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03 September 2008 @ 06:55 pm
DVD Commentary: Simple Gifts  
Commentary for Simple Gifts, requested by joyfulfeather for the DVD Extras meme.



Title: Christmas Quartet: "Simple Gifts" (Part 1)
Characters: Harry, Murphy, Anna (Murphy's daughter)
Spoilers: None.
Rating: G
Summary: Murphy makes a Christmas Eve visit to Harry.
Author's Notes: I started writing this for one of the prompts at dresdenflashfic but it ended up moving away from the theme more than I wanted. I decided to go with something else instead, but figured I should finish this one up as well. Out of season, but what the heck? Murphy's POV and a bit of Murphy/Harry.

{Preface: As it says in the notes, I originally started this fic as a response to the 'Light' challenge at flashfic. Light made me think of Christmas and I was trying to work the candles in and it just felt too forced and not on topic. But I liked where it was going, so I decided to finish it up.}

"Behave yourself," I told my daughter, after rapping on Harry Dresden's door.

"I always behave myself," she replied, primly. "Even for the crazy wizard guy."

"He's not crazy," I said. "Exactly..."

{The story originally started in the car on the way to Harry's, with Anna complaining about having to go and asking to stay in the car. Murphy wouldn't let her because it was a dangerous neighbourhood and Anna complained about having to see the 'crazy wizard guy'. I ended up moving them to the door to put the story into motion faster and I cut out all but the last bits of dialogue.}

Harry came into view and gave me a wave as he came to the door. Anna was sticking her tongue out at me, but it was quickly put away when the door opened and she replaced it with a gloriously innocent smile instead.

"Hey Murph," Harry greeted me, warmly. "Merry - " He caught sight of Anna. "...Christmas?"

"You too," I replied. "This is my daughter, Anna. Anna, this is Mr. Dresden."

"Nice to meet you," Harry said, offering his hand.

I could tell Anna liked that. A lot grown-ups treat kids like kids. It drove Anna crazy. She shook his hand firmly. "You too."

{This was my first time writing Anna and I knew what I wanted her to be like in general, but as she interacted with Harry, she really became herself. One thing I knew I wanted was that she wasn't a 'child'. 9-year-olds are not 4-year-olds. They want to be treated like older kids. I also wanted her to have a bit of Murphy's 'tude and be somewhat old for her age. I would think being passed from parent to parent since you were old enough to remember (in my head, Murphy and the Ex separated when Anna was still a baby or toddler) would make you very organized and realistic.}

"C'min," he invited us, gesturing backwards. He rubbed his hand on his sweater, removing the water transferred from Anna's glove. "It's cold out there, yikes."

I pushed Anna ahead of me. Her eyes went this way and that, observing all the weird stuff Harry decorates his place with. The usual candles were everywhere, this time with a festive green and red motif. They let off a little heat which was nice. Harry closed the door behind us before the wind blew out any of the flames.

"You want some hot chocolate or something?" He asked. His eyes kept moving from one of us to the other, comparing. "I have some in the kitchen."

"We're just here for a minute," I declined. "We're about to hit the road."

"Yeah? Where ya headed?"

"It's a surprise," Anna said. "But I know it has a pool because I had to pack my swimsuit."

{I love to swim and I always begged that there be a pool at any hotel we stayed at when I was little. I gave Anna some of my water baby love.}

For some reason, in that perceptive way he has, Harry instantly understood that this was an extremely important detail. He looked suitably impressed. "Very cool."

"We go every year," I explained further. "Just the two of us."

I got Anna for Christmases in the custody settlement. I don't have family to go to and it seemed a shame to be holed up in my little, not very clean or well-stocked apartment. Anna didn't mind being in an hotel for the holiday (provided it had a pool, she swims like a fish) and was always excited about the surprise. She acts far too grown-up for her age (who does that remind me of?) and its one of the few times I see her go back to being a kid again.

{I've since changed my mind about where Murphy lives (a house not an apartment), but I still think she'd want to take Anna somewhere special for Christmas. I always picture Murphy and the Ex being able to be civil when Anna's around, but hating each other when they are alone together. Since Anna lives most of the time with the Ex, I thought Murphy would want to sort of dazzle Anna when she was with her for special occasions. There's something about long car trips that really makes parents and kids talk, too, which I think would be a bonus for Murphy to really catch up on Anna's life.}

"Well, you'll need hot chocolate for the road," Harry declared. He gave me a lopsided grin. "I have marshmallows."

"Well, if there's marshmallows," I agreed, with a smile of my own. I squeezed Anna's shoulder. "What do you say?"

She tilted her head back to look up at me. "It's cool."

"Perfect," Harry said.

It suddenly occurred to me, rather guiltily, that Harry didn't have any more family to spend Christmas with than I did. He didn't even have an Anna.

We got rid of our winter gear and followed Harry down the hall. He was moving slowly.

"How are you?" I asked, concerned.

The real reason I'd dropped by, aside from dropping off the present I had in the pocket of my jeans, was to check on him. He'd been shot in the back last week, with a bullet meant for me. He'd been home for a few days now and I wanted to make sure he was functional before I went somewhere he couldn't call me for help.

{I sort of used this as an excuse to get Murphy there as much as Murphy is using it as an excuse. I don't think she'd be brave enough to go up to Harry and give him a present without a 'reason'. So, in her mind, she's going to make sure he's okay and while she's there, she might as well give him his present.}

"I'm okay," he dismissed it.

He was such a liar. I could see a pillow and blanket on the couch, and a pile of clothes I'd grabbed from his room, telling me he hadn't been upstairs yet. When we arrived in the kitchen I saw the bottle of prescription painkillers he'd been given was half empty. I didn't press him, though. I wouldn't want him pressing me. I turned off my detective's eyes and pretended everything was fine.

{This is a trait that both Murphy and Harry have - the 'I'm fine' trait. Neither of them will admit when something's wrong and I wanted Murphy to recognize that trait in Harry and respect it.}

"Whoa," Anna said.

She made a beeline to the skull sitting on the counter. I swear that skull moves every time I'm at his place and I honestly hope it's just because he dusts it regularly or something, because I really don't want it to be because he carries it everywhere with him.

{I have never decided when Murphy finds out about Bob in any of my 'verses, but I figured she's astute enough to know that Harry pays a lot of attention to that skull.}

"Is that real?" Anna demanded, poking at it.

"Anna," I warned.

"It's okay. It's real," Harry confirmed.

He stirred a pot that was already on the oven rimmer. It had a chocolaty smell coming from it. Figures he would make his hot chocolate from scratch. Maybe his kettle explodes if he uses a mix. I took a seat at the kitchen table.

{I like Harry's old-fashionedness, even if it's by necessity, since he can't use electrical appliances. At one point I researched different hot chocolate recipes, but I decided to exclude the details because they weren't really relevant to the story. If you want to make Harry's hot chocolate, here's the recipe I decided on. Substitute orange zest for a dash of chili powder. Um, having never actually made said recipe, I don't know what it takes like. But it sounds good.}

"How old is it?" Anna wondered.

"Very," Harry answered.

"How come somebody wrote on it?"

"Dunno. Maybe they didn't like'm much."

"Whose is it?"

"Dunno."

"Why do you have it, then?"

Harry gave me a look over his shoulder that clearly told me he thought she was just like me. I have to admit she has a real future as a police interrogator. I shrugged and he grinned a little.

"I got it from my uncle," he explained.

"He must have been weird," Anna decided.

"Anna," I said, again.

"He was nuts," Harry confirmed. "But I like the skull. It's got character, don't you think?"

Anna considered this for a second. "Yeah."

"Sit down, Sherlock," I told her, pointing to a chair.

{This is the section that made me decide who Anna was. I sometimes think I'm a little nuts, but the characters really do decide things for themselves a lot of the time.}

She made a show of coming to join me. Harry was stifling laughter, I could tell even with his back turned to me. He gave me that look again, over his shoulder and I had the urge to smack him. Instead, I ended up laughing. He served the hot chocolate out in a set of mugs that didn't match and looked like they'd been picked up from the Salvation Army store. Anna's had Mickey Mouse on it, mine was from Florida and his might have said '#1 Grandma' if all the writing was still there.

{My Mum practically lives at Value Village, which is a second-hand store run by the Cerebral Palsy people. She loves it there. I didn't know if they had Value Villages in the States, so I went with a generic Salvation Army store. I thought Harry would need to get everything very cheap and I liked the idea of him deciding he needed mugs and just grabbing whatever ones were on the shelf.}

Harry easily got Anna talking about school and karate lessons and our cups emptied quickly. He seemd to know just what questions to ask and what to be shocked by and what to be impressed by, without being patronizing about it. I was mostly silent, watching the two of them interact. Anna's mouth was going a mile a minute and Harry managed to keep up, most of the time with just a twitch of eyebrow or quirk of his lips. After about half an hour, he started to look worn-out and I knew it was time to leave him to rest and for us to hit the road. I rinsed out our cups in the sink for him while he walked Anna to the door, relating some tale involving a Christmas tree and an old tutor of his named Bob. I joined them a moment later.

{Karate lessons is a tribute to book!Murphy, who is a black belt in...something, I forget. Akido? Judo? Ass-kicking? I've always liked how personable Harry is in the show. He's not the handsomest guy on the block, but he's charming and he puts you at ease, which is a necessity for his job. I think kids, and people in general, would like talking to him. He has that aura.}

"I brought you a present," I told him, feeling somewhat awkward. Anna's eyes watched as the present came from my pocket and changed hands with Harry. "I saw it in a shop, and I thought you'd like it." I didn't add that it was the 10th shop I'd looked in and was owned by a man who looked just like Gandalf the Grey.

{Originally the gift exchange happened at the table, but it really stopped the fic dead in its tracks, so I shifted it to the door. The dialogue between Murphy and Anna that follows is exactly the same, just moved to a new location. What was in the gifts was never planned to be mentioned in this story. It just didn't fit. The series got spawned onwards because so many people demanded to know what they got each other.}

"Thank you!" he said, turning it over in his hands. He looked thrilled. "I have a present for you, too, it's in the back. Hold on a sec."

He got up and left the room. Anna looked at me with suspicious eyes.

{You can see here the one thing I forgot to change when I switched locations. Harry gets up and he was already up. Goof!}

"Is he your boyfriend?" She demanded.

"Shh! No!" I hissed, quickly looking over to make sure Harry wasn't in hearing range. "He's just a friend."

"Does he not have electricity?" She gestured to the cluster of silver candles on the nearby table.

"Shh!" I laughed, swatting at her. "I can't take you anywhere."

"He makes good hot chocolate," she allowed.

{One thing I thought would be a characteristic of Anna and Murphy's relationship is that they really get along. I can't see Murphy as someone who would shield Anna from all the Facts of Life questions and I think she'd been someone Anna would feel comfortable talking to about anything. That's a staple of me and my mum's relationship.}

I agreed and plopped her hat down on her head. Down the hall, I thought I heard whispering, but decided it was just the wind outside. It was heading towards a snow storm, and I silently hoped that we'd be out of the city before the worst of it hit.

"I didn't have time to wrap," Harry announced, as he entered. He handed me a wooden box and smiled one of those great sheepish smiles he has. "And, even if I had, it would probably look about that good."

{This author less-than-3's Harry's sheepish smiles. <3 }

"It's okay," I assured him. "Thank you."

"And, for you," he turned to Anna. He pulled something from his pocket. "Because every kid should have one of these, and Santa doesn't make'm."

"I'm too old to believe in Santa," Anna declared. She eyed whatever he was holding with great fascination.

Harry turned to give me a look that was wryly aghast, if that's even possible. "Murphy, what are you teaching this kid?" He shook his head and turned back to Anna, crouching in front of her. I thought that must be killing his back. "Chin down." Anna obediently lowered her head and he hung something around her neck. She lifted the pendant to stare cross-eyed at it.

{"Murphy, what are you teaching this kid?" is one of the lines I wrote the fic around. I could totally hear Harry saying it. In Harry's world, Santa is real. He's a fae. So for him it's not only that you've disillusioned the kid but you've told her lies, too.}

"What is it?" She asked.

"It's amber," he explained. "And it'll keep you safe."

{I researched gem stones and their classic meanings. Amber is supposed to protect children.}

His hand closed over hers and something in there began to pulse with a bright golden light. Anna's eyes lit up like, well, like a child. There was utter delight on her face. It was beautiful.

"What did you do?" She whispered.

"Magic," he replied.

He removed his hand and the glow stopped, but Anna kept staring at the pendant. So did I. After a moment be both snapped out of it.

"Thank you, Mr. Dresden," she said, genuinely.

"You're very welcome," he replied. He leaned in and whispered something to her that I couldn't hear. She nodded, with a small smile. He straightened up again.

{What does he whisper to her? No idea. Well, I have some idea, but I'd rather let the readers decide for themselves. Because I'm lazy.}

Anna opened the door and slipped out before I finished with the buttons on my jacket. She skipped a little in the falling snow and then jumped with both feet into a pile of it that had collected by Harry's door.

"You didn't have to do that," I told Harry, watching her little dance.

"I got a bunch in the back," he dismissed it. Another lie. "She's a good kid, Murphy."

"Yeah," I smiled. "She is."

"She has your mouth."

I glared at him. "Shut up, Dresden."

He laughed at me and I started laughing with him. Weird how that happens. I turned my gaze from his smile and looked up at the sky, judging the weather patterns. The clouds were broken up enough for me to just make out the North star sparkling through them. My eyes caught something in the doorway.

{The impending snow storm that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? Totally an excuse to get Murphy to look up in this one. These are the kinds of cheap tricks I employ in my writing.}

"Is that mistletoe?"

Harry blushed and gave me another sheepish smile. "It keeps the fairies away."

I shook my head. "Of course it does. Fairies are terrible this time of year."

{If you notice, in Simple Gifts they say 'fairies' but in 'Christmas Spirit', Harry's POV, they say 'faeries'. Because Murphy is thinking Tinkerbell and Harry is thinking 'scary!'. Also, I have no proof that mistletoe keeps away faeries, but I do get a lot of compliments on that line.}

He shrugged, his eyes twinkling in the light of the candles. Those of eyes of his make me nervous sometimes, but tonight they just looked content. I realized it wasn't a look a saw from him often.

{In the books, nobody looks Harry in the eyes because it causes a soulgaze and apparently he doesn't think anyone could see his soul and still want to be around him. They don't have soulgazes in the TV show (something I'm sad about) but I wanted to keep the idea that he has something scary in there that puts people off.}

"Drive safe," he said.

"I will," I promised. "Try to rest."

"I will."

I glanced up at the mistletoe briefly and then stood on my tip toes to give him a gentle kiss on the lips. He was too surprised to kiss back, but it didn't matter. When I pulled back, he had the same look of delight on his face that Anna had when he made her necklace glow. Magic.

{Aside from when he kisses her by necessity, I don't think Harry is the type to initiate a relationship with Murphy. He'd be too worried about their friendship. I thought Murphy would be the one to make the first move. Or you can interpret it as just a kiss under the mistletoe, if you aren't a shipper. I try to keep things vague for the most part. Except when I don't.}

"Merry Christmas," I told him.

"Merry Christmas," he replied.

I left, closing the door behind me. The cold seemed more severe without the warmth of the candles. Anna skipped over to me and immediately made a kissing face at me. I scooped her up and threw her over my shoulder, carrying her back to the car as she giggled wildly.

{I always have trouble ending stories and this one had a bit more dialogue between Anna and Murphy once they were at the car, but I thought it took away from the moment. So I cut it out.

This is one of my favourite fics I've written and my favourite of the Quartet. I think it's my most popular Dresden one, too. Thanks for reading, people!}
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donutsweeperdonutsweeper on September 4th, 2008 12:56 am (UTC)
I hadn't read this before (bad donutsweeper!) but it's darling. Anna's so spot on as a 9 yr old and Harry being weird yet exciting to her.

And I love to read about another 'lazy' writer. glad you know I'm not the only one!
The Writer They Call Tay: Dresden: ready for actionawanderingbard on September 4th, 2008 11:02 am (UTC)
I'm sure you missed fics that were written before we friended each other, so no worries. This one is part of a mini-series, if you haven't read the rest of them.

We're not lazy, we're just stimulating our readers imaginations. ;-)
(Deleted comment)
The Writer They Call Tay: Dresden: Harry and Murphyawanderingbard on September 4th, 2008 11:03 am (UTC)
Yes, I've noticed in your fics that you and I have very similar ideas on Anna and the Ex. It's funny how much you can build from a few little facts given on the show here and there isn't it?

Thanks!
Human Collaborator Flunkie Pool!fic Muse: Harry Dresden (by realtanala)joyfulfeather on September 4th, 2008 03:25 am (UTC)
*bounces* Yay! Thanks for doing this one. I do love how you write Anna, and all the thought you put into her and the rest of it.
The Writer They Call Tay: Dresden: Harry confusedawanderingbard on September 4th, 2008 11:04 am (UTC)
Thank you! Anna is a character I'm quite fond of, which is weird considering she was never on the show itself. I guess I'm fond of what I made of her, which is a little self-loving. :p

Thanks for requesting this one, I was hoping someone would. :-)