Rating: A healthy PG-13
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things that go Bump
Chapter Length: 2940 words
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes: The concept of soulgazing is from the books and I've fiddled with it to fit the TVVerse.
It was a good thing that the route from the hospital was so familiar to me now. It meant I didn’t have to try and deal with deciding which corner to turn while my brain went racing 100 miles an hour and my stomach tied itself in knots.
Murphy’s sick. Have to help Murphy. Promised Anna. She can’t die. You have to fix it. You have to fix everyone. You have to figure out how to stop this. You’re not that tired. You’re not that scared. Suck it up, you wuss.
“Bob!” I bellowed, upon entering my home again. I ran to the lab. “Bob!”
“You always shout like you think I might not be here,” he said, with a sigh. “Where would I go?” He took a look at me. “Oh dear. What’s happened?”
“Murphy’s sick,” I said.
He frowned. “I’m sorry, Harry.”
“I have to fix this,” I said. I was pacing furiously. “I have to wake her up. If I can wake her up, I can wake everyone else up. I can get time to find out who’s doing this. No one should have to die. It’s ridiculous.”
“Harry,” Bob interrupted. “You should call the Council.”
“And tell them what? My friend is sick, come help me, I’m pathetic?” I snapped. “If they knew how to stop it, they would have done it already.”
“Sit down for a moment,” Bob demanded, pointing to a chair. “For Heaven’s sake, Harry!”
I ignored him. “There’s gotta be a way to wake them up without stopping the spell itself. It’s a nightmare, right? Nightmare’s end when you die or when you defeat whatever it is that’s scary. If I could help them...” I sighed and slumped into the chair. “I dunno. I don’t know.” I could see Bob out of the corner of my eye. He looked thoughtful, then got a dawning expression on his face and then quickly hid it. “What did you just figure out?”
He gave me an innocent look. Bob can never quite pull off innocent. “I’m sorry?”
“What did you just figure out?” I repeated. “You just found the answer to something.”
“It’s nothing,” he dismissed it.
“Tell me,” I insisted.
“Harry - “
I glared at him. He glared back. We both knew that I could order him to tell me and he’d have to comply. We both knew I was about at that point with my level of patience and good humour. We both didn’t want me to have to do it. There was a silent argument in the air between us before he relented.
“I believe I know a way you could help Lt. Murphy,” he said, with a sigh. “But it’s dangerous and it’s foolish and it will probably be considered breaking at least one of the Seven Laws.”
“Do I have to kill anyone?” I asked.
“Well then, tell me what to do.”
He walked over to one of the bookshelves and pointed to a dusty tome in the middle. “Take that out.” I got up and did so. “Page 213.”
I flipped through. The illustrations in it were very...interesting. The tips of my ears started to burn. “What the hell is this? Kama Sutra for Wizards?”
“Not far from that, yes,” Bob replied.
“And why do I own it?” I asked.
“It was one of your uncle’s books,” he said. “I suggested you keep it.”
“Ewww,” I decided. I did not want to think of my uncle in that way.
“Harry, it isn’t about sex,” Bob sighed. “It’s about intimacy and connection. You need those things to manipulate someone and, as you know, your uncle was very good at manipulating people.”
I nodded an agreement. “And why did we need to keep it?” I raised an amused eyebrow at him.
He shrugged. “Well, it has come in handy, hasn’t it?”
“Whatever, Bob,” I said. “Page 213.”
I brought the book over to the candles to see it better. This illustration was thankfully quite tame.
“If lovers first soulgaze upon each other before falling asleep together, they may share a dream in which they both participate and shape actively,” I read. I looked up again. “Elaine and I never did that, and we soulgazed the first time when we...” My cheeks flushed. “You know.”
“Yes,” Bob said, obviously amused at my discomfort. “But I don’t think that you, ahem, ‘slept’ directly after the soulgaze?”
“No,” I admitted. I thought the concept over. “Three problems. One: Murphy and I aren’t lovers.”
“You are close,” he said. “You trust each other. Like I said, Harry, it is intimacy, not sex.”
“Alright,” I conceded. “Problem two: she’s already asleep.”
“Yes, that is where we might have some difficulty,” he agreed. “It may be that you will be unable to shape the dream, only to appear in it. What is the third problem?”
“I can’t soulgaze Murphy, Bob,” I said. “That’s like...I dunno...molesting her. She can’t agree to it and I’m not going to go around looking at people’s innermost essences without their permission.”
“She most likely will not remember what she sees in you, if she sees anything,” Bob said, ignoring my argument entirely. “She has other things on her mind.”
I squirmed uncomfortably. Bob sometimes knows things about me before I know them and it’s just freaky. I looked back down at the book and he backed off. I read through the instructions.
“It’s the whole ‘not invade the mind of another’ law, you’re worried about, right?” I asked.
“Yes,” he agreed. “And while that law has some grey areas...”
“I’m not exactly in good enough books to be shown leniency,” I finished. “Yeah.” I thought about this for a moment. “Can you think of any other way to do this?”
“Find the culprits and stop them,” Bob said.
“Yeah...what are the chances of me working that reverse tracking spell?”
“In your current state? You would most likely blow yourself up and possibly this building as well,” he answered.
“So...Murphy’s on a deadline, I don’t have a lead nor time to look for a lead and I can’t do the spell that would help me find a lead,” I summed up. Bob nodded, reluctantly. “Alright then. Let’s break the law.”
“Harry,” Bob said, warningly.
“Bob, it’s Murphy,” I replied, starting to get what I needed from the shelves. “She’s got a kid. She’s the only person in the Chicago Police Department who will even consider the existence of the arcane and she’s a good cop. Do you know how much stuff I’ve shown her? Scary stuff, Bob. Stuff that I know gives her nightmares and right now, her nightmares are very real. She’s worth it and she’d do it for me. I can’t leave her in there.”
“And if the Council finds out?”
“Then they can kiss my ass!” I yelled. “They should be the ones doing this. It shouldn’t always be up to me!”
“It doesn’t have to be,” Bob said, calmly.
“Yes it does,” I said. “I can’t let her die, Bob.”
“There’s no saying she will die!” Bob exclaimed. “Officer Bloom lasted three days.”
“Serena Bailzow lasted four hours,” I countered. “We don’t know what’s going on. If I can figure it out, I’m helping everyone.”
“You’re infuriating, Dresden,” he muttered.
I winced a little. Bob only calls me Dresden when he’s at the end of his rope with me. “So are you, Bainbridge.” He rolled his eyes. “Now, you’ve done your Jiminy Cricket bit. Help me out.”
He sighed and nodded. “Alright.”
I did do one thing before I went racing back to the hospital. I called Susan. She answered on the first ring, which meant she was waiting for a call on a story. I wasn’t that call and she made no effort to hide the fact that I wasn’t the person she wanted to talk to right then.
“I need a favour,” I said, cutting to the chase.
“I hate it when you need favours, Harry,” she groaned, but there was a gentle teasing in her voice. “What’s up?”
“I need you to call a woman named Joya for me and convince her to tell you who might have bought a few ingredients that I’m going to give you,” I explained.
“That’s boring,” she said. “No dragons? No throwing myself recklessly into danger? I’m disappointed in you, Mr. Dresden.”
“It’s really important,” I insisted. Her cheerful voice was very comforting to me and had me smiling at the phone. “Please?”
“I do owe you,” she allowed. “Number?” I gave her the number. Scratch, scratch, scratch went her pen. “Ingredients?” I read her my list. “Time frame?”
“As soon as possible,” I said.
“Life or death?”
“Uh, life, preferably.”
“Ha. I’ll see what I can do. I have a lead I need to follow up on.”
Satisfied that I wasn’t abandoning everyone else while I tried to save Murphy, I packed my bag and went back to the hospital. The guy at the main desk in the hospital lobby actually gave me a cheerful wave of recognition. I had been there way too much lately. I hoped my trips would be fewer soon. I headed past the waiting room and spotted Anna in there. She had her head on the shoulder of a blonde woman I guessed was her step-mom. Anna gave me a nod as I passed.
“You can’t bring that in there,” The isolation guy told me when I approached him, pointing at my backpack of supplies. “It’s not sterile.”
“It’s important,” I insisted. “I need to bring it in.”
“It’s not sterile,” he repeated.
‘It doesn’t have to be sterile, idiot, they aren’t actually sick!’ I wanted to yell. I didn’t though. Getting kicked out wouldn’t help Murphy. I retreated from the plastic sheeting and leaned against the wall, waiting for an opportunity to make a break for it. Isolation guy had a suspicious eye on me, though. Honestly, what’s suspicious about a wizard carrying a backpack with a sleeping potion, a bag of salt and a drumstick in it? People are so distrusting these days.
I was distracted by someone peeking out of the waiting room. Anna Murphy’s mischievous face was stuck out of the doorway. She gave me a wink and then marched up to the isolation guy.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “You can’t go back there.”
“I want to see my mommy,” she declared.
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you.”
“I want to see my mommy!” Anna said, louder.
“You aren’t allowed back there,” isolation guy insisted, making a ‘shushing’ motion with his hand.
“I want to see my mommy!” Anna bellowed.
She stomped hard on his foot and then burst into a wailing hissy fit of tears. Her step-mom came running from the waiting room. Nurses came running from the station. Isolation guy hopped in a circle on one foot. I watched the scene unfold with admiration. Anna raised her head briefly from her step-mom’s chest to give me a ‘move it!’ look and I hightailed it through the sheeting, down the hall and into Murphy’s room. No one noticed. I made a mental note to buy Anna a pony.
The build-up of bad energy I had felt in Catalina’s room was now evident in Murphy’s, even in the short time I’d been away. A quick check with my sight saw that the smog around her body was much thicker. I got to work. I took out the bag of salt and poured it in a circle around me. I tore some skin off my finger and touched my blood to the salt. The circle popped closed and the bad energy feeling moved away.
I sat down, cross-legged, and rested my hands on my knees. I started to meditate. It didn’t take me long to get to a peaceful place – I’d had practice recently having taught Scott. Or, it wouldn’t have taken me very long if Kirmani hadn’t come in.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
I cracked an eyelid at him. “Meditating. You should try it. You’re a very tense individual.”
“Why are you meditating in Murphy’s hospital room?” he snapped. “God. I thought, ‘maybe he’s right, maybe I should help him this time’. Yer a freak, Dresden.”
“You’re ruining my inner peace,” I said, calmly. “Shhh.”
“I should just shoot you,” he muttered.
“Can’t cross my circle,” I sang.
There was more muttering I couldn’t discern. “You don’t got a mask on.”
He sighed. “What are you doing?”
“I am meditating, Kirmani, so that my mind is clear enough to perform a complicated spell to make Murphy wake up,” I replied.
There was hesitation before he asked, “how?”
“I am going to go into her nightmare and help her get out of it,” I explained.
“How do you know she’s having nightmares?”
“'Only the crystal-clear question yields a transparent answer',” I quoted, in my best Zen voice.
“Are. You. Crazy?” He pronounced, clearly.
“No,” I said. “Now, shut up. Please.”
He did, which surprised me. Kirmani’s not as stupid as he looks. Or acts. I managed to get to an ethereal state of existence and once there, I opened my eyes and scuffed out the circle. The good energy rushed out of it and the bad energy rushed in, but I didn’t take any note of it. I wasn’t really in the room anymore. I got up and got my backpack, walking serenely past Kirmani who was looking confused. Not hostile, just confused.
“Once I take the potion,” I said to him. My voice sounded very far away from where I was. “I’m probably going to fall asleep very fast. It would be nice if you would make sure I don’t break anything on my way down, but no hard feelings if you don’t.”
“Huh?” he said.
“Just go with it,” I advised.
“Are you going to hurt her?” he asked me, seriously.
“No,” I said. “I’m going to help her, if I can.”
He nodded and stepped up to the bed with his game face on. Or at least, I assume so. I could only see the part of his face that wasn’t covered by his mask. He had his game forehead on, anyway.
I pushed Murphy’s bed away from the wall and lowered the back of it so she was lying flat. I stood at her head and drew up some sleeping potion into an eyedropper. Bob and I decided that, in my current state, I wouldn’t need much to help me sleep if I wanted to wake up again at some point.
“Okay,” I said to Kirmani. “Don’t let anyone in here until Murphy or I or both of us are awake again.” He nodded, openly curious now. I pulled on Murphy’s eyelids to hold them open and bent over her, looking into her frantically darting eyes.
You have to have eye contact for a soulgaze and it was hard to catch her eyes as they were moving so quickly.
“C’mon Murph,” I muttered. “I’m trying to help you here. Gimme a hand.”
I tried a few different angles and finally caught her full on for about half a second. It was enough.
All wizards can do a soulgaze with someone when they make eye contact, if they choose. During a soulgaze, both people are laid open. You can see everything about a person – who they are, who they were, and who they could become. What they’ve done and what they’d be willing to do if necessary. It’s the ultimate in intimate connections and it’s not something I do very often. I don’t want people to know me that well.
I stepped into a massive room with a clean, wooden floor that made my shoes click on it. Around the perimeter, hundreds of old-time movie projectors were set-up, each playing a flickering clip of Murphy’s life. There was a girl, alone, having been abandoned by her mother and unable to reach her father. The same girl, older, pumping life into a dying man on the floor. The girl, a woman now, graduating from the police academy. Holding a baby girl. Watching the baby take her first steps. They were the important moments of Murphy’s life, the events that had shaped her and made her who she was.
I was surprised and touched to find that meeting me was a moment she counted as important. There I was, flickering on the wall. One of the ones closest to where I stood was Boone killing himself. It ran on a short loop, over and over and over again. I realized that I already knew about a lot of the events being played out. I knew Murphy more than I thought I did. It gave me a pleasant feeling in my stomach.
There was nothing in there that told me what was happening in Murphy’s brain at that moment. The soulgaze only lasted a few seconds, but I got a good look around the room. I wouldn’t forget it any time soon. I came back to reality and quickly squeezed a few drops of potion onto my tongue. The effect was almost instantaneous. My eyelids drooped and then I drooped, my knees giving out. I had the sensation of doing a somersault out of my body and falling through space until I hit solid ground again.
I took a look around. This was definitely not Kansas. I had landed smack dab in the middle of Murphy’s nightmare.