Characters: Harry, Murphy, Anna
Word count: 1600 and a bit
Summary: Harry spends Christmas with the Murphies.
Author's notes: I actually started writing this last year, but got stuck and couldn't get it done before the season was over. So, I've finished it up this year. Blatant Harry/Murphy holiday fluff.
I had a handful of tinsel and a very large Christmas tree in front of me. In the background, carefully positioned across the room, the CD changer randomly hit its fourth different rendition of ‘The Christmas Song’ and I made a mental note that if I ever made a Christmas album (you know, in some alternate universe where I could carry a tune and stand near electrical equipment) I would not include that particular carol. Murphy’s living room smelled like firewood and pine trees and some unusual spicy type odour coming from the smelly candles on the mantle. Gingerbread, maybe, or nutmeg. Something festive.
“Well, that went easier than expected,” Murphy announced, as she came down the stairs from tucking Anna in. “I thought she’d be more whipped up than that, but she went right to bed without complaining.”
“Sooner you go to sleep, sooner you get presents,” I said. “Or, that’s what my dad always told me.”
Murphy smiled. “Sounds like sound parent logic.” She eyed the Christmas tree. “Harry, do you have any idea how to put tinsel on?”
I shrugged. “Nope. I tried to tell you, but nobody would listen. Is it wrong?”
“It’s all in one place,” she complained. “You have to spread it out. You’ve really never put tinsel on a tree?” She set to work remedying my mistake.
I shook my head. “My dad and I never had a tree on the road and the one at my uncle’s always seemed to arrive decorated. And I’ve never been able to afford one after I moved out on my own.”
“You’ve never decorated a Christmas tree?” Murphy repeated, in disbelief. “That’s sad, Harry.”
“Well, I decorated one tonight,” I pointed out. I tried to mimic her tinsel tossing techique with the remaining strands. “So, I can check that off my life’s To-Do list.”
“It looks good,” she decided, stepping back to admire it. “I wish we could turn the lights on, though.”
“We could,” I said. “But it seems a shame to melt the tree after we put so much work into it.”
She frowned. “What if you stood back?”
“Well...” Visions of flaming tree and firefighters danced in my head. “I wouldn’t risk it.”
She sighed. “All right. Let’s put the presents out.”
There was evidently a way to do that as well, one I didn’t know about. Apparently you can’t just stuff them in one spot on the tree skirt; you have to spread them out artistically. Christmas has a lot of rules. I was enjoying them all, though. I hadn’t ever had a Christmas like this one, or at least not for a long time. It had been an evening of decorating, baking, hot chocolate drinking and games. I’d even gotten a stocking on the fireplace. Normally Anna and Murphy would be out of town, it was their tradition. But this year, they decided to delay the trip so I could spend Christmas with them. I was hoping that would be a new tradition.
“Is there a pony in this one or something?” I complained, as I lugged a large wrapped package over to the tree.
“One of Rick’s,” Murphy explained. “He always goes for the big stuff.”
“Yours are wrapped nicer,” I offered.
“I’m not jealous,” she said, sharply.
“Right,” I agreed.
She stared at the presents for a moment. “I’m totally jealous.”
She laughed and tossed a plasic ornament ball at me. I was still holding a present and I was helpless to stop it as it bounced off my nose. That only made her laugh harder, which forced me to put down the present and chase her. Five minutes later, we were both covered in tinsel and I’d been tackled onto the couch.
“Uncle?” I suggested, facing down a barrage of tickling with less than manly grace.
“Damn straight,” she said, and removed her hands from under my sweater. I managed to free my legs and sit up, shifting her to my lap. She wrapped her arms around my neck to prevent herself falling off.
“Halt,” I said, after a few moments of her kissing me. She stopped and I shifted around until I could pull the small object out of my jeans’ pocket. It was digging into me. I tossed it onto the coffee table. “Alright, continue.”
But I’d lost her. She craned her neck around to look at the wrapped present and reached out to grab it. I held her in place on my lap so she wouldn’t fall off.
“What’s this?” she asked.
“Murphy,” I said, seriously. “That is a present.”
She rolled her eyes. “I can see that, Dresden.” She turned it over in her hands. “Is it for me?”
“Maybe,” I said.
“Can I open it?”
“No. It’s not Christmas yet.” I checked my watch. “You can open it in 52 seconds.”
She spent the next 52 seconds examining it, shaking it, poking it and generally trying to use her x-ray vision on it. I spent the next 52 seconds trying not to have a heart attack.
“And...go,” I announced, when the clock struck midnight.
She tore into the paper and tossed it aside, then stopped when she reached the little box. She stared at it for a moment, then flicked it open with her thumb and her eyes went very wide. The light from the fire set the ring sparkling, putting tiny rainbows on her face.
“Are you kidding me?” she finally said.
A thousand thoughts ran through my head. ‘It’s wrong’, ‘it’s ugly’, ‘you’re an idiot’, ‘you’ve ruined this’ and other thoughts of the ‘you suck’ nature. Faced with panic, I defaulted back to standard operating procedure: desperate humour.
“Well, you could try to cut glass with it, but the diamonds are sort of small...” I said.
There were three of them, set into the silver band so it wouldn’t catch on anything while she was ass-kicking. Silver to go with her necklace, Anna explained. It had taken three secret afternoon shopping trips to find one we both liked and I could afford. Three months’ salary doesn’t work when you rarely get paid and you spend most of it repairing fire damage. Bob had first declared the ring ‘suitable if you also provide a magnifying glass for her to see the stones’, which changed to ‘appropriate for her tastes and line of work’ after he got used to the proposal idea.
“Oh, I should probably...” I added, hastily. “Will you marry me? I probably should have said that first, but I’ve never done this before and you don’t really get to practice these things and...could you say something?”
Murphy just stared at me. Until she burst into a grin and threw all her weight onto me, tackling me down again. My heart reversed gears and began to race joyfully.
“If I could just have a definite yes or no answer...” I said, in between kisses.
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “Of course!”
The next bout of kisses was interrupted with a very impatient Anna calling “well, what did she say?!” down the stairs.
“Yes!” Both Murphy and I called back.
There was a high-pitched squeal and Anna came racing, merrily jumping onto us. “I told you she’d say yes!”
“You knew?” Murphy said, turning her attentions to tickling Anna.
“I had to ask permission from someone,” I pointed out.
“And I helped pick out the ring,” Anna confessed, giggling madly and trying to squirm away. “You’re not wearing it, Mom!” She glared at me. “Put it on her!”
“Sorry, sorry,” I said.
Everyone got off of me so I could sit up and I retrieved the box from where it had tumbled onto the couch in the midst of the piggy pile. I got the ring out and slid it onto her finger. Her hands were shaking more than mine were, but between the two of us we managed to get it on. Anna sighed happily from where she’d landed on the floor.
“Best Christmas ever!” she declared. “And I haven’t even opened any of my presents yet.”
After that, there was no sleeping for any of us. Hot chocolate was made and cookies were eaten and Anna planned out our wedding dreamily for us. Around three-thirty in the morning, she finally dozed off on the couch. I picked her up and carried her to her room, with Murphy following behind us. Anna mumbled something about doves as I put her on the bed and Murphy tucked her in.
“We are never going to able to afford that wedding,” I said, as we left the room.
“I dunno, I kind of like the castle idea,” Murphy said. She looked at her hand again, something she’d been doing ever since I put the ring there.
“If you get the castle, I want the bagpipes,” I said.
“Neither of us is Scottish,” she pointed out.
“Oh, like that’s a rule,” I said. “We can be Scottish if we want to. Besides, you’re part Irish. That’s close. I think there are Irish bagpipes. I knew a faerie...”
Murphy rolled her eyes. “Shut up about the bagpipes,” she ordered.
“Yes’m,” I said. She started down the hall to her room and I followed. “Hey, are you going to change your name? When we get married, I mean.”
Murphy stopped short and I nearly rammed into her. “No,” she said, after a moment. She peered over her shoulder at me. “I’m not.”
“Good,” I said. She looked relieved, as though she were expecting a fight. “Because then I wouldn’t know what to call you. You wouldn’t be Murphy anymore. You’d be Dresden. I don’t know what I’d be.”
“Lucky,” Murphy said, with a smirk. She pinned me against the wall, wrapping her arms around my neck. “You’d be lucky.” She got her tip-toes and kissed me.
“Oh, that’s what I’d be,” I said. I picked her up and she wrapped her legs around my waist, which put less strain on my neck. “Hey, Merry Christmas, by the way.”
“Merry Christmas,” she said. She grinned and bumped my forehead with hers. “Now, about your gift...”