Characters: Harry, Bob, mentions of Murphy, Mira, Fay and Mal
Pairings: Harry/Miranda (OFC)
Warnings: angst, death of a character
Word count: Approx. 2750
Summary: When Harry suffers yet another loss in his life, he finds comfort in the fact that there's one person who won't leave him.
Author's notes: Written for the 'trust' prompt on my occhallenge table. This is pure, unadulterated angst, especially in light of how happy I generally keep the mini!dresden's 'verse. It revolves around Mira's death. Please feel free to ignore if you prefer to keep your view of the 'verse happy.
Mal is about six months old here and Fay is about three-years old.
Mal was wailing. I could hear it through the baby monitor that sat across the room. In was in a nice, balanced position--I could hear it but I couldn't break it. I got up and rubbed my eyes. It was 12:32 in the morning. Mira wasn't in bed. She had played with the symphony that night--she'd been out when I went to bed and I didn't worry about that she wasn't there now. She sometimes stayed up after she got home to read or do crosswords and wind down from playing before she tried to sleep.
I stumbled down to Mal's room. He was red in the face, sitting up in his crib and holding his feet. Angry tears streaked down his face and he screeched with all his might. I picked him up and made soothing noises.
“Hey now, what's wrong?” I asked.
“Waaaaah!” he explained.
He wasn't wet, he shouldn't have been hungry. I checked to make sure he didn't have a fever (because I am
Bob appeared as I entered the living room. He usually paced with me if I had an upset kid. He is a very good nanny, for all his insistences that he finds my kids intolerable.
“Where's Mira?” I asked him.
“She hasn't returned yet,” he replied. “What's wrong with the child?”
“He's fussy,” I explained, frowning. “Mira should be home.”
“Perhaps she is running late,” Bob suggested.
“Probably,” I agreed. I grabbed my wand from the bookshelf where I'd left it and made a few sparks in the air with it. Mal's eyes watched curiously, but his wails continued undiluted. “God. He's bad tonight.”
“Is he ill?” Bob suggested, scrutinizing Mal.
“I don't think so,” I replied.
I continued to pace, Bob following beside me as we moved from one side of the living room to the other. Mal wailed miserably despite our best efforts. I was about to try putting him in the stroller for a bit when the phone rang. I immediately got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, but brushed it off as anxiety over Mal.
“Hello?” I said, over Mal's cries.
“Harry?” Murphy's voice asked. She sounded odd.
“Hey Murph,” I said. “Listen, Mal's having a tantrum and Mira's not here, can you call back in a bit?”
“Sorry, Harry, I can't,” she said. “I need to talk to you now.”
My insides froze. “What happened?”
“It's Mira,” Murphy answered, and the words sounded like they physical hurt her to get out. “I'm so sorry, Harry.”
I inhaled sharply. “What happened, is she hurt?”
“An officer found her...” Murphy started. “She was in an alley...she was attacked, Harry. She...she was killed.”
“No,” I said, immediately. I half-laughed. “No, she...no.”
“I'm so sorry,” Murphy repeated. “She was gone when we came on the scene. There was nothing we could do for her.” I felt panicky and shaky. I carefully set Mal down on the couch, because I was afraid to drop him. “I'm sending Kirmani to pick you up, and someone to stay with the kids. I...God, Harry. I'm so sorry.”
I hung up the phone. I didn't want to hear any more. I stared blankly at Bob, who was looking very alarmed. Mal wailed in the background, a far away sound.
“No,” I said, to myself. It was a whisper. I sunk into the armchair and closed my eyes. “No. No. No. I'm gonna wake up now. I have to wake up now.”
But I didn't.
I don't remember anything about claiming Mira's body. It's all a blur. I know I did it and I know that it was awful, but I've blocked it out. Kirmani brought me back to the townhome a couple of hours later. Kari, the civilian aide who was staying with the kids, quietly informed me that Mal had settled down and was sleeping again and Fay hadn't woken up. She gave me a hug and left. I closed the door behind her. I don't think I said thank you or goodbye. I don't think I said anything.
I leaned my back against the door and stared straight ahead. My brain felt like it had shattered into pieces that were struggling to find one another again. I started to move on automatic pilot. I went to Fay's room. She was fast asleep, curled up like a bunny with her butt in the air. I pulled her blankets around unnecessarily and kissed her on her head. She made grumpy noises and turned away from me. I left and went to Mal's room. He was asleep too, calm now. I repositioned his head slightly. I was supposed to do that so his head wouldn't get flat from sleeping on his back all the time. It's weird the stuff you remember when everything falls apart.
I watched him sleeping for awhile. I don't know how long. I was scared. I knew I was scared. I couldn't feel it though. My brain was in too many pieces to send the right signals. My hands were sweating. I looked at them with detachment. I rubbed them on my jeans and noticed I was still wearing my coat. I was hot. I left Mal's room and returned to the front hall, took off my coat and tried to hang it up. I could not, for the life of me, get it on the damned coat hanger. I held up my coat in one hand, the hanger in the other and looked at them. Then I dropped them both on the floor and walked away.
My feet led me to the lab. Bob was pacing inside and froze when the door opened.
“Harry?” he asked, softly.
“It's me,” I said, completely missing the undertones of the question.
He nodded as though I had said much more. I tried to light a candle. The flame shot up about five feet before settling to a normal size. I frowned at it.
“Harry...” Bob began. I looked over to him blankly. He shook his head and didn't say whatever he was planning on saying.
I started to pick things up move them around without any purpose. I moved a book from one table to another. I slid a jar along a shelf until it bumped into the next one. I picked up a beaker and carried it around in my hand while I moved in aimless circles. It slipped from my fingers and smashed on the floor.
I looked down at the broken shards and at that moment, the pieces of my mind found each other and glued themselves back together again. Emotion flooded through me so suddenly that I choked on it, coughing violently.
Grief hit first, the kind that brings you to your knees. Tears rolled down my cheeks in torrents and for a few terrifying moments, I couldn't breathe. I just forgot how. Fear hit next, constricting my chest and not letting me get any air even if I could have figured out the process to do so. I shook. I was on the floor. The glass bit into my knees and I gasped in pain, which opened my lungs again and I remembered how to breathe. Then this horrible, twisting anger filled me up and made me see everything with a red tint to it. I felt like I was burning from the inside out.
The table next to me started to rumble. The flame from the candle I'd lit shot up again and this time, didn't burn back down. There were sparks flying around and I realized they were coming from my hands. My tears hissed as they fell onto them, burning up from the heat.
Bob's voice carried through everything directly into my brain. I responded like I had when I was kid, when he used that tone. I listened.
“Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden,” Bob said, Naming me. It didn't affect me like it would have if he had a command of magic, but names are powerful even to those who can't use it. “Get up.”
I got up. I felt like my body was falling apart. I looked over at him. He looked pale, even for Bob.
“Pick up my skull,” he ordered, pointing to the object on the table. Shadows were dancing over it violently from the huge flame burning on the candle wick. I picked it up. “Go to the bathroom.”
I didn't question it. I just did what he said. It was easier than trying to think for myself. I knew somehow, too, that if I thought too much, something very bad was going to happen inside me. Like I had my finger on a grenade pin and if I let go, everything would explode. I stumbled down the hall and up the stairs, blinded by the tears in my eyes, but my feet compensated and took me where I needed to be.
The candles blazed to life in the bathroom without me making any conscious effort to light them. They burned bright and dangerous.
“Put the skull on the counter,” Bob's voice pierced my brain. “And run a cold shower.”
I followed orders. My fingers fumbled over the faucet controls and it took three tries for me to pull up the pin that turned the shower on. The water hit my hand and sizzled.
“Get in,” Bob said.
I did. Immediately, the fire inside me died. The energy that had built up melted away and, though all the emotions still roiled around in me, they couldn't seem to do anything more than make me feel. They hurt, but that's all they did.
I was breathing heavily between racking sobs. I sat down, letting the cold water run over me, clothes and all. I hugged my knees and rocked back and forth.
“Good boy,” Bob soothed, and his voice was as comforting as someone putting their hand on my shoulder.
“What...did...you...do?” I asked, in between gasps of breath and sobs.
“What did I do, Harry?” Bob returned, in his teacher's voice.
I thought. “Running water,” I managed to get out. “Grounds...magic.”
“Yes, exactly. Now you won't hurt yourself or anyone else.”
He nodded slightly. I tried to get a grip on my sobs. The pitiful lack of oxygen I was getting in between them was starting to make me dizzy. I breathed in, shaky and a sob escaped halfway through. I let it out with another sob and tried again. After several tries, I managed to breathe in and out cleanly. Then again. Then a third time. Tears still fell, lost on my soaked clothing but the hysteria started to subside.
“Vampire,” I started to explain to Bob. “Black Court. She fought really hard but...I promised Murphy I wouldn't go after him. I think I lied. I really want to hurt him, Bob.”
“I know, Harry,” Bob said, gently.
“I don't know what to do. What am I supposed to do? It hurts so badly. I just want it to stop. I want to start again. I should have...if I'd...” I couldn't even put it into words.
“I know,” Bob said, and there was something in his voice that made me look at him. “Believe me, I know.” His face was stiff with quiet pain. Of course he knew. Of course he'd understand.
“What do I do?” I asked him and my voice sounded very small.
He shook his head. “I don't know, Harry. I...don't have advice for this situation.” He smiled, bitterly. “I didn't do the right thing. I didn't grieve. I let it fester and it destroyed me. I don't think you need to decide what to do now, Harry. Just grieve. That's the best advice I can give.”
I was able to pull out of my grief long enough to feel a surge of pity for the ghost. It was pushed out of the way to be replaced by irrational anger than he didn't know more. He was Bob. He was supposed to have the answers. He was supposed to know what to do.
I must have been glaring at him. He turned away from me.
“Don't go,” I said, quickly.
I was reminded very clearly of requesting this of him for several nights when I first arrived at my uncle's house. I'd sneak down to the library, because I couldn't sleep and I didn't want to be alone. I'd never been alone before my father died. I didn't trust my uncle to comfort me and I didn't want to get to close to him. He might die too, just like Mom, just like Dad. Just like Mira. Bob couldn't die though, he was already dead. It was comforting. I'd talk to him until I felt calm again and then go back upstairs to sleep. It was never anything deep, of course, mostly pointless magical theory. It was just enough to make me feel like I wasn't alone.
“As you wish,” Bob said, now, as he always did.
I stayed in the shower until my fingers were pruned and my teeth chattered. Every time I thought I was okay, I started to sob again and I didn't want to leave the safety of the water until I knew I wouldn't hurt anyone. I kept telling myself I needed to be stronger, that I was acting like a girl. I've never been very good at not crying, though. It annoys the hell out of me, but it comes with the wizarding territory. You have to feel to do magic, even if it isn't always happy feelings.
Eventually I was so exhausted, I couldn't cry any more. I turned the shower off and got out, dripping everywhere. Bob hadn't tried to comfort me, just stood there quietly, being there if I wanted to talk. I wrapped a large towel around myself, which did very little to stop the shivering.
“I sh-sh-should c-call K-katie,” I said, through clacking teeth.
“You should sleep, Harry,” Bob corrected. “You can call her in the morning.
You're in no condition to deliver bad news.”
“Sh-she sh-should know,” I insisted. “I'd w-want t-to know if F-fay...”
Bob was just as stubborn. “A few hours will not make a difference. Let her sleep. She will have little enough of it in the days to come.”
This seemed like sound advice and I was really, really tired. I nodded an agreement. I did my best to dry myself off and then dripped down the hall to my bedroom. I changed into dry sleepwear and went back to the bathroom for Bob.
“Do you want to go back to the lab?” I asked.
“Not particularly,” he replied. “I would prefer to stay up here. I can watch the children.” 'And you' was unspoken, but implied.
He'd worded it so that it wasn't a favour for me, but for him. So that I couldn't argue without seeming like a jerk. I half smiled, briefly, at my fussy ghost and carried his skull under my arm as I checked on Mal and Fay again. They were just as asleep as before, despite the cacophony of noise I felt must be blaring. Maybe the noise was just in my head, though.
I went back to my bedroom and put Bob on the dresser, then tumbled on to my bed just as my legs said 'screw you' and gave out. I pulled the blankets around me, curling into a ball to warm up. Mira's things were everywhere in there and I closed my eyes to them, feeling myself slipping away.
“Thanks Bob,” I mumbled to him. “You don' have t'stay out. Not keepin' you...” My attempted message was badly garbled by exhaustion.
“All right Harry,” he said, anyway. “Rest now.”
Again, without much thought, I obeyed.