Characters: Murphy, Fay, Mal, Harry, Mouse, Bob (briefly)
Spoilers: None, though Mouse is a book character who first appears in Blood Rites.
Word count: 2139
Summary: Fun in the snow, Dresden-style.
Author's notes: Written for donutsweeper, who asked for the mini!Dresdens, Murphy, Mouse and a snowball fight. Also written for the Winter prompt on my occhallenge table.
I tied the strings of Mal Dresden’s jester-esque ski cap under his chin and began to wrestle him into a pair of matching mittens. He smiled and attempted to give me a hand, literally, but wasn’t a lot of help. I had already zipped him into his snowsuit – a blue thing that was puffy and made him look like a marshmallow – and gotten his boots on. I doubt he could move much.
“Snow, snow, snow!” he exclaimed.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” I agreed.
I had arrived at the Dresden household to find Harry in near meltdown. He had a potion to make – something complicated and vital, and the kids would not settle down enough for him to do it. I suggested a little romp in the snow might be in order and everyone quickly agreed.
Fay was already bundled up, assisted by Harry. He got the easy job. She sighed at the back door, impatient to get going.
“You’re so slow,” she accused Mal.
“Snow, snow, snow!” he said.
“He’s almost ready, cutestuff,” Harry soothed. He looked much more cheerful with peace in sight. He pulled the bobble on the top of her hat. “Why don’t you go out?”
“It won’t be fun without Murphy,” she explained.
“Ah,” Harry said, with a nod.
He grinned at me and I smiled back. I find few things as confidence boosting as spending time with the Dresden family.
“Harry,” Bob called. “Your dog is about to make a bid for freedom.”
There was a clatter of paws on linoleum, a brief silence as the paws leapt over the baby gate blocking the kitchen door, more clattering and then a small train knocked me out of my crouch. Several pounds of Tibetan Temple dog began to lick my face.
“Yes, hello Mouse,” I said, laughing. “Yes. I know. I didn’t say hi, I’m sorry. It was an emergency.”
“Mouse,” Harry said. “Back off.”
“Puppy, no!” Mal added.
I’m not sure which command worked, but dog shuffled back a few steps and sat down abruptly, giving me a panting grin.
“My God, he must have double in size since I was last here!” I said.
“Yeah, we’re hoping one day we can use him to breach the walls of Troy,” Harry said. He scrutinized the path Mouse had taken from the kitchen. “We need a bigger gate.”
When the Dresdens had first inherited the dog, (“a long story”, I was told), he was small enough to fit in Harry’s coat pocket. Now he was at least up to Fay’s hip and would soon be taller than Mal. The toddler didn’t seem daunted by this fact, however. He wrapped his arms around Mouse’s neck and snuggled his face into the fur there.
“Do you want to come out to play too?” I asked.
Mouse thumped his tail on the floor. “Ruff!”
“Can we go soon?” Fay whined.
“The snow isn’t going anywhere,” Harry said.
“Neither am I,” Fay snapped.
Harry and I stifled our laughter by carefully not looking at each other and I got Mal into the rest of his winter clothing. Mouse went and sat by the back door, next to Fay. They both stared at me while I worked. Finally, Mal was suited up.
“Snow, snow, snow?” he asked, hopefully.
“Yes,” I said. “Let’s go.”
Fay threw her hands up in triumph and opened the back door. Mouse leapt through it and started a mad lap around the small backyard, while Fay simply leapt off the stairs into a snow bank. I descended the stairs and swung Mal off into the snow. He laughed his wonderful giggle and squirmed around happily.
“I just need half an hour,” Harry said.
“You got it,” I said.
He put his hands together in a prayer gesture. “Thank you.”
It had been my intent to simply supervise the playing, but Mouse had other ideas. After he’d done a few laps around the yard, he galloped up behind me and knocked me into the snow. After that, I figured there was no point in attempting to be dignified. A game of Tag was declared and I became ‘it’. Soon I was soaked from chasing Fay through the snow, with Mal giggling after us and Mouse circling around to get in the way at just the wrong moment.
It was a nice day – sunny and not too cold. The snow was just wet enough to be packy, but not so wet that it was hard to form snowballs. After Fay cried Uncle to my tickling in Tag and we’d made a set of snow angels, we decided to make a snowman.
A snowman is a large undertaking, especially with a bossy little girl and a toddler wrapped up like an Artic explorer. I ended up doing most of the work, while Fay supervised.
“No, it’s not big ‘nough, Murphy!” she declared. “It has to be very big to be the bottom one. Then the medium one and then the little one for the head. It’s not round ‘nough neither.”
I rebuilt the ball to her specifications and we made the second and third ones much more quickly. Mal caught on to the technique and was very content to offer assistance in the pushing. He got caught up in his own feet more than once, but got up to keep pushing with a very Harry-like determination. If a Dresden gets knocked down, he gets right back up again.
After the snowman was assembled, he had to be decorated. This meant a raiding of the house and I initiated a bathroom break while we were inside. We also got fresh mittens and put the wet ones on a drying rack by the fireplace.
“I’m going to call him Barnaby,” Fay declared, after the snowman was dressed.
He had a carrot nose and coal for his eyes and mouth. His smile was slightly crooked and I was surprised that Fay didn’t insist on correcting it.
“That’s how Daddy smiles,” she explained.
I took another look and squinted and could see Harry’s mischievous grin, a bit. I don’t have a child’s imagination, though. I’m sure it looked just right to Fay.
Mal helped to put on the coal buttons with a little boost from me and we procured some small branches for the arms. Fay had rifled through her dress-up box to find Barnaby some clothes. She brought a magician’s magic wand and was upset when we couldn’t get it to stay in place. She laid it at the base.
“So he can get it later if he needs it,” she explained.
We put the bowtie she’d brought on and I lifted her up to place the top hat on his head. She stared at it expectantly after I put her down and then her shoulders drooped a little.
“I thought it might be like Frosty,” she said. “’Cause he had a magic hat and that’s a magic hat, too.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
She shrugged. “Maybe he’s just shy.”
The three of us settled down in the snow to admire our work. Mouse lay down next to Mal to be petted. After awhile, Fay threw herself on her back in a dramatic fashion.
“I like snow,” she declared. “It’s glittery and pretty – like pixie dust in Peter Pan. Or the sparkles we use in kindergarten for Arts and Crafts that Daddy says get everywhere.”
“I like snow too,” I said.
“I like it when you come to play, too,” she said. “’Cause you’re fun like Daddy and Bob, but you’re a girl like me. I’m the only girl here, Murphy. Even Mouse is a boy! My friend at school, Marcy, she has two moms and a sister. I don’t have any moms or sisters. But I have you and that’s sort of like having a mom and a sister, isn’t it?”
Dealing with kids is so disarming sometimes. They just come right out and say what they’re thinking without dulling the edges. My heart hurt a little, both sad for her and happy that she thought of me like that. I tickled her under the chin. “You bet.”
The moment was interrupted when Mal decided to drop snow on my head. It wasn’t a lot – only as much as his two fists could hold together – but it slid down my back and made me shriek in a fashion I hope my male co-workers never hear me shriek.
“Snow!” he declared.
Fay sat up, indignant on my behalf and threw a handful of snow at Mal. He giggled and tossed some more snow at her and it all rapidly dissolved into a snow fight, with me in the middle. Mouse barked and chased Fay’s snowballs as they flew through the air, jumping to try and catch them.
In the midst of what was turning into an epic battle, Harry made the mistake of opening the backdoor.
“I’m done,” he called.
He looked down at his sweater to find two snowballs splattered there – one from me and one from Fay.
Most people would have either rolled their eyes and left, or gotten angry. Harry simply grinned, jumped off the stairs into the snow and joined in the fight. It turned into boys against girls, with Mouse chasing the flying snow between the two bases.
It wasn’t really fair, since Mal wasn’t very adept at snowball making or throwing and Fay and I didn’t want to risk hurting him. Harry got the brunt of our attacks, though he managed to throw up a shield for many of them.
Barnaby held up well despite being used more than once as cover by both sides. The snowballs that hit made him lumpy looking, but he didn’t break. He just kept smirking.
“Surrender or the kid gets it,” Harry called, picking up Mal and holding him in front of him like a shield.
“Release the hostage and we can negotiate,” I called back.
“I don’t know, I think the hostage likes me,” Harry said.
Mal was giggling and hugging Harry around the neck.
“He’s clearly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome,” I said.
“Don’t be silly,” Harry said. “We’re not Swedish. Hey, don’t try anything, missy!”
Fay was trying to surreptitiously attack. She hid the snowball behind her back and looked innocent, though quickly broke off into giggles.
“Your petty attempts at deception are useless,” Harry said. “Now, I propose a truce, to be celebrated over hot chocolate. Should you agree to these terms promptly, I may throw in marshmallows.”
“I need to discuss it with my boss,” I said. I looked down to Fay, who nodded eagerly. “Alright, agreed. Surrender your snowballs and proceed to the house in an orderly fashion.”
Fay dropped her projectile and skipped up to the stairs. Harry and I followed, with Mouse on our heels.
“Shake out here, not in there,” Harry told him.
To my surprise, Mouse obediently shook his fur out before trotting through the open door.
“He understands you,” I said.
“Sometimes,” Harry said. “Though apparently the phrase ‘stay in the kitchen’ is beyond his comprehension.”
Fay was already nattering away to a patient Bob when we came in. I helped her out of her snow things while Harry handled Mal this time around. Bob made all the expected noises of interest and agreement, with the occasionally ‘really?’ and ‘I see’ when it was appropriate.
“And now we’re having hot chocolate ‘cause we called a truth,” she finished.
“Truce,” Bob corrected.
“No, truth,” Fay insisted. “’Cause we agreed on ‘stuff and we’re going to be truthful and not not do the stuff.”
Bob opened his mouth, seemed to think better of taking on the challenge and inclined his head instead. “Quite.”
Harry went upstairs to change and I got a fire going to warm up the kids. Mouse laid out in front of the fire and Mal curled up next to him, with his head on Mouse’s flank. They were both asleep within minutes.
Fay’s hair was frizzed out and knotted from the snow and mine was drying into ringlets. I worked through her hair with a comb, a Herculean task, while Harry made the hot chocolate. He makes it on the stove from scratch and it is seriously the best hot chocolate I have ever had. It’s like a chocolate IV; you can feel it running through your veins.
Mal was too asleep for his hot chocolate and Harry was concerned he’d burn his mouth on it anyway, so he limited the serving to the three of us. After we all had a cup, he solemnly dropped a large marshmallow in each of them.
“I hereby declare the Great Snowball Treaty to be officially enacted,” he said.
“¡Salud!” I said.
“Slainte,” Harry said.
“Yay!” Fay said.
And the Great Snowball Treaty brought much peace into the Dresden household. Until the following Saturday, at least.