"Come on, Senn, pick up the pace!"
Piper perched atop a jagged rock several feet ahead of Senna, knees pressed to her chest as she balanced on the thin edge of the stone.
"What are you doing, Pipes?" Senna chuckled.
"Sitting! It's comfy."
Senna stepped up to the rock, running a finger along the pointed edge that her girlfriend seemed perfectly comfortable balancing on. "You've got an odd idea of comfy."
"Well, you just have the wrong attitude," Piper retorted, tapping Senna's nose as she pushed herself forward and off the rock, legs unfolding to slam into the ground before gravity could drag her down. Senna shook her head, biting back a fond smile. This girl...
"No, I just can't fold my legs like you can. It's like you're made of frigging rubber or something!"
Piper dashed ahead, jumping up to easily settle on another rock's edge, where she returned to sitting knees-to-chest. Now a few feet above Senna, she stuck her tongue out at the taller girl.
"How do you even move that fast with your pack on?"
"I'm built for speed!" Piper grinned. Senna let out an exaggerated sigh, walking up to the red-haired wisp of a girl.
"Down you go, Pipes," she huffed, lifting her bodily off the rock and setting her down on the ground again.
Piper pouted, but the twinkle in her eye betrayed how she actually felt. "You don't have to baby me, you know..."
"But you like it, don't you?"
Piper blushed, nodding, and Senna laughed. "What's funny?"
"It's just... I can see why people never believe that you're the dom."
Piper rolled her eyes. "Fuck 'em, I can be what I want."
"No, I'm happily monogamous, thank you," Senna quipped, not missing a beat.
"I- You know what I meant, Senn."
"I did. It was just funnier to ignore it. But I will note, you do always want me to take the lead..."
"Well, yeah. But what else is a pet for if not to make my life easier?" Piper leaned over, kissing Senna on the cheek.
Senna stiffened, giving a robotic salute. "Not for anything, Mistress."
"Hey, that wasn't one of mine!" Piper protested. "I didn't-"
Senna's posture loosened as she cracked up, earning her a swat from Piper.
"Jerk," Piper grinned.
"I meant it, though," she chuckled. "I love being yours."
Piper's breath caught, and her flush deepened. "... Yeah, I know." She shuffled her feet, embarrassed, as Senna returned a kiss on her forehead. "But you don't have to take care of everything, Senna."
"Yeah. I know."
Piper smiled at that, answering her kiss with a hug. After a few moments, Piper released her, scrambling to the top of the sheer rock and gesturing for her girlfriend to follow. Senna sighed fondly, walking along the trail to catch back up to Piper.
The energetic redhead leaned forward, but Senna grabbed her hand before she could bolt off again.
"Oh, no, missy. You're going to walk with me."
Piper raised an eyebrow. "Oh, but are you sure I can't walk ahead, Senna dear?"
Senna's expression went slack for a split second, the hypnotic trigger taking effect. Piper felt a sense of anticipation building. Game start, Senna. Your move.
"Yeah, I guess you can." Senna released Piper's hand, smiling. "I wouldn't want to spoil your fun, would I?"
Piper grinned. "Of course not."
She promised me a game. I assume she's not going to let me notice when it starts, because she told me about the game in advance. But has it started already?
Her train of thought was broken by a blur of red zipping past her. Piper dashed along the trail in front of her with a seemingly boundless supply of energy, gazing into the autumn forest on the hill they were on with a wide grin.
We need to stop feeding her sugar, Senna thought wryly.
"Whoa, Senn! Check this out!" Piper called, having stopped about fifty feet ahead of where Senna was.
"Really, Pipes? What's so interesting?" she called back, rolling her eyes. She walked up to stand beside her, and followed Piper's gaze to see... a pile of leaves? Why is she so captivated by that?
"Alright, it's fall. Amazing," she groaned. "Now, can we keep going? We're getting close to the observatory, and Barry told us he'd eat lunch with us there."
Piper pouted. "It's still a while till we need to get there."
"Maybe, but it's best to arrive early."
"But Senna dear, I want you to see this! Come on..." she pleaded.
Oh, alright... "What's so interesting about these leaves, then?"
Piper perked up. "Oh! Well, you can see some green on these leaves, especially the ones nearer to the tree. Doesn't that strike you as odd?"
"No... and why should it?"
"Well, that means this tree was dropping leaves before fall started. Look, they've even started to decompose a little. Could it be sick?"
"Maybe, but what does it matter?"
"Everything! Ecosystems are important, you know!" Piper pulled her bag off her shoulder, riffling through and pulling out with an odd contraption, shaped like the unholy lovechild of a drill and the letter T. She held it up triumphantly. "Aha! I knew I packed this!"
"And 'this' is..."
"A tree corer! Jessica would probably be interested in seeing this tree... So I'll just bring it to her!"
"Jessica... your friend who works at the observatory?"
"Mhm!" Piper nodded, setting the strange contraption against the tree, and began to screw it in. "She's in charge of land surveys here. She didn't ask me to pack my coring kit, but I always bring it on hikes."
Senna raised an eyebrow. "Is that why you always insist we check bags whenever we fly somewhere?"
"Haha, yeah..." Piper grinned sheepishly. "I never go anywhere without it!"
She slid a thin metal piece, like a long scoop, into the hollow center. She pulled it out, taking out a thin, long cylinder of wood with it. She examined it, nodded with satisfaction, and dropped it into a rigid plastic tube that appeared to be perfectly sized to fit. She riffled through her bag again, producing a small white reflective sticker and slapping it onto the tree.
Senna shook her head. "You just keep pulling secrets out of your ass, don't you?"
"Well, it is such a nice ass. Might as well use it for something!"
Senna grimaced. "... I walked right into that one."
"Isn't walking into someone's ass sexual harassment?"
"Keep talking, and I'll show you some har-ass-ment!"
Piper burst out laughing. Senna tried to keep her cool, but Piper's clear, pure laughter was infectious, and soon enough she broke into giggles too. Piper grabbed Senna in a light embrace, using her partner to steady herself as the laughter faded.
"Leave it for the bedroom, Senn," she whispered.
Before Senna could react, Piper spun away towards the trail, calling for her to keep up. Senna rolled her eyes.
Damn that annoying, dumb, foolhardy, adorable girl. Honestly, what do I see in her? Involuntarily, her lips twitched upwards. Well, besides the everything. She shook her head fondly, trotting off to catch up with Piper.
Piper sighed in satisfaction as she set down her empty drink on the picnic table. Closing her eyes, she dropped her head to rest against Senna's shoulder beside her.
"Not while I'm eating, Pipes..." Senna mumbled around a mouthful of her sandwich, pushing Piper back upright.
Barry laughed. "I see you two are the same as always. Piper was head over heels from the moment you two met, y'know. Couldn't muster the nerve to confess for-"
That was as far as he got before a blushing Piper clamped a hand over his mouth. He continued talking cheerfully, although the words were now muffled and indistinct. Senna rolled her eyes as Barry finished the story, and Piper settled back into her seat, revealing his wide grin.
"I know that story. She's told it to me already. Didn't she try to convince you to ask me out for her?"
"And she wonders why people don't believe she's the one who hypnotizes you!"
Senna frowned, suddenly on guard. What did he mean by that? She leveled an icy glare at Barry. "What do you know?"
He held his hands up in a placating gesture. "Don't freak out, Senna. Stage magic was my hobby in college, remember? Who do you think taught your girl to bend the minds of innocent young women to her will?"
Senna's frown deepened. "And why wouldn't she have told me about this?"
Piper grabbed her hand, drawing her attention away from Barry. "Look, Senna dear, you know I get embarrassed when I talk about this stuff with you. Sometimes I just need someone to vent to, okay?"
Barry raised an eyebrow at the way Senna's face shifted at Piper's words. He gave an appreciative whistle. "Nice job."
"She'll have my head for that once she remembers," Piper groaned. "She's free to chew me out then, but, well she did tell me she didn't want the game interrupted..." She let go of Senna's hand, awareness returning to the other girl's eyes.
"Sorry about that. I overreacted," she said sheepishly.
"It's alright, Senn."
Piper put an arm around Senna's side, squeezing her close.
Barry chuckled. "Well, I have to get back to work. Jess says hi, by the way! She's busy, or she'd have come herself."
Piper sat up straight at the reminder, riffling through her bag. "Oh, right! A little down the Blue Trail from the three-way intersection, there was a tree which had dropped its leaves early. I got a core from it, and I marked it with a high-vis sticker if she wants to look at it further."
Barry blinked in surprise, accepting the offered plastic tube. "She's working on collating data for the land survey now, actually. She'll probably want to see that. Anyway, it was nice catching up with you both!" With that, he stood up and strode off towards the observatory's entrance. Senna waved to him as he left.
"It's been a while since we got to catch up with him, hasn't it?" Piper sighed.
"Yeah. Haven't seen him since that big party this summer, though it's disappointing that Jess got held up by her work. Ah, well there's always another day for that."
Senna picked up her pack, slinging it onto her shoulders. "Well, Pipes, shall we be off? There's lots more hiking to do, after all."
Piper groaned. "Come on, Senn, take it easy! It's so nice up here... Let's just stay for a while."
"Don't be lazy, Pipes. C'mon, let's go!"
"But wouldn't you like to stay and enjoy the view, Senna dear?"
Senna paused. "I... suppose we could do that. It is a nice view." She frowned slightly.
Ooh, and now the game's really on, Piper grinned to herself. Let's push it a little further, shall we? Give her a little more to go off of.
"And Senna dear, don't you want to enjoy the view by my side? I'm sure you could use a nice, warm hug."
"... Yeah. That'd be nice." She shook her head, as if to dispel her suspicions. Her face cleared, the frown fading. Looks like she's dismissed it... Or is that just what she wants me to think?
Senna sat back down, leaning her head against Piper's bony shoulder. Piper had long wondered how Senna managed to enjoy doing that, but she always told her it was perfectly comfortable. Senna reached out, grabbing Piper in a loose embrace. She didn't seem very sleepy though, more... needy. Well, I guess I did order her to want a hug...
Piper rolled her eyes, and just leaned further in, enjoying the moment.
"Okay, Pipes, you've definitely started the game by now. Something's off, am I right?" Senna asked innocently as the pair walked side-by-side through the forest.
"No cheating, Senn!" Piper teased, grinning. "I won't say!"
They stopped at a crossroads, Piper beginning to puff with exertion. "Damn, my bag is heavy..."
She blinked. "Senna dear, would you be so kind as to take some of my load off?"
"Not a problem," Senna said, walking over so she could reach Piper's pack. She pulled a large camera out of the other girl's pack, and handed it to Piper, allowing her to load it into Senna's own bag.
As they continued walking, Piper glanced at Senna's pack, feeling a pang of guilt. I mean, she is far stronger than I am... An image came, unbidden, to her mind. Senna, nude, glistening with sweat, her muscles defined in glorious contours. She shivered, despite the warm autumn afternoon.
The irony of their relationship struck her again, as it had earlier. Senna was stronger, smarter, and more capable than she was. She was the breadwinner of the two, the one who tended to make all the plans for excursions and events. Yet somehow Piper had the astronomical luck of such a driven girl being submissive. Submissive to her, someone who, in comparison, was...
She shook her head, slapping her cheeks. No. Bad Piper. Self-deprecation is not okay.
Senna looked over to her, concerned. "You alright?"
"Yeah. Just the old 'do-I-deserve-her' thing. I'm fine."
Senna walked over to embrace the shorter girl, kissing her gently on the forehead.
"Alright," she said, releasing Piper. "Just don't let it get to you."
"I don't, anymore." She sighed. "I just... It sucks, y'know."
Senna nodded. "Do you need a second?"
"Alright. Just let me set my pack down. It's really heavy..." she paused. "Because... never mind."
Oh? Were those gears I heard turning in her head? She was glad for the thought, a welcome distraction from what she'd been thinking about before.
"Are you tired, Piper?" Senna asked. Thinking about what happened after lunch, are we, Senna? Sneaky...
"No, not particularly. Why?" Well, I know why, but does she know that I know? She felt some of her energy come back as she slipped into the easy rhythm of their game. It was a comforting feeling, one she could rely on.
"Oh, never mind. You seem to have recovered some, anyway. Do you want to keep going?"
Senna set off up the hill, Piper trailing behind her, watching the taller girl's body language closely.
"Hey, Pipes... You triggered me to calm me down with Barry, didn't you?"
Piper froze. "Did I?"
"It just seems... odd. Normally, you'd explain to me what had happened, and talk me down step-by-step, but..."
"Maybe you just realized you were overreacting?" Piper offered carefully.
"No, you know I don't get down from rants that easily. So the trigger must be able to make me forget that you used it, and it also makes it so I can't notice that it was used." She turned to study Piper's expression.
The shorter girl grinned, a mirthful glint gleaming in her eyes. "Senna, are you sure you aren't just imagining things?"
"Oh, don't play coy with me, girl. You know full well you're a terrible liar."
"Do I, now?"
Senna scoffed. She walked up, jabbing a finger in Piper's direction as she spoke. "You had me for a while there, I'll admit. Small things, little nudges here and there. I'm guessing that the tree core was part of it somehow?"
God, I love her.
"Alright, alright," she chuckled. "See, Senna."
Senna blinked, the new trigger bringing a flood of memories clicking back into place, then grinned.
"That was clever, Piper. Making it seem like I was just indulging you. I mean, you know I already like doing it enough to begin with."
"Not clever enough to stump you, though."
"Bah, if you could make a puzzle I couldn't solve, hell would probably freeze over. That's not what you shine at, though. I mean, take that tree core. I wouldn't have thought to bring that to Jessica, even though I had the same information you did."
Piper sighed. "... Thanks, Senn. Really."
"No, I'm serious," she insisted, stepping up to put her hands on Piper's cheeks. "You don't give yourself enough credit. Honestly, I feel like I don't deserve you sometimes." She patted her cheeks lightly, making Piper smirk. Senna reached out, embracing Piper.
"But, well, I do know one other thing you're good at. Does your loyal servant get a reward for playing the game so well? I have paid the Piper, after all..."
She snorted. "There'll be time for that later, Senn. But since you've won, why not enjoy the game a little longer... Senna, dear?"
Senna felt the trigger coming this time. A powerful blankness threatened to overtake her mind as the suggestion tried to cover her memories again. Now that she knew what the trigger was, she could resist it.
But what would be the fun in that?
She smiled, letting Piper's words wash over her, as the game began anew.