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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
Over lunch Lee tells me how she dropped the 't' in her last name because everyone mispronounced it and how her folks are totally ordinary people. I tell her about growing up in my own personal hell and how I got out and then fell in with the woman who would be my Mistress for a decade and a half. I'm impressed that she's released two albums of her own and is soon off to film a movie in South Africa. She's startled that I've spent so much of my kinky career on my knees with my head bowed. I tell her that it was the only thing that tamed me, allowing me to become a productive member of society. She sketches out her talent and how it tortured her until she found a focus in the theater, never expecting to be where she is. I talk about being a cop but skirt the story of the scars. It's difficult to explain how it happened without compromising things that I can't talk about, but she's quite satisfied that it was work related.
Then she notes that it's getting close to four o'clock and squeaks in alarm. "Fuck! We gotta go! I'm supposed to rehearse with Jan today! Dammit!"
While she settles the bill, I dial Michael, not knowing if she's up or not. "Hey Dace," her throaty voice greets me warmly. "Having fun?"
"We'll call it even for this particular errand because, frankly, I got the best part of this deal. Just restock the corporate card so that Tessa's books are accurate."
Michael chuckles, "I'll do that. But your tone says that this isn't a social call about your project."
"It's related. We're behind schedule and I need someone to grab your bike from me at the Hirschman. Right now we're out a couple miles north and a bit east of your estate."
"By the time, I'm guessing she's supposed to be there by four? Not going to happen my friend. Traffic's going to be a bitch. You might slip some of it with that thing, but you're going to be better off parking it as close as you can get and braving the sidewalks or the subway. Surely you can protect one little femme."
"Shut up Fenris," I playfully growl, using her old play name from our much younger days. "Yeah, but get me a courier for the bike in case I win the traffic god lottery. I know you have this damn thing GPSed."
"I do. Have your new pal call me with your phone if you need anything on the drive."
"Done! Thanks Fen."
Lee's already on the bike, on her own cell phone, obviously explaining that she's going to be late. With embarrassed outrage she squeaks at the other end of the line to shut up.
"Somebody teasing you?" I chuckle as we get underway.
"I figured Joe was my best bet to not take as much shit for being late and walking in with you and dressed like this. Except Lorna answered the damn thing! Now the whole damn building is gonna be on my ass the second I walk in."
She's amused and consternated by all of this and I'm not sure what to do. "Should I just drop you off?"
For a long couple of minutes she remains quiet as I retrace our steps in the unusually light traffic. "Everybody really likes you. Me included. And they didn't even get the last… what's it been? Sixteen hours or so. Our lives get kinda insular and when reality drops in it's not always a good thing. We all acted like ourselves around you and I don't think I've ever seen this group do that with a stranger. We always have the game face on around strangers, y'know?"
"Completely," I agree with her wholeheartedly, warmed by the compliments. "But they're still going to give you crap."
Lee just groans.
The trip back into downtown is eerily quick, the bike dodging in and out of traffic like a hunting lioness in a herd of wildebeests. We slow down once actually in the concrete canyons, but manage to stay moving, so she doesn't ditch me to hoof it to the theater. The whole time she's been singing seemingly to herself, scales and fragments of songs and I can only guess that she's warming up. We get a few odd looks here and there, Lee's sweet tones muffled where she's got her face pressed to the space between my shoulder blades.
Astonishingly, it only takes us ten minutes and the Hischman is looming close. "Grab my bag," I tell Lee and she scrabbles to loosen the backpack and slip one of the straps over her shoulder. "This is going to a tricky handoff, so get ready to scramble."
There's a suit there, who flashes a Spades card in gold, so I know he's high on the food chain. "Grab the bike!" I yell at him as we're still crawling with traffic at a slow jog. Smoothly, he grabs the handlebars as I slither off the still moving bike, grab Lee, snatch the keys from the ignition, swat Lee onto the curb with a squawk of surprise, trot awkwardly beside the silent bike to unlock the saddlebag, grab the red duffel, shove in the bungie, hand the guy the keys and helmet to grab the wheel well. "Got it! Get on!"
The bike roars back to life and he's got control of it, taking the next corner and is gone. Smirking, I step up onto the curb only inches away from a truly pissed off taxi and turn to a gawking Lee and a small audience to bow deeply like a matador. "Ole!"
I actually get scattered applause.
"Performance art," I smirk at Lee, who rolls her eyes as I turn her and shove her at the doors.
"At least they give me a safety harness when they make me fly," she snarks.
We're still cracking up as we stumble into the theater.
They're all startled as hell at the noisy entrance, staring as we trot down the carpet. Feeling mischievous, I pull ahead, crouching against the edge of the stage, my fingers laced together between my bent knees.
I don't know how, but she picks up my idea, planting one of those sexy new boots into my cupped hands to that I can stand and heave her over the edge of the stage where she lands with barely a wobble.
Cast and crew alike just stare.
Completely nonchalant, Lee cocks a hip to plant her fist there and drawls, "What? You said I was late."
Crying I'm laughing so hard, exhausted and wound up from the last less than a day of my life turned upside-down, I sit there on the floor, my back braced on the edge of the stage. Winded and still wracked with chuckles, I hang my head between my knees, hands dangling in mid air.
"Are you okay, Dace?" Lorna asks almost timidly from above me and I tilt my head back to grin at her.
"Exhausted with trying to keep up with that one."
"I bet. Can we get you anything?"
"Is there any water?"
Grabbing Lee's red bag, I flop flat to the cool floor with my head pillowed on it and prop my left boot on my raised right knee. Several peaceful minutes pass while I relax there on the floor of the Hirschman Theater and its lovely cool air conditioning. Talented voices rise and fall around me in waves of sound.
But my sensitive hearing still catches the timid footsteps on the carpet and I swallow a grin, forcing myself to lie limp and still. Always wait for the prey to get as close as possible to maximize the chance of a successful attack.
"Is she awake?" Lorna whispers like a little girl after too many ghost stories.
"Is she alive?" Eve giggles softly and I have identified which set of footfalls belong to which woman. Good, I owe Lee's standby for starting the shirt signing incident. When I lash out and grab her ankle, making her shriek like a b-grade movie actress, the entire theater goes quiet except for Lorna's squeals of laughter.
The scowling skinny man that growled at the actresses last evening peers over the edge of the stage, his expression wry. "Are you quite done distracting my actors?" he enunciates very clearly and a bit condescendingly and I shrug and wave.
"Sorry. I'll just lie here quietly. Really, not a sound."
Rolling his eyes, he retreats and my companions hunker down with stifled giggles. "That was mean," Eve pouts and I wave her off.
"You're young and in good shape. A good scare on occasion keeps your heart healthy."
"Yeah," Lorna teases, poking at her pal, who squirms, "we could use the excitement."
Rolling to my side, I prop my head in my hand and eye the two of them. They bear passing resemblances to the women they shadow in body type and coloring, but they are very much individuals. "So, you take their spot if they can't perform, right?" They nod obediently. "Do you get to do anything else?" They shake their heads this time. "That's gotta be boring as fuck."
"No, fucking's far more interesting," Lorna sasses and Eve chokes on laughter.
Really, there's something strangely childlike about the whole gang of these people. It's their manic energy, their delight in things that many would ignore, a creative spark that sends them out to outrageous lengths to pour themselves into an audience and soak them up in return. They were the class clowns and the kids that make up stories to entertain their families and friends. Troublemakers or painfully shy, they all fell into this somehow, scratching their way to this level of their peculiar food chain.
But similar things can be said of me.
A jaw-cracking yawn floods my eyes with moisture again and Lorna opens her mouth to sass again, triggering off animal instincts swirled up with human weakness and emotion. She yipes not quite as loud as Eve as I grab her ankle where she sits nearby and bodily haul her over to me. Grabbing her shirt front, I smile a wicked, feral smile and her blue eyes round. Nose to nose with her, I purr, "Watch over me, pretty girl. I'm tired and you're bored and Eve's mad at me for scaring her." Jerking her closer, close enough that my mouth almost brushes hers, my voice drops low and gravelly. "Guard me."
Bodily planting the younger woman against my belly so she'll be comfy, I curl my arm under my head and enjoy her muttered, "sheesh, yes ma'am."
To the strains of music I recognize but don't entirely know, and the quiet sound of Eve's chuckling, I anchor my frazzled senses to the stranger pressing my body to the solid surface behind me and doze off.
My perceptions swim shallow, a voice speaking and my guardian's voice vibrating against my belly, her small frame squirming against mine until I paw at her to be still. Again when her body curls into the front of mine. A third time to a soaring crescendo of women's voice that I recognize from last night and as a favorite of the singers of my clan. "Who can say if I've been changed for the better? I do believe that I have been changed for the better."
Blearily, I wake, blinking in confusion at where I am. One voice croons, "and, because I loved you."
A sweet reply of, "because I loved you," the words swelling high and melodic.
I perk up, intrigued the feeling and the words, still not quite awake.
"Because I loved you," the chorus one more time together and I'm struck by the poignancy of these words and notes I recognize, but have never heard like this before. Staring up at the edge of the stage that hides me sight from the singers, I lie still and soak it up. "I have been changed for good."
Definitely some song here I could grow to love.
"Y'know," Lorna comments idly where she's curled along my chest and legs and I start in surprise. "Normally when my bedmate wakes up with one of those for me, I know I'm in for a good time."
I must be more tired than I think I am, because I'm baffled… until she wiggles her ass back into me. The movement jostles the phallus where it has been held in and against my body for a long time now, making me hiss.
"Must have been some consult," she adds dryly, perched on one elbow, looking at me.
Sighing, I rest my skull in the crook of stage and floor to scrub my face with both hands. Oh for fuck sake, I'm still wearing the driving gloves too? "You people have wreaked the strangest havoc on my life."
"We have?" she laughs and shifts to painstakingly climb to her feet. "Come on bossy. I bet you need to shake yourself out after sleeping on the floor."
Sitting up, I gingerly twist my torso to test that everything still seems to be in working order before slowly getting up to stretch. Feeling a bit better with blood circulation returning to normal, I eye Lorna speculatively. "I haven't lied to any of you. Yes, the security consult thing is flimsy, but that's what me and Jaye's friend do. Well, it's one of the things we do." Lorna's smile deepens. "And I really do have senses like a cat. No lie. Luckily in this overcrowded place, no one really took any note of her. Or me for that matter. I suppose that anonymity can be handy."
"You're up," a familiar voice says flatly and I jump and turn half around to find myself faced with a pair of dainty feet in killer heels leading to some really nice legs. Eyes quickly snapping up, I find myself faced with Regina Danowitz again. This is not the first time I've had the racial memory, lizard brain reaction that most women have to me take on a darker turn. She doesn't like me and she doesn't trust me and she's borderline hostile and she doesn't fully understand why. I know as much as anyone does as to the why, but can do absolutely nothing about it. "We've got an hour to eat and settle down. Come on back, both of you."
Silently, Lorna starts to move off and I grab my bag and Lee's to follow. My phone buzzes and I find it in my jacket chest pocket, fumbling it open. "Cath?"
"You sound half-asleep, Dace. Everything okay? You're broadcasting pretty loudly tonight."
Sighing, I duck past some cables after the much smaller Lorna. "Back at the theater again, though I haven't a clue what to do with myself at this point. Are we still headed back in the morning?"
"As far as I know. Should we come to you now? It'll take some time, but the kittens are mewling."
"How has their mood been?"
"Just like mine. Energetic. You must have had some serious fun today."
"Dunno that serious is the word, but yeah, she's a ton of fun. This whole gang of vulgar children is a ton of fun."
Lorna chuckles in tandem with my mate.
"Well, we'll call when we get closer and you can send someone out for us or come get us yourself, okay?"
"'Kay. Love to you and the pack."
Down yet the millionth crowded and dingy hallway in this rabbit warren, Lorna hangs a right into a door and I almost cringe at the welcome that warns me what I'm in for. And I still haven't managed to duck away long enough to find a toilet and get this damn dick off, or find water, so I'm too parched to need to actually pee…
My internal ramble stops as my footfalls carry me to the doorway and I in turn get roared at in welcome. There are many more of them this time, the faces I know mixed in with the strangers and I suddenly realize that I'm in a truly dangerous situation.
Oh, none of them understand it; they have no means of understanding it.
But I do.
With a growl and a helpless look at several pairs of familiar eyes, not the least of which is my new pet, I have to retreat. That overstimulated burn is starting up in the base of my brain, my senses starting to short circuit in my skull. Desperately, I reach out for Catherine, whining at the fire in my brain.
No! I cannot do this here! There are too many smells choking me, too many small tunnels to get lost in, too many rabbits to hurt…
I nearly jump right out of my boots at the sound of a small bark, the high-pitched, absurd noise shattering through my sensory feedback. Completely confused, I stare at… at…
At Regina's little yappy dog.
I'm in a room, a crowded but neat space that my dialed-up eyes can see clearly even in the near-darkness. Children's drawings of a leather and bronze-clad warrior holding a sword and the distinctive round chakram and festoon the walls. In some the figure faces off with the giant eyes I saw yesterday, in some she rides or leads a gold horse. The smell of my new pet is very strong here and I'll take whatever anchor I can get at this moment.
The phone stops buzzing and my sudden calm is reflected back to me from Catherine.
The dog whines curiously, standing just at the edge of where I must have shouldered the door open so that I could retreat in here. She's a cute animal and obviously adored; much like the dogs back at my home who tolerate and occasionally even like me. At a loss of what to do with myself, I twist away from where I've been huddled against the wall to lay on my chest and rest my chin on my crossed arms.
"Hey," I whisper to the little animal and she cocks her head curiously. "Sorry I scared you cutie, but your humans freak me out a little. I think maybe I've made a few too many friends, y'know?"
As though realizing that I'm actually harmless, the dog trots up and licks my nose.
"Dace? Dammit, where did she go?"
It's Reg's voice, close by, and I know that I have to explain myself. Argh…
The dog is yapping for attention now. "Lily? What are doing in Lee's dressing… oh."
That flatness on that last word is all for me and I sigh. Bright light flashes agonizingly through the thin barrier of my eyelids and I whine for mercy. "No lights!" I beg, clapping my hands over my eyes. "I can't dial everything down right now. Please!"
The dog's tongue feels rougher than it really is as she seems determined to clean my nose right off my face, despite my gloved hands over my eyes.
"Are you okay?"
For the first time, this woman has gentled to me. I'm prostrate on the floor with her five pound spoiled lap dog kissing my face. Really, how scary can I be?
"I have over-heightened senses that I can't always control," I murmur as the small woman steps quietly into the room and I hear the sounds of her kneeling or sitting next to… Lily was it? "It's a side effect from the blow I took to the head."
"Oh," Reg says simply. "You looked like you'd seen a ghost back there."
"I knew this was coming and bolted. It can be dangerous if I start flailing around."
It's not the whole truth, but it's part of it, and all that I can tell. When I cross my arms again to rest my aching head, Lily amuses me by insinuating herself into the small space to continue slobbering on me. It takes a minute for the emotion to register in a rolling chuckle of childlike amusement at the small beast who suddenly seems determined to get some kind of reaction.
Obviously my soft amusement is what she wanted as she looks pleased and trots over to her human to be picked up and cuddled.
"Dogs don't like me," I grunt as I shift to sit up. "She's extraordinary. I actually feel much better now."
For the first time, Regina smiles at me.
After a few long moments of peaceful quiet, Reg carefully stands up and looks down at me with an unfathomable expression on her face. "Too much company?"
"Only for those few moments of sensory overload. But maybe I better go so that you guys can get back to your lives. Lee's as safe as she can be here."
"The others are worried. Stay long enough that I can at least reassure them that you seem to be fine. And Lee looked like she was going to burst into tears when you went white and raced off like that. At least see her so that she knows you're okay?"
I can't resist the faint plea in her voice, not because of her small concern for me, but her very real concern for her friend. "I'll stay."
Quiet falls over me as Reg leaves and I can filter out the sounds of the busy building around me, dialing down hearing, touch, smell and at last, the oversensitivity of my eyes. Even the acrid taste in my mouth fades and I remember my thirst again.
A few peaceful minutes pass when the click of trotting high-heels heads my way. Without a sound, Lee closes the busted door behind her and tosses my backpack down to hold it shut.
"Could you get the lights, please?"
She really does look worried, but softens when I look her square in the eye. Still quiet, she comes over and I barely have time to sit back before she drapes herself into my lap and hugs me tightly.
"Thanks," I murmur into her neck after a long moment, stroking my cheek along hers before leaning my head back on the wall.
"Reg said you needed me," she reassures me quietly and shrugs. "I mean, you found your way back here somehow. I'm glad I could be a source of comfort to you."
Humming affirmatively, I let the calm fully settle in this quiet, safe place.
"I brought you that bottle of water Eve and Lorna promised you ages ago," Lee speaks up very quietly after a few minutes and I sigh a very quiet thank you against her ear and drink half the bottle. Leaning back onto my shoulder, she smiles warmly at me and suddenly giggles, "they were beside themselves with guilt. Like a pair of kicked puppies. It was cute."
"I think they still are."
Covering Lee's ear, I whistle a piercing note through carefully pursed lips. Low voices outside the busted door ratchet up in surprise at the sound.
"Get up if you don't want more questions," I soothe Lee, giving her a squeeze and releasing my hold. She snorts in amusement before kissing me soundly.
"They'll ask anything that comes to mind no matter what the circumstances. At least now I can give them something to talk about."
"You asked for it," I chuckle before raising my voice. "Stop hovering you two! Come in."
Hesitantly, Lorna pushes open the door, Eve right on her heels, practically attached to each other. They mince in, Reg completely amused by them where she stands in the doorway. After a moment, the understudies look at each other, whimper like kids and dogpile onto me and Lee.
"We're so sorry," they bawl in stereo and I can't help but chuckle and grab them in twin headlocks, lightly headbutting them with affection.
"You didn't do anything, you dorks," I purr as Lee wiggles in the middle of the pile with a murmur of amused protest and I squeeze the whole lot of them until they breathlessly gasp for mercy. "My unusually acute senses merely got overwhelmed. This place is a rabbit warren and it's dark and crowded and is full of smells that you aren't even aware of. It was just animal panic."
Eve gets a wet, sloppy kiss in the slope where nose arches into eyebrow and Lorna at the corner of her smiling mouth.
"Now," my voice is suddenly businesslike and they watch me with their opposing-colored gazes. "Would you lead me out in a few minutes? I need to get to my pack and they're close now." They nod, still silent, and I brush nose and cheeks with them affectionately. "Will you give me a couple minutes to say goodbye? And Reg looks like she has something to say."
"We'll wait," Eve promises, returning the almost-kisses shyly before levering herself up and hauling a squawking Lorna up to quickly evacuate the room. Reg pushes the door shut, once again shoving my bag up against it and moves to set down a plate of food and a bottled drink on what must be the makeup table.
She eyes us, Lee curled up almost timidly under my chin and I'm struck by the conflict in her crystalline blue eyes. There's a whole sea of mixed emotions between these two and it's quite fascinating and a bit sad. When Lee takes a deep breath, one small hand whips up in a halting motion. "I don’t want an explanation and frankly, I don't care what's really going on. But," the sweet voice drops low and growly with seriousness and takes me aback as Reg looms over me, glowering into my like-colored eyes. "If you hurt her, I will find you and find a way to kick your ass."
I'm too fascinated and frankly, not a little turned on by this fierce little creature, to even consider offence and nod seriously. "Yes ma'am."
The silent look exchanged between the two actresses is like watching someone defusing a bomb, it's that loaded. With a visible effort of a personality more powerful than most would expect, Reg tears herself away and leaves with movements stiff and barely coordinated, her silence evocative. All I can think is that there is something between them that will obviously never come to light and a complex personality like hers might never understand the haunting wound on her soul that will never go away.
Being overly observant does suck some days.
"I guess you have to go now," Lee says softly, her fingertip tracing around where the heart tattoo lies beneath my shirt. She has no idea of her effect on people, I realize with a start, at least not her full effect. I've known these sorts before, the raw power of charisma that the wielder seems oblivious of. Thankfully, this sweet woman has found a damn healthy outlet for hers.
Doesn't mean that she hasn't broken a whole damn lot of unsuspecting hearts over the years.
Oh well, she's not mine to have and worry over. Which is a good thing and a bad thing, obviously. Growling, I pull her chin up and kiss her soundly, roughly, drinking in her little needy sounds. Holding her chin, I take a last long look into the mercurial mossy eyes and rub noses with her. "Don't forget me."
"Not gonna fucking happen."
She's a good hugger, putting her whole body into the embrace before I help her stand and climb up myself. Definitely spent too much damn time on the fucking floors of this place. A last caress over the dark, glossy hair and over her strong jaw and I smile melancholy. "See ya around, Starling."
She just smiles sadly as I grab my bag and force myself to walk away.
My guides are silent as they lead me through the rat's maze and once more into the silent sea of empty seats. There is scattered activity back on the stage and echoing up from the orchestra pit and I can only shake my head at how surreal my life has been in…
Less than thirty hours.
Catherine is close now, I can feel it. It's time to go.
At the glass doors that separate the Hirschman Theater from the hectic world outside, I pause and scoop up Eve and Lorna for a long moment to squeeze them hard. "Next time I'm in town, hopefully I'll get some time to hang with you two." They giggle breathlessly as I set them down and grin wickedly. "Maybe you can even show me your little show."
Spluttering, they feign outrage and I retreat with a laugh and a wave over my shoulder. In the faded heat of evening, I stand at the curb and wait for my pack, knowing that I will never forget my trip into this unusual world of the theater.