a passing rat. She stubbed her toe on the bed leg and hopped almost silently around the hovel-room.

The women moved again in harmony under the cloak, and the Watcher was once again transfixed by the tenderness and one-ness of the pair. She had obviously underestimated the power of the love between these women. Well, she would have to re-design everything around them and their seemingly unbreakable bond.

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Dawn light woke Anne, for whom all the world was once again wrapped in the form of the woman who lay in her arms.

The gentle rose-blush light edged Catherine's jaw and neck and shoulder. Catherine stirred a little, and the heavy, scratchy material of the cloak slipped aside a little revealing her upper arm, and the gentle slope of her breast.

For a moment, the agony of Catherine's leaving and the fire of her own desire combined in a volcano of anger and tenderness. Anne shook her lover violently.

"What in the name of all that's Holy did you think you were doing coming back here?" Anne hissed.

Catherine's head hung in silence

"Well??"

Catherine raised her head a little, just enough to look at Anne through of her eyelashes. Anne's hand, out of her conscious control, reached out and brushed a stray lock of auburn hair from her lover's forehead.

"Answer me" it was a whisper

Catherine raised her head quickly and captured Anne's fingers between her neat white teeth. The captive hand was taken gently and guided downwards.

"For this" was the only spoken reply

NEXT!!!!!

Hev
Heading for the cold shower, but remembering in time that it's still May slippers. Also hoping that it's ok to have Sci Fi and History in the same story.....

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Now it's your turn. Post your addition to ASLM ....


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