Book 4: Rapids.
Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.
Rating: R, but barely.
Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions.
Pairings: Zo/Kerry. Elizabeth/Maggie. Michael/Jo.
Personal Disclaimer: Many blessing upon the glorious Mosca for the apt moniker, "The Stupid Doctor Show." It spawned off one of the funniest scenes in this story.
Disclaimer: "ER", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "The Division", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "The X-Files", see Chapter 1.
Disclaimer: "Xena Warrior Princess", see Chapter 4.
Disclaimer: "China Beach", see Chapter 5.
Disclaimer: "Facts of Life", see Chapter 6.
Disclaimer: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit", see Chapter 7.
Disclaimer: "CSI", see Chapter 11.
Spoilers: Does poking fun at a whole mass of TV shows count?
Summary: The gang mocks the boob tube, before Dace finally takes a bite out of Pai, Liv overreacts and the night comes to an abrupt halt.
++ Olivia ++
I was as jumpy as a mouse at a cat convention. The more relaxed everyone else got, the more the pressure inside me tightened up. Maggie's exasperated snort made me flinch.
"How can you watch that crap? Buncha romance novel rejects wearing a badge so that they can still play the 'poor little woman'? Drives me nuts." I hadn't really been paying attention to her talking with Michael, and zeroed in on the word 'badge'. Maggie must have seen my questioning expression. "It's this horrible show on Lifetime, called 'The Precinct'." Her sarcasm and disgust were a palatable thing. "My entire monstrous Italian family is all cops, except my mom, a nurse, my cousin Joey who had the nerve to become a lawyer, of all things, and me, a doctor. Shows that play into untrue clichés just irritate the shit out of me."
I still wasn't sure what to say. Then Dace jumped in with, "it's no worse than that Emergency Roo..." Instantly, all the locals were exaggeratedly shushing her, much to Dace's amused consternation.
"Don't mention the Stupid Doctor Show," Zo yelped. "Kerry'll hear you, and she'll go off for an hour. She hates that show." Since a bunch of them were nodding adamantly, I figured she was at least half-serious.
"But she's not even here," Dace mocked lightly and Zo gave her a haughty look.
"Don't care. Kerry would just know."
There was much chuckling from the people that worked at the hospital.
"How many of us work in fields that the media distorts?" Michael asked thoughtfully and Karen snorted with blistering sarcasm.
"Or flat-out perverts."
We all pretty much snickered over that one, and Maggie got back into the conversation. "There's the dime a dozen cop shows, and that White House one you love so much, Zo."
"Yeah, but that one's actually good," Zo defended heatedly.
"Speak for yourself."
"Oh, you're just pissy because that Secret Service Agent looks so much like you."
Monica, the lanky FBI agent who had snuck in an hour or so ago, started in surprise and stared at Maggie. "Good grief, you do look like her."
Zo cackled. "And you look like the prez's eldest daughter."
Startled again, Monica lobbed a peanut m & m at Zo, to much laughter. Why couldn't I join in? There was much good humor and relaxation, but I just... felt apart from it. What was wrong with me?
++ Sara ++
Jerking awake, I pulled my aching cheek up from Dace's shoulder and blinked blearily. Damn painkillers. A riotous wave of laughter had jarred me from a nap, and now washed over me again. "Have you seen that weird 'Area 51'?" It took me a minute to place the voice, but I suddenly remembered our FBI contact, Monica Reyes.
"Sure," the British woman chuckled. "It's fun, if not a bit farfetched. I mean, really? Hasn't the 'alien conspiracy' been done to death?" Peering around the slender bulk of Dace's body, I saw Monica scowl prettily to more laughter. "Now you know how we doctors feel about that awful Show that Shall not be Named."
My double kissed her soundly while the others cracked up. How I had dozed off in the noise was a mystery. Then a familiar grin flashed at me from Dace's other side. "Hey Sara," Catherine soothed and I grinned helplessly. "Can you imagine some idiot trying to make a prime-time show about what we do?"
"God, that'd be boring," I agreed with her and was rewarded with another rush of happy sound. It felt good, the ease of this diverse group of women.
"There's that 'New Detectives' on the Discovery Channel," Michael tossed in and I sighed.
"That's different. At least there, the cases are treated like documentaries or re-enactments. I just can't see a high-profile show on something like... I dunno, CBS? I mean, seriously, how interesting can criminology be to America?"
"Touché," Michael conceded the round to me and I felt warm and fuzzy from the compliment from the powerful woman. "Anyone ever watch that 'JAG Unit'?"
"The hour-long recruiting commercial?" Karen teased lightly
"Yes, fly-boy, that one," Michael sniffed heartily and humor rippled through the group again. "I have several Navy buddies who foam at the mouth over that one. It has only a slightly lesser effect on me, since I served with the JAG Corps."
"That's right," Steph suddenly chimed in. "I keep forgetting that you're a lawyer in addition to all of your other skills."
"I have many skills," Michael deadpanned and we all groaned at the Xena reference. There were other comments about the favorite campy show, but I was again distracted by the weight of pale eyes on me. The British woman... Liz, that was her name, was attractive, but her intensity intimidated me. And Maggie just freaked me out. Even the hair was identical, before I'd started having mine straightened. There were all kinds of illicit ideas dancing around behind Liz's eyes...
++ Pai-Gow ++
This was the worst night of my life.
Well, the worst night of my new life anyway. My old life still woke me with screaming nightmares on occasion. And I was always paranoid of strangers, always aware of where people were in my personal space, always anxious when Leslie wasn't nearby, always terrified when I wasn't the center of Michael's attention.
Between all those fears and sheer boredom, I was having a hard time not doing an anxious pee-pee dance. And, as much as I liked Junkie, I was insane with jealousy, I always had been. No one brought out Michael's 'daddy' side the way she did. Handing me over to the blonde woman had only made me more jealous and more insecure. Being ignored was making me insane.
Michael had taken me from a life of exploitation where I teetered on the brink of prostitution or worse and taught me love and respect. From an attractive bit of underage fluff, to striking young predator, to much adored house pet. That was my life.
The mistake took only moments to make.
Lost in my thoughts, I never saw her move, but with the suddenness of a car accident, Dace was in my space, close enough to brush against me. Squeaking with alarm and shock, I flinched back a step, hands up defensively. Where the hell had she come from? A hard hand shot out like a striking snake, grabbing my jaw and grinding my cheeks into my teeth. Again, an alarmed squeak escaped me as she bodily hauled me close again.
There was something in this woman's eyes, something that was thrilling and terrifying. Cowed by her feral power, I grew still beneath the raw energy in those eyes. A faint smirk curled her mouth, but her gaze never let up as she spoke conversationally. "Hey Fen, I don't think your pussycat here is having a good time."
Michael didn't react for a moment, until I could feel her flat gaze come to rest on me. Even not able to see her clearly from the grip on my face, I could sense her disapproval. What had I done wrong? I didn't understand!
++ Dace ++
The black cat was about ready to cry and I softened with a long-suffering sigh. "Pai, you haven't done anything wrong. I'm just testing your boundaries. Relax, willya? You're going to give yourself an ulcer."
Reluctantly, Pai did relax marginally and I rewarded her with a faint smile and a rough-tender massage to the tendons at the back of her neck. There were several gazes intent on this little drama, including Michael's brunette bodyguard that didn't fit in. Coiling the lock of electric blue hair on Pai's left temple negligently around my index finger, I tightened up the pull on her scalp until she started to wince. Since most of Zo's friends had gone home for the night, I figured I could start notching up the intensity. My Vegas sweeties were asleep on the couch, Liz and Maggie seemed interested in us fringe women, and we players had no shock value. Still gripping that lock of hair like a leash, I sat back down on the couch, forcing Pai onto her knees by my feet.
"Stay," I told her calmly and leaned back to eye her closely. "So, Fen," I said conversationally and was amused at the carnal distraction in my old pal's eyes.
"Yes?" Her tone was mildly annoyed that I had pulled her away from toying with Jo and I grinned ferally.
"You never told me how you came by this pretty little piece of fluff."
"Who?" Fenris asked innocently. "Junkie?"
We cackled and Jo flushed, while the brunette bodyguard grew even more tense. Interesting...
"No, but I'll bet that's a fascinating story, too. Did this little black cat cost you a fortune?"
"What can I say," Fenris drawled arrogantly. "I got a two for one deal." Again we cackled. "Besides, it wasn't about the money, Dace. It was the challenge of smuggling Pai and Boot out of Hong Kong and creating them a life in the States. You know how I am about challenges."
"Oh, I remember quite clearly."
Elizabeth's voice startled me when she suddenly asked a question. "How do you two know each other?"
A questioning glance was traded between Fenris and I. This woman and her girlfriend were outside the Scene, curious or not. Then I noticed the perversely amused smirk on Zo's face as she walked back in. That clinched it for me, and I nodded my permission to Fenris.
"Our dominatrix mentors are old friends," Fenris explained bluntly and Elizabeth blinked. A snorting chuckle escaped me, Zo and Jo simultaneously. The later received a resounding smack on the hip from my knuckles, earning me a jump and squeak. I flashed Karen a grin in apology for not including her. "We've since branched out, as I'm certain you've guessed."
Maggie looked a little embarrassed and very horny, as did Elizabeth. Bet they weren't totally vanilla and all this was titillating as hell. There were days I loved my job...
++ Jo ++
Watching Liv's expression was fascinating. It had been a long time since I'd had the pleasure, and Dace's smack caught me off guard. Lost in Michael's familiar presence and my curiosity about my old partner's behavior, I was almost annoyed by the blow, as I hadn't been expecting it. But that was part of my role, taking the unexpected attentions of my Mistress, or her proxy.
"Careful," Zo deadpanned dryly, even as her eyes danced with mirth. "Or they'll take a bite out of you both." Dace and Michael laughed uproariously at the Elizabeth's blush and Maggie's look of slightly embarrassed and defensive interest. "Oh, don't scowl, Frick. They're naughty, and you knew it."
Maggie seemed torn at how to respond, and she and Elizabeth traded a loaded look that made them giggle like little girls. Somehow, it set the whole gang off into gales of laughter. Only Liv, Pai and myself stayed quiet, and I could feel the smile tugging at my mouth from their merriment. It was so weird to see Michael unguarded. Hanging out with her old friend was bringing out facets of my Mistress I barely recognized.
I liked it.
Now, if only I could figure out what the hell was Liv's problem. Her eyes were burning with something that looked like anger as she watched Dace distractedly rough up Pai's hair. My little playmate was finally starting to relax under the attention. I knew how she felt, suddenly being under the control of this intense stranger, and we traded understanding looks.
Seeming to be bolstered by my understanding, Pai tentatively reached out to run soft fingertips over the aggressive lines of Dace's leather boots. It took a moment for the blonde to notice, but when she did, her gaze turned heavy and predatory. Pai eyed her shyly, and flattened her hand to the heavy leather. She better be careful not to bait that big cat too much...
Oh for fuck sake, how could I be so dense. Liv was tweaking because she was seeing all this as some kind of victimization. The woman never turned off, I swear.
++ Michael ++
Feeling Jo tense, I quickly clamped a hand down on the back of her neck, surprised when she fought me for a moment. "But..." she spluttered, before meeting my eye and abruptly subsiding.
"Let them work it out," I said placidly, tightening up until she squeaked a wordless affirmative. Pai looked good at my buddy's feet, running those teasing hands over the famous boots. I was resentful of the strangers in the room suddenly. Watching Dace work over my pet would thrill me right about now. Some of my conflict must have shown, because Zo suddenly surged to her feet.
"Well," she said brightly. "That ought to just about conclude the evening, huh Frick?"
Startled, Sara's doppelganger managed to drag her eyes away from the developing scene. "Ummm... yeah, guess it's getting late."
It was amusing to see how reluctant the doctor couple was to leave, but they gathered up coats and let themselves be escorted to the door. "Drive careful," I couldn't resist calling out, receiving dual waves as the door clicked shut.
"Carry on," Zo said somberly, gathering up some dishes and vanishing into the kitchen.
"Well then," Dace chortled and hooked a foot over Pai's shoulder, roughly shoving the girl towards the boot she'd been fondling for some minutes now. "You can stop fucking around and do something with them." Nearly prostrate, Pai hesitated and Dace's voice dropped to a silky, threatening purr. "Oh, don't pretend that you have no clue what the hell I'm talking about, pussy cat. Whassa matter? You put out that Daddy isn't the one grinding your face into her boots? Or maybe your growly bodyguard over there? Maybe you're wanting her, hmmm?" Abruptly, she pressed down on Pai's neck and her voice grew stronger. "Tough shit, slut. You're mine now, and you damn well better do as I say."
A chuckle escaped me as Pai squirmed, moaning softly. Good on Dace for stumbling into the girl's long-standing crush on Liv. Catching my smile out of the corner of her eye, Dace leaned back and grinned. "Hey Bane, could you please toss me that dishcloth?"
"Sure," Karen agreed easily, tossing over the towel.
"Since you and me are new to each other, pussy cat," Dace continued in that same conversational tone. "You can use this to clean up first. But I want that pretty little mouth to make my boots shine. You got it?"
"Yes ma'am," Pai murmured and scrubbed the terrycloth over the black leather. This ought to be interesting, for this wasn't one of my particular kinks. Pai was doing me proud though, and was obviously willing to give this strange skill her best go. Good girl. I'd have to think of something special to reward her for her diligence, especially after she'd been so nervous.
++ Dace ++
Ah, now this would be fun. It was obvious that Pai had barely a clue what the hell she was doing, and I made a mental note to give her a break. I'd harass her a bit, let her get the leather wet and then get Fenris to help me reward her.
After the enthusiastic pressure of the towel, Pai seemed at a bit of a loss of what to do. "Go on," I encouraged gently, willing to start out coaching her a bit. "Show me how much you love the smell and feel of the leather. That pretty mouth of yours is sensitive and soft. I like it."
Her bewilderment transformed into a shy smile and I chuckled to myself. Seductive little creature, this one was. "Yes ma'am," she whispered and pressed tentative kisses to the steel toes, feeling the horsehide stretched tight over the unforgiving metal. That left me to turn my attention to Fenris and Jo.
"Y'know, I'm curious. Where did the name Pai-Gow come from? It vaguely rings a bell, like I should know it."
Once again, it took Fenris a moment to focus, distracted as she was by Jo in her lap and the spectacle Pai was making of herself. I couldn't help the lazy, arrogant grin that so often got me into so much trouble. Clearing her throat, Fenris tried to get her brain out of her crotch. "It's... um, a card game. Based vaguely on poker, except that you can win even with a shitty hand, if the dealer's is worse than your own. It fit her. And the Chinese name was perfect, since she's originally from Hong Kong."
"Interesting," I mused, dropping my gaze back to where Pai-Gow was getting more enthusiastic with my beloved boots. Carefully grinding my other heel into the small of her back in encouragement, the pressure increased where her movements translated through the horsehide to my skin. "Good girl."
Now, if I could just get the bodyguard to stop hovering like a hurricane off the coast of Florida. What the hell was her problem anyway? I'd think that a Sword escorting the Bitch in Charge would be a least a little discrete. There was something about the guard dog that didn't jive with the whole picture here. But how to investigate without making my old pal look bad?
"If you're going to hover," I said conversationally, giving the brunette a flat, challenging stare. "You ought to just jump in." Then I pitched my voice seductive, smiling slow and suggestive, letting my free foot trail over Pai's hip and thigh. "She's meaty enough for two. You've been glowering hotly enough, guard dog. It's obvious that you're interested, and it's not like the little slut's gonna say no."
++ Olivia ++
The pressure broke over me in a blinding wave.
'It's not like the little slut's gonna say no.'
Every victim flashed across my mind's eye, their faces broadcasting a fear and trauma that I could barely comprehend. My mother raped by that filthy bastard that fathered me. Now I had a fellow cop, someone who should be protecting girls like Pai, taunting me like some kind of filthy pimp! She was an arrogant son of a bitch, and my rage roared up like a hungry animal.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl, adrenaline spiking up well-honed reflexes. I worked the most horrific of human crimes and my reflexes were razor-sharp from practice. Couple that with my complete disregard for my own safety, and I had no problem in rushing that smug bitch. Blue eyes widened in shock as I growled something to the effect of, "get away from her, you pig," and lunged.
There was a blur of sound and noise, barely discernable through the roar of blood in my ears. Pai scuttled off with a squeak of alarm as I slammed into her tormentor and we went down in a tangle.
The next thing I was aware of was that, somehow, I'd ended up on top where we'd fallen to the floor. My arm was cocked back like the hammer of a gun and I took a good look at Dace's eyes.
She had no clue what the hell was going on and was starting to get angry.
She was an embodiment everything I hated in humanity. Exploiting another person! My blood boiled at the thought.
But Pai hadn't said no...
Before I could make a decision, several bodies dog-piled on me all at once and I found myself face-down against the highly polished concrete floor in an expert police hold.
++ Jo ++
Only later would I be able to process what the hell had happened. For the moment, reflex took over. The most amazing expression of pure, animal rage came over Liv's face, distorting her features. Dace never saw the attack coming, looking back to Pai with that same arrogant, seductive grin. In an instant, Liv's utterly unexpected lunge had them on the floor, Dace sprawled on her back and only just starting to react to the ambush...
And Liv's fist cocked back, ready to strike.
Yelling my old partner's name, I flailed away from Michael and lunged with everything I had. There was a blur I dimly recognized as Catherine before we bodily tackled Liv away from a really stupid mistake. Without that uncharacteristic moment of hesitation, I would have never reached Liv before she landed at least one nasty blow.
"Benson!" I bellowed, truly worried about the rage I spotted in her dark eyes, my wiry body wrapped around her like a bad cold. Something landed heavily across my shoulders and Liv grunted in something that was close to pain as Catherine somehow managed to gather up both wrists like a prized calf roper. As I started slithering out from under Catherine's small weight, Michael was hesitating between Liv and her downed buddy. Dace had propped herself onto both elbows and was watching the rest of us with the funniest look on her face. It was a mix of baffled and annoyed and amused.
"Been awhile since that's happened," Dace deadpanned dryly as Liv huffed in distress beneath Catherine's rough treatment.
"Uncle," she wheezed. "I swear, I'm done. Ow!"
"Jeezus, Dace," Michael fretted and helped her friend up. "I'm sorry."
"S'okay," Dace shrugged it off to my amazement and knelt beside Catherine. "Cath, it's okay," she crooned lovingly, stroking the woman's back. "C'mon, let up, baby. It's okay."
Slowly, Catherine began to loosen her grip while I remained near Liv to make sure that her stupidity had run its course. Staring into the earnest blue-gold eyes finally brought Catherine to herself and she fell into Dace's arms with a strangled sound. Liv stretched out with a groan, but made no move to get up.
"Jeez," Zo deadpanned from where she stood nearby with Karen. They made an intimidating pair. "If you were gonna duke it out like a couple of street thugs you could have at least taken it to the boxing ring at the Staff and Scroll and given the Amazons a thrill."
"Yeah, that'll do," Dace agreed in a deceptively calm tone as she clumsily stood, cradling Catherine. "You set up the time and place, Fen. Me and your guard dog have some things to work out."
It wasn't a request.
++ Michael ++
Yikes, she was pissed off...
Couldn't blame her. Looking back, I spotted a glaring error on my part. I had never introduced Dace to who Liv really was. There had been too many people, and by the time all this had come to a head, I had simply forgotten. "I'm so sorry Dace," was all I could manage as she walked away.
"Karen, could you do me a favor and get Sara for me? I dunno if she's up to walking yet." She paused beside Pai and flashed the girl a gentle smile. "Buck up, pussy cat. You were doing a great job. Maybe we'll get a chance to finish what we started someday, hmmm?" With that, she walked away without acknowledging me. Ouch.
Karen flashed me an unreadable look and I felt a sharp pang that they were mad at me. Sara's eyes were huge in her face at what she'd woken to, but she allowed Karen to pick her up and walk out. Pai looked nearly as traumatized.
"I did warn you about what you'd see," I said quietly, looking longingly after my old pals.
"Sorry, Michael," Liv muttered from where she was still prone on the chilly floor. "I just lost it."
"Jeezus Liv," Jo whispered, obviously torn about where her loyalties lay.
"I understand," I broke in, kneeling down and gesturing Pai over to be tucked under one arm, while I did the same to Jo. They were so tense... "We never introduced you, Liv. Dace thinks you're one of my enforcers."
Startled, Liv rolled to her side and stared up at me. "Oh shit."
"Yes. She was in character as her play persona tonight, not the cop she is in her real life. This night off was supposed to be a break for her from being on duty and we fucked it up."
Wincing, Liv sat up and rotated her neck and shoulders. "Maybe I should try to explain why I freaked out."
"No. Dace isn't the type to dwell on words. She's a woman of action and already gave us a public apology. If you're up to it. Let you get all that pent-up aggressiveness out, hmmm?"
She was trying to rein in the high emotions in her eyes, but wasn't succeeding very well. At least this time she didn't appear to be ready to go off. So I turned my attention to my sweet Jo. "Are you still willing to stay?"
"Of course. I'll try to explain to Dace tomorrow."
"Good, Thank you, Jo." The use of her real name was intentional and earned a pleased, shy smile, effectively dousing the temper and adrenaline in her bright eyes. "We three will go back to the Staff and Scroll to set up the match." Raising my gaze to the brooding, silent Zo, I pitched my voice soft with an edge of pleading that had always worked wonders when I knelt in subservience at KC's boots. "I'm terribly sorry about how the evening turned out. Please accept my apologies. We should be going."
For an unexpectedly long moment, those aquamarine eyes held mine, and I wondered at what danced behind them. She was an enigma, this one was. Then she smiled thinly and nodded her acceptance to my apology. So I dropped a quick kiss on Jo and stood to haul both Pai and Liv to their feet.
"This is the last time I let you wear leather," I sighed at Liv. She'd have to earn the suit back if she wanted it. Deep night still held Chicago in its icy grip and I huddling into my thick camel hair coat and the led the way to our car. What a strange night it had been...
++ Jo ++
Still immeasurably pleased by how Michael had treated me tonight, I dreaded facing Dace. So I braced myself and headed for the big bedroom, Zo's gaze was heavy and knowing as I passed her.
Catherine was already curled up in a ball beneath the covers, Sara hovering over her anxiously, petting the pale hair. Meeting the worried dark eyes, I nodded and headed for the bathroom. Dace stood in front of the mirror, staring at her own reflection, toothbrush curled in one hand.
A long moment passed in stillness as I studied her. So many changes had taken place in such a short period of time, all centered around this enigmatic woman and the killer she was hunting.
"She used to be my partner," I said quietly and Dace started in surprise, her gaze jerking over to me. "She's special victims unit now, in Manhattan. I didn't expect Michael to bring her along and expose her to all of this." A lame encompassing gesture made me feel like I wasn't explaining myself well. "Liv's not good at turning off and decompressing. I wasn't either, until I met Michael. I can't excuse Liv's behavior, but I thought you should know what made her snap. Michael and I are really sorry."
Dace's expression had never shifted, flat and impassive in the harsh light of the bathroom. So much for a relatively fun assignment.... Dammit Liv!
"Okay," Dace suddenly spoke into the quiet and I was immediately focused onto her again. "That's fair. I'm not mad at you, Jo. I'm not even really mad at Fenris, just annoyed. SVU, huh? I can't imagine what Fen was thinking."
"Me," I supplied truthfully, relieved that Dace wasn't angry. "I trust Olivia implicitly and she has a bond to both me and Michael. Now that she's gotten over her stupidity, she should be fine."
"Hmmm," Dace hummed enigmatically, a smile curling her mouth. "We'll see. We should get some good sleep. We're back on tomorrow night and I have your ex-partner to smack around. And our new pals to look after. I'll need your help with that." The familiar, teasing grin washed away the last of my stress. Things were going to be okay.