Rating: PG-13 (for violence and some language later on)
Spoilers: None in this chapter
Chapter Length: 1618 words
Summary: Harry's latest case is uncomfortably familiar and starts him on another quixotic crusade. The only trouble is, how do you stop a killer when you're stuck baby-sitting?
Author's Notes: This chapter is a bit of a catch-all, it's the end of the last chapter and the beginning of the next chapter put together. I had to trim them both for length and flow.
It wasn't just whimpering, or shrieking, but blood-curdling, terrified screaming. What the hell was going on now? I bounded up the stairs two at a time and burst into my room, ready to throw myself in front of whatever monster was trying to eat her or Murphy. There was nothing there, though. Just Murphy, looking as frightened as I was, gun drawn and up by her shoulder in readiness, and Graylin screaming her head off.
"What's wrong?" I demanded. I ducked as Murphy's gun was leveled at me, the only moving target in the room. I threw a little Will into my shield bracelet, just in case she got trigger happy.
"God! Don't do that, Dresden," she gasped, lowering the weapon.
Graylin climbed out of bed and began to scoot across the floor on her butt, backwards towards the corner of the room. Her eyes were wide with terror and she seemed to be staring at something only she could see. She looked possessed. I started towards her.
"Harry, wait," Murphy interrupted. She crawled across the bed to get a closer look. "I think she's having a night terror."
"It's like a nightmare," Murphy explained. "But you can't wake up from it."
That did nothing to lessen my panic. "What do we do?"
"Don't try to wake her up, or tell her she's just dreaming or not to be scared. Just tell her you're here and you're going to look after her. Try to get her to fall asleep again."
"I thought she was asleep!"
"Yeah, but she doesn't know that. Oh, and put down the hockey stick. I don't think it'll help."
I dropped my staff, swallowed and took a step closer to Graylin, who was now in the corner, curled up like when I first found her and whimpering. "Maybe you should do it."
"She likes you more than me," Murphy insisted. "You'll be more comforting." I hesitated. "Harry, just do it!"
I knelt nearby. "Graylin. Uh...it's Harry." I got no response. "I'm here, okay? I'm right next to you and I'm not going to let anything happen to you." I glanced back at Murphy who nodded encouragingly at me. "I know you're scared but I'm keeping you safe. You're safe with me."
I reached out and she let me take her hand. She was shaking and still staring through me, but she seemed more calm. I slid a little closer to her and rubbed her shoulder. After about a minute, she started to relax and then a few minutes after that, she just curled up in a ball and fell asleep again, right there on the floor.
"You can put her back in bed now, Harry," Murphy said.
I took a few deep breaths to calm my heart and scooped the girl up. I carried her over to the bed and Murphy tucked her in again. Rubbing my sweaty palms on my jeans, I Looked around the room to make sure there really wasn't anything there that was harming her.
"You alright?" Murphy asked. She looked amused.
"Yeah," I said, quickly. "I'm fine. How'd you know what to do?"
"My daughter had them for a few months, when her dad and I were divorcing," She explained. "Kids get'm. They're brought on by emotional stress or being overtired. It's sort of like sleepwalking. She won't remember having it."
I sat down on the bed, feeling calmer as Murphy explained it a bit more. "I've seen a lot of weird shit, Murph. That was scary as hell. She looked terrified."
"Yeah, the first time Anna had one it scared me to death," Murphy admitted. "And you can't reason with them. It's like, if you were face to face with the thing that scares you the most and somebody was telling you that it wasn't real, would you believe them?"
"Probably not," I said. I didn't add that I face things that scare me the most quite regularly. Nobody ever tells me I'm safe.
"Why did you bring the hockey stick?" She asked. I realized that was the source of her amusement, much more than my inept child-handling skills.
"I could have hit something with it," I defended myself, scratching my head uncomfortably. "I happen to have a very good slapshot."
"I can't picture you on skates," she said. "Do you really play?"
"It's been awhile," I admitted. "But I'll show you sometime, I think I still have a pair around here somewhere."
"You know I'd kick your ass," she said, with a smug smile.
"You're on," I said. She grinned and then yawned, loudly. "You want me to take watch?"
"I'm fine," she said, automatically.
"Well I'm fine too," I countered. "So you can either go down to my couch and sleep or sit here all night with me staring at you." I widened my eyes and gave her my best wizardly stare.
"Please, anything but that," she laughed. I continued to stare. "Alright, alright, Mom."
I grinned and she stood up, stretching her arms over her head with another yawn.
"Hey, I thought I heard something before...like voices and crashing," she said, thoughtfully.
"You were asleep," I lied. "I checked on you a few minutes ago. You must have been dreaming."
She pursed her lips, looking suspicious, but nodded. "Guess so. 'Night Harry," she mumbled, heading for the door.
I got up and made sure she went where she was supposed to go. She did. Bob peeked curiously around the corner after Murphy closed her eyes and I waved him off, indicating it was all okay. I closed the door again and moved to the abandoned chair by the bed. Graylin was curled up in a ball now, fast asleep again. I shivered at the memory of the night terror and sat down, taking up my vigil.
Graylin woke up twice more before the sun rose, with regular nightmares. She fell back asleep again quickly, each time moving closer to the edge of the bed where I was. Between fits I read or dozed lightly in the chair, until Murphy came in around 5:30 and took my spot. I crashed on the couch very briefly, then the paper hit the door at six and woke me up again. I gave up on sleeping and retrieved it, then turned the coffee maker on.
Murphy came down fifteen minutes later, sniffing. She looked about as beat as I felt. We didn't talk. I served the coffee and we split the paper. Once we had caffeine in our systems, our tongues started to work again.
"There's a black and white outside, plus a regular patrol around the building," Murphy told me. "I'm leaving it in place for today. I've called it in already. I'm going to head in and see what Kirmani came up with. I'll call you if anything important turns up. Neither of you leave here until I tell you otherwise, okay?"
"How am I supposed to help if I'm stuck here?" I objected.
"I agreed to hand Graylin over to you," Murphy reminded me. "That means you have to look after her."
"I know, but -"
"You insisted on it, so you have to follow through. She stays here and you stay here."
"But - "
"I know you, Harry. You'll try and slip out with one of your little magic tricks. You probably have a freakin' secret passage in the floor or something. You stay right here, or I will hold you in contempt of court."
"There was a court?"
"I'll find a court," she snapped. She pointed at me. "Stay."
"Okay!" I said, grumpily. "Jeez."
Her mouth twitched briefly, but settled back into a hard line again. "No disappearing acts, Houdini."
I stuck my tongue out at her. She stuck her tongue out back. Then we both started to laugh. We were in that kind of mood.
Graylin woke up shortly after Murphy left. Her eyes had dark circles under them. She looked half-dead and it was a horrible thing to see that kind of pain on a 5 year old girl. She patted down the stairs carefully and found me where Murphy had left me. She didn't say anything, just climbed into my lap and rested her head on my chest. I really didn't know what to do about it, so I kept reading the newspaper and she seemed fine with that.
"You want breakfast?" I asked, after I'd put away the last section.
She shook her head, and I really didn't blame her. I didn't feel much like eating myself and I wasn't the one whose mother had been killed the night before. I convinced her to down some orange juice. She sipped feebly at it.
"Where's the police lady?" she wondered.
"She went to work," I explained. "But there's lots of police people outside, so we're safe here, okay?"
She nodded. "Is she going to find the bad guy?"
"She's gonna try real hard. She's really good at that, too."
"Not as good as you."
I was a bit confused. "Why's that?"
"Dunno, but she said you was really good at findin' people," Graylin said, solemnly. She sipped at her juice. "On her phone, I heard her."
Well, well. I smiled at this development, feeling quite proud of myself. My smile faded as I remembered I was still stuck at home unable to do anything useful. It wasn't that I minded staying with Graylin, I was fully in what Bob would call my 'hominum salvator' mode. I think that's Latin for 'pain in the ass'. But any little cop-duck could have looked after her. I was the only one who could find something in that alley to track down whoever killed her mother. Instead, I was on house arrest and the only thing that I had of benefit was...hmmm...
"Graylin," I said, slowly. "Would you let me look into your head?"
She squinted one eye at me. "I dunno. How?"
I wiggled my eyebrows. "A little magic."