'Verse: TV/Book hybrid
Spoilers: Features a book character, McCoy, but no book plot spoilers.
Word count: 2301
Summary: Harry and the kids make a visit to the ranch. Set in my Family Dynamics 'verse. Features the mini!Dresdens.
Author's notes: Written for donutsweeper, who asked for McCoy and Harry's kids interacting. It sort of ran away from me and is a bit longer than I intended.
Ebenezar McCoy was sitting in a rocking chair on the ranch porch when I pulled up. The first time I’d been out to his ranch, the summer before my 16th birthday, I was dreading it. Spending two weeks with some old guy I’d never met before in some backwater place I couldn’t even find on a map was not my idea of a good time. Frankly, I don’t think my uncle was too keen on the idea either. When Ebenezar McCoy tells you to do something though, you do it. Even if you are someone as stubborn as my uncle was.
So, when ordered to bring the ‘rug rats’ down to the ranch for a week, I complied. This time my arrival was accompanied by a feeling of great relief. Seven plus hours in a car with a five-year-old and a two-year-old was enough to drive a saint to drink. I watched the dust blow up around the car after I parked and let out a long, soothing breath.
“Are we there now?” Fay asked, in a small voice. It was a voice full of the knowledge that it wouldn’t take very many more times to push me over the edge.
“Yes, Fay,” I said, forcing calm into my voice. “We are there.”
She breathed a sigh of relief very similar to my own and unbuckled her seatbelt to stretch. I did the same and climbed out of the car, extending my legs out to get them used to free space again.
McCoy came down the porch steps to greet me. Seeing McCoy at the ranch is seeing him in his element. You can take a tiger from the wild and put him in a zoo and he might be happy there. But he’s never the same tiger that he would be in the wild and McCoy is never the same man in the city as he is on home turf.
“Hoss,” he said, with a bob of his head to me. “Make it alright?”
“Driving was fine, sir,” I said. “Just long.”
“Made good time,” he praised, looking at his watch.
“Thank you,” I said. “I knew running those red lights and passing on the double lines would be worth it.”
He grunted disapproval at my humour and I went to rescue Mal. He had a hand pressed up to the window and was looking very grumpy at me through the glass. I opened the door and unbuckled him.
“Juice, pease,” he demanded. “Juice!”
“Hold on a minute, buddy,” I promised. “I have to find it first.”
“It’s in the blue bag,” Fay informed me. “I ‘member, ‘cause you said, ‘Fay, ‘member Mal’s juice is in the blue bag’. I did.”
“Good girl,” I said. “You wouldn’t happen to know where I put the blue bag, would you?”
Fay shook her head. “That wasn’t in the ‘structions, Daddy.”
“No. No, it wasn’t.”
McCoy gave a cough behind me that I suspect was an attempt to cover up laughter. When I’d pulled Mal into my arms and turned around to face him again, the twinkle in his eye was all that was left of his amusement. I glared at him, politely, and shut the car door. Mal took a look at McCoy and then hid his face in my neck.
“Shy?” McCoy asked.
“Just a little.”
Fay had managed to get the car door open and was looking out of it, trying to decide whether she could make the jump from her booster seat. I went over and held out my hand for her to hold on to. She leapt joyfully into the dirt, sending up another cloud of dust around us.
“Hello,” she greeted McCoy.
“Hello young miss,” McCoy returned.
“I’m Fay,” she added.
“Mmm,” he replied, with a nod.
“You have a very big front yard,” she observed, looking around the open space.
“A big back yard, too,” McCoy said. “Hungry?”
“Ya-huh,” Fay agreed. “All the donuts are gone!”
“You can help with lunch,” he decided. He waved towards the house and Fay skipped over and took the waving hand. McCoy hesitated for a moment and then closed his hand over hers. “Hoss, you unpack.”
“Yes, sir,” I mumbled, in agreement.
He and Fay went inside, Fay wondering whether there was peanut butter. I took a look at the trunk full of bags and baby stuff and then looked at Mal, who had raised his head once McCoy was gone.
“Juice, pease?” He asked, hopeful.
“Right. Let’s unpack the blue bag first.”
It was on the bottom of the pile, of course.
Lunch did not involve peanut butter, but was good nonetheless. Sometimes I forget what food made by people who can cook tastes like. Afterwards it was time to meet the animals. This was especially thrilling for Mal, who’s favourite puzzle involved animals and he was keen to show off his knowledge.
“Cow, moo,” He said, pointing. “Doggie, ruff ruff. Tiki, meow.”
Fay was less certain about the animals, which were very large and she, as she pointed out, was very small. She was convinced by McCoy to pet one of the horses and climbed the mounting steps bravely, held steady by his hands on her shoulders. She gave the horse a gentle pat on the snout.
“Hello, horsie,” she said. “My name is Fay. You have a soft nose.” As an afterthought, she added, “Please don’t eat me.”
McCoy chuckled. “Smart girl.”
“We started on the ‘bargaining for one’s life’ lessons as soon as she could talk,” I said.
“Hawsie, neigh,” Mal contributed, with a proud smile. He patted the horse without hesitation. She tossed her head and replied with a ‘neigh’ of her own that made him giggle in delight.
McCoy gave Fay a carrot and she held it out, open palmed as shown, turning her head away and wincing as the horse took it from her. She checked to make all her fingers were there afterwards.
“Me, me!” Mal said. “Pease!”
McCoy handed him a carrot and I helped Mal offer it to the animal. Fay winced on Mal’s behalf, but Mal just clapped his hands and gave the horse another pat.
“Hawsie, pitty,” he said.
“You know who this one is, eh?” McCoy asked. I shook my head. “Thisby.”
“No way,” I said. I tried to make out the spindly leg foal that had stumbled around the pen when I was a kid from the large, solid animal in front of me. “She was just a little filly.”
“She grew up,” McCoy said. “You did too, you know.”
“Yeah, I’d noticed that,” I said.
Age was really the only difference to the ranch that I could see. It looked the same as it did when I was fifteen. It looked the way it probably had for the century or so McCoy had lived there. There were new planks of wood in the porch and the fences had been updated, but it was all exactly how I remembered. Even McCoy himself hadn’t changed.
It was still my job to chop wood and I did so while the kids got the rest of the tour. Mal was reluctant to leave me, but decided that Fay would protect him and took her hand. She was still attached to McCoy’s and they reminded me of the ducks that were on a walk around the perimeter. Mother in front, babies stumbling behind.
It rained the first night, which put a damper on the planned cookout, literally. We ended up in the living room with a fire going and lanterns hung on the walls lit up. McCoy was quick to mock Mal’s fascination with the flames and I was too busy trying to keep him back to say something smart in return. I managed to steer him towards his blocks, but he decided chasing the ‘tiki’ would be more fun until I wound up the old Victrola in the corner and he settled in my lap to listen to the music. Fay and McCoy began a game of chess, Fay perched on three large volumes of magical theory to reach the board. Bob had been teaching her and she understood the basics of the game, though her strategy wasn’t very good. McCoy played badly to give her a handicap.
“I’m going to move my horsie here,” Fay announced and pushed her knight along. She rested her elbows on the edge of the table, put her chin in her hands and watched McCoy as he contemplated his next move. “Are you like a grampa?”
McCoy looked up from the board. “Mmm?”
“Are you like a grampa?” Fay repeated, slowly. “I don’t gots a real grampa, just a Gramma. I don’t gots a mommy anymore neither, but I gots Murphy and she’s like a mommy a little bit. And I gots Bob, but he’s just my Bob. And a grampa is a person who is nice and looks after a daddy and my daddy says that you sometimes looked after him and I think you’re nice. So, are you like a grampa?”
McCoy blinked at her several times. “No.”
Fay looked sad. “Oh.”
“I’m like a Great-Grampa,” McCoy explained. “I knew your daddy’s mommy too. Looked after her a bit.”
“Oh!” Fay perked up at that. “Was she nice?”
“Mmmhmm. Smart, too. Your daddy looks like her.”
“Bob says I look like my mommy too. ‘Cept for my eyes.”
“Aye, you do.” He pushed a rook around. “Your turn.”
Fay bit her lower lip in concentration, then moved a piece. “What do I call you, then?”
“Sir,” I piped up. “You call him ‘sir’.”
McCoy glared at me. “Jus’ McCoy is fine, missy.”
“’Kay, McCoy,” Fay said. “I think you’re in check.”
He wasn’t, as far as I could see, but he knocked his king over anyway and declared her the winner. Fay leaned over the table to give him a kiss on the cheek. It was hard to tell in the light of the lanterns and fire, but I think he blushed. He sent us all to bed after that, so we’d be up early to do our chores.
“She talks too much,” McCoy told me, after Fay had skipped off to her room. “Like you.”
“Yes, sir,” I agreed. “How come I can’t call you ‘McCoy’?”
“I never said you couldn’t,” he shrugged.
I realized that was true. “Well, g’night, Mc...I can’t do it. G’night, sir.”
“Night, Hoss,” he said, with a smirk.
The next three days were full of horse riding and wood chopping and chicken feeding and cat chasing and far more candy and chocolate than I ever remembered getting during my previous visits. My city slicker children fell asleep early every night, despite the copious amounts of sugar and grumpily crawled out of bed in the early morning.
On the forth morning, it was time to leave. I woke the kids up early again, hoping that I could get on the road before the traffic became bad and that maybe they would sleep most of the way back. I had come dangerously close to saying ‘don’t make me separate you two’ and ‘I will turn this car around and go right back home’ on the way there. If I said those things, I’d have to accept that I was, in fact, an adult. I was still trying to deny it.
As we prepared for departure, McCoy presented Mal with a small wooden trunk, obviously hand carved.
“Moo!” Mal said, and gave McCoy’s leg a firm hug. They had bonded when Mal found out McCoy could build a wicked block tower.
“That’s code for ‘awesome’,” I explained. “What do we say, Mal?”
“Tuck!” Mal declared.
“Close enough,” McCoy said, with a chuckle.
I buckled Mal in and he proceeded to fly his truck through the air, making ‘vroom vroom’ noises. I put the blue bag on the floor in front of him, for juice emergencies.
“Are you sure Ginger can’t come back with us?” Fay asked, forlorn.
“We don’t have room for a horse,” I replied.
“Sh-” Fay began
“Even a small one,” I interrupted.
“Even if she’s the best horse ever.”
“Even if she could sleep in a bed and clean the house, which she can’t. You can come and visit her, here.”
Fay pouted. “Oh, fine.” She turned to McCoy. “Goodbye. Thank you for letting me come to your house to play.” She held out her arms in expectation. “McCoy, you have to come down here so I can hug you.”
“Aye,” McCoy said, hastily. He bent down and received his hug. “Take care of yourself, little miss.”
“Ya-huh,” Fay agreed. “I will.” McCoy smiled and produced a wooden cat figure from thin air, holding it out for her. Fay squealed and hugged it to her chest. “Thank you! I’m going to name her...Celeste.”
“Time for you and Celeste to get in,” I said, pointing to the car.
Fay skipped over to me and handed me the toy while she climbed in. A little jolt of energy flowed up my arm from it. I made sure she was buckled properly and handed back the cat. She showed it to Mal, who was now driving his truck along the window.
“What’d you put on the toys?” I asked McCoy, after shutting the door.
“Nothing. Made them from the lightening tree. Still got a bit of juice in it, maybe,” he replied.
“That tree’s still around? I thought it was dead,” I said. My first staff had come from that tree, one that had been split in half during a storm. The staff had broken several years later and I replaced it with the slightly less conspicuous hockey stick.
“Nah,” he said. “Just hadta take off the broken parts. Healed itself. Most things will, if they let go of what’s keepin’ back.”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“Ya got good kids, hoss.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I will, sir.”
He gave me a nod to let me know the conversation was finished and there was no need for mushy goodbyes. We shook hands and I got in the car, McCoy returning to his rocking chair on the porch.
“How long will it take to get home?” Fay asked, as soon I as I started the car.
“Long enough for you to ask me that at least fifty more times,” I answered.
“Oh. We should get donuts then.”