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Date in Calendar: 21 December 2010
Pairing: Shelby Corcoran, Dace Bogart
Word Count: 4581
Summary: After leaving Lima with Beth, Shelby Corcoran is looking for a change of venue and occupation. Will she find that in the City of Sin?
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Disclaimer: "Glee", the characters and situations depicted are the property of Ryan Murphy Productions, Twentieth Century Fox Television, and Fox Network. 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 "Glee", Fox, or any representatives of the actors.
All original characters belong to ShatterStorm Productions and are the creations of A. Magiluna Stormwriter and Shatterpath. They also belong in the Light, Water, Muses universe, tho’ this is a standalone within the whole of that universe.
Author's Notes: This came from a couple of prompts/requests I got, as follows :: From Geek: Shelby(Glee) and Dace(LWM), dirty talk, fic should include the titles of at least 3 Broadway shows. Bonus points if you can fit in a Rosie O'Donnell cameo. (Note on 9-8-10: This was originally to have been for the Kink Bingo, but it didn't quite hit 'dirty talk'.)
There is no guarantee that this will become anything more than a one-shot reverberation within the LWM universe.
Perhaps it's true that talent really does count for shit in the real business. Oh sure, I was top dog in my field for years and years… but that was Ohio.
The power of Las Vegas scares the hell out of me, frankly. It's bright and noisy, and the pace is unrelenting. Couple the culture shock with little Beth and I'm headed for a nervous breakdown.
"Corcoran. Miss Corcoran!"
It's the feedback over the theater's speakers that finally breaks through whatever fugue state I've slipped into. The silence as my voice stutters to a halt is deafening, ringing with a rejection that I've never felt, but instantly recognize. Before the director, safely anonymous in the darkness beyond the blinding spot in my eyes, can dismiss me, I stumble back, stung by the unspoken rebuff.
"Hang on a sec, Songbird."
Shock and curiosity root me to the spot. That was a woman's voice, low and smooth, reassuring somehow from the darkness.
"Don't mind Terry here. He has trouble communicating himself at anything less than a bastard roar."
I never hear the footfalls as a tall, slender figure materializes at the edge of the blinding pool of light that contains me. A shock of pale blonde, almost white hair and a blood-red dress shirt are the first things I note. When she steps into the spotlight, she cuts a dramatic figure with alert blue eyes the color of the endless skies of this godforsaken desert.
There is something dramatic and demanding about her, the sort of charisma that stops conversations in crowded rooms and leaves a lasting impression. But there is also something warm and protective that radiates from her, calming my frazzled nerves.
"Dace Bogart," she says softly with her commanding upper alto voice, pacing gracefully behind me and to my right side. It's a little unnerving, the way she moves, like some sort of graceful animal. "Your voice caught my ear, gave me a thrill."
I can't keep my cool and have to turn and face her, the spotlight glaring into the corner of my left eye and highlighting the right side of her face. She crosses her arms and I'm distracted by the wild tapestry of tattooed flowers and foliage that covers her entire right forearm, from wrist right up to her rolled-up sleeve.
"Thank you," somehow manages to whisper its way out of my frozen mouth, and Dace's well-formed mouth quirks in a half smile. "I'm Shelby Corcoran."
"Pleased to meet you. Now, relax, pretty girl, I don't bite." The grin deepens into something playfully naughty that makes me smile back, despite myself. "Unless asked nicely."
Perhaps I should just give in to her effortless charisma. With as poor luck as I've been having in this city, I'll accept catching any eye of importance and instinct tells me that she is a big fish of some sort. This is a woman of power, the arrogance sits on her with an ease that only comes with absolute assurance of her place in the scheme of things.
Dig deep, Shelby, I try to psyche myself up and do my best to bat my eyes playfully at this golden, tattooed woman. "Flatterer."
Now she grins for real and sketches a deep bow to me before holding out an inviting hand. "That's more like it. Now, you have a lovely voice, but I think mean ole' Terry unnerved you a bit. Do you like musicals?"
The question catches me off guard, but I nod enthusiastically and set my right hand in her offered left. Clearing her throat, Dace roughly hums a few notes, making me swallow a wince, before her voice clears. My giggling is completely involuntary as she pulls me in to simple a dance step and warbles out bits and pieces of 'Sandy' from Grease. The John Travolta impersonation isn't half bad, actually.
"Not sellin' it?" Dace finally smirks and I shake my head with a grin. "How about Rizzo? Hell, if Rosie O'Donnell can do it, so can I."
That's how I find myself singing 'Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee' with a complete stranger. She's a mediocre singer at best, though she's been well trained, but she's a masterful dancer. The woman moves like a cat and is the finest lead I've ever been in the arms and hands of. Soon I'm jiving and swirling with an adeptness that I wouldn't have given myself credit for, my eyes tracking her and keeping up as best I can.
"You're really good," Dace marvels and I'm actually quite thrilled by the compliment. "What did you do before this?"
Here we go, this is the point when I once again have to confess my humble origins and get shot down. When my expression falls, so does hers.
"Goodness woman, it can't be that bad!"
"It's not," I confess, oddly comfortable in the circle of her arms. "Just not what this town wants."
There's something mysterious in the clear blue eyes that hints at depths to her I hadn't expected. "Oh, Seashell, you'd be surprised at what this town may or may not want."
Did she really just call me that? Am I going to let this charismatic stranger get away with it?
"I taught the best Glee Club in the Ohio, Indiana, and southern Michigan region for more than ten years."
Apparently I am indeed going to let the nickname go. The blue gaze remains steady and gentle, no judgment there.
"Glee is very big in the Midwest," I add, my voice trailing off lamely. The white grin reassures me.
"You were a teacher. Cool. I admire that. High school?" When I nod, she shudders dramatically and I relax more. "God, I can barely keep track of my rug rats. Teaching a bunch of insane teens is beyond my scope, thanks."
"Well, I was ruthless and they feared me."
Dace's laughter rings out in the theater's acoustics, making me grin. When her attention returns to me, there's something new in her gaze, something almost pleasantly dangerous.
"Ruthless, huh? I'll keep that in mind. Okay, Teach, bring it on."
With an easy touch and effortless grace, I am lead through some more intricate dance moves, singing along to the jolly strains of 'Put On Your Sunday Clothes' from Hello Dolly as it blares through the theater's speakers.
"Why that one?" I ask as we catch our breath and Dace chortles merrily.
"The kids of my clan love Wall-e to death, so I know that tune pretty well. And the friend who taught me to sing, who you bear a striking resemblance to by the way, loves musicals."
It's getting late and I feel the pull to the little girl I so recently adopted into my life. My time is running short, but I don't dare walk away from this chance. After all, the director, whom I assume is still out in the seats somewhere, hasn't thrown us out yet.
"You should go."
The words fall like bricks and all of the hopefulness built in this strange interaction with Dace shatters like a mirror. Then, she smiles again, that gentle, reassuring smile.
"Your mind isn't here, Shelby. Go take care of your child and when you're ready for a more intimate interview" -- a business card materializes in her hand like a magician's trick -- "call this number and set up a time." When I try futilely to speak, that hand with the card halts my words, paper and fingertips gentle on my mouth and cheek. "Trust me, pretty girl, I really do understand. Your voice will be heard. Call when you're ready. Go."
Only when I'm outside, headed for the bus, do I realize that I had never mentioned Beth. How had the unusual woman known? What tic in my body language gave me away? There are no answers in the crisp, thick business card. It reads 'House of Hearts' with an intricate king of hearts motif as the centerpiece and smaller icons from the deck of cards. The ink is raised and iridescent, shimmering like peacock feathers in the bus' interior lights. There's no mistaking that this is a seriously expensive slip of parchment in my hand.
Pondering the mysteries keeps me occupied as the bus chugs across town. The heat is still oppressive as I step from the bus and start my hike into the suburb that holds both daughter and home.
The thought makes me smile… even as it dredges up guilt. When I hold Beth, rock her, sing softly to calm her, feed the voracious little mouth, I can't help but feel the hazy memories of the girl child I gave up all those years ago. I stayed in Ohio with the lingering hope to connect to that child again, even if it took nearly seventeen years, and the experience had been a nightmare. Oh, not because Rachel was a bad kid or anything. On the contrary, she was great. It's just… every time I looked at her, I kept seeing that baby I gave up so long ago.
The words we exchanged echo in my ears still.
"Was it hard?" she asked so softly, so tormented by how badly our reunion had gone. "To give up your dreams?"
"It felt like a broken promise, like the Fisher King's wound that never heals."
My club won regionals over the hopeful fresh faces of Schuester's choir while I wallowed with guilt over setting charming and brilliantly manipulative young Jesse to sabotage Rachel. Then her classmate had gone into labor and it seemed like a worthy penance and second chance, that helpless little baby born from teenage stupidity.
Mrs. Beeman smiles as I step into her living room that doubles at her daycare. It still weirds me out how much she looks like Mrs. Doubtfire…
"Hello dear. She's out like a light."
"I'm so sorry I'm late again. Hopefully this one will pan out."
In one of the cribs lies my beloved second chance. Little Beth is sound asleep, right fist tucked up against her upper lip, feet twitching. Humming softly to tell her subconscious mind that it's me, I slip gentle hands beneath her and hoist her into a cuddle. Her warm weight and myriad baby smells make up the best emotional balm in the world. No matter that this daughter was not born of me, I adore her utterly.
After carefully wrestling Beth's small weight into her sling across my torso, I gather up the bulging diaper bag and promise to call the next time I need Mrs. Beeman's services. Then we're back into the sweltering Las Vegas night for the walk home.
There are things about this desert that I like more than I would have thought. No humidity is one; no tornados is another. Walking the streets bothers me a bit, like every pair of eyes sees only a small-town girl to potentially take advantage of. So far I've been okay, but this city makes me feel very… small.
My insecurities keep me home with Beth in our tiny little apartment for two days. The bonding time is terrific, just the two of us in the converted garage with its noisy air conditioner, but I know the time has come.
The phone rings only once before a calm female voice answers, "House of Hearts, this is Darcy speaking."
Crap, now what do I say? "Uh, Dace Bogart asked me to call this number and make an appointment."
"Excellent. It's a busy week, can you come in tonight?"
"Tonight?" I ask weakly, firing a desperate glance at a gurgling Beth. "I… I can't. My infant daughter…"
"Oh, feel free to bring her along. We have child care and lots of friendly people here."
And, just like that, I have an appointment with the charismatic stranger who obviously holds sway over the director I was so recently auditioning for. At this point, with what information I have, I can only assume that she's a producer. A producer with night hours, obviously.
It's a bit of a rush to get both of us cleaned up, dressed, and a travel bag ready before I strap Beth securely to my chest and rush out to meet the cab. Yes, it's an extravagance, but the bus would just take too long. Beneath the rainbow-hued evening sky, darkness closing in over the distant mountains, we wind through the streets to a cluster of tall buildings. It's all very sterile and professional, even generic. However, through the double sliding doors is a cool, sweet-smelling paradise.
"Wow," is my authentic reaction to the splendor of greenery and comfortable places to sit in the three-story lobby. It's a jungle at a lovely middling temperature with only a touch of comfortable humidity. Trees and trellised plants reach over the carpeted walkways and I wander through with delight. There are a few people, professionals in the small gathering nooks and discreet security personnel that I know instinctually to respect.
When I find the elevators, there is a reception desk like a Hollywood set and a single, ornately etched glass door beyond. There are two more of the silent security people, though the lone receptionist smiles winningly. With an exchange of names and pleasantries, a thorough perusal of my driver's license and a visitor's badge I'm somberly asked to be very careful of, I'm allowed through the gauntlet. I'll bet the long, tastefully decorated hallway I walk down, with a heavy glass door on each end, is more than meets the eye. A sudden blast of air makes me jump and Beth to giggle in delight. She's so interactive for such a young child! Through the far glass door is a small room with two elevators, one of which opens at my approach.
The trip upwards passes quickly as Beth chatters at me in her baby voice. Then the doors open to a plush office space where a gorgeous and smartly dressed brunette greets me with a movie-star smile.
"Miss Corcoran? So glad you could make it."
"And who is that pretty little kitten," booms a voice I remember and I turn to see Dace, dressed not dissimilarly from when we met. Only this time, she is loosened up, the red shirt hanging open to reveal a ribbed tank top and a red and black tattoo shape peeping over the top. Beth startles at the noise, but stills instantly when Dace makes the strangest animal sound. It's a soft purring trill that calls both to the baby and me alike. Standing close, Dace reaches out to gently stroke the sparse, silky dark hair.
"Her name is Beth."
"Beth," Dace purrs, honest-to-god like a lioness purrs, and Beth stares in trusting fascination. "She's gorgeous. Now, I'll take care of your little princess here and you both come along and meet your critics for the evening."
Oh sure, I feel some reluctance to hand over my precious charge, but I find myself doing it anyway. Dace's hands are gentle and expert as she cradles Beth along her left arm, cradling the little skull in a strong hand. Without seeming to look at her surroundings, Dace turns and strides away, calling over her shoulder, "Darcy, give us an hour and we'll be ready to meet with the Turner Group."
"Yes ma'am," the gorgeous brunette replies respectfully as I follow my daughter and hopefully, my future employer. A few doors down, Dace, still cooing over Beth, enters what turns out to be a large boardroom. It's half a beautiful table that looks to sit twenty and half a lush sitting area with an honest-to-god fireplace. The dark woman with the Mediterranean cast her looks is no surprise, nor the elegant brunette at her side, who is even better-looking than Darcy. The surprise is the two children. Black haired with fierce, dark eyes and a warm café au lait complexion, the younger girl-- who looks about ten and bears a strong resemblance to the darker woman-- eyes me with open curiosity. Her tweeny friend, with the mane of flaming red hair and sharp blue eyes, is equally as curious.
"Very funny, Uncle Dace," the dark girl sneers and Dace laughs as she sits beside the brunette woman.
"That's not Lee, Fawn." Huh? What are they talking about?
"She's not," muses the red headed teen thoughtfully, her sober gaze almost unnerving. "The resemblance is uncanny."
"Wait until you hear her sing. Shelby, this is Emily Farazell-Taylor and Fawn Goldston, who owns the second finest voice I have ever had the pleasure of hearing live." The girls nod respectfully at me, but I can't help feeling that I'm suddenly getting my chain yanked. After all, this Fawn is only a child. "The grownups are Art Goldston, Fawn's parent and Tessa Samuels, the personal executive assistant to the boss lady and myself."
Dace sits with the adults on one end of the table and the girls are at the end of the long expanse of shiny wood. Emily closes her laptop while Fawn stands to pace closer to me, her expression still skeptical. She's not that much shorter than I am and is obviously destined to be a ridiculously attractive woman when she gets there. The eyes are a rich, cinnamony brown, the raven black hair thick and curly nearly to her waist.
A soft, clean note is hummed from Art, the girl's parent, and Fawn straightens up like a real pro, drawing in a deep, easy breath. It's the professionalism of that breath that tells me I underestimated the girl even as she breaks into an a cappella rendition of Xena: the Musical's finest number, 'For Good'.
When Dace said this is the second finest voice she has ever heard live, I thought it an exaggeration, but Fawn is marvelous. Her soprano is flawless, clear and powerful, filling the room with the strains of the haunting, loving song. I'm so impressed that I nearly forget to pick up the second verse, the words and notes called up from my memory. Fawn smiles winningly as I do my best to rival her innate and well-honed talent. I do okay, but really wish that I had done more than a sketchy warm-up in the cab!
With a gesture to herself, Fawn takes the higher part of the harmony, while I drop into my chest voice to cover the lower notes. As the last, dramatic notes fall from our mouths, I feel a kinship to this tremendously talented child.
Fawn smiles winningly at me as we finish and the others applaud, Beth squealing along in delight. "You're really good. I'm glad Uncle Dace brought me here. Thank you."
"No, thank you, Fawn. That was marvelous. So do I pass?"
She giggles girlishly, making me smile even wider. "From me, definitely. The rest of the audition stuff is for the grownups. Maybe we can do this again sometime?" She sounds so hopeful that I nod eagerly. "Cool! It's really hard to find anyone who can keep up with me, y'know?"
"Any time, Fawn, any time," I enthuse, shaking her offered hand. As the girls are gathered up by Art, Emily smiles luminously at me, as though I have offered her a precious gift. The expression both warms and puzzles me, as we didn't interact at all. What a strange and fascinating bunch of people I have fallen in with.
With hugs and obvious affection, the girls and their adult leave and I am left with Dace and the quiet Tessa. Beth is limp now, cradled high on Dace's chest, where she is sucking on her fist, showing her peacefulness. With a small smile, Tessa gestures that I should sit and I do so, giving the two women my full attention.
"You have the talent to join our organization," Tessa says businesslike. "But there are things that you should know about us. The House of Hearts is a large organization, ranging over a vast variety of business interests, though entertainment is our specialty."
All of this is interesting, but nothing I wasn't expecting, at least in part. So I keep my expression confidently neutral, my 'face the judges' face.
"What a poker face," Dace chortles throatily without seeming to look at me at all. She's watching Beth's face where the baby suckles on the woman's crooked forefinger. 'Poker Face' makes me think of Rachel again, that one time we sang together, a sweet ballad version of the Lady Gaga song. Will that conflict ever settle?
"Nice," Dace comments, "your thoughts never left your eyes. You're good." Stung, I fight down bristling at her, recognizing a goad when I see it. The blue eyes are calm and flawlessly confident, even amused. But the hands on my daughter are a mother's hands and that reassures me once again. "When we say the House of Hearts specializes in entertainment, that is both true and somewhat misleading." She's back to business now, the powerful voice serious. "Entertainment often is a different animal in the City of Sin, particularly for us."
"Meaning?" I ask dryly, earning a smile.
"Much of our empire is built on the adult end of the entertainment spectrum." A wave of her hand soothes my faint alarm. "Oh, nothing as pedestrian as mere porn or its kin, though there is certainly a faction of that at the fringes. We specialize in those people whose sexual needs are a bit outside of society's normal parameters. That being said, there are extremely strict rules that both client and employee will follow or be banned, if not legally prosecuted."
Dace is dead serious, that much is obvious by her posture and the hypnotic blue eyes, even as her hold on the dozing Beth is as gentle as always. It contradicts the hysterical sound-bites about 'perverts' and 'molesters' and whatever media hype I've been fed over the years. So far these people have done nothing but impress me and I will definitely give them the benefit of the doubt. As though sensing my thoughts, Dace nods and continues on with her recruitment talk.
"The most inflexible rule is based on consent. That concept is broken down into three further rules; no children, no animals and no means no. Really, a massive and powerful empire, of which we are a quarter of, is based on that."
I like this. Clear cut rules under the obviously competent hand of this charismatic leader; but I'm still holding out for more info. Something she said clicks in my head.
"If you're the Hearts, the other three quarters must be the other suits from the card deck then."
"Excellent deduction, Shelby. My rank is the King of Hearts, though I am also known as Leonacouer in certain circles." The skepticism must bleed through my impassive expression, because Dace chuckles. "The Queen of Hearts, the Lady Heartsblood, is the one truly in charge. She is grooming me to take over one day, though Tessa here really does all the work."
Beside Dace, Tessa nods, drawing my eye. Honestly, I'd nearly forgotten she was even here! Something in the faintest hint of a smile tells me that Tessa is not just used to it, but expects it. She's clearly a classic power behind the throne.
"The only reason we're even bringing this up," Dace continues, "is merely for your knowledge. You are not being hired for carnal purposes." That wicked grin almost makes me blush. "Though, within established parameters, you are completely free to partake of some of the unusual employee fringe benefits that we can provide. Now, you must be wondering what we're offering you and what we will expect of you."
Instead of a verbal reply, after all I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed, I merely nod.
"In Ohio, you were making about three and half grand a month, correct?"
How the hell does she know that? Both Hearts women smile enigmatically and Tessa finally speaks, her voice low and smooth. "We've done an extensive background check on you, Shelby. It's standard procedure. With our business, we must be extremely particular as to whom we hire."
Now Dace picks up the thread again. "There's a vast variety of social events we host. With a talent like yours, we would be looking for entertainment on the upper strata; balls, society gatherings and the like. I promise, no kid's birthday parties. Unless maybe Fawn asks nicely."
I can't help but grin at Dace's tease, as well as enjoying Tessa's small sound of amusement.
"You would be a headliner, at least for the most part. You will have creative input on music choices and that would range from raves to ballroom, depending on the event. You will have open access to venues and arranged rehearsal time. There is a vast base of musical talent that you will also have access to until you find favorites and we would do our best to ensure that you have access to that talent. There is a variety of twenty-four seven child care with references and background information on all employees available to you at all times as well. I'm offering you a starting salary of five thousand a month and that can also be adjusted if you would like to take advantage of our available corporate housing. As much as possible we will do our damnedest to ensure that you are on an established schedule and not drop unexpected events in your lap, but you do understand that it does happen."
The words register, but my astonishment keeps them from soaking in. Is this really happening? Is all of this being offered to me as long as I can tolerate the adult entertainment end of their business?
It's a dream come true.
"Now, we need to agree on a probationary period," Dace's voice draws my attention back and I nod dazedly. "During that period, you will not be allowed access to the more extreme of our events. Believe me, there is plenty of work closer to the PG rating. Now, since clearly you were none too fond of Terry over at the White Rabbit," Dace pauses to chuckle at my look of distaste, "we'll get you set up to shop around our staff. However, it's late and your daughter is out like a light. I can offer you one of our guest suites for the night, or ensure that you have a ride home. I know you have a lot to think about."
It's an understatement, certainly. Heedlessly of my earlier primping to look good for this interview, I scrub my hands over my face and collect my thoughts for a moment. "A month, right?"
In sync, Dace and Tessa nod but remain silent. Perhaps it's that very compassion -- the quiet in which to make my own decision, unaffected by their own opinions -- that wins me over. Perhaps it's time now for me to step forward and really accept this new life I've chosen. Yes, it's an insane risk I'm taking, but it seems the natural progression of a lot of insane risks I've taken since things fell apart in Ohio.
And maybe, just maybe, no one will get hurt this time.
Fueled by the failure with my biological daughter and the second chance with this adopted one, I stand decisively. Fluidly, the women follow suit and I step around the table to offer a hand.
"I would be delighted to accept your offer, King of Hearts."
"Welcome aboard, Shelby."