Amazon Encounter Part 2 by Anne Azel
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction, please do not read if you are under age or if this material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
Note: All the flora and fauna described in the story are real, as are the Indian groups and natural topography. They are a collection of descriptions and experiences taken from my own field notes of the area. Cats Paw is being studied as a possible treatment for cancer.
Kris loaded the dugout carefully, covering the cargo with a sheet of plastic that she tied down. Satisfied, she silently helped Morgan into the bow having arranged things so that she could lean her back against their supplies. With a strong push, she shoved the heavy log craft off the pebble beach and sprung onto the bow. With her arms extended for balance, she quickly moved along the gunwale to the stern and picked up the second paddle. Strong experienced strokes brought the awkward boat around and headed them down the Alto Ventuari River that would take them eventually to the waters of the Orinoco. Morgan picked up her paddle and tried her best to match the long, steady stroke of her silent companion.
Within a short time, Morgan was soaked with sweat and dizzy with heat. The air was close and stale and the breeze that had made the last few days so pleasant had disappeared. They pushed on and on. Morgan silently carrying on with grim determination. It was well into the afternoon when the silent warrior finally called a halt beaching their craft on a sand spit in a green lagoon. As Morgan edged out of the dugout on stiff legs something large broke the still waters and disappeared leaving only a ripple of water to convince Morgan that she had actually seen anything. "Ahhh, Kris, I think there is something in there," she whispered nervously, breaking the silence that had been between them most of the day.
"Fresh water dolphin. There's a pod of six that fish here," explained her guide busily pulling items from a pack under the plastic. Just then two dolphin broke the surface side by side and arched back under the water.
"Wow!" exclaimed Morgan her eyes wide with delight scanning the surface intently for another sighting.
Kris smiled slightly at the delight of her traveling companion. She wasn't sure why she had needed to give Morgan this experience, it wasn't like they were out sightseeing or anything. She'd been hired to take the client to the area that she wanted to go and that was it. Much to her surprise, she had liked the three days guiding the Harris's. She had especially liked Morgan's innocent delight with the rainforest. Hell, she just liked Morgan! It was stupid and the attraction made her both angry at herself and giddy with a hummy sort of happiness that she hadn't felt....in a very, very long time. "I thought maybe we'd make an early camp here and swim with them," stated Kris a bit awkwardly. To her complete surprise Morgan walked over to her and gave her a quick hug. "Hey! Whatcha doing?!" grumbled the taller woman suddenly very embarrassed as if Morgan could read her thoughts.
"I'm expressing my thanks to the big, bad warrior who paddled like crazy most of the day so there would be time to spend here," smiled Morgan turning to rummage through her own bag for her swim suit.
"Just worked out that way," mumbled the embarrassed guide scowling as she unloaded supplies.
Morgan watched the tall woman work out the corner of her eye as she helped with the unloading and changed to a swimsuit. Kris was incredibly goodlooking. Not cute or even pretty, her face was too angular but classically beautiful, strong and noble, like a Greek sculpture. She was both fascinating to watch and scary at the same time, like being close to some beautiful but deadly wild animal. Morgan ran a tongue over dried lips. Shit! Get a grip here Morgan! And the small doctor turned to sit on the edge of the dugout and remove her brace.
The dolphins were small. About six feet in length and light grey in colour. They had long tube like jaws and blocky little heads. As the two women swam about the playful creatures would come up and push against them. Once completely waterlogged and cooled from a hard days paddling, the two made for shore, Kris automatically scooping Morgan up as they neared swallow water and placing her on her feet near where she had left her brace. Then she threw a towel in Morgan's direction. "Thanks. That was just great. You know I'm supposed to be here working but so far the Amazon has been just one amazing playground. I feel kind of guilty," confessed Morgan.
Kris stopped drying herself and looked with serious eyes at Morgan. She could still feel the warmth of the smaller woman's body against her chest. I gotta put an end to this, Kris thought giving herself a metal shake. "Its not going to stay like this. The Alto Ventuari is a black river. That's one high in tannin. The acidic nature of the river gives it it's clear, tea look. It also prevents the breeding of mosquito's. When we get closer to the Orinoco, things will change. We'll be deep in the Amazon basin and it will really get buggy and hot.
The Orinoco is a white river. The high silt content neutralizes the water and makes it look like tea with milk. You can't see what's in there. And believe me, there are some pretty dangerous things to watch out for in that water. In white water, mosquitoes breed and there is far more wild life. Don't ever go near the shore unless I'm with you. The Amazon Basin teems with life and some days it's in your face all the time. As well as flora and fauna, we'll be meeting some pretty unpredictable Indian groups too. So enjoy these days. Its going to get pretty rough, pretty quick."
Morgan nodded a little taken back by Kris's sudden sharpness. Once they were changed and their swim suits laid out to get drier, Kris explained that in high humidity nothing ever really dried once it was wet, the warrior showed Morgan how to set up camp. Well back from the water, in case rain in the mountains caused a flash flood. Hammocks with mosquito net covers tied between trees, to keep the ground insects out and to reduce the chances of catching malaria. And the foliage cut way back so the danger of snakes was reduced. Morgan followed the lesson seriously, eager to show Kris that she wasn't just a light weight. The implied criticism in Kris's earlier lecture had really stung. Somehow this woman's opinion of her mattered. Kris built a fire and they shared a hot meal prepared by Morgan of tomato soup with rice. It appeared the one thing the capable guide did not do was cook!
After dinner, Kris cleaned and oiled her weapons while Morgan ignored her and wrote in her field diary. O.K. thought Kris, so I was a bit sharp with her and she doesn't like the guns. Kris squirmed inwardly not liking the uncomfortable silence. She put the weapons away and got up to look through one of the packs. On impulse, she had stowed away a treat that she had spied back in the lodge kitchen before they had left. It seemed like a good time to get it out.
Sheepishly she brought a small bag of marshmallows over to Morgan as a peace offering.
"Ahh, these were in the food supplies. They'll mold pretty quick. Ah, maybe we could roast them or something," she suggested awkwardly.
Morgan looked up in surprise and then, a little unsure of the warrior's sudden mood swings, she smiled nervously. "That would be fun!...O.K.," she stammered. Kris nodded and hid her blush by disappearing into the darkness to cut a couple of sticks.
A full moon rose over head, as like children, they tossed the marshmallows on the end of sticks that Kris had cut from the forest behind them. "Kris, can I ask you a personal question?" asked Morgan as they sat quietly under the soft moon's rays.
Kris's gut tightened. The last four days had been so nice. She really wanted to keep that feeling going for a few more days. She just felt relaxed with Morgan. It wasn't just that she found the woman attractive, it was more complex than that. The woman just seemed to bring to their interactions something that Kris normally was missing. Hell! She'd played in the waterfalls with the Harris's like some kid, just to show off to Morgan.
"You can ask. I don't know if I can answer," responded the dark-haired woman with a sigh looking sadly into the fire.
"Why do you have enemies that would try to kill you?"
Blue eyes snapped up and filled with anger and then sorrow in rapid succession. " I'm here to guide you not entertain you," came the cutting reply. Morgan looked like she had been hit then she nodded quickly and turned to stare into the fire, bewildered hurt filling her eyes.
The tall woman rose and turned to walk from the circle of firelight then sighed and turned and sat again. "Sorry, why don't you ask me something else," muttered the mysterious woman clearly making an awkward effort to be sociable.
Morgan hesitated. On the one hand she really wanted to know about this woman that she found so incredibly fascinating. On the other ..." Your name sounds Greek," observed Morgan trying to encourage the stoic woman to talk now she had started. Kris flinched. Opps, hit another nerve. Damn.
"I..I changed my name. Took my mother's maiden name. My maternal grandfather, he was Greek. Immigrated after the war. My father's South American, h...he doesn't know I'm still alive...." For awhile Kris starred into the fire. "You got family?"
"Yeah, parents. Mom's a family doctor and dad's a mechanic. My dad has Greek ancestry too but I think it was farther back."
Kris looked up in interest and seemed to relax a bit as Morgan had hoped. "That's a strange combination. How did they meet?"
"Mom had an old beat up car that dad kept on the road for her while she was doing her internship. He always says she had to marry him because she owed him too much money to pay him off!"
Kris smiled. A real smile. The first that Morgan had seen. A flash of white, even teeth and a sparkle that danced across her eyes making her look much younger. On a roll now! Morgan thought. "I have a younger brother too, Scott." The smile wavered and was forced to remain by stiff lips. Now what? "Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
Kris winced and swallowed, getting to her feet in one, smooth motion. She looked down at the green eyes that met hers with such compassion. "I had a younger brother, Neil. Two years ago, I injected him with an over-dose of cocaine. He died," confessed the warrior. In the shocked silence, Kris looked up at the stars blinking back the tears of pain.
"Is that when you changed your name?" Morgan asked.
Kris nodded and then turned away, disappearing silently into the trees. Morgan stayed by the fire realizing that Kris had shown a remarkable amount of trust in sharing even a small part of the pain that was inside her and knowing instinctively that the warrior now needed time alone.
She could understand that. Wasn't that why she had requested this field study? To be alone. Away from the sympathetic looks. To try and make peace with her own inner anger. She hoped she was more successful at doing so than Kris. The woman was an enigma. Outside so incredibly strong and capable and yet inside her soul seemed fatally wounded. Morgan wanted to find her and hold her until the pain lessened but she knew the strange dark-woman couldn't accept comfort for her guilt yet.
For another five days they pushed on down the river, gradually developing a routine that allowed the two of them to work well as a team. On the sixth day it rained. Not one of the frequent small, intense down pours that occur in the Amazon but a steady, cold rain that continued all day. To make matters worse a sharp wind was blowing down the mountainside chilling their wet bodies to the bone. "How can I be so close to the equator and so cold," muttered Morgan through chattering teeth.
"Its not really cold, you've just lost too much body heat," responded her guide who didn't seemed to be too bothered by the miserable weather. Morgan nodded. She wasn't going to be come a whiner that's for sure. Putting down her paddle, she picked up the plastic cup they were using as a bailer and set to work, scrapping the thick plastic cup along the axe hewed wood and tossing the water over the side. Suddenly, Kris yelled, "Paddle!" Morgan dropped the bailer and grabbed her paddle and dug in as the first of the rising water hit them. Within minutes, they were being shot down stream on the turbulent muddy waters. Kris fought with all her considerable strength to keep their craft in safe waters.
Finally, recognizing a well used shore line, she shot the little vessel over to the eroded bank and beached it between some rocks. Quickly, she grabbed Morgan and pulled her out, then pulled the dugout as far out of the rushing stream as she could, carefully securing it by rope to a big tree some distance back from the water. Following Kris's instructions, Morgan helped her unloaded their cargo. She had just got their backpacks to safety when a wall of water rushed around the bend and hit the dugout smashing it against the rocks. Morgan felt the sand beneath her feet turn to water and she awkwardly dived for a overhanging branch. Her body was now submerged in muddy water up to her hips, and the pull of the current was incredible. She could feel her hands slipping.
Then Kris was there pulling her to safety from the bank above. "Thanks," panted Morgan shivering with freight and cold.
The warrior nodded, "Come on, there's an Indian family around here," she explained helping Morgan through the underbrush that grows thickly along the shore until they were on the path that lead from the water to the Indian family's land. It wasn't much to look at, just one wattle and daub house, built round with a conical shaped grass roof and a lean-to not far away that was the cooking area. The family greeted Kris warmly and she talked to them in their own tongue. Kris lead Morgan into the hut that was recessed into the ground. She stripped her down and wrapped her in a blanket and then removed her own clothes and changed into dry ones. The fascinated Indian family crowded in and watched from the far side of the hut. Morgan was passed caring. She was passed thinking. All she wanted to do was curl up and go to sleep but her teeth were chattering too much to let her.
Morgan sat down behind her and pulled her against her chest wrapping warm, strong arms around her. She talked softly to the Indians and the adult male and two children left. "Kris," Morgan mumbled, "How can you be so warm and dry?" she asked but she was asleep before she heard the answer.
Morgan woke to the sound of Indian voices and the smell of wet earth. Forcing her sleepy eyes open, she found herself alone in a round mud hut, on a red earth floor. To her surprise, she found she was naked except for a scratchy, grey blanket that was wrapped around her. She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes as memories of yesterday slowly worked their way back into her conscious mind. Where was Kris, she wondered? Her backpack lay against the wall and she quickly put on some clothes wishing that she could shower first. Her hair was dirty and scraggly and her body powdered with a thin layer of river mud. This must be the place where it gets rough, she thought recalling Kris's words as she squared her shoulders and set a determined jaw.
Kris sat on her heals listening to the talk of the two men that sat with her around the fire under the lean-to. They talked in minute detail of the events of a day's hunt and bragged as men do, of their own contributions or laughed at themselves for some moment of bad luck or judgment. Kris found their talk relaxing. These were hunters like herself. Occasionally, one of the men would poke at the thickening substance in the pot that sat on the hot coals. They were making the poison that they would need for the darts of their blow guns. Kris unconsciously mimicked the mannerisms of the men. Becoming one of them eventhough the tall warrior towered over the short men of the rainforest.
Her mind, that had been thinking about Morgan, focused now on their plans for today's hunt. She was pleased that they allowed her to lead and take the right of the first blood but her face remained deadpan. She nodded acceptance, without honour or conceit as was expected of her. She took leadership not by issuing orders, that would have been rude by Indian custom, but through example, dipping the points of her borrowed darts in the mixture and carefully blowing on the tips to dry the drug.
She was aware of Morgan standing at the doorway of the hut watching her and was pleased that the small doctor had not taken her face by joining her as she sat with the men. Morgan just always seemed to understand. She'd be a good doctor. She had a way with people. Carefully gathering her darts, she dropped them into a bark holder that she strung from a long strap from her shoulder. Then she picked up the long tube-like blow gun as she stood. Some five feet long, the hard wood pipe was perfectly straight and balanced. It felt familiar and comfortable in the warrior's hand. She ducked under the lower edge of the lean-to and walked across the yard to where Morgan waited.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," growled Kris looking down at Morgan.
Morgan smiled with delight and shielded her eyes with her hand from the morning light. "Hi, yourself!" My god! The woman radiated power and control, Morgan acknowledged,
looking at the muscular body leaning casually on a long stick
Kris looked down for a second, scuffing a boot in the dirt as she gathered her focus. Damn, the woman was incredibly beautiful even covered in river mud! Her hair flashed highlights of red in the sunlight and her eyes sparkled with life. Kris's wary and veiled eyes looked up to meet Morgan's, "Ah...I'm going to help with the hunt today. They need food and we've lost a lot of our supplies so we can't really afford to share," Kris explained, then asked as if an after thought, "Are you O.K.?"
Morgan's face broke into a happy smile and she tilted her head and looked at Kris with dancing eyes, "Yes, I'm fine .... You be careful O.K.?" she added earnestly.
Kris smirked raising an eyebrow, "Afraid you'll be left in the middle of the Amazon?"
"No, just care about you," Morgan answered in friendly honestly. To her surprise, the casual remark caused a deep blush to rise up Kris's face and the mighty hunter of a few seconds ago seemed suddenly very vulnerable, then the mask fell and Kris turned abruptly away moving back to the group of men that now waited for her leadership.
She handed one her blow gun and ducked back under the lean-to. Bending she picked up a small gourd and brought it back over to Morgan. "Here, drink this," she instructed holding the bowl out to her charge.
Morgan sniffed and pulled a face, "What is it?" she asked.
The taller woman shrugged, "A root, from the forest, cures stomach infections, you might have taken in some river water yesterday. I thought it best to be sure."
Morgan took the make-shift cup and drank down the bitter substance without question. How much did Kris know about jungle medicine? And did she know of the Ellburn's plant? Morgan wondered as she swallowed with effort pulling a face.
Kris smiled and touched Morgan's arm for a split second then she turned and yelled to the men that waited. One tossed her the blow gun, which she caught easily and they trotted off through the tall trunks that supported the dense canopy of leaves high above.
Morgan spent the day cleaning and airing their gear. The contents of a mud soaked bag, clearly rescued from the river, was partly salvageable but they had lost a lot of their dehydrated food. Fortunately, Morgan's field test kit and medical supplies were safe as were their personal knapsacks. When Morgan acted out washing, the two Indian women and the children lead her to a clear stream with much laughing. They all needed to touch and feel Morgan's long strawberry blond hair which she tolerated with easy grace as she did their laundry under the fascinated eyes of the Indian family. Morgan enjoyed the quiet day to get reorganized and recover from yesterday's misfortune. But as the day wore on she worried more and more about Kris and was relieved when just before dusk the two men returned with her guide each carrying the body of a large monkey.
Kris dropped the burden from her shoulder and walked over to Morgan, "Everything all right?" she asked her eyes inspecting Morgan for any signs of change.
Morgan took away the long stick Kris still held in her hand gingerly and leaned it against the hut, "I'm fine. What is that, anyway?" Morgan asked looking at the taller woman and then at the wood rod.
"Blow gun," explained the guide in her usual concise manner.
"Really!" exclaimed Morgan turning with interest to look at the weapon. She looked back at the older woman, "Another one of your many skills?" she teased and was rewarded with a crooked smile. "Show me," asked Morgan excitedly.
The warrior rooted around for a dart and held it out for the doctor to see. In her hand was a black needle about six inches long. Around one end was tied a bit of white fiber for balance. "Its a type of tree thorn," Kris explained, "The tip is soaked with a drug that is extracted from the skin of a miner frog. It doesn't kill the animal as most people think. It paralyzes them allowing you time to kill it." Morgan nodded her understanding realizing that Kris wanted to share this interest eventhough Morgan was secretly cheering for the animal.
Kris reached behind Morgan to grab the blow gun bringing their bodies close together.
Morgan could smell the tangy spice that was the warrior and feel the dry heat that her body always seemed to radiate. "The tubes are long to keep the accelerating dart on course. The longer the tube the more accurate the shot." Kris dropped a dart in the end and then held the long blow gun close to her face. Taking a deep breath, she puffed into the tube with a sudden, fierce blast. An explosion of air jetted out of the far end and the lethal dart embedded itself into a tree trunk some distance away. Morgan looked at Kris in amazement and gave her a sudden, quick hug. This time Kris did not stiffen with the contact but smiled sheepishly down at the little doctor.
"You are something else, do you know that Kristinia Thanasis?!" Morgan laughed looking up at Kris and shaking her head in disbelief.
Kris scowled playfully and leaned the blow gun back on the hut wall, "Come on, show me were I can clean up and then lets see what there is to eat. I'm starved," she stated and Morgan lead her to the stream to bath waiting a short distance away until Kris returned scrubbed and in fresh clothes. Then she lead the warrior over to the lean-to where she surprised Kris with a good meal of vegetable stew made with a chicken broth base of dehydrated soup. For dessert, they ate a banana from the family's garden. They sat side by side leaning against a log upright watching the men cut up the meat and the women spreading the thin layers of flesh on elevated racks to smoke over hot coals covered with damp leaves. As the grandfather and father worked, they told their women folk and children about the days hunt, talking excitedly and often pointing in Kris's direction. Occasionally, Kris would laugh at something they said or blush deeply.
Morgan sat quietly eating her meal and watched the interaction with interest. She didn't have to understand the language to know that the men saw Kris as the hero of the day. She smiled with pride and found herself, to her surprise, leaning against Kris's arm. If Kris noticed or minded she gave no indication, so Morgan stayed where she was enjoying her comfortable back rest. This is silly, she mussed watching the Indian family work, I'm showing clear signs of possession. Taking pride in Kris's accomplishments and feeling a need to touch her when others are talking about her... get a hold of reality here lady! Kris is your guide. You've known her now for just over a week. She just seems like a close friend. It's hard to remember that she is a stranger.
Kris sighed quietly pleased with the hunt and happy to see the family with a decent food supply. She didn't tell Morgan that it had been her who had found the group of monkeys and her who had managed to kill all three of the older males leaving the troop still healthy and strong. Yet she kind of figured that Morgan realized. The little doctor just seemed to know things about people. She liked the way Morgan showed that she trusted her, leaning comfortably against her for a back rest. This woman was smart, well informed, she of all people had seen through her training what drugs do to people and yet she didn't judge Kris or fear her as so many others did. Kris realized that what she was feeling was happy. She hadn't felt really happy in a very long time. I think that's because you're my friend, she thought looking down at the younger woman who was half asleep beside her. Kris carefully wrapped a protective arm around Morgan letting her lean into her side to keep her warm against the cooling night. A friend. That was a surprising but nice thought Kris decided.
"Why do you have nightmares?" asked Kris softly. She felt the body so close to her own stiffen then force itself to relax.
"I think, dealing with my own injuries, I never really had time to deal with what had happened that night. I..I.. don't know...anyway after all these years, the police caught the three who had killed Ricky. They came to trial this year and got off on a legal technicality. I just couldn't deal with it. I guess I'd got by on being brave and carrying on and all of a sudden I had to face being victimized. I thought volunteering to come out here would help. You know just getting away...But it hasn't."
For a while the two of them stared into the fire. Then Kris's voice came softly, like a disembodied voice from a confessional box. "I'm like them. I 've done bad things and never really had to pay for it."
Morgan looked down at the arm that curved around her back and reached up and squeezed the long, strong hand that hung down passed her shoulder. " I don't know what your past is Kris, put I do know that you feel remorse. They didn't. You've faced your past. They never will." There was no answer. The two sat in silence once more. Gradually, Morgan's eyes closed.
The family had left the meat to smoke, returning occasionally to poke a hard wood stick under the glowing embers to feed the fire. They sat now in quiet talk around the cook oven as the sleepy children leaned moodily against an adult's leg or played quietly near by. Morgan woke to find herself safely secured to her human back rest by Kris's arm. The night was pleasant and the stars brilliant over head. She could hear Kris's breathing as she dozed beside her. Morgan smiled feeling for some reason remarkable content. She couldn't recall feeling that way in a long time.
Looking up she met the eyes of the little Indian girl. She watched Morgan and her dozing friend with shy fascination. Morgan beckoned with her hand but the welcoming smile on Morgan's face froze suddenly twisting into horror as she looked passed the infant and made contact with cold, yellow eyes half hooded as they stared back at her. Instinct reacted, before Morgan had time to think. In a split second, she'd rolled to her feet grabbing a blow gun as a weapon. As the spotted jaguar leapt on the child, Morgan's fighting stick cracked it on the back.
The growling animal sprang back with a cat's horrible screech and prepared to leap at the brave doctor who stood over the child ready to defend her with the thin pole to the death. Suddenly, Kris was in front of her taking the force of the jaguar's leap squarely against her chest. Down she went into the darkness a mass of tumbling muscle and blood. Morgan scooped the wounded child up and herded the shocked family into the safety of the hut gently handing the crying child to her mother. Then she turned to run back to her weapon, determined to rescue her friend from the predator.
There in the dim fire glow stood Kris. The corpse of the jaguar in her one hand and a bloodied knife in the other. Her face was distorted in a hideous expression of pure, vicious joy. Looking down, her cold eyes met Morgan's in a violent impact of challenge then faulted as they recognized the little doctor. Morgan gasped and took a step back and Kris mouth curled up slightly in a cruel smile. "Go help the child," she growled radiating barely controlled power. Morgan nodded and backed away, then turned and ran awkwardly back to the hut, hearing a moan of rage from the darkness behind her.
The child had a deep claw mark down her back. Morgan worked carefully, very aware of the appalling sanitary conditions around her. She cleaned the wound and was relieved when the old grandmother brought a clay pot of hot water. She cleaned her hands with a disinfectant cream and sewed up the worst cuts after using most of her supply of freezing on the area. Then, she carefully bandaged the wound talking softly to the child as she worked. The mother looked anxiously at the small doctor and Morgan smiled her reassurance as she gathered up her equipment and with a worried frown went to look for Kris.
She found her sitting, leaning against the post again that support the lean-to. The dead body of the jaguar was near by and Kris still held the bloody knife in her hand. Her eyes were far away and the look of despair on her face wrenched at Morgan's heart. Kneeling beside the woman, she carefully pulled the bloody knife from Kris's limp fingers and set it aside. Then she gently moved aside the shredded shirt to see better the damage. Kris's left arm and shoulder had been mauled and blood ran from a bite mark near her neck. A little closer and it could have been her jugular, Morgan realized and that made her heart jump with freight. She wet a cloth in the hot water and cleaned away the excess blood and then went to work sewing the warrior's wounds, well aware that she had no freezing left to offer her.
Kris watched with tired, disinterested eyes. Occasionally, the eyes would tighten in pain or a quiet gasp would escape her lips but that was all. Morgan talked to her softy, telling her what she was doing and funny stories that had happened to her while she was doing her internship. She wrapped Kris's arm and shoulder in a deep layer of bandages and then gave her a shot against infection. Kris watched every move but said nothing. As Morgan leaned back from her work her soft green eyes locked to confused, hurting blues. On a sudden impulse, Morgan leaned forward and kissed Kris lightly on her damp forehead. "Thank you. You saved my life again." she smiled into those blue depths and saw there for a split second a look of utter relief before the eyes dropped. "Can you help me? I need to get you into the hut," explained Morgan wrapping an arm around Kris and trying to stand with the weight of the fallen warrior over her good leg.
Kris stood up and swayed a little then she took Morgan by the shoulders and looked down at the startled woman in the fading firelight. "You scared the hell out of me," she whispered.
Morgan smiled back at the confused and upset face, "Yeah, well you scared the hell out of me!" responded the shorter woman honestly. Kris smiled nervously and allowed Morgan to help her to the hut. Inside, Morgan fussed over getting her guide settled and then sat between the bodies of the warrior and little child caring for them during the night.
When Kris woke in the morning it was to pulsating pain. It took her a few minutes to be aware of anything else. When she was, she found to her surprise, her friend sleeping soundly, her head gently resting against the guide's stomach. On impulse, she lifted a weak hand and picked up a lock of the blond hair playing with it thoughtfully. A slight shifting and she looked up to see sleepy green eyes looking back at her. "Hi," she mumbled tentatively.
Morgan smiled and raised a tired fist to rub at her eyes. " It's nice having a friend that's such a good pillow," mumbled the doctor closing her eyes again. She felt the soft laughter of the warrior underneath her.
"What if your friend needs to get up and get us ready for the trial?" challenged Kris gently, well aware that she was weak from the loss of blood and wouldn't be going anywhere for a while.
"Not going to happen," explained the little woman confidently looking sideways at the startled face.
An eyebrow rose, "Says who?" the warrior asked incredulously.
"Said your doctor," smirked the smaller woman keeping her head firmly on the warrior's lap.
Blue eyes looked at her with a mixture of confusion and uncertainty. "I'll be O.K. Morgan. I heal really quickly," the dark-haired woman explained.
"Yeah, I know I've been watching the wound in amazement all night. It almost closed before my eyes. But both my patient's are running low grade fevers and I'm exhausted. So be a good little pillow and lie still, O.K.?" said Morgan reaching over to touch Kris's cheek with the back of her fingers to see if the fever had risen any while she had slept. Kris shook her off with a scowl but lay quietly and closed her eyes. For some time Morgan just looked at her.
So Kris let me this close. Major risk and victory, Morgan mused. I want her. I think. I wish I had more experience. Hell! I wish I had any experience! The truth was Morgan had excelled through school. The child prodigy who never had peers her own age with who to socialize. And then later, during her internship when the age differences wouldn't have been as noticeable, there had been that fatal night and then the long struggle to recovery. She was pretty sure she liked women. At least, when Ricky and her had opened up to each other she felt comfortable with that decision. And she was attracted to Kris. My God! Who wouldn't be? But this wasn't hypothetical now. She was laying here with her head cradled on the guide's body and Kris was allowing it. It was exciting and very, very scary.
The morning had been a success, Morgan thought. She'd kept Kris in the hut until the sun was well up. Then she had suggested that the guide might want to clean her guns and this kept the woman busy until the oppressive heat of the noon sun. But now she could see definite signs a restless irritability coming on. Morgan sighed wrapping up the healing wound of the small child and patting her mom encouragingly. These last few weeks, as her tall patient had healed was teaching her a real healthy respect for the nursing profession! She pasted on a bright smile and walked over to the warrior who was pacing back and forth across the yard like a caged animal. "You want to go for a walk?" asked Morgan looking up at her patient.
Kris looked sulky and murderous. "I've always hated doctors ," she rumbled, "And now I remember why!"
Morgan smiled patiently and pulled on Kris's good arm. "Come on lets put the time to good use. You can tell me what to watch out for now that our canoe is lost and we have to cut over land."
This argument anyway seemed to appeal to the guide's pragmatic mind and Morgan soon found herself trying to keep up with the long strides of the restless warrior who was leading them deeper and deeper into the rainforest at a breakneck pace. "Whoa! Stop!," gasped Morgan flopping down on the ground. The guide some distance ahead turned and realized she had lost her company and sheepishly sauntered back rubbing her nose.
"Ahhh, sorry, I... ahhh," she shrugged then froze. "Morgan don't move," whispered the worried older woman. Morgan froze and stifled a scream as she felt hairy legs crawling across her bare ankle. Looking down, she saw a large, black spider moving up her leg. Kris slowly squatted beside the terrified doctor.
"Tell me it isn't what I think it is," Morgan whispered feeling more secure now that the capable guide was so near.
"Yeah it is," sighed the warrior as her hand shot out with incredible speed and knocked the Black Widow spider off Morgan's leg. With her other hand she pulled Morgan up and away propelling the little woman against her chest. Instinctively, Kris's arms wrapped around the smaller woman steadying her. She looked down just as Morgan looked up and they shared the warm sweet air from each other's mouths. Morgan's arms slid up Kris's arms and Kris lowered her head... then she stepped back suddenly swallowing. "Ahh... er...lesson number one," Kris stuttered trying to get hold of herself, " Always look before you sit down an..." Kris's lesson was cut short by Morgan turning her around and reaching up on tiptoes to gentle brush her lips against the warrior's.
She lowered back down again and waited nervously for some sort of reaction from the stunned guide. Then long, strong arms wrapped around her pulling her in close and a dark head lowered capturing Morgan's lips in a long passionate kiss. Morgan's lips parted and Kris entered her demanding more. Their tongues caressed and Morgan moaned into her warrior's mouth as desire rocketed through her being. The kiss ended leaving them both shaken, Kris holding Morgan tightly to her. Her head resting on top of that of her friend's.
"This can't happen," moaned the guide rocking Morgan gentle in her arms.
"It has," stated the smaller woman burying her head in Kris's chest.
"You don't known me. I can't bring you into my world. You deserve better, Morgan," argued Kris her voice filled with pain.
Morgan looked up wrapping her arms around her warrior's neck, "I've got the best," she answered the argument simply.
Kris pulled her close again, "You ever..."
"No." Suddenly the little woman stiffened and turned away from the warrior, "I'm sorry. That wasn't fair of me. I...I... I mean I guess you know a lot of beautiful, and interesting people and I'm ...crippled and scarred and..."
Kris wrapped her arms around the shaking back, "You are so beautiful that looking at you makes my body ache with desire. When I'm with you your soul reaches out to me and ...and I'm happy. Really, really happy," confessed Kris hurting at her friend's insecurity. She walked around her small friend and looked into eyes wet with tears.
Bending she kissed them away gently then captured Morgan's mouth again in a sweet, tender kiss. "I'm so scared that you'll get hurt because of my past."
Morgan buried her head against the rough, cotton shirt of her friend. "It's like I've always known you. Like I'm coming home." Morgan realized that Kris couldn't be pushed, that she needed time and space to come to terms with what had just happened. She realized too that her accident and the demands of her training had robbed her of the years when she should have been dating and forming relationships. She was worried if she could please the worldly Kris, if she could handle such emotion with such little experience. "So what was lesson one?" Morgan asked backing off.
Kris wrapped an arm over her shoulder and gave her a squeeze. Then she pulled away herself and walked over to where Morgan had been sitting. "See this hole in the ground about the width of a finger. That's a Black Widow nest. See the little bit of webbing at the mouth. You got to watch out for them because its their habit to jump out and attack their prey." Kris demonstrated with the tip of a stick and the angry spider darted out and then scurried back into it's hole.
"Hmm," observed Kris, "From now on I'm circling around three times like a dog before I sit!"
Kris laughed and came over to stand in front of the little doctor, their eyes met and the warrior leaned over cautiously and kissed Morgan's forehead, "It wasn't a dream. Was it?" she murmured into Morgan's soft hair.
"God, I hope not," responded Morgan hugging her friend to her as hard as she could. They parted and Kris smiled broadly matching the silly grin on Morgan's face. Then the guide jerked her head towards the path and they set off again at a more moderate pace.
The walk was pleasant and Morgan realized just how much the dark warrior knew about the world in which she had lived for so many years. Kris talked in her abrupt, concise speech, naming and explaining about the flora and fauna around them.
At a waterfalls they stopped to rest and talk. Kris pointed out to her the wild parasitic orchids that clustered to the tree trunks near by. And under a damp ledge, she showed her the small, black frog with gold spots, the skin of which produced the nerve drug used on the Indian darts. "They call it a miner frog because you find it amongst rocks and it has these gold spots," Kris explained. It was late afternoon when they returned to the Indian encampment hand in hand.
Kris went immediately to inspect the jaguar hide that the women were curing and Morgan sorted through the few remaining supplies to put together a special meal for her...what? Girlfriend? Lover? No, not yet. No. Soulmate. Kris was her soulmate.
Some how the scary, haunted woman made her feel complete. Did Kris feel the same way, she wondered?
They ate under the lean-to as was their routine. Morgan served Beef Stroganoff over rice from their dwindling dehydrated food supply. Then for dessert she showed her friend how to spear the pieces of pineapple, she had cut up, on to a stick and roll them in brown sugar. She held the stick close to the hot embers of the fire to caramelize the sugar before offering the sweet morsel to Kris. Kris opened her mouth and let Morgan feed her and Morgan shook at the intensity of emotion that past between them. Kris pulled her eyes away and prepared a piece for Morgan. But when Morgan slipped the caramelized fruit into her mouth, Kris leaned forward and kissed her. The sweet fruit passing from Morgan's mouth to Kris's. For a very long time the world stood still for the two of them. Then Morgan blushed and looked away finding the desire in Kris's eyes hard to bare. Kris made another piece and handed the stick to Morgan, allowing her some time to adjust to the intense love play that Kris had instigated with dessert. "This is excellent, Morgan," said Kris toasting a piece for herself.
"It's better when you roll it in whip cream after your caramelize the sugar, " stated Morgan popping another into her mouth.
Kris looked up with an evil grin, "Whip cream, huh? That would certainly added to the...dessert," she suggested in a silky voice raising an eyebrow.
Morgan laughed and gave her a push with her shoulder, "No, it just gets very messy!" The body beside hers stiffened and went very still. Morgan turned to look into hurt eyes.
"You've made this for someone before?" Kris tried to ask casually, fighting down horrible images of someone else licking whip cream from Morgan's lips.
Morgan's eyes danced with laughter, Kris was jealous! Of her, for gods sakes! "Uh huh, A really good looking woman who I lived with for ages," explained Morgan watching Kris's face harden. She leaned over and whispered in Kris's ear, "My mother."
Relief washed through Kris's body and she laughed at her own insecurity. Morgan gave her a quick beck to the cheek and then started to clean up while the warrior watched her every move. The two of them carried their dishes to the stream and washed them then stripped down and got into the water together.
Kris forced herself to give Morgan space eventhough every fiber of her being was demanding satisfaction. Only when they had finished washing did Kris move close and let her naked body touch Morgan's. They kissed, long and intense as their hands explored each other's lines. Then pulling away with a groan, Kris helped Morgan to where her brace lay and left her to dry and dress while she did the same. With Morgan tucked under Kris's arm, they walked back towards the homestead. Coming on an area of slash and burn agriculture, Kris paused, a strained look on her face as her jaw muscles tightened. She broke contact with Morgan and walked over to some straight green plants growing among the root crops and sat on her heels.
"This is cocaine, Morgan," explained Kris bitterly pulling off one of the green leaves and idly playing with it between her fingers. Most villagers have a small plot." The jaw worked and Morgan waited silent and still, allowing Kris to say what she needed to say in her own way. "My family is very, very rich Morgan. Billionaires," Kris turned to make eye contact with the doctor that had come to mean so much to her so quickly. "Because of this," she said holding up the now mangled leaf. Druglords, my father...me," she admitted softly, "until I left." She looked away unable to deal with the shock in Morgan's face. "I...I've done some horrible things for my father." Silence. Kris stood, dropping the leaf to the ground through her long fingers. "I'm sorry, I should have told you before we started to... Look it's O.K. ...we don't..." Kris turned away swallowing. This was so damn hard.
Suddenly, Morgan was there holding her cold hands. "I..don't like this Kris. I..I'm going to have some trouble with it. That you've done...that you could... but I don't think you are that person now. I'm counting on it because I don't want to stop what is happening between us. I believe in you Kris." Kris inhaled with a choke and wrapped Morgan to her.
"I don't deserve this to be happening," she groaned roughly, holding on tight.
"Shhh, let's not deal with it all at once O.K.? Let's just see how everything works out.
Come on," smiled Morgan bravely, patting Kris's arm. Kris smiled shakily and allowed Morgan to lead her on willingly.
"Does this family always live all alone?" asked Morgan changing the subject to allow Kris to get over some of the deep emotion that had come to the surface when she had confessed to her.
Kris cleared her throat and looked everywhere but at Morgan. Her pragmatic mind confused by her actions. Christ! She'd just told someone who she was! After being officially dead for two years! What the hell was she getting herself into? What was she getting Morgan into? She tried to relax. "Pretty much. Black rivers don't support a large food supply so the area has a pretty low population density. Here you only find single family dwelling sites. When we get into Yanamamo territory you'll see palisade villages. Its a pretty dense population there and there is a lot of warfare." Morgan nodded wanting to take in as much information as she could. Wanting to understand Kris's world.
That night, Morgan rolled out her blanket in the hut to sleep while the eyes of the Indian family watched her. Kris ducked into the hut last and barracked the doorway before she dropped down beside Morgan. Rolling over on her side, she placed a long arm over the little doctor's body and kissed her on the cheek. Morgan rolled towards her and Kris pulled her into her side touched when the small woman placed her head on Kris's shoulder and wrapped a possessive arm around her body.
The villagers giggled and one of the men said something to Kris in their language. Kris answered back good naturally and the little family laughed wholeheartedly and then settled down to sleep. "What was that about?" muttered Morgan feeling a little embarrassed.
"Ahh, well, it was a little barroom humour, I'm afraid. Guess I'll have to tolerate a bit of that under the circumstance," replied Kris.
Morgan looked up into Kris's eyes, "Explain," she ordered.
Kris blushed, "Ahh well, He asked if I was a man now and I told him there was enough of the hunter in me to satisfy you."
For a moment their eyes remained locked, Morgan trying to read Kris's complex and ever shifting mind. Then she snuggled down again, "You'd better be able to live up to that boast, hunter," she warned. She felt Kris's body relax and a gentle, strong hand rubbed her back until she fell asleep.