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.
++ Catherine ++
It's a combination of sensations that rouses me from sleep. The hard surface beneath me is rocking in long, slow waves; the air is open and crisp and water hisses and splashes nearby. That, and my bladder is whining for mercy and my ass and most of my legs are pins and needles. Groaning, I sit up and take stock, catching Lee's eyes blinking back to consciousness where she still sprawls over Sara. By the angle of the sun, we've dozed off for some time.
Right on cue, Lindsey pops around the hull of the small boat that has sheltered us. "Hi mom. Good nap?" My yawn makes her laugh and press in between the two boat hulls to grab my hand and help get me upright. "You missed the tour, but I think Dugan is close by and can do it again."
Wincing from standing, I pause to let my nerves settle, stomping some feeling back into my legs and waking Sara abruptly. "Sorry Sara," I apologize and she yawns and nods. "Who's Dugan?"
It's not my daughter that answers, but a great golden bear of a man that looms up behind her. "First mate Dugan Aaron, at your service ladies," he booms friendly-like and I blink in bemusement. Lee makes a noise of amusement and some small alarm, making Sara chortle. While he speaks, he matter-of-factly nudges Lindsey aside and leans over to curl big meathooks under Lee's elbows to hoist her gently upright before offering a hand to Sara. "Allow me the pleasure of introducing you to our grand lady of the seas. Rule one; always keep a handhold or an eye out for one close by. In your case, pretty girl," he flatters Lee with a smile, "you be particularly careful. This is a big ship yes, but she is still at the mercy of the restless sea. We'll keep an eye out for your safety, won't we?"
We're standing by the dormant crane and there is nothing but open water as far as I can see. A few of our friends and family are scattered about in the late afternoon sunshine, talking and resting and looking happy. The sails and masts and wind and water are a quiet symphony around us.
Then my bladder sends another flare along my nervous system. "Dugan, if I don't find a toilet, I'm gonna burst!"
"Come along then," he laughs and puts big hands on Lee's shoulders to steer her ahead of him. "That'll be our first stop."
There's a smaller, raised deck that takes up the rear third of the ship. The captain is at the great wheel there, chatting amiably with KC and flashes us a grin. Directly below here is a large doorway that we are obviously headed for. It is flanked by two normal doors with push-key locks on them.
"Those lead to the crew areas," Dugan explains as the big doorway proves to be a moderately steep flight of stairs that lead down into dimness. This should be interesting. Thankfully, Dugan turns and offers a pair of big hands to Lee as he effortlessly takes the steps backwards. Well, he is the first mate after all; I should hope he's rock steady aboard this ship!
"Come on, pretty girl," he coaxes and Lee smiles queasily and places her hands in his, but doesn't relax until Sara places a hand on her lower back in support. The moment we're out of the bright winter sun this new place reveals itself. We're staring a massive column that corresponds with the mast above. Dugan continues to explain even as he waves me to my right where I see the familiar bathroom symbols carved tastefully into a door. "These shafts house the masts, all the way down to the keel, about thirty feet down."
++ Lee ++
This behemoth is fascinating, even with the experience tempered by the hurt my body poorly contains. But all that is forgotten as something catches my eye. Around the corner from the bathroom that Catherine's disappeared into is…
Is a canon.
Reverently, I run a hand over the slightly textured iron surface and the cold hardness seems almost alive. The massive barrel is nearly as long as I am tall, resting on a heavy wooden sled and thick wooden wheels.
If forced to explain my fascination, I don't know if I can claim it's the theatricality or the very overbearing danger of the thing. Even chained to the deck, the canon is menacing, harkening back to a day when this sort of deadly weapon was commonplace. A precursor to our modern violence no doubt.
"Hey guys," Dace's voice says quietly, startling me a bit. That smile once more does things to my brain and body that really should be somehow illegal. "How was your nap?" Flustered as I am, it takes a moment for me to notice one of the twins standing beside her, looking uncharacteristically quiet and maybe even a little sick. Dace smiles indulgently down at the child clinging to her hand. "Katie's not enjoying the trip so far. We were just off to find a snack and some juice."
When Sara kneels and makes a welcoming sound, Katie doesn't hesitate to jump on her, clinging to the dark-haired woman like a lifeline. Even I hear her frightened and awed whisper, "it keeps moving."
Then her mother distracts me, stepping in close, looming over me in the way that makes me so weak for her. Those two times when I was hers is burned into my body and brain and heart. "We missed you in September," she murmurs tenderly and tears suddenly choke me. Flying back from a month-long movie shoot in South freakin' Africa, I had been so looking forward to stopping in to see my pals and playmates in Las Vegas.
A nasty head cold prevented that.
Dace's arms are gentle and I press my face into the soft skin over her upper chest and allow her larger body to brace mine. Her hands caressing my back soothe the ache in my ribs, calming the inflamed nerves and I can relax just a bit in the small reprieve. Catherine's touch almost startles me and I return her warm smile.
"You have some painkillers to take," the honey-haired CSI admonishes me gently and I sheepishly obey the directions of Dace's hands on my body.
"There are eight canon," Dugan continues conversationally to give us all some mental privacy to our own little dramas. "The pair up fore in the nose are four footers and the rest are five."
"But no actual shot?" Sara queries and Dugan chortles.
"No ma'am. Just lot of smoke and fire and noise! We have them for battle reenactments and because they're damn cool. Now, this is deck two or the canon deck and where our guests stay. Up here you can see more."
The décor is tastefully Four Suites, rich reds and blacks and natural woods with a few paintings and extras. But the space is definitely fairly utilitarian as one would expect in a tall ship.
"Directly up front do you see those big doors?" Just past the last mast is a heavy-looking door and I nod with the others. "That's the armory. No sense in keeping combustibles lying around. Historically, the gunpowder bags would actually be on another level, to try and prevent premature explosion."
None of us girls try to contain our giggles.
The tension breaker relaxes me further, despite the continued motion of the Arcana. Part of that is getting used to the rhythm and part is Dace's hands resting on my waist, her presence close on my heels and warming my back.
Beside us now is a curved railing surrounding a circular staircase that corkscrews downward. On either side are more outward-facing canons and a last shiver of primitive reaction as I obey Dace's hands to carefully start down the stairs.
++ Dace ++
I'm really going to need to find a way to relax poor Lee. The tension in her frame makes me hurt in sympathy. But she gets down the stairs well enough, though I keep a balancing hand under her elbow, away from the grip she has on the single rail. At the bottom of the stairs, Katie whines for me and I shift my body to accept her wiry weight from Sara.
"This is the mess hall," Dugan smiles and gestures about the cavernous space. Even broken up by the stairs and elevator and two masts, it's a large room. Portholes line the walls, letting in the glorious sea air and sunshine. Most of the kids are here, playing with the game table or hanging out or watching the LCD screen tucked beneath the stairs. "This is the central adaptable space. We eat here and play here and many sleep here as well. There are four tables that lock into the deck that have padded benches built in as well as several kids of game tables and the usual electronics. As needed, we can install poles floor to ceiling that are capable of supporting a lot of weight. Hammocks are strung from those."
My mind has conjured something more dirty and I know I'll have to set up a private sailing someday with my stable and playmates. Bet Karen'll get in on that action!
Katie kitty-grumbles in conflict. She wants to toddle off and play, but remains clinging to me like a persistent burr. The motion of the ship really has her completely freaked out. Bet I won't get much sleep tonight…
"Well hello there pretty girl," chortles a rich woman's voice, thick with a British accent, from behind me. Nosing into Katie's fine hair, I can just see a woman standing there, attractive and beaming generously at my stressed youngster. "Looks like the ocean doesn't suit you, missy. Would you like something to help?"
Inexplicably shy, Katie clings tighter, making me gasp, but nods anyway. The smell of fresh fruit wafts across my sensitive sense of smell. "Here you are, sweetie. Take what you like. A girl can hear your beast of a tummy all the way in the galley!"
Swiftly enough that I almost drop her, Katie releases her chokehold and very nearly goes right over my shoulder to attack the fruit. When I whirl to keep my body under her and scramble to grab, the Englishwoman bursts out laughing, slapping a balancing hand onto Katie's forehead.
"Whoa girl! They're not going to escape!"
Ravenously, Katie has grabbed slices of the pretty fruit and is wolfing them like she's dying.
"Seriously, all this drama was because of your stomach?" I can't help but sigh and get a sweet, sheepish grin messy with juice and pulp. Pressing a sloppy kiss to my cheek, Katie concentrates on the bowl while the woman keeps chuckling.
"She had that look," the woman explains. "I noticed when I stuck my head out to see if the tables were being set up for dinner yet."
As though in response to her voice, there is a flurry of movement and sound at the nose of the ship. Dugan has rounded up the older kids to help him move some great folding tables where they've been strapped securely to the forward mast. Katie whines when the woman moves away and I follow the fruit as I watch the expert choreography. Obviously, Dugan knows how to direct newbies how to do this stuff and soon four tables are flattened out and locked into slots in the deck.
"Okay, pumpkin," the woman purrs at Katie, who naturally purrs back. "You'll completely ruin your appetite. Feel better now?"
"Yes," Katie beams and collapses into my body again, much more relaxed. This shirt is ruined… oh well.
"Thank you," I grin warmly and the Englishwoman is all smiles. She's attractive in the singular way of her homeland, darkish hair pulled back messily and hazel eyes all twinkle. Dressed sloppily, a food soiled apron covers most of her clothes and I know who she must be now.
"No one goes hungry near my kitchen. Now, I have to get back to dinner. Could you see if the other children will finish this off? Thanks Ducks."
The bowl of fruit is heavy in my hands and I grin wryly at Katie. "You heard the cook. Kids! I got nibbles!"
++ Art ++
Chuckling at the kid's determination to pull Dace down like prey, I rush over to give Sara and Lee a hand. The later seems determined to collapse to the couch now that the kids have abandoned it and is not having an easy time of it.
"Whoa!" I bark just in time to get over there and throw myself over the arm of the chair as the motion of the ship tumbles Lee. I can't remember which side has the break and don't know which way to turn my head as she falls back. Thankfully, my hands scoop under her ass and her spine, not her ribs, smack me in the face.
"Jesus, nice timing Art," Sara gasps, still helplessly holding Lee's hands. Feeling like I'm going for some sort of cheap grope, I guide Lee's trembling body to the leather cushions. My eyes are watering and my nose smarts, but I'll live. Carefully depositing Lee's body, I stand up and press both hands to my face, hoping my nose isn't broken.
"Fuck, Art, I'm sorry," Lee mourns as I rub tears out of my eyes and shake the hit off.
"Ah, reminds me of my old police days," I laugh and allow Sara to step in close and cradle my face to check my nose. "Used to be military police, US Army. Trust me, I've had worse done to me than getting decked by a pretty girl."
"I think you're okay, hero," Sara murmurs. "But, frankly, I'm not used to cataloging trauma on the living."
"Gallows humor," I tease and she chuckles at the friendly jibe. That lets me turn a 'daddy' glare on an owl-eyed Lee. "You need to be more careful. Really. If you don't baby that damn rib, you're never going to heal. I know you're frustrated, believe me I know." Upset and hurting and sulky, Lee presses back into the couch and winces at the pressure to her hurt. So I sit next to her and gentle a bit. "Theh-mou, you remind me of Fawn. Including the sulking. All you've got is a busted rib, you wimp." Ah, the woman's got a glower on her, bringing out the green in her eyes. "I took a grenade."
As Lee's eyes round, I realize that I really did say that out loud. Damn. Now I have to explain. Right on cue, Lucky is nosing up against my fingers, instantly sensing my old hurt. It took some effort to convince the crew of the Major Arcana to take my partner, but I won out. Now she nuzzles my face with her tiny kisses and I rub her neck and ears.
"Two years ago this last October, I lost my first partner, Cooper." I muse softly, looking into Lucky's expressive cinnamon eyes. "We were in Bosnia end of 99, acting as point to a patrol squadron. I never saw the grenade, but Cooper did, and he jumped up to grab my collar and yank me backwards." Looking over to meet Lee's rounded eyes, I smile wistfully at the memories of that dog I will love all of my days. Hell, I still miss him even now. "Both of us bloodied up, me near death, he dragged me over three hundred feet back to the squadron. I have a scar that runs from my sternum to my groin where they split me open and stitched my innards back together." Patting Lee's leg, I try to smile. "So, trust me, I know how you feel."
"That's a hell of a motivational speech," she whispers and I realize that I've laid it on a little thick. "But thanks for ummm… cheering me up."
I can't help the chuckle that bubbles up at her guilelessness. She really does remind me of Fawn…
++ Karen ++
The most glorious sunset replaces the land, painting the sky a palette of neon and pastels. I found a spot in a corner of the raised captain's deck where a canvass hammock sways in the wind and my girl is curled up with me.
"This is the life," I hum contentedly and Darya giggles girlishly.
"You seem like a big, lazy cat right about now."
Tugging at the dark red hair, I kiss her lazily. "You love it."
Any further flirting is halted by a piercing whistle that carries over the ship. Too loud and too mechanical to be made by anything other than a machine, I have no idea where it came from. The four crewmembers I can see when I sit up are obviously paying attention and I laugh as an honest-to-god dinner bell chimes over some sort of hidden PA system.
"Dinnertime, maties," Jack bellows over the sound of our travels and the few of us still on deck start to head downward. I remember this firecracker from my younger days, back when she was the right hand to the Lady Heartsblood. But this ship is her mistress now and she belongs exactly where she is.
Doesn't stop the sassy teenager in me from giving her an irreverent smack on the ass as we walk past where she mans the big ship's wheel.
"Brat," she growls just like I remember and playfully aims a swipe at my head. "Enjoy your dinner."
"Are you joining us, captain?" Darya flirts and Jack's grin deepens.
"Someone will bring me something. There's no autopilot on this lady." Below decks, we shake off the chill from above and make our way to deck three where the noise and chaos of our gatherings is in full swing. The kids have taken over half of the mess hall, Dace, Ian and Sam scattered among them. The others have scattered themselves over the other two tables.
No one seems to notice Art's stressed body language. "Dare, could you grab me a seat? I'll be with you in a sec." I barely acknowledge her affirmative, too concerned with my pal. As the 'dads' of our mingled families, Art and I share a unique bond. And, just like guys, I don't focus my attention on her directly, instead kneeling at Lee's feet. "How you doin'?" I flatter to the small woman, placing a hand on her knee and bringing the mossy eyes away from Art.
"Um… okay," she falters and I make a wild guess that Art brought up the grenade. The withdrawn look on her face seems like a pretty accurate barometer, not to mention Lee's shock. So I smile with charming reassurance, grateful to see the smaller woman relax.
"Good. Why don't you just stay here and eat. We'll keep an eye out on you. Sound good?"
Lee nods and I transfer my hand to Art's shoulder, catching and holding the shadowed blue eyes. There's a long moment of silent commiseration between us before she nods and some of her tension drains away.
"You gonna stay put? I can send Sara over; after all, the captain did say that Lee is her responsibility." The crack actually gets a faint grin and Art shakes her head.
"No, I'm good for now. I'll stick with my new pal here for awhile."
++ Janet ++
"Should I be jealous?" I ask Karen as she plops down across from me, beside Dare. My tone is half snarky and half kidding.
"Oh please," Karen waves me off. "Like Art has eyes for anyone else but you and Sam. Get real. Lee Garner has a harmless crush on her, like a student for her teacher. Chill."
Part of me wants to go drape myself all over Art, seeing the conflict that still lies thinly over her body. But she's leaning back into the couch and is talking to the pretty actress with a faint smile. For now, I'll let her do what she does best, which is be her usual charming self.
I have no reason to go all alpha bitch on Lee… yet.
The cook wheels out a heavy plastic cart piled with dishes and rolled napkins. She thumps a tray full of the stuff on our table with an engaging grin. "We don't stand on ceremony here. Dinner will be out in a few minutes. Everything is served family style." With that quick speech, she also pulls out several bottles of wine and a pair of pitchers to leave them at the edge of the table before moving on.
"It's like summer camp," Sam giggles coyly and starts to hand out the things the cook left. We adults dutifully pass around plates and glasses and silverware wrapped in linen napkins. Sam pulls the heavy metal stoppers from the bottles and pours out white and red wines into squat, beautifully wrought stemless goblets.
"Mmmm," I admire the tangy white. "This is really good. I have high hopes for dinner."
The tables of kids and the unlucky adults that got sucked into wrangling them are noisily enthusiastic about the cook's deliveries and instructions. Jaye, who I recognize from TV and it's a peculiar feeling, is regaling us with random stories to kill time before we get fed. For doing no work today, I'm famished.
"It's the sea air," Sam teases as she nuzzles my hair near my ear.
Whether I said my thoughts out loud or not, Sam knows me well enough to pick up on my train of thought… and my growling stomach. Right on cue, the cook and her cart return and she once again plunks down a tray, this one heavy with bowls. There is stew and pasta with cheese sauce and hot rolls and salad, a seafood medley that smells unreal and a mass of grilled veggies that unbelievably, smells even better.
For the moment, our gathering is as quiet as we're capable of being, devouring the wonderful feast. There is much jeering as a sleepy-eyed Ben stumbles in and scowls at the attention. He drops unceremoniously in the empty seat beside Karen where the extra place setting is waiting for him. "Dozed off," he grumbles and we chuckle kindly at him.
"Classic workaholic reaction to forced relaxation," Dare says sagely and we all giggle again at his sour look.
++ Dace ++
Bone-weary, I settle Sandy's weight in one of the string hammocks with her twin, pressing nuzzling kisses to their fair heads. This will be the farthest I've been away from them while we sleep. Sure it's only a deck and the length of the ship, but still…
The mess hall has been transformed, the tables once more folded up and strapped to the fore mast and dozens of poles locked vertical into slots floor and ceiling. A dozen hammocks swing among the forest of steel poles, containing all the kids over the age of two. Ben and Ian are among them, having volunteered to chaperone. It's been full dark for some time now and it took forever for my girls to settle into sleep.
Only now can I head up to join my pack in bed. It's been a long time since I've been this tired during darkness hours. The motion of the ship is exhausting to us landlubbers. The discrete lighting is dim, but with my Sentinel powers, it's as clear as noon. Even in the suite, lit only by the moonlight pouring through the great banks of windows. This is the largest of the guest quarters, tucked beside its twin to take up the rear quarter of deck two. There are shelves of books and nautical collectables in glass-fronted cabinets that line two walls and behind the bed, while the last wall is almost entirely an enormous built-in closet/chest of drawers.
It doesn't surprise me at all to find Lee cuddled up between my lovers. There's barely enough room on the full-sized bed for them, much less me and I affectionately kiss each of their manes before collecting my toiletry bad to get ready for bed. It doesn't take long, as it's late and I don't have to compete for one of the two half-baths. Teeth clean, bladder empty and jammies on, I pad back to the suite and pass up the bed. Since my girls missed the main tour, I'm sure that they have no idea that the built-in bench beneath the windows is also a foldaway twin bed.
It's been years since I've slept alone, and never on a moving ship, but sleep eventually wins out over the strangeness.
It's the girls that wake me to blazing sunshine. Not my sexy grownups, but my mischievous cubs, giggling as they descend like hungry vultures onto my vulnerable, sleeping body. Thankfully, I'm used to it.
"Mama! Better today!" They crow in their sweet little voices and drape themselves all over me to snuggle. "You slep' forever."
"You kept me up late, kittens!" Giggling, they press kisses to my face and apologize over and over again until I laugh and squeeze them to me. "Will you nap with me later?" They make twin faces of disgust and I crack up. "Someday, you'll appreciate naps. Did you like the hammock?"
While they babble excitedly and barely coherently, I indulge in stroking their heads and enjoying their closeness. That's how Cath finds us a few minutes later. "You girls let mama up to use the potty and come over here."
Obediently, the girls chorus, "yes mommy," and evacuate the bed. Turns out Katie needs the toilet too and proudly uses her new found skill that has her out of diapers. Then we go back to the bedroom only to find Sandy and Catherine gone. "Find her!" Katie crows, tugging me after her, full of purpose to find her sister and other parent.
Hopefully, the rest of the voyage will go as smoothly!