Length: 1376 words
Book or TV verse: TV, with a few bookish moments
Characters: Harry, Murphy, Anna (Murphy's daughter), Bob
Summary: After Murphy makes a Christmas Eve visit to Harry, he opens his present. (Harry's POV)
Author's Notes: The second part of the series, following Simple Gifts, by request. This time from Harry's POV. There will be another with Murphy opening her present too. :-)
"Is that mistletoe?"
My cheeks flared up, as they are wont to do when I really wish they wouldn't. It's hard to pull off dashing and romantic when your cheeks are lit up like Rudolph's nose.
"It keeps the faeries away," I said, uselessly.
Murphy shook her head, with a smile. "Of course it does. Faeries are terrible this time of year."
I shrugged and stared her down. A lot of people don't like to hold my gaze, but Murphy does it without a flinch. She had a relaxed, happy look in her eyes tonight and something sort of mischievous in there.
"Drive safe," I told her.
"I will, try to rest."
"I will," I promised.
I moved to open the door for her, but before I could, she was kissing me. I was too surprised to do anything about it, kiss her back or put my hands anywhere useful or even really realize what was happening before she'd pulled away again. I smiled at her dumbly.
"Merry Christmas," she said.
"Merry Christmas," I replied, automatically.
Then she was gone in a burst of cool air from outside. I watched her until she was around the corner, a shrieking Anna flung over her shoulder. I watched after she was gone too, my brain fully reverted to middle school.
Murphy got me a present. Murphy kissed me. Murphy likes me.
"Harry, you're gaping."
I closed my mouth and turned to face Bob. I couldn't decide what look he had on his face: amused, exasperated or questioning. Maybe a combination of the three of them. I straightened my shoulders in a feeble attempt to regain my dignity, but my dumb smile returned and the effect didn't last long.
"Was Lt. Murphy pleased with that overpriced trinket you purchased for her?" He asked, snarkily.
"She didn't open it here," I told his smirk. "And it wasn't overpriced. You haven't bought things since they bartered with livestock. There's been inflation since then."
"If you insist."
"Anna liked the necklace, though," I shared, proudly. I thought that I did well for a spur of the moment thing, especially with Bob hovering nearby informing me I was a sentimental twit.
"It was worth a good deal of money, Harry," he lamented. "If you didn't want it, I don't see why you couldn't have sold it and paid the rent. Besides, didn't you have to kill someone to get it?"
"Not someone," I corrected. "A goat. It was possessed. I had to exorcise it. The compania leader gave me the necklace as payment."
I shrugged. "It was in Bulgaria. Things are weird there."
Bob sighed a long-suffering sigh. I ignored him and headed back to the shop front and my desk, which I had destroyed trying to find Murphy's present as quickly as possible. Bob had finally got my attention to point it out where it had sat on a shelf right in front of me, but not before I'd knocked things on the floor and pushed papers out of their stacks.
"Besides," I continued. "It was amber. Amber protects children."
"Well, I suppose I should be pleased you retained at least one of things I have taught you," Bob sighed, following me.
I lifted a messed up ball of amulets, necklaces and foci, chains and cords in hopeless knots. I had pulled Anna's necklace out of it. Some of them were charged and ready to go and the magic from them bounced off one another haphazardly.
"Stars and Stones, Harry," Bob groaned.
"Hey, they still work," I defended myself.
"Yes, if ever you are attacked in here you can throw that at them," Bob drawled. "Minions of Hell will flee in fear from your great ball of jewelry."
"You know, it's Christmas," I told him, returning the ball to my desk drawer. I took a seat and rested my aching back. The next time I take a bullet for someone, I'm putting my leg in the way instead. "You could be a little more cheery. I don't need a ghost of Christmas doom, I am fully in the 'God Bless us Everyone' spirit."
"Only because you are stoned on analgesics and the fact that the policewoman kissed you," he argued. "Before she and her daughter arrived you were merely stoned and pessimistic."
"She also gave me a present," I said, happily.
I retrieved the neatly wrapped present from where I'd left it on the desk and spun it in my hands. It looked like she'd gone to one of those places at the mall to have it wrapped. The paper was smoothed perfectly and a bunch of curly ribbon held a tag on the top. It just said 'For Harry' on it.
"Are you going to open it?" Bob asked.
"Don't rush me," I told him.
He sighed, folded his arms impatiently and glared at me. I carefully undid the ribbons and slid my finger under the tape. When I was a kid, my dad could never afford a lot of presents at Christmas. I never really resented him for it, but I'd learned to open the ones I did get slowly. It prolonged the enjoyment of it. After my dad died and I went to live with my uncle, I got so many presents at Christmas, I didn't know what to do with them. They never really meant the same to me as those few my dad got, though. The feeling behind them wasn't as genuine.
I pulled the paper off and set it aside. It was a book, which I had sort of guessed from the shape and weight of it. I waved my hand and a few flames jumped to life on some of the nearby candles, giving me light to see better. It was old and it smelled like dust and knowledge, like someone's attic. The pages looked to be well-thumbed and the inside cover was inscribed with a message of 'Happy Birthday, Alexander! Love, your sister Elizabeth, June 1944.'.
"The Complete History of Illusion, Prestidigitation and Conjuring," I read the cover page.
I flipped through the pages randomly. There were a few illustrations of different magicians through the ages: Robert-Houdin, Maskelyne and Cooke and Houdini. I caught the heading of a chapter about the Magician's Oath. I had very solemnly taken it at age six, in front of my father, so I could be present when he practiced his tricks. At the time, it had seemed extremely important but I could remember the twinkle in his eye as he took me through it. I associate that twinkle he had with being loved and safe.
"This is cool," I said. I flipped through some more pages and stopped to show Bob a picture of a magician sawing a lady in half. "That freaked me out so badly when I was five, I couldn't sleep after I saw it. I didn't believe my dad when he said it was just a trick. I was sure he could do real magic."
Bob seemed to have softened his bah humbug expression a little. "It would seem an apt gift."
"Yeah, Murphy did good," I agreed.
I got lost in the pages again and began to read one section out loud. Bob seemed interested and he settled in to listen to it, so I kept going. When I came to the end of the book, it was just after midnight. The wind howled outside and the snow started to swirl into the promised blizzard. I hoped Murphy was out of the city or had arrived at her destination.
"Your present's in the lab," I told Bob. "You can open it now. It's officially Christmas."
"I can hardly open anything," he pointed out, dryly.
He was smiling in that stiff way that I knew meant he was pleased, however. Like I wouldn't buy him a Christmas present. He's only my best friend. Sometimes ghosts are harder to figure out than women.
"Merry Christmas, Bob," I said to him, stretching my arms over my head. My back twinged with a sharp pain. Definitely aiming for the leg next time.
"Merry Christmas, Harry," he returned, with a little incline of his head.
He flashed away and I settled back to start reading the book from the beginning. I felt the goofy smile returning to my face now that Bob wasn't there to comment on it.
Murphy got me a present. Murphy kissed me. Murphy likes me.
Who needs painkillers with a high like that?