It had been a hellish day at work and in spite of every effort, she had not managed to get out of the office in enough time to comfortably make it to her scheduled activity for the evening.
By the time she had turned her car into the parking lot of the large warehouse that was her eventual destination, she actually had to sit in her car for a few long moments to gather her wits about her. It would not do to storm into the place in a bad mood on the first day, so after a few moments, Theran reached into the backseat of her car and grabbed her bag and was soon striding towards the front door of the warehouse.
Thankfully, the door opened easily and Theran was in fact, on time, though only just, so it was with quick steps that she went to the locker room to change, having already decided that she absolutely would not be late.
Moments later, she emerged wearing form sitting sweats with a battered pair of sneakers on her feet and a small duffel dangling from her hand as she moved towards the center of the high warehouse. A small crowd of about half a dozen people had already gathered, each dressed similarly to Theran and each gawking at something that was just beyond Theran's line of sight.
Intensely curious, Theran pushed her way to the front of the group and then it was her turn to gawk; this is what they had all come here for...
- Chapter Two -
Suspended high above her audience, Kiera Aigner was easily able to completely ignore it and concentrate on the task at hand, which, all things considered was absolutely essential for her immediate wellbeing, if not her survival itself...
The top of the climbing wall was only 2 more feet away but the bottom was about a sixty-odd feet away, so now was not the time to make any mistakes. Kiera had never not finished a climb and she was not about to start now.
Finally, a last grip and Kiera touched the ceiling with the top of her head, time to go down now...
After checking her harness, she clipped the waiting rope to it and then simply let go of the wall and allowed the mechanism to gently lower her to the ground. As she touched down, a burst of applause surrounded her and for a brief moment, the proud brunette woman warred with alternating feelings of pride and irritation.
She only climbed for herself, but right now necessity was forcing her to take on students, people eager to pay lots of money to learn from the best. Kiera was one of the best, known for taking on any climb and for not using ropes or other equipment to anchor herself to the rock face or wall or anything else for that matter. If her grip failed, if she misjudged, she would plummet to an untimely death, or at least a very nasty bump.
Turning to face her new students, the tall brunette climber carefully closed her expression and proceeded to examine each of the six people silently, intently...
A prerequisite of this highly advanced climbing course was that a minimum of two certifications was required and 5 years of regular climbing experience demanded. Kiera was not here to teach these people how to use the equipment or how to check knots, she was here to teach them how to use their bodies and their minds.
After a long series of moments passed, Kiera finally spoke, her voice slightly rough from disuse, but still strong and confident.
"Welcome! I am Kiera Aigner and I will be teaching you this course. In the next two weeks, we will go from the smaller walls, to this big wall and then a natural wall before going outdoors. The culmination of the course will be a climb that we will hike to, camp at and then complete, before we hike out again. Class begins at 4 pm sharp on weekdays and 2 pm on Saturday and Sundays. The door will be locked at one minute past the hour, no exceptions will be made, this is serious business... Any questions?" Kiera hid a slight smile that threatened for form as she finished speaking, having noticed the not too subtle facial expressions of her new students at the news they had just received.
It was going to be a long fourteen days...
- Chapter Three -
Theran did not know weather to be outraged or to laugh at the woman who was going to be their teacher. Each of them had paid over two thousand dollars plus tax to be part of this course and though the contract they had signed had made it clear that it was an intensive course, Theran was a little surprised at the seeming severity that their teacher exuded.
'Oh grow up, you are here voluntarily Terry!' Her inner voice hissed at her contemptuously, even using a hated nickname from her childhood as it did.
Refocusing her attention on Kiera Aigner, Theran realised that the dark haired woman was preparing to inspect their gear...
Suddenly irrationally nervous, Theran opened the small duffel bag at her feet and brought out her climbing gear, well some of it anyway. They had been told to bring only the basics and had been assured that all ropes and larger equipment would be provided as needed.
As she was pulling her climbing shoes out, followed by her chalk bag and a half pound bag of chalk, Theran saw a pair of bare feet enter her line of sight. Kiera...
Realising that the climber had removed her climbing shoes in favor for going barefoot, Theran could not help herself as her eyes moved up a glorious expanse of well muscled bare leg. This woman was built! Raw power and feline grace, even while standing still and focusing on something as mundane as equipment.
"When you're not climbing, I want you to go barefoot to give your feet a break. Make sure that you don't bring anything sharp onto the mats, we don't need any injured feet. Keep your muscles warm, so wear your sweats when you're not on a wall or training. This will be the only equipment inspection I will make..." Kiera's voice was beautiful, Theran decided as she watched the woman move on to the next person. Obviously the dark haired climber had found Theran's equipment to be satisfactory.
Wordlessly Theran removed her shoes and socks, suddenly realising the wisdom in Kiera's words. It would help keep their feet dry and would mean that the delicate bones of the foot would have a break from the rather unyielding and tight confines of climbing shoes in between climbs. Theran had noticed that Kiera's feet were stained with chalk, obviously their instructor chalked her feet in addition to her hands...
Dismissing her errant thoughts Theran finished with her duffel bag, readying her equipment: Harness, shoes, chalk, chalk ball, climbing balm and tape. She left her repair kit in the bag along with her sunglasses, polarized and with exchangeable lenses to allow for differing light conditions.
"Okay everyone, harness on and double check, then shoes and chalk, I want to evaluate you on this ten foot section of wall over here. No showing off, I am not looking to be impressed, I just want to see you move..." Kiera's voice carried easily over the relative stillness in the warehouse and Theran found herself grateful that her fellow students seemed to be just as serious as she was, not talking much or milling around like nervous cattle.
- Chapter Four -
Kiera watched with a critical eye as her new students approached the small wall, this would be their first test. Ten feet was not far to fall, all of the climbers should know how to crash safely, but it still demanded nerve and if they hesitated now, it could mean that the person was not suitable for free climbing.
Moving closer to the blonde haired woman who Kiera knew to be Theran Ryan, she examined the woman's technique. Theran had not hesitated at the wall, rather had given it one long studied look and then had promptly scaled it like she had been born to go up walls.
"Good..." Kiera said outloud and did not miss the slight start in Theran, which actually pleased her. It was a mark of a good climber if one was so focused that others simply disappeared, rock climbing was not a team sport.
After half an hour of observation, Kiera called her students to order and stood before them.
"Okay, now it begins... Each of you has been provided with a notebook. It contains information that I want you to absorb and exercises I want you to make your own..." Kiera's voice was low steady as she spoke...
And so the afternoon wound into evening and then into night and after the students had helped Kiera secure the warehouse, they were dismissed.
Kiera was pleased, tomorrow everyone would be sore and tonight they would sleep well.
Maybe this would not be so bad after all and after she collected her slice of the fee, she would be free to simply be for the next few months, something which she desperately wanted and which gave her the needed motivation to bring this course to its completion.
- Chapter Five -
Theran sat in her car and watched as Kiera walked smoothly over to a powerful looking motorcycle and swiftly climbed aboard. The dark haired climber had completely intrigued Theran as the evening had progressed and it was clear that Kiera Aigner was one of the best, if not the best climber that Theran had seen.
After an hour of working on grips on the ten foot wall, Kiera had moved them to a twenty foot wall and had gotten them to work on it for another hour, without any ropes. The whole purpose of the two week course was to transform them into climbers who could undertake climbing without any more equipment than a chalk bag and shoes.
The remaining two hours of the session were filled with a careful selection of exercises that were designed to stretch and strengthen muscles that Theran had not really knows she even had.
Turning her attention back to her teacher, who was still sitting on her motorcycle, not moving, Theran started to wonder what the other woman was doing. Belatedly, Theran realised that the woman was probably locked in thought, the realization making Theran reluctant to start the engine of her car, lest it disturb the dark woman.
As if prompted by Theran's thought, the leather clad climber slid her helmet into place and a moment later, Theran heard the powerful motor of the motorcycle engage before Kiera disappeared into the night.
Kiera had told them that the warehouse would be open from 3 pm onwards and that they were welcome to show up early if they wished, but that it did not mean they could leave early. This was a serious course and they had made the commitment to do it according to Kiera Aigner's requirements...
- Chapter Six -
The next day found Theran rushing to leave work early and get to the warehouse, for some reason that she could not explain, that had precious little to do with climbing, she wanted to simply be there. The knowledge that she might be able to spend some time alone with Kiera helped of course and with that thought in mind, Theran made her way to the warehouse, driving quickly in the light early afternoon traffic.
As she switched off the engine to her car, Theran was pleased to note that aside from Kiera's powerful motorbike, the small parking lot was empty. Grabbing her bag, she practically leapt from her car and quickly entered the warehouse, stopping for a few moments as her eyes adjusted to the change in light.
There was no sign of Kiera, but then Theran slapped herself mentally.
'Look up you moron...' Her ever helpful inner voice said and sure enough, at the top of the 60 foot wall, the highest one in the warehouse, was Kiera Aigner.
'Sans rope...' Her mind amended, as Theran removed her sneakers and left them next to her duffel bag, walking closer to the wall to examine the climber in her element.
A moment later, Theran noticed something extraordinary, instead of hooking to the rope that was dangling within reach and repelling her way down, Kiera was climbing down.
The descent seemed to be unnaturally swift and within an absurdly short time, Theran found herself staring at Kiera as the dark haired woman seemed to collect herself for a long moment.
"Wow!" Theran could not help herself from saying as Kiera turned to look at her, her face a mask.
"Hello Theran, good that you are here early. Why don't you do the basic warm up and stretch and then we can go to the 20 foot wall and work on it..." The smooth voice was slightly accented, Theran realised, as the master climber bent down to remover her shoes.
Involuntarily almost, Theran found herself glancing down to examine Kiera's shoes. Unable to recognise the make and model of them, Theran waited until the dark haired woman stood with shoes in hand before she spoke.
"What kind of shoes do you have?" Theran could feel Kiera's eyes on her, seeming to examine her minutely as Theran waited for the woman to answer her.
Theran also became aware of something else, now that she had the opportunity to look at Kiera in private from such a close proximity. The woman had eyes that were dark as night, in fact, Theran was sure that they were black. Their color gave them an unreadable quality that in no way however, took away from their beauty...
'Where did that thought come from Terry, surely you're not thinking you have a chance with Miss Tall-and-Dark and probably only speaks in Haiku?' Her inner voice sneered as Theran tried to regain her mental footing.
"I have them made for me..." Came the eventual reply from Kiera and then the dark haired climber turned away and walked to her equipment bag.
Stunned, Theran quickly moved away from the wall and warmed up her limbs and got her heart going, before stretching lightly, then it was time to climb.
Grabbing her chalk bag and her shoes, Theran did one last check on her harness and then walked over to the 20 foot wall where Kiera was waiting patiently.
The climber had her unruly dark hair pulled back in a ponytail and was dressed in lose sweats, however Theran thought that Kiera did indeed somehow embody the image of a Samurai that had popped into her mind earlier; or maybe a Ninja, judging by how the woman walked up walls like a human spider.
'Snap out of it!' Her mind demanded as Theran bent to chalk her feet, before quickly securing her shoes and then turning to face Kiera.
"I want you to go up and down the 4 main routes on this wall. There is no time limit, but as it is only a 20 foot wall and down here is well padded, I want you to do the up without the rope." Theran paused for one stunned moment, but then quickly realised that Kiera would not have suggested something that the dark woman did not feel she was up to.
"Okay!" Theran said and in another moment had carefully chalked her hands and after a moment of study, had latched onto the wall.
'I can do this!' She reminded herself, pleased that she did not seem to have much trouble blocking out Kiera from the periphery of her mind...
- Chapter Seven -
Kiera watched Theran make her initial grab on the wall and decided that it was time that she started to teach, rather than simply watch.
"When you grab the handholds, don't d it with such ferocity. Focus on using your fingertips..." Kiera said and moved beside the blonde haired woman.
"No, don't let go of the wall, if you were higher it would not be possible." Kiera said softly as she saw Theran move to step off the wall.
Now behind the other woman, Kiera used her hand to adjust Theran's hold on the wall, moving it slightly so that the grip was concentrated on the fingertips.
The smaller woman hanging onto the wall responded instantly to the adjustment and Kiera was pleased to note that she adjusted the grip of her other hand automatically.
"Good, now try..." Kiera said and a moment later, Theran moved up the wall another notch.
"That's it, now to the top. This is the easy route, so just concentrate on your grip and your movements..." Kiera said as she moved away from under Theran.
If the woman fell, there was precious little Kiera would be able to aside from hope that Theran was able to fall as well as her climbing resume suggested that she should be able to.
It did not take Theran very long to reach the top and once there, Kiera called up to her.
"All systems go?" Kiera could tell from the woman's posture that she was fine, but it never hurt to get verbal conformation especially when this was somewhat new to Theran.
"Yes, I am ok. Just collecting myself for the trip down." Theran called back and some moment's later Kiera watched as the other woman clipped onto the rope before picking her way down the wall with exquisite care.
One on the ground, Theran turned to look at Kiera and smiled.
"That was great, the stuff you said about my grip really helped, thank you!" Her enthusiasm was palpable and Kiera found herself enjoying Theran's energy.
Eyes as blue as a tropical sea examined her for several long moments before Kiera cleared her throat minutely.
"Time for the next route, this one is harder... Just remember, it's not a timed event." Uncomfortable somehow under the weight of the antipodean blue gaze, Kiera tore her eyes away discreetly and moved to the next section of wall.
This part had less holds and they were more difficult, Theran would need to stretch more and each grip would be more challenging, demanding more perfection, fewer mistakes...
- Chapter Eight -
By the time Theran was coming down from the second route, other students had started to trickle in so Kiera was forced to call a halt to the private lessons.
The afternoon progressed quickly and soon evening had closed around their little group as the climbers practiced and drilled, all under the watchful and demanding eyes of Kiera. The dark woman had no patience for slackers and thankfully, this group did not seem to contain any.
Eight o'clock rolled around and they spent ten minutes clearing up and packing equipment before Kiera bid them good night, reminding them that it was weekend and the start time was 2 pm.
As she moved out to her motorcycle, Kiera spared a glance towards where she knew Theran's car was parked just in time to see the blonde haired woman get into the car.
As if seeming to sense her perusal, the other woman looked her way and even in the dimness of the night, Kiera could clearly see that the woman was smiling.
"See you tomorrow Kiera!" Theran called out before she slammed her door shut and drove off into the night.
Confused as to why she was somehow interested in the blue eyed woman, Kiera swung her leg over her bike and stared into the night. Normally, she was a complete loner, with the only real friend she had ever had having died in a very bad fall some years ago; her only friend and her brother as well.
Kiera Aigner was a woman who had always kept to herself...
Shaping her head, the dark haired woman quickly started the powerful bike and rode off into the night, clearing her mind as the machine ate the distance and the darkness swallowed her up once more into its mysterious embrace.
- Chapter Nine -
By the time she got home, Theran had determined that she wanted to try to find out more about Kiera Aigner. The mysterious, dark woman had captured Theran's attention from the start and now she wanted to satisfy at least some of that curiosity.
Moving swiftly into her small but comfortable apartment, Theran paused only to wash the chalk from her hands and to grab a bottle of water from her fridge, before she moved to her computer and quickly booted it up.
Someone with Kiera's talent had to be on the internet, right?
Theran smiled at her inner reasoning as she settled herself in front of the machine and when it was ready, she was quickly online and entering Kiera's name into the search field on her web browser.
"Oh my!" Theran could not help but exclaim outloud as her search returned over a thousand hits, on quickly glance, nearly all relating to rock climbing.
Half an hour later, Theran had determined a few things about her teacher, namely that the woman was every bit as good as she was claimed to be in the sign up brochure and that what Theran had seen the woman doing so far, was barely a stroll in the park for her.
'Come on Terry, time to go to bed, long day tomorrow and Sunday!' Her inner voice reminded her as Theran clicked on an image thumbnail and was suddenly confronted with a full screen sized closeup of Kiera Aigner.
The woman was gorgeous, making Theran wonder about her possible heritage...
The name was certainly unusual, but no more so than her own, however, the eyes, black as night, they were Kiera's most unusual feature by far, also one of the most striking.
Theran impulsively saved the image to her hardrive and then went through the motions of shutting her computer down and then she padded off to her bathroom, with aspirations of shower and sleep in her head.
What had captivated her so quickly when it came to Kiera Aigner?
'One would have to be blind not to see the physical reasons and possibly dead too...' Theran mused as she stood under the hot spray of her shower, allowing it to wash away the sweat and chalk and aches and pains of the day.
Standing tall at about 5' 10" and the epitome of athletic and physical perfection, Kiera was a sight to behold. Smooth, blemish free skin, even white teeth and sparkling eyes clearly broadcasting that the woman took great care of herself and was as healthy as they came.
Theran was smart enough to realise that she had developed a crush on her teacher and that alone was unusual, she had spent her life in more solitary pursuits and her bed was empty of her own choosing, not by fate's design. Theran had friends and colleagues and even family, all of whom she saw regularly, but in reality, she lived in a solitary world occupied by her thoughts and dreams.
It was quite unusual for her to be thinking about someone in the way that she was thinking about Kiera Aigner.
After carefully setting her alarm clock, Theran rolled over and was almost instantly asleep...
- Chapter Ten -
Kiera arrived at the warehouse the next day shortly after 10 am, wanting to get some personal exercise in before her students arrived and she was also there to supervise the 'natural' wall that was going to be erected to go next to the big wall.
Designed to replicate a cliff face more accurately than the standard wall, it would serve as an invaluable tool to prepare her students for the challenges ahead. The dark haired master climber intended to bring her students outside on Monday and this would make a good preliminary step.
With luck, all of her students would be ready for the big climb that was scheduled for the end of the course...
For the weekend, Kiera had enlisted the help of two former students of hers, who out of respect and loyalty for their teacher had willingly dropped everything and come running.
It was rare that Kiera asked for help and anyone asked was someone who had been through more than this preliminary training with the master climber.
The dark climber ran 3 climbing courses, this being the basic one. Each one was held only once a year...
By the time she entered the warehouse the new wall was being secured into place and Kiera was very glad to see her students had arrived. The two men had completed all three of the courses that Kiera offered and had been infected with the same climbing bug that drove the dark climber.
Minimal equipment, impossible heights, mind boggling climbs...
"Hey there you two!" Kiera called out when she entered the warehouse, immediately the two men dropped the ropes that they were coiling and moved towards their mentor.
"Kiera!" Said the smaller of the two men as he paused only briefly before embracing the dark woman. His embrace was quickly followed by a warm handshake by the larger of the two men.
"Ready to roll?" Asked Kiera as she glanced up at the very realistic looking wall that was being bolted into place by an army of men with cranes.
"They say another twenty minutes to finish and clear out and then it's all ours!" The smaller man informed her, making Kiera smile with his enthusiasm.
She had chosen the two due to their contrasting personalities. Jon, the smaller of the two men was affectionate and bubbly, Lex, the larger of the men, was serious and reserved.
Both had completed Kiera's courses in the top 3 percentile and Kiera had used their services in the past. Unspoken and understood loyalty among the 3 climbers meant that they could rely on eachother unconditionally. The sort of trust that was needed for the death-defying feats that they performed with relative frequency.
Half an hour later found all three climbers on the new wall, each absorbed in their own world of being human spiders...
Eventually, afternoon came and with it Kiera's new students and the trio proceeded to guide them in the finer points of climbing, an activity which quickly ate up the day, the afternoon and then evening...
Eventually night fell and it was time to leave once again, so after clearing up the group dispersed quickly.
- Chapter Eleven -
The next day came quickly and Theran found herself working alone with Kiera, much to her pleasure and her surprise. The master climber's two students seemed to be highly competent and the others in the group were progressing nicely under their tutelage.
Two of the new students had been forced to withdraw from the course, one due to the need for an emergency appendectomy and the other for personal reasons, which left 5 students being tended by 3 teachers.
Jon and Lex, the two men who Kiera had helping her, were acting namely as auxiliary teachers, enforcing whatever Kiera was teaching, rather than teaching anything themselves.
Theran had been somewhat surprised when she had arrived the day before and discovered the two men working with Kiera, but the confusion was quickly cleared up when Kiera had introduced them as apprentices of hers. Apparently if one reached a certain level of competence and attitude under Kiera's tutelage, the dark master climber would take a personal interest in your climbing career.
Theran had instantly decided that she would aspire to this, so when she found herself with Kiera's undivided attention late on Sunday afternoon, she decided to make the most of it.
"Next week we will work outside mainly, unless the weather does not permit it, so now is the time to get practice in on this natural wall." Kiera had told her quietly as Theran had been gazing up the sheer wall, trying to find a likely route amongst the shadows created by the lighting in the warehouse.
Secured by ropes for her first attempt, Theran carefully chalked her hands and took one last breath to steady her nerves as she attempted a more difficult portion of the wall for the first time.
Already in a few days, the blonde haired woman could feel a distinct difference in her climbing, as it became more precise and focused and careful. Without effort, she dismissed the other people and sounds in the warehouse from her mind and then stepped onto the wall, a feeling of almost spiritual awakening occurring within her as she touched the artificial stone.
Startled, she lost her grip and stumbled backwards, only to be caught by warm and strong arms that encircled her briefly before standing her up.
Blushing, Theran turned to look into eyes that were black as night, but that were filled with a sparkling light.
"You felt it, didn't you?" Kiera asked quietly, her smooth voice almost a whisper.
Momentarily taken aback, Theran nodded silently and was rewarded with a small smile from the master climber.
"Don't lose it, the feeling, or your grip... Now, again!" Kiera's voice commanded and Theran turned to the wall again, her body still tingling from the awareness that had been aroused in her body by Kiera's touch and in her mind by the revelation that had just occurred... When Theran was half way up the wall, hanging a good thirty feel off the ground, Kiera made a decision, one she felt was right but that she could only hope that the blonde haired woman would agree with without too many questions.
"Theran, unclip from the rope, you're at a location where your hold is secure enough..." Kiera saw Theran freeze for a moment and then the woman unclipped, allowing the rope to fall away from her harness.
"Keep going!" Kiera called, knowing from experience that Theran should not sit in one place and think too much about what she had just done.
To the master climbers quiet delight, Theran proceeded to climb the wall, steadily, quietly, confidently...
'She could be one..." Kiera thought to herself as she watched Theran climb.
'But that's not the only reason you like her is it?' Asked her inner voice quietly as Kiera watched Theran reach the top of the wall.
"Okay Theran, clip on and repel down!" Kiera called and watched the blonde haired woman do just that.
As Theran's feet touched the mats, Kiera moved close to her and quietly spoke.
"That was fantastic... Listen, if you can come here at 3 pm all next week, it would be a very good thing." Kiera was not a woman of many words, something she hoped that Theran would understand.
"Okay, I will be here..." Came the equally quiet reply as Theran unbuckled her harness and removed her shoes. It was time to wrap up the day anyway and Theran had more than done her practice this day.
Kiera had been teaching for ten years and in that time she had found 6 people who had felt it, the moment when they became the rock itself, who had the courage to climb the 60 foot natural wall without prior warning or preparation and who moved on to infuriate gravity itself in the long run.
Kiera hoped that Theran was going to be her seventh apprentice and they both would probably know the answer by the end of this course.
- Chapter Twelve -
Though she hid it well, Theran was walking on shaky legs as she moved towards her duffel bag; she had just been to the top of the 60 foot natural wall, without a safety rope and was stunned.
When Kiera had called for her to unclip from the rope, Theran had frozen for a few fractions of a second, almost unable to comprehend what the dark haired woman had requested of her. Then she had simply complied, her higher mind's protests dismissed by the sure knowledge that the master climber would not have asked her to do it, unless she was quite sure Theran could handle it.
Even with the mats, a fall from above thirty feet would either hurt or kill, almost without exception...
Theran had found herself focusing on the rock before her like she never had before, the knowledge that there was simply no room for error causing her to become one with the rock and everything except she herself had vanished in the blink of an eye.
If Kiera had not called to her when she had reached the top, Theran suspected that she would still be up there, communing with the wall on front of her.
When she had touched down, Kiera had come to her and very seriously suggested that she take the time and make the time to arrive early during the next week and Theran had agreed without hesitation.
She would make time and take time, regardless of whatever protests she might get at work; when one of the best in the world made a suggestion about what she was the best in, one did not ignore it.
With that in mind, Theran did her bit of clearing up and then quickly moved out to her car, determined to get to the Outdoor Store before it closed.
She was running low on chalk and climbing tape and also wanted to look over the selection of shoes that the store offered, wanting nothing to get in her way now that she was finally focusing on a dream she had only barely been aware of.
Quickly making her way to the store, she realised she had another hour before they closed and with a happy smile secured her car and went in.
Almost immediately, she secured two, half pound bags of chalk and a couple of spare chalk balls, all in the brand she had come to favor over the years she had been climbing. Moving quickly, she also snagged some climbing tape and hand balm, pleased that so far everything she had wanted was so easily available.
'Need a new chalk bag Terry?' She queried her mind, mentally doing an inventory of what she might need in the near future.
'Why not? You old one has seen much better days and now is not the time to be caught out...' She reasoned with herself, carefully going over the selection the store provided, choosing an extra large one with a rip cord and a zippered pocket and a plush lining.
Now it was time for shoes and with that in mind, Theran moved towards the shoe section, her purchases resting comfortably in the basket at her elbow.
Coming to the selection, Theran considered the shoes she owned, which were favorites of hers, the most comfortable she had ever had. They fit her like a second skin and Kiera had seemed to approve of them, so Theran selected an identical pair, carefully trying them on and deciding that she would simply buy a duplicate the shoes she had.
Impulsively, she also added a repair kit to the basket to go with the one she already had and then moved towards the cash registers, still oblivious to her surroundings, focused only on the task at hand.
As she walked, Theran finally noticed that she was still covered in chalk and was drawing attention from not only the employees but the other customers in the store.
Slightly embarrassed, Theran set her basket down on the counter top near the cash register and smiled at the man who was waiting to check her out.
"Been climbing?" The man asked, a small smile on his face as he regarded Theran's chalked up appearance.
"Yeah..." Theran replied as she ignored the total displayed by the cash register and handed over her credit card without hesitation.
"You know, we have some walls here if you want to try your new shoes out..." The man suggested with what sounded like a hopeful tone of voice.
"Let me see the walls." Theran said as she signed her name and accepted the heavy seeming bag from the man.
Following the man, Theran found herself facing an average looking gym climbing wall and felt a tingle in her body. It occurred to her that Kiera probably never turned down an opportunity to climb, so why should she.
"Okay!" Theran said, turning to the man and smiling, mildly amused by the enthused look she was receiving. It had not escaped her attention that it would be good for business for other customers to see her in action, especially after just spending several hundred dollars in the store.
Shucking out of her sweats and leaving them in the care of the young man who had been helping her, Theran quickly laced her new shoes as she liked them and then prepped her new chalk bag with a chalk ball. Oblivious to the figure she cut in her tight fitting and chalk stained clothing, Theran approached one of the walls and only then became aware of someone standing near her.
Another man was standing at her elbow holding an issue harness, obviously expecting her to strap in. Theran glanced at the wall, it was only thirty feet high and it resembled the wall she had scaled up and down just a few days ago.
Making a decision, Theran shook her head and then dismissed the man from her mind as she bent to chalk her feet and lace her new shoes on. They felt just like her older shoes, but slightly more stiff, so Theran made a mental note to alternate between the shoes so she would have both at her disposal at any time.
As she touched the wall, Theran felt the connection, the same revelation that she had felt earlier in the warehouse with Theran and instantly the store and all the people in it vanished completely...
A moment later, Theran was climbing, her movements sure and graceful as she proceeded up the wall, easily, confidently, yet with complete focus. The lessons that Kiera had been giving her sharp in her mind as she moved, knowing that if she missed, she would fall and that there was no room for any mistakes.
Before she even realised it, Theran reached the top and there she paused, still oblivious to the other people in the store. A few beats later, she proceeded down the wall, her movements as sure and as controlled as they had been on the way up; this was life!
- Chapter Thirteen -
Theran stepped off the wall onto the hard mats that covered the floor near it and took a deep breath, feeling the energy pour through her body, as if she had found her purpose in life and had answered a question that she did not even know had been asked or needed an answer.
No sooner had she turned, when applause rose from around her and she once more became aware of the other people in the store.
Blushing slightly she removed her shoes and quickly got ready to go, feeling invigorated even from the little climb on the rather easy wall. She had found her 'drug' and seriously doubted she would refuse the challenge of a climb again, she'd know within the first thirty feet if was something that she did not have the ability to do, but she would at least attempt it.
When she got home, Theran carefully prepared her bag, packing half a pound of chalk into it and two of chalk balls, her new chalk bag and both pairs of shoes, some energy bars, climbing tape and balm, water and a first aid kit. A shoe repair kit and an emergency poncho completed the package and then she felt she was ready for anything and with that in mind she turned to her rucksack, realising that the week would be over soon enough and they would be hiking for 6 hours to reach the final climb of the course, spending two nights on location and then hiking out again.
The dry climate pretty much guaranteed that there would be no danger of rain, so Theran packed with hot days and cold nights in mind and made sure to include a battered pair of sneakers to give her feet relief from heavy and hard hiking boots at the end of the day. A sleeping mat and sleeping bag, some basic toiletries and a few odds and ends to insure that a number of eventualities would be covered and she felt ready.
Kiera's course pamphlet had mentioned that their food will have be driven in ahead of time, so they would not need to worry about carrying any food other than trail-mix, energy bars, fruit and water for the hike itself.
As she lay down to sleep, Theran realised that she was still almost overcome with an intense feeling of happiness and satisfaction and she was also aware of how each time she saw Kiera, something in the dark woman drew her in.
'You've got a crush...' Suggested her inner monologue as Theran turned in her bed, attempting to get comfortable.
'Yes, I know..." Theran mentally answered it as she felt her eyes become heavy and sleep overtake her at last.
- Chapter Fourteen -
Theran arrived at the warehouse the next day to find Kiera standing outside, seeming in contemplation of the building. Grabbing her duffel bag, Theran walked over to where Kiera was standing and though the black eyed woman glanced at her, she quickly turned her attention back to the building.
Theran mentally shrugged and turned her gaze to the building, trying to see what Kiera was seeing. It was a huge warehouse that had been converted into an enormous climbing gym over the past decade with the input and funding of organizations and private individuals and with the aid of the rental fees that accrued steadily. Only very rarely did the building stand empty...
After a few moments, Theran realised what Kiera was looking at; the outside walls of the building were made stone blocks and brick.
"You're going to climb it?" Theran could not help but ask, as she examined the building with a more critical eye.
How would Kiera find a grip amongst this, granted, the seams of the stone block part of the house looked pretty good, but the brick portion looked much more dubious to Theran.
"Yes..." Said Kiera as she moved to the entrance of the warehouse and went inside. She emerged a moment later with a small mat in hand and her bag which she set on the concrete near the wall.
As Theran watched, Kiera stripped out of her sweats, revealing the streamlined clothes she climbed in underneath. Then the dark haired woman pulled her hair back and proceeded to belt on her chalk bag, before she carefully chalked her feet and tied her shoes on and then chalked her hands. Lastly, the master climber looked up at the sky, seeming to collect herself as she took note of the weather conditions.
A moment passed and then Theran could only watch enraptured as Kiera seemed to glue herself to the wall, moving up a few feet and then pausing to look at the wall above her and then the dark haired woman seemed to flow up the wall.
It reminded Theran of molasses, on a cold day, moving slowly, but smoothly and inexorably, towards its destination.
'How is she going to get down?' Theran mentally asked herself as she watched open mouthed as Kiera made her way along the warehouse wall. The woman had to have gecko in her, it was the only explanation...
After a short eternity, Kiera reached the end of the outer wall and slid onto the roof, stood on it's almost flat expanse and seemed to be so much larger than life as she stood in the rays of the afternoon sun.
As she watched, Theran could see the woman remove her climbing shoes and pick her way along the roof and then the blonde woman realised that Kiera was going to take the ladder that ran to the roof back down to the ground, a feat which only took her a few minutes to accomplish.
As Theran stood seeming to be glued to the ground, still stunned at what she had just witnessed, she turned to watch Kiera walk across the hot cement with her shoes in hand.
"Ready to rumble Theran?" The woman asked as she brushed off her feet and pulled her socks and sneakers on.
"How did you do that?" Theran asked as she followed the dark woman into the warehouse, still in awe with what she had just seen.
- Chapter Fifteen -
Kiera had been planning to climb the warehouse as she did every time she worked in it. Thought climbing buildings was not something she normally indulged in, buildings with stone or brick facades always rated a second or third glance and Kiera did have a list of places that she wanted to climb.
Having Theran there to witness it has been an added thrill for Kiera, though as soon as she had started to climb, she had dismissed the woman from her mind completely, nothing existed except her and the warehouse.
Turning to Theran, Kiera found herself once more somehow fascinated by the woman. The blonde woman was compact and muscular, with curves in all the right places and small pert breasts, her hair was a shade of dark blonde that was streaked by sunlight and salt water and cut in a windblown style, but it was her eyes that drew Kiera. The master climber had never seen eyes that were so blue...
'You want her...' Muttered Kiera's id, as she contemplated her reply to Theran's question.
"Practice, years, months, weeks, days and hours of practice. Muscle control, mental control... You have the qualities of a climber who can achieve anything she wants Theran, you just have to practice, feel and believe." Kiera took a long sip from her water bottle and turned away, walking towards the large regular wall.
The blonde woman followed her in silence, obviously absorbing everything she had just said.
Once at the wall, Kiera turned to Theran and continued talking.
"Over confidence is a weakness in this art, Theran. It will get you killed. Ego does not drive a good climber; remember that." Kiera felt her chest get tight at the words and fought to control the sensation. Her brother had not been killed by overconfidence, no, it had been equipment failure that had done him in.
They had been different in that way, he had used all and any available equipment when he climbed, relying on it, counting on it, depending on it.
Kiera on the other hand, used none aside from sometimes ropes on decent...
The dark woman was not stupid, she knew that her choices could kill her just as easily as the choices that her brother had made killed him.
"Come now... Time to climb!" Kiera said, dropping her bag and removing her shoes, tearing her eyes away from the blue fire that was Theran's eyes.
- Chapter Sixteen -
The days passed quickly, with all the climbers progressing in skill and perfecting their technique. Kiera was pleased with everyone's progress and had secured two friends to come on the hike with them.
Well, sort of friends anyway...
They were in fact specialist climbers, people who had been close to her brother. She would use them to secure routes up the climb for the case that some of her students wanted to use rope, the option had to be available.
The free trip and food plus expenses that they would be paid would more than guarantee enthusiasm, never mind that any serious climber was always looking for something to climb.
It was promising to be a good trip and Kiera was really looking forward to seeing Theran climb in a completely natural environment.
Her little group had been practicing indoors and outdoors on various locations, practicing endlessly and tirelessly and Theran had arrived before three pm each day and Kiera could tell that the blonde woman had the makings of a fine climber indeed.
She had not used any ropes except during some descents since the day that Kiera had told her to unclip and as they worked together, Kiera grew more and more aware of just how attracted she was to the blue eyed woman.
'It's not one sided, you've seen how she looks at you...' Kiera's ever ready id informed her as she finished packing her rucksack and checking her things before she secured her apartment and made her way to the rendezvous place.
Today was the day when they would all meet and drive for a couple of hours, before the beginning of their hike to the climb location. Kiera suspected that her students would be at once aghast yet delighted when they saw just where she was taking them.
For Kiera, the location was bitter sweet, as it was also the place where her brother had died, though on a different part of the area.
However, it was the location where this course was finished and Kiera had enjoyed the half dozen times that she had climbed in the area, so she resolved to put her ghosts to rest, at least for the next few days...
- Chapter Seventeen -
Theran had grown used to how silent Kiera was over the past two weeks, so it was not uncomfortable for her to simply sit and watch as the dark woman expertly drove the small mini-van. It was clear that Kiera was a master at concentrating, weather it was driving or eating, or watching or climbing, the woman seemed to be able to devote all of her focus without trouble.
As the van ate up the distance, Theran started to have an idea where they were heading, a climb more advanced than probably any of them had achieved before.
Now however, with two weeks of intense instruction under their belts and a new drive to climb, Theran once again simply felt that Kiera was unlikely to demand anything that her students could not realistically achieve.
The two people in addition to the 5 students and Kiera had been introduced as fellow climbers who would be setting anchors and ropes for 4 routes. Kiera had made is clear, that choosing a roped route would not mean that anyone was any less of a climber and that they would not fail the course.
Theran doubted that she could be persuaded to even try a roped route, she felt that far removed from the person she been a mere two weeks ago.
Theran knew that Kiera had handpicked them from available applicants, so it made a certain degree of sense that the group had gotten along so well during the last two weeks.
The blonde woman had gotten to know her classmates to a degree and they were all on warm terms, but climbing was a solitary art, so in reality, they were each in their own worlds.
Theran wanted into Kiera's world and the desire just kept growing stronger. The mysterious black eyed woman seemed slightly sad, though she did not have a disposition to match her eye color. Theran had noticed that Kiera had a very dry sense of humour and though the woman spoke very little, she always seemed to say something when she did.
As they eventually came to a halt, each climber took turns relieving biological needs and securing hiking boots, before rucksacks and climbing duffels were seized and the van was secured and then the walk was on.
Kiera had assured them that they would make it to the campsite in plenty of time to make food and relax before tomorrow's climbs, so with that in mind the group started to follow the rather clearly delineated trail and soon they were moving along in a comfortable silence. Kiera did not take the lead, rather she moved in various parts of the group, but whenever she came near the blonde woman found herself nearly overwhelmed with her presence.
'You want her...' She smacked her inner voice and mentally replied to it.
'Of course I want her you idiot, but it is more than just a physical thing, so shut up!' Theran swore she could hear a mental raspberry before the persistent little voice finally silenced, at least for the next little while.
Theran found herself relaxing into the walk and admiring the beautiful scenery as they moved in an orderly chaos along the dusty path, each of them mostly absorbed in his or her own world.
- Chapter Eighteen -
Kiera Aigner found herself in a rather unusual position as she ambled along beside Theran. Her dilemma was that she was searching for conversation, even though she knew that the blonde woman did not expect it or require it.
The unusual sensation caused the dark haired woman to pause mentally as she pondered why she was so attracted to Theran Ryan.
The woman was beautiful, her sunny colouring and blue, blue eyes making her hard to miss in a crowd. Kiera had also learned to appreciate that Theran did not seem to require conversation and that she did not mind long, long silences.
Kiera supposed that part of her attraction to this woman, was that she seemed to be compatible with the master climbers reserved nature, did not make the dark haired woman feel strange for simply being herself.
'You like it...' Muttered her impatient id, which was trying to prompt her to do something about this interest, attraction, fascination.
It would take more than prompting from her inner realms for Kiera to make a move though, she was so used to simply being alone.
'You better hope that Miss Blonde-Blue-eyed and occasionally Bashful, makes the first move then, moron!' Her id said to her petulantly before withdrawing to a rather sullen seeming silence.
Kiera allowed a minute sigh to escape as she walked admired the beauty that surrounded them and watched Theran out of the corner of her eye.
- Chapter Nineteen -
As the small group finally arrived at their destination, they could not contain their excitement as it became clear just where and just what they would be climbing in the morning.
Camp was made enthusiastically and soon a fire was burning and happy conversation followed as gear and bodies were prepared for the morning.
Kiera was glad to finally be here, in just a few days she would collect her fee for this course, a nice sum. Salary, expenses and a bonus...
It would tide her over along with small endeavors such as writing articles and some advertising she did for very exclusive products. Mainly her footwear maker, who in return for her smiling face on their brochure, provided her with as many free shoes as she needed for personal use, which of course saved her a bundle.
That, along with a few other things meant that Kiera would be fine until the next course came along and the master climber was not above taking on freelance work from time to time to simply keep the coffers full.
The happy thought was interrupted though, by the idea that she would not see Theran for a while.
Kiera was sure that the blonde woman would be taking the second and third level courses that Kiera taught.
As if prompted by her thoughts, Kiera felt a gentle nudge on her shoulder and looked up into Theran's eyes, made indigo by the twilight.
"Want to go for a walk?" The blonde woman asked and before Kiera could think better of it, she stood and indicated with a vague wave that Theran should lead the way.
As the campsite fell away the two women walked towards the sheer rocks that dominated the landscape and Kiera found herself relaxing, simply enjoying the sensation of sharing the night with Theran and of them simply being.
As they rounded a bend, Kiera stopped at a small cairn of rocks that presented itself suddenly.
"What is this?" Theran asked quietly...
Looking up at the blonde woman, Kiera marveled at how she seemed to instinctively know that it was 'something'...
"It means a climber died near here, or here..." Kiera said quietly, kneeling by the small pile and bowing her head slightly, fighting to control her emotions and realising that perhaps for the first time in a long, long time, she was not overwhelmed by them.
"Did you know the climber?" Theran asked after a long moment and Kiera felt a warm hand touch her shoulder gently, strong fingers digging in slightly as it did.
Reacting now to the feel of Theran touching her, Kiera rose from her crouch and turned to face the blonde woman, looking deeply into the captivating blue gaze.
"I built this one for my brother..." Kiera said in a low voice, hardly able to believe that she had confided this to this woman, an almost stranger she felt so close to.
- Chapter Twenty -
Theran felt the ground sink from beneath her feet at Kiera's words.
Her brother had died here...
Almost unable to believe it, Theran acted instinctively, wrapping her arms around the master climber and pulling the coveted muscular body close, wanting nothing more than to give comfort.
God, it felt so good to hold Kiera and oh, she smelled so good... Human, chalky with a hint of perfume.
Forgetting everything, Theran pulled back slightly to examine the face of the woman in her arms. In the shadows, Kiera's eyes looked like night itself, but the woman made no attempt to step away from Theran's embrace.
'In fact...' Theran reasoned with herself as she felt strong hands slide up her back, 'She's coming closer...'
Theran could feel her heart start to pound out of her chest as she realised once and for all, just how mutual the attraction she felt for Kiera was.
Emboldened, Theran moved her face towards Kiera's hoping against hope that she had read the situation correctly and a moment later she felt the reward.
'Oh my..." Her mind seemed to purr as lips that were like velvet caressed her own and arms that were made of steel closed around her body, trapping her willingly.
Their first kiss was tentative, but their second kiss was not so tentative and as Theran felt a nimble tongue touch her lips, she opened her mouth to Kiera and found heaven.
As their kiss heated up, Theran could feel calloused fingers slide under her sweater and tee shirt and then she was lost, as Kiera caressed her sides with her strong hands and her mouth with her gentle tongue.
A lifetime passed in the night, as the two women kissed, poured their passion out and then finally drew apart.
Instantly the passion started to build again, as they looked at eachother in the emerging starlight.
"Can we do this?" Theran asked, running a calloused finger across Kiera's slightly bruised looking lips, wanting nothing more than to do this.
"Yes..." Came the low response as Kiera moved in to kiss Theran again, this time with no hesitation and with such tender, hungry desire, that Theran was sure she would have an orgasm soon, simply from Kiera kissing her.
When she felt the hard rock behind her back, Theran was slightly startled, not having realised that Kiera had been moving her and that revelation caused her to gasp into the dark woman's kiss.
"I want you..." She murmured, wondering if this was really happening to her, how long looks, lingering glances and longing gazes had come to this moment.
A sibilant hiss followed her exclamation and a moment later Theran felt the dark woman drop to her knees in front of her, strong fingers making short work of her lose hiking pants and when the cold night air touched Theran, she felt a shiver that had nothing to do with the night and everything to do with the woman who was about to make love to her...
- Chapter Twenty One -
As Kiera felt Theran's strong legs shake, she smiled hungrily, eagerly pressing her face to the source of Theran's desire.
'She's so wet!' Her mind exclaimed as Kiera wound her tongue into Theran, kissing her as she would kiss her mouth and then the master climber was lost.
The sounds that Theran were making drove Kiera wild, caused her to want to create more of them and it seemed in very little time at all, the blonde woman was collapsing onto her, melting into her, falling off the cliff.
The metaphorical irony of that last statement did not escape Kiera, even in her passion drugged state and when Theran pulled her up her strong body, Kiera felt herself being engulfed in a strong embrace and kissed with such thoroughness that she was unsure if she would survive the experience.
To say that she was inflamed, was an understatement of monumental proportions...
Theran did not hesitate and in mere moments, Kiera felt strong hands find their way into her pants and just seconds later, fingers calloused by hours of rock work, but still soft and gentle entered her body, causing the dark woman to lose control of her knees.
Theran had lifted her shirt and was now ravishing Kiera's breasts with her free hand, all the while kissing her and in a matter of minutes Kiera felt the blonde woman's fingers drive her over the edge in turn.
Finally sated, for the moment at least, Kiera felt nimble hands secure their clothing and then she simply rested against Theran's strong shoulder.
It was while they were simply breathing with eachother and relishing the aftermath of their love making that Kiera came to a revelation; the sad weight that she had carried seemed to have eased. For the first time in a long time she felt something like her old self again, yet a new version of it...
"Don't ever leave me, even while you are not with me..." Kiera murmured into Theran's delicate ear and then felt the blonde woman crush her in her gently.
"Never..." The reply from Theran was followed by a gentle kiss and after several long moments, the two women sorted themselves out and meandered back towards camp hand in hand.
Kiera smiled as she walked, knowing that even while she spent her hours alone on the rock, her heart would not longer be alone and that thought actually made her laugh with joy and pick the smaller blonde woman up and twirl her around before setting her down again.
"I'm in love with you, Theran Ryan..." She said just before they entered the camp area, surprising herself, yer pleased with herself.
"And I am in love with you, Kiera Aigner..." The reply was so filled with tenderness and Kiera was unable to stop herself from stealing one last kiss before they entered the camp area, where most of the other climbers had settled for the night.
It was going to be a good climb...
The End - © 2005 by Rain
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