Characters: Harry, Bob, Caro (OC), Mason (OC), Elgan (OC)
Pairings: Mason/Elgan (OC/OC)
Warnings: injured kittys, swearing, m/m relationship
Word count: Approx. 3700
Summary: We all need friends, no matter our age, species or state of corporeal existence. A lesson learned by Harry Dresden after he receives a ghostly summons to a crime scene in the middle of the night.
Author's notes: Written for the 'friends' prompt on my occhallenge table. Caro, Mason, Rook and Davy are from a previous story, Communing with the Dead. It's not required reading, but might help set up the world for this one. Elgan was originally created by the lovely celtic_cherokee, who has graciously let me borrow him for this story. I wish I could do him better justice.
I woke up with a start to find a transparent ten-year old girl yelling in my ear. I, quite understandably, said 'gahhh!' to which she replied 'eeek!' and flew backwards away from my bed. If that sort of thing happened to you, you might think you were dreaming or that you'd had too much to drink. For me, though, it's just par for the course.
“Harry!” Bob called from downstairs, again.
“I'm up!” I yelled back. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, focusing my attention on the girl ghost, who had swooped back beside me and was hovering anxiously. I tried to wake up enough to make sense of what was going on.“What's wrong, Caro?”
“Something very bad has happened Mr. Wizard,” she said, tearfully. “Mason is away and there's glass everywhere! Rook is hurt, too. I'm very scared. You have to come and help him, please!”
“Okay,” I said, raising a calming hand. “Tell me what happened.”
“I was at the movies, one of the black and white ones they show late at night and I came home and all the windows in the shop were broken and all the glass was on the floor,” Caro said, bordering on hysterical now. “And Rook is bleeding and I can't help him and I think he is hurt very badly, Mr. Wizard. I came to tell you because I didn't know what to do and Mason is at Mr. Elgan's and I don't know how to get there. I met Mr. Bob downstairs and he said to come wake you up.”
I blinked a few times to process this. Rook is Mason's cat. Elgan is Mason's boyfriend. Caro, by the way, is the ghost that lives at Mason's shop.
“Okay,” I said again. “I'll come over and take care of things.”
Caro clasped her hands together gratefully. I threw the covers off and got out of bed, prompting her to slap her hands over her eyes and turn her back to me. I was wearing pajama bottoms but apparently that still offended her Victorian, or perhaps just little girl, sensibilities.
I found a t-shirt and threw that on, then went downstairs, Caro hovering at my heels. Bob was standing at the bottom of the steps. He doesn't do up and down well and can't get up to the loft.
“I'm going over there,” I told him, searching for my keys and shoes. “Sounds like he's been robbed.”
Bob nodded and made some soothing sounds towards Caro while I tied my laces. I ran to the lab and grabbed my wand, just in case, and as I was leaving I saw the First Aid kit on one of the shelves and grabbed that too. My knowledge of cat First Aid was limited, but I didn't think it could be too different from people First Aid and I was Red Cross certified for that.
“Caro, I'm going to drive over there now,” I told her, when I exited the lab. “You go ahead of me and I'll meet you there. I'll be there very soon, I promise.”
She nodded and disappeared through one of the walls. I don't actually know how she gets around the city like she does – if she floats or can pop up where she wants to be. Since I haven't heard reports of little ghost girl sightings, I assume that however she does it, she does it surreptitiously.
I managed to obey most of the traffic laws on my way over to Mason's shop, though I did try to hurry. Chicago traffic never really stops, but in the middle of the night it thins a little and I was able to pull some not quite legal manoeuvres without causing a ten car pile-up.
I parked a little down the street and approached the shop carefully in case there was anyone still there who might not like my interrupting them. I could see that the big front window was shattered, only a few shards left hanging in the frame. The door was out of place and crooked, making a metallic screech on the broken hinges when I opened it.
There was glass all over the floor – from the window and from the glass part of the counter which had been smashed as well. Whatever was on display in there was gone.
I put a little Will into my pentacle necklace and it glowed bright blue, giving me a better view. It made Caro look even more ghostly when she swooped out from one the walls.
“Do you see?” she said, pointing at the floor. “Everything's broken! And things are missing! You have to help Rook!”
She floated away behind the counter and I followed, flicking on a light switch as I passed by it. It illuminated the shop and made everything look much worse. Rook was behind the counter, lying on his side and breathing heavily. It looked like he'd either been hit with flying glass or fallen on it. I could see a few small shards sticking out of his flank and there was a long gash that was bleeding badly. Davy, the ghost kitten belonging to Caro was there too, trying to lick at the wounds but, of course, not being able to do anything useful.
At the sight of me, he puffed his transparent self up and hissed, getting ready to pounce. There was something extremely touching about Caro and Davy, who had been dead for at least a hundred years, caring so much about people and animals who were still alive. It also made me very angry that some assholes had created a situation where people and animals needing caring about.
I approached Rook slowly, not making eye contact and generally trying to present myself as someone who wasn't a threat. Davy wasn't having any of it and pounced at me with claws out. He went harmlessly through my legs.
“Davy, he's trying to help,” Caro scolded. “I'm sorry, Mr. Wizard.”
“No worries, he's just doing what he's suppose to,” I said. I knelt down by Rook, clearing some room amongst the glass to sit. He lifted his head and looked at me briefly, before putting it down again. I took that as permission to work.
I decided to leave the glass in, to avoid further bleeding and I put a thick layer of gauze on the cut and held it there for a few minutes. While I was applying pressure, I tried to see if Caro had any information on how to get hold of Mason.
She didn't know Mason's cell phone number, but Elgan's she rattled off without hesitation. Apparently Elgan's 'calling card' was on the fridge upstairs. I guess she probably meant some sort of business card. I put an ice pack over the gauze on Rook's side and grabbed the phone off its perch on the wall. Mason's landline had a huge cord on it and I was able to bring it over to where Rook was while I dialed.
Elgan answered after several rings, sounding very sleepy and confused. I explained who I was and asked for Mason. There was a bit of a scuffle on their end that seemed to revolve around finding Mason's hearing aids, but eventually I got him on the line.
“Harry?” he asked. It was weird to hear his voice at a normal pitch. He has to take his hearing aids out when we talk in person, so I don't fry them, and we usually end up yelling at each other.
“Sorry to wake you,” I said. “I'm at your shop. Caro came and got me at my place. It's been broken in to. Your shop, not my place. Rook is hurt, but I'm looking after him.”
“Oh my God!” Mason said, which was a reasonable response. “I'll be right over.” He hung up without saying goodbye, but I wasn't offended.
Mason and Elgan arrived about fifteen minutes later, so either Elgan lives pretty close to the shop or they broke some traffic laws themselves. Caro hurried into the back room with an 'eep!' sound at the sight of Elgan and I interpreted that to mean he didn't know about her yet. The 'I'd like to you meet my ghost' talk is a tricky one and not be undertaken unless you're extremely serious about the person.
“Oh my...” Mason said, as he entered through the broken door. His mouth was gaping in horror. Elgan looked more pissed than shocked and put a comforting hand on the back of Mason's neck. “Rook, is he...?”
“He's okay, but I think he needs a vet,” I said.
They both came over to take a look and Rook once again lifted his head, this time making a sad cat noise toward Mason.
“I'll take him to the Animal Hospital, it's open 24-hours,” Elgan said. He seemed like an efficient sort of person. “I'll get a blanket for him.”
He ran upstairs and Mason came over and knelt by Rook and me. “It's okay, buddy,” he soothed, petting Rook's head a little. “Have you called the police yet?”
“No, I didn't think it would look good if I did,” I said. There was a sudden high-pitched squeal and Mason winced, clapping a hand over his ear while Rook made a screech of protest. We both scooted away from each other and the squeal settled down. “Sorry.”
“Not your fault,” Mason said, shaking his head. He moved back to Rook and I kept my distance.
“Do you have a security system at all?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I did have, once, but Caro kept setting it off when she came home from the movies. I told the police it was Rook. After about the fifth time, they politely suggested I get rid of either the system or the cat. So I got rid of the system.” He sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Don't tell Caro that, okay? I don't want her to feel bad. Where is she, anyway?”
“She's hiding in the back with Davy.” I jerked my head toward the back room. “She's feeling bad.”
Mason frowned. “It's not her fault. Poor Caro.” I also found it very touching that someone who was alive cared so much about a little girl who had been dead for a hundred years. That's the sort of thing I like about my job. It makes it worth while when you meet good people like Mason.
Elgan came back down with a blanket and we dropped the subject of the ghosts. He and Mason began to convince Rook it was a good idea to let himself be wrapped up.
“I'm Elgan, by the way,” he said to me, as they worked. He had an open, friendly face and a shock of red hair which was going every direction in a bad case of bed head that somehow seemed to suit him. His T-shirt had the logo of a band I'd never heard of, but seemed to have something to do with badgers, and his shoelaces were electric purple. He was a big contrast to Mason's quiet, shy, neutral-toned persona. I liked him.
“I'm Harry, I said.
“Nice to meet you,” he said. He looked into the distance for a moment, thoughtful. “Though, it would be nicer if it were under better circumstances. How did you know what happened here?”
“Uh...I was out driving,” I said, improvising badly. “I can't sleep sometimes. I drove past the shop and saw the window, so I came in to investigate, since I know the place.”
Elgan nodded. “That's lucky,” he said, absently. I think he was more caught up in caring for Rook than whether or not I was lying. Which was good for me. I made a mental note to come up with a better story before the police arrived.
Mason and Elgan eventually wrangled Rook into the blanket and Elgan carried him to the door of the shop. He and Mason talked quietly for a few moments, Elgan looking to be offering reassurance. He kissed Mason on the forehead and Mason gave Rook one last pat before Elgan took him out of the shop.
“Holy fuck,” Mason said, after Elgan had driven away. There was no exclamation mark, just a generalized statement of fact. He turned back toward me. “Sorry. It just all caught up to me. This is complete crap.”
“It is,” I agreed, whole-heartedly.
He sighed. “I'm going to call the police now.”
“I'll stand over there,” I said, pointing to the far side of the shop.
He smirked a little and took the extension to the other side of the shop. He made a gesture at me that is the sign-language equivalent of 'hey, over here' and then finger-spelled something at me. He's been teaching me a little sign-language to help cut down on our shouting time. I'm generally awful at most languages that aren't English (and according to Bob, my English isn't top-notch either), but I'd conquered most of the manual alphabet and some basics like 'fine', 'thank you', 'sorry', 'again' and randomly 'watermelon'. We also had a system of what Mason calls 'kitchen sign-language' which are gestures unique to us that aren't part of ASL, but we understand. Like the sign for 'a monster broke my watch again' isn't in any dictionary, but when I point at my wrist and then claw at it while making a 'rarr' face, he knows what I mean.
“Again?” I signed back.
He spelled slower this time; I caught C and O and knew what he meant. I gave him a thumb's up and headed to the back room. Caro was in there, clinging to a squirming Davy, trying to prevent him from running into the shop. Caro and Davy can interact with each other, probably because they're on the same plane of existence. For some reason, it makes me glad she can still pet her kitty.
“Coast is clear,” I told her. “Elgan's taken Rook to the animal hospital.”
She let go of Davy and he scampered through the wall with a snort of protest. “Is Mason mad at me?” she asked, softly.
“Oh no, sweetie, not at all,” I said, feeling very bad for her. “He's just upset at the situation. It's not your fault.”
She sniffled a little and swiped at her cheek. “It is so. If I hadn't been away, I could have scared them off or told them to go away or made sure Rook was okay.”
“You couldn't have known,” I insisted. “You came and got me, that was very good. You helped that way.”
She just looked sad. “It wasn't good enough,” she said.
The door opened and Mason stepped in. Caro burst into ghostly tears at the sight of him.
“Hey, hey,” he said, making a calming gesture with his hands. “It's okay. Everything will be fine.”
Caro made a fist and rubbed it over her heart several times. The sign for 'sorry'. Mason made a y-shape with his hand and wiggled it at his nose. I didn't recognize that sign, but it made Caro giggle a little. He'd taught her sign-language. A ghost and a human were signing to each other. How cool is that?
Mason had Caro calmed down by the time the police arrived. I stood back to let him deal with the situation, only offering answers to questions directly asked to me. It turns out that being a wizard who works with the Chicago PD gives you a little leeway in weirdness. You show up at a crime scene in your PJs and say you just happened upon it in the middle of the night and they just nod and carry on.
Once I was free to go, I made sure man and ghosts were copacetic and set to work. I'd found few shards of glass on the floor with blood on it and carefully stole one (leaving several more for the real police). I went home to prepare a tracking spell. I filled Bob in on the situation while I worked and he was as disgusted as I was. He and Caro hang out sometimes. Ghosts of Chicago Unite or something.
My tracking spell was successful, which was good since I didn't have a lot of blood to work with. I followed it into the bad part of the city and then into the badder part of the city and then into the really badder part of the city. Thankfully, it settled on a rotting old warehouse there, instead of sending me into the really really badder part of the city.
I knew that at least one of the thieves was home because my spell was stationary. I snuck up and peered through a window to make sure, though. There were a bunch of young guys sitting around piles of objects and I could recognize some of the antique clocks from Mason's shop. Satisfied that they were staying put, I found a pay phone, assumed a slightly scared voice and made an anonymous tip about suspicious behaviour. Then I drove back, hid in the shadows and watched the assholes get arrested. I called Mason, but got the answering machine. Fair enough, he was busy with other things. I left a message that cryptically told him not worry. Then went home and had a nap.
In the morning, I drove back over to Mason's shop to see how he was doing. To my surprise, it was full of people. There was an older woman sweeping up glass and two younger men fixing the door. Another couple of men were measuring the windows to put in new panes and the counter had already new glass installed. I recognized them as people who owned shops around the area.
“Mind your feet, dear,” the woman with the broom warned, as she swept up the glass into a dust pan.
“Thanks,” I said, stepping around another pile.
“This is just awful, isn't it?” she said, looking around at the mess sadly. “He's such a nice young man, too. I don't know why anyone would do this to him.”
I nodded an agreement.
Elgan was at the counter, Windexing the new glass. He'd changed clothing since the last time I'd seen him. His shirt was now neon green. His hair was still up on all ends and I wondered if it wasn't bed head that I'd seen before, but just how he styled it. He smiled at me when I approached.
“Mason's up with Rook and...” he began, then snapped his mouth shut and started again. “He's upstairs. He told me to send you up if you came. Take a muffin.” He nodded toward a basket on the counter with was filled with muffins of various flavours.
I did as I was ordered, selecting a giant chocolate chip one. I nodded a thanks and made my way up, unpeeling the muffin wrapper as I went.
There was noise coming from one of the rooms and I followed it to what looked to be a little den area. The television was on, showing Saturday morning cartoons with closed captioning at the bottom of the screen. Caro hovered in front of it, watching some brightly coloured ponies gallop around. Mason sat on the couch. Rook was on the floor in front of him on blanket, with a water dish and pillow nearby. Davy was curled up protectively at his side.
I made the 'hey, over here' gesture to get Mason's attention. My mouth was full of very good muffin.
“Oh, hey Harry!” he said. He looked tired. I waved while I chewed and pointed to Rook, then signed 'okay?'. I don't know if it's rude to sign with your mouth full, but he didn't seem offended. “He's good. He had to have some stitches and he's a little groggy from the medicine, but he tried to claw the nurse, so I think he'll be all right. They wanted to keep him there, but I'd rather have him here.”
“I'm glad he's okay,” I said, once I'd swallowed. “Hey Caro.”
Caro turned away from the TV to give me a distracted smile. “Hello Mr. Wizard.” She turned back and I gathered that whatever she was watching was more interesting than me. I guess all little girls like ponies.
“The police called,” Mason said. “Apparently they got an anonymous tip last night that led them to the thieves. They recovered everything that was stolen.”
“Really?” I said, putting on my best innocent face. “That's good.”
Mason grinned. “Thank you,” he said.
I shrugged. “No problem.”
“I told Elgan,” he said. He gestured to Caro. “About everything. I had to. There was too much going on to keep everyone separate from each other.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Wow,” I said. “How did that go?”
“He thought I was teasing. Then he thought I was a bit nuts. Then he met Caro and Davy,” Mason said. “Then he was really weirded out. But...he's still here. So, that's good, right?”
“Very good,” I said. “The last girlfriend who I tried to tell got a restraining order against me.”
Mason winced. “Ouch,” he said. He made a sort of sharp twisty motion with his hands that I assumed was the sign language equivalent. Rook turned over on the blanket and we both watched or a moment to make sure he was okay. Mason looked back at me once Rook settled down again. “I know your hourly rate is –”
“No charge,” I interrupted. “I have a muffin.”
Mason grinned. “Those are from my mom's bakery,” he said. “She sends food when she's worried. I think most moms do that, but I doubt it comes fully arranged in a basket. Are you sure you don't want –”
“No charge,” I repeated.
“Take another muffin,” Mason ordered.
“Will do,” I agreed.
“Thank you,” he said.
I said goodbye and let Mason get on with his care giving. Caro gave me a brief wave when I left. I grabbed another muffin on my way out, as ordered.
As crappy as the last twelve hours had been, I left with a good feeling. The world can't be too bad a place when there are ghosts who love people and people who love ghosts and kitties who love kitties even if they're dead and nice neighbours who come in and fix your home when everything's gone wrong and boyfriends who stay when faced with the unexplainable.
It's enough to warm even the cold cockles of this old wizard's heart.