Book 6: Rainbows.

Series: Light, Water, Muses.

Rating: NC17 for the smut getting' serious!

Warnings: One mildly outrageous sex act. Really, nothing we haven't written about before.

Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions/Rapids/Ripples.

Pairings: Karen/Darya.


Website: ShatterStorm Productions – Light, Water, Muses

Archive: ShatterStorm Productions only.

Author’s Notes: There is some long overdue background information on Darya here.

Summary: First Darya is reunited with the more carnal aspects of married life before having to deal with her estranged folks.

Chapter 1 :: Red

++ Karen ++


Groaning in annoyance, I stare at the now-dead phone in my hand. It's got to be some kind of miracle that the damn thing hasn't woken up the entire household, squalling for my attention in the early-morning light.

For once, falling asleep on the couch has worked in my favor. Leave it to Gabe to call me at the ass-crack of dawn and expect me to be coherent enough to deal with him. Thankfully, it hadn't been Fenris calling, or she'd have given me even more shit than he did. I'm creaky from sleeping on the couch after helping out Sam last night as she had 'Baby Central' and I opted to help her out so that Art and Janet could have some bonding time. As I make my way up to the bedroom, I can hear Kerry moving around in the kitchen, so it must not be quite as early as I thought.

Doing my best ninja impersonation, I slip into the bedroom, not wanting to disturb my wife or any of the children. Should I be humming the 'Mission Impossible' theme? Biting back a chuckle at the spectacle on the bed, I watch Darya, propped up against the mountain range of pillows with the sleeping twins resting against her chest, Emily and Fawn curled up together against her side. Emily's arm stretches across Fawn to rest lightly against the feet of her siblings. Obviously disturbed by my small sounds, Darya blinks awake and smiles sleepily.

"Is everything all right?" she murmurs huskily, attempting to shift to make room for me. Waving her to remain still, I sit and caress her beautiful face.

"The New York branch of the family is experiencing some mechanical failure," I explain, gingerly stretching out alongside her. My hand strokes lightly over the four smaller heads and I kiss Darya gently. "They'll still be here in time for the ceremony, but they might not be here until the morning. KC doesn't like to fly domestic anymore."

The beloved deep red hair shifts as Darya nods and snuggles her head into my shoulder. "I'm sure it will all work out, Karen. It's still early enough in the day. Besides, we've far more pressing matters at hand. Like the fact that I'm seriously in need of the bathroom and can't move with all these little bodies pressing into me."

The quietly petulant complaint makes me chuckle and I gather up the twins, so that she can answer the call of nature. Fawn fusses and scrubs at her eyes sleepily as I settle the twins in their bassinets, but Emily sits up and smiles brightly at me. "G'morning, Kryn," she whispers happily. "Is it breakfast yet?"

"I think your Aunt Kerry is working on breakfast," I tell her, scooping up this daughter of my heart to squeeze her in a strong hug. "And I'm sure she'll find something for you to do to help her out." With a ruffle of curls both black and sunset gold, I shoo the older girls off the bed and they scramble for the door with their usual squeals of delight. The noise rouses the infants with sleepy objections and I reach for them, laughing, "I'll bet Bahbas will even let you help feed the dogs if you hurry." That does it! My laughter greets Darya as she returns from the restroom to find the girls gone. "I tempted them with Kerry's cooking and helping to feed the dogs. Do you honestly think they'd stick around?"

"Not unless the twins were awake," she replies, pulling the bassinets closer to the bed. "Which I see they are." She sounds faintly surprised and scoops Jesse up while I flirt with Trisha to settle them both down. Thankfully, it only takes some calming and cooing before both are once more out like lights. We quietly return them both to the bassinets before I strip off the sweats I'd thrown on last night to check on things one last time over at our house. It'll be strange to be sleeping over there within another a week, after all of the company's gone home again. As I turn my thoughts to my wife and crawl back into bed, she grins impishly at me. "You know, love, you could always lock the door and take the rest of those clothes off. I certainly wouldn't mind… "

The sly tease gets a quirked brow, but I jump up to lock the door anyway. Dare certainly hadn't been feeling at all amorous during the latter part of the pregnancy, and then she's been busy with helping get all four infants on a regular schedule, so she tends to sleep as often as she can. Having Dace teasing her yesterday when we unexpectedly ran into her and Catherine helped kick start her libido, I'll bet! Slipping under the covers, I pull her into my arms for a quick, demanding kiss. The familiar moaning and squirming against me is a sensation I haven't felt in far too long. Grinning devilishly, I nibble my way to that spot just below the point of her jaw, the spot that drives her nearly insane with need. The anxious whines only egg me on and I am quickly feeling ruthless about having my way with my lovely wife.

Quickly dispatching the thin nightgown she's wearing, I lean back to look down at her with barely disguised desire, and suck in a sudden breath when I meet that same hellfire need in her grayed-green eyes. Closing my eyes for a moment, it takes all my strength to stand up and move away from her.

"Karen?" she asks shakily in confusion as I slip back into my sweats and gather up the handles on the bassinets to head for the door.

"Don't move," I growl lustily. "I'll be back when I know the twins will be looked after. You are mine, and I need you, and I won't be disturbed while loving you."

Those eyes glitter like subterranean gemstones first exposed to the sunlight, and Darya nods her head meekly before pulling the covers up over her body as I escape the room. Out in the hallway, I lean against the wall and suck a deep breath to calm myself. Only when I feel I can interact with the rest of the household without embarrassing myself, do I head downstairs. Janet's voice floats out from the living room and I immediately head that way.

"Well good morning, Red," Davie greets with a devilish grin, causing Janet to turn to face me as well. My housemate has a knowing twinkle in her eye and I'll bet that she knows exactly what's going on in my head. Smoothly, Davie stands, murmurs a goodbye to Janet, and grabs one of the bassinets, asking, "Did Dare just feed them?" With my brain still upstairs with my horny wife, I nod and follow Davie into the nursery, standing there like an idiot while she fusses with putting the twins into their cribs, barely listening to her voice, and I jump when she touches my arm. "Karen, get the hell upstairs before you jump me instead of my sister. We'll keep Emily and Fawn occupied and give the two of you a few hours to yourselves before you'll be needed again."

Grinning gratefully, I wrap her in a tight bear hug and press a sloppy kiss to her cheek. "Remind me I owe you something very nice when this weekend is over, okay?"

"Whatever, flirt," she teases, slapping at me. "Now get out of here!"

That's my cue to race back upstairs, grateful that the older kids don't see me. The minute I'm inside the bedroom, I lock the door and strip posthaste. Licking my lips, I stalk to the bed and yank back the covers to burn my wife with the foreplay of my possessive gaze. It always makes both of us hot, the caress of appreciative eyes as effective as skin to skin. While sometimes it's fun to draw out the torture of this contact that isn't actually contact, right now I want more from her. The way Darya reaches for me, groaning as I straddle her body and lean down for another soul-deep kiss, confirms that she's more than ready as well. Arching into my kiss, hands roving over my back and shoulders, Darya whines desperately, but I quickly gather her wrists up and pin them above her head before she even realizes it. "They stay there," I growl softly, staring into her eyes, "or do I need to get the cuffs?"

Obediently, she shakes her head and squirms around only enough to have her arms comfortable. Licking her lips coquettishly, she purrs, "Please, Karen…"

Hearing that sultry voice beg has always had a powerful effect on me, and I brand her with another searing kiss, hands trailing down her body possessively. Seeing her body swell with the babes I'd fathered has done something to me all these months, and I feel the need to mark her as mine again. My fingers stroke her full breasts, made even fuller by the pregnancy, and I easily tease her nipples into stiffness with feather-gentle stroking. Kisses are trailed along the column of her throat and I trace her tattoo with my tongue before wrapping my lips around a nipple, gently worrying the taut flesh with tongue and teeth. A rush of warm, sweet fluid makes me pull back to stare at her in confusion.

"Milk, Karen," she whispers huskily. "Or did you think my body was going to know the difference between the twins' mouths and yours?"

I certainly feel the slight flush to my cheeks, but I shrug it off and return to teasing her nipples, finding an odd delight in tasting her milk. It's a brief indulgence and I soon moved onward, leaving the sweetness for my children instead. Continuing my way down her body, I can smell the scent of her arousal, feel my own increase. Spreading Darya's thighs, I slip two fingers into her gripping heat and wrap my tongue around her clit. Her sharp cry and almost violent arch up into my face make me grin ferally and begin to mercilessly push her toward climax. In less time than I'd have expected, her body begins to tremble fiercely, accompanied by an increasingly higher and louder series of whimpers and pleas until she stiffens with a loud shout as orgasm overtakes her. It has been too damn long since I have wallowed in the pleasures of my dearest love's body, and I continue to tease and stroke with fingers and tongue, extending her pleasure until she hoarsely moans my name and pushes at my head.

"I thought I told you not to move your hands," I rasp, trapping her wrist in one hand as I gaze up at her. There is no anger in my voice, just an overwhelming pride and desire for my wife. Levering up to stretch out next to her, fingers still gently caressing her body, I press my lips to hers in a hungry kiss. "Shall I make you scream this time, love?" I tease lightly.

She moans again, eyes fluttering shut briefly. "Not unless you want people banging on our door to find out what's going on."

My snort of amusement is not feigned. "Oh please, Darya. Your sister will make sure everyone knows exactly what's going on."

The sex flush deepens into embarrassment at the thought of Davie knowing what we're doing and I chuckle and kiss her senseless again. That's all it takes for her fingers to curl into my hair, holding me closer as the kiss turns desperate again, and I am helpless to stop it. Darya shifts to her side, rubbing her body against mine in a way that I never could deny and I shift enough to tangle our bodies in that way I adore most. Rocking my hips against hers, I move so that our clits grind deliciously together until I'm a heaving, trembling mass atop her.

++ Anastasia ++

The thrum of the big Harley engine between my legs is becoming less and less amusing as the ride drags on. Thankfully, I begin to recognize the surroundings and realize we are nearly at the family homestead. Damn good thing too, because the sooner I can get Tessa alone for some relief, the better. I only hope the rest of the family is close behind us, or things could get quite embarrassing.

"Still okay back there, Lady Mine?" Dace's voice crackles through the headset. Undoubtedly, my unconsciously roving hands are becoming distracting and I can hear the grin in her voice as we near the end of our journey.

"Concentrate on the road, Leonacoeur," I retort perhaps a bit more sharply then intended and squeeze her sides lightly in apology, forcing my hands to lie still against her warmth. "I'm fine back here but will be far happier when we arrive."

She chuckles and guns the engine just slightly as we turn onto the road where my Tiger has lived for the better part of six months now. I find myself anxious to meet these new grandchildren of mine… all four of them, and my smile widens as the house looms in front of us. These women are family, daughters I'd never expected, yet can't imagine myself without. In the aftermath of Dace's brush with death, we've all realized just how important family really is, and have made sure to keep in better touch with each other. Pulling up in the driveway, Dace revs the engine, a loud, reverberating roar, before shutting off the bike. The last rumblings from the big engine fade as the front door opens to reveal a smiling Art. Dismounting, Dace yanks the inky helmet away from her sweaty head and reaches for me with a familiarity that I'm still growing accustomed to. "Sorry about the delay, Anastasia, I wasn't expecting to spend so much time getting here."

"Oh, I know, you big silly," I chuckle and smack affectionately at her as those strong arms pull me from the dormant monster between my legs. A devilish grin changes her face and she whirls with that inhuman speed to catch the squealing mass of red, pink, and purple that is my granddaughter.

"Unca Dace! You came back!" she crows, latching onto Dace's neck as she comes down from the half-spin that has her little feet barely missing my nose. Bear-hugging Emily, Dace growls playfully, making the child shriek in delight and they wrestle-hug for a moment.

"I promised, didn't I?"

"Yes," Emily replies, echoing the blonde's grin. "Thank you!"

"Em'ly! Too fast!" Fawn yells, toddling out as quickly as she can, scowling adorably. Once more with that astonishing fluidity, Dace shifts Emily's weight to one arm and easily scoops up Fawn to be whirled around and hugged. There is more laughter, more rough hugs and animal sounds, along with Fawn's delighted and outraged, "Unca Dace!"

"Hi, Gramma Stasia!" Emily greets me, wiggling away to give me a hug. "I have a secret," she whispers in a giggle, "but I cannot tell 'til tomorrow. Mommy and Kryn made me promise."

"Oh?" I must admit curiosity at her comment, glancing up at the doorway to see if the two women have come to greet us. "And where are your mommy and Kryn?" Even as I asked the question, Dace begins to howl off-key, making the children laugh delightedly. "Dace, what are you doing?"

"Howling along with the hot monkey love upstairs," she chuckles evilly. "They seem to be making up for lost time."

"Mommy and Kryn are taking a nap without the babies," Emily supplies helpfully. "An' Davie said they needed to say hi to each other again, or something like that. I don't get it, but she said it was okay. But they are being awful noisy for just saying hello."

Having grown used to Dace's senses, I am still taken aback at Emily's matter-of-fact observation. Out of the mouths of babes… Nonetheless, I chuckle at what Karen and Darya must be doing. It is what I hope to be doing with Tessa soon enough. These trips on Dace's pristine hog are hell on more than just my back!

Art approaches with her young son Cubby, who bounces over to say hello to Dace. Purring gently, she cuddles him close, holding him longer than the girls, as though in comfort.

"Would you believe me if I said they were actually doing gross grown-up stuff?" Dace asks the children, ruffling Cubby's hair with her cheek while he sighs heavily and rests in absolute trust against her.

Emily sighs dramatically and rolls her eyes. "That's all you had to say, Unca Dace." And then she and Fawn crow, in stereo, "Eww!"

"Emily, didn't we have that discussion already?" Art asks with a grin for us and shoos the girls back towards the house. "Glad to see both of you got here safe and sound. Did the Big Cat here behave?" The playful Mediterranean eyes regard me warmly and I can't help but smile.

"Careful, Little Dog, you sound like Catherine and Dana," Dace grouses good-naturedly. "Not to mention the partner. She doesn't nag, but she's got a mean stare on her! Kinda like your wife's."

That makes Art cackle, "I'm sure Janet will love the compliment. And speaking of the wife? Go in and say hello before she comes out here to assert her dominance. Where's the rest of your harem, Big Cat?"

"Ditched 'em on the freeway. I wanted the old lady to myself," she retorts, pinching my ass and I slap at her, groaning softly as I feel the twinges riding up and down my back. I am really not cut out for the bikes anymore, but at least I only had to ride from Denver to Colorado Springs. It seemed a good idea at the time, the thrill of the big machine. Ah well… Tossing a giggling Cubby onto her shoulders, Dace grabs me with a growl, lifting my smaller body up from the ground and I'm shocked to feel at least a dozen vertebrae pop loudly. "Better?"

I groan in relief as much of the pain and discomfort drain away, allowing me to follow the woman into the house with a modicum of dignity. There is laughter that leads us to the living room, Cubby giggling where he hunches over Dace's head so he doesn't bump his own skull on the doorframe. It seems that Sylvia, of all people, has beaten us here, and Dace is as taken aback as I. Particularly watching her totally enraptured with the giggling infant Davie holds. "Look at the little darling," my old friend coos sweetly at the child, who has a death grip on one elegant finger, chewing a flawlessly manicured nail that probably cost more than twenty minutes at the dollar slots.

It's Janet that notices us first, where she watches over Sam, breastfeeding yet another babe. "Well, isn't this just a little den of domesticity," I remark dryly when she meets my gaze, making the others look over.

Janet smiles broadly and moves to walk towards us. "Welcome, Anastasia," she greets warmly and offers me a hug. "Can I get you anything after your trip?"

"Just a room when Tessa gets here," Dace chortles and pulls Janet into a tight squeeze, merely laughing when both Janet and I slap at her. "Nobody wants to hear the truth around here, huh?" All conversation stops for just a moment as another faint cry echoes from upstairs. Dace's smiles wry and she says with faint sarcasm, "Maybe you should soundproof that room."

"We'd still know what's going on," Davie chuckles. "Darya broadcasts like a foghorn!"

"She can't help herself," Sam adds serenely, lost in the child in her arms.

"Good to see you, Anastasia," Sylvia smiles warmly, and I am once more struck by the wonderful changes in her. Having never been the warmest personality, this open and accessible woman is a startling and lovely change. The clean break from the enigma beside me and the reunion of our four houses has worked miracles.

But before I can do more than smile at her, we hear a horn outside and Dace scoops the girls up, Cubby still clinging to her shoulders, and heads for the door. "Lucky me, the harem's here, and Catherine and I brought Lindsey back!"

"Yay!" The three children chorus where they hang all over their tall 'uncle'.


How I love Karen's stamina. I lay boneless, sucking air weakly into my lungs, exhausted and happily sated. I've lost count of the orgasms, and don't care in the slightest.

A light nip at my navel yanks me back to the present. "Ready, my love?" she asks of me softly, undemanding and patient.

I moan softly as her hand shifts within me and revel for just a moment longer in this incredibly intimate connection. Concentrating, relaxing and pulling my breath in deep and soothing, I nod my readiness. In many respects, the effort of our combined bodies to free Karen's hand of my body's grip is at least as intimate as the fist fuck itself. As always, I feel oddly bereft, empty, hollow, and not at all shocked at the tears slipping down my cheeks. Quickly, Karen is stretched out next to me and I nuzzle into her chest and sigh happily.

"You okay?"

I nod again and smile at her. "Just wishing we had more time, I guess. And very happily sated. But these," I point to my chest, "are demanding relief from the milk."

She smiles lovingly and strokes a hand down my side, making me feel so very cherished. "Think you've got the strength for a shower? We can go down and get the twins and have some food then."

That is just the kind of suggestion I need and I smile gratefully as my stomach rumbles. With a light kiss promising so much more, I force myself out of bed and shuffle to the bathroom. Letting the water heat up, I stare at my image in the mirror. Dealing with seven children under the age of five for the past six weeks has definitely helped me shed the excess baby weight. The intense heat of Karen's gaze as we neared this date has extra incentive as well! I've been anxiously waiting for the okay from Bon and have nearly pounced on my wife a couple of times already. I turn this way and that, critically studying my figure for a few more moments before slipping into the shower. Goddess, but that feels good, the hot needles of water pounding into my skin. The shower is rejuvenating, more so than I'd thought possible after the past couple hours of intense sex, and I purr happily as Karen wraps her arms around me from behind. Briefly entertaining thought of another round of lovemaking, my stomach wins out by growling loudly again. Chuckling, we finish our shower and dress.

"I hope Kerry or somebody is still cooking," I murmur as we head downstairs. "I think I could eat a horse right now."

"You're welcome," Karen smirks smugly and I smack at her affectionately and grin. "And I'm sure we can find something to eat."

"'Bout damned time you two come up for air," sings out a familiar voice as we reach the bottom of the stairs. I feel my face flush hotly red, certain the tall blonde knows exactly what we've been doing. "I've had to entertain your kids, you know, while you were saying hi again."

"And I can see just how put out you are over it, Punk," Karen fires back, wrapping an arm around Dace in a tight hug. "Damn it's good to see you doing better. And damn glad you're here."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, daddy," Dace teases as she bodily drags me into the hug. "Family's family, right?" Trapped by their much taller bodies, I sigh happily, snuggling in even closer. The odd sensations of comfort and arousal that Dace inspires once more envelope me, soothing and invigorating by turns. She startles me by suddenly snuffling at my damp hair and neck. I flush once more as she purrs, "You know a shower doesn't really get rid of a smell like that, right? And hot holy damn, do you smell good enough to chew on."

"Ohmygod," I whimper, flinching as those teeth pinch the tendons of my neck, making me squeak.

"Punk, I'm gonna kick your ass for that," Karen rumbles good-naturedly.

"Quarter!" Emily crows from out of nowhere. "Kryn said a bad word!"

It's enough to shake me out of my temporary paralysis, and I rub at the spot where Dace bit me. Smiling a bizarre combination of serenity and evil intent, Dace gives me a quick swat on the rear end and swaggers off in the direction of the kitchen.

Despite my hormones and confusion, I can't help but grin as I see my daughter and her two ever-present shadows coming toward us with hands held out. Karen mock-grumbles at them, knowing that she was caught fair and square, digging into her pocket to fish out a dollar bill.

"If I give you a dollar, will you give me change?" she taunts saccharine-sweet, dangling the bill over their heads.

Fawn immediately begins groping for the money, growling, "No!" and stomps on Karen's toes. The bill floats free as Karen jumps in surprise, and we're both too surprised to react any other way. The toddler snatches the paper out of mid-air with an evil grin and is off like a shot for the bowels of the house, calling back, "Fank you, Kryn!"

In moments, I can hear Janet chastising her daughter in the other room. Emily stares at Karen, watching the play of emotions rolling across her face. "No more bad words, Kryn, or it's another dollar," she says simply, scampering off after Fawn.

Cubby stands there and watches us for a moment in that uniquely wise way of his. "Leep-ahmay (I'm sorry), Kryn," he says softly, frowning. "Fawn was naughty. You okay?"

That gets him a big Kryn hug. "I'm okay, happy guy. But thank you for asking."

Once more, he is just a happy little toddler that has pleased the other 'father' figure in his life and he hugs Karen before wiggling away to join the other kids. Following him into the living room, there is a pregnant moment where I watch the crowd, and I am watched in return. Lindsey is on the bottom of the pile of the older children of this household, smiling at me, half atop a faintly alarmed and shy brunette that seems familiar to me somehow. Before I can chew on that, I am distracted into hugging Anastasia in delight, and then Tessa as well. Things have definitely changed for us since the issues at the wedding, and all of them are positive, making me completely happy.

"You seem a bit flustered, Darya," Anastasia purrs in a low voice. "I trust that my tiger loved you well?" I nod quickly, memories still bringing a sweet twinge of pleasant pain to my muscles. "Never took you for a screamer tho', my dear." She smiles that predatory smile that makes me shiver. "So where are my newest grandchildren? I don't know how they could sleep through your happiness."

Startled into action, I turn to find Karen has gone to the shy brunette and is fussing over her in 'Mama Bear' mode. Then I put the pieces together and realize that this must be Sara. The stories and photos now have an actual person attached to them and I smile warmly. Dark eyes look trustingly into Karen's and Sara smiles tremulously at whatever it is that my wife whispers to her. Catherine steps over even as Karen's gesture draws me in as well.

"Dare, this is Sara Sidle, Dace's girl. Sara, this is Darya, my wife."

It's my turn now to pour on the charm, holding Sara's offered hand. "Pleased to meet you, Sara. Both of the Amazons here have told me about you."

For a moment, she seems too flustered to speak, but finally chuckles ruefully and smiles a sweet smile. "Thank you. The same is true in reverse. I know Karen here missed you in Chicago."

"It was mutual," I reply, but the long look that accompanies the words is for my wife alone. That was a tough time, but is only a memory now. That makes the lot of us look to Dace, alive and whole now, her arms slung over the shoulders of Anastasia and Tessa, her smile understanding. Sighing, I know that I need to get moving. "Sorry, but I really need to tend to the twins. These," there are chuckles as I gesture at my chest, "are demanding relief."

They wave me off to follow Karen and me to the nursery to check on the twins. As we make our way there, I am stopped by a quick hug from Catherine and a squeeze to the arm from Kerry. I can tell by their smiles, they all know Karen and I had been fucking like sex-crazed teenagers, but I also know the teasing is affectionate, not malicious, so I take it in stride and hope my blush isn't too obvious. In the nursery, I happily scoop up my daughter, who lies in her crib staring at the mobile above her. A short squawk from the other crib alerts me to the fact that her brother had been asleep when disturbed.

At the door, Tessa deftly steals the boy from Karen, and I plop myself down beside Catherine to continue our catching up from the night before and get to know Sara better.

++ Dace ++

Still can't believe I volunteered to bodyguard Darya's sister while she picks up their parents. I've heard bits and pieces of the horror stories from Karen and Dare when I'd been here in February and even more when Karen and Emily visited for my birthday. Davie filled me in on even more of her family's history while we drove to the airport, and set up shop in one of the bars. Their father is a real piece of work, in that 'my way or the highway' attitude that rarely ends in positive ways. At least when my idiot mother had pulled her crap, I'd just left, not willing to deal with the torture any more. Remembering the filthy bastard, only heartbeats away from raping me right there in my own bed, before I went animal and attacked him, still makes me grind my teeth. Davie has cringed at my stories, and tells me that I should pass them on to Dare at a better time. Might make her feel better, or at least give her some perspective.

The memories of her face as Davie announced we were picking up the parentals lingers with me, like a sharp smell. It was like someone slammed a manhole cover over that vibrant, sometimes bubbly personality. From snatches of commentary and the look on the other Colorado crew's faces, I'm guessing that it was a typical reaction.

Poppa Farazell better watch his step.

"Please promise me you'll be on your best behavior, Dace," Davie asks, half serious and half wry, as we head toward the baggage claim. "I can tell you want to hurt him, but he's still our father despite everything."

"That's why Karen sent me, instead of coming herself," I reply evenly, keeping the cat on a short leash. "Believe me; I've dealt with worse and weirder, but your old man better not fuck with family." My tone is placid and calm, but there is no mistaking the hot steel simmering beneath. Then I shrug it off, toning down the intensity, studying Davie's handsome face. "How long have you been running interference? And why would you do it if he's so against how you and your sister live your lives?" It isn't intended to sound harsh, and I can sense that she understands that.

"I'm the oldest," is her initial quick response, but she digs deeper, gaze turning inward. "And Father's expectations of me were never as high as they were for his little princess." I quirk a brow, surprised at the lack of malice in her tone. Sibling rivalries can be deadly, I've seen it happen as a cop, and have always been glad to be an only child. "Dare had him wrapped around her little finger from an early age. It really hurt him when she came out to him. He wanted us to have the American Dream, you know? Yaya Adelphi taught us so many things before she died, even passed on the secrets of the family gifts. Emily has them, probably the twins too, but you know that already."

"So the whole family has the gift? Even your father?" Now I'm more curious than annoyed.

"No, Father doesn't have the gift. Yaya said that the gift only passes on to the women in the family, that the men don't understand it. When she passed away, he forbade us to continue any of the things she'd taught us, including speaking Greek at home."

Quirking a brow, I nod slowly. "And what about your mother? Didn't she have a say in your upbringing?"

Davie chuckled softly. "Momma's the reason I still have any kind of relationship with my father. She did what she could to help us girls, but Father's pretty stubborn, to put it mildly. She ran as much interference as she could, and we actually got away with a lot. He just wasn't happy that we weren't living up to his expectations, especially Darya." She smiles self-consciously. "You have to understand, Dace. I'm used to my father's stance on things, to not living up to his expectations. Darya's not. In a lot of ways, she's still that insecure little daddy's girl, looking for his approval."

Oh yeah, I can totally see that in Darya. It makes total sense. The conversation is abruptly over as I recognize a slight change in Davie's posture, and turn to see a couple coming towards us. They're a good-looking pair in their late fifties, early sixties. Silently, I study them, feeling the mantle of Leonacouer settle over me like my comfortable play jacket.

Let the games begin.

"Davie, it's so good to see you again," the woman enthuses warmly, and they hug good and tight. Score one for mom.

"Hello, Momma," Davie replies. "How was your flight?"

"It was fine. But where's your sister?"

"She's back at the house, with the kids. Hello, Father." Even without the earlier explanations, I would have gotten the tension in the family by her tone and body language. I watch the man closely as he stiffly accepts Davie's embrace, his eyes cast off into the distance. "Father, Momma, this is Dace Bogart, Darya's sister-in-law. Dace, these are my parents, David and Brigid Farazell."

I offer a hand, flashing my disarmingly charming smile. "Pleased to meet you both. I can see where your daughters get their good looks."

"It's nice to meet you. I didn't realize Darya had a sister-in-law," David replies coolly, eyes traveling the length of my body as if sizing me up. "I was under the impression her… partner doesn't have any siblings."

"We're family by choice, not by blood," I try not to growl, swallowing my distaste for his lack of understanding. A deeper breath calms me, because I can smell the fear on him, buried under decades of discomfort and rigid control. It not just fear of me, is my best guess, as his nervous gaze flickers from me to Davie and back and forth. Bet he's spooked about seeing Dare after all this time. Good, he should be. That heart fear makes him more human to me, makes me hope he might be salvageable after all. So I pull out my best 'good cop' smile and catch his eyes. Pausing, I hold the restless gaze until I have all his focus, my power of personality washing over him. "You'll like Karen. She's the best kind of person. She's saved my life more times than I can thank her for. Besides, your granddaughter loves her immensely, idolizes her. And we all know that kids are the greatest judges of character, since they don't have any of those nasty prejudices we adults seem to learn along the way."

David blinks at my reply, and I know he understands me as he warily returns my smile. "Well, I'm anxious to meet my grandchildren and this woman that has made my daughter's life complete." And, with that, he turns to get their luggage, his wife following him after firing me a long, curious look. Damn, but she looks familiar…

It takes Davie's gaze a moment to swing from following them to staring at me. "Damn, Dace, I knew you were good, but that was… Thank you."

Hooking my thumbs in my pockets, I simply smile at her.

The trip back to the homestead is relatively quiet, Davie filling in her parents on some of the recent events. I can see the faint grimaces cross David's face whenever anything involving Janet is mentioned. It's obvious he has issues with the petite doctor, but I know that already. If only he knew just what a woman she's turned into. She is no longer was the teenager Darya came out with any more than Darya is that same young girl.

Walking into the house, I can hear Tiny's booming laughter and smile ferally. Oh, Poppa Farazell will be scared shitless if he does anything now. The Four Suits have painstakingly rebuilt their relationships in the aftermath of Chicago. Karen and her family will be well protected if need be. Tiny and Karen are probably the tightest of the four of us original aces, outside of me and the redhead, and Tiny certainly won't stand for his womenfolk being abused in any way, shape, or form. I follow his laughter and nearly fall over with hysterics at the sight before me. There stands Tiny in a classic bodybuilder's pose, with Cubby and Fawn straddling either bicep, laughing delightedly, and Emily standing on his feet with a grip on the man's belt loops as she stares up at them. The twins are stretching up to reach the ceiling.

"Unca Teal'c doesn't let us touch the ceiling," Cubby crows delightedly as he slaps at the surface.

Fawn's delighted giggling suddenly stops, eyes darting to stare beyond me, and her face turns serious. "Em'ly, your grampa and gramma are here."

Well that stops every discussion in the room.

To Be Continued…