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Date in Calendar: 20 June 2008
Fandom: Light, Water, Muses
Category: The continuing saga of Dace and pack's adventures. Takes place in the summer of 2004 in a land far, far away
Pairing: Dace/Catherine. And Dace gets a new playmate.
Rating: PG-13 to NC17. I cover the whole damn spectrum in this one!
Summary: A personal favor turns fascinating for the big cat…
Spoilers: Nothing specific, except for the several characters from earlier sections of Light, Water and Muses, and aspects of their characters and backgrounds were established there.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD08
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.
Note: Because of the dangers of Real Person Fic, this tale has been rewritten. Squint a bit and you might be able to figure who the Broadway characters are.
Beta: ariestess, ardvari, laylat, geekgrrllurking, racethewind10
++ Dace ++
Fenris isn't prone to bouts of humorous perversity, but this is a good one.
Nor does she ask for help with special clients very often, particularly from another royal card among the Four Suits. Yet, here I am, astride her old 42 Harley-Davidson WLA, lovingly restored to pristine World War II condition. I feel like I should be wearing khakis and have a big gun in the rifle holster bolted to the front wheel assembly. Behind me rumbles Fen's white 2000 Road King in the capable hands of my sidekick for this trip astride the big machine… and Sofia is a natural. Decked out in a simpler version of my well-loved leathers, big mirrored aviator's sunglasses and with that mane of long ash-blonde hair loose in the breeze of our passage, she's damn hot astride the big cycle. With my far paler and messily cut mop of shortish blonde hair in contrast, we make quite a sight.
So, yeah, we're creating the occasional stir as we tool about the Big Apple, killing some time so that we can make a fashionably late entrance to our meet. See, Fen's got an actor buddy who, as the story goes, found out about the shadow business of the Swords. Seems his lovely wife, currently starring in the most popular show on Broadway, is real curious about what we do.
The twist in the tale?
Fen don't do boys.
I couldn't give a crap less and she knows it. So if hubby wants to jump in, he can ask and we'll negotiate from there. That and I do the 'bad boy' persona in leather, chrome and stalking danger as opposed to Fen's slick, urbanite, wolf-on-the-prowl energy.
So, here I am, feeling like a slab of salmon in a steam oven, sweltering in the cloying late afternoon damp of the east coast. At a red light, Sofia idles the Road King up beside me, resting heavy leather boots on the steamy asphalt. "It's not the heat," she chuckles and I echo the sound before finishing the thought.
"It's the humidity."
A pair of tourists, probably from the Midwest by their clothes, goggle at us through the windows of their cab and I grin flirtatiously and blow them a kiss. They are completely torn between amusement and shocked horror at my cheekiness. Glancing over her shoulder at them, Sofia throws her head back and laughs uproariously.
As the opposing light flicks to yellow, I gun up the WLA's engine, echoed quickly by the Road King, and the roar reverberates off of the stone and glass canyons of this vast metropolis. The tourists' eyes are as big as saucers at the racket, even as we very peacefully ease into the green light to continue on our way.
We're still laughing like hyenas well down 6th Avenue.
A glance at my watch reveals that the time is rapidly creeping past fashionable and towards rude. Whoops, time to stop screwing around. Luckily, we're not far from Greenwich Village and the very exclusive and very private club where we're meeting my client. A couple of twists and turns lead us to an elaborate sign reading 'Bubba's'. One of the things Fen… oops, I guess I need to get back into the habit of calling her Michael again. Stupid multiple nicknames… One of the things Michael liked so much about this place that she bought it years ago, is the comb-teeth white lines at the curb and the signs reading, 'motorcycles only'. Strategically placed iron poles packed with dense concrete make certain that the cars obey. So I nose the WLA's front wheel between two poles, the Road King doing the same beside me, and toe down the kickstand before peeling off the skullcap-style helmet.
Sofia can't resist rumbling the engine one more time before shutting the Road King down, carefully balancing the heavy beast on its kickstand before climbing to her feet. "Remind me to thank Michael for letting me borrow this thing. God, what a fun ride."
"More'n than just the weather's hot," I cackle, smacking that fine ass as I stride past her, peeling off my sweat-soaked kidskin gloves.
It's an old 50's era diner, strategically nestled up against an old brick drugstore and a newer parking garage, giving the place character and space, the later a rare commodity in this crowded city. Better, the converted drug store offers privacy on the upper two stories. The ground floor is for anyone that wanders in, the clatter and smells typical of any greasy spoon in America. Red vinyl booths, gleaming white Formica and tiny octagon tiles in black and white underfoot completes the look. It's capped off with the long counter, backed with diamond-stamped stainless steel and fronted by red and silver stools. Waitresses in red and black checkers bustle about and I flash an admiring glance at one hottie, young, curvy and tattooed, with triple the facial piercings I sport. Her coy glance over her shoulder makes me wish that I wasn't here on business.
Chortling, Sofia smacks my shoulder and heads for the rear of the diner, where there is a plain red door bearing a simple brass plaque that reads 'private'. The staff doesn't enter and exit the kitchens through this door, it serves a different purpose. Playing a proper vassal, Sofia holds the door open for me. Inside is a quiet, velvet-décor reception room where a woman dressed like a spook waits behind the counter.
This is the part I love and hate. Before the Sword can even react, I've whipped out the card. Only three versions of this particular model exist and they cost more than your average high-end luxury car. Nearly an eighth of an inch thick and plated in pure burnished platinum, it's the dimensions of a credit card but nearly a quarter-inch thick and has the weight of solid lead. One side sports the symbols of a standard deck of cards, diamond, club and spade, carved from pure ruby and extremely rare black opal from Nevada. On the flip side, surrounded by tiny, sensitive biometric pads, is a larger ruby heart. Only my bio-signature will activate this device, my calling card to the rest of the Four Suits' empire.
The woman's eyes round even behind her concealing sunglasses as I pass the card over the custom reader device to activate my account, but my raised hand stalls out any move she might make. "Up the stairs, right?" I ask kindly and she nods dumbly. "C'mon Fetch, we're late."
The dining room upstairs is very similar to the one below, only more sprawling and a few notches classier. It's quieter here with a sparser, more diverse crowd. Mixed in with the 50s diner theme is the distinctive elongated spade symbol like rows of daggers on walls and leather-upholstered booths.
Sofia taps my arm and discretely gestures with her chin. Sure enough, there's the man I've been sent to see. When I meet my sidekick's gaze again, she once again tilts her chin at the long counter and I nod slightly. With that non-conversation out of the way, I head over.
This is always an odd moment for me, never knowing how a stranger will react to me. He's a good-looking bastard with a winning smile and a smooth, chocolate complexion. Dark eyes regard me curiously for a moment, flicking to the silver rod pierced beneath the distinctive scar that runs along the sharp point of my brow and into my eyebrow. The normally sun-bleached tawny hairs are sparse there and the few that grew back are translucent white. The barbell enhances the healed split in my skin like the crossbar on a 't'.
His gaze rounds, hope and fear flashing in the expressive gaze and I have to grin slowly. "Merlin?" I rumble the question in that voice that sends people screaming for the hills… or makes them cream their jeans.
For better or worse, he seems paralyzed and I let the smile warm and finally pull off the sunglasses where they've been perching negligently at the end of my nose. "Leonacouer?" he finally hedges and I chuckle low in my throat, dropping into the booth opposite him.
"Yes. Pleased to meet you."
The handshake is solid and obviously grounds him back to normalcy again, visibly shaking off the shock I've given him. Good man, good adaption skills; I like him already. The fact that he's a looker doesn't hurt. "You're, umm," he hedges, amusing me greatly, "just like Michael described. Only… more."
Once more I have to chuckle and lean back as a deferential waiter materializes with my drink. That's the other advantage of my cool little platinum toy; it dumps all sorts of info about me into the establishment's computer, including the 4-1-1 that I've grown rather fond of Shirley Temples in my long spell away from liquor. "Have you eaten?"
"No, not yet."
The waiter has wisely waited in discreet silence an arms-reach away and I scan the menu quickly before handing it back to him. "Just a chicken Caesar salad, please. I couldn't bear anything cooked in this humidity."
"Yes ma'am. And for you, sir?"
After a moment, my companion orders a burger and the waiter melts away. "So, Michael passed on the framework of your conversations with her," I begin calmly, not surprised that he's a little reluctant and squirmy. Few people will find themselves in a position like this. "It's a bit unorthodox, not having the involved party in on the planning stages, but we've dealt with this before. I imagine she'll figure it out pretty quick if I show up with you."
The wry tone gets him to smile, much of his discomfort bleeding off. He grins ironically at me, at last speaking up in something that might be an actual conversation. "Yeah. She has no idea I'm even doing this, though I think she'll be less shocked than I feared. This whole thing's had her… worked up for weeks. I hardly see her with her schedule, and her costar and the male lead are leaving soon so things are more hectic than usual 'cause there's new leads coming in, who aren't the standbys." He continues to ramble, but I don't interrupt because talking is obviously relaxing him. I get the gist of what he's talking about, though some of the Broadway-specific jargon eludes me. Our food comes quickly and he grins sheepishly at me. "You really don't give a crap about all of this, do you?"
"It's not that," I reassure and pause for a savory mouthful of salad and chicken. "This sort of stuff gets me some basic knowledge into you two, but it's more ignorance than disinterest. I'm an ex-cop from San Francisco with unusually heightened senses that now helps to run a really weird modern sex empire. We're worlds apart, big boy."
That makes him laugh before he attacks his burger and I'm assured that I could like this man.
After lunch, I introduce Sofia real quick and we make a discreet exit out the back before walking around the building to the bikes.
"I see the leathers aren't just for show," my new pal chuckles as we girls remount and start the beasts up. Mine is a little more involved, cranking the starter pedal with all my weight.
"Hop on," Sofia says calmly and he gingerly takes the spare helmet she hands him. We wait patiently while he straps it to his skull and straddles the bike, tucking his larger body up against Sofia's back. "You'd better be friendlier than that, Merlin. Help me back this thing out first, though."
With a combined effort, their four legs get the big Road King backed into the street where I'm already holding up traffic. "I'll follow you," I yell to my companions and they nod, roaring away so that I can follow.
Then we're off to our real destination for the evening, creeping with the rush hour traffic back up 6th Ave the way we'd come earlier. At yet another traffic light, Merlin raises his voice over the constant din of this congested place. "There's a parking area I'll take you into."
I'm a little surprised to see Sofia's left blinker come on at 43rd instead of our destination down on 51st, but I trust the native guiding her and follow into the turn lane. It's a frightening challenge to drive here, my senses wanting to dial up too far to compensate for the crazy drivers. We've been lucky so far…
Down near Times Square, the Road King signals and pulls into a towering Hilton and I understand the plan now. Once the bikes are safely stowed in a parking spot, I jam my jacket into the Road King's contoured saddle bag, Sofia's following it quickly. The three helmets barely squeeze into the other. I'm wet with sweat and peel the blue t-shirt off to stuff one end into my back pocket. The tight black sports bra will keep me from getting arrested for indecent exposure and give me a chance to show off my ink.
A quick pass of the corporate card through the reader has us on our way. Anyone stupid enough to mess with the two vehicles is in for a nasty surprise with the fancy security packages discretely built into both. "Lead the way, Merlin," I chortle as we make our way into the muggy evening again.
There's no point in talking on the crowded street, choked with gawking tourists and hurried natives, the noise and smog as thick as the heat. Honestly, this place really is too damn much for my senses and I clamp down tightly on my inner cat, reaching out with that place inside me to feel the distant brush of Catherine's soul against mine. Distracted, I barely note the urban glory of famous Broadway, intent on following Merlin's naked dark head through the crowds.
Eventually, he hangs a left, Sofia actually having to reach out and grab the hip strap of my chaps to get me back on course. This street is a bit quieter and I breathe a relieved sigh. "You okay?" Sofia asks in concern, running quick fingers through my shaggy mane to fluff up the wet golden strands.
"Are we there yet?" I whine childishly, earning a laugh from my companions and Merlin nods and points.
It looks like every other modern skyscraper in this forest of concrete and steel and glass, only with no windows on the lowest couple hundred feet. A towering, minimalist black signboard proclaims it as the Hirschman Theater and displays the current play beneath. The entryway is cooler as Merlin steps away to speak with a uniformed employee as we hang out.
"I suppose we should have ditched the chaps," Sofia teases wryly, once more attacking my wild hair, scraping it back so that air can cool my scalp. I could hug the woman, but we're being waved over to a door by a grinning Merlin. Inside is blissfully air-conditioned, a shock to my overheated skin and we make our way to escalators that whisk us up to a dimly lit lobby.
The theater beyond the lobby is massive, a veritable sea of padded chairs sitting forlornly empty until this evening. We walk silently down the red carpet runway towards the orchestra pit and the brightly-lit stage. There are a double handful of people there in all manner of casual clothes from ripped, baggy jeans to leotards in some odd state of controlled disarray.
Sensing my fascination at this new slice of life, Merlin pauses at the edge of where the stage lights bleed into the dim seating area. It looks like some kind of ancient Greek temple superimposed over a map and small villages. Like a preview of the play in pictures and shapes.
"You haven't seen it, have you?" he asks softly and both Sofia and I shake our heads slowly.
"Shows really aren't my cup of tea," I tell him honestly and smile wryly. "And Vegas is notorious for going over the top. Maybe this sort of thing will be more to my liking. After all this show is popular for a reason."
His chuckle is lost in a shout for attention and a slender man starts ordering the milling crowd around like a haranguing general. That's obviously our cue to move on, because Merlin's skirting the edge of the stage and headed for a door I'd only noted subconsciously.
Now, I've been backstage for a lot of big events as a Diamond, as a Heart and as a cop. But this is an anthill of activity in some places and a dimly lit warren of congested stillness in others. There are a couple glimpses of cavernous spaces crowded with machinery and incomprehensible set pieces as we move through cable-choked walkways. One semi-recognizable object catches my eye and I pause with a chuckle, gesturing to draw Sofia's gaze. It's an enormous pair of jewel-toned eyes that shimmer every color even in this crappy light. Draped in gauzy cloth makes them seem surreal. "I think I get it," she says with a grin. "That must be the gods manifesting, right?"
"Ignore that man behind the curtain," I intone ponderously and we giggle like little girls and rush to catch up with our retreating guide.
"How the hell do you people do this without getting killed?" Sofia grumbles as she stumbles and crashes into my back.
"Practice," he sasses back as the muffled strains of music and voices swells from where we just came from. Even I would have trouble backtracking my way out of this maze by the time Merlin grabs a distracted guy wearing a headset-mike combo and asks him, "You seen Lee yet?"
"Nah. Shouldn't be long now though. But if you see her before I do, tell her Joe's actually in a decent mood."
"Small favors. I'll see if I can't help get things moving. Traffic's a bitch tonight."
The men share a commiserating glance and the stranger looks quizzically at Sofia and me for a moment before moving off. I've deliberately kept my head down and my Sentinel chemistry damped as much as possible here. I don't want to be memorable to these people.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
It happens quickly, in a claustrophobic hall crowded with all manner of storage and oddball junk that Merlin slips through like a rat in a sewer. When we get to a half-hidden door, we suddenly realize that we've lost Sofia, though I can hear her calling my name nearby. "Wait here, I'll get her," Merlin tells me in exasperated amusement and I shrug in agreement.
There's a gift of coincidence among the Sentinels, the ability to be in the right place at the right time to get involved in our natural roles as the protectors of humanity. My ability seems more finally honed than the others, followed closely by Zo, and it strikes again in the short moments where I stand alone in a crowded and poorly lit back hallway of the Hirschman Theater.
Female voices are approaching the other side of the heavy door; I can hear them with my animal-sharp ears, their tones reflecting high spirits. There's nowhere for me to retreat to and the door snaps open with a suddenness I'm not expecting, making me jump. Several things happen in rapid succession as a very small woman barrels right into me, leaping back with a surprised squeal.
She collides with a battered and chipped wooden cabinet and it teeters precariously for a moment. With absolute clarity, I can tell that the object is coming down and it's moving like it's top-heavy. Since the damn thing could be empty or packed with lead canon shot for all I know, I decide that safe is better than sorry.
Every time the rush of my feral heritage sweeps over me, it's a thrill that never lessens. The world slows and becomes crystal clear, my very own personal slow-motion high definition TV. The crystal blue eyes of the small woman, who I abruptly recognize, round in surprise as I effortlessly sidestep the falling cabinet and the shower of smaller objects on its top and pulled loose by its fall. Hooking the scarred right arm around her neck and shoulder blades, I twist like a dancer, my weight slamming the door shut and the cabinet slices through empty air to smash spectacularly into the stacked objects where I had just been standing. It sets off a chain of reaction and I huddle my body protectively over the small woman's, ignoring smaller debris as it pings off of me.
As the rush of power fades a bit, I realize that my prey is struggling and wrestle down cougar instincts. Her annoyance and shock vanishes as her blue eyes meet mine and she stills with instincts no one in this modern world really understands any more. She's a pretty woman, with good looks that are a mix of sexy and adorable. This close she's even tinier than I'd have believed; only reaching about the hollow of my throat.
Then the squirming registers and my eyes drop to the small fluffy white dog in her arms. I can't wrestle down the threatened growl that rumbles up from deep in my body and soul.
Oh sure, I understand that the cat I see in my mind is merely an icon representation of what my throwback genetic heritage can do, but she's very, very real to me. As real as love or faith, she crouches and bears white teeth, hissing at the tiny dog, who visibly blanches. Both dog and owner squeak in fear, shocking me out of my animal reaction.
"God, sorry," I fumble gracelessly as I wrap both hands around her shoulders to set her away from me as much as possible in the suddenly confined space.
On the other side of the door, a woman's voice says quite clearly, "What the fuck was that? Reg? Are you okay? Reg?"
By now, Merlin and Sofia have come rushing down the hallway that now resembles a deadly mine cave-in. "Are you guys okay?" he calls over the top of the shoulder-deep tangle of crap. "Reg? Is that you?"
"Jaye?" The small woman finally seems to be weakly breaking away from the paralysis I cause in some people. "Yeah, I'm not hurt, but I think we're trapped. Dammit Lee! Stop trying to open the door! There's no space!" The sudden strident irritation surprises me and earns a reluctant grin. The look she fires me is sharp and a bit confrontational, bringing up the urge to smooth her ruffled feathers.
"Friend of Jaye's," I tell her quietly. "Well, friend of a friend anyway."
"Can you get the door open far enough for us to slip out?"
Eyeing the space, I push experimentally at the debris to gain a few inches and nod. Together, Reg and I wrestle with the door to inch it open enough for her to hand out the dog and her bag before slithering though the small gap.
"Jaye, I'm going with the girls," I holler over the mess. "We'll meet you back at the stage."
Grumbling and cussing at the metal bits on the door, I manage to wriggle my tall body around the barrier and practically fall onto the owners of the helping hands on the far side. Smaller bodies brace mine as I flail to stay upright with limited success, ending up on one knee.
"I'm gonna have the weirdest bruises," I sigh and look down at my naked belly where the door latch has rasped my skin an annoyed pink.
"Oh my god, you guys," frets another woman, not as short as Reg, but not as tall as the pair of women behind her. "Are you okay? We heard all this horrible noise."
Four pairs of eyes rest on me, making me uncharacteristically self-conscious. The three blondes are slender and close in coloring, in medium, small and extra small models. But it's the shy brunette that catches my eye where she hangs back half-behind the tallest blonde. Their gazes follow me as I stand to tower over the whole gaggle of them.
"We're fine, Lorna," Reg soothes her fretting companion, the small-sized one, before she turns her attention back to me. "The amazon here startled me and that damn wobbly cabinet finally came down when I jumped into it." The others twitter at the amazon reference. "Nice reflexes, by the way."
I shrug and reach behind me only to realize that my t-shirt, earlier tucked into my ass pocket, is now gone. "Damn. I lost my shirt somewhere."
"Nice ink," the tallest admires and shifts the little dog to her left hand to offer her right. "Janice Laura Thomas."
Taking the offered hand, I smile gratefully at her. "Dace Bogart. I'm a friend of a friend of Jaye's. We got separated before the cave-in."
There are snickers and I see that the brunette's eyes have gone wide in shock. Yep, she's figured out who I am now. Sucks that the pleasure of this first meeting has been soured by the weird circumstances. Oh well, go with the punches, Bogart. The fretting blonde is introduced as Lorna Mae Malloy and my rusty memory is refreshed with Reg's full name of Regina Danowitz. Before anyone can introduce their shy pal, I hold up a hand to stop them, earning a chorus of mildly surprised looks.
The hand I offer is taken by the striking brunette and I make a mental note to thank Michael for the phone call that has brought me here. "You're who I came to see," I purr gently, trying to put her at ease. When she flushes prettily in the dim hallway, I swallow a smile and gesture back down this new hallway. "Umm, you ladies know where you're going, not me."
It's only a dozen steps to a door that dumps out into a loading dock that is flooded with indirect sunlight. "Damn nice ink," Janice crows, grabbing my right hand to admire the tapestry of foliage tattooed in my skin from wrist to elbow. It's a solid wash of intricate colors, only narrow stripes of skin on the top and bottom of my forearm left bare, between the parallel surgical scars that run the length of my forearm. The scars are still deep, stiff furrows, but at least the shattered bone beneath has grown solid after its trauma from two and half years ago. Janice's eyes go to the scar at my temple, the question in her gaze.
"Table leg," I smile, liking her matter-of-fact energy. All four woman gasp in almost comical horror and I can't swallow my grin.
"You're a friend of a friend of Jaye's; have ink on you like a novel and a set of scars like a war veteran from a table leg?" Lorna goggles a moment before shooting the brunette an admiring look. "You have the coolest friends."
So, that adopts me into the gaggle of curious and mostly friendly actresses. I'm carried along in the wake of their high energy, a bit bewildered at how all this came to be, but not really all that surprised. The guy guarding at the door only checks ID on Janice, giving me a hardened 'skeptical bouncer' stare that I wisely don't take offense at. The chatty blondes defend me, dragging me past the disapproving guard. "No one really knows me yet," Janice explains as the other three pick up speed, feeling the energy of the theater sucking them in. "I'm the new kid." The questioning look on my face makes her chuckle. "Regina's leaving in just about a month." Grabbing the trailing edges of an imaginary skirt, she sketches a perfect curtsy and I laugh and clap. "I'm Gabby, mark two."
Still chuckling at my new pal, I'm led back into the seating area of the theater and up to the front by the orchestra pit. The haranguing man has turned on my new pals, who cringe and get to work. That's where Sofia and Jaye find us and flop down. "So," Sofia leans over and purrs in my ear, "you like her?"
"Dunno yet," I grin naughtily and watch the chaos onstage. "But she's shy, yet obviously curious. I like that combo."
We snicker like horny dogs together and hunker down in our seats shoulder to shoulder. When I met Sofia as a CSI all that time ago, she'd been cool enough, but earning her gold shield and the much anticipated title of detective has made her irresistible. My family/pack had gone quickly from three to four and I adore her now as much as my mate and my sweet little submissive Sara.
Thanks to my niece's love of this play, I'm dimly familiar with the music, picking out bits and pieces of tunes. There are snippets of song ranging from pathos to vaudevillian as we sit here, but most of it is fractured sound as actors and orchestra start the painstaking process of warming up. I can barely understand what hard work this must be, both physically and mentally. Sure earns my respect though.
"You staying?" Janice suddenly asks me and I grin.
"Can't. Gotta get back to the wife and kids." Firing a wry glance down at my chest, I grin at her. "I need to be milked."
Instantly, she's all smiles. "Oh! How old?"
"Thirteen and a half months."
Yep, my reading of her scent is dead-on as her expression goes sappy. "Mine's just 6 months. He's with his dad at home."
We do the obligatory showing of pictures and I admire her fresh-faced little red-head and she is impressed with my tow-headed triplets.
"They could come here. The show doesn't start for another," she pauses and checks her watch, "hour and fifteen. Unless they're out in… oh, I dunno, Peekskill or something, they can get here. We'll take care of you, right Jaye?"
Her raised volume makes him grin in the dimness from the other side of Sofia. "We only get you for a couple days. Hate to miss out on any fun."
That makes me chuckle, as the new Gabrielle has no idea why I'm really here.
To Be Continued in Part 2...