Characters: Harry, Fay, Mal, Murphy, Bob and daemons
Warnings: a bit of angst
Word count: 1,795
Summary: Spring comes after a long winter for the Dresden clan, and Harry and Murphy do a little clearing of the air.
Author's notes: Written for the 'spring' prompt on my occhallenge table. Set in the mini!dresden's 'verse, pre-series, about four months after "Running Water".
AUs of AUs for the win! I figured while I was doing my Sherlock daemons, I might as well do my Dresden characters as well. Knowledge of His Dark Materials is not required. All that's necessary to know is that, in this world, humans' souls live outside of their bodies in the form of animals. There's an excellent primer here.
For reference: Taika (a Newfoundland), Jarek (a white lion), and Arsinoë (a rook). Mentioned, but not in the story: Liron (a Malabar Whistling Thrush), and Dahi (a dik-dik).
After some debate, I've decided to let Bob keep his daemon in the afterlife. I think it would be more of a punishment to have your soul and be aware of what wrong-doing you did.
Fay is about three years old, and Mal is about 10 months old.
It had been a bleak winter, both literally and figuratively. Miranda was killed in January and since then there had been rain and snow and very little sun. For someone like me, who was trying to pick up the pieces and carry on, it was hard to feel hopeful.
Spring always comes, though, and this April morning dawned bright and clear. The Dresden clan were taking advantage, and the kids were romping around in the backyard. Fay was blowing bubbles, Mellan in robin-form flying clumsily around to pop them with his beak. Mal and Philyra were watching and snatching at the bubbles Mellan missed when they came floating down. Phi was favoring a lamb shape, and I wondered if Mal was starting to think about getting up on his feet. Mellan had shifted into all sorts of clumsy-legged animals just before Fay took her first steps.
Taika shifted next to me and put her chin over my knee. I ran my hand over her fur. She missed Liron as much as I missed Mira. They should be here if Mal was going to walk. They should see it.
“Daddy, blow a big bubble?” Fay asked. “Please?”
I took the bottle and carefully blew as big a bubble as I could, using a little magic to keep it stable. It floated away and Fay chased it, Mellan swooping around it and peeping with excitement. Mal clapped his hands together, giggling. Phi wobbled slightly and fell over with an alarmed baa.
Taika put her paw over her nose, and I ducked my head, laughing.
“You should be encouraging,” Taika said.
"Come on, Mal, try again," I call. "Let Phi try again.
Phi shifted into a rabbit and hopped back to Mal. Apparently, that was enough development for one day.
I blew another couple of bubbles. It was nice when the kids were little and I could entertain them with something that cost a dollar. Fay and Mellan once spent two hours with a ball of socks. I mean, who needs a talking doll?
Taika and I both tensed up. It was Murphy.
“You have to talk to her sometime,” Taika pointed out, reluctantly.
“I have talked to her,” I objected.
“You barely let her through the door,” Taika said.
I sighed. She was right. Since Mira's death, I'd wanted to be alone. I needed to be alone. I needed to sort through and learn how to cope. I wouldn't do that with people helping me. Murph had been great and been good about backing off. She was a good friend. I just hadn't felt much like having friends, lately. I just wanted my family all together where I could protect them.
“We're back here!” I called.
The gate opened and Jarek stepped through. He's honestly one of the most breathtaking dæmons I've ever seen. A pure white lion, all dignified and fierce and stuff. Small, like Murph, but totally capable. You feel safe with him around.
“Murphy!” Fay shouted.
She ran over, Mellan transforming into a white lion cub and scampering after her. He playfully pounced on Jarek, who wrestled him to the ground and licked him. Fay hugged Murphy around the legs.
“Hey, kiddo!” Murphy said, crouching down to give her a proper hug. “Look at you! You're so big! Oof!”
“I miss you,” Fay said.
Taika nudged my leg, and I glared at her. 'Yeah, I get it, shh', my look said. She just looked smug.
Mal was crawling over as fast as he could go--which was fast. He was a champion crawler. Phi rode on his back, still in rabbit form. Murphy lifted him up into her arms and Jarek picked up Phi by the scruff of her neck. They all headed over to the stoop, Fay chattering about the events of the morning.
“Hey,” Murphy greeted me, a bit cautious.
“Hey,” I replied, and tried to smile in a welcoming fashion.
Taika wagged her tail in greeting, and Jarek gave her a regal bow as he put Phi on the ground.
“Take a seat,” I added, to Murphy. I scooted over to give her some room.
She sat down, moving Mal to her lap. He put his head on her chest and snuggled in. Phi nudged Jarek until he gave her a few licks.
“Want to blow bubbles?” Fay asked.
“I will in a bit, sweetie, I just want to talk to your dad first,” Murphy said. “Why don't you go and show me?”
Fay retrieved the bubbles from me and went off with Mellan to romp around some more.
“Where's Bob?” Murphy asked.
“Inside, taking a break from us,” I replied. “We've been a bit cooped up. Bob gets grumpy when he has to be social for too long.”
Murphy smiled. “Me too.”
We sat in silence for a bit, watching Fay blow bubbles and rolling in the grass, Mellan in bear cub form doing off-kilter somersaults in unison. Phi remained resolutely in bunny form and tucked herself under Jarek's mane once he'd settled down on the ground next to the stoop.
“You can ask,” I said, breaking the silence. “Everyone is asking. You can, too.”
“How are you?” Murphy asked.
I shrugged. “I think I'm okay,” I said. “I think we're all okay. I don't think we're not okay, anyway.”
She studied me to see if I was lying. Both Taika and I shifted slightly in place under her gaze. Murphy can look at you so hard that your dæmon feels it. I kept my eyes on Fay.
“I'm sorry,” Murphy said.
“I know,” I said. Everyone was.
“No, I mean, I'm sorry for lately,” she said. “I haven't been a good friend.”
I looked over, surprised. “What? No. You've been a great friend,” I said. “I've been the jerk.”
“You weren't being a jerk,” Murphy said. “I understand why you didn't want me around. I just feel helpless. I don't usually feel like that. I don't what to do.”
“There's nothing to do,” I argued. “You've done anything I needed you to.”
Murphy shook her head. “I didn't catch who did it.”
Oh. Well. Yeah. I, being the jerk that I was, hadn't even considered that part of things. Murphy was a cop. Murphy caught murderers. Murphy couldn't go after Mira's killer. It was complicated. There were vampires involved. They had rules and truces and treaties that had been broken. I had a whole political maelstrom to deal with and getting Murphy involved wasn't going to help.
“You couldn't,” I said. “And I don't blame you for that. It's all over now, anyway. The Council handled it on my behalf.”
“Surprisingly,” Taika muttered.
Murphy gave me a side-eye.
“I wasn't involved, and you can't blame me for anything that happened,” I said. “If anyone died, I didn't ask for it.”
“I don't like vigilante justice,” Murphy said.
“Too bad,” I replied. “That's all the Council deals in. Take it up with them.” Taika nipped me in the heel, and I shot Murphy an apologetic look. “If it reassures you at all, I didn't go to the proceedings. Ramirez stood proxy for me. He read my victim impact statement and handled all of that. I didn't go. I couldn't leave the kids, and I...”
“You were afraid you might do something,” Murphy said.
I didn't answer. Mal decided he'd had enough snuggling and climbed down from Murphy's lap, crawling off in investigation of Fay and Mellan. Phi seemed a little reluctant to leave her nest but hopped after him.
“You talking to anyone about all of this?” Murphy asked.
“I talk to Bob,” I replied.
“No, I mean, someone professional,” Murphy said.
I shrugged. “Who am I going to talk to, Murph?” I said. “A vampire murdered my wife. I'll end up on the psych ward. They'd take the kids.”
“They'd have to fight us first,” Murphy said, giving Jarek a pat on the back. “I don't suppose there's anyone in your world who'd help?”
“Not a lot of shrinks around,” I said.
“Too bad, they'd make a fortune,” Murphy commented.
Taika barked a laugh and the rest of us joined in. Some of the tension died. Murphy elbowed me in the stomach and that was sort of it. I know it doesn't seem like much, but Murphy was Murphy. She knew me. We knew each other. We didn't need to speak to communicate.
A butterfly flew in and landed on the grass. Mellan and Phi both turned into butterflies to greet it, and Fay and Mal lay on their stomachs to stare. I've often wondered if animals know the difference between dæmons and fellow animals, the way we know if they're animals and not dæmons. I remember Taika trying to talk to a snake when I was a kid, and the snake sort of staring at her, like maybe he thought she was a French snake and didn't speak English or something.
“I miss Dahi changing shape,” Murphy said. “Anna's so grown-up. I felt old the day he settled. Enjoy it while it lasts. It's all hormones and hissy fits after that.”
“How is Anna?” I asked.
“She's fourteen,” Murphy said, with a grin. “She's alternating between hating me and clinging to me. She's good, though. It could be worse. She's not getting into trouble--yet, anyway. She wants to come over and babysit for you when you're ready. I told her not to bug you.”
“You could probably do with a couple hours out of the house,” Taika commented.
“Tell her I'll call,” I said, not making any promises. “When I'm ready.”
Murphy nodded. Fay skipped over to us, Mellan fluttering after her. He landed on Taika's nose, and she shook her head playfully. Mellan fluttered to Fay's shoulder.
“Want to play a game?” Fay asked Murphy.
“You bet,” Murphy said. “What do you want to play?”
“Ummm...” Fay said. “Hopscotch?”
“We're learning how to jump on one foot,” I explained.
“Oh, awesome,” Murphy said. “I'm pretty good at that. Let's go, squirt.”
Murphy and Jarek followed Fay and Mellan (in preparatory frog form) out to the driveway where the hopscotch court was chalked.
Mal sat on the grass rubbing his eyes, a sure sign that it was time for a nap. I went over and scooped him up to bring him in, Taika picking up Phi in her mouth. We went inside. Arsinoë came through a wall to land on the piano, and Bob followed a moment later.
“Did I hear the lieutenant?” he asked.
“Yeah, Murphy's out playing with Fay,” I said.
Bob raised an eyebrow.
“It's fine,” I said. “I'm going to put Mal down for a nap, do you mind keeping an ear out for him?”
Bob bowed his head, and Arsinoë gave a flutter of her wings in agreement. Taika and I went upstairs put Mal and Phi in the crib. They curled up together, falling asleep easily. Bob and Arsinoë were waiting for us when we came back down.
“So?” Bob said. “Was it as hard as you thought it would be?”
“I don't need an 'I told you so', Bob,” I said.
"I did tell you so," Bob pointed out, Arsinoë giving a smug tilt of her head.
“And you were right," I admitted. "But don't push it.”
Bob grinned and disappeared through the wall, Arsinoë following. Taika and I rolled our eyes at each other. We went out to the front to see how the hopscotch was going. Fay was still a little unsteady on one leg but was doing her best, with Mellan's cheerful encouragement as he hopped ahead of her. Murphy gamely hopped through, again and again, Jarek sitting next to the court.
Murphy waved at me, and I waved back. I settled down on the front porch, and Taika put her head in my lap.
It had been a long winter, and I had kept saying if I could just get through to spring, it will all be okay. Spring had come, and it wasn't all okay, but it was better. It would be okay, some time.
And I wouldn't be alone getting there.