Book: Prisms- Isle de Baraja.
Series: Light, Water, Muses.
Rating: PG-13 to R, possibly tilting a bit to NC17 late in the tale.
Category: A sequel of sorts to Broadway and a corner of LWM that I've been wanting to explore for a long time.
Pairings: Dace and her various playmates as well as a generous sampling of groupings we should all know well by now!
General Disclaimer: This site contains stories between mature, consenting adult females. All characters are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. All TV show disclaimers are in earlier parts of this saga.
Spoilers: Outside of Broadway, there is nothing specific, except for the several characters from earlier sections of Light, Water and Muses, and aspects of their characters and backgrounds that were established there.
Summary: A working vacation does wonders for the extended family of friends.
++ Dace ++
I reflexively jump at the buzzing of the chunky cell phone in my pocket, fumbling the damn thing out to answer it. A glance at the screen tells me who it is before I hear her actual voice. "Sup Micky D?"
A low, sexy chuckle on the other end makes me grin. "I swear you change my name every time we talk."
"Not every time."
"So," the Archangel Michael drawls on the other end. "I figured I better drop you a line before the girls get the news and go into a fangirl frenzy."
"A fangirl frenzy? What?" I might be alarmed if not for the distinctive thrum of barely repressed amusement in her low voice.
"Last night, Lee had a minor accident onstage."
Memories of my sweet singer playmate flash through my mind. "Minor?"
"Yes. She tripped up during her finale and broke a rib."
"Ouch!" I wince in sympathy. "I suppose I should give Jaye a buzz."
"That's the idea. I can't imagine that Lee's going to be a good patient."
And it hits me, my eyes dropping to a heavy envelope of papers that arrived just yesterday afternoon from the Bahamas.
Michael might not be able to see my evil grin, but I bet she can hear in my voice. "Hey Fen? Bet the weather sucks right about now."
"Dace, it's January in New York City. Of course the weather sucks."
"I got an envelope from the island yesterday. They're just about ready for habitation."
"You don't say," Michael hums thoughtfully to herself. "I suppose that would call for some sort of kickoff party. You call Jaye and I'll start putting out feelers to Diamonds and Clubs."
"Done! And I might gather up my pack and head back up to your neck of the woods. Regardless, I'll chat at ya soon."
Let the games begin!
++ Lee ++
This is not how the story was supposed to end.
I mean, seriously, what are the odds?!!?
After more than fourteen months of being onstage, and years of prep before that, I fall and break a rib on the night before my final curtain call?
Today is a cranky day, dammit.
Oh sure, performing that final, sweeping farewell with Jan soothed me and gave me a chance to say goodbye to the fans. Though today the effort has made me feel like I tangled with an angry rhino. Through the haze of drugs and insanely long hours of sleep, the pain still blazes in my side, making me feel morose and sorry for myself.
Silvery, cloudy light bathes the apartment in cold light, reminding me of the winter raging outside. At least I'm warm and safe. A sudden wracking cough that makes me feel like I've been run through with hot steel leaves me gasping and crying. When the spell passes, Jaye is sitting beside me, his big hands gentle on my shoulder and hip. All I can do is groan unhappily and sniffle the tears away.
"Feelin' shitty?" he asks softly and I nod. "Well, it's getting pretty close for your next pill, so I'll get that set up, k?"
"Thanks babe," I whisper and he kisses my temple.
"My pleasure. There's someone here to see you."
My groan is expressive and I can't stop the whining. "I don't know that I'm up for company."
His smile is mischievous. "You'll want this one, trust me."
Of all the people that could have stepped into the room, I honestly would not have expected to see Michael. Particularly not with that warm, friendly grin on her aristocratic face. "Hey there, songbird. You sure went out with flying colors!"
A chuckle I can't stop makes me groan again, my body twisting for mercy in the comfort of my lush bed.
"Sorry, Lee," she chuckles ruefully and takes the same spot Jaye just left, her slender hand resting on my matted hair. "Though I have something that should make you feel better."
"Is it legal?" I can't help but sass, basking in the woman's rolling chuckle.
"It's location, not pharmaceutical," she grins and I peer up, cursing the screwy angle but wholly unwilling to change it. "The Four Suits own an island in the Bahamas where we just finished building an exclusive little resort. The project was put on hold for several years, but it's ready to get a shakedown cruise, so to speak."
"The Bahamas?" my voice says with no input from the saner parts of my mind, the image of warm beaches blunting the pain. "Really?"
"Yep. I already hashed out the basics with Jaye and you two can pull off the finances, no problem. Most of the trip will be on us, because this will be one of the dress rehearsals for the staff. I spoke with Captain Drewson just an hour ago and she feels that the Major Arcana can handle the winter weather to get to Florida."
Michael's lost me and chuckles again at my expression. She pulls out the chunky satellite phone that she will only mysteriously explain is 'top-secret' no matter how many times I nag her about it. A few presses of buttons and Michael turns the phone to me. Only the little screen is a magnificent old three-masted sailing ship, circa the 1700s or so.
"She's beautiful," I note and suddenly realize what I'm seeing. Startled, I look up into Michael's warm amber eyes. "That's the Major Arcana?"
"Yes. Beautiful, isn't she?" A wholly unexpected voice booms out and I'm utterly grateful to Michael's hand on my skull, pinning me down. Otherwise, I'd have jumped up and crippled myself with pain. Like a dream, my friend and kinky mentor from the desert appears over Michael's shoulder. "Hey pretty girl."
I'm too stunned to react until Dace lays her familiar scarred hand on my hip and I choke back a sob. Immediately, this friend of my body and heart moves around Michael to kneel and gently gather my dirty head to her upper chest, near her heart.
"Let it out, Lee," she purrs softly and I lose it. I've tried so hard to keep all the pain inside, bottled up behind the burning rib. Oh, the physical hurt will go away, it even fades with sleep and painkillers, but I wail brokenly at Dace about the pain of my abrupt separation with the role that has defined my career. It wasn't supposed to end like this, with me listening to Eve sing my role while I sprawled impotently on a couch backstage, forced to be an audience to my own ending. Oh sure, I forced myself to go onstage and perform the final few bars of Xena's final number, holding Jan's anchoring hands in mine, but it wasn't the same. The loving roar of the crowd, their voices and clapping hands, is still ringing in my ears like a harmony to the blinding pain in my torso.
That bittersweet ending will never leave me.
Sobbing leads to coughing, each muscular contraction of my torso a hammer blow to my side. Dace's grip around my shoulders and head is tight, Michael's hand on my hip anchoring as they both soothe me gently.
I'm blinded and deafened with the pain my side, making my emotional hurts and frustrations all the more poignant.
++ Michael ++
There are few clients that become friends to me. Lee crossed that line to join her husband after Dace's introduction to their lives and I've never regretted that decision. They're lovely people, smart, energetic and funny. I knew Lee was hurting from more than the cracked rib and it's difficult to watch her break down from it. This injury has stalled her life, made her miss the final night of the role that shaped her career and will probably slow production on the 'Bohemia' movie. In the long run she'll be fine, but for the time being she hurting, drugged up, mostly bedridden and completely inactive.
No wonder that she bawls like a child in Dace's grip.
"Shh," Dace soothes softly, caressing Lee's head and purring strongly. "Calm, calm, Lee. You'll be alright. Shhh…"
Gasping, crying out in pain, Lee clings to Dace's larger body like a lifeline and slowly calms. Then Dace lays Lee down again, half hovering over her small body.
"It hurts, I know," Dace speaks with absolute seriousness, her tone feather gentle. "I remember."
Still sniffling, tears rolling out of the pretty green eyes, Lee reaches up to caress the ragged scar and silver bar in Dace's forehead. My old pal kisses away the tears and gathers Lee's head and shoulders to her again.
"Michael, grab her legs. Got her? On three. One, two, up!" Following Dace's body cues, I move with her to carry Lee's hurting body to the bathroom and we ever so carefully set the small woman on her feet, still clasped in Dace's grip. "You'll feel better after a bath. Can you stand?"
"I think so," Lee whispers and manages the task as Dace gradually lets her go. Businesslike and gentle, my old pal begins stripping her pet while I keep watch.
"So, now that you've seen Arcana," Dace chimes up brightly and Lee and I look at one another in momentary confusion. "Do you like her?"
Nodding, Lee holds her confusion and waits for Dace to get to the point. She's stripped from the waist down and Dace stands to start unbuttoning her shirt.
"Luckily for us, she winter berths in San Francisco and can be here in time to sail for the twenty-second."
Lee's look of confusion is comical and I swallow my chuckling, even as Dace shows no such self-restraint.
"That gives you twelve days to recover and get your fanny to Miami."
A long soak in the sun and sea will do her and Jaye wonders. Not to mention the extra-curricular activities that we can offer! Similar thoughts are flickering through Lee's expressive verdant eyes, chasing away the pain and confusion.
"Sure. The staff needs a shakedown anyway, in preparation for regular guests, so we might as well have fun doing it, right?"
The bruising is nasty, a deep purple that wraps around the curve of her ribcage, the bones paler streaks against the color.
"I hit the springboard too hard," Lee murmurs as much to herself as us. "To do one of the aerial somersaults and the rubber mat was missing, so my feet went out from underneath me. The regular stage hand that places the mat was out and the sub missed that little detail." Her grimace conveys her feelings quite clearly and I really hope the theater fired the sub and they have hidden themselves from the wrath of this damaged creature. "Bartholomew and I went down in a tangle and I felt something hit me in the ribs. I think it was a support board for part of the backdrop. Luckily, Bartholomew BSed his way through the rest of the scene and Eve could finish up the singing. I remember whining at Jan to keep the paparazzi away from me and some nurse asking how much the costume was worth. They wouldn't cut it off because the stupid thing is worth almost twenty grand." There's finally a flicker of a smile, lightening her stricken face. It's a good break for Dace and I to take an arm and help her step into the tub where water flows warm and plentiful.
"Hang on a sec, Starling," Dace chuckles even as she expertly shucks her clothes off and also steps into the tub. "I'll wash your hair."
++ Dace ++
The strangeness of Michael and me, both Kings of our respective Houses, doing something as mundane as bathing a damaged friend is not lost on either of us. Placidly obedient, Lee allows us to manipulate her sore body, placing her hands on the shower wall at shoulder height. Then Fen pulls off the hose attachment shower head to wet her hair down while I keep stabilizing hands on the curves of her hips. In this companionable quiet we scrub shampoo and then conditioner through the dark tresses, carefully washing away the lather to protect her eyes. Then Michael wraps supportive hands around Lee's chin and the nape of her neck while I grab a bath poof and shower gel that smells of roses and rosemary.
"You doin' okay?" I ask Lee quietly, delighting in her trusting and lazy hum. "Just let us know if you need anything or get sore."
Once again, Lee hums agreeably and I bet her passivity is mostly due to Michael's strong hand kneading that vulnerable spot at the top of her spine. Tenderly, I scrub over the curves and hollows of her fine figure, shocked to discover traces of the bronzy body paint still lingering on her skin. Obviously I avoid the busted rib and the nasty discoloration near it. Trailing the poof between Lee's legs gets a throaty noise that makes me tease her.
"No getting' friendly, Starling. But we'll take a raincheck on that, okay?"
The soft snort of humor makes me laugh and Fen grin.
I enjoy touching her like this, sensual and loving. Every square inch of Lee's body is washed as I even pick up her feet one at a time and get her soles and the spaces between her dainty toes. Once more, I get that faint animal noise and a squirm that makes her flinch.
"Sorry, didn't mean to tickle," I grin and caress her hip in apology. Then I get the facial scrub I noticed and stand. "Okay, sweetie, turn around carefully and hold onto my elbows. Got her Fen?"
Without opening her eyes, Lee silently obeys our demands and I can carefully clean her face and neck with the gritty paste that smells of apricots. With that done finally, I carefully rinse off her features and stroke her cheeks until the striking eyes flutter open. "All clean. You stay put for another minute while I dry off and then I'll get you, okay?"
Once again she hums in agreement and remains passive in Fen's firm, tender grip. It only takes me moments to dry off and step back into the tub. Cupping bicep and hip, I steady Lee's body while Michael takes her hand and helps her step out.
"Mmmm," Lee hums as Michael works on wicking as much moisture as she can from the sodden brunette tresses while I pat at her skin to do the same. "Spoilin' me." The slurred comment is funny as hell, but Fen and I only exchange amused glances.
"Better than getting manhandled by strangers, eh?" Michael chuckles as she leads Lee back into the bedroom and I go scrounging in the dresser for something to dress her in. While we cleaned up, Jaye obviously changed the bedding. Good man. "Did the hospital staff treat you good?"
The stifled snort of amusement makes me chuckle and Lee speaks in that same soft, drunken tone. "The nurse got all silly when Jaye got there, 'cause she was all like 'ohmigod, it's Jaye Riggers' and left me in the wheelchair to go fangirl at him. I think there was a bunch of people that visited, but I really don't remember who. I'm not looking forward to seeing the pictures the paparazzi took when I was wheeled out, stoned out of my mind on morphine."
Her groan makes us laugh sympathetically. "It's never cool that the media takes advantage of moments of weakness," I commiserate, tugging on one ankle to slip on underwear and a pair of well-worn sweat pants. After that, I get the other foot up and then tug the clothing up over her lower body while she continues to lean on Michael.
The doorbell chimes through the apartment, making all of us pause. "I'll go back Jaye up," Fen murmurs, leaving Lee in my hands.
"She's great," Lee murmurs with a smile and I hold up the baggy t-shirt I found.
"She's amazing," I agree, threading Lee's arms into the sleeves and carefully tugging it over her head. "Always has been. Where's your hairbrush?"
My matter-of-fact question gets a look of abject horror and I cringe at my faux pa. Dammit, I just don't deal with high femmes enough anymore. Sylvia would have beat me black and blue for even thinking it!
"Brush wet hair? Are you insane?"
The comical outrage in Lee's high, almost breathy tone is actually pretty funny, but I don’t react more than looking cringingly apologetic. "Sorry, sorry. I forget. Forgive me?"
It's the first time I've seen Lee look something that might be intimidating and it's a startling contrast. But she softens again when I duck behind her and begin gently combing my fingers through the damp mass of her long hair.
"I forget the girlie rules," I explain with a note of humor. "I was well trained in them, but it's like a strange language I was forced to learn to survive in a foreign land." Skritching at her scalp makes Lee soften even more and when she speaks, her voice is once more soft and submissive.
"Keep doing that and I'll forgive you anything."
++ Jaye ++
I'm not actually surprised when Michael steps from the hall that leads back to the bedrooms. She's relaxed but alert, ready to snap into action if need be. There's something wolf-like about the woman and it's not just her unusual eyes. I've seen this sort of reaction before and, as always, it's both frightening and reassuring.
The glimpses I've seen of Dace's feral side are downright startling. Michael is a cool customer, slick and deadly, like a sharp blade. She's every bit as intimidating with words as body language.
But sometimes… Dace is like looking at a caged great cat. Oh, for the most part she is beautiful and friendly and you want to touch her just to be close to the exotic. But sometimes she is hungry and dangerous, a terrifying, feral predator pacing the bars. All you can do is hope that you are safe.
On automatic, I wave the delivery girl in to unload her pair of insulated bags onto the kitchen counters, which she does as she as she gets and slides my credit card into her portable reader. It's a lot of food and Michael's curiously arched eyebrow makes me grin sheepishly. "Didn't know if anyone's hungry. Lee's barely managed snacks for two days and this stuff is from one of her favorite places."
With the delivery girl gone, I can dig into the bags and pull out plastic and foil containers of savory and sweet things. It's a relief when Lee toddles out of the hall looking sleepy and relaxed and smiling sweetly, Dace's hand obviously holding her up by her waistband. "Mmmmm," my wife hums happily, "that smells yummy, babe."
I get a sloppy kiss as she steals the half-full plate and Dace smirks wryly and stabilizes the meal while walking Lee to the couch. Kneeling for leverage, the tall blonde get Lee seated with hardly a twinge of pain and Lee attacks the plate of noodles and chicken.
"You two want some?" I ask because I feel somehow redundant here in my own home. Dace nods with a grin while Michael thinks about it, peering into several containers.
"It does smell good…" she hesitates, jumping when Dace pokes her in the ribs.
"Oh just eat something, Fen. Pai always complains you don't eat enough anyway. Your pack will thank Jaye."
And Michael, tough as nails and completely unflappable, actually looks sheepish and nods at me. So I hand over the plate I've been putting together because it has a bit of everything, scrambling for a fork to drop onto it. "Thanks man," she smiles a warm, intimate grin I've never seen before and I somehow know that this is how she must smile at her family.
I am completely charmed.
It's no shock that Dace drags over the whole mess of containers to the living room and randomly starts plying among them with a fork. She even smacks Lee's hand when she starts wandering towards the container of pad thai in the tall woman's hands. Pouting adorably, Lee carefully squirms around to lean against Dace's shoulder and bat her eyelashes entreatingly. After a long moment of wry amusement, Dace cracks a grin and dangles a noodle so that Lee has to open her mouth and get fed. Both Dace and Michael laugh when Lee nips at the offered fingers, smiling smugly before leaning back into the couch.
They're terribly cute and I have to wonder why I'm not jealous.
The chemistry between this striking tattooed woman and my wife is unmistakable and appears to be unavoidable.
"So, why Fen?" I ask abruptly and get stereo confusion for just a moment. Then Dace chuckles, the rolling sound building into an open laugh.
"And from left field," she chortles and settles back beside Lee with that feline arrogance that is so a part of her. "It's short for Fenris, our pal's original nick name."
"Fenris was a mythological wolf from ancient Norse mythology," Michael rattles off with a wry grin. "He was a giant wolf chained by the gods and when he was freed he would destroy the world."
"That's quite a name," I marvel and they chuckle in stereo. "And Michael?"
"I haven't told you that one?" My pal is startled at the omission and I only now realize, in all the time that I've known her, I've never enquired after her name. Particularly since I know it's not her real one. "It's Gabe's fault. Gabriel really is his name, so I got Michael since I'm the most martial of the core four of us that now run the Swords. Ben and Ian are Urial and Rafael."
It vaguely rings a bell, but I can't place the names. It's Lee that pipes up completely amused. "As in the Archangels."
"Well, it's better than the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."
And we laugh together like old friends.