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I followed a few steps behind my brother as we hiked through the woods. I wondered, not for the first time, if we were lost. This was the sort of thing John did for fun. He loved being outdoors. By all rights he should have been able to navigate the trails blindfolded. And yet, I couldn’t help noticing how every now and then he’d stop and look around with a slight frown on his face.
“Are we lost?” I asked.
John sighed heavily, making sure I could hear it. “No, Vi, we’re not lost. Stop worrying about it. I know where we’re going.”
“So you know where we are then?”
He gestured grandly at the trees all around us. “We’re in a forest.”
I rolled my eyes even though he wasn’t looking at me. “Thanks so much for that helpful information.”
John finally turned toward me. The large backpack he carried gave him a bizarre profile from the side. It looked like he should fall over backward from the sheer weight of it. Supposedly it wasn’t as heavy as it appeared.
“Do you not trust me?”
I took a moment to consider my answer. In the twenty years I’d known him, I’d never once had cause to doubt his navigational skills. As a little sister, it was my prerogative to say something snarky anyway if I so chose, but I decided not to.
“No, I believe you,” I said. I waved my arm in a flamboyant imitation of his previous gesture. “Carry on, fearless leader.”
John’s eyes narrowed for a second, then he shrugged and turned away. His stride seemed more purposeful as we resumed walking. Maybe he felt he had something to prove now and was trying not to look indecisive anymore. Maybe he really did know what he was doing all along and any indication otherwise was purely in my head.
My thoughts wandered, as they tended to on long walks. I remembered last year; the last time John and I had gone hiking together. I wasn’t nearly as much of a fan of the whole ‘nature’ thing as he was, and it was generally up to him to drag me away from civilization. He was probably the only person who could convince me to go when it came right down to it.
Last year we’d taken a different route through the same forest. John had promised it would be an easier trail this time. He’d gotten tired of listening to me complain about how sore my legs were afterward. I smiled to myself at the thought of how much patience he must have for me. He’d be perfectly happy walking up and down a mountain for a week, and here we were taking a path that he’d barely work up a sweat on.
All of a sudden, the trees started thinning out around us. I was confused for a second since I thought we’d made it out of the forest already, but I realized we’d just reached a clearing. It looked to be a small, grassy field with a river running down the middle of it.
“Are we supposed to be here?” I asked.
John gave me a look. “Questioning me again?”
“Technically… yes. I s’pose I am.”
He sighed again and started heading into the centre of the clearing. I followed, not having much other choice in the matter. He hadn’t answered my question.
“We should stop here for the night,” he said. “It’s probably the best spot we’ll find to set up the tent. Plus there’s a convenient source of water, for washing up or whatever.”
I shaded my eyes with my hand and tried to judge where the sun was in the sky.
“Are you sure? It looks like we’ve still got, like, a couple hours of daylight.”
“You’re welcome to keep going if you want. I’m staying here.”
“I knew it, you have no idea where we are, do you? You just want to take a break and try to figure it out.”
“If it makes you happy to believe that…”
I didn’t, really, but I was confused about his decision. I was always the one who wanted to stop and set up camp before he did. His excuses sounded awfully similar to ones I’d use if I were tired of walking. Maybe I was rubbing off on him.
John located a nice flat patch of ground for us to set up camp for the night. I shucked my backpack-smaller than the one he was lugging around-then stretched my arms and back out. I wasn’t used to walking with the extra weight. I’d probably be stiff the next day.
“I’m going for a swim,” I announced.
John raised an eyebrow. “How about we get set up here first. You know, get the tent out, gather wood for a fire… all those things you’ll be whining about later if we don’t have them done.”
“I’m hot and sweaty and I want to cool off. Plus, thanks to you, we have loads of daylight left.”
“Not as much as you think.”
I shrugged. “I’ll take my chances.”
John bit back a reply, then waved me away. He’d work faster without me ‘helping’ anyway, so I wasn’t sure what he was complaining about.
The ground rose slightly then fell again as I walked the short distance to the river. Standing at the river back, I could only just make out my brother’s head as he moved around. I waited a moment to see if he’d give in and join me, but it didn’t seem like that was going to happen. I’d just have to swim by myself.
Last year had been different. It had been a hotter day, and was still hot even merter escort into the evening. John and I had gone to the river-maybe the same river at a different point, come to think of it-and gone swimming together to cool off. We’d stripped down to our underwear and waded in. I remembered the time vividly, like it had been last week rather than last year.
I removed my clothing slowly as I reminisced. My hiking boots and socks came off first, then my shirt and shorts. I hesitated once I was down to my bra and panties. It had been kind of a pain in the ass getting them all soaked last year. I was tempted to take them off too and go swimming completely naked.
Although… the memory of John and I sitting by the fire in our underwear, waiting for the soggy material to dry came unbidden to my mind. I remembered how he kept stealing glances at me when he thought I wasn’t looking. My bra had done a much worse job of protecting my modesty when it was all wet and clingy. I’d pretended not to notice, and luckily the glow of the fire had masked my blushing.
I shook my head and unclasped my bra. Voyeuristic possibilities aside, it would be far more comfortable and practical just to ditch all of my clothes and keep them dry. Besides, the longer I stopped to think about it, the less time I’d have in the water. Sometimes any decision was better than no decision at all.
The river felt just as cool and refreshing on my skin as I’d anticipated. I stepped in slowly, feeling for the bottom with my toes before committing my weight. Even at its deepest point it was only up to my shoulders, and the current wasn’t nearly strong enough to pull me away against my will. Still, I didn’t want to do something stupid and have to yell for my brother to come rescue me. That’d just be embarrassing to have to get pulled out, all naked and wet and…
I bit my lip and tried to stop my train of thought before it got too far away from me. I’d gone off on completely the wrong tangent. John was still over dicking around with the tent or whatever; this was me time. It had nothing to do with him. I bent my knees and relaxed into the water until it was up to my chin. All the dirt and sweat of the day’s hike was like a bad dream. I felt cleansed, purified… or at least far less grimy than before. I’d take what I could get.
I floated in the middle of the stream, anchored only by my toes. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes, letting the sun warm my face and dry off stray droplets. Being in the water by myself was far more peaceful than it would have been with John. We were probably the same as a lot of siblings in that we had a hard time leaving each other alone. If one of us tried to relax, the other would splash them, or dunk them, or anything at all, really. Some scenarios just turned us into kids all over again no matter how old we got.
My sense of time got a bit fuzzy as I floated, drifted, and occasionally swam. It must have been longer than I thought because all of a sudden John was there, sitting on a rock on the river bank. He had a faint smile on his lips that broadened once he saw that I’d noticed him.
“How long have you been there?” I asked.
“Not long. I was busy, you know. I had to get the tent up and gather some wood and-“
“Yeah, yeah. Ever the martyr, aren’t you?”
“Sometimes, sure. It comes with being your brother.”
I stuck my bottom lip out in a pout. John just laughed.
“So you’re just gonna sit there and watch me now?”
“I was thinking about it. It’s an interesting view.”
I followed his gaze down to my chest. My breasts were technically underwater, but not so deep that they’d be too obscured. I felt my face heat up.
John shrugged. “You’re the one who took your clothes off. Don’t blame me.”
“Well… turn around or something. I’m ready to get out anyway.”
He arched an eyebrow and stayed where he was for a moment, but I stared him down until he finally spun around on his perch. With his back to me, I trudged to the edge of the river and crawled up onto the bank. My clothes were right where I’d left them.
“I was expecting you to at least have your underwear on or something,” he said as though that explained everything.
“Woulda got wet.”
“Isn’t it going to get wet now anyway? You know, when you put it on your wet body? Or am I expected to avert my eyes until you dry off in the sun.”
“How ’bout you shut the hell up?”
That got another chuckle from my brother. I hated to admit that he kind of had a point. I was going to have to put something back on if I didn’t want to wander around naked, and whatever it was would get damp. Damp underwear was at least slightly better than soggy underwear, but it still wasn’t ideal. I put my bra and panties back on anyway since I didn’t know what else to do. They absorbed some of the water on my skin right away. My bra went transparent enough that my nipples were visible through the material. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
“Can I turn around yet?” John asked.
“Yeah, nişantaşı escort sure. Whatever.”
I faced him as he turned back toward me. His gaze immediately dropped from my face to the rest of my scantily clad body. To his credit, it was only a few seconds before he made eye contact again.
“That’s a good look on you.”
I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, trying not to look as awkward and nervous as I felt. I’d been in similar states of attire in front of my brother before, but he’d always been stripped down too. It was different being on display when he was still fully clothed.
Abruptly John turned away and pulled his shirt over his head. I watched the muscles in his arms and back flex as his torso was revealed. He had the definition of someone who enjoyed being outdoors rather than someone who specifically worked for it. I kind of liked the more subtle display.
“You going in now?” I asked.
“Mmhm. Looks refreshing.”
He knelt to untie his boots. I watched him for a moment, intrigued by the slight flexing of his arms. I shook my head and started picking up the rest of my clothes.
“I’m gonna head back,” I said.
“Okay. I’ll come find you when I’m done here.”
I clutched my bundle of clothes and boots in my arms as I walked away. I glanced back a few times, noting the progression in my brother’s disrobing. Luckily, he fell out of sight before I got too distracted and tripped over something.
John had set the tent up for us and had a pile of wood ready just like he’d said. I decided to get a fire going since I was starting to get hungry and I’d want to be able to cook some food before too long. Building a fire was one of the few things I’d learned from my brother and gotten really good at. It took some time and patience working my way up from twigs and bark to good sized sticks, but I didn’t mind; I liked watching the flames flicker and dance and slowly spread. Eventually I had a real campfire going.
The heat from the fire helped dry me out, but my bra and panties had absorbed the water more than my skin and remained slightly damp to the touch. I took them off and pulled my shirt and shorts on instead, leaving me comfortably dry at last.
The sun was just hitting the top of the tree line in the sky. It still wouldn’t reach the horizon proper for a bit, but it was getting late. I frowned and looked over toward the river. I hadn’t been keeping track of time, but it seemed like John was taking quite a while over there. I decided that if he wasn’t back by the time the sun sank below the tree line I’d have to go check on him.
Fortunately, John returned, fully clothed and quite dry, before I had to form a solo search party. He must have simply lain out by the river to dry off before getting dressed again. That would explain his long absence.
“Decided to put your clothes back on, huh?” he said.
“Well duh. I just had to dry off a little first.”
“I still say it wasn’t a bad look for you.”
I turned and poked at the fire with a stick to mask the flush on my face.
“You’re such a charmer,” I said as sarcastically as I could manage.
“I know. The girls love me.”
“I’m sure they do.”
John must have had the same idea I did, because he started rummaging around in our bags for food. He’d brought along an old frying pan so we could heat things up. I’d insisted he carry it because there was no way I was lugging that heavy old thing around.
“Are you cooking?” he asked.
“I’m gonna have to. We both know you can’t cook for shit.”
He laughed and didn’t bother to contradict me. To be fair, his cooking was passable and he clearly hadn’t starved to death yet, but we both knew I was better at it.
John and I sat together by the fire long after we’d finished supper. It had gotten dark out, although there was enough moonlight that it wasn’t truly pitch black outside our bubble of flickering illumination. We sat side to side, sometimes chatting, sometimes lost in thought. It was the part of the hiking trip I’d been waiting for.
I had a marshmallow on the end of a long stick and I was holding it over the fire. The way I liked to cook marshmallows to a perfect golden brown drove my brother crazy. Admittedly, it took a fair amount of time and patience, but I enjoyed the process as well as the result. He only cared about eating them.
“I think that one’s done,” he said.
“Nope. Not quite yet.”
I pulled my marshmallow toward me for a second to verify that it hadn’t quite reached its optimally heated state yet. John made an exasperated noise, but I ignored him. It was none of his business how long I took.
“It’s a nice night,” he said, changing tactics.
“You can see the stars and everything.”
I looked up. The stars were indeed very visible in the sky.
“Pretty,” I said.
“Uh huh. Remember last year, we stayed up so late stargazing.”
“That was nice. We could do that again, if we wanted.”
I retrieved ortaköy escort my marshmallow, carefully sliding it off the end of my stick. I didn’t care what John thought, they were better when they got the proper attention. This one was nearly perfect. It was all crisp on the outside, and warm and gooey on the inside.
“Another?” he asked, offering me the bag in case I wanted to cook another one.
“No, I think I’m good.”
I hunched forward, hugging my knees to my chest. The flames were hypnotic. Despite their warmth, I still imagined I could feel John’s body heat. He was sitting so close that we were almost touching. I leaned toward him ever so slightly, a small enough shift that he might not have even noticed. After a moment I did it again, and this time my shoulder grazed his. I held my breath without really meaning to.
At first it seemed like John had missed the faint contact, like maybe he was too deep in thought. A moment later he shifted and slipped his arm around me, pulling me against him. I relaxed into him and slowly let out the breath I’d taken. I let my head rest on his shoulder and moved my arm down to his leg. I squeezed his knee gently.
“I’m glad you invited me to come hiking with you again,” I said.
John gave me a soft squeeze in return. “You think I wouldn’t? After last year…”
He trailed off, but I knew what he meant. It was something we couldn’t talk about, but also something I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about. I would have been devastated if he hadn’t wanted me to come along with him at all this year.
I felt my brother’s fingers moving on my waist. He toyed idly with the hem of my shirt as though simply looking for something to occupy his attention. Slowly, so slowly, the hem crept upward until his hand could slip under it. His attempt at subtlety left something to be desired, but it was still a step in the right direction. I bit my lip and stayed silent as I felt his palm flatten against my bare skin.
My heartbeat quickened, pounding insistently in my chest. Against a background consisting solely of the crackling sticks in the fire, it felt embarrassingly loud to me. I was probably imagining that. In all likelihood John couldn’t hear my heartbeat anymore than I could hear his. And yet…
His hand slid upward, maneuvering with all the stealth of a puppy who thinks you aren’t watching. If he got high enough he’d feel my heart pounding, even if he couldn’t hear it. That knowledge only worsened my nerves, and my excitement.
John pulled away, reaching over to our wood pile to throw another few sticks on the fire. I curled my hands into fists in frustration, but managed to keep my mouth shut. I didn’t exactly want our fire to die on us either. Besides, in only a matter of seconds he was right back where he was supposed to be. I hardly had enough time to get properly irritated.
“You feel kinda warm,” he said.
In reality, I was quite warm. The air wasn’t exactly cool to begin with, although the temperature had dropped somewhat from earlier. That along with the fire and my brother’s body heat left me in a decidedly cozy state.
I closed my eyes and bit my lip again as John’s hand reached the bottom of my breasts. My shirt had been pulled halfway up my torso, leaving my tummy exposed. I wanted to just pull it off, get it out of the way, but it wasn’t time for that yet.
“And no bra,” he said.
“It was damp. I took it off.”
John carefully pulled the bottom of my shirt up and over my breasts, leaving it bunched up above them. The sudden exposure to the night air made my nipples tingle. I sat stoically, pretending not to notice that he’d done anything at all. It was the single most difficult instance of doing nothing that I’d ever participated in. I was so wound up with anticipation I was practically vibrating.
He cupped my breast, holding me in a way that was almost casual, except of course that it was anything but. I risked a glance over at him. He was staring at the fire, seemingly not paying any attention to me at all. I watched him a little too long and got caught. He turned his head and our eyes met. His lips twitched into a crooked smile. I smiled back automatically, without any conscious thought behind it.
I was even more aware of my uncovered breasts than before. My nipples actually ached a little. As if waiting for his cue, John suddenly pinched the nipple his hand had been covering. I made a small, pathetic whimpering noise that only lasted a second before I was able to cut it off. His smile grew wider.
“Hiking trips just aren’t the same without you,” he said softly. “I’ve definitely learned that since… last time.”
He pushed me gently, but firmly, onto my back next to the fire. I submitted to his physical guidance. He pulled off his shirt, then followed me down and lowered his head to my chest. I saw his lips part just before my line of sight was blocked by his head. His tongue flicked across the tip of my breast, making me suck in a sharp breath.
It was what I’d been waiting for. There in the woods, in the dark, just the two of us, the time was finally right. I couldn’t explain it to myself, let alone to anyone else, but somehow we both understood it. This was our forbidden time, our chance to do what we couldn’t during our normal lives. Out here things were different. Rules, laws, morals, self-control… those were all just words.
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