Book 5: Ripples.

Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.

Rating: PG-13, beware of warm fuzzies.

Category: The continuing saga of Reflections/ Resurgences/Refractions/Rapids. Begins shortly after Rapids ended

Pairings: Dace/Catherine & Sara, revisited.

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.

Disclaimer: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigators," the characters, and situations depicted are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer Television, Alliance Atlantis, and CBS Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes. 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. This site is in no way affiliated with "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators," CBS, or any representatives of Jorja Fox or Marg Helgenberger.

Disclaimer: “The Division,” All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of Lifetime Television, Kedzie Productions, Viacom Productions, and Paramount. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. 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. . This site is in no way affiliated with "The Division", Lifetime Television, or any representatives of Bonnie Bedelia, Nancy McKeon, Lisa Vidal, or Tracey Needham. This site contains stories between two mature, consenting adult females.

Disclaimer: “The X-Files,” Created by Chris Carter, produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Ten Thirteen Productions.

Disclaimer: “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, the characters, and situations depicted are respectively the property of Wolf Films, Universal Network Television, and NBC. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. 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. This site is in no way affiliated with “Law & Order: SVU,” NBC, or any representatives of the actors.

Disclaimer: "The Sentinel," the characters, and situations depicted are respectively the property of Paramount Television and Pet Fly Productions. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. 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. This site is in no way affiliated with "The Sentinel," Paramount Television, or any representatives of the actors.

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.

Note from the author: I like my alternate version of reality better, but you should now that by now, hmm? This is more of epilogue of Rapids, winding down what we learned there.

Summary: After far too long apart, the Cougar is reunited with the Coyote and new beginnings abound!

Part 1
Viva Las Vegas

++ Sara ++


God, I had so much to do, it was like fighting quicksand. We were all freaked out over what had happened to Catherine and that lunatic that tried to throw us off the trail of the murder he had committed. And the woman dropping a dismembered human finger in my glass of ice while I was having lunch in a diner with a friend? Not a clue I was going to forget any time soon. Couple all that with our workload lately being enough to make any CSI shudder, and I was wiped out.

My complete inability to sleep beyond skittish catnaps only aggravated my situation. I couldn’t help it, haunted by the blood and thunder in my memories.

All my mixed feelings about Chicago and everything that had happened there were holed up in a little box marked ‘deal with when you have time’. Yeah right, like that would happen anytime soon. That Pandora’s box scared the hell out of me, especially since I had little control over memories and feelings when I was exhausted or in the mindscape of dreams and nightmares. The lid was getting pretty shaky…

Nick smiled in sympathy at me, his normally bright eyes as dull and bloodshot as mine felt. “You holdin’ up?”

“Hmmm,” I hummed noncommittically and cracked my neck like a gunshot. Nick winced and I felt light-headed. “As well as to be expected. Relieved as hell that Cath’s on her way back in, safe and sound.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Then someone suddenly called my name and there was a brief endless moment of unreality.

They were out of context. Seriously out of context. There was a certain kind of person I was used to seeing in this building, and they were not it. One, two, three heartbeats passed before I rationalized exactly who was standing there in the hallway. Then the joy rushed up my spine as I dropped my file in shock.

Squealing almost incoherently in delight, I rushed towards my pals, skittering to a halt as I noted the cast and sling. I remembered the blood and terror all too clearly, and found myself staring in horror at her damaged flesh. A small sound made me look up, my eyes fluttering over the shocking white of the tiny butterfly stitches over the angry red line of the head wound and the barely-faded rainbow of the violent contusions. “Oh… oh…” was all I could whimper, utterly overwhelmed by her.

I nearly unraveled at the gentle touch of her fingers on my lips and her sweet, benign smile. “I made promises to both you and Catherine,” she purred softly and I shivered. “So here I am. I’ve missed you, Basker, come here.”

Some part of me knew that Nick was standing not twenty feet away, undoubtedly looking totally confused. The larger part of me didn’t care, and wrapped my arms around Dace’s waist, feeling the pounds the last two and half weeks had taken off her already slender frame. The other’s understanding chuckles echoed in my ears as Dace’s mouth covered mine and I was lost again.

++ Dace ++

She tasted as good as I remembered, and was soft and pliable against me. It gave me heart for the changes I had decided on. Leaving the warm haven of Sara’s eager mouth, I rubbed noses with her. “I’m not going away again, I promise. Go say hello to the others.”

Confused, but willing, Sara pecked me almost shyly and went to hug Jinny, who startled at this strange woman, making the others chuckle. There were more hugs as Monica and Liv sandwiched the giggling Sara between them. That left me to meet the utterly flabbergasted gaze of the man Sara had been walking with and grin at him. It succeeded in pulling his attention away from Sara and he slowly approached.

Sara’s voice pulled my attention back, her distress as clear to me as her distinctive scent. “Oh... oh god, Dace, she’s not here.”

Not here? It was like a vacuum, as my senses threatened to short-circuit along with my rollercoastering emotions. Olivia grabbed my wrist in a bruising grip while Jinny took my upper arm. One or the other crooned soothingly to help anchor me.

Only this time I had a terrified feeling that it wouldn’t be enough.

“She was pulled into this really twisted case,” Sara’s distraught voice helped tie me to human reality, not the animal panic in my head. “And the detectives are with her now. We have no clue when she’ll be back.” Every sound was like thunder and gun shots, the smells of the surrounding labs as thick as a forest fire. I was going to go mad!

There were hands all over me, rasping my clothes against my skin like burning sandpaper. I was ready to scream from the overstimulation, the cougar shrieking in protest to my human weakness, the way she always did. Then I heard the faint wisp of voice and stillness settled instantly. Reality slowed to a bare crawl, my heart loud and impossibly slow in my ears. Every heightened sense I had inherited from my unusual genes zeroed in on the nearby bend of hallway. No one could even so much as react to my animal speed as I ducked away from the hands and slinked around their lumbering bodies to claim what was mine.

++ Catherine ++

I’d rattled off everything I could remember about Roy Logan and the crime he had committed. No one needed to tell me how lucky I was that I hadn’t been added to the list. Twice in one month I’d avoided becoming a statistic to a sociopath. Catherine Willows, you’re getting into a very strange rut. Ruthlessly wrestling my feelings about Snake-Eyes and the cougar woman who sang harmony with my wounded and bleeding soul, I trudged along blindly beside Warrick. I didn’t even need to see his face to know that he was burning with worry for me, that all of them had been burning with worry since I had arrived back in Las Vegas.

Nothing was right anymore, like someone had fiddled with the brightness and color contrast of my internal television. Or I had gone to black and white. I was cripplingly incomplete and the world around me felt that way too.

My mind raced with exhaustion, and wondering how Lindsey was doing, and when Gris would want me back on the clock, and please let it not be today, and would the crew even be here this time of day, and hoping that my sister had remembered to pick up my mail...

And then I heard it. The heavy, quick tread of boots I’d never forget, the distinctive wooden thunk of the thick oak heels. It wasn’t just the familiar pace of the walk, but the subtle jingle of the chrome chains wrapped around arch and ankle. My heart rate blasted into the stratosphere even as the banal part of my brain told me I was being silly and to quit hallucinating. It had been two and half weeks and forever since I’d heard that sound, felt her touch on my skin, the push and pull of her strong personality. It was a fever dream, the tickle of boot heels across my eardrums. Warrick was trying to get my attention, poking me in the arm. “Hey, you okay?”

“Yeah, sorry. I thought I’d heard something.”

“Right,” he agreed tolerantly and continued on his ramble about... about whatever it was that he was rambling about. I was usually a good listener, but reality was beginning to tilt around me like a funhouse ride. Something howled, shattering my skull with the intensity, gold eyes flashing in the dark, the piercing call of a hungry cougar loud in my soul.

This couldn’t be happening. The scientist in me was freaking out. The faint sounds of those boot chains and the heavy stride was an exhaustion-induced hallucination.

Then a figure stumbled ungracefully around the corner.

She looked even more magnificent than I remembered. The pale hair was shorn to her skull on the sides and the sling and foul bruising glaringly obvious even from here, her strong body wrapped in jeans, a snug white undershirt with a thin blue dress shirt hanging loosely around her torso.

And those boots.

++ Nick Stokes ++

The feral look on the Amazon’s face was something I would never forget. It was raw and animalistic. Not pissed off or in the throes of ecstasy kind of animalistic. More like coming around a corner in the mountains to find yourself face-to-face with a really hungry cougar. I actually heard the woman make a feline sound of desperation that made every hair on my body stand perfectly on end.

It was thrilling and terrifying.

“Ya think maybe Dace is feeling a little anxious?” The sexy brunette with the short hair smirked and the other three chuckled.

Wait, that was the cop that Catherine and Sara had been talking about so adoringly about for the last couple weeks? For a moment I gawked at the strange women, answered with only a quartet of well-practiced smirks. Sara was worried and disoriented as she stared off down the hall. When I turned to follow her gaze, the blonde woman was just stumbling ungracefully to a halt at the bend in the hall. A goofy, loving grin radiated out like desert sunshine as she straightened up.

Only to be rocked back on her heels by a flying tackle. It was a full mid-air body slam that could have won a Superbowl and set Dace back a few paces to spin her attacker into a crushing bear hug, completely uncaring about the heavy cast on her arm. Then Catherine, for I abruptly realized that it was her, sank both hands into Dace’s pale hair to pull her into a kiss. Not just any kiss either. It was the kind of loving, sexy embrace that they should put in porno movies if they wanted the audience to really pay attention.

Wait a minute! That was Catherine

I could only stare, openmouthed.

++ Warrick Brown ++

When Catherine stiffened like a hunting dog on a scent, my voice trailed off. She wasn’t the ‘deer-in-headlights’ kind of woman and I wasn’t certain if we were under threat or what. Then I’d taken a good look at the tall woman who had fumbled around the corner we were approaching. It was the look on her face that took me a second to register, because it was so oddly out of context. The look of being separated from someone you love and adore and laying eyes on them again after a very long time. Bemused, teary, unabashed adoration and delight and raw desperation radiated from the glowing blue eyes and I saw the same look on Catherine’s face for a moment before she dropped her bag and blurred into motion. I had no idea my coworker could even move that fast. The stranger was nearly flattened by the flying tackle, laughing as she spun Catherine around to regain her balance.

I was both shocked and unsurprised when Catherine kissed the tall stranger like that. After the incendiary and adoring stare they had exchanged, I was expecting it. Okay, I was a little floored that this was Catherine, but I’d had weirder shocks in my time.

Shit, I wish I had some girl who adored me like that.

++ Dace ++

I’d hoped Catherine would still want me. It wasn’t as though I’d been able to stay in touch for the last couple weeks. Some unnamed fear had kept me from asking the others if they had contacted my Vegas girls, afraid of the answer. That didn’t keep the hope and warm fuzzies from trying to choke me to death when I recognized her voice. If I’d been thinking clearly, her shocked expression might have put me off, but it had instantly melted into recognition and adoration. Then, I’d too much of her to handle, her slim, sturdy body wrapped around me, strong hands in my hair to grip me to her drowning kiss. There wasn’t even a ghost of a thought of taking insult at the rough treatment, and pain radiated all along my right side. Damn, but she was a good kisser. There was no sensation of time passing as I relearned her taste and feel, suckled and nipped at her lips and tongue. I tasted saline even as our friends' laughter and applause rang down the hallway.

Settling Catherine onto her feet, I shifted my aching arm into a more comfortable position and used my left hand to wipe at her tears. “Don’t cry sweetheart. God, I’ve missed you. I wanted to call, but I wasn’t in any condition, and it was so hard to get away from the hospital and drive all this way.”

“You’re here,” she sobbed and stroked my caressing hand.

“I would have been here sooner, but recovery was so slow. It was impossible to be away from you. I came as soon as I could.”

Jerking me roughly into another soul-shattering kiss, Catherine pressed me into the glass wall behind me until I was breathless and kept her grip in my hair almost painfully tight. “You’re here,” breathed feather-soft over my tongue. “You’re here,” a mantra that began to heal the broken places inside me. The Cougar growled and purred at the Coyote’s touch.

We were a lone cat no longer.

++ Sara ++

The burn of relief at seeing them together was like a breath of air after being underwater for far too long. I knew deep in my heart that everything was going to be okay now. Not easy, nothing was ever easy with these women, but it was going to be okay. This was no mere embrace, not just a reunion, but a meeting of souls that humanity had very nearly forgotten.

A weight on my heart that I had worried I would grow resigned to, lifted like the fog from the city by the bay.

They were so cute together. There was no place in my heart for jealousy of their bond and I flashed a shy glance at the women who had escorted Dace all this way. The one that looked like Jo was confusing, but I found myself in a sudden headlock-hug that derailed my already shaken brain.

“Good to see you, Basker,” Olivia chuckled and kissed my temple before letting me up a bit, but keeping an arm slung around my neck. Never having had siblings, I really liked having these rough and tumble women. There was a part of me that felt the absence of Jo keenly.

Trying to get a grip on my frayed emotions, I grinned happily at them and twisted in Olivia’s loose embrace only enough to smack Nick on the arm. He had been swaying his head back and forth between me and Catherine, gawking like an idiot. “What, you jealous?” I sassed and dragged him along to be introduced. There was no way I was going to let my work family get all weird with Catherine. Not if I could try and prevent it. “Jeez, guys,” I teased as I entered their personal space. “Get a room.”

“Oh God,” Catherine sobbed and laughed, obviously completely unnerved by the situation and unwound her fingers from Dace’s even shorter hair. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Catherine. I’m not embarrassed, just relieved,” Dace soothed shakily and hugged her close. “I’m here and I’m never leaving you again. It won’t be easy, living with me, but I can’t stay sane without you. The others have done an amazing job, especially Liv, but I need you.”

“Damn straight you’re never leaving me again. Neither of us would survive it,” Catherine scolded-giggled-sobbed and clung to Dace’s tall frame.

Only as I stepped up and Warrick’s eyebrows threatened to stay up at his hairline forever, did either blonde seem to notice us. Happiness and a mild reality check had started soothing the wild animal in Dace’s eyes and she seemed nearly human once more. Keeping Catherine gripped tight to her chest with the weight of the cast, Dace awkwardly held out her good left hand. The bewildered grin on her face was utterly endearing and Warrick smiled back. “I’m Dace… Bogart.”

“Warrick Brown. So you’re the infamous Dace,” Warrick smiled, ignoring how she had paused over that last name. “Looks like maybe you both need to sit down. That body tackle is gonna catch up with you.”

His concern was warranted, and we all poured into the break room while more intros were traded around.

Nick shook Dace’s hand willingly enough, but I could tell he was still unnerved. “Sorry to brush you off Nick,” she apologized. “I was a little…” she paused and flushed as her grip tightened on Catherine, who was curled up on her lap. “Distracted.”

“I can understand that,” Nick replied, his tone equal parts flirting and challenge.

++ Gil Grissom ++

My employees didn’t screw around much as they were all dedicated and hardworking, but everyone had their flaky moments. So, with my ‘boss’ senses tingling, I went to the door of my office and glanced down the hall. The babble of voices led me to the break room, and I waved off several curious lab techs. The room was full of people, only half of which I knew.

As the tall brunette and Nick’s bodies shifted, I realized that Catherine was clinging to a strange blonde woman showing violently obvious physical trauma. A start of relief and surprise pulled me inside. This was Dace then. No one else could get that expression of shaken adoration from my old friend. So the others must also have been involved in the recent events in Chicago. Since the case in Chicago, Catherine hadn’t been the same. This woman had reached into her hesitant heart and wrapped those vulnerable strings around her fist. And something else that I just couldn’t quite understand.

“Looks like I’m missing the party,” I chastised them mildly and all eyes came to rest on me. There was an awkward silence that Warrick broke up with false gaiety.

“Well, that’s our cue to get back on the clock, night shift. C’mon Sara, we can all catch up later.”

“Wait,” Dace objected, grabbing Sara’s hand. Terror and need was etched blatantly on her face. “Come here, Basker.” Dace tugged Sara down to be kissed warmly. Okay, a little more than just warmly… Nick was gawking and even Warrick’s eyebrows arched up. By the time Dace let Sara up for air, they both looked more than a little flushed. Dace tweaked Sara’s lower lip and purred, “we have important things to work out between us, and I haven’t forgotten that, nor will I. We’ll have time now that I’m here.” Then she flashed the rest of us a dazed grin. “I’m keeping you from your work. I know better than to do that to CSIs. See you around?”

“Count on it. C’mon guys,” Warrick agreed and dragged Sara and Nick off into the bowels of the building.

Maintaining the strong and loving grip on Catherine, the tall woman blinked back to herself and set her level gaze on me. I could see the fierceness and fear and bewilderment in the crystalline blue. “You’re Dace,” I said simply.

“And you’re Gil,” she replied softly. Her offered left hand was warm and dry, the grip solid.

“Yes. Do you have a minute?”

It was a classic deer-in-the-headlights expression. I was hard-pressed to say who looked more horrified by the prospect of separation, no matter how brief. The moment passed as one of the strange women stepped forward to take one of Catherine’s hands as though to tug her to her feet. “C’mon Wildcat, we have a ton of catching up to do. We’ll be nearby, Dace”

Dace nodded slowly at the situation and hooked a finger under Catherine’s chin to tug her gaze up. Slow tears had painted her cheeks wet and Dace nuzzled her tenderly. “Go with Olivia, love. I’ll be here or with Gil.” Their parting kiss had Catherine’s arms wound around Dace’s neck, their blended bodies speaking volumes.

“You promise?” Catherine whispered against Dace’s mouth.

“I promise.”

It was only reluctantly that Catherine let herself be dragged out of the room, firing a hot, vulnerable glance over her shoulder. I was feeling understandably protective of Catherine, wanted to shake this big woman and demand to know what the hell was going on. Dace looked pained as well, but dazed and happy in spite of herself.

++ Catherine ++

I was shaking.

Small tremors of astonishment and pleasure rattled my bones. Most likely, I was still in a state of shock, only dimly aware of where the hell Jo was taking me. Except... that I knew it wasn’t Jo at all. “I’m Jo’s cousin, Jinny,” she smiled over her shoulder and I was shocked to note that it wasn’t just the looks she duplicated so closely, but the voice too. A headache like a swelling volcano was building in my lizard brain, the Coyote laughing in manic joy.

“Gotta love police facilities,” Jo... Jinny chuckled as she smacked the locker room door open. “There’s something universal about all of them. Ah, here we are.” Strong hands steered me within and I blindly went for my locker. Only to be hampered by my evil, stubborn combination padlock that I yanked at in childish frustration. In a glance, her smile, her touch, her taste, all had completely unraveled me. Adrenaline and exhilaration and terror made my heart race. I wanted to run screaming for safety or fall begging at her feet. Two lonely weeks had fallen away as though they had never been and yet I was painfully aware of each and every waking and sleeping moment that had passed. A lifetime of looking for the very feelings that were making me panic passed across my mind’s eye. And the goddamn lock wouldn’t come loose!

“Hey,” Olivia soothed, suddenly deep in my personal space, and tugged me down onto the bench between her strong body and Jinny’s almost familiarity. “You’re not on the clock with us. Just lean on my shoulder and relax for a minute.” All I could do was collapse into her strength and sob out my feelings. Jinny straddled the bench and scooted up against my back, murmuring soothingly, petting my shaking body into quiescence. Somebody entered the locker room at some point and left as quietly as they’d entered.

And slowly the storm passed.

Panting into the side of Liv’s neck, I felt as though I’d run a marathon. Or climbed a mountain. “That felt like more than a couple weeks,” she commented oh-so-softly and I sniffled.

“I get in too deep,” I confessed, startled by the truth of it. “So I don’t get involved at all. And I know I’ve been waiting lifetimes for her.”

“I figured that all out. And you weren’t willing to admit how deep she’d gotten. She does that, I understand completely.” There was a long pause before Jinny spoke up oh-so-softly from behind me.

“She’s really missed you, Catherine. And she needs you as badly as you need her. She doesn’t take vulnerability any better than you do. We may have essentially never met, but I still feel like I know you, because I’ve seen you through her eyes. She didn’t mean to stay away, and we should have been more communicative than a few half-assed updates on her condition.”

I was too puzzled by the shaken tone in Jinny’s voice and leaned back to look at her through blurry eyes. There was something jagged and distraught in the tough cop, as she raked fingers through her dark hair. “Listening to her beg to be brought to you was mind-blowing. Never thought CD,” she paused and smiled thinly, “Dace, would need anyone. But she can’t do it alone, even as skeptical as I am, I can see it. The cougar is as real as her blue eyes. I can’t explain it, but I’ve seen her. Dace is the best of animal and human, but she’s incomplete. This... animalism is too much for one person to handle. There has to be someone to help her control them, and while Liv here is pretty good at it, she needs you.”

“And,” Olivia broke in suddenly and my attention swung away from the face I almost knew to the easy familiarity of Olivia’s rich gaze. “There’s a guy in Cascade, Washington, according to Moni, that knows all about these Sentinels. We haven’t contacted him yet, but it’s… complicated. We will, because I’m betting he’ll be a huge help.” The Coyote could visualize this sleek, dark dog on that strange internal landscape of the cat’s and I grinned helplessly.

“Are you staying too?” It never occurred to me that Dace wouldn’t stay with me. The connection was bigger than both of us. Everything Jinny and Olivia said only confirmed my soul-deep conviction. Liv still looked a little startled by the question though. “I can’t protect her all the time, I’ll need help. I have a daughter and my job doesn’t always overlap with you detectives. You can watch her back when I’m not right there.”

Flashing Jinny a wry look over my shoulder, Liv smiled sweetly at me. “Funny you should mention that…”

++ Dace ++

I was totally shaken by the depth of response from Catherine.

After meeting her in Chicago, I should have expected it, but I was still utterly terrified by the depth of response in both of us. It was as though the Cougar and I had always been looking for her. While I may not have been listening to the cat most of my life, she had recognized Catherine then, just as she recognized her now. Just knowing she was close had settled the rabid wildness in me to a calm I hadn’t experienced since first laying eyes on her. Even the pain of my jostled wounds faded into a low hum along my nerves.

“You look unnerved,” Gil commented softly as he lowered himself gingerly into a chair, as though afraid it would collapse beneath him. My sensitivities were still dialed up enough to make me aware of things a normal human would be oblivious of. This man smelled wary, angry, and very, very protective. None of it showed in his face, but I could sense it in his posture and his smell.

“I… I missed her,” I explained lamely. “But that damn serial really worked me over.”

Then I forced myself to meet his flat, unfriendly gaze and saw something I hadn’t expected. It was so startling that I shrank back into my chair.

“You know,” I heard myself breathe almost soundlessly.

“Yeah,” he confirmed and finally settled into the other chair. “Both women have been shocking and brutally honest about what happened in Chicago. They’ve told me everything, even when it spilled well into the territory of ‘too much information’. All the scenes, all the conflicting emotions, all the fear and pleasure and pain. All the strange things Catherine’s been seeing in her mind's eye ever since. Sara remembering your blood pouring over her face. Both of them having to leave without being able to say goodbye, terrified that you might never recover from being hurt.”

Memories welled up, reminding me why I had to repress them all this time. The incredible pleasure of the free rein that Sara had given me with her body that had riveted me even beyond the danger. That streak of movement, seeming to be too goddamn fast to be human, the cat screaming a warning in shrill counterpoint to her pleasure and mine. Pain like I had never felt, never imagined, an earthquake, a bullet, a charging elephant ramming into my skull like a freight train. Burning days of recovery, not only from the physical damage done to my body, but the psychological as well. Unbidden, my hand raised to the jagged barely-healed wound so dangerously close to my right temple. Gil’s eyes followed the movement and studied the mark with a practiced eye.

“I failed them,” I murmured thickly and realized that there were tears in my eyes. “I zoned out and nearly got all of us killed.”

“They don’t see it that way.”

++ Gil ++

As much as I was determined to protect Catherine, I couldn’t watch this woman chastise herself like this. Besides, I was beginning to believe that some of these circumstances really were beyond their control. “You were playing the role that you had been asked to play.”

“I wasn’t playing,” she growled fiercely and that was the first I’d seen of the feral side that Catherine and Sara had succumbed so utterly to. It was terrifying and exhilarating, like staring into the eyes of a wild predator through the bars of a cage that might not hold should she choose to challenge it. “Not by the end.”

It was more than she had wanted to admit and I changed tactics to give her some mental space. “Will you do me a favor?”

“Sure,” Dace managed to say in a forcibly normal tone. I chose to ignore the strain she worked so hard to mask. “Name it.”

“Tell them all of this, please. I’ve known Catherine for years and you’ve really affected her. And Sara has been fundamentally altered by what happened to her. Oh sure, they work hard and joke with the others, but something’s changed. Both have been waiting for someone like you for a very long time. I think they want and need different things from you, but I think that maybe you need similar things from them.” I was shocked by a grin blossoming on my face, echoed by one on Dace’s bruised and emotion-ravaged countenance. “I know you can’t survive without Catherine, so I’m not worried about her. Catherine can take care of herself, now that you’ll be close. Sara is vulnerable though. You laid claim to her and she’s been waiting for you to set the rules. Either give her some structure or cut her loose.”

Those blue eyes blinked owlishly at me for a moment before Dace shook herself out like a wet dog. “Damn Gil, you have a way with words. Thank you. It’ll be my pleasure to do all that.”

“And theirs, I hope?” I couldn’t resist teasing wickedly and she burst out laughing and finally relaxed. It was as though the confessions and subsequent humor had finally unlocked something inside her and I could see Dace now, not the confused and wounded victim that she had been before. Even the animal in her eyes had calmed. At my request, we went to my cluttered office so that the labs could settle into something resembling normalcy. Our conversation became easy and comfortable as the subjects ranged over work and mutual interests. Dace even indulged me a few minutes of my favorite subject, bugs. She went so far as to meet a few of them and even lightly stroked their delicate carapaces with a smile.

A knock on the door finally broke the strangely easygoing interlude. “Come in,” I called and the small, striking red-head from the hall ducked her head in.

“I’m sorry to cut this short, but you need rest, Dace. Especially after that near-tackle in the hall earlier.”

“Sure thing, doc,” Dace agreed easily and finally stood up. The pained wince and alarming sway of her body wasn’t feigned and I jumped up to put myself under her good left arm. “Thanks Gil. I think maybe I’ve overdone it a bit.”

“A bit?” The red-head growled archly and imperiously gestured for me to follow her. Slowly, we made our way through the building, ignoring the looks thrown our way. “Listen, Gil,” Dace started up as slowly and carefully as her footsteps. “I’m serious about not leaving this city. Catherine’s here, and it’s easier for me to move than her. I hate to leave San Francisco, but there’s no question that we have to be close together. And I know that Cath needs to keep her kid somewhere stable and stuff.” I nodded and she continued, vulnerable in my hold. “Can you start making some calls and figure out where they might need an experienced inspector… detective, whatever.”

“My pleasure.”

“Make that two,” said a strong, unexpected woman’s voice and we half-turned there in the hall to see the muscular brunette with the short hair stride towards us. “I told you that I wasn’t leaving you Dace. Someone will need to watch your back, and no offence to your CSIs, it needs to be another cop.”

++ Olivia ++

Once Catherine had calmed a little, Jinny and I helped her strip and sent her off to the showers. After a few minutes, Monica had come in with news that Dana was collecting Dace. That sent me off to check up on my new partner. Partner. It was amazing how quickly I had come to regard her as just that. So it was understandable that I was traumatized by her condition. After all, the woman had made herself an extension of me.

What was Elliot going to say?

It took a minute to settle her into her bed aboard the bus and a quick injection from Doctor Dana to relax her. Begging off for work, the graying man quickly left and Dace watched him thoughtfully before returning the discolored eyes to me. “That was Gil Grissom, their boss.”

“Did you work out everything with him?”

“Yeah, I think we covered the basics. Seems that Cath and Sara have been painfully honest with him.” We traded grins, hers vaguely sheepish, making me chuckle.

“I’m glad you two are together again,” I murmured softly, knowing perfectly well that she could hear me clearly. “You’ll both be okay now.”

“I don’t think I can say how glad I am that you’re staying,” Dace whispered and I met the intense gaze. “I’m comfortable with you, you’re a packmate and good friend. Plenty of action in the city of sin and we seem to make a great team.”

“Our captains are gonna flip,” I drawled dryly and Dace startled before chuckling and crushing me with a one-armed hug.

++ Catherine ++

When I exited the shower, Jo… Jinny, dammit, took one look at my expression and nodded. As soon as I was covered by clothing, I was led silently through the familiar, and suddenly strange-feeling halls of my work. As the journey progressed, I could feel the sensation like pressure in my brain, in my heart, pulsing in every cell. Without a guide, blindfolded, deaf and with both hands tied behind my back, I could have found my way to the cat. Like a coyote following the tiniest molecular trace of scent to track a lone mouse through thick snow, I knew how to find her. Like a compass drawn to the pull of a magnet, I could feel the weight of her presence pressing against me at different angles and intensities.

And then I was in her arms again, wrapped tight around her long frame, breathing into her pale hair. In that moment, I truly understood how badly I had missed this mercurial woman. Missed her strength and gentleness, missed her smile and the simmering energy just under her calm exterior. I’d never expected to feel so strongly about anyone, and had been unprepared for it, both then and now.

Dace woke from her drugged sleep only long enough to look at me with dilated eyes. The slow, vulnerable smile made my heart swell with feeling. Then words seemed unnecessary and almost vulgar. Healing sleep, healing touch and togetherness.

That was all we needed for now.

++ Greg Sanders ++

Whatever I had expected to see in the ambulance/bus in the parking lot… this wasn’t it.

Catherine was sprawled out on one of the two beds inside, wrapped around a tall blonde woman, kissing her like it had been… well, a long time.

Ah, the things you find out about friends and coworkers when you catch them in compromising positions. All I wanted was to say hi, because I missed Catherine. Not that I was complaining about the show...

This was no casual kiss either. It was hard to tell where one left off and the other began. I felt like a dirty old man, staring like this, but I was floored. Behind me, someone made a strangled snort of amusement. Great, now I was in trouble for staring!

Behind me, Warrick only looked amused.

++ Dace ++

Well, this was embarrassing.

Even as Catherine tensed and pulled away, Warrick took the strange young man with the messy hair in hand. “Man, you have the worst timing in all of maledom, Sanders. Sorry to bug you two, just checkin’ up. I’ll get Greg here out of your hair.” Before either of us could respond, the bigger man took the new guy in a chokehold, swinging him out of the way.

“Thanks man,” I whispered to him and the charismatic smile deepened.

“My pleasure. Rumor has it you’d like to stick around. Lemme know if you need a guide. I can teach you this city in no time.”

It was an offer I hadn’t expected and was grateful for. “You got it. Soon as I’m sound.”

“Sweet. You two get some rest. I got the paperwork covered, Cat.”

I had a feeling that I just made a friend.

++ Catherine ++

It was sweet to watch Warrick make the first gesture of friendship to my lover. It didn’t surprise me, Warrick and I had a ton in common and were pretty tight pals. Little fazed the man, and my relationship with Dace would be no big deal. Her heightened senses might throw him, but not for long.

“Do you have a place to stay?” I asked quietly as Dace yawned hugely, tugging at me to cuddle carefully into her larger body. “If we stay here in the parking lot, day shift will get awfully curious.”

“Yeah, I can believe that,” she chuckled softly, thrilling me with the familiarity of the feline sound. “Sorry about the mess. The four of us have been living out of this thing for days.” Looking at the encroaching mess of four people living in a thirty-foot bus conversion, I could see that it had been a long trip.

“Do you have a place to stay?”

Those deep, pale eyes held mine, her soft smile melted my heart. “As long as I’m close to you, I don’t care if I’m living out of a trash can.” Then she gave me a bland, teasing look that made me grin. “Though, a real shower would be nice. The little stall in here isn’t real adequate for my mobility.” I hadn’t even seen it at first, but there was a small shower/tub in the corner.

“Come home with me.” The offer wasn’t even really impulsive, but felt more inevitable. “I’m not sure what I’m going to tell Lindsey, but I’ll think of something.”

“Lindsey,” Dace tasted the word experimentally. “Your daughter?”

That soft question drove home just how little we knew about each other. “I never talked about Lindsey?”

“You might have, but a lot of details about the last few weeks are still a little fuzzy.”

The memory of Snake-Eyes' death swamped over me again, making me feel a little ill. Not because I had killed him, pulling the trigger was not something I had doubted for an instant, but everything that had happened in those brief, endless moments. Tenderly, I ran my finger down the length of her nose, passing close to the blood-shot eyes, then her cheekbone, where the bruising grew deep and violent. Knowing instinctively where not to touch, I let my fingers sift through the buzz-cut fuzz, paler than my own, tracing the strong skull beneath. “I think Lindsey will like you,” I whispered, slipping in closer to kiss her softly.

“I’m all yours, and hers, of course.”

That was certainly good enough for me!

++ Lindsey ++

Having mom home made me feel safer. When she was gone, it was like there was a scary nightmare playing on the TV in my head and I didn’t know how to shut it off. She hadn’t talked much about what happened there, but it was something big. Mom didn’t shake up real easy. Like Uncle Warrick, she knew how to handle all the bad stuff, and that made me feel better. Even if it made me angry sometimes, that she was always so… together.

Not lately. She was nervous, jumped at every little sound, woke me sometimes, moaning in her sleep, the sound floating from her room to mine. There was a part of me that felt the hurt, torn place inside her, like someone had pulled out a piece that she really, really needed.

That part of me that kinda scared me, that part I’d hidden my whole life. Blue eyes, golden fur spotted with dots so that she could hide from things bigger and scarier, the cat that had been in my head forever seemed stronger and closer.

Ever since I’d had that horrible nightmare of blood and gunshots and the yellow eyes of a killer. Two weeks had never felt so long before. School was making me itchy and twitchy, like I felt trapped and a little crazy. Mom didn’t know about any of this yet, because I’d been real quiet. Just like I had to tippy-toe around her and dad when they were angry with each other, which seemed like all the time.

Something brushed up against my brain and I stopped where I was getting ready for school. It was just a little touch, like Kat’s pet kitty when it walked close to my legs, tickling me with just the tips of his fur. The cat’s blue-amber eyes were open and alert now, and I could hear the little growl inside my head. What was that?

A long time went by, while I was frozen in the kitchen, the peanut buttery knife still in my hand.

There was a key in the lock, the sound of voices outside. I couldn’t figure out if me and my kitty were afraid or not.

The door swung open, and mom was there, making me feel better.

But there was someone behind her… or something.

For a little bitty time, there was the biggest, prettiest red-yellow cat I’d ever seen, stepping around mom’s legs. I knew what it was, I’d always known what it was. There were pictures all over my scrapbook, the one I kept hidden from mom and dad, ‘cause I thought it would freak them out. She was a cougar, and I dropped the knife to cover my mouth and gasp.

This time, the gold-yellow eyes didn’t scare me. This time, I knew who this cat was. This was the cat that mom needed, the one who held the missing piece that was making mom so lonely.

This was the cat who had called me, and made me know what I was.

++ Dace ++

The beautiful girl child stood frozen, the image of the half-grown cougar cub superimposed over her for endless moments. Shocked, and yet strangely not surprised, I realized that this girl was just like me. Curious, but understandably wary, the cub bristled defensively, hissing, white teeth flashing beneath the almost adolescent blue-amber eyes.

My cat purred back.

Silence fell, profound and poignant. This lonely cub hesitated, the growling falling away, desperate curiosity tugging her to me. Then I was kneeling before her, the pain in my body forgotten as our souls communicated.

“Lindsey,” Catherine spoke oh-so-softly into the thick quiet. “This is the one I’ve been missing so badly.”

She startled at the Coyote spirit there in her mother’s eyes, but understood it on a deep level. Timidly, Lindsey reached out, and touched my face. “You’re… you’re like me.”

“Oh, sweet cub,” I purred adoringly. “I’ve been waiting to meet you for a long time.” Stroking her fine, long hair, I knew I was grinning like a complete idiot, and loving every minute of it. “My name is Dace.”

“I’m Lindsey,” she smiled back, the expression utterly charming on her little face. Then she went more serious, staring intently into my eyes. “Are you going to stay?”

That completely took me by surprise. In the mere moments since our gazes met, the bond was solidified and I nodded. “Nothing will keep me away. I promise.”

++ Catherine ++

It was the closest I’d ever come to perfection. Sprawled out on my big bed, with this completely unexpected soulmate and lover, Lindsey tucked securely between us. All my life I had felt incomplete, alone and adrift. My litany of self-destruction made me cringe looking back. Yet… none of it had broken me, or bested me. Not a lonely childhood, not the sex industry, not the drugs, not Eddie, not the horrors I saw day after day in my work.

I had been waiting for her.

Dace stirred slightly, her long body shifting in a faint stretch, unbearably feline and sensual. Even the wince that ghosted over her face as that right arm moved slightly on the pillow that propped it up could not detract from her power and beauty.

I felt Dace’s eyes before I actually met that magnetic gaze. “It’ll heal,” she said simply, her expression a warm, deep wealth of understanding. “The hidden stuff too. Thanks to you,” her grin warmed and her chin tilted at the limp bundle between us. “And the cub here.” Still grinning lovingly, Dace tugged at me, until I nestled my face into the crook of her neck. “You saved me. In more ways then you’ll ever know.”

“Mutual,” I managed to whisper around the lump in my throat.

“This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius,” Dace warbled the old sixties song badly, making me chuckle and Lindsey to stir sleepily.

“You’re a lousy singer,” my baby murmured groggily, but I could hear the amusement in her tone. In response, Dace began howling horribly out of tune to some melody only she could hear. We Willows girls shrieked in appropriate horror, laughing like banshees.

Somehow, we managed not to jostle Dace’s wounds, and the hilarity wound down into comfort once again. Soon, loving darkness covered us, and we slept in a new sense of family.

To be continued…

Return to the Index page
Go on to the next chapter