Characters: Harry, Murphy, Bob, Fay, Mal, Mouse, Kade
Pairings: Harry/Murphy, Fay/Kade
Warnings: very mild references to potential magical dubious consent
Word count: 6,304
Summary: It's been a bad week for late-night doorbells at the Dresden household, and Fay and her boyfriend are the latest perpetrators.
Author's notes: So, this is random, huh? I was reading through old fic in my journal and got nostalgic for my mini!Dresdens, and my brain, of all things, decided this was what we were going to write now. I, unfortunately, lost all my mini!Dresden 'verse snippets and fics and world building in the Great Flash Drive Crash, so I've elected to just carry on from where I left off, which was here, after a large time leap to the minis being much older. I have done a bit of reworking on Kade's character, so the references to him might be contradictory there, but it shouldn't matter much.
If you need a refresher or are unfamiliar with this verse, here is the Launch Page, which has all the stories.
Voice are a bit rusty, so bear with.
“You know, Harry,” Murphy said. “I’ve lived here for years, and I’m still amazed by the number of doorbells that go off in this place in the middle of the night.”
I looked back over my shoulder at her as we headed downstairs in response to the latest one, which had come at 1:30 in the morning. “It’s been a bad week for doorbells, I’ll give you that.”
Mal leaned over the railing above us. “Was that the doorbell?” he asked. “Again?”
“Yeah,” Murphy and I said together.
“Dude, I just fell asleep!” Mal complained, and circled around to come after us. “I have a math test tomorrow. If I fail Trigonometric Representation and Modeling, I am not going to summer school.”
“Don’t worry, trigonometry is totally useless,” I assured him. “You’re never going to need it, and it’s a total waste of time.”
“I knew it!”
We hit the first floor in a little line, meeting Bob outside the lab. “Is that the doorbell again?” he asked. “It’s getting very tedious.”
“Yeah,” Murphy, Mal, and I said together.
Mouse was sitting at the door, staring at it with stalwart intentions of defending us against all intruders. He looked over his shoulder at us and gave a kind of nod of ‘here we are again, huh?’
It had been a bad week for doorbells.
“Who is it?” I asked him.
He got up and wagged his tail, thumping it against the door. Friend then, not foe but, just to be sure, I grabbed my hockey stick from the umbrella stand by the door and spied through the peephole.
The way the light was falling gave me more shadows than shapes, but I knew there were people there, and I could see a taxi in the road at the end of the drive. Most things that go bump in the night don’t come by taxi, so I felt it was safe to open up the door.
Fay was there, all 5’2” of her struggling to support Kade, her 6’4” boyfriend, who was clinging to the mailbox with one hand and Fay’s ponytail with the other.
For our part, there was 6’5” me holding a hockey stick, 5’4” Murphy peering around my shoulder, 6’2” Mal on my other shoulder, and a Tibetan Temple dog at my feet.
I’m going to say it was a tie on who made the weirdest image.
“Hey, look at the little puppy!” Kade said, reaching for Mouse’s head. “I love dogs! Hey, doggie. You’re just little, look at you! Tiny fluffy dog.”
Mouse, who reached halfway up my thigh and weighed in at 194 lbs at his last vet visit, gave me a look that said ‘is he high?’.
Murphy asked the same question, but in words, not in doggie looks.
“No, he’s--it’s a long story, can you just get him inside?” Fay said. “I have to pay the driver. Kade, let go of my hair.”
“I love your hair!” Kade announced. “It’s like those ribbons you put on presents.”
“Did you stun him?” I asked Fay, recognizing the signs of someone who’d had their brain magically addled.
Her eyes darted to the side. “...Maybe.”
I helped Kade through the door, taking his weight off her, and she turned to run back out and pay the taxi driver. Murphy grabbed her purse from the stand at the door and followed.
“Hey, Mr. Dresden,” Kade said, hugging me around the neck. “I love Fay. She’s great. She’s my favorite person, except for Spider-Man. Not Peter Parker. Miles Morales.”
Mal raised his eyebrow at me. “Dude, drop him. There’s no way Miles Morales is better than Peter Parker.”
“Not helping,” I told my mini-me. “Come on, give me a hand with your sister’s superheroically misguided boyfriend.”
Mal grabbed Kade’s jacket and pulled him back from me. We each got one of his arms around our necks and helped him to the living room. He was definitely under a spell of some kind. He didn’t smell of alcohol or weed. His pupils were dilated, but it was hard to tell how much was pupil and how much was the dark brown of his irises in the dim light of the hallway. He could have been on something harder than weed, but I didn’t peg him for it. Fay was smarter than that. She wouldn’t date a guy who did drugs. I hoped.
Mouse helped, dancing flirtatiously in front of us but staying just ahead and swishing his fluffy tail. Kade was happy to follow him in hopes of getting to pet him. Mouse might be a magical semi-deity who understands human speech and can bark alarms straight into the Nevernever, but he is such a good boy, too.
Kade wasn’t in on the magic thing, as far as I knew, so Bob stayed out of sight, but I caught a glimpse of his disapproving look as we passed by the lab. Bob didn’t like Kade, for no other reason that he wouldn’t like any boy Fay dated. No one would be good enough for her in Bob’s eyes. In his day, he probably would have locked her in a tower with a chastity belt until the wealthiest lord could be arranged for her, and that lord would have been frowned upon anyway. Me, I sent her out into the world with good sex ed and a reminder that she’s awesome and doesn’t need to take any shit. After that, it was up to her, and I thought she’d made a good choice.
Kade Cha was a student at the same arts college as Fay. She was studying Fine Arts, with a minor in Jewellery Design, because she wanted to make anthames and foci and charms for people. Kade was doing something in art conservation. They met on campus. I have been reliably informed that Kade is ‘super dreamy’ (exact quote from Murphy, though she’ll deny it if you ask), and I can see it. Aside from being tall, he has decent muscles and a face that looks like someone gently planed it out of wood to get solid, smooth angles out of his cheekbones and chin and aquiline nose. His lips naturally turn up at the corners, so he always looks friendly. At that point, his hair was dyed a kind of orangey ginger color from its natural shiny black and styled to artistically defy gravity.
He’s also really well-mannered and treats Fay like she’s a goddess, so obviously, he’s smart and has good taste, too. His main flaws were that I thought he let Fay boss him around a little too much, and he was also a Type I diabetic and a vegetarian, which made having him over for dinner kind of annoying.
Actually, speaking of the diabetic thing…
“Hey, Kade, have you checked your blood sugar recently?” I asked. Fay, I assumed, would have thought of that, but, you know that saying that when all you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails? When you’re a wizard, all problems look like magic, and I didn’t want to go swinging at it with my hammer and miss the part where he was in a medical crisis. Blood sugar weirdness could make a person seem drunk, right?
“142 postprandial,” Kade said.
“Is that good?” Mal asked.
“No idea,” I replied.
“I’ll Google it,” Mal said.
He ran upstairs to his room where his laptop was safely away from my walking blackout skills. Mal has magic but not nearly as much as Fay and I do. He can cast wards on doors and maybe a shield or two if pressed, but he’ll never be able to pull off anything huge, even if he studied for years. I used to worry he’d be upset about being different or feel like some sort of black sheep, but he doesn’t care, it turns out. He gets to use computers and watch TV and have a cell phone that works, so I guess that makes up for not being a total freak like the rest of us.
Mouse and I got Kade on the couch, Mouse putting himself where Kade could pet him, which he did with a happy smile on his face.
“You’re a soft doggie. Soft doggie.” Pat. Pat. “Fluffy fur.”
I could only keep an eye on him until one of my children came back with news for me. Fay came first.
“I promise I’ll pay you back, Murphy,” she was saying.
“Don’t worry about it. I don’t mind being out a few bucks if it means you getting somewhere safely,” Murphy told her, touching her head and smiling.
Fay gave her a quick hug and then came to me for a longer one. It was the hug of someone who needed a hug, so I made sure to squeeze her tight.
“Hey, Dad,” she said.
“Hey, Daughter,” I replied. “How’s it going?”
“Sorry to hear that.”
Footsteps pounded down the stairs and Mal joined us to announce: “99% sure he’s not dying. At least not immediately.”
I moved my hand from Fay’s back to give him a thumb’s up then returned it to pat her a few times before I stepped away. “It’s always great to see you, sweetie, but I need to know what’s going on. What did you do to him? Was it an accident?”
The dimple in Fay’s chin grew more pronounced as she frowned. “No. I did it on purpose. I had to. It was to help him. He was in trouble, and I needed to do something, so I had to stun him. It should have worn off by now, so I think I did it wrong. And now he’s going to know, Dad. He’s going to know everything.”
Her big brown eyes looked up at me for comfort, and I felt for her because I had been in that situation enough times to know the terror of it. I think we all get it at one point or another with someone we love; it’s not exclusive to wizards. That moment when we show our true selves and it’s take it or leave it.
“Just slow down,” I said. “I’ll get him a potion, and he’ll be fine. You didn’t do it wrong, you just did it really, really right. Put a little too much oomph in your backswing. He’ll be fine. Come with me in to the lab. We’ll talk to Bob, and you can tell me everything, okay? Then we’ll make a plan.”
Fay took a breath and nodded. “I really like him, Dad.”
“I know, honey. I know.”
“I told you that boy was trouble,” Bob declared, as soon as Fay and I entered the lab.
“Boooooooooooooob!” Fay whined. “Don’t be a feudal lord right now, okay? I’ve had a bad night. And it’s not him that’s trouble, it’s me. I was the trouble tonight.”
Bob’s stern disapproval softened in the face of her distress because he’s a gooey-ghost when it comes down to it, especially in regards to Fay. “I’m sure it wasn’t your fault, and he brought it on himself.”
“Why don’t you tell us what happened so we can figure out what to do about it?” I suggested, as Fay wound up to be eighteen years old and madly in love. Everyone knows you fight three times as hard at eighteen than you would when you were older and knew more about love and how it goes.
“We were at this club by the waterside,” she said. “One of Kade’s friends was celebrating his birthday, and we went out with him and a bunch of their friends. It’s a converted warehouse, and it’s cool for 18 plus people to go in, and I didn’t drink, I promise.” She crossed her heart, just like she did when she was little and swearing the truth.
“What about the boy?” Bob asked.
“He’s old enough to drink,” Fay said. “But he doesn’t drink a lot because of his diabetes. He only had one drink or maybe two. He wasn’t drunk, and it doesn’t matter because the story has nothing to do with drinking.” She glared at Bob before carrying on. “It was really hot in there, and we’d been dancing, so I wanted to go out for some air, and Kade came with me because he didn’t want me going on my own. So, we went outside and took a little walk around the club to cool off. And the club is near this wharf thing, and there was this girl sitting on the edge of it, looking into the water. And I didn’t even really notice her at all, but Kade did, and he was really distracted by her. He kept saying we should go and say hello and didn’t she look sad and maybe she needed help. And I was like, ‘I dunno, she looks okay to me’, but he insisted on going over and at first I thought he was just being nice, but then it seemed like maybe he was acting weird. But I didn’t want to assume it was weirdness, you know, because sometimes things aren’t weird but they look weird, right? You can’t just assume it’s weird all the time.”
Bob and I nodded in agreement.
“And I thought maybe I was just being jealous or something because she was a girl and he was interested and I didn’t want to be a jealous girlfriend, who’s like, ‘no you can’t talk to other girls’, you know?”
Bob and I nodded in sympathy.
“But then he started in on how beautiful she was,and wasn’t she gorgeous and he’d never seen anyone so beautiful, and I was right there, which is rude, and also she was too far away, so he couldn’t even see her properly.”
Bob and I nodded in indignation.
“And then I thought maybe his blood sugar was weird, because that can happen when he’s been drinking, so I said he should maybe check it? And he said, no, he had to go talk to the girl. And then I got kind of angry.”
Bob and I nodded in commiseration.
“But then he said something about the music and wasn’t the music beautiful? And, like, there was no music except in the club, and that wasn’t beautiful music, that was just dubstep stuff, which is fine, but not beautiful. So, then I figured out what was going on.”
“Siren?” Bob guessed.
“Lorelei?” I guessed.
“Ondine,” Fay said. “She was totally an ondine.”
Bob and I nodded in understanding.
Ondines are water sprites. They belong to a family of creatures called undines (I know, confusing, but that’s how we like it in the wizarding world) along with naiades, mermaids, merrows, rusalka, etc. Some undines are more actively harmful than others, and ondines fall on the less harmful side of things. Like all undines, they take the form of beautiful women and sing to seduce men. Some undines want to sing men to their deaths, but ondines generally just want someone to love. The problem comes when those someones don’t turn out how they like it. Ondines are jealous. They can be spiteful, and if a guy swears allegiance to one and then is unfaithful, he’s cursed to die. Not really the kind of girl you’d want your son to bring home for dinner. They choose men who have a strong loyalty in love, as a rule, which was a point in Kade’s favor as much as it bit him in the ass.
“The boy heard the song then,” Bob said. “And was tempted.”
“Yeah, super tempted,” Fay said, her hands spreading out in emphasis. “And he wasn’t listening to me at all. I couldn’t get him to change his mind about going to her, and he was all dopey in the face, and it was kind of gross. I didn’t know what to do. He just went right to her and wouldn’t stop, even when I yelled or grabbed his arm.”
“So you stunned him,” I said.
Fay’s head dropped, all her animation falling away in shame. “I didn’t want to, but I didn’t know what else to do. If she got her hands on him, he would have been toast. I had to act fast. I would have come up with something better if I had time and--”
“Hey, hey,” I said. I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder, giving it a squeeze. “You solved the problem in a way where no one got hurt, that’s a win in my book. Sometimes we have to act in the moment. Don’t beat yourself up about it.”
Her expression told me it was way too late for that, but her lips quirked out to the side for a moment, a hint of relief there. “‘Kay.”
“How did the ondine react?” Bob asked.
“She was pissed,” Fay said. “And I was kind of stuck because I couldn’t move Kade on my own, and I knew when he woke up, we’d be right back where we were, plus I couldn’t just let her sit there and go after some other guy, right?”
Bob glanced at me as he said, “no, of course not. That’s hardly quixotic.”
Genes are a bitch, what can I say?
“So, I told her that I already had a prior claim on Kade and that he was my liege and she was impugning on my rights as his lady,” Fay said. “Which is really gross, when you think about it. He’s not a pair of shoes she was trying to borrow. Medieval people were messed up, Bob.”
“You can’t blame the entirety of the time period on me,” Bob objected. “I was merely present. I didn’t create it. Did she accept your claim?”
“She wanted proof,” Fay said. “And Kade was unconscious, and he wasn’t going to back me up, so I had to come up with something.”
“What did you say?” I asked.
Fay’s face suddenly flushed red and her lips clamped tight. “Do I have to tell you?”
“No,” I said, at the same time Bob said, “yes.”
“It may be important. The wording is very important when dealing with the arcane,” Bob pointed out. “If her words could be twisted, we need to know.”
“I’m not telling Dad!” Fay burst out, vehemently. “I’ll tell Bob, but you have to promise not to say anything, and you can’t listen, Dad.”
I put my fingers in my ears and faced the wall, humming the theme tune to Gilligan’s Island as loud as I could. When Fay’s hand tapped my shoulder and I turned around, both she and Bob were bright red.
“I don’t like that boy,” Bob declared.
“Shut up!” Fay said, waving her hands at him.
I like to respect my kids’ privacy, so I didn’t press on trying to get them to tell me. I had a pretty good idea, anyway. Creatures that are so strongly associated with sex like the ondines tend to view it as a sacred thing, so if Fay told her that she and Kade had ‘lain together’ or something of that kind, that was a pretty solid claim to have on him. And that was fine with me. I didn’t need details. But it’s not like I was a virgin at eighteen, and, like I said, I sent her out with good sex ed. I trusted her to make the right choices.
“Is it okay?” I asked Bob.
“It will hold,” he said, stiffly.
There was a long awkward moment of silence before Fay cleared her throat. “Anyway. That covered me on Kade, but she was still there to bother other people. She was eyeing up the necklace I was wearing, and I know that ondines like treasure, so I said she could have it if she gave up hunting for the night, and she agreed. I figured that covered us until you could fix it, Dad.”
Aww. Blind trust in my abilities to fix things was pretty sweet, if naive.
“Sounds like you did some good fixing on your own.” I held up my hand for a high five. “Good girl.”
She slapped it half-heartedly. “But I had a really hard time getting Kade awake after she left, and now he’s loopy, plus he might remember some of it, which means I’ll have to explain to him why the hottest girl in the world sang a magical song to try to get in his pants and then I yelled funny words at him and he fell asleep!”
As far as problems go, I had to admit that wasn’t a small one. “First things first,” I said. “Let’s figure out why he’s loopy. Do you know, Bob?”
“It could be the combination of the ondine’s song and your spell both having soporific effects,” Bob said, thoughtfully. He crossed his arms, assuming his professorial pose. Both Fay and I responded with complete attention. “He would have been addled by the song already, and you compounded it by stunning him. It’s most likely simply a stacked effect. What specific spell did you use? How did you invoke it?”
“Ah.” Bob’s finger pointed upwards. “I think we can fix that. Give me a moment.” He started to write in the air in gold letters and alchemical symbols, dusting them out when he didn’t like them and muttering to himself. “We’ll need Angelica to start with…”
Fay and I moved to a corner to give him room to plot. I put my arm around Fay’s shoulder, and she stuck her head in my armpit area.
“You know it’s not his fault, right?” I said. “Whatever he said or did, he didn’t know he was doing it, and he definitely didn’t mean it. That’s not even subconscious stuff, that’s all implanted in the song to lure men out.”
“Oh, no, I totally know that,” she said, smiling up at me. “I’m not even a little mad. It would be stupid to be. You don’t get mad at the victim, right? That’s wrong. No, we’ll be cool. At least over this…” her smile faded, and she bit on her lip. “How did Mom react, when you told her?”
That had been over twenty years earlier, and I had to really think back on it. Memories of Mira were kind of like an old wound when the weather acted up. You go along fine and then a storm blows in and it aches. I had parts of her stored away, how she smelled and how her voice sounded and how the way her fingers moved on the violin strings, but a lot of those everyday memories were gone. You can learn to love again, and I had, but I kept my love for her in a little compartment in my heart, so I didn’t lose it or her. I had to unpack it for Fay.
“She was confused,” I said. “And scared, because we’d just been attacked by a Smiler. But I think a lot of stuff clicked for her, too, and that made her feel better. I guess maybe you don’t think you’re crazy if someone is crazy with you.”
“Was she angry?” Fay wondered.
“No,” I said. “I don’t think so. Your mom was game. There are people in the world who will jump feet first into the unknown, and your mom was one of them. Some people need a hand in, like Murphy, and some people won’t come at all. If Kade’s one of those people, then he’s not the right guy for you.”
Fay’s lower lip pushed out in a pout. “Will that make it easier? To know that he’s not?”
“Nope.” I kissed the top of her head. “But it’s better to do it now than later when it will hurt both of you more.”
There are moments as a parent when you just want to protect your kid, and there was nothing I would have liked more than to wipe Kade’s memory and make sure they carried on like before, or tell him myself and spare her the stress. But she was a grown-up, and I couldn’t. I could just catch her and pick up the pieces if I needed to. And hope I wouldn’t have to.
Bob came up with a herb mix to break Kade out of his trance. Angelica, to bring back lost love, citronella to clear the mind, chili pepper for some hex breaking, and a bit of cinnamon for flavor.
“You should imbue it,” he told Fay. “You were the one who hexed him and the one to whom his heart was previously attached before it was charmed away. Your magic will have more effect than your father’s.”
“Groovy,” Fay said. She started grinding, pushing her Will through the pestle to imbue the herbs inside the mortar and chanting. “Liberiĝu! Ne auxskultu la kanto. Konfuzo foriru!
Fay uses Esperanto for her spells, unlike my quasi-Latin ones. It doesn’t really matter what language you use, but it helps to focus your Will if you’re shouting something, and it tends to be more dramatic if that something you’re shouting isn’t ‘fall down on the ground!’. Greek, Latin, Old English, Chinese, Klingon, even Sign Language works. Mal uses appropriately themed song lyrics when he casts things. It’s whatever you’re comfortable with.
My Esperanto isn’t great, but I assumed she was chanting something along the lines of ‘snap out of it, jerkface’.
“Now you should put it in a drink,” Bob said, giving a satisfied nod at the work.
“Sure,” Fay said, glumly. “I might as well drug him tonight, too.”
Fay left to find something to spike with her mixture, and I paused before I followed to grin at Bob.
“What are you smiling about?” he asked. “I won’t tell you what she told me, so don’t ask me to. You shouldn’t know. I wish I didn’t know.”
“What, that he took her virginity?” I asked and, from Bob’s stricken face, I knew I’d hit the mark dead on. “I figured that out on my own. She’s of consent, Bob, and it’s not that big a deal.”
“She’s too young to be engaging in carnal activities,” Bob declared.
“In your time, she would have had four kids and a castle by now,” I said. “Don’t be a hypocrite.” Bob scowled. “That’s not what I wanted to say, anyway. I just wanted to point out something. The ondine chose Kade.” I put on my Bob voice and asked him like he used to ask me magic theory questions: “Why did she do that, Bob?”
“Because he was closest,” Bob said.
I shook my head. “Try again.”
“Because he’s male and Fay isn’t of the persuasion to be swayed by her song,” Bob said, stubbornly.
“Nope! Really, Bob, you need to study harder. I’m disappointed in you.”
Bob sighed, folding his arms over his chest. “Because he is of a temperament to be faithful to her. Ondines choose partners most likely to be loyal in love.”
“Bingo!” I pointed at him. “Guess he’s not that bad after all, huh?”
“We’ll see.” Bob looked toward the door. “She hasn’t told him yet.”
I lost a little of my triumph. I had better get out there for back-up. “You wanna come? I can put your skull in the kitchen.”
“As much as I enjoy melodrama, I don’t wish to see her heart crushed in person,” Bob replied. “You can give me a play by play later when you’ve mopped up the tears.”
You can always count on Bob to think optimistically. That’s my favorite thing about him, along with his good humor and humble nature.
Kade was still petting Mouse, who was stretched out on the couch, head in his lap like the suck that he is. If he could talk, he’d probably have protested that he was only trying to help, but his wagging tail, which thumped on the arm of the couch, gave away that at heart, whatever his demi-god origins, he’s just a dog who likes a good snuggle.
“How’s it going?” I murmured to Murphy.
“He’s okay,” she said. “He’s definitely on the crazy train, but he’s not a threat to anyone. He’s on a happy crazy train.”
“Those are the best kind. But we’re going to get him off it in a minute--or try at least.”
“Is Fay okay?”
I made a ‘so-so’ gesture with my hand. “We’ll see. You might need to get girly with her and break out the ice cream and tissues.”
“I always preferred action movies and beer to get over a breakup.”
“I love both of you, whatever your choice in wallowing.”
Fay brought out a mug from the kitchen a minute later, one of the ones I’d had forever and picked up at the Salvation Army store for a quarter, which is why the faded writing on it declared me to be the World’s Best Sister-in-Law. Steam rose from it in a gentle swirl with the cinnamon in the herbs giving it a very Starbucks-in-Pumpkin-Spice-Season scent.
“Hey, Kade, I made you some hot chocolate,” she said.
“Wow, that’s so nice,” Kade said, blinking at her in wonder.
“Yeah, I’m a saint,” Fay said, ironically.
“Did you make some for the rest of the class?” Mal asked, from where he was lazing in an armchair, playing chords on an invisible guitar.
“No, it’s special hot chocolate for Kade,” Fay replied. “If you wanted some, you should have been special, jerk.” She held the mug out to Kade. “I need you to drink this. It’ll make you feel better.” She took a seat on the coffee table opposite him and leaned forward over her knees, playing with a bead on the bracelet she was wearing.
Within a few sips, Kade’s eyes started to clear and, by the time he’d got half the mug into him, he was starting to look sleepy, eyes fluttering closed and then opening wide as he fought to stay awake. Mouse licked his cheek and then gave a warning bark to Fay, who managed to catch the mug as Kade slumped over sideways.
“Is that supposed to happen?” Mal asked.
“His brain needs a second to reboot,” I said. “He’ll be fine in--”
Kade’s eyes opened and he was back, the Kade I had met when Fay first brought him home. The nice young man who let my tiny daughter boss him around because he thought she was amazing, and who didn’t eat animals because cows have best friends, and who had very strong opinions about restoring art versus conserving it.
“Uh…” he said, looking around at us all. “Hi…”
“Hi,” we all intoned, in the creepiest fashion possible.
Kade rubbed his forehead, straightening up and giving Mouse an absent pat to the head. “Did have I hypo episode? I don’t remember coming here.” He looked at his watch. “Oh, shit, it’s late!” His face slackened, mouth dropping open in horror. “Oh God, that girl at the wharf--Fay, I am so sorry. My blood sugar must have been really whacked.” He reached for her hands and grasped them. “That’s not a good excuse, I know but...I’m really sorry.”
Fay looked over her shoulder at me, and I knew the dilemma she was facing. She could just confirm it was low blood sugar, forgive him, lie and keep lying and keep it all the same. Or she could tell the truth. And I couldn’t make the decision for her. I shrugged and nodded toward her, pushing the responsibility back. She swallowed hard.
“It wasn’t your blood sugar. It was something else. I need to tell you something.”
“You should be in bed,” I told Mal, as we all huddled at the kitchen table, drinking non-drugged hot chocolate. The kids were in the living room, and I was doing my best not to give in to the urge to Listen and see how it was going.
“Tsssch,” Mal scoffed.
“You have a math test tomorrow,” I insisted. “Trigonometry is really useful, you’re going to need it every day of your life.”
Mal gave me a shit-eating grin. “Sorry, Dad, I know the truth now. It cannot be untold.”
“Dammit,” I muttered. “I’ll write you an excuse note.”
Murphy stifled a yawn with her hand. “After this week, they’re going to send the truant officer after you,” she said.
“It’s been a bad week for doorbells,” I agreed.
“Tuesday was fun, though,” Mal said.
Murphy and I both stared at him.
“What? I like rabbits,” he said, with a shrug.
We were all stuck in the kitchen, held hostage by the Big Discussion happening in the living room. We couldn’t even head upstairs since that would require walking into the living room to get there. Murphy decided she might as well make up something for us to grab in the morning for breakfast because we wouldn’t feel like making it. Mal and I joined in, and we made a 2AM breakfast casserole worthy of a gourmet restaurant. Then we decided to just go ahead and eat it.
“Fay should have boyfriend issues all the time,” Mal said. “Bacon and no math tests is awesome.”
“It won’t be awesome when I have to get up at 6AM for work,” Murphy said, eying the clock on the wall. “Will you write me a note for my math test, too?”
“Sure,” I said. “‘Dear Chief Murphy, Chief Murphy should be excused from all duties today, due to unforeseen ondines. Sincerely, Harry Dresden, Partner of Chief Murphy.’”
Murphy took my imaginary note and pretended to sign it. “Permission granted.”
We all turned to look at the swinging door to the kitchen as it opened, but it was just Mouse coming in. He’d stayed out in the living room with Fay and Kade, either for moral support or to supervise. He gave us a friendly tail wag of hello and stuck his nose up to the casserole dish.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
He gave me a doggy grin, so I assumed he approved of whatever was happening, but we had to wait for another ten minutes before Fay arrived, during which time Mouse ate a helping of casserole and took a long drink out of his water bowl, thirsty from his stalwart defense of the family.
Fay was a ghost pale under her freckles, but she hadn’t been crying and didn’t look like she was going to start. She didn’t look happy, either. More just in a state of shock.
“Is it okay if Kade and I spend the night?” she asked. “In my old room?”
“Sure, sweetie,” Murphy said. “Is...everything okay?”
Fay nodded. “We’re just tired.”
Mal rose, taking his plate with him. “Leaving so you can have serious talks about stuff,” he announced. He paused to bump Fay with his hip on the way by. “Night, sis.”
“Night, brat,” Fay said, ruffling his hair. She gave a little chuckle to us. “Come on, you don’t have to give me your sympathetic looks. I’m not going to collapse in a heap, here.”
“He took it okay, then?” Murphy asked.
“Uh...I don’t have a real baseline example for ‘okay’, but I think it went fine,” Fay said. “He didn’t run screaming, and he doesn’t think I’m crazy.” Her cheeks regained some color in the form of a rosy blush. “He said he loves me.” She bit her lip. “I think he’s going to need a hand in, but he wants to jump. I’m not going to push him. I’ll wait until he’s ready.”
I glanced over to Murphy. “It’s worth waiting for, sometimes.” She winked at me.
“I’m just afraid he’s going to wake up tomorrow and think it was all some sort of weird low blood sugar trip, and I’ll have to tell him all over again,” Fay said.
“As the person on the receiving end of that talk, sometimes you need a few of them before you can get your head around it,” Murphy said. “Just be patient. We get there in the end.”
Fay nodded. “I’m just going to grab a snack for him, and then we’re going to bed. We’re not going to do anything!” She held her hands out in a ‘stop’ gesture. “We’re just going to sleep.”
I pretended like I didn’t know she had already done things and put on my best Stern Dad Face, one I modeled on Bob’s everyday default expression. “Okay, then.”
Fay took an apple from the fridge and gave both Murphy and I a kiss and hug before she left. Mouse followed after her, maybe thinking she needed more protection tonight or maybe just wanting some of the apple.
“Have they…?” Murphy asked me, making a descriptive gesture with her hands.
“Yeah,” I said.
Murphy made a ‘yikes’ face. “Geez, that doesn’t make you feel old?”
“I am old,” I replied. “My knees make me feel old. My daughter being old enough to make responsible choices and handling tough situations like a mature adult makes me feel proud.”
“It makes me feel old,” Murphy said.
“You’re a grandmother, you didn’t feel old already?” This was not a good question judging by the look I received.
“Being up all night makes me feel old,” Murphy said. “I’m going to bed. You coming?”
“I got an ondine to talk to,” I said, pushing my plate from me and standing up, knees protesting with loud snaps and crackles. “Fay’s deal is only good until sunrise. I have to negotiate a new one.”
Murphy shook her head. “It’s been a bad week for doorbells,” she said.
Yeah. But maybe not such a bad week for love.