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LaPorte Caves – Chapter 24

Written by circes_cup :: [Sunday, 21 May 2017 16:08] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 21 May 2017 17:31]

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CHAPTER 24


DISCLAIMER

This story contains adult sexual content. If you are not of age to read this stuff, don’t. No resemblance between these characters and real people on Earth is implied or intended.


When the helicopter approached the ski mountain, Howard had to crane his neck, way, way back to see the top. These mountains had three times the vertical relief of what he had experienced in Colorado, at least according to Julia. And she was rarely wrong these days.

He appraised her, sitting across from him, her chocolate eyes glistening white with the reflection of the landscape. She had really grown into her new body. When the woman had first Nourished, she had reacted to the change with a combination of elation, stupefaction, recklessness and embarrassment. But in recent days, all of that had been replaced with more experienced poise, control and a quiet contentment. Perhaps she was using exercise to get excess energy out of her system. Or perhaps she had just gained a suitable level of practice with the altered mechanics of her body. And the events at the office certainly played a role as well: she seemed to like the responsibility. But Howard couldn’t shake the feeling that something else might be going on as well: that she may finally have found an outlet for the elevated sexual drive so common among these women. Howard could only hope that the outlet was not another man.

Howard ran his hands down his thighs, reminding himself of his bodily limits. Skiing is always hard on those muscles, and the length of these runs would challenge him. He would have to manage the day carefully to avoid an accident like the one at the seaside cliffs.

At the ski shop, signage sent men in one direction and women in the other. It did not escape Howard’s attention that the women’s part of the building was newer and better appointed than the men’s, and also that it was smaller. The temperatures at the extra-high summit would be frigid today, so an attendant helped him rent a full bevy of gear: thick parka, thick ski pants, gloves, hat, face mask, goggles, even a warm underlayer. Skis and poles and boots were similar to what he had used on Earth – no surprises there.

The surprise came when he rejoined Julia at the base of the main lift. She was sitting on a bench, fastening her boots – attired an outfit so skimpy that it would have been a stretch for most women to wear at the beach. And stretch it did: a white racerback spandex sports bra was fitted over her immense bust, its decorative turquoise snowflakes stretched into ovals where the fabric was pulled hard by her unforgiving dimensions. Stretchy “boy shorts” covered her rear, also sporting the playful snowflake design. Her hair was braided and secured with a series of ties, one every few inches, making them look like sausage links. She wore ski boots and goggles and, well, that was it.

“So … that’s what you’re going to wear up there?” Howard tried to avoid sounding naive, but the question had to be asked.

“Yes, isn’t it just the cutest?” She shimmied her pert rear, causing the turquoise snowflakes to sparkle in the sunlight.

“Is that even designed for skiing?”

“Sure come here.”

Howard’s boot-laden feet clomped over to her.

She took his hand and placed it on the panel of stretchy fabric that bridged her cleavage. “Now hold on.”

Julia propped one foot on the seat of the bench and then stood up on it. Howard felt his feet leave the ground. He was hanging from one hand, and his only handhold was the fabric of her top. “See, isn’t that cool? 800-pound tensile strength, constructed of woven steel fiber. It’s holding up your whole weight with no sagging, no distortion. Even the snow flakes haven’t changed their shape. This suit can take TONS of abuse. And I mean tons.”

Howard noted also that her breasts too, lost none of their pertness under the weight of his 180-pound suspended mass. So solid was she that it felt as though Howard were dating a sculpture made of brass.

Once back on the ground, she clicked her boots into ridiculously long skis and they boarded the lift together.

“How long are your ski’s?” Howard asked as he slid to the outside edge of the chair, trying to get the weight balance right.

“About 10 feet.”

“Aren’t they supposed to be equivalent to your height?”

“That rule of thumb is only for unenhanced humans, Howard. With the right leg strength and dexterity, your skis really can be any length. I wanted to try these because they have a higher top speed, which I’ll never be able to experience once I’m back on earth.”

“How fast?”

“About two-fifty miles per hour. Titanium throughout, super-tight bindings – not something they carry in the men’s shop.”

Two-and-a-half times the fastest Olympic speed ever. And this with a girlfriend who used to feel more comfortable on the slow, wide intermediate “cruising” trails.

Howard felt his eyes glaze over as the trees passed beneath them. The difference between their abilities was, as usual, too sickening to believe. At least, by now, he had learned actually to believe. Somehow, that made hearing the news even harder: he no longer allowed himself a mourning period.

The chair was a fast one. Large trees gave way to small ones, lower slopes gave way to wind-swept escarpments and ridges.

The wind picked up, so much so that the chairs rocked back and forth on their cables. Howard pulled his clothing tightly around him, tried to prevent even a square inch of skin from being exposed. And even as thick and tight as his clothing was, it was not enough. A deep chill sank into Howard’s bones. He focused his face downward, out of the wind, staring at his kneecaps. He began to shiver, and the cold wind on his scraps of exposed skin began to sting.

“Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL?” the clueless voice of his girlfriend asked. She was sitting on the other end of the chair attired in nothing more than her skimpy tensile stuff, an acre of skin exposed, relaxed limbs akimbo as she took in the pale sun.

Howard tried to answer, but it came out as just chattering teeth.

Julia turned, surprised. “Sorry honey, I didn’t realize you were uncomfortable. It is really that cold?”

The sign at the top of the ski lift had the answer: negative 10 degrees Fahrenheit, 30 mile-per-hour winds, effective wind chill of negative 53.

“You’ll feel better when we get going. The exertion will warm you up. Come on!”

They were quickly off the lift and going down the slope. This was the mixed-gender part of the mountain, where the slopes were easy enough that women and their men could ski together, about three quarters of the way to the top. Julia let Howard pick the route down.

Howard braced himself for the reality of what he was about to experience. On Earth, Julia was basically a beginner skier in Howard’s book – a skier who sometimes took to the intermediate trails only because the designations themselves had slipped over time. Out here, her skills would be enhanced. She would probably be better than him. He had to ready for that.

The route he selected started with a wide open trail. Howard went down as fast as he could. Julia went faster – a lot faster. Olympic fast. She sped by him in a blur of olive skin and white and turquoise, disappearing around a curve and not reappearing in his vision until the end of the half mile trail. By the amount of snow that had accumulated on the top of her goggles, he could tell she had been waiting several minutes for him.

“How long have you been waiting?”

“I just got here, pretty much.”

Liar, he knew. “Looks like we have some moguls ahead.”

She looked down and nodded. “Maybe I should go first. Ten-foot skis on moguls may be a bad combination. You may wind up having to help me out of a hole.”

With what, a backhoe? Howard tried to imagine what righting her 375 pounds would involve.

As it turned out, the backhoe could stay in the garage. Julia didn’t fall. She sped down the moguls with unerring precision and unimaginable thigh strength, absorbing the impact of each turn and then popping back up into the air without effort. Howard’s route down was torturous by comparison, his out-of-shape thighs reminding him, at every turn, the amount of strength required to arrest 185 falling pounds and send it back into the air.

At the end of the run, Howard was exhausted. Even more snow had accumulated on the rim of those goggles than the first leg of the run. Everything he could do – everything he could ever do, no matter how much training, how much time in the gym – would never come close to what she could so casually accomplish today. That made him feel angry at first, but he forced himself to let go of it. I have to show her the best of me; she is my only ticket home.

“Ready to go again?” she asked, brightly.

“Uh sure.”

The second time up, Howard forced himself to chat with Julia about the outstanding scenery, mostly as a way to take his mind off the oppressive cold. She pointed out several things to him from her memorization of the local maps.

“That down there is an entrance to the caves.” She extended her finger at the slope below. The rock opened into a fissure that was partially obstructed by a large boulder. “It’s the same cave system as the one we used to get home, but obviously many miles away from the parts you and I have done. The only reason I know about it is because I stared at all those maps for so long.”

Howard tried to answer with some sort of acknowledgement, but his chattering teeth got the better of him. He just nodded and slid his freezing hand, covered in a thick glove, over her warm bare thigh.

“And over there are some of the Diana groves,” she pointed. “Almost all Diana trees are commercially cultivated, in dedicated groves. The trees are incredibly finicky about where they grow, and are highly susceptible to diseases and parasites. The government puts an immense amount of research into grove management. Even the trees we found in the forest when we first arrived were sprouted from seeds that had blown in from one of the groves.”

Howard could barely listen. He tried to wiggle the pain out of his fingers and toes. The cold was oppressive.

On their way down, the couple did the same run as the first time. And this time, Howard wasn’t foolish enough to lead the way. He encouraged her to go first.

In fact, he was able to watch the first few moments of Julia’s run from a dramatic promontory at the top of the slope. His girlfriend skied the run at fearsome speed, carving up beautiful, sinuous turns, with steadiness and confidence. She was a sight to behold – an olive-skinned dart that traversed the mountain with such grace and ease, it seemed as those she had been born to ski it. It was like watching a form of dance.

When Howard finally made his own way down the mountain, so much snow had piled onto her hair that the brown was barely visible on the top. She had been there forever.

“Sorry that took me so long.” He panted for breath.

“Did you have fun?” Julia smiled wide for him, but Howard could tell that she was bored.

“Julia, you shouldn’t feel obligated to ski with me. This whole trip was supposed to be a vacation, for both of us. But you’ve spent much of the week babysitting Ruth’s company, and now you’re babysitting me on the slopes. You should allow yourself to have some fun.”

Howard watched her eyes roam to the top of the mountain, where Ash was skiing.

“I’m too slow for you,” Howard prodded. “Go ski with the women. Have fun. It’s ok.”

“OK,” she whispered. “I’m sorry this vacation has turned out to be … like this. We’ve spent days apart on the coast and now we’re spending more time apart in the mountains. But you’re right. It would be more fun for me if I was skiing with the Nourished.”

The couple glided down the rest of the run in defeated silence. At the bottom of the lift line, they removed their skis. Julia lead him into a small sundries store in the lodge. She pulled a small electronics product off the wall, paid for it with a bead, led him out to a bench, and opened the packaging.

“This is a cell phone for you, so that you can reach me on the mountain. Panic button right here – it’s the red thing. Works anywhere on the mountain.” She removed her armlet and set it on the table.

Howard watched Julia trace her fingers over the beads of the armlet, its metal glistening in the snow. “You really like that thing, don’t you.”

“It means a lot to me. It means that that I’m accepted and respected by these women as one of their own, even though I’m just a visitor. Even after I go back to Earth, I’m going to keep this.” She squeezed a bead, and then pushed a button on the phone. “Your phone is paired with my communicator now. Just push the call button and you’ll hail me instantly.”

“Thanks, that’s great.” Howard took it. “Is there a button for ski patrol?”

“This one here,” she pointed. “But ski patrol is only men, rescuing men. If you get into a real bind, don’t wait for them. Call me. I can get to you faster, and well, I’m basically a walking hospital.”

Howard watched a few flakes of snow settling on one wing of her hospital, turn to water, and then drain off the domed roof into the dark, steeply-walled courtyard that separated that enormous wing from the other, equally impressive structure. The entire medical complex rose and fell softly with each breath, its heated surface making a mockery of the snow that tried to accumulate on it, its store rooms fully stocked with every medicine a girl could want to carry. The sight of it would have been more reassuring if the buildings did not also contain her execution chambers.

“I’ll visit only on the trails I can handle,” Howard stood up and kissed her on the lips. “After I visit the bathroom.”

Julia kissed him. Her lips lingered and tugged at his, reluctant to leave. It was as if the couple would not see each other again for a while. When the two finally separated, Julia turned as if reacting to a noise that Howard could not hear. One hundred yards away, Howard saw a speck of red hair and an arm waving.

“Hey Ash! I’ll be right there!” Julia announced without raising her voice, as if she were speaking to someone only a few feet away. She hoisted her ten foot skis onto her shoulder and bounded off in the direction of her friend, at a pace that no human should ever be able to accomplish in ski boots.

When Howard lumbered back from the restroom, he could see the pair on their way up the lift to to the female side of the mountain. Howard also noticed that the lift contained the occasional male skier, suggesting that, although it was known as the female side, men occasionally skied it too.

After a visit to the bathroom, Howard returned to the bench to get his gloves back on and to properly arrange his face mask to shield against the horrendous cold. Once he was ready to go, he looked down at the bench and saw a C-shape in the falling snow.

Julia had left her armlet.

=========

Howard called out to Julia. But if she heard him, he had no way of knowing: she had long since disappeared up the mountain. And the wind was blowing downhill, lessening the chances that any sound would make it up the slope. He could wait for her to ski a full run and return to the bottom of the lift. But on the other hand, that lift was not the only one that serviced the women’s side. She and Ash could just as well have decided to ski to the bottom of another lift.

He watched the glistening of the metal against the grey sky. It was an extraordinary piece of jewelry. And it did mean a lot to his girlfriend. When she realized she had misplaced it, she would be beside herself.

He wondered if he could find Julia and Ash at the top. Julia usually took a few minutes at the top to take in the view, adjust her boots, and generally procrastinate. If he was quick about it, he could catch her.

Howard got himself over to the lift they had taken. Most of the chairs left the boarding area with two women aboard. When a man, or a young girl, was riding, that person always went in the middle of the chair, probably to maintain balance.

Howard found himself sandwiched between two girls that seemed to be no older than Mindy. His legs were pressed together by their thighs, which felt like blocks of concrete to him.

“What do you wanna do this time?” one of the girls asked. Like every other woman on this mountain, she was wearing hardly anything, just a two-piece suit that fit her more like a film than a separate layer of clothing. Her strawberry-blond hair and tanned skin contrasted well with the yellow of her suit. The suit was decorated with little pink and white flowers – cute, except for the tiny “700” symbol Howard observed on the piping. What felt merely snug to this young girl was enough to crush Howard to death.

“I don’t know. How about that one again?” the other gestured with her bare arm. She was in a black one-piece with little skulls all over it. Her skin was a rich cream and her hair a jet black, as if it were dyed.

Howard’s gaze followed line formed by the girl’s thick arm and her black painted fingernails. She pointed at a steep slope that lead to a vertical cliff perhaps three stories tall. Women were skiing off the top of that cliff at full speed, often fitting in several aerial tricks before righting themselves, slamming into the slopes below and skiing on.

Note to self, Howard concluded: if you want to live, best not to follow the girl with skulls on her suit.

“I don’t know,” the girl with the flowered suit responded. “It’s kind of a boring run. That jump is the only interesting thing on that run, and it’s only thirty-five feet. How about we do the Chute? I like stuff that’s steep and fast.”

“Oh my gosh,” the girl with skulls responded. “I saw a guy trying to do that the other day. It was SO cute. Did you know that guys consider anything over forty degrees to be really steep?”

“That’ SO lame.”

“The Chute is, like, twice that, right? And so this guy was trying to go down it, and he was SO scared. He was stuck just a third of the way down, clinging to a sapling or something. I could smell he had pissed himself from like a hundred yards away.”

“Did he ever make it down?” asked Flowers.

“Fuck if I know.”

“That reminds me, can I borrow a few of your guys tonight?” Flower inquired casually. “Some of mine are sick.”

“I guess that happens a lot in cold weather. Sure, borrow away; I’ve got, like, half the fraternity with me.” Skulls offered. “I wonder what it’s like to be sick, how it feels.”

“You’re not missing much,” Howard chimed in.

“Ha!” Skulls laughed. “I almost forgot he was there.”

The lift came over a rise, and part of the valley opened below them. Howard had seen enough Diana trees at this point to know what a forest of them looked like, even from a distance.

“They still seem green to me, right Shenna?”

Shenna, formerly Skulls, stripped off her goggles and peered. “Some red, only in spots. Still mostly green.”

Howard stripped off his goggles as well. “No, there’s a little bit of red everywhere. And the leaves are more yellow than they used to be.”

“What the FUCK?” Shenna’s voice shook the air. Snow showered off the nearby pines. The flowers on her suit not longer made her seem so adorable. “Who asked YOU?.”

“You eyes are much better than mine. Don’t try to get me to believe that you don’t see it.”

Flowers put her hand on his thigh. “It must be nice to be so smart, huh? To have all those smart male opinions?” Her fingers closed on his thigh, with the power of an industrial vice.

Howard felt the largest muscle of his body collapsing under the intense pressure of his fingers. He heard himself groaning in pain. He tried to endure the pressure, but it was so great that he couldn’t even form a thought. The ground was three stories below but Howard would have happily fallen to it – anything to escape the crushing force of that girl’s hands.

“What do you think?” Flowers asked her friend. “Should I break his leg?”

“I think you should, Lael. Teach the little man a lesson.”

Howard turned to face Lael, formerly Flowers. Her green eyes sparkled with anger, her plush glossy lips upturned into a wicked grin. She seemed so girlish – freckles, two strawberry-blond pigtails, a girly ski suit, and the unrepentant wildness of youth – but she had the strength of a monster.

“It’s more fun if you play with them a bit before breaking anything.” Lael’s childish eyes sparkled. “Look, if I squeeze just a little bit more, I can usually make their eyes roll back into their head.”

Whatever crushing force dug into his leg earlier, it was nothing compared to what happened next. Howard’s leg erupted in agony. His world spun. Darkness replaced alpine slope was replaced with darkness and then alpine slope again. His mouth was wide open and emitting a loan moan.

“That SO cool,” Shenna replied, resting the weight of her hand on his other thigh. “I wanna try.”

Mercifully, the offloading area approached before the experiment could continue. Howard felt Lael’s grip lessen, and before he knew it, the ground was under his skis. The two girls skied off, resuming their chat about boys as if nothing had happened. Howard, meanwhile, collapsed at the end of the offloading area, his leg screaming in pain.

From his collapsed position, he saw Julia and Ash-- just a scrap of them as they dipped below a rise in a the trail, but it was definitely them. They had been standing straight up as they skied, chatting, moving at a slow pace. Howard tried to shout out to them. But when he shifted his position, his leg exploded in more pain, and he emitted nothing more than a soft groan into the snow.

After some minutes, he forced himself upright. The muscle of his leg burned, but nothing was broken. Gingerly, he skied to where Ash and Julia had been, but did not find them there.

After listening to fifteen minutes of Skulls-and-Flowers conversation, he considered simply taking the chairlift back down rather than attempt one of these runs. But there were other men skiing the area, so Howard set off down the hill.

The slope steepened. Howard began to slow his descent, even as the larger females passed him left and right, the SWISH-SWISH of their perfect turns filling his ears.

He arrived at a junction. The signage was confusing. He leaned on his good leg while he put his new reading skills to work. He understood some of the symbols, not others. He paused and looked around for someone to ask.

Skiers went by at breakneck speed – mostly women, but also a few men. Howard was a very good skier, but the men he saw up here – they were excellent. I’m out of my depth with this group, Howard realized.

He looked at the signs again. One trail was Falling Star: that was probably the one with the deadly thirty-foot drop. One he didn’t recognize, but the Flower-and-Skull pair had taken it, so he suspected that was The Chute. A third trail contained “Man” or “Men” in the name, and then a second symbol he did not recognize. Howard followed that trail.

If Howard’s reading skills had been better, he would have known better. He would have known that his best option was to unfasten his skis and walk back uphill to the lift. He would have known that the second symbol on the sign made all the difference – that “man”, combined with that other character, added up to “Man Eater”.

=========

The trail led to woods, and the woods grew quiet. Howard slid between the trees, pleased at the generous spacing between the large trunks, and the deep snow that had well buried the rocks and obstacles. The slope shallowed a bit, making descent even more manageable. For the first time, despite the cold, Howard appreciated the natural beauty of the mountain.

But his happiness with the trail was short lived. After a few turns, the slope dropped off dramatically. Howard wanted to stop, but the spacing of the trees tightened as well and did not give him room for a full ninety-degree braking turn. He had to go forward. And forward was down.

He felt himself going faster, and the trunks of trees whizzing by. Finally he was able get his skis pointed perpendicular to the slope, leveling him off and allowing him to slide to a stop.

This section of the woods was terrifyingly steep. Standing vertically, the uphill side of the slope was only two feet from his shoulder. And below him, the occasional bit of snow or branch he kicked up would skitter over the surface for many minutes before coming to a rest. In the distance he could hear the occasional SWISH-SWISH of a skier picking their way through the trees. From the size of the figures and the amount of skin visible, there was no question these were women. Only women.

He was in a bad place.

The cold was brutal on his bare head, and Howard belatedly realized that his hat had fallen off somewhere back up the trail. He had to get going again. Temperatures like these did not tolerate men without hats.

Howard allowed himself to slide forward again, his skis gaining more momentum than he intended. He tried to stop again. Too many trees, too few places to turn – Howard felt the rush of wind on his face as he gained more unwanted speed. Ahead, something was wrong with the snow, as if a section was missing. He didn’t have a choice. He sped into the area. Where he had expected to find mountain, there was only air. The slope had steepened yet again, sickeningly, a chasm that left Howard rocketing down the mountain. Trees were racing through his field of vision like tall brown blurs. The THUMP-THUMP of his heart filled his ears. Faster and faster his body went. He tried to turn, but his bad leg didn’t respond the way he expected.

He lost control. A branch think with needles and snow whacked his face, and it took him a precious second to clear his vision. When he did, he saw the tree.

It was lying on its side, huge, thick as a bus. His skis carried him toward it with terrifying velocity.

In the moment before Howard slammed into the tree, he could only remember, oddly, Julia’s lips – and how she had kissed him as though she would never see him again.

=========

Silence. Howard tried to call out for help, but no words emerged from his throat. His body spoke to the woods with groans and grunts, but the woods replied only with the soft patter of snow. Black spots wandered about his field of view. Below him, red spots of liquid from his nose didn’t wander at all. They pooled and froze on the surface of the snow. He tried to move his legs, but couldn’t. His body had slid into a narrow gap between the tree and the snowpack. He skis were still attached, keeping his feet pinned. With extreme effort, he was able to move his arms enough to reach the cell phone she had given him. But his fingers encountered only shattered plastic.

Time passed. The woods were a clock whose only sound was the occasional THUD of snow dropping from a branch. Howard wondered why he heard no other skiers.

Pain. Howard’s head throbbed from the impact. His leg, his other leg, one of his arms, his back – pain was everywhere. Howard tried to move but found that something was pinning him from above. It was the tree trunk, thick as a bus and who-knows how long. His legs were completely immobilized under it. He could move his shoulders and head a bit. He tried moving his head around, the path of his face recorded by the wandering droplets of blood on the snow.

With enough time, he could bleed out a whole Seurat masterpiece onto the white canvas below him. That made him laugh. And that, in turn, made more pain.

The steady afternoon sun began to falter. Long shadows crept across what few trees he could see. An animal scampered across the snow, but when Howard turned to see it, his neck exploded in agony.

Cold. It started quickly, with his fingers. And his toes. But without a hat on, it spread fast. He heard his teeth begin to chatter. A dull pain entered his limbs. He began to dream of hearth fires, hot chocolate, but the images evaporated into the clouds of white vapor that escaped him every time he breathed. His body began to convulse. And then, the cold arrived in his chest. He knew that was a bad sign. Or was it? He couldn’t remember. Maybe a deterioration of mental state came first. Was his mental state deteriorating? He couldn’t decide. He couldn’t even think. The cold seeped further into him, made him shudder.

The afternoon sun gave way to the oranges and purples of evening. Stars began to pop into the sky. Howard looked at them and wondered whether one of them might be Earth. He tried to decide which one was Earth – which one looked happiest, most peaceful, most like home. After half an hour, he couldn’t decide. Then, he finally remembered that Earth wasn’t a star. His brain was failing.

Then, the WHOOSH, WHOOSH of skis.

“Howard? Honey?”

In a moment, she was there, standing over him, the breadth of her from crowding out the indigo sky. The snowflakes on her suit twinkled like stars – stars that had come out of the sky, to be with him, to light his was home. Two clicks announced the separation of her boots from her skis.

The tree that pinned him, wide as a school bus, rose under the power of her superhuman muscles, a chorus of RUMBLE’s and SNAP’s as its extremities scraped against the surrounding trees. It was bigger than anything he had ever seen her lift. And yet she hauled it out of the way almost dismissively, like it was an irritant more than a massive object.

Julia tossed the trunk aside. It hit the ground with such force that the ground under Howard shuddered, and he slipped further into the snow. His view was consumed by her kneecaps and monstrous thighs as she knelt down beside him.

“Good lord, honey, I was so worried about you!” She spoke at a quick, distressed pace. “I lost my armlet … you’ve probably been trying to call me all day and getting nothing. But Ash and I looked all over the mountain. The lodge, the men’s slopes – every single one. Ski patrol looked too, and nobody found anything down there. I was getting desperate and I said to Ash we should look up here. But Ash said there was no way you’d be crazy enough to come up this far and, so I said fine, but finally I got so desperate that I came up here anyway and thank heaven I finally finally did. And thank heaven you dropped your hat further up the slope ‘cause I smelled that thing the moment I got off the lift and now there you are. I feel so stupid for not coming up earlier and even stupider for losing my armlet --”

“It’s ok, Julia.” Howard interrupted her with a frost-bitten. “It’s ok. It’s my fault for coming up here.”

Julia shook her head, adamantly, shaking off the forgiveness like it was an errant blob of snow.

“I felt so, so guilty about losing track of you! When the ski patrol guy said there way nothing else that they could do, I got so angry, Howard. I picked his obstinate little ass off the ground and threw him across the room. I’m so ashamed, but at the same time, I was so mad and so desperate and it just terrified me to think what had happened to you …”

“Is he still alive?”

“I’d like to visit him in the hospital later.”

Howard shook his head. “I’m honestly surprised you got so upset. I’m replaceable you know, in this world …”

She cupped his head in her hands. “That’s NOT true. You’re not replaceable to me! I’m not even going to argue about it.”

Howard could feel his frostbitten lips crack and bleed as they spread into a smile. “I brought you something.”

In his hand was the armlet.

Julia’s eyes darted back and forth as she realized what had happened, why he was up there on the women’s slopes. She leaned in for a kiss. “You tried to bring it back to me. You are too sweet.”

She examined him with those superhuman eyes and shook her head some more. “You’re also in bad shape – too bad to get you down the mountain tonight. Thank god the ski patrol gave me this,” she said, removing a backpack from her shoulders.

Out of the backpack came a large square of foil, which she unfolded. It turned out to be a thin sleeping bag of sorts, with a zipper on the side.

She stood up and walked over to the tree trunk she had previously discarded. Julia punched her fist into it with a CRACK, burying her arm up to the shoulder. Then, she extracted her arm and repeated the action with a pile driver’s efficiency, CRACK-CRACK-CRACK-CRACK down the length of the trunk, her muscles expanding to terrifying thickness, her arm moving in and out of the trunk with terrifying speed.

After she had punished the full length of the trunk with her jackhammer fist, Julia opened the bus-sized cylinder of wood like it was two wedges of a tangerine, separating them to a ninety-degree angle and then rotating them so that the open side of the trunk faced down. The two halves of the trunk formed an A-frame roof, and into the sheltered space underneath Julia slid the foil bag.

She stripped herself naked, picked him up, and then stripped him naked. With his bare skin against the frigid wind, Howard had never felt so deeply cold. But then Julia slid both of their bodies into the foil bag and zipped it up.

Her body felt like a furnace – a furnace made of iron. Howard curled himself around her, spreading his legs over the girth of her thighs, wrapping his tiny hands over her huge breasts and felt the warmth begin to return.

“Oh babe, I’m so sorry. You feel like an icicle.”

Something dripped out of his nose.

Julia rubbed the liquid between her thumb and forefinger. “Your brain is beginning to hemorrhage. And that’s in addition to the early-stage frostbite and probably some internal bleeding as well.”

Howard tried to say something, but his mind wasn’t functioning.

“Seeing you this banged up – you have no idea how much it makes my girls ache. And you must be thirsty, and hungry.”

Howard needed no further invitation. His lips thoughtlessly found her engorged nipple, and only their slightest caress of it set off a torrent of milk. The liquid tasted rich and sweet. Something instinctive in him, something deep, took over. As his thoughts continued to dim, he felt his gag reflex dissipate. His whole body was dedicating itself to receiving whatever her superior one would give him.

=========

Howard awoke to the chirping of birds, the smell of the shattered hardwood, and the soft light of dawn edging its way through the triangular opening of their tree trunk shelter.

Julia was sleeping as peacefully as he had ever seen her sleep. He crawled out, took a piss, his urine leaving trails of vapor in the extreme cold.

When he ducked back under the tree, he found that Julia’s breathing had grown erratic and her sleep fitful. But once he crawled back in the bag, she settled down again. I don’t remember having such a calming effect on her back on Earth, he realized.

He was plenty warm now, and she was never cold, so Howard unzipped the bag and let his gaze roam over the architecture of his girlfriend’s superhuman body. Those biceps, thick as footballs, had never been appealing to him before. But now, there was something about those muscles – something attractive. Whereas earlier those muscles had only made him feel inferior, now, they only reminded him of that huge tree being hoisted away. In fact, her whole body looked different to him now. As he gazed over the expanse of hard curves, he could think only of the way her arms had shattered the thick trunk like a pile driver, the way her entire body had warmed his nearly frozen one, the way she had filled him with her life-restoring milk.

He began to explore her body, as if for the first time. His fingers weren’t surprised by what encountered. The pronounced swells of her muscles, the deep clefts between them, the complete lack of body fat, the stone-like hardness that lurked just under the surface of her soft skin – he had seen it all before. In fact, his girlfriend’s body had been on all-too-prominent display for weeks now. But he was surprised at the reaction her body kindled in him. These genetically enhanced muscles had unleashed their unimaginable power to rescue him, to protect him – and they would do it again at a moment’s notice.

He traced his fingers over the pertness of her breasts, two mountains every bit as impressive as the one he had tried to ski. Deep inside those volcanoes stirred lavas that could bring healing or health or happiness or hell depending upon the mood of the goddess that commanded their eruptions. That used to scare the crap out of Howard. These genetically enhanced breasts had unleashed their other-wordly chemistry to restore his health and vitality in a single night, making a mockery of what an Earth hopsital would have accomplished over the same period. He owed his life to those tits. Their huge size was now only a reminder of their immense bounty – a bounty that was available only to him.

This immense body had saved him, protected him, restored him – and that was, suddenly, incredibly sexy.

He felt a forceful hardness forming between his legs. Howard stitched a hem of kisses upon her abdominal muscles and onto her breasts. A flick of his tongue on her nipple made her stir.

Her eyes fell open, with a gratified smile. “I thought you hated my body.”

“Watching you do all those feats of strength yesterday, just to save me. It was a good feeling.”

“Feats of strength?”

“Like lifting this huge fucking tree?”

Julia shrugged her shoulders, unimpressed with her own prowess. “It’s one thing to appreciate. But another to desire. I thought you weren’t attracted to muscles.”

Howard slid between her legs, which seemed to yield to him of their own accord. He slipped his needfulness inside of her and moved with slow, deliberate thrusts. “I thought I did, too. But my resistance to it is softening.”

“That appears to be the only part of you that’s softening. The rest of you is nice and hard.” She moaned. And she arched her back, thrusting her chest up into his face, making Howard all the harder. “This my favorite way to wake up.”

“I’m glad you like it.” His smile filled with mischief. “We are, after all, starting a new day.”

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