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: 3025 words
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes: A big thanks to joonscribble for prompting a good discussion about Morgan and Harry's relationship on her journal, just in time for me to be writing this chapter. :D
“’Bout time you showed up,” I said to Morgan. “I broke the law at least an hour ago, where’ve you been?”
“Mr. Dresden?” Jake asked. He looked upset. As one might be, if someone showed up and started threatening someone else with a sword. “What’s going on? Who’s he?”
“Wizard police,” I answered.
“He has a sword.”
“Yeah, they do tend to.”
“There are wizard cops with swords,” Jake recapped. “Man. I know way more being dead than I ever did alive. Why is he here?”
“Silence, ghost,” Morgan commanded, angrily. He flicked his eyes to me. “You too.”
“I don’t remember having the right to remain silent,” I said.
Jake walked up to stand beside Morgan. He folded his arms and gave the Warden an appraising look. I was impressed with his ability to appear intimidating while wearing a hospital gown. “You got a license for that sword?”
“Yes,” Morgan said. He waved a hand at Jake like he was an annoying fly. “Your trial will begin at dawn tomorrow morning.”
“That was fast,” I noted. “Doesn’t the Council have to get here?”
“They are already here for a meeting.”
“Oh,” I said. “They don’t send me the newsletter anymore. Not since that tapioca incident.”
“What trial?” Jake asked. “What did you do?”
“Broke a law of magic,” I explained. “Thou shalt not invade the mind of another.”
“You didn’t say you were breaking a law,” Jake said, looking dismayed. I was now being appraised. “You didn’t say you had laws.”
“Sorry,” I said.
“What happens if they find you guilty?”
“They cut off my head.”
“What?!” Jake whirled back to Morgan. “You can’t do that! You can’t just go around cutting peoples’ heads off! You have no authority!”
“S’okay, Jake,” I said.
“Okay? You’re okay with getting your head cut off?” Jake exclaimed. “Because, if you’re that keen to die, maybe you wanna change places with me? I wasn’t quite ready for it.”
I winced. “Sorry. It’s just...how we work. I knew this might happen before I woke Murphy up. It was my choice.”
“You get a trial, he said?” Jake asked. I nodded. Well, as much as you can nod with a sword at your throat. “Can I speak at it?”
“No,” Morgan intercepted.
“It’s not so much a trial as some people deciding whether or not to kill me,” I explained. “Don’t worry, though, I’ve been through one before. I still have my head.”
“Barely,” Morgan reminded me. “Get up.”
He moved the sword away from my person and I got to my feet. I crashed down to my knees again, dizzy and disoriented from the bump to my head. Morgan did nothing to help me. He leaned on his sword, waiting for me to get upright again. Jake reflexively offered me a useless hand. I took a few deep breaths, found my center of balance and made it successfully to my feet.
“You know this is totally ridiculous, right?” Jake said. “Everything about this – me being dead, me being a ghost, people trapped in their nightmares, guys with swords who arrest wizards. You live in a crazy, fucked-up universe, man. When do I wake up from this?”
“I’m sorry,” I said, again. “I wish I could help. If I can’t finish this, if I can’t catch the bad guys, someone will do it for me. I will see that someone does it. You’ll be able to crossover after that, I’m pretty sure.”
“Mr. Dresden,” Jake rolled his eyes. “I’m already dead. Whether I stay here or go somewhere else doesn’t bother me. I mean, it sucks, yeah, but I can deal with it. You don’t have to be dead. That bothers me. Murder bothers me.” He glared at Morgan. “And if I wasn’t dead... sword license my ass.”
“Dresden...” Morgan warned me.
“I know, I know,” I muttered. “Good luck, Jake.”
“You too,” he returned, with a sigh. “I really hope you don’t die.”
“Thanks,” I said, feeling genuine gratefulness towards the ghost. It’s nice to have someone to stand up for you, even if they’re dead.
Morgan stuck his sword in the pocket of his long coat. I think he might have a portal to the Nevernever in there, just to have enough room for the sword. He pushed me into the hallway and disappeared. His veils are way better than mine. In that they work.
I bumped into Forrester in the hall. His eyes were glowing with a giddy sort of delight that was lack of sleep coupled with good news. He gave me a friendly clap on my arm and for one terrifying moment I thought he might hug me. I noticed a flurry of activity around us. People were running everywhere.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
Forrester looked confused. “You didn’t do it?”
“Ellie Marx, Sam Francis and Keevy O’Hanlon have woken up,” he explained.
“Yes, in about two minute intervals of one another,” Forrester elaborated. He watched my confusion for a moment. “You really didn’t do it?”
I gaped around and gave a shake of my head. I had woken Murphy up. I hadn’t done anything to anyone else. Was it some sort of chain reaction? Then, it hit me. I gave a manic sort of laugh. “Universal consciousness. Butterfly flaps its wings in one dream, everyone else gets the hurricane.”
“I’m sorry?” Forrester said. “I don’t follow.”
“It’s nothing,” I replied, dismissively. I could feel Morgan hovering beside me.
Forrester gave me a scrutinizing look. “You look peaky, are you alright?”
“Just tired,” I said. I tried a smile, but I didn’t have to see it to know it was a half-assed attempt.
“Ah,” he nodded. “I’m past tired now. I’m into the stage where everything seems utterly hilarious.” A resident tapped him on the shoulder and muttered something in his ear. He laughed a little. “Danny Zowsky has woken up.”
I caught a little of his contagious joy, which was abruptly stomped out by a sharp poke to my back. “That’s great, doc. I, uh, I have to go. Emergency thing. I’m sorry.”
“Why are you apologizing?” He asked, with another laugh. “I think you’ve moved enough mountains for today – you deserve a rest. I greatly appreciate your efforts, Mr. Dresden. I don’t have the slightest idea exactly what your efforts were, but I appreciate them nonetheless. By all means, go. And get some sleep.”
He saluted me with the clipboard he was holding and moved on down the hall. I turned to glare at the air beside me and then walked down to the plastic sheeting. Isolation guy was still nursing his toe. Baby. I gave Diego a wave as I passed the waiting room. He was bouncing Rosario, waiting eagerly at the door. I noted that Catalina hadn’t been on the list of people who had woken up.
Morgan deveiled himself again after we’d passed unnoticed through the metal detector and on into the parking lot. He corrected my path to the jeep with a yank on my sleeve. “My car.”
“Do you have an invisible car, too?” I asked. “I’ve never seen you in one before.”
“You never see me, period, Dresden,” he noted. “That’s part of your problem.”
“Hey now, we see each other plenty,” I objected. “That’s my problem.”
If I spent less time hunting monsters and more time looking at car magazines, I might be able to tell you exactly what make, model and year Morgan’s car was. As it is, I can only tell you that it was silver, shiny and far too small for me to ride comfortably in. My legs got stuffed under the dashboard and no matter how I folded them, there was just not enough room.
“So, where’re we goin’?” I asked.
“You are under house arrest,” Morgan replied. “You are to be kept under surveillance until your trial.”
“Great,” I muttered. “I hate house guests.”
Morgan drove like I expected he would. You can tell a lot about someone by how they drive. His eyes moved constantly, always aware of what was going on. He didn’t miss a stop sign or a red light. He never drove through a yellow light. He drove confidently, smooth and occasionally cornered or passed in an efficient, quick way that threw me off-balance. We didn’t talk and he switched the radio off as soon as I put it on.
I was given time to think. I thought about my trial, which would not be a picnic. I thought about how I might defend myself. I thought about Murphy and wondered if her tests would come back normal. I wondered if she would slip right back into trouble as soon as she fell asleep again. I wondered if I had made things worse by waking her. It had obviously shaken things up. Would the bad guys respond more violently? Would they give up? I noted that Morgan looked tired and realized that he was probably feeling the effects of the nightmares as much as I was. He may be a jerk, but he’s a powerful wizard too. If it was affecting Scott and I, it was affecting everyone with power.
Bob was pacing when I came in. He looked up at the sound of the door opening.
“Hey Bob,” I said, brightly. “I brought home a friend.”
Bob frowned at the sight of Morgan. “I see. You must have succeeded in your task, then?”
“I did,” I confirmed. “I succeeded so much, the Council wants to talk to me about it. Tomorrow, at dawn.”
“Ah.” Bob frowned some more. “That is rather quick to assemble.”
“Apparently they’re having a party in town,” I explained. “I wasn’t invited.” Morgan brushed past me to the phone and started dialing. “Hey, feel free to use my phone. No need to ask or anything.” I was ignored. Morgan spoke secretively into the receiver.
“You woke Lt. Murphy up?” Bob verified.
“Yep,” I said. I went on to explain about the nightmare and how I helped her out of it. He listened and looked fairly impressed. There is a part of me, the student part, which always feels very satisfied when Bob is impressed by me. “And then, about an hour after she woke up, some of the others did too. Four of them were awake when I left.”
“Really?” Bob said. “That’s interesting. I imagine waking the lieutenant up would require a forceful ejection of the caster from her mind. Perhaps you caused enough of a jolt for him or her to lose their hold on the spell keeping the rest asleep.”
“Maybe,” I agreed. “Anyway, it worked. So, yay. Except for the part where they want to cut my head off. Again. Well, I suppose they never really stopped wanting to cut it off. Just sort of put it on the back burner. The want, not my head.”
“Are you nattering?” Bob asked, concerned.
“Sounds like it,” I said. “I’ll shut up.”
“Perhaps you should rest,” he suggested.
“Love to,” I said. “But...I don’t want Morgan touching all my stuff while I’m asleep.”
Bob sighed and walked away from me. I flopped onto the couch to glare at Morgan while he finished up his phone call. I continued to glare while he removed his coat and tossed it over a chair. I continued to glare while he withdrew his sword and carried it with him to the bookshelf. I kept glaring when he selected a book and sat down in the chair with it, putting the sword within easy reach on the floor next to him. Then I stopped glaring, because he wasn’t looking at me and there didn’t seem to be any point to it.
“So, you’re just gonna sit here?” I asked him.
“No. There will be a shift change in six hours.”
“I suggest you spend you the time in peaceful reflection, Dresden,” he said, calmly flipping a page. “These might be your last hours.”
“You don’t really think I deserve to die for this, do you?” I asked.
He raised his gaze to me, briefly. “It’s not up to me, Dresden.”
“Yes, but you have to have an opinion on the subject,” I pressed.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Morgan replied, over-annunciating in a way telling me that he was annoyed. “I have a job and I do it.”
“Blindly,” I muttered.
“Well,” he countered.
We fell into silence after that. I stretched out on the couch, staring at the ceiling and zoning out into a place between awake and asleep. Morgan read, turning the pages in predictable, rhythmic intervals. Bob paced through the apartment, looking preoccupied and wouldn’t talk or look at me. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to come up with a plan to help me or if he was trying to distance himself from me before my trial.
“What will happen to him?” I asked Morgan, after Bob made his ninth or tenth trip through the wall to the lab. “If I die?”
“The Council will decide what to do with it,” Morgan replied.
“Him,” I corrected. “You can’t just toss him in some box in the back closet of the Council’s secret stash. He’ll go crazy.”
“His punishment didn’t include scheming with overzealous wizards,” Morgan said. “He’s lucky to have existed this long in the company of others.”
My further argument was cut off by the phone ringing. I got up to answer it and found Morgan’s sword held to block my path. He glanced over to me from the book. “Don’t answer.”
“How will I get busted out of this joint if my cronies can’t contact me?” I complained. “It’ll ruin the whole plan.”
The flat side of the sword was placed against my stomach and I was pushed back by it. “You are to receive no outside communication.”
‘You are to receive no outside communication,’ I mouthed, mimicking him. I was feeling very childish at this point. It might have been the desperation starting to kick in. I went back to the couch. The phone stopped ringing and a minute later, the red light on my answering machine started to flash. It must have sensed the desperation and decided to cooperate.
It took me a few minutes to formulate a plan. I got up, walked over to the LP player and put a record on. It scratched to life. Morgan’s eyes followed me and then went back to the book. I dove sideways and hit the button on the answering machine. Two seconds later, I was flattened over the desk on my back, with Morgan holding the sword at my throat. I held my hands up peacefully and watched the muscle in his jaw twitch.
“Hello Harry Dresden, wizard, this is Susan Rodriguez, reporter,” Susan’s voice sounded from the answering machine. “You know, the one who is spending copious amounts of money to get you information? The one you could at least be home to take a call from? When did you even get an answering machine? Anyway, I went by Sapphire Salon. I managed to get a quick look through their appointment book. Most of the names you gave me were in there in the last few weeks. I might have missed the others; I only got a few seconds to look before the girl came back. That Joya lady called too. She said she had three people who bought those ingredients recently. Hayden Price, Lori Gallagher and Nick Myers, in that order. She said that last one, Myers, bought a large amount. Hope that helps. Call me!”
There was a beep and then silence. Morgan had been listening as much as I had.
“Nick Myers,” I said, after a moment. “Is - ”
“A nurse at the hospital,” Morgan cut me off. “I know.”
“You do?” I asked, surprised.
“Just because you don’t see me, doesn’t mean I’m not there,” he replied. He stepped back from me and I straightened again. “And just because you don’t approve of us, doesn’t mean we don’t do our jobs.”
“Did you know Nick Myers was involved?” I asked.
“No,” he replied, with a frown.
He stared at me, but not really at me so much as staring at something which happened to be me. He looked exhausted. I felt exhausted. I ran my hands through my hair and he folded his arms and we both sighed.
“Okay, look,” I said. “I have information and you have information. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
“I don’t need your help,” he said, immediately.
“I know,” I said. “But I’m willing to give it anyway. I know how the victims are connected, I know that Nick Myers is involved in some way, I know pretty much how the spell is being done. I know what it’s like being in one of the nightmares. I even know how to track down the casters, but I can’t do the spell to do it.”
Morgan sighed again and rubbed his eyes. “We haven’t been able to locate the precise source of the spell. We know the general area of its origin, but we haven’t had time to go into a more thorough search because of the meeting. We suspect it would have to be a group of people to pull off a spell of this size.”
“I have a sample of one of the victim’s hair,” I said. “Bob knows a reverse tracking spell, but it’s not my forte. It’s delicate work. I don’t do delicate well. You can have the hair if you think you could work the spell. And Bob, to tell you how to do it.”
“Delicate isn’t my forte either,” he admitted, shifting uncomfortably. “But I know of someone who has a talent for subtle spellwork.”
“I’ll give you the hair on one condition,” I said.
“Let me call Kirmani to get Myers picked up.”
“That’s what you want?” Morgan asked. He looked surprised. “A phone call?”
I shrugged. “I don’t have room for a pony.”
He may have smiled just slightly. “I could just get another piece of hair myself.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “But you’d have to sneak around and get it and just because things are okay now doesn’t mean they won’t get bad again. You have time working against you. Plus, you don't have Bob.”
He thought for a moment, pacing away from me. “You realize this doesn’t change anything? If this is some desperate effort to win approval - ”
“I know, you’re still the cop and I’m still the criminal,” I assured him. “I’m part of the mess. I want to help fix it.”
He nodded in a precise manner. “Agreed.”
“Do you want to shake on it?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “You have my word.”
“Good. You have mine. Let’s get going.”