Title: Unexpected Beauty
Author: Debbie
Feedback address: deb123em@gmail.com
Date in Calendar: 28 June 2007
Fandom: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.
Category: Book 6: Reverberations
Pairing: Dace/Catherine/Sara/Sofia
Words: 4644
Rating: R
Summary: A horrendous case brings four women much closer together than they might have expected.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD07

Author's Disclaimer: Love them, dont own them, only doing it for my sanity.

Series' Disclaimer: 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.

Note: Written for June 28th of the Femslash Advent Calendar: Dog Days of Summer 2007

Note 2: I asked Aj and Jenn to give me a LWM prompt and they asked me to write a foursome story with Dace, Cath, Sara and Sofia. This might not be exactly what was envisaged, in fact, it morphed so many times in my head and my fingers I'm not sure it's what I envisaged either, but and here's my author's caveat; in the whole scheme of sanity management, by the end, it's what I wanted to write. Hope it's ok?

Thanks: As always to L and Ann for being there and helping with the word stimulation; and to Aj and Jenn for letting me play in their backyard.


(12-20-03)

++Dace++

"Dace, I think you need to get yourself over to Circus Circus; it's horrific, and Cath and Sara are there."

The tumbled words of Sofia Curtis cut through me. I was in New York, and my girls were in Vegas; if they were in trouble, so was I.

"Sofia, Sofe, calm down, huh. Tell me what's going on."

"There's been a shooting at Circus Circus, some bastard gone haywire with a grudge. From all the reports, there's around ten dead, young and multiple family members. It now appears the gunman has absconded with two youngsters; nobody knows where. Grissom's team got the short straw. We've all been called in to cover because it's going to take forever piecing this together."

As if realizing what she was saying, Sofia's voice caught, and she mumbled again.

"We're going to need you, Dace. All of us."

I thought about my women and how they both reacted to cases involving youngsters, and, worse still, if they were involved in the communication with the bereaved. I knew exactly what Sofia meant by all of us.

"I'll be there, Sofia. Give me a call if you catch anything else, huh?"

With that, I quickly cut the call and dialed the police commissioner's number. Minutes later, I was throwing my cell away in disgust. He was refusing to accept that I was needed at the scene; that LVPD had no need for some FBI loose cannon with special senses on this case. Stupid idiot, after nearly two years, he should know better.

How the hell did he think they'd catch the bastard before he killed two more kiddies otherwise? Besides, my women needed me. I grabbed for the cell again, and quickly punched the speed dial.

"Hey Tessa, I know it's late, but I need to talk with the Lady. Its extremely urgent; it's Catherine and Sara."

She must have heard the worry in my voice because she made no attempt to spare her love the disturbed sleep, immediately turning to nudge Anastasia awake. As soon as her mumbled voice answered, I began.

"My Lady, please forgive my intrusion, but I need a big favor"

Within ten minutes of bidding my lady goodnight, my cell phone bleeped again, and I couldn't stop the sly grin as the police commissioner's number flashed on the screen.

"Ms. Bogart, it appears I was a little hasty earlier, the sheriff informs me that your special skills would be of great benefit right now at the Circus Circus incident."

I didn't wait to hear his platitudes of apology; I was gone.

++Catherine++

God, this was bad. We'd each been given a body, or two, to process, and then asked to split into pairs to collect the other evidence from the carnage.

Twenty dead, was the ever increasing body count so far; the Adventuredome looked like a bomb had hit it rather than one man. Grissom was with the top dogs trying to piece the timeline together and, although it wasn't concrete yet, they thought the bastard had now run off with two young girls who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All I could think about was Lindsay's birthday party here last year, and you can bet your bottom dollar that's what Sara was thinking of, too. I was working closely with Warrick, my strong, rarely troubled friend and, yet, looking into his eyes, I knew even he was struggling and, if he was struggling, how would Sara be coping?

It really was amazing how my life had changed this past couple of years. Before Dace, BD as Sara and I lovingly called that time, I would have automatically assumed that cold, hardnosed Sara was just being her calm, unfeeling, scientific self. AD, I knew she'd be as cut up about this as I was. Hell, if anything, she'd be worse.

I glanced around, knowing exactly where she would be standing. Sure enough, our eyes locked, reading each other instantly. Her eyes were calm and her body working mechanically, but I could see the laughter lines around her eyes were pulled taut and her fingers were holding things too tight; I needed to be with her.

AD, it was as if I needed her within my sight constantly. We still fought like cat and dog more often than I cared to remember, but she was my family. This connection I had with Dace, which still amazed me with its intensity, had transferred into a connection with everything that we both held dear. So, Dace took my daughter under her wing as if she was her own; so, I took Dace's chosen one as mine, too. That's how it worked, and boy did it work.

Damn Grissom for splitting us on a case like this one; with Dace out in New York, we were going to need each other.

"Catherine, Sara, I need you a moment."

As if even Grissom was under the thrall of my pack's magic, we were suddenly working together as I desired. Sara and I were given the task of finding the bastard who was responsible for this horrendous act of violence before he could maim the two young girls hed abducted.

Knowing that Sara's thoughts would match my own, I discretely squeezed her hand trying to convey the hope that we were wrong, that the girls would still be alive.

Five hours later, I looked up from pouring over maps of the surrounding area, from staring at CCTV coverage of the Adventuredome and the surrounding districts, and from listening to the FBI profilers drafted in to help on this case. How I wished Dace and her animal instincts were with us now.

Reaching over, I slowly massaged Sara's shoulders, feeling her relax a little at my new skill. Suddenly, her body went rigid at the same time my Coyote sense locked on to its Cougar soul.

She was here.

++Sara++

Catherine's hands were so soothing on my taut twisted neck muscles; she'd certainly learned well from Tessa. Despite the situation, this was almost bliss, and I was just beginning to let go when I felt it, felt her.

I tensed just as Catherine sniffed the air in that way she always did when Dace was nearby.

She was here. How? Why? I really didn't know, but she was here and my body reacted as it always did whenever she was near.

We turned as one to see her beautiful face appear around the doorway as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Catherine spoke first. "What the hell are you doing here? You're in New York."

Dace looked pointedly down at her solid self and raised her eyebrows at her mate.

"You know what I mean. Come here you."

She walked over and hugged Catherine hard, immediately pulling me into the embrace. Damn, this made things better; with Dace nearby, we could do what we were good at, we could catch this sick son of a bitch.

Suddenly, Dace's words penetrated my musings.

"Sofia called to say you two needed me. Long story short, I garnered Anastasia's help and KC loaned me the use of her private jet, and so, here I am."

Sofia Curtis, the ex-CSI and newly badged detective was reacquainted with Dace? God was I in trouble. Since first meeting the day shift CSI at some scene or other, I'd been entranced with Sofia's power. Then, of course, I met Dace and her power just consumed me. That said, Sofia was still gorgeous and, as far as I knew, still available.

Sometimes, when I watched Dace and Catherine, Art and Janet, Darya and Karen, even Anastasia and Tessa, I knew there was someone else other than the two women I now share my life with and she's out there waiting just for me. Maybe, Sofia being friends with Dace was another of those unstoppable portents that seem to be occurring constantly at the moment. Maybe, it's all written in the stars somewhere; for all of us.

Dace pushed Catherine behind her and tilted my chin upwards to peer into my eyes. God, it was like having a pair of matching pokers boring into my soul. It's bad enough when it's just Dace, but when it's the Sentinel and the Guide, it's stereophonic, and there's just no escape.

Surprisingly, it was Cath who reached over to caress my cheek as she questioned, "Come on Sara, we've had these mass killings before, yes they're bad, but this one, this one's getting to you. Why?"

Dace turned to Catherine and said something via their connection; I was getting better at reading the two of them together, but not nearly as good as Id like to be.

Before I knew it, Catherine was turning back to the table, and Dace was leading me into the corridor, to a quiet corner.

"Out with it, Sunshine." There was no preamble other than her nuzzling at the nape of my neck with those trusty incisors of hers. At times, her teeth could drive me insane with desire and, at times like this, the trust I had for her meant they calmed me like the kitten I was.

"It's just so similar to a case I had back in California; one we couldn't solve. Hell, it was agonizing, always one step behind the bastard, he killed three little girls right under our noses. I can't go through that again, Dace, I just can't."

++Dace++

Sara's words hit deep as I could feel her body trembling in fear. As always with my precious, it was that damned fear of failure that was at the root of it. How could I teach her that she had nothing to fear? That she always, always gave her best? That everyone but Sara knew that she was brilliant at what she did? And, more importantly, that sometimes we failed, we made mistakes; we got it wrong; that sometimes our best wasnt good enough? It's just that we're human.

"You can, and you will, if you have to. Whatever happens, Sara, I love you, Catherine loves you, and the pack loves you. Don't you ever forget it."

Her eyes were downcast as she mumbled, again with that apologetic tone that drove me mad at times. I still had a lot to teach my girl; when to be humble and when to be proud, paramount.

"I'll try, Daddy."

Deciding enough was enough, that we had work to do before she and I addressed this issue again, I lifted her face up once more and teased. "I think the new detective might love you a little, too."

Oh, that pleased her. Her eyes opened in genuine surprise, but I could smell the instant flash of desire on her body. My Sara wanted Sofia. Sofia wanted Sara. I wanted Sara to have Sofia and vice-versa. That was enough; and, before this year was out, it would happen.

I smirked evilly into Sara's soft neck; maybe, with a little gentle persuasion, I could pull Sofia under my wing too, and all of it with the important one's backing.

A prickling on the back of my neck alerted me to a welcome visitor.

++Sofia++

I turned into the corridor, lost in thought of the job I'd been given to do, and saw them quietly nuzzling each other.

As always, the vision was pure animal in nature; today, the cat and her pride, another day, the cat and her mate and, at other times, the cat and her prey; but, always, at the heart of the scene, Dace Bogart; the cougar marking its patch.

Whatever my thoughts and feelings, today, I had a job to finish.

"Sara, Dace, have you seen Catherine? I have to speak with her about the abductions."

I couldn't hide the smile as I watched Dace stroke Sara's hair in silent acknowledgment that their time was over. Maybe one day, I would have that comfort from Sara in return.

I followed them into a small room to find Catherine pouring over video feeds of the milling crowds at Circus Circus.

She turned and her face lit up like a Christmas tree and, even I could see, it wasn't just us pretty ladies that had caused the grin.

"Sara, Dace, look at this." It was as if she hadn't noticed my presence until she turned her gaze my way and, this time, the smile was for me. Damn.

"You too, Sofia, something tells me," she waved her cell, "you're not here on a social call."

As I reached her side, she pulled me into a hug. "Though I can't thank you enough for getting this one back here." Damn, she felt good. I could feel the blush creeping up my neck as the other two women chuckled at my discomfort.

I looked towards Dace, and something in her eyes told me the cogs were turning. There was no way I was going down that road, I could see it would be bad enough hoping to take things forward with Sara, knowing she was in the background, never mind dragging Catherine into the equation, too.

Although, by the look that flashed in the cougar's eyes, it certainly wasn't bad thoughts Dace Bogart was having.

++Catherine++

I saw the look in Dace's eyes the moment I reached out and hugged Sofia Curtis. It seemed she had plans for the young detective and, judging by the heated look she just shared with Sara, it probably involved a little scene playing along the way.

The image of two little girls frightened out of their wits stopped my thoughts of these two big girls before they'd even begun; I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.

"Look at this piece of footage. You see that man up there, the security guy, he's supposedly checking for suspicious items. Watch."

I could feel all three pairs of eyes intent on the screen, and both heard Sara's gasp and sensed Dace's quiet anger when they saw exactly what it was I'd spotted.

Sara nudged the screen, "That guy's got a gun in his jacket, and that idiot's just let him through. Oh, it's obvious now, with the security levels at Circus Circus, there had to be inside help. Can we enlarge that frame quickly and get him pulled in?"

I looked at Dace and then at the other two women, maybe I could help them along my mate's path. "Sara, why don't you go in Sofia's car and get this back to Archie? I'll take Dace to look over the scene, see if she can pick anything up without needing that guy's name. Anything to speed this up, huh?"

Sara looked back at me with doubt on her face. I reached over and touched her arm. "Go, Sofia here will take care of you, and we'll be waiting at the crime scene." Holding her gaze, I whispered so quietly, I'm sure only she and Dace caught it, "I promise we're not going anywhere, ever."

With that, Sara's professional mask was back in place, and she took the video, beckoning Sofia to follow. I watched them leave, unable to deny the unmistakable beauty of the two of them. Two strong women, with bodies to die for; now that would be something to behold, and, one day, I'm sure my soulmate, gently snickering at the side of me, would make sure I did.

I turned to her with a mock glare. "What?"

"Eyes out of the gutter, Cath, but they do make a striking pair, don't they?"

I ignored Dace's words and took her to the crime scene; if anyone could help find this bastard, it was my Cougar with all her heightened senses.

(12-22-03)

Five hours short of forty eight, we chased the madman across Vegas, Dace carefully sensing every site he'd used as a hideout, guiding Sara and me through tedious, repetitive checking of the evidence and, every time, he managed to stay one step ahead.

Eventually, Sara worked out that he'd managed to tap into the police radio system, don't ask me how, I leave the technical stuff to the geeks of this world, but, of course, once he'd heard that we really were onto him, he'd carried out his threat.

Nearly forty eight hours of struggle, and we were too late; two young girls evilly snuffed out before they could grow to maturity.

Damn this world.

Now? The powers that be had granted myself and Sara a few days leave to make up for the horror. I knew it didn't make sense but I was actually looking forward to the coming days. I should have been dreading the residual horror of the following investigations but I wasn't.

Once I'd had an emotional couple of hours with my lover, in which, we'd both sobbed and cursed and loved in equal measures, I began to look forward to the days off. In fact, I'd already begun to plan how we could use these few days up until the holidays. We were going to treat our pack mates in the way they truly deserved for being here for us though thick and thin.

Sara was another problem all together. Her confidence and self-esteem had taken a real mauling these last few hours, being the one to work things out and then to find it was all in vain. It was pretty obvious where her mind-set had gone: self-blame, worthlessness, guilt; all those negative emotions she still struggled with.

That's why I was sitting here, all alone with my thoughts, while Dace and Sara were away doing that thing they do so well together, sorting out Sara's head.

I loved Dace tremendously but, sometimes, I wished she was more of a twenty-four hours a day sort of partner, instead of this be-all-and-end-all to everyone who needed her. Then again, without that innate skill, she wouldn't be my Sentinel, and I wouldn't be her Guide and we wouldn't have found this life we have, so I guessed I'd just have to forgive her absences. Whatever happened, I knew she'd always, always find her way back to me.

Suddenly, the doorbell brought me out of my musings.

++Sofia++

Why I was standing on *this* doorstep, I wasn't really sure; I still wasn't certain I'd be welcomed. Hell, I still remembered the times when I was Ecklie's right-hand at CSI and how Graveyard loved to mock my idiosyncrasy of talking through a crime scene. Yet, I'd watched this amazing group of women interact with each other over the months that Dace supported me through leaving my position at CSI so that I could achieve my ultimate goal. Now, despite my outer doubts, I was convinced they'd help me though this crisis in some way.

It was just I'd had enough of being on my own, in my lonely apartment. I needed some company, and Sara seemed a real possibility. We'd started to talk while waiting for Archie to do his stuff with the CCTV footage; in fact, we'd talked enough that we'd tentatively arranged a night out over the holiday period; a date, I think.

So, I waited for Sara to come and save me from myself, and if Catherine and Dace were here, too, it would be all the better.

A shuffling sound alerted me to the door opening, and I dropped my eyes, ridiculously awkward at my presence here.

"Sofia?" it was Catherine's surprised voice that greeted me.

"Hey Catherine, I wondered if I could have a word with Sara; it's damn lonely back at my place."

It was obvious Catherine could read the torment in my eyes because the understanding immediately shone in her own.

She pulled me into her house and guided me over to the sofa, immediately nodding towards the bar, her eyebrow rising in question.

"Bourbon, please, Catherine, a large one."

She chuckled; which at a time like this felt somewhat out of place. She must have read my discomfort at the laugh because she squeezed my hand and apologized softly as she handed the glass over. Then, taking the seat opposite, she stared hard into my eyes.

"Sara and Dace are off doing their thing, but if you can stand spending time with just me, I'd really like to talk too. Actually, I was just wandering with my own maudlin thoughts when you knocked." She raised her glass in salute and asked, "Yes?"

Her words had surprised me. Everyone on dayshift knew that Catherine had a soft spot for certain crime cases but, once it was over, she was as hard as nails; everyone knew that she lived her life with no regret. So, a case lost was just that, nothing to trouble over, and yet, here she was admitting to depressing thoughts and needing to talk.

It appeared, if I was to get to know Sara, I would be learning lots of new things about, more than likely, all of the Graveyard shift.

I smiled and answered in the only way I could. "I'd like that, Catherine, thank you."

The silence surrounded us as Catherine just studied me intently. Sara had hinted at Catherine's ability to read Dace's mind over coffee once, I guessed her skill carried over to other minds.

I couldn't stand the quiet any longer and just began to talk, about the horror of being the detective chosen to inform Elizabeth Hardie's parents that wed been too late to save her and could they, please please I ask you please come and identify the body. About the horror of spending the next few hours supposedly supporting them through their grief when all I'd wanted to do was throw up at the damned horror of it all. And then, to bump into the man responsible for it all as he was herded out of police headquarters to a secure jail cell across town.

Suddenly, I felt a warm body snuggling into my side, gently cradling my sobbing body. When she'd migrated across to my side, I wasn't sure, but it damn well felt good, too good.

"Shush, Sofia, we'll get the bastard. This is one time Ill be happy to do everything within my power to make sure he gets the needle," she tried to soothe, but that wasnt the root of my mood.

++Catherine++

I knew my words were all rhetoric, but her next words shocked me.

"It's not that, Cath, I know you'll get him. You and Sara, and the guys, you're the best, he'll die all right. No, it's this" she rubbed her shoulder and shook her arm violently, " he touched me, Cath. I just feel, so, just feel so dirty."

Her words were choked sobs now, but I got the gist and reached around to touch her upper arm. "It's okay, Sofia, really. You're not dirty; it's just tonight you're so raw." As I touched her arm, she flinched. I quickly rolled up her sleeve and saw that I had been literal with my words.

"What the fuck, Sofia. He's not worth this."

"I know, I know, but I just needed to clean him off me," she continued to sob, and all I could do was to hold on. Eventually, her whimpers subsided, and she lifted her head to look at me.

Damn, I understood that look only too well, her intent had changed somewhere in the last few minutes. Her words, although they'd have shocked some, to me were surprisingly welcome.

Caressing the side of my face, she whispered, "Catherine, help me forget him, please help me."

She kissed me then, hard and gentle in turns, surprising me with her skill, and I joined in, willingly.

BD, Id done this so many times, fucked my way out of the pain and, as long as I remained detached, it was a damn enjoyable way of feeling better, and, yes, of forgetting.

AD, my relationship with Dace was so strong, so intense, and all loving; passionate but gentle, hard but soft, give and take, it was beautiful. Yet, sometimes, sometimes, even now, I'd come home, and all I'd wanted was to fuck and be fucked, but Dace and me, we just couldn't, that damn connection was too strong.

These days we'd always start off fucking, hell it was her specialty after all, but always, always, after the initial rush, the emotion broke through and we ended up loving with an intensity.

I wanted, needed, the 'wam-bam-thankyou-ma'am', gone, over, fucked, forgotten, feeling.

I looked at Sofia and she looked at me. I wondered if I could still do it; wondered if I could still fuck for the sake of fucking, no emotion involved, and no investment from either of us.

"Please, Cath?"

Her quiet entreaty was all it took to convince me that I could.

I would.

++Dace++

I opened the door to our home and glanced at the time. It had been a long night with my sweet Sara; she was so fucked up over this one, I honestly thought it would take more than one session of my skills. Thankfully, my teachings seemed to be having the desired effect, and I'd just stroked her to sleep in her own apartment, next door to our ranch house, much more content and more accepting of all that had happened.

Promising I'd be back before morning, I'd also let her know that I was leaving, that I had to spend time with Catherine. I'd considered taking Sara back to our bed but, decided tonight, I needed to snuggle with my life beside me.

I crept up the stairs and, as always, listened for the welcoming sound of Catherine's heartbeat. Tonight, I heard another steady thrumming alongside the unmistakable rhythm of my love. Sniffing the air I allowed my senses to draw in the scent of Sofia Curtis.

Sofia was here, in our house, late at night, but how and why I guessed I would only find out once I'd reconnected with Catherine.

Like the cat I was, I stole up the stairs and poked my head around the bedroom door. Oh my, I had no right to feel jealous, especially after ditching Catherine tonight, but that was the first thought that crossed my basic feline mind. All I could see, through a red mist, was Sofia Curtis wrapped wantonly around my woman. Then, the coyote's soul whispered to mine in its usual, calming manner, and I caught sight of her vivid blue eyes staring back at me.

Just like that, I knew, Sofia needed this, my Catherine needed this, probably as much as I needed Sara tonight and Sara needed me. Whatever this was, and it sure looked wonderful, Catherine was mine and would always be mine.

I smiled at her, she smiled back, and that was enough. I nodded over my shoulder and knew she understood what I had in mind.

Quickly descending the stairs, I woke Sara from her slumber and guided her up the stairs.

"Dace? What's happening?" her sleepy voice muttered.

Crossing the threshold of our bedroom, she stopped suddenly and cursed, "Fuck!" I couldn't help the smirk that crossed my face as she finally saw the vision of Catherine and Sofia curled up together.

"Come on, Sunshine, let's get some sleep, we can all talk about this tomorrow, huh?"

Catherine rolled closer to Sofia to allow Sara into her side, gently kissing her brow in hello, and I clambered in beside them both, leaning over to kiss Catherine thanks and goodnight, all rolled into one.

She collapsed back onto the bed and sighed contentedly.

I chuckled and lay back to consider this development. Unfortunately, I didn't get very far in my thoughts as three sets of gentle snoring quickly lulled me into sleep.

This last vision was one of such pleasure it almost made this horrific couple of days bearable.