Every initiate in the training yard knew the sound by heart, and knew just as well that it'd summon their instructors as surely as the prayer-bell. Bridget was dimly aware of a figure that must be Preceptor Brand looming to her left, and sounds that must be words rang through her head without finding any purchase.
The sun-wreathed silhouette of today's training partner reached out one arm, and it took Bridget a solid second to realise it was to help her up. The other woman grasped her around the wrist and with a smooth surge of muscle, Bridget was back on her feet.
"Did you get that, novice?"
She nodded reflexively. "Yes, Sibling Brand."
The instructor's eyebrow arched, but after a moment they answered, "Good. Practice that, and show me you can do it right when I've made another circuit of the group."
The instructor strode away in a rustle of robes, and Bridget had just about remembered to breathe when Dana asked her, "Did you actually hear a word they said or do you need me to fill you in?"
Bridget shot her partner a startled look - "I, uh. Run me through it one more time?"
The other novice was clearly laughing at her, one hand running through her short, dark hair where it threatened to drip sweat into her eyes. "Yeah, didn't think you were listening, you looked out of it. Hope you'll get over that one in training - I'd hate to see what would happen if you gave a spectre that long to decide what to do with you."
A flush of warmth coloured Bridget's cheeks. "I- just surprised, not stunned, all right? You ever have one of those moments where it takes you a few seconds to work out how you even got there?"
Dana laughed. "Better get over that one here and now than once we're out in the world, I guess?" Then her brow furrowed. "Mind if I make sure, though? Brother Fortitude made enough of a song and dance about head injuries last month, and I'd hate to rattle your brains out just because you didn't want to say anything."
Bridget nodded, and before she'd had time to register what was happening, there was a clatter of wood as Dana's shield and training sword hit the ground and the stocky frame of the woman herself darted behind her.
The feel of Dana's fingertips gently parting her hair to search her skull for any sign of injury did nothing to clear Bridget's head. Nor did the gentle tickle of warm breath against her skin.
"No, all good."
She nodded again, and Dana bent down to scoop up her weapons as she got back to business. "You're using your height well, but you were too unstable - nothing stopping me planting my shield in your chest and dumping you on your back. What you'd have heard if you'd been listening to Brand instead of staring at me" - and for a second she thought Dana winked - "is that when someone's setting to receive a charge like that, you need to get a little lower, settle your weight, try and push into me rather than over. Give it a try now?"
Bridget nodded once more, trying to make the lesson settle into her thoughts, and the clack and clatter of their own weapons joined the training yard's wooden chorus.
She'd got so engrossed in polishing the scratches of the afternoon's falls out of her backplate that Bridget hardly noticed when Jonas emerged from the bathhouse, towelling a last few drops of water from his hair. "Hey, Bridge. Better get in there before too long - Mercy was making noises about keeping the heat on all day again, and you know how she gets."
Bridget waved her assent, carefully placing her armour back with the rest of her things and bundling the polish-covered rags back into their bag. "Last one out?"
Her friend grinned back. "Yeah, usual drill, you're good. Hey, I might not catch you tonight after evensong - I need to hit the forge, I think I've got a couple of dents to hammer out. Sophie was really going for it today."
As Jonas' lanky form disappeared back towards the novice dormitories, Bridget stepped into the steam and magelight of the bathhouse - enough room for a full training group if they're willing to get familiar, finally all to herself. She stripped her tunic off and balled it into one of the baskets, swiftly joined by the rest of her clothes; and, freeing her hair to fall from its knot around her shoulders, slipped into the water's warm embrace.
The heat soothed the tension from her tired muscles, and hid the answering blush as she thought back on that disaster of a training session. A quiet groan of embarrassment escaped her and she rested her head on the stone lip of the bath as she recalled Dana's words.
Little enough chance of her staring up at a spectre thinking 'that was fucking hot.'
"That's enough wallowing," she muttered, grabbing her cloth and starting to scrub away the session's accumulated sweat.
She made her methodical way up her legs to clean her buttocks and cock, and had moved on to her belly and breasts when she heard the scrape of the door opening, and froze.
For the second time that day, she looked up at Dana silhouetted against the light - black hair clinging in sweaty spikes to her forehead, grey eyes pinning her to the spot, tanned arms rippling with lithe muscle as she grasped the hem of her tunic and lifted to reveal-
"Hey, Dana," Bridget muttered, wrenching her gaze away and busying herself with scrubbing her left arm. Bad enough staring at her out in the yard, let's not add creeping on her in the bathhouse to the litany.
A quiet splash followed by a gentle ripple were Dana's heralds, and Bridget glanced back. The water came up to the shorter novice's collarbones, and with a heroic effort Bridget's gaze dragged back up from the play of muscle in those shoulders to Dana's face.
"You're running late - I normally have this place to myself once I'm done with my armour."
"Yeah, I noticed," Dana grinned. "Told Brand I wanted to take a couple of laps around the yard to give my heart some work - spent half that session standing there while you ran into me, so I wanted to work up some sweat."
Dana's cheeks flushed an angry, shameful red. "Sorry, I know I was holding you back, I just-"
She fell silent, turned to climb out of the bath, the splash of her movement almost drowning Dana's quiet "Ah, shit."
She was about to clamber onto the cold stone when Dana spoke up again- "Hey, wait up."
More than anything it was the embarrassment in her tone that made Bridget pause.
"I was just spinning Brand a tale, you know? Wanted an excuse to lose some time before I made it over here."
Bridget watched her warily. "Why?"
Dana met her eyes and began closing the distance between the two of them. Bridget was distantly aware of the rippling water dipping down and up, clinging in drops to Dana's breasts and revealing the dark points of her nipples, but she couldn't look away from the quiet confidence in that gaze.
She was close enough that Bridget could feel the staccato rhythm of the water lapping between them when Dana spoke again.
"I wanted to catch you. Alone."
The breath caught in Bridget's throat.
"I saw the way you looked at me."
A hand clasped Bridget's wrist and drew her, gently but insistently, away from the bath's edge.
"I felt the way you moved," Dana murmured in her ear as she circled behind her, "when I did this." Fingers began running through Bridget's hair, before running down her neck to press away the knots of tension in her spine.
Hands on her shoulders. The brush of breasts against her back as Dana stretched up to whisper in her ear, "Am I reading this right?"
Another quiet moan escaped her throat as she leaned back into the embrace.
Dana's breasts pressed more firmly into Bridget's back, and those hands slipped down to circle around her waist. A sudden sharp pain drew out a gasp of surprise.
The second bite brought nothing but pleasure.
Bridget flexed her shoulders and leaned her head against Dana's - eyes closed, aware of nothing but warm water and warm skin. Dana's left hand slid under her arm, reaching up to cup one small breast, fingers dancing coyly around before darting in to pinch and twist her nipple.
The other hand trailed over Bridget's belly, and down to grasp at her now-rigid shaft. Teeth nipped at her ear, and then the hand began to pump.
"Not in the bath!"
Dana could barely restrain the laughter. "What?"
Bridget broke away and poked a finger in her chest, barely able to speak through her grin. "Look, a bit of extra sweat is one thing, but I do not want to have to clean that up and I'm damned if I'm leaving it for someone else to run across."
An answering smile danced over Dana's face as she replied, "Look at you! I wouldn't be thinking about anyone else in your position."
"Dana!" Bridget hissed in scandalised outrage. "Did we even swear the same vows? Always light the way means always, how dare you imply that I'd forget?"
The laugh bubbling under her words rather spoiled the effect.
"Sure," Dana smirked back. "If you're going to be like that-"
She turned and pushed out of the bath onto the stone floor, giving Dana a very interesting view of her shoulders at work, then twisted around and sat, legs open.
One hand patted the floor between her thighs. "Come on, then."
Their eyes met, and it was Bridget's turn to step towards her lover. She squirmed out of the bath, hissing as her buttocks met cold stone, and once more leant back into the other woman's embrace.
Dana's arms gently encircled Bridget, and the two of them sat for a few moments, still but for the rise and fall of their breathing.
Then Dana's hand returned to its old route up Bridget's body, climbing the gentle slope of her breast.
The other stole down to grip her cock. Bridget moaned in pleasure and nestled back, and Dana took the cue - her left hand departed Bridget's breast to grip her shoulder, holding her against her body as her strokes came harder and faster.
Breathing ragged, Bridget's head fell back to Dana's shoulder. Her breathing came ragged, mouth hanging open, as she felt the heat build. Her hips bucked into Dana's rhythm. A moan rose from the back of her throat to escape her lips as Dana's breath tickled at her ear, and she gasped for breath to whisper "I'm-"
Dana bit her earlobe.
As she returned to her senses, all tension drained from her aching muscles, Dana slipped out from under her, gently laying her on the cold stone, and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"Better hurry, you'll be late for prayers," Dana whispered, and - barely pausing to retrieve her clothes - slipped out of the door.
Bridget's scattered thoughts caught on the insistent chime of a bell, and she shot bolt upright. She was going to be late.