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dresden_kink_mods ([personal profile] dresden_kink_mods) wrote in [community profile] dresden_kink2011-07-19 08:28 pm
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Round Four IS CLOSED

Round Four is closed to new prompts and fills. Go to Round Five



| Round One: open only for feedback, WIPs continued in The Overflow Post or Round Four |
| Round Two: open only for feedback, WIPs continued in The Overflow Post or Round Four |
| Round Three: open only for feedback and WIPs continuation |
| if you previously continued your WIP in The Overflow Post or Round Four, keep going where ever you like, just link link link! |

Round Four: Closed


Read this first. Do it. It's not here to be pretty.

The Rules. Including the Posting Guidelines. aka:

In the first line of your fill, please include:

Character(s)/Pairing(s)/Threesome(s)/Moresome(s) as applicable; Any kinks included; MANDATORY WARNINGS if there is dubcon or noncon, underage characters in sexual situations, and/or major character death. Please don't conflate warnings and kinks; treat each individually, and use your pairings to indicate gen/het/slash/multi/&c. Do not warn for het, slash, or otherwise.

For images: Please post image prompts and fills with alt tag descriptions or with a text description of the piece. Example: [img src="neked.jpg" alt="Here's John being all hot and half naked saying Dresden et cetera et cetera"]. If you are linking to an external image, please include a description with the link.


Thank you.


The discussion post is here. Mod questions go here. The delicious account is here.

Don't forget about all the unfilled prompts. Got an unfilled prompt you want to give a second chance? Repost it here. Otherwise, go ahead and repost an unfilled prompt as a new comment with a link to the original if you are filling it.

Comments in chronological order: http://dresden-kink.dreamwidth.org/2675.html?view=flat

Any prompts, fills, discussion, or meta featuring authentic Ghost Story spoilers should be posted on the Ghost Story post.

ROUND FOUR IS CLOSED TO NEW PROMPTS AND FILLS. GO TO ROUND FIVE. YOU CAN CONTINUE YOUR ROUND FOUR WIPS HERE.

A marriage of convenience

(Anonymous) 2011-07-25 09:00 pm (UTC)(link)
There are some great prompts and fics with the premise of Harry and Marcone entering into a marriage of convenience that turns genuine, but they always seem to involve Marcone as the mastermind waiting for Harry to overcome his cluelessness/denial. I'd like to see one where it's Harry, big old romantic sap that he is, who takes his wedding vows seriously and starts attempting to woo his new husband.

Bonus points if Hendricks and Gard are both well aware of the nature of Marcone's interest in Harry, while Marcone is stubbornly convinced that it's just good business.

Re: A marriage of convenience

(Anonymous) 2011-07-25 09:14 pm (UTC)(link)
...?

... ♥ ....!?

....!!

I didn't know I wanted this in my life until now. But oh man do I ever!

Re: A marriage of convenience

(Anonymous) 2011-07-28 08:01 am (UTC)(link)
I can totally see this happening. It's such a cute idea too.

Re: A marriage of convenience

(Anonymous) 2011-08-03 11:22 am (UTC)(link)
This! OMG, someone please fill this.

Re: A marriage of convenience

(Anonymous) 2011-09-14 02:23 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, man, this! This is a wonderful idea, I'd love to see the wooing go the other way around for once! And I can just see Harry going, "okay, not my choice, and yeah, it's HIM, but it's MARRIAGE. This is Important Stuff. If I am going to end up married it is damn well going to be a proper marriage!"

And Marcone being oblivious to his own massive crush on his new husband is just golden. Talk about denial!

Between Harry's antics and John's reactions... The courtship alone will be incredible, and probably more than a little hilarious - because of BOTH of them!

Bring Not All Mischief P/? (prologue)

(Anonymous) 2011-12-09 09:26 pm (UTC)(link)
Dresden/Marcone, ensemble cast. Dubious consent (technical consent issues). AU from end of Turn Coat: Molly's actions are reported by Morgan before his death, triggering the Doom of Damocles. Harry takes Molly and flees to Faerie, where the Leanansidhe is… helpful.

The Dresden Files is copyright Jim Butcher. This story is licensed under the Creative Commons as derivative, noncommercial fiction.





"Mab has no compelling reason to take your 'two for one deal' offer, godson," Lea said, shaking her head sadly. "And I have warned you before on the subject of Mab and the table. Let the Carpenter child become the Knight." Harry crumpled. If he could only save one of them, he'd save Molly. Not that becoming the Winter Knight was a great option, but that's what they'd come down to, and through their own fault. Perhaps Lea read his thoughts on his face, because she extended an olive branch. "I have obligations toward your apprentice, child, through you. I will not let her come to harm."

Really, that wasn't even Harry's biggest worry, which was that Molly might fit in all too well amid the blue and orange morality of the Fae. But they'd run out of choices, and this would keep her alive. After that -- well. Everyone had to grow up sooner or later; maybe Molly would too. He relinquished his hold on his apprentice with a swallow. "Go with Lea -- with the Leanansidhe. Do as she tells you," he said, and thought better of the wording, not that Molly was particularly inclined to do as she was told. "About becoming the Winter Knight, anyway."

"Harry," Molly managed, eyes swimming in tears. "I'm sorr --"

Harry wasn't much better. "No. It's okay. I know why you did it. And I should have taught you better. And, well. I always knew this day would come." May Donald Morgan rot in Hell.

"You are both very stupid," Lea said, not unkindly. "I am not about to let my godson die."

Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-09 09:32 pm (UTC)(link)
"This is not a 'small' favor," John Marcone said evenly. He suspected at the time, and known for sometime since, that it would come back to bite him in the ass. Gard had assured him of that, when he'd asked her. Of course, if he'd had Gard back them, he'd have known better than to make such a vaguely worded deal. Still. He hadn't gotten where he had by being unprepared to take risks, and the learning curve of the supernatural world was not nearly so steep to a 'vanilla-mortal' mobster as it was to say, a sixteen year old wizard newly come into their power. John had learned a lot over the years. He steepled his fingers and regarded the Leanansidhe coolly. "I am sure you are aware that I honor my obligations. I have every intention of honoring my debt to you. However. I must take issue with the… shall we say, coin? Taking a spouse is generally considered to one of the singular decisions of a mortal life. Beyond which, even had I no objections on that score, Harry Dresden is not an acceptable choice in my line of business. He would in fact be a liability to me. And I would be danger to him."

"Nonsense!" The Leanansidhe said brightly. "This arrangement would, of course, apply only to the Freeholding Lord, and not at all to the mortal businessman. You'd both be happier, in any case, to keep Harry away for those affairs. As such, there's nothing to stop you taking a girl to the chapel of your White God and making her your wife. I'm simply asking you to extend your hand in protection over my godson in exchange for his fealty. If it's really a sticking point, you only have to tup him over your bed once."

Hendricks, famed in certain -- dangerous -- circles for his unflappability, covered something with a cough.

"If I refuse?" John asked.

The Leanansidhe pursed her lips. "I would look elsewhere for protection for my godson. And you would lose the benefits of his presence in your city, as he would doubtlessly be located elsewhere. And your debt to me would remain outstanding."

"I see," John said, though truthfully he only had the very edges of the puzzle. "May I ask what it is that you get out of this arrangement?"

"My godson lives, Baron," she shrugged.

John nodded. "So I am in fact your last stop," he concluded.

The Leanansidhe laughed, rich and full. "My very first."

"Why?" John asked again, truly puzzled.

"I also desire his happiness," the Leanansidhe said.

Fae could not lie, John knew, but he likewise knew that they could twist a conversation beyond all meaning. That she desired Dresden's happiness did not mean it was the answer to the question John had asked, and it would only amuse her if he asked for further clarification. Very well. She had other options. Harry Dresden did not face immediate death if John did not act. That meant John, also, had other options.

"I am prepared to consider the matter," John said. Truthfully, getting Dresden on a leash and his nebulous debt to the Leanansidhe off the ledger in one fell swoop was an interesting proposition. Still. It would have to be handled with care. "I have certain caveats, however. As does, no doubt, Mr. Dresden. This is common among mortals. A pre-nuptial agreement. Would it invalidate the arrangement?"

"Certain terms might," the Leanansidhe shrugged. "But the existence of terms themselves would not. But we do not have time for elaborate negotiations. The White Council searches for Harry Dresden even now, and I must place my godson within a circle of protection they dare not breach before they reach him. I can give you until midnight, by your clock. No longer. And then, I must look elsewhere."

John looked at his watch. That gave him just over six hours. "I will have Ms. Gard draw up a contract. I will do my best to estimate Mr. Dresden's likely, as you said, sticking points. Give us… let's say, ninety minutes. If you can have his rejection back with an hour, with his demands for amendments, we may have an agreement worked out by nine. That would give me some time to organize the ceremony itself…" John trailed off. No doubt it would have to be witnessed. But beyond that, would Harry even want guests?

"Then I will leave you to your arrangements, Baron Marcone," the Leanansidhe said, and left the room -- and the plane -- with a Cheshire grin.

"I'll get to work," Gard said.

"Thank you," John managed as she, too, left. "Something you wanted to add, Mr. Hendricks?"

Hendricks had long since recovered himself, of course, and simply shrugged. "No. Just. 'Tup' sounds gentle, onomatopoetically. But really, it means 'ram'." John Marcone closed his eyes, just for second, against the insanity that had become his life. "Which you'd know, boss," Hendricks continued, a bare soupçon of reproach in his voice, "if you'd used that calendar I got you."

Harry's sole guest was Thomas Raith. It seemed beyond sad, to John's well-hidden heart, that of all Dresden's friends -- men and women who would follow him into hell -- it was Harry's ex-lover from a court of sex demons who stood beside him as they exchanged marriage vows. But really, whom else could Harry have asked? Karrin Murphy, to play best man at a mob wedding? Michael Carpenter, after what he had lost saving John? One of the werewolves, perhaps. John doubted Harry's friends had abandoned him; he doubted that they had been informed, let alone invited, but he did not feel offended. Harry looked like a man facing a firing squad; Raith, for his part, looked like he'd bitten a lemon.

Hendricks, as part payment for his earlier comments, got to stand up for John.

The Leanansidhe did not give Harry away, but rather pointedly only into John's safe keeping. That did not surprise him. Her pre-ceremony shovel talk had been a marvel of elegant menace, so subtle that it had taken John a moment to realize that he was being threatened -- to realize that when the Leanansidhe assured him of her concern for his well being that she was really saying that, if anything happened to Harry, she would ensure that John wept for death long before he found it. After all, as long as the Freeholding Lord lived, Harry would be under his protection, and oh, my, would she ensure that he lived. John had frankly been impressed.

The Archive officiated. John could not deny, in his heart of hearts, how it lightened his heart to see Ivy smile with delight, as she did, up past her bedtime, nor that it pleased him to see that his new husband had as much affection for the brave child as he.

It was a lovely ceremony. Gard had somehow seen to that, and then gone all-out, for reasons of her own, on the midnight reception. Gard's "three m's": mead, meat, and music featured prominently.

It all passed John by in a blur. He watched as Hendricks and Gard, assured by Harry's presence and vows of John's safety, let their hair down enough to share a couple of glasses of Monoc Securities' impromptu present, and found a dark corner to giggle in, about Icelandic jokes or whatever the hell it was they talked about. John caught something about lava demons, and wasn't sure he should ask, or even that he could possibly understand the answer. Even Kincaid finally loosened up enough, under Ivy's charming offensive, to toast the couple, a single sip of champagne, smirking as he did so.

Finally, the moment of truth arrived. The signatures on the pre-nup, on Ivy's elaborately decorated marriage certificate, the vows they'd made… none of it would matter without the consummation, which could not be put off. The Leanansidhe had impressed on John the need to have it done before dawn. Hendricks had muttered some Yeats in response, to her evident amusement. Now, Hendricks nodded his head in the direction of the stairs; Harry had disappeared after escorting Ivy out.

Well. It wasn't like John had never fantasized about having sex with Harry. It would scratch an itch, if nothing else.

When John got to his bedroom, Harry was a picture of delectable dishevelment. John had been astonished to see that Harry had troubled himself to look presentable. He'd expected an ill-advised t-shirt and wrinkled jeans; he'd gotten a gray silk suit, polished shoes and neatly cut hair. Harry was still fully dressed, but that didn't bother John. It did bother him, obscurely, that Harry had already slipped off his wedding ring, a wide band of platinum. It wasn't that John had gone to any great effort to select it -- in fact, Gard had done that -- John couldn't quite put his finger on why; it shouldn't have surprised him, after all. It was a marriage of convenience -- or, indeed, inconvenience -- and Harry hadn't even bothered to get a ring for John, merely handing over one of his own energy-storing rings as a wedding band.

"You got it engraved?" Harry asked, bemused, by the sound of it.

"In the spirit of marital honesty, no, Mr. Dresden, I did not." John said.

Harry looked up at him then. "I think you can call me Harry, now," he said slowly. "John. I mean, we just… And also, we're about to… " he waved a hand vaguely toward the bed.

"Well said." John repressed a smile. "I believe Mr. Hendricks told Ms. Gard, who made the arrangements for the ceremony, that it was the mortal custom to engrave wedding bands. She did so."

Harry looked at the ring more dubiously now. "It says something rude, doesn't it?"

"No," John said, and sat on the bed to take off his shoes.

"Wait, no! It says 'Property of John Marcone', right?" Harry asked.

"No more than any wedding ring stakes such a claim," John said smoothly. "I'm told it says, 'Both now and for aye to endure', which Ms. Gard selected from one of the sagas." Something -- Harry's subdued mood, John's wish to keep things between them civil for as long as possible, the habits of small talk, perhaps -- made him continue. "I believe Mr. Hendricks initially suggested something from 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven'."

"Not familiar with it," Harry admitted.

"Ah. Let me see if I remember it. 'Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths, Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.'"

Harry stared, open-mouthed. "You let Cujo troll you?"

John sighed. "I would remind you that it is Mr. Hendricks who can recite Yeats unprompted, Harry. And further, I do not think you would care for it if I referred to your good friend the sergeant as Miss Piggy."

"… Point," Harry said begrudgingly.

"Thank you," John said, rising once more to undo his cufflinks. He raised an eyebrow at his husband. "I realize that I am not your ideal partner Harry, but this must be done, and you'll need to take off more than just the ring to do it."

"Oh," Harry said. "Yeah." Harry surprised him by sticking the ring back on his finger before he toed off his shoes -- actual shoes, on Harry Dresden. It boggled the mind. And perhaps, just a little, the libido. It was a pity Harry wasn't into him; his new husband cleaned up well. It might have been nice to show him off on occasion… No. That would not have been possible, truthfully, even if Harry had been willing, which he wasn't. Well, perhaps at an Accords meeting? John suppressed the thought, along with a sigh. Harry further surprised him by not merely dropping the clothes as he shed them, but folding them neatly over the back of a chair.

Harry still wore his socks and boxers -- more gray silk -- when he lay down on the bed. On reflection, it was perhaps not unexpected that Harry would be body shy; as a compromise, John, too, left on his boxers, though he removed his socks before he took his place by his husband's side.

"Wednesday," Harry blurted.

John arched an eyebrow. "It's Thursday, now, you realize."

"Uh, yeah. I know what happens at midnight. I mean, it's a good day for a wedding. People don't usually do mid-week weddings because it's not convenient, but Wednesday's supposed to be the luckiest day to get married."

Ah. Blather to cover nerves. Well, Harry had probably never had to sleep with someone he despised before. John resisted the urge to pat his leg; it would surely backfire. "What about July? I know May is supposed to be unlucky." Not that they could do anything to change it now.

"Oh, no. July's okay. 'Those who in July do wed, must labor always for their bread.' But we're not strangers to that, right?" And that was the most accommodating thing Harry had ever said about John's work; he'd managed to be insulting even when he was asking for military-style extractions. John tried not to let the shock show on his face. "Uh. I guess April, September, November and December are the best, though. Joy and true love and stuff."

And on that note, let's have some not quite casual not quite hate-sex? John really had no idea how to hurry Harry along, though he knew they must; he could feel an itch between his shoulder blades. Dawn was not so very far away, and they didn't, truthfully, have a guarantee that they'd even get until dawn.

"So," Harry said slowly, quietly. "I'm sorry about this. Is this going to be weird for you? I don't mean magical weird, I mean normal weird. The gay sex thing?"

Ah. So Harry assumed John was straight. That made sense, of course; that he was bisexual wasn't something John could advertise. Was that why Harry had been so slow to undress? A courtesy to the uninitiated, perhaps? He smiled, and filed the details mentally. "This is not, shall we say, my first rodeo, Harry."

"Oh," Harry said, in a tone of surprise, but some of the tension he'd been holding drained out of him. Interesting. Had he thought John would hate it? Resent it? Just not cared to be responsible for tutoring a virgin? "Good. That's good."

"Perhaps we should get started?" John suggested.

"Yeah," Harry agreed with a swallow, and flipped himself so he was laying face down.

John smothered a laugh. Of course, now that Harry knew John knew what he was doing, he was leaving it all in John's hands. Pretending John was someone else to get though the act? That was possible. On the other hand, John reasoned, Harry might normally be a particularly passive lover. Or perhaps it was a side effect of his long affair with the vampire? John quelled his anger at that thought, and grabbed a pillow. "Really, Harry. So lazy," he murmured. "Must I do everything? Here, lift your hips." As Harry -- for once -- did as he was told, John slipped the pillow under his husband. Harry settled down on top of it, parting his legs slightly, a hint of invitation.

John grinned, and slipped his fingers under the waistband of Harry's boxers. "I have been informed that the act should be performed au natural. I take it you have no objection?"

"Huh? Oh. Wizard. Yeah. You couldn't get anything from me, and vice versa, anyway. We're fine," Harry said, never lifting his head.

Something about it hit him straight in the cock, which began to harden at the mere possibility; it had never featured in his thoughts before, but he'd never -- ever -- risked intercourse sans condom. He slid Harry's boxers down in one easy move; Harry shifted cooperatively. John got off the bed to retrieve the lube, and discarded his own boxers at the same time.

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-09 10:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Mouse, I think I'm in love.
I mean, John-assuming-Harry-is-not-a-gay-sex-virgin-because-of-Thomas is sort of a kink(?) of mine.
But this.
*flails*
THIS THIS THIS
*applause*

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

(Anonymous) - 2011-12-10 00:05 (UTC) - Expand

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

(Anonymous) - 2011-12-10 00:17 (UTC) - Expand

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

(Anonymous) - 2011-12-10 10:11 (UTC) - Expand
grenegome: (Default)

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

[personal profile] grenegome 2011-12-09 10:29 pm (UTC)(link)
But really, it means 'ram'. Tea *all over* my keyboard, Nonny. <3

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

(Anonymous) - 2011-12-10 00:06 (UTC) - Expand

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-09 10:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, hey, so I started reading this and thinking it was really awesome, and then I looked up and realised that I wrote the prompt. ♥ Much adoration, kind anon!

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

(Anonymous) - 2011-12-10 00:07 (UTC) - Expand
forestgreen: charchoil picture: Iason embracing Riki possessively and Riki reluctantly surrendering. Charecters from Ai No Kusabi (Default)

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

[personal profile] forestgreen 2011-12-10 03:11 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh God, this! So perfect! I love it! Their interactions. Hendricks!!! John's faulty assumptions about Thomas (I love those so much) and Harry's reluctant agreement to proceed.

*rubs hands and goes to read next part*

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 1/?

(Anonymous) - 2011-12-10 19:32 (UTC) - Expand

Bring Not All Mischief 2/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-10 12:03 am (UTC)(link)
When he got back on the bed, Harry was breathing a little heavier, and John stroked a hand down his husband's flank. Harry moaned, far more response than John had dreamed to get so early in the proceedings; John flipped open the lube, and spread some on his fingers. Gently, he ghosted the tip of one finger off Harry's hole; Harry shifted his legs obligingly wider; John's finger slipped in with relative ease. John was expecting resistance; Harry'd had no known partners since his apparently amicable split with Raith. With that in mind, John kept his explorations gentle, slipping out frequently to add more lube. Harry relaxed into his ministrations, almost meditatively; that changed abruptly, when John crooked his finger, finally, and touched Harry's prostate.

"Hell's bells," Harry exclaimed, voice suddenly loud in their cultivated silence.

Instantly, John stilled. "Bad?" he asked stiffly.

"No," Harry said in a tone of wonder. "Good. Really good."

John blinked. That seemed -- "Harry, have you ever done this before?" he asked, too put out to bother to keep the suspicion out of his voice.

"Not as such, no," Harry said. "Not from this end."

John could feel his eyebrows climbing in the ensuing silence. It couldn't be possible that Harry had topped every time and never found Raith's prostate, even by accident, could it? No. Surely Raith would not put up with bad sex for two years. He was a White Court vampire for God's sake! They were not bashful in bed. Raith would have said. Which meant… "By which you mean you've never had sex with a man," John said flatly.

"Well, no," Harry acknowledged after a moment. "But it's not like I'm a virgin."

With his free hand, John covered his face. It only served to remind him where his other hand was. Slowly, he started to withdraw.

Harry clamped his legs closed. "Nooo," he said. "Make with the magic fingers, please."

"Harry," John said, trying to gather his thoughts. "We shouldn't be doing this."

"Er. We kinda have to," Harry pointed out reasonably. "And so far it's been nice?"

"What possessed you to agree to this?" John asked.

"Uh. I need the protection of someone the White Council wants to piss off less than they want to kill me," Harry said honestly. "Can we not talk about it? The death sentence thing isn't sexy."

No, it wasn't. In fact, it put the whole thing in a far more coercive light. Oddly, Harry didn't seem put out by that, though considering it was his life on the line, perhaps that was to be expected.

"Why me?" John asked.

Harry shrugged. "Lea's idea of protection is to turn me into one of her hounds. And any of her other prospective spouses were likely to be… God, I don't even know."

"Better the devil you know," John concluded. Harry said nothing, a confirmation of sorts. "What do you mean, one of her hounds? Like Kincaid?" That seemed less objectionable, surely, than an arranged marriage to someone you disliked.

"No," Harry said after a long pause. "Like an actual dog."

John blinked, again. Finally, he found some words. "I was under the impression she was quite fond of you."

"Oh, I'm beginning to believe she is." Harry said. "Look, can we move this along? This is starting to get weird."

And no, now, apparently, was the moment of truth. Could John do this? Harry's consent was effectively moot; he had a sword to his throat. At best, it was a form of prostitution, Harry buying his life with the fragile coin of his body. What was the alternative? Renege his promises and turn Harry over to his enemies? No. John had to follow through.

He ran through the prep mechanically.

By the time he was finished, John was hard again. Harry had shifted and moaned, genuinely appreciative. It was arousing, without a doubt, if only physically; even after he'd slipped inside, Harry clinging to him hot on all sides, John couldn't quite get his head into bed with the rest of him. Harry came with a groan, soft and sudden, rutting into the pillow beneath him; that was enough to tip John over the edge, into his own orgasm. He slid out and collapsed on the bed beside Harry, whose eyes were already half-closed. He patted Harry's ass proprietorially; it was done. Harry was his.

For better or for worse.

Both now and for aye.

Sleep took a while to find him.

John woke up, unsurprised to find himself alone. Surprise came later, when he discovered Harry, half dressed in the previous night's clothes, on the patio attempting to cook breakfast on the barbeque. "I'm not good with technology," Harry said apologetically, by way of explanation.

"Defrosted the sausages," Hendricks said, when he arrived, clearly the continuation of some earlier conversation.

"Thanks," Harry managed, taking them one handed and sticking them directly on the grill.

Gard turned up then with plates and silverware, and John wondered if maybe he was actually still asleep. It wasn't that they never had breakfast together; in fact they did, and reasonably often. It just wasn't so… domestic. And yet, here they all were, their stoic trio become a suddenly companionable quartet, sitting out on the patio in the still cool of the morning. Then again, by the look of it, Harry planned on serving up cholesterol with a side order of cholesterol, possibly with a light cholesterol dressing, all fried in lard. No wonder Hendricks and Gard had been moved to cooperate.

He could hardly complain. Technically, it was his honeymoon. Certain laxity could be allowed, in the circumstances. He smiled benignly at his quisling aides. "So," he began, dropping a napkin over his lap, "what is the procedure at this point? Do you call up your White Council and taunt them? Do I send out some coded wedding-announcement-cum-threats?"

Harry looked stumped. "I could call them," he said, though oddly, he didn't sound much like he liked that idea.

"If I might?" Gard said. John nodded. "I suggest a formal letter to the council, hand-delivered, all due forms, etc., acknowledging your relationship, and warning them off."

"Hand delivered?" John mused. "By whom?"

"I am the best candidate for that," Gard said. "It should be done soon, if you plan on doing it. This morning, perhaps."

Ah. Via supernatural travel, then, which it would be best to protect Harry from, until everyone knew where everyone stood. "I see. Very well. How soon can you get me a draft?"

"An hour or so," Gard said and moved to stand.

"No," Harry broke in. "Finish your breakfast first."

Gard glanced at John, who nodded. "We'll do it at the office. If it can wait that long?"

"Oh, yes," Gard said, seating herself with visible pleasure. "It's a courtesy more than anything. Though, yes. It should save us some trouble, too."

"You should stay at the house til it's sorted," Hendricks told Harry.

Harry only sighed. "I'll call Thomas."

"Did you have a date planned?" John asked silkily.

"What? No," interestingly, Harry was plainly annoyed by the suggestion. "Just. I'll need him to watch the apartment. Feed my pets. That sort of thing?"

"I'll have someone bring them over today," Hendricks said. "Anything else you need before tomorrow?"

"No," Harry admitted.

"Don't worry about it, then. This is good, Dresden," Hendricks added.

"Thanks," Harry said, relaxing.

The rest of the meal passed in astonishing civility. "Well," John said as he rose. "We'll have to do this again sometime soon."

Harry's lips moved silently. "Um. Have a nice day at the office?" he finally offered.

"I'll do my best, dear," John said, pushing in his chair, the chink of metal on metal reminding him. "Oh. My apologies," he added. "I meant to give this back to you." He slipped off the force-storing ring Harry had used the night before, and offered it up.

"Oh, no," Harry said quickly. "It's yours."

"Nonsense, Harry. I couldn't possibly take it from you," John said.

Silence stretched for a long moment, before Harry sighed, "Okay," and plucked it from John's fingers, before turning and walking stiffly back into the house.

John turned a questioning glance at his aides, only to find them both glaring. "What?"

"You just handed back your wedding ring," Hendricks said in the voice he reserved for when he thought John was being particularly stupid. "Over a breakfast your husband of what, nine hours? felt moved to cook for you. In front of an audience."

"Nathan," John said patiently. "It wasn't a real wedding ring. I don't mind. I know he couldn't have had the time or inclination to worry about that yesterday. But I was hardly going to keep it."

"You thought," Gard blurted, and cut herself off with a shake of her head.

"He gave you a ring that he probably made himself. That he's worn for years," Hendricks said, voice full of unfeigned disbelief.

"That he uses to store his magic," Gard added.

"And you thought it wasn't a real wedding band?" Hendricks sighed heavily and John wondered what was coming next. Donne, perhaps. Dickinson, maybe. "Sometimes, Johnny, you are such an asshole."

Oh. "Touché," John managed, nonplussed.

"I'll bring the car around," Gard said, and walked off.

"Explain it to him," Hendricks said, out of the blue, in the car. "With, if you can swing it, an apology."

"Mr. Hendricks," John said, an edge of irritation in his voice. "Harry Dresden is not expecting candy and roses from me. We are not in love. We are not even in like. Yes. We had a nice evening. Yes, we had a nice morning. That is because Harry's trapped between a rock and a hard place, and frankly, playing nice with us is all that's keeping him alive. He does not have feelings for me. He is not under any illusions that I have feelings for him."

Hendricks snorted, and turned his eyes to the window.

The rest of the day went about as well. Gard watched John -- she always did -- but with an air of something extra to it. When John asked Hendricks, all he got for his trouble was, "Dunno, boss. 'What fools these mortals be'?"

The mansion had a weird -- call it aura -- when he returned. It felt occupied, but not pleasantly, like a stranger lay in wait in the darkness. Which perhaps was true; John found Harry napping in a guest room, his cat and dog crowding him out. Harry didn't appear for dinner; in fact, John didn't see him again until bedtime, when he abruptly turned up, stripped his t-shirt and trousers without a word -- John noted that Harry'd apparently gone commando all day -- and slipped into bed.

"You don't have to service me," John said, a little appalled at the thought.

Harry's brow furrowed in response. "I didn't think I did."

John tried to convey the question, Then what are you doing here? without asking it aloud. It seemed, especially in light of his earlier misunderstanding, a little harsh. But Harry didn't seem to get it. "You are naked in my bed."

Harry crossed his arms over his bare chest. "I don't have any of my stuff. If it really bothers you I can wear something of yours?"

"You would still be in my bed," John said, as reasonably as he could.

"Did you want me to sleep elsewhere?" God help him, Harry actually sounded lost.

"You seemed perfectly comfortable in the guest room earlier," John pointed out.

"Hendricks said I could take a room for my stuff. And I didn't think you'd want to share with Mouse and Mister," Harry added.

John tried again. "If you've picked out a room already, Harry, wouldn't you prefer to stay there?"

"We're married. Married people sleep together," Harry said. And then the light bulb over Harry's head went off -- this being Harry, probably in a shower of sparks. "Stars," he said, slipping back out from under the covers. "You don't want me here. You're just being nice about it." Frantically, he grabbed his pants and started to dress. "Sorry, sorry," he whispered, blushing creeping down his chest.

"No, Harry," John heard himself say. "I suppose I don't have any objection to you staying here, if that's what you want. But I'm not under any illusions that you do. You do not like me; you do not enjoy my company. You do not even respect me."

"I do respect you," Harry said lowly.

"You have, for years, referred to me as 'scum', and once -- to my face -- as a 'scumbag'." This was said impassively, though the particular etymology of that term did not escape John now.

"That was the job," Harry said. "I know you're not the job. I mean, it took me a while to work it out, but I do know that. Now."

It took John a moment to work out what Harry was talking about. When he did, the thought hit him like a punch: those damned Denarians. "If this is because you think you pity me," John said, voice wholly warning now.

"No," Harry said. "It was because of Ivy. They had you and they did -- whatever. I don't even want to think about it, particularly -- but I know it had to be bad. And you didn't care about that, or getting away. Your first words were 'Dresden, can you help the child?'" Harry took a breath, and then, absurdly, huffed a laugh. "I mean, I'd known for years that your balls drag on the ground when you walk. That wasn't new. And when your ride arrived, all you cared about was getting her out."

"I wouldn't say it was all I cared about," John said, discomforted by the unexpected praise.

Harry rolled his eyes. Harry, who'd apparently been thinking about men's testicles for years. John filed that thought away. "I do respect you," he repeated.

"Very well, Harry. I can believe that," John said. "I am still unclear on why you think this means we should share a bed."

"Well. We're married. And last night was nice, wasn't it?" Harry looked really uncertain now. "I mean, I thought it was. Maybe you didn't." Harry's face turned appalled. John could easily read, Oh God, that's it, isn't it? writ across it.

Now was probably not the time to tell Harry that actually, no, John preferred to have sex without lingering consent issues. "I will not pretend that you are unappealing lover," he said instead.

Harry blinked. Maybe he was more shook up than John thought; it apparently took him a moment to work out what John had said. "Oh. Right. So?"

"Harry, are you suggesting you've suddenly decided you want to sleep with me?" John asked bluntly.

"Well, we're married," he said, for the third time.

John wanted to throw up his hands in frustration. What did that have to do with anything, when it came right down to it? It wasn't an explanation. It was a legal state. But apparently Harry couldn't articulate his reasons any better than that. "Very well, Harry," John said, shrugging. "I have no objection. But I also have no objection to you sleeping in your room if you prefer."

Harry settled slowly back on the bed, watching John, eyes wide, as John undressed. It felt very strange. John cleared his throat, and looked at his cufflinks as he undid them. "It was brought to my attention that I may have inadvertently insulted you this morning. That was not my intention. I was under the impression that you had offered me one of your rings as a -- placeholder, I suppose -- out of necessity for the ritual. I knew it was an important piece of your magical armory, and believed you would want it back."

"No," Harry said, very softly.

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Bring Not All Mischief 3/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-11 05:16 pm (UTC)(link)
John stiffened, and forced himself to meet his husband's eyes. "Then I apologize most sincerely, Harry."

Harry nodded, silent, before slipping off one of his rings, and offering it up. The ring? Probably. John took it, confused by the gesture, but unwilling to give further offense, and slipped it back on. He flexed his fingers. "You don't have to wear it," Harry said. "If you don't want to. Or if you can't, because of the m -- work thing. But, um. It's yours, either way."

"Thank you, Harry," John said. It would be stupid to wear it, he knew. And yet… something stupid and sentimental and old fashioned made him feel that he should. "Would you have any objection to me wearing it on my right hand? It would be less obvious that way. And one of my grandmothers wore hers like that. We would know what it meant."

"Greek?" Harry asked.

John raised his eyebrows, impressed. "Yes, in fact."

"I don't mind," Harry said.

John moved the ring, and finished undressing. As he slipped, bemusedly, beneath the sheets, he said, "I notice that you haven't asked about my communications with the White Council."

"Yeah," Harry admitted, but failed to elaborate.

"Beyond that it was received, there has been no official acknowledgement. However, in a private capacity, Wizard McCoy sent along his good wishes. As I understand he was your mentor, I assume that was wizard-code for 'I have my eyes on you'."

Harry cracked a smile. "Possibly. Or maybe, 'thanks'. You know, for the taking me in."

"Ms. Gard tells me that it's a good sign. That Wizard McCoy would know if the Council planned to throw a collective tantrum and start a fight."

"Yeah," Harry said. "He's on the senior council."

"I suspect she meant in his other capacity," John said, testing the waters.

Harry didn't look surprised, just troubled. "That too. I didn't realize it was that well known outside of the Council."

"Mmh," John murmured noncommittally. "I can't speak with authority on that."

"So," Harry said after a pause, "am I cleared to leave the house now?"

"With reasonable precautions in place, yes." Harry frowned deeply. "Please liaise with Mr. Hendricks and Ms. Gard on that subject," John said, hoping Harry would be less likely to bicker with them over it.

"Alright. I was hoping to move my stuff in here tomorrow. So, you know. Trip out to the apartment. Maybe the office if I have time," Harry mused.

Something in John's stomach clenched. He wanted to hide Harry away inside his mansion, inside his organization… but no. He had no right, at this point, under the terms of their agreement. And Harry was behaving reasonably. It would behoove him not to upset the apple cart, as it were. "Mr. Hendricks can help organize that," John said instead.

"Oh," Harry breathed. "No need. Thomas'll help."

John stiffened beside him, and forced himself to relax. He knew they weren't lovers. Had never been lovers, despite the rumors they'd encouraged, and for what reason? "Who exactly is Thomas Raith to you, Harry?"

Harry's lips thinned, and he blew out a slow breath. "If you swear to me that it will go no further than you, directly or indirectly, and that you will take no action against him because of it, I will tell you."

And that was more than enough to peak John's curiosity. He thought it over carefully. It was not the sort of promise he normally made. But he was unlikely to act against Harry's allies in any case, if he could avoid it. "Very well, Harry," he said quietly. "I do so swear."

"He's your brother-in-law," Harry said in a rush. "My half-brother."

That had not been the answer John had expected, but it explained rather a lot. "Interesting," he said, and it was. How long had they been keeping it a secret, and from whom, exactly? Everyone, obviously, but from whom did they need to keep it secret? To tell John, now -- it was a profound gesture of trust. Foolhardy, really. John kept his promises, as a rule. But there was nothing binding on him to do so, and Harry knew it.

Sleep found John no more easily than it had the night before.

But on Friday evening when he arrived home from work it was not Thomas Raith helping Harry move house. It was Michael Carpenter. It took John a moment longer than strictly necessary to pop the door of car. It was not that John wished Carpenter ill; quite the opposite. The thought of a Knight of the Cross dying to save him gave John, frankly, a feeling of cold nausea, that didn't quite go away simply by reflecting that Carpenter had lived. Or, indeed, by reflecting that Carpenter would have fought the Denarians regardless of John's presence. That it was his calling, after all. 'Was', unfortunately, was the operative word in that sentence. Watching the man smiling benignly at Harry as they leaned against the truck filled John with an urge so deep as to be almost primal, to go and find a dark corner and repeat the rosary until he felt better. Goddamn Catholic guilt.

And when his mind replayed that last thought for him, his fingers twitched. He brutally repressed the urge to cross himself, though he did offer a silent apology to heaven. For the curse.

He didn't know what do with the rest of it.

Hendricks gave him a bland look and reached for the handle, easing himself out of the car and holding the door open for John. Hendricks used to tease him, that whenever John got near Michael Carpenter, he got his Gah! I stole the Shroud of Turin! face. They didn't joke about Michael Carpenter anymore. If, now, on the rare occasions they crossed paths with the erstwhile Knight, Hendricks walked a step closer to John then usual, well. Hendricks pretended not to notice he was doing it, and John pretended not to care.

"Mr. Marcone!" Michael Carpenter called, as though he were genuinely pleased to see the man who'd nearly cost him his life.

"Mr. Carpenter," John said, with infinite civility. Carpenter, of course, upped the ante by extending his hand; John made himself take it.

"My congratulations," Carpenter said. "Charity and I wish you both every happiness."

"Thank you," John managed, though he doubted very much that Charity Carpenter did. Perhaps she didn't know yet, and hence her husband wasn't quite lying in speaking for her. "I find myself surprised, however, that you approve."

"Even were I inclined to judge," Carpenter said, plainly disavowing such a thing. "I hope I would reflect on Matthew 7, first."

John nodded, smiling. "Judge not lest ye be judged," he said aloud, for Harry's benefit.

"Among other things," Carpenter nodded.

It was always hard to know what to say to Carpenter; that he was standing in John's front yard did not make it easier. But courtesy was usually a safe tack to take. "I was sorry to hear of Miss Carpenter's recent troubles," John said.

Harry stiffened instantly; Carpenter did not, nodding instead, though he frowned as he did. "It's always hard for a parent to accept that their child may have brought some of their troubles down on themselves. Molly… we are grateful she escaped the Doom, of course." John watched, fascinated, as Carpenter reached out and patted Harry on the shoulder. "The Knighthood. It is not the path I would have chosen for her. But I have no doubt the Lord walks beside her even now. Perhaps Molly is where she is meant to be. Where she can do the most good."

Did the man envisage his daughter as a missionary? To Mab? Good lord. No wonder Harry called Michael Carpenter the Fist of God.

"Well," John said, unsure of what to say. "I certainly hope that's the case."

Carpenter nodded. "We can but pray."

Somehow, that was the worst part about Carpenter. That despite everything he knew -- despite what John had done, what John had cost him, Carpenter seemed to genuinely believe that John Marcone could be redeemed. And technically, in the doctrine of their shared faith, that might have been true. But in order to be saved, you had to seek forgiveness, and for that, you had to sincerely repent. It wasn't that John didn't have regrets -- he was not, after all, made of stone. But he had very few.

And thus, he damned himself.

John set that thought aside. "Will you be joining us for dinner, Mr. Carpenter?"

Harry looked startled. Carpenter just shook his head. "No, but thank you, Mr. Marcone. Charity is expecting me." He looked at his watch. "And really, if I don't want to be late, I should probably head home now." A hug for Harry, another round of shaking hands with John, and a nod for the bodyguards, and Carpenter was gone.

"A carpenter named Carpenter who serves a carpenter," Gard said, in a tone verging on awe.

"Yeah," Hendricks grunted. "It's like the kind of bad joke Dresden would tell, isn't it?"

"Fine, big guy," Harry grumbled. "No iced tea for you."

A little while later, they were alone, Harry eying John warily. "Um. I'm sorry about earlier. I should have tho -- I should have told you there'd been a change of plans."

"No need. This is your home now. I have no objection to you having friends over, Harry," John said as he changed out of suit. Oddly, it seemed that Harry had not moved anything into the bedroom. But perhaps he had simply not yet unpacked.

"Even Murphy?" Harry asked with a laugh.

"Oh, Harry. The good sergeant is especially welcome," John said, and smirked as he saw the realization spread across Harry's face. Murphy was unbribable. It was a pity; she was tough and competent, and John would have loved to subvert her. Hell, he'd have loved even more to hire her away. But Murphy was already on thin ice; a social call to the home of Gentleman Johnny Marcone would put paid to her career. Once less honest cop on the Chicago force. It would never happen, of course. Karrin Murphy was not a fool. The look of realization was quickly followed by one of irritation. John decided to change the subject. "Was Mr. Raith unavailable?"

"Oh," Harry said, looking deeply uncomfortable suddenly. "I didn't get to call him. Michael phoned this morning. I don't know how he got your number. The Almighty probably slipped one of your cards into the pocket of his dry cleaning. I don't know."

John took pity on him. "I do," he said. "I gave it to him."

"Oh," Harry said. "Okay." Clearly, he wanted to ask. Just as clearly, he wasn't going to. John was glad. He didn't want to explain. "So, he called. Asked how we were doing. You know, the usual. I told him I was going to move in, and he offered to come help. I said yes without really thinking about it." And that was a lie if John ever heard one. Harry was flagellating himself over his apprentice's fate. Today had been the result of his desire to let her father take a turn with the whip. No chance of that, either. John let it slide. "Besides. Thomas was hurt pretty badly, recently."

John raised an eyebrow in silent query.

Harry sighed heavily. "That whole last hurrah with the White Council. I don't want to get into it. All the same, probably a good idea to let him rest."

"I'm curious," John said slowly, because he was, genuinely. "If Mr. Raith -- Thomas -- needs to rest, why did you not take me up on my offer?"

"Oh. Well. Uh. Worrying about me seems to help ground Thomas," Harry said quickly, like a man trying not to think to hard about what he was saying. "I mean, what was done to him. It wasn't just physical. And vampires get over that pretty easily."

With enough food, yes. And Raith was known for being idiosyncratic in that regard. John had a suspicion he could guess what had been done to the vampire. Aloud, John speculated, "He was forced to transgress his moral boundaries with regard to treating people as kine. And now he's wondering if it would be better to pretend those boundaries never existed in the first place."

Harry's mouth dropped open. "I have been tortured, Harry." And, come to that, put the twist on others once or twice, himself. "So you're trying to balance giving him time against giving him a much needed kick in the pants."

"Er, yeah," Harry admitted, scratching his neck. "I guess."

"I hadn't realized you could be so Machiavellian, Harry," John said.

Harry frowned. "You don't have to sound so damn proud. It's not like I planned it. It's all improv, I guess. Instinct. I mean, what else can I do?"

"Probably nothing," John acknowledged. "Mr. Hendricks likes to remind me that you can't ever tell anyone something they don't want to know." Frequently with regard to you, went unsaid. Silence, not entirely comfortable, settled between them for a moment, and John realized that Harry was just sitting on the bed, staring at him. He turned back to his dresser and pulled out a pair of old jeans. "You've had a long day. Perhaps you'd like to take a nap? I could call you before dinner."

"Nah," Harry said. "I'm fine. Er. How was your day?"

"Busy," John said, amused. And because something about Harry made it hard to resist the urge to poke at him, he asked, smiling wide, "I assume you don't want details?"

Harry obligingly scowled.

But his annoyance with John must have vanished by bedtime, because Harry turned up again. John said nothing about it this time, merely wishing his husband a good night, which Harry apparently took as his cue to drop a kiss on John's head before he turned over and passed out.

John fell asleep more quickly than he had the previous two nights, but no more easily.

He woke, slowly at first, to the feeling of being curled around a warm body, and then with a burst of adrenaline when he remembered that it was Harry Dresden in his bed. His husband. Whom he was cuddling. Careful not to move, he cracked his eyes, only to find Harry already awake, watching him, a slow smile spreading across his face. And then Harry moved, just the slightest shift of skin, and John realized that his morning erection was pressed against Harry's thigh. He closed his eyes again. Harry pressed his lips to John's.

And John… gave in. Harry wanted it. John wanted it. Sometimes… sometimes you just needed another human being. To see yourself reflected in their eyes. To feel their body against yours. It was an animal need, but no less real for that. Less urgent than those for water, for sleep. For food. But real. And lying there entwined with his husband only heightened John's sense of having been touch-starved for far too long. And as Harry had said, their first time had been nice. It didn't have to mean anything to help.

He opened his mouth a little, and caught a flash of a smile against his lips before Harry parted his own, and deepened the kiss. Before he even thought about it, John was rutting against Harry's thigh; he only really noticed when Harry reached between them, corralled both their cocks in one huge hand, and started tugging. It was a shade too dry to be entirely comfortable, but John heard himself groaning into Harry's mouth anyway, and concluded that he didn't care. He came first, thrusting up abruptly into Harry's fist and spilling his seed over both their cocks. He blinked as he came down, now wide awake, and caught a glimpse of Harry's face, smile tugging at his swollen lips.

One-handed, John pushed Harry to the bed, and swallowed him down, cum and pre-cum coating the head of Harry's cock. He could tell the difference between them easily; John knew what he tasted liked, and Harry was far more bitter, though he didn't think it unpleasant. Harry didn't last long and his orgasm must have taken him by surprise, for he arched up, flooding John's mouth without warning. "Sorry, sorry," Harry whispered drowsily.

John patted his leg as he swallowed, before kissing Harry, who had a look of wonder on his face, deeply once more.

It was nice.

And that would have to be enough.


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Bring Not All Mischief 4/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-12 04:57 pm (UTC)(link)
A/N: The bits you think you recognize from 'Even Hand'? You totally do.




It had already been a long day when John heard a crashing door and looked up. Hendricks rose with a grunt, and, as if on cue, Harry's voice came through the door, "I will not slow down! There are standing orders in all of John's places that I get what I want and I want to see John!" This was true. However, Harry's tone suggested that what he wanted was to kill John. John could hardly blame Gard for taking that amiss.

And Gard did. Her voice, too, rose, though probably not enough for John to have caught it if he hadn't moved to the door. "He is your sworn liege," she reminded him.

"He is sleeping on the couch!" Harry shrieked.

On that note, John wretched open the door. "Do come in, Mr. Dresden. What brings you to my place of business today?" he asked, closing the door behind Harry as he did.

"You can quit the bullshit, John. Apparently everyone knows," Harry told him flatly.

John raised an eyebrow. "Everyone?"

"Yeah. I had the cops at my place of business asking me about a couple of murders you committed this morning." John would admit to blinking then. That was outstandingly fast. Dangerously, dangerously fast. Someone, somewhere knew something… but that didn't mean they could prove it. If they could… no. They would not have gone to Harry, to try to rattle his cage. They'd have come straight at him. He made himself focus on Harry's words. Troubleshooting would wait on getting the facts. "Apparently you have a leak in your organization the size of Lake Michigan, and now I'm a known associate. Known biblically, I believe the joke went. And I was told that being wizard-married wasn't legal in Illinois, so -- "

"Yes, yes," John said smoothly. "So you can be compelled to turn over testimony on me. Did they say anything useful?"

It was Harry's turn to blink. "Wait. Did you think I came here to warn you that the cops are after you?"

"Yes," John said reasonably, and ignored Hendricks' suspicious-sounding cough.

"No! I came here to ask if you murdered two people this morning!" Harry was on the verge of shouting again.

"Harry," John said slowly. "Has no one ever told you that you should never ask questions you don't want to hear the answers to?"

"I want an answer," Harry said firmly, and loudly, though John thought it sounded more like bravado than conviction.

"Then yes, Harry," John said coldly. "I, personally, killed two men this morning, in the same place where, not all that long ago, really -- I'm sure you'll remember -- you or one of your fellow wardens carried out the extra-judicial execution of a sixteen-year-old wizard."

In that instant, all the fight drained out of Harry. "He was -- it was bad. He was lost a long time before we found him. I don't -- it wasn't right. But it was necessary. He'd raped -- killed. Forced suicides and murder. And he'd done as much damage to himself in the process. It was necessary," Harry repeated, dully.

John regarded him for a long moment. "And because I believe that to be the case, I have refrained from enacting my usual retaliation on those who involve children in matters that are beyond them. Do you want to know what the two men I murdered did? One of them sold drugs to thirteen-year-old girls. The other one then sold the girls for sex. Now. You may point out to me that while the prisons of this country could never hold your warlock, they would have sufficed for men I killed today. And I must tell you how very unlikely it is that they would have seen the inside of one, and if they did, it wouldn't have been for long. I must tell you, also, of the power of deterrents. Your warlock's death served as an example to no one. But the sudden disappearance of those who break my rule," John shrugged eloquently. "That ensures that others will think twice about doing likewise. No children."

"No children," Harry nodded, running a hand through his hair. "I can see that."

"Regardless of the legality of our marriage contract as far as mortal law enforcement is concerned, it does exist," John continued. "And you swore fealty to me, on your magic."

"Yes," Harry agreed, blatantly reluctant.

"I must remind you that, on the strength of that vow, I enjoined you to never, directly or indirectly, give any information to anyone about anything you know or suspect, about anything pertaining to my affairs, legal or illegal, mortal or otherwise, without my permission. It was part of the contract you signed."

"I know," Harry said, with feeling. "And I didn't. I wouldn't," he added a moment later.

There was a knock at the office door, and Gard thrust her head in, her phone's earpiece conspicuous. "There's a problem."

Hendricks frowned from his seat at a nearby desk. "What kind of problem?"

“An Accords matter,” Gard said.

"Harry?" John asked.

"Not me," Harry said, bemused.

"Not Mr. Dresden," Gard answered, correctly interpreting John's question: have the White Council decided to raise an objection to our arrangement?

"Interesting. Well," John said, "we knew it would happen eventually. Bring the car."

"I don't have to," Gard said. "The situation came to us."

The situation turned out to be one of Harry's sometime-allies from the White Court, Justine, the lover of Thomas Raith, carrying a small child and pursued by an enraged Fomor sorcerer. The situation quickly deteriorated.

That was how they came to standing -- or not -- in the magical equivalent of a panic room, Hendricks out for the count, Gard slumped against a wall, Harry spiting fire and force like a volcano until he was all but spent, and John coming to the conclusion that the pain of his broken arm was preferable to the Fomor's mad monologues.

But John had one more trick left up his sleeve. The trick of tricks. The whole thing, up to that point, had been a long con, luring the sorcerer into spending himself so completely that when John picked up the antique dragoon pistol hidden in the desk drawer, a single rune-carved bullet in its chamber, the sorcerer died. That did not stop John from emptying a .45 in its head and chest, in a spirit of thoroughness. John looked up from Mag's ruined form to find Justine staring, frozen in the middle of wrapping a bandage around Hendricks' head. "How is he?" John asked calmly.

Justine swallowed. She said, "He m-may need stitches for this scalp wound. I think he has a concussion. The other wounds aren't bad. His armor stopped most of the fragments from going in."

"Gard?" John asked without looking over his shoulder. The valkyrie had an incredible ability to resist and recover from injury.

"Be sore for a while," Gard said, the words slurred. "Give me a few minutes."

"Harry?" John asked.

"I'm fine," Harry said, and though he rested himself against the doorframe, he did not look worse than tired.

"Justine, perhaps you will set my arm and splint it," John said. "We will need to abandon this renovation, I'm afraid, Gard. Where's the thermite?"

"In your upstairs office closet, right where you left it," she said in a very slightly aggrieved tone.

"Be a dear and burn down the building," John said.

She appeared beside the desk, looking bruised, exhausted, and functional. She lifted both eyebrows. "Was that a joke?"

"Apparently," John said. "Doubtless the result of triumph and adrenaline."

"My word," she said. She looked startled.

"Get moving," John told her. "Make the fire look accidental. I need to contact the young lady's patron so that she can be delivered safely back into her hands. Call Dr. Schulman as well. Tell him that Mr. Hendricks and I will be visiting him shortly." John pursed his lips. "And steak, I think. I could use a good steak. The Pump Room should do for the four of us, eh? Ask them to stay open an extra half an hour."

Gard smiled, a flash of teeth. "Well," she said, "it's no mead hall. But it will do."

"No," Harry said hoarsely. "I -- no." He stumbled, shaken, from the room.

John frowned, and followed. "Harry?" he asked quietly.

"No," Harry said, and though he stopped, he didn't turn around. "This. This isn't a panic room. It's a trap. The running water, the claymores, all the rest of it. A strategy of attrition. You built this place for me. To wear me down. To kill me. You built this place to kill me."

"I built this place before you became my husband, and for more than one reason," John said calmly.

"You didn't take it apart when I did," Harry said, his voice odd.

"And that saved our lives today," John returned evenly.

"I know," Harry said, and started walking again, not looking back. John let him go; it was only later that he realized the implication of what Harry had said. Harry knew.

And Harry could never un-know what he knew.

He could never un-know what John had done.


Re: Bring Not All Mischief 4/?

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Explanation: Justine &kid **SPOILERS** for Even Hand.

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Bring Not All Mischief 5/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-13 06:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Against all expectation, John found Harry in their bedroom. He was leaning on the wall, in total darkness, arms folded across his chest. He didn't react as John brought up the lights. "You went to dinner," Harry said, like he was aiming for flatly. If so, he didn't quite make it.

"Yes," John said. "I did. Mr. Hendricks and Ms. Gard risked their lives today on my orders, and were both injured doing so. Dinner seemed a small gesture in comparison." Harry said nothing, but he frowned more deeply. John continued. "Do you know what Mr. Hendricks was working on when you arrived at the office? His thesis. And now he has a concussion. We all have fears, Harry. What do you think Mr. Hendricks' is?"

"Why do you call him that?" Harry asked quietly. "It's obvious he's not just your bodyguard."

"For much the same reason I call you Mr. Dresden," John answered. "So it is not, in fact, obvious that he is more than my bodyguard. A form of protective camouflage. And, to a degree, a private joke. You do realize he didn't get hurt today because of the mob? Nor even, truthfully, because I'm a Freeholding Lord. He got hurt because we were standing between a monster and a child. One that, oh yes. One of your allies brought to our doorstep. I understand that on your tombstone it says, 'He died doing the right thing'. What do you think it will say on Nathan's?"

Harry said nothing, biting his lip.

"You're angry with me. I understand that," John said. "But that doesn't change my obligations."

"And it never will," Harry said.

John resisted the urge to agree, asking instead, "Do you know what's interesting to me, Harry? You got an unpleasant shock today. More than one, truthfully. But here's the thing: you don't disagree, fundamentally, with what I do. You just think you should. There's a difference. You think you should object to me killing the men I killed today. But when it came right down to it, you didn't. You understood." Harry looked at the floor. Not ashamed, but pensive. John plowed on. "We've been allies far more than we've been enemies, Harry, and there are reasons for that. Probably more than you're in the mood, even now, to credit. But we have also been enemies. And you made no secret of the fact that you regarded me as a lesser evil on long list you were whittling your way through just as fast as you could. I had to be prepared for the day my name was the top one. So I prepared. And I will not apologize for it."

Harry looked up again, straight into John's eyes. "You kept it. Even after -- even after all this." He spread his long arms wide, encompassing the room and all that had happened in it. All that it symbolized.

"I will not apologize for saving the lives of six people, Harry," John said. "A knife can be used to kill. In the hands of a surgeon, however… Yes. I built that room to kill you. I won't pretend otherwise. And today that saved your life."

"You won't apologize," Harry said. "I get it. But, uh. I will. Because what happened today, I think it was my fault."

John frowned. "No. What happened with Mag -- "

"No," Harry said, cutting him off. "I mean before that. I think I know who the leak is. I've known for a while. I just hadn't thought about it recently."

"You've known. About a leak in my organization. For 'a while'," John repeated, manfully resisting the urge to raise his voice. "And you still haven't told me who it is. Cut the theatrics and tell me everything."

"Helen betrayed the location of your safe house to the Denarians. And she knows that I know, because I told her. And you tell her stuff. So. I'm guessing you told her about us," Harry said, looking sheepish.

John had told her about them. John admittedly not told her about the deaths of Morelli's men, but she could have gotten that information for a number of sources in the organization. She had overplayed her hand, but that was understandable. Harry had not thought to inform John of Helen's betrayal, but he would have, sooner or later. Helen had to assume that she had to act quickly, and she'd been more than astute enough to realize that Harry, whatever reasons he had to keep her secret in the past, would not continue to do so for long, and may in fact have already given her up. So she'd dumped what she knew to the cops, but Harry wasn't the weak link he appeared to be. John could worry about how to handle what little Harry knew later. Helen, on the other hand… if she'd handed over more than Harry, and John had to assume she had, then they were in real trouble.

He picked up the phone and considered. Normally, Hendricks would be his first call, but Hendricks needed to rest. Gard… John kept her, for various reasons, spiritual and pragmatic, at the very edge of his more illegal activities. Hendricks… would want to know. Would, ultimately, need to know. Gard could tell him… but John didn't want to issue a pick-up order through Gard. But he could issue her a different one. He punched Gard's number one handed, and waited for her to speak.

"Gard here," she said briskly.

"Ms. Gard," John said. "I understand that you'll be staying with Mr. Hendricks tonight. Do give him my best wishes, and please let him know that Mrs. Regan dropped in on me this evening, and asked to be remembered to him."

"I will," Gard said seriously. John hung up without another word.

"Mrs. Regan?" Harry asked.

"Mmh? Oh, yes. After Regan, one of the daughters of King Lear. Mr. Hendricks suggested it, and as it was less obvious than Arnold or Hanssen, I allowed it."

"Arnold or -- oh," Harry said. "Code for a traitor. Is it always Mrs.? Or is that another piece of the code?"

"Another piece of the code," John said shortly. "Significant, in this case, as there are few Mrs. in my organization. Irrelevant, also, as I didn't give them any further information or instructions. Mr. Hendricks and Ms. Gard will be here with the half-hour."

"Oh," Harry said. "It can't wait." It wasn't a question.

"No," John said. It couldn't. And yet Harry had. John made himself push the thought aside. The fact that Harry had started to warm up to him didn't change the fact that Harry wasn't loyal to him. He shouldn't be surprised at Harry. Hell, he shouldn't even be surprised at Helen. But he was.

Helen had betrayed him. The thought he'd been coolly suppressing so he could think pushed harder for attention, now. Helen hadn't just betrayed him to the police.

Helen had betrayed him to the Denarians.

"Do you want to rest for a while? I can get you when Gard arrives," Harry said, oddly solicitous.

"No," John said. "I'm fine."

"You're really not. Your arm's broken," Harry pointed out. "And your hands are shaking."

John looked down, though he knew already it was true. Fuck. "Adrenaline, and no chance for fight or flight. It has to go somewhere," John said evenly. "It will pass."

"You're not okay," Harry said softly, moving toward John.

John spun away. "No. I am not. You have known -- and for how long? -- that someone with whom I had a sufficiently close bond to feel the need to explain that my relationship status had changed, had betrayed me. Not to the police, or to a business rival, but to demons. To torture and probable death. And for over a year, I have wondered who that person was. As I said, Harry. We all have nightmares. What do think mine are?" Harry faltered, looking stunned. "What do think mine are?" John repeated.

Harry looked ashamed. "It happening again."

John nodded. "And let me tell you Harry, it wears on a soul to look around at those you trust and wonder, not just who would do such a thing? but and when will they try again? Because I had no doubt that they would."

Harry looked stricken, but he remained silent.

"You though she deserved her revenge. I understand. But that revenge, Harry?" John looked away. "Did you truly believe I deserved that? And even if you did, my God, did you care nothing for those she climbed over to get it? The Archive, captured and tortured. Kincaid injured. Michael Carpenter all but killed. You saw Sigrun Gard gluing herself back together, and I'm told you could hardly bear the sight of it. And yet you let the woman responsible wander free knowing the harm she was capable of bringing down on those around her? On men and women who had been your allies? On those who considered themselves your friends?"

"She didn't have anything to do with most of that," Harry protested.

"She isn't innocent of it, either Harry. She gave away that location with every intention of it being my doom, and knowing that at the very least it would likely be Hendricks' and Gard's as well. When you choose to act, you surely bear some responsibility for the consequences of it. Did she know what it would mean for Ivy? No. I'm not saying that she did. But it still happened, and I doubt she cared very much that it did. But what I'm truly wondering is, why didn't you?"

John looked up. Harry's face had gone blank. Not the closed-down not-giving-anything-away kind of blank, but the open-faced brain-freeze kind of blank. "I have no idea," Harry said slowly. "I just didn't think about it that way." Harry shook his head, some semblance of expression returning. "I felt bad for her -- we soulgazed, and she's trapped still in that moment when. Well. You know. And I believed you'd kill her."

John gave Harry what he hoped was a level look. "Are you honestly going to suggest an alternative course of action? Given what you know?"

"It's not her fault that I kept it a secret for a year," Harry said.

"No," John said calmly. "It isn't."

Harry shut his mouth for a second -- maybe -- before he tried again. "You could just kick her out," Harry said. "Send her somewhere else."

John shook his head. "No. First of all: she'd just find another way to try again. Ask yourself who you'd be signing up to get hurt in the fallout of that. Secondly, even if we could somehow render her a non-threat without killing her, it's bad for business. It looks weak. It is, in fact, weak. And that would mean challenges, and that would mean fights, and that would mean deaths. No. If someone is going to die, it should be the person responsible. Don't you think?"

"I think," Harry said, and stumbled into the bathroom. He didn't quite manage to kick the door closed before he retched into the toilet.

Slowly, John sank down onto the bed, his head in his hands. The phone rang, informing him that Hendricks and Gard had arrived. He instructed them to be sent up. The knock came just as Harry was emerging from the en suite, but John got the door himself.

"How are you feeling, Mr. Hendricks?" John asked politely as he let his bodyguards into his bedroom.

"I hadn't realized it had been so long since you'd had a concussion that you don't remember what it's like, boss. You want I should fix that for you?" Hendricks suggested darkly. Harry looked startled, and John huffed a laugh.

"Nathan gets cranky when he has a headache," Gard told Harry. John reflected that she didn't know his husband was in the doghouse just at the moment.

"I'm not cranky. I'm fine," Hendricks lied baldly.

"You had your brain bounced off the inside of your skull," Gard snorted. "I'll grant that English isn't my first language, but that doesn't meet any definition of 'fine' that I know."

Hendricks grunted. John traded a glance with Harry, who seemed to shrink. John tried to be less angry. It wouldn't help. John had known better. He'd been just as careless as Harry. But now wasn't the time to think about that. "Perhaps I should bring this meeting to order," John said. "I didn't call you both away from your beds for social reasons, after all."

Hendricks dropped into a chair and nodded. Gard took up a spot behind him, her gaze level on John. Harry propped up a wall, and made eye contact with the floor. John began, "Harry informed me this evening that he suspects Helen of being the one who took this morning's events to the police. The reason he suspects Helen is because it was Helen who gave the location of our safe house to the Denarians, and Helen knows that he knows, and as he correctly surmised, I told Helen of the change in our relationship."

Hendricks was staring at Harry now. "You knew the woman your husband was sleeping with up until a few weeks ago had tried to kill him, and you didn't think to mention it? Jesus, Dresden." You dumb fuck went unsaid, but was palpably obvious in the room.

"I figured it out at the time, and then I forgot about it," Harry said without looking up. "I know how that sounds. But it's true."

"It's also irrelevant to our current problem. Helen has a reason now to aim the police at Harry as much as myself, and plenty of information on the organization, both from myself and doubtless via other sources. Assuming she hasn't already disappeared, we need to pick her up."

Hendricks already had his phone out, and was working his own brand of magic with it. "She left work early," he reported. "With the excuse of a dental appointment for a toothache. Phoned back later to say she'd needed an emergency root canal and wouldn't be in for a couple of days." He looked up. "I think it's safe to say she's skipped town."

"Or she's in protective custody," Harry said heavily.

"Possible. But I doubt it," John said. "Not Helen's style. Either way, that's only one of our problems. Yes, we need to get our hands on Helen. Beyond that, however, we have other damage control to do. Morelli's men are on their way back to Boston. Should Morelli decide to turn over their bodies, the police have a murder case."

"Nobody saw the shooter but you and me, Johnny," Hendricks rumbled.

It took John a moment to understand what Hendricks was saying, that he could take the blame for the deaths. "No, Nathan. I will not permit that."

Hendricks shrugged. "The Spartacus defense? I'm fine with that."

John snorted. "I think the bookkeeper's testimony will demolish that."

"The bookkeeper saw you threaten him with a gun. He wore a hood for the rest of it." John sometimes suspected that Hendricks' classmates didn't like him very much.

"Will Morelli hand over the bodies?" Gard asked suddenly. "Surely that opens up his organization to scrutiny that he'd rather avoid."

"We wouldn't be in this position if Morelli wasn't a moron," Hendricks said. "Look, let's pull them off the train. It'll be a mess, but a manageable one. Small team. Maybe Daly? Have it done in a few hours. Dunno what you want to do with the bookkeeper, though."

John didn't either. "We have time to consider that. But yes. Scramble Mr. Daly's team. Minimal mess if possible. I don't want mission impossible, I want mission quiet-pickup-at-a-train-depot. No violence, no threats, nothing to make anyone look twice at anything but maybe the paperwork." Hendricks nodded, and his fingers flew across his phone. "Executive Priority is another problem. Most of the girls there like Helen. Yes, she's betrayed them too, but people can be stupid about that. And if the cops pressure them, some of them will jump," John thought out loud. "Get someone to scrub the files. And the building, too, while we're at it. And send some… counselors around to the girls. Let them know what's happening, what Helen's done and that we'll make sure it doesn't touch them. Let them know, too, that we'll be covering their pay while the building is shut for renovations."

Hendricks nodded, and didn't look up from his phone. "And Helen?"

"I don't even know where to begin looking," John admitted. "She's a practitioner, and she's not stupid. She'll have shaved off her hair by now, and gone to ground. We'd be better off stalking the police."

"I can find Helen," Harry said quietly. "I'll bring her in."


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Bring Not All Mischief 6/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-16 12:57 pm (UTC)(link)
A/N: Sorry about the delay. RL was doing RL things.



Harry left the room without speaking to anyone, or even looking up. All eyes followed him until the door closed behind him. Then Hendricks caught John's eyes with a level gaze. "That was stupid, boss," Hendricks said. "Dangerous stupid."

John shrugged. "We all make mistakes," he enunciated. "Harry's fixing his."

"'Harry' isn't some dumb punk in need of an attitude adjustment, boss. He's your husband," Hendricks said.

"Ours is not an equal marriage, Mr. Hendricks. Harry is my vassal. He is in every sense, bar those clearly excepted in our marriage contact, subject to me. I have been extremely lenient in how I have treated him up to now, and it appears that that was a mistake." John smiled, all teeth. "One that I am fixing."

"You're pissed at him right now. Okay. I get that. But I think you're forgetting that he has no way of contacting us if he needs backup, rescue, whatever. That a comfortable thought, Johnny?" It was not, but John said nothing. Hendricks plowed on. "And let's not forget that Dresden turns idiotic when a pretty face starts pleading with him. It's like everything he ever learned about his profession came from noir films, but he never got to see the ending, cause of the technology breaking down. He finds Helen. Helen starts crying. You really think Dresden's going to drag her back here so you can smack her around and put a bullet in her brain?" John winced at Hendricks' turn of phrase, and Hendricks raised his eyebrows. "See what I mean? And you're not even there. And you have a whole lot more reason to be pissed at her than he does. Send Gard after them both, boss."

"Ms. Gard is not an option at this time, Mr. Hendricks. By mutual agreement with Monoc, there are limits to what participation Ms. Gard should have in business-only affairs. This does not meet the requirements for her involvement."

"I disagree," Gard put in smoothly. "Helen's past alliance with the Denarians makes her my legitimate target. The fact that your interest in her at present is partly fueled by business concerns does not change that."

John took a moment to consider this before speaking. "Nevertheless. This is well within Harry's capabilities. You cannot deny that, nor that he mishandled the situation, to grave consequences. I would be doing him a disservice not to allow him to fix it. He did, after all, volunteer."

"So. You're not looking to give him an attitude adjustment so much as a paradigm shift," Hendricks said. The look on his face added, oh great. "What happens if he comes back here without her, Johnny?"

"Under the combined terms of the Unseelie Accords and our marriage contract, there are effectively limitless ways I can address Harry's failure, should I choose to get creative about it. I hope it doesn't come to that." John took in the frowns on both his bodyguards' faces and mentally replayed what he'd said. "For God's sake, I am not talking about beating my husband. For a start, tempting though the thought might be, I have no doubt that Harry's ability to endure pain far outstrips my willingness to inflict it on him. But I can no more allow Harry's disloyalty than I can anyone else under me. Less, in fact, in Harry's case, given that as my husband his loyalty should be above question."

"So," Hendricks said quietly, "you're not beating your husband because it's wrong, or because it wouldn't work?"

"I'm not beating my husband because he's my husband," John said. "Honestly, if this was anyone else in the organization, would we be having this conversation?"

Hendricks shrugged, but then, Hendricks was always up for an ethics debate.

Gard interjected, "You are both tired. And there is no need to keep going over old ground. We will know more soon, and cannot take any further action until then. Why not rest, both of you?"

John nodded and suggested, "Why don't you take the room next door?"

"Don't want to sleep for a few more hours," Hendricks said. "We can stay here. Play cards. Watch you drool." Keep you company while you wait.

John nodded again, and stripped off his shoes, jacket and tie before slipping under the sheets. Exhaustion, pain, and whatever had been in the shot Dr. Schulman had given him meant that John dropped off to sleep far more readily than usual. It wasn't a deep sleep, more drowsing in waves that floated him nearer or further from the shore of consciousness. He caught snippets of conversation from time to time, though they didn't always make sense. At one point, he heard Gard remark to Hendricks, "Every love story worth telling has screaming and bleeding in it," and had barely enough time to wonder what play they were discussing before drifting back asleep.

John awoke to the sound of the phone ringing, and Hendricks saying, soft voice rich in irony, "Madam, how like you this play?" He thought he heard Gard chuckle as he sat up. Hendricks reached for the handset before John could. "Hendricks," Hendricks said flatly. A moment later he said, "Keep him there. Tell him I'll be down in two." John arched an eyebrow as Hendricks hung up the phone. "Thomas Raith is at the gate. Apparently with a message from Harry."

Thomas Raith was indeed at the gate, leaning against his car, looking liked he'd just rolled out of bed, and like maybe you'd like him to roll back in. "What's this about a message from Harry?" John asked, quashing his libido. The words helped.

"Well, I'll give you one guess," Raith drawled, annoyed. "He only got one phone call."

"He's in jail," John said.

"Apparently," Raith said. "In which case, I suppose calling his mafiosa husband would not have been wise."

No, John reflected. Even if their relationship was no longer a secret, there was still too much chance someone might have said something… unguarded on the phone. "You came immediately?"

"As soon as I hung up," Raith said.

"Why not call?" John asked.

Raith shrugged. "Harry had a good reason for not calling you. I didn't care to trust that my call would be any safer than his. It wasn't that long a drive."

Of course, John reflected. Raith only played the fool. John had seen him in action before, a beautiful nightmare, loyal and deadly. "Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Raith."

Raith's smile turned wolfish. "Oh, you are most welcome. You cannot imagine how pleased the White Court was to get the chance to repay the favor you did us yesterday."

John kept himself from swearing only by dint of long practice. A quarter million in bullion. The casualties. The bullet. The vast cost of the favor he'd done Lara Raith, repaid in one early-morning errand. He returned the smile instead, "Oh. Anything for family. I know how close you are to Harry, and how important Justine is to you both."

Raith went utterly still; White Court vampires camouflaged well, even at their most monstrous. The stillness, on the other hand, was somehow alien, and, despite the fact that the White Court were living creatures, eerily reminiscent of the dead. It lasted only a moment. "Yes," Raith said. "I suppose you could say that I think of him as a brother. I would hate to hear of anything untoward happening to him." There was the barest pause for emphasis before Raith continued. "I trust you can dig him out of his current predicament?"

"Oh, yes," John said.

Raith handed over a business card. "Should you need to get in contact with me," he said, before disappearing into his car.

"Release the hounds, Mr. Hendricks," John said, and as Hendricks' fingers were flying across his phone, he pretended not to see Hendricks roll his eyes. "And get me a copy of the arresting officer's report."

"You realize you should probably go to ground, right, boss?" Hendricks said.

"Nonsense. Hiding would only make it look, well, rather like I had something to hide, wouldn't it, Mr. Hendricks?" John said brightly, turning back toward the house.

He heard Hendricks sigh behind him. "You know the lawyers will do their best, boss, but Dresden's not you. If he's charged -- and they're gonna wanna -- getting him bail's gonna be a nightmare."

John turned to face Hendricks. "Why?"

"He's a flight risk. No family, no community ties. Hell, even his business is barely keeping itself in the black. His tie to you isn't legal, and won't help. Flight risk, hell. He's the textbook definition, boss."

John heard a growl and realized it was him, and reined it in. "What if it could be demonstrated that Harry did in fact have family in Chicago?"

Hendricks didn't bother rolling his eyes that time. "The little by-play with Raith? Yeah, I caught it." John hid an inward wince; the promise he'd made had specified not revealing Harry's secret even indirectly, and he had provoked Raith into saying what he had; he'd worry about breaking his word later. "I assume they're keeping it hidden for a reason boss. I'd think very carefully about whether or not it would be an idea to save that particular reveal. Look, the lawyers know it's a big deal. I'm just warning you that it might take time, okay? And let's not forget, Dresden's not you or me. Ultimately, he's staying there voluntarily."

Not only was that, at best, cold comfort, it also brought the hollowness of his own words (he did, after all, volunteer), spoken only a few hours earlier, to mind and into sharp relief. "I'd like him out by morning, Mr. Hendricks," John sighed. He couldn't quite bring himself to admit, I'd like him to be out right now, but he could trust that Hendricks understood.

"Yeah boss," Hendricks said, and drew his phone from his pocket once more.

Gard waited for them on the steps of the house. "Dresden did something," she said, almost excitedly. "I ran a trace, but I've found two of him."

"Any idea why?" John asked.

"I'm guessing one's a marker of some sort, pointing to something significant," Gard answered.

"Helen?" Hendricks hazarded.

"We don't even know for sure if he got that far," John reminded him. "ETA on the police report?"

"A few more minutes, boss," Hendricks said quietly.

"What happened?" Gard asked.

"Cops picked up Dresden. We don't know anything else for sure. Your best guess is probably the same as ours."

The police report did come in a few minutes later. Hendricks rumbled off a quick synopsis: Harry did find Helen; when he identified himself to her, she let him into the house where she was staying, at which point he was arrested on grounds that amounted to that he shouldn't have been able to find her, and could not have had peaceable intent to go looking. John grudgingly had to admit this was true. He heard Hendricks suck in a quick breath, and looked over at his second.

"Bad news, boss," Hendricks said simply. "Arresting officer? Sergeant Karrin Murphy."

"He didn't resist arrest?" John asked.

"No," Hendricks said. "I'm just as shocked as you."

Gard frowned. "Both of the Dresden traces are moving."

Hendricks looked over the rough map she was using for her spell. "That's Harry," he said. "I'm guessing that one's Helen."

"How can you be so sure?" Gard asked.

"Location, location, location," John said. "That's the jail."

"Of course," Gard said. "Probably explains why he hasn't gone very far."

"I think we can assume that was trap for Harry Dresden. And I am eager to discover the precise role Sergeant Murphy played in it. Ms. Gard, I would like you to secure Helen Beckitt for me please. Do take care that you do not likewise fall into a trap."

"With pleasure," she said, like it was, and left the room.

Gard was back with Helen in just over an hour, shortly after which Helen disappeared.

The lawyers finally managed to spring Harry around midmorning. "Dresden did most of the heavy lifting himself, boss," Hendricks remarked, looking over the lawyer's email while they waited for Harry to arrive back at the mansion. "Apparently he interpreted the clause in your marriage contract about him not telling anyone anything he knew or suspected about your affairs to mean he couldn't tell the truth, but he could lie as much wanted to. So he did. Spun the cops a tale about how Helen was blackmailing him, threatening to out him and you, and she'd called him, told him to come to the house last night, gave him directions -- oh, you'll like this bit -- as he says, 'how else would I have found her, magic?' Karrin Murphy must be spitting bullets right now. Anyway. Helen gave the cops the slip right after they picked up Dresden, so they're none too happy with her right now. Seems like she hadn't given them much more than a few suspicions they can't confirm, and nothing about Priority, which is the only thing she'd had knowledge of in detail."

Which confirmed the story Helen had given Gard in their brief conversation. She had regrettably both over played her hand, and held it too close to her chest. If she'd given what she had on Executive Priority to the police... well, it would have been a decent death-curse, if nothing else. In the end, she didn't even get that. John scrubbed his face with his hand, feeling every inch his age. "Thank you, Mr. Hendricks. Why don't you and Ms. Gard take a personal day? The room next to mine is already made up." It was always made up. It was pretty much Hendricks' room in all but name.

"Yeah, sounds good," Hendricks acknowledged. "I'll head up when you do."

John gave Hendricks a look of narrow-eyed suspicion, but Hendricks radiated innocence, and John let it go. They waited in the portico for Harry, hitching a ride with his lawyers, to arrive back. It was just a few more minutes.

Harry looked like nine kinds of hell when he half-slide half-stumbled from the backseat of his lawyer's car. John grabbed for Harry before he could fall over, cursing himself for not remembering that while it had been a long day for everyone, Harry had been running close to empty before they'd finished with the Fomor sorcerer. John slung one of Harry's long arms over his shoulder and whispered, "Come on. Let's get you to bed."


Re: Bring Not All Mischief 6/?

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Re: Bring Not All Mischief 6/?

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Bring Not All Mischief 7/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-16 11:40 pm (UTC)(link)
"You don't have to do this," Harry mumbled.

"Ssh," John murmured in turn.

Blessedly, Harry did, at least until they were ensconced in their bedroom, John pulling the sheets down, and seating Harry on the bed. "You don't have to be nice," Harry said. And something about it -- not even the words, exactly, so much as the lost way Harry said it, made John want to grind his teeth. "I know you're mad at me. And why. And you're right, I can't believe I didn't think about what -- "

"Stop, Harry, please," John heard himself say. "I am not mad at you. I was mad at you, angrier, truthfully, than I had any right to be. I will not deny that I was hurt by your revelation. But not all of that hurt was caused by you."

"I should have told you," Harry said. "I don't mean since we got married. I really hadn't thought about it since then. Since practically it happened, honestly. I mean, I should have told you at the time. I don't understand why I just -- " Harry stopped, and took a breath. "I know it doesn't mean much, but I am sorry."

John cupped Harry's chin so they were looking into each other's eyes. It occurred to John that he was one of the very few people with whom Harry could look share such a basic human gesture. "I'm sorry too," John said plainly. John suspected only the pressure of his hand at Harry's jaw kept his mouth from dropping open. "I know I have not earned your trust, and yet I demand your loyalty. You handled yourself today astonishingly well, all things considered." Harry shook his head. "There were a few bumps along the way, I'll grant. But you voluntarily confessed your guilt, when not only you could have hidden it, but you also had a reason to be angry with me. And you made every effort to repair the damage you'd inadvertently caused. Which you did well, and with very few resources."

Harry shook his head again. John let go of his chin, tamping down on his reluctance by lifting Harry's legs, onto the bed, and pulling his boots off one at a time. "I didn't get Helen," Harry said.

"No, but Gard followed your trace. Helen is -- well, I hope she is at peace, now." John wasn't sure there was a ticket for heaven waiting for anyone who willingly consorted for demons, nor was he sure there ought to be, but somehow, with all he knew of himself, he couldn't bring himself to wish damnation on her. A spell in purgatory, perhaps… He let the thought go. Harry grimaced, and John patted his foot.

"The trace was well thought of," John continued, "as was using Thomas as an intermediary. You did well, Harry. I'm afraid I have a confession of my own," John admitted, dropping onto the bed next to Harry. As if by reflex, Harry scooted in, making room. "I let slip to Thomas that I know of your relationship. In front of Mr. Hendricks. I truly am sorry, Harry. I can offer you no extenuating circumstances, and I am prepared to pay an equitable forfeit for the breech of trust," John said formally.

Harry, surprisingly, didn't look angry, just rather more tired. "Invite him in," Harry said.

"I beg your pardon?" John said.

"Invite him in. Thomas. The next time he's here. Invite him in," Harry repeated.

"That is a rather substantial gesture of trust, Harry," John balked. "He's a vampire, and I would be giving him access to far more than just you or I, access to people who rely on me to protect them."

"You were safe, because I rely on your protection, and he wouldn't jeopardize that. But you have to understand, he could have killed Hendricks, right there," Harry said flatly. "And you couldn't have stopped him. And I hate to say it, but it probably crossed his mind. But he didn't do it. And now he has to trust not just you but Hendricks with his secret. A secret that could get one or both of us killed if it's revealed. He's trusting you. You should trust him back."

Grudgingly, John had to acknowledge that made it sense, and as forfeits went, it was fair. Hendricks for Thomas. A brother for brother. John nodded. "Very well." He started stripping off his own clothes. "How did your stay in the hoosegow go?" John asked casually.

Harry groaned. "How anyone commits a crime after their first strip search I'll never know." He pulled a pillow from John's side of the bed and dropped it on his face.

John stared at the tableau for a moment, anger coiling low in his belly. He let it simmer for a slow count of three before pushing it down where it belonged, and lifting the pillow from Harry's head. "A first for you, I take it?"

"Yes!" Harry said, coloring faintly. "And I hadn't even left booking!"

That seemed like overkill, to John, though he'd have to call the lawyers to be sure. "Visual inspection only, or cavity search?"

"Visual," Harry squeaked.

John nodded. That was bad enough. Poor Harry. John found himself stroking Harry's hair, ostensibly to push it from his eyes, but it quickly turned into something else. John made himself stop. "I'm very sorry, Harry." Something absurd -- sleep deprivation and pain, perhaps, made him honest. "I am intimately familiar with how humiliating that feels. Try not to let it get to you. I hope the officers involved were professional about their duties?"

Harry swallowed. "I guess."

"By which you mean, 'no'," John concluded.

"Yeah," Harry agreed, reaching for the pillow again.

One-handed, John dropped it at the foot of the bed. "Was Sergeant Murphy there?" he asked tightly.

"Murphy? No!" Harry said. "It was a men-only, no-girls-allowed sort of affair." John nodded. As it should have been. "It might have been easier if she had been," Harry admitted quietly. "I don't know."

How bad had it been, to make Harry had wish for the presence of a friend? John pushed the thought away. Perhaps all Harry meant was that he trusted that Murphy would have seen fair play done. "I could not help but notice that Sergeant Murphy was the arresting officer," John said.

"Yeah. It was a trap for her as much as me," Harry said. "As soon as I saw her, I knew. I mean, yeah, she's pissed about the whole mobster's moll thing, but she understands that it was life or death. And she gets that you might be a crime boss in the mortal world, but you're protecting Chicago on the supernatural level." Harry took a breath. "I'd tagged Helen as soon as she opened the door, so there was no point in doing anything but cooperating when the cops burst in doing their guns blazing routine. I don't know if it helped. For Murph, I mean. With Helen gone, the whole case falls apart, and her career can't take much more of my bullshit. I …don't think we're friends anymore. She knows I lied about what I was doing at Helen's, and she hates that. She'll assume the worst. Actually, no, she'll assume the truth. That I was there because Helen went to cops, and I was sent to bring her in. But I want to try. With Murph, I mean. I owe her that much. To tell her it was Helen who started that thing with the Denarians. That it wasn't mob boss stuff, it was Accords stuff. I can't call her, obviously. I mean, I think she'd take the call, but I doubt her career could."

The stream-of-consciousness speech hit John harder than all of Hendricks' intimations and warnings, overt and oblique, had. Harry was a puzzle, because so few of Harry's responses were what they ought to have been, because Harry was a deeply damaged individual. Harry trusted where he shouldn't, and mistrusted where he shouldn't, and forgave far, far too easily. Maybe the sergeant had reasons to be angry with Harry, though given her own relationship with the Hellhound, perhaps she ought not throw stones. Harry wasn't pissed at Molly Carpenter for what she'd done to him; he thought he'd let her down. He hadn't taken action against Helen because he didn't feel he'd had the right. After finding out that John had betrayed Harry's secret, Harry's forfeit had been given over to Thomas, not kept for himself. Oh, yes, and on discovering that his husband had an ironclad plan to kill him, should it come to it, he'd waited for John in their bedroom, alone and unarmed, when he ought to have been, by all rights, looking for somewhere else -- anywhere else -- to sleep. John turned their earlier conversation over in his head. Had John discovered his husband had a plan to kill him -- even just as a just-in-case -- he too might have been found in the darkness of their bedroom, but he'd have been armed, and lying in wait. Harry's anger with him was completely understandable. How quickly it had vanished, even under the weight of logic, was not. Harry should have been outraged, but he was not, because he couldn't quite fathom that he was worth it.

"You should be furious with me," John said in an awed tone. "I blithely led you into a room where I could kill you, and scolded you for taking it amiss. You had every right to be as upset about that as I was about you keeping Helen's betrayal a secret, and even then, I didn't see that. Instead, I bullied you into hunting her down, despite how I knew you'd feel about doing such a thing. And then I broke your freely-given trust about the existence of your brother."

"I'm sure that was an accident," Harry broke in, looking uncomfortable. "And I'm not thrilled with you."

"You. Should. Be. Furious," John repeated, enunciating each word slowly for emphasis. "How is that you're not?"

"Well, you were right. The room was useful for getting rid of Mag. It was more than its original purpose. And the thing with Helen… I really should have known better. I still can't figure out why I didn't think about it like that. I mean, I blamed myself for what happened to Michael, and I was trying to do the right thing. Why did I think that but not think maybe Helen had some responsibility for it too?" Harry shrugged. "The thing with Thomas? Well, that was my fault, really. If I hadn't told you…" he trailed off. "People make mistakes. I managed to forget the thing with Helen for a year. And really, you've been okay. I wondered, you know, what I was letting myself in for when I agreed to Lea's plan, even after I knew it was you. You'd wanted to get your hands on me for a long time, I knew, but I thought you'd be decent about it. And you have been, mostly."

John was stunned into silence for a long moment, staring at Harry until he started shifting under the weight of his gaze. "Harry, who treated you so badly that my behavior toward you counts as 'mostly decent'? By what possible standard was my behavior today shy of 'abominable'?"

Harry's brow furrowed in confusion. "Both of my parents were killed before I'd finished losing my baby teeth. My first mentor taught me to cast a shield by throwing baseballs at me. I was forced to kill him in self-defense after he attempted to enslave me. Because I killed him with magic, my second mentor -- Eb of the Blackstaff, you'll recall -- took me in with instructions to off me if I went warlock, though to be fair, he was kind enough not to let on about that. My godmother -- who I've come to believe is sincere in her affection for me -- wants to turn me into a dog. I've lived under the Doom of Damocles for oh, a combined total of about fifteen of my thirty-six years, so, really, about half my life. I've seen my brother beaten by his father, my first lover enslaved, started a war to save another lover and didn't even succeed, been responsible for the death of one young woman who'd been something of an apprentice to me, and the permanent exile of another… John, today does not come close to ranking in my personal top ten worst days. All you did was reveal you'd, once upon a time, had a suspicion that I'd come for you, and sensibly took precautions to stop it. I can live with that."

John blinked, trying to process all of the information he'd been given. He'd known parts of it, though he'd never come close to guessing how bad, precisely, things had been for Harry over the years. No wonder Harry had moved so quickly from justifiable anger to rationalization. He'd had long years of practice at it, and now, irrevocably bound to John, he could do nothing but hope for the best, and failing to get that, repress all conscious thought that things should be otherwise.

"Hell," Harry mused, disrupting John's line of thought, "the worst part about today wasn't even that. It's knowing that I've probably lost Murphy for good this time."

"About that," John murmured, reminded of something Harry said earlier. "You wished to speak with her. That can be arranged. She knows Michael Carpenter. I'm sure he would not mind acting as a go between. A meeting on neutral ground? I could call him."

Harry nodded. "I'd appreciate that," he said softly.

"I am curious, however," John said, keeping his tone deceptively light, "about what happened exactly at the police station. I understand that you may not wish to talk about it. But I am wondering if perhaps there's a name you'd like to mention to me."

Harry was quiet for a long moment. "Are you offering to kill someone for me?"

"You were given a probably unnecessary -- I intend to speak to the lawyers -- strip search. Even so, it should have been conducted with utterly disinterested professionalism, and it was not. You were naked and vulnerable," and John did not look away even as Harry did, "and surrounded by those who not only were dressed, but were armed as well. I am, as I believe I said, familiar with what such a search entails. It requires you to strip, to manipulate your body parts so they can be inspected, to squat and cough. Under the command of a professional, such a thing might constitute a legal and justifiable search. Under the command of a thug, however… how is that not a sexual assault?"

"I wasn't touched!" Harry said hotly. "At worst you can say it was harassment. It probably wasn't even that. Just some. You know. Taunting."

"And if I put a gun to your head and ordered you to masturbate, would it be sexual harassment or sexual assault?" John asked calmly.

"No one put a gun to my head," Harry retorted.

"Then why did you do it?" John asked just as calmly as before.

Harry's expression was heartbreaking as the realization dawned. "Because, yes, if I didn't, it would have escalated to violence. Happy?"

"No. I am not," John said. "Would you like to give me the name of the man who assaulted you, Harry?"

Harry looked away for a long few seconds, his jaw working silently. When he looked back, he met John's eyes and answered.


Re: Bring Not All Mischief 7/?

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Bring Not All Mischief 8/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-19 12:51 pm (UTC)(link)
"I don't want him killed," Harry said. "But if you could see to it he never works for the police again…" He trailed off then.

"I can do that," John said levelly.

"Rudolph. His name is Rudolph, and he works in Internal Affairs. He hates me, has for years," Harry said.

John nodded. He knew the name. Rudolph had tangled with Sergeant Murphy more than once, too. It made sense, given what Harry had said about Helen's gambit being 'a trap for Murphy too', that he would be involved. "Consider it done," John said.

"No," Harry said quickly. "Tell me. When it's done. When he's gone, tell me."

John nodded. "Okay. Get some sleep."

Harry frowned. "I thought you were coming to bed too," he said.

"Soon," John soothed. "I want to get the ball rolling on this first. I'll be back up in a few minutes."

Harry nodded. "Okay," he agreed, "'Night," he said absurdly, sunlight streaming through windows of their bedroom, and closed his eyes. John dropped the sheets on top of Harry, before crossing the room quietly and leaving.

He headed downstairs, pausing in the front lobby to bum a cigarette and lighter from his housekeeper. Something must have shown in the expression on his face, because she wordlessly offered up the rest of the packet. John declined, though he did accept a second cigarette.

He barely had the first one lit when Hendricks appeared on the patio next to him. John almost jumped out of his skin. "How is a man your size stealthy?"

"I'm not," Hendricks said frankly. "You're distracted."

"You're supposed to be in bed," John returned, in lieu of a denial.

"So are you," Hendricks retorted. "Heard you walking past my door, though." Silently, John offered Hendricks the second cigarette. Hendricks shook his head. "Quit years ago, boss." So did you, went unsaid.

Except they both knew it wasn't quite true. Every now and then, John slipped up. He'd care about it less -- it wasn't often, and it wasn't like he'd live to get old, in all likelihood -- if it hadn't been his idea that they both quit. He hated the hypocrisy of it. But Hendricks never said anything about that, just stood there, looking virtuous. John took a deep pull. "There's an officer named Rudolph. Internal Affairs. You'll find his details in Karrin Murphy's file. I want him off the force. Hell, I want him out of Chicago. He's not to work in this town. He's not to get work in law enforcement anywhere else."

"Dresden have a hard time, boss?" Hendricks said quietly, pulling his phone out.

"Yeah," John drawled, and smoked a bit harder.

You'd have to know Hendricks well to be able to tell he winced. "Bad?" he asked.

"Bad enough. Though, with Harry, it's impossible to tell. You've seen his file. It probably won't shock you to learn that that's the tip of the iceberg. And in his head, he's got himself convinced that really, most of it wasn't that bad. I'd like to gut Rudolph, personally, and garrote him on a length of his own intestine, but Harry seems to think that's overkill."

"No kidding, boss," Hendricks sighed. "'Harry' thinks getting a brutal asshole kicked off the force is an egregious abuse of his position." John smiled humorlessly. The irony wasn't lost on him. There was a pause before Hendricks asked softly, "You remember that talk we had about your father?"

John did, instantly, despite the fact that they'd spoken about both their families many times over the years. But put like that… there was only one conversation that Hendricks could mean. His shoulders hunched of their own accord, and John couldn't quite bring himself to straighten up. "Yeah," he said, ignoring that it came out as a whisper. He forced himself to speak, well, almost at a normal volume. "'People in healthy situations don't need to convince themselves that they're not being abused.'"

"Yeah, Johnny," Hendricks said. "Maybe you should have that talk with Dresden."

John frowned. "Not only would Harry not get it, but in any competition over who had it worse, there is no question that Harry would win."

"No, boss," Hendricks said, manfully repressing a sigh. "You're not getting it. Go. Talk to him. Tell him. You'll see what I mean."

John eyed Hendricks suspiciously. "You know they made Socrates drink hemlock, right?"

"They didn't make Socrates do anything, boss. Something else, maybe, you should reflect on. Hey, your birthday's coming up," Hendricks said thoughtfully. "I could get you a copy of the Phaedo."

"They would never find the body, Mr. Hendricks," John warned. "No more Plato. I thought we'd agreed."

"Alright," Hendricks grunted. "I'll think of something eventually."

John crushed out his cigarette, but slipped the second one into his pocket with the lighter. He had a feeling he'd need them later. "You go back to bed. I have a couple of calls to make, and then I'll do the same, okay?"

"If you're sure, boss," Hendricks said.

"I'm sure. Oh, let me know if anything comes in on Rudolph. Actually, scratch that. Have anything that comes in on Rudolph sent to me. You're head's gotta still be splitting."

"All the more for you reminding me, Johnny," Hendricks replied. "But I can handle Rudolph. I'll let you know when it's done."

"Alright. Bedtime. I'll be up in a few minutes myself," John sighed.

Hendricks nodded and left, with one last lingering look. John waved him off, and pulled out his phone, dialing his lawyers' office first. It wasn't quite as satisfying as strangling the man with his own bowels, but John had no doubt his lawyers would bring their special and entirely legal brand of cruelty to bear on Rudolph. With that call finished, and with rather less enthusiasm, John dialed Michael Carpenter's number. Carpenter, being Carpenter, said little, made sympathetic noises, and agreed to act as go between for Harry and Murphy. John signed off and headed back upstairs; Harry was fast asleep in their bed.

John stripped down to his underwear, and slipped between the sheets. Harry snuffled and rolled closer, and the sight of it did something painful to John's heart. How could Harry dare trust him? It made no sense. Gently, he brushed the hair from Harry's eyes and planted a kiss on his forehead. At the touch, Harry burrowed closer into John's space, and John fell asleep resting his head on his husband's, wondering what he could possibly do to earn the trust that had been given so freely.

A soft knock on the door a few hours later woke him, but John managed to slip out of the bed and out of the room both without disturbing Harry. Gard waited in the hall. "It would appear that Rudolph was not for sale to you because he had already been purchased by your Red Court competitors," she began.

John smiled, all teeth. "And we can prove it?"

"Of course," Gard said, without a trace of smugness. "With this and the complaints the lawyers filed a few hours ago, Rudolph will be lucky to escape jail time. I have… news," she said, clearly deleting either a 'good' or 'bad' before it slipped out. "Karrin Murphy was dismissed from her position shortly after Dresden was freed. Rudolph's fingerprints were all over her dismissal, so I suppose there's a chance she'll get her job back, but I doubt it."

John shook his head. "There's no chance. Helen Beckitt and Harry Dresden both slipped from her custody, and with them, the CPD's best chance at bringing me to trial. Rudolph may have had something to do with Helen -- I wouldn't be surprised at this point -- but with Helen gone, Murphy will have a hard time proving it. And Rudolph had nothing to do with Harry's wiggling free. And as the arresting officer, she's surely catch some of the flack for what happened to Harry during the search, even though she wasn't, and shouldn't have been, in the room. It's a pity, in a way. She was a peace officer before she could legally drink. Did you know?"

"But one less problem for you," Gard said, always testing.

"But one less problem for me," John agreed. "And one more. Harry won't like it."

Gard arched an eyebrow, an elegant question mark.

"I know," John sighed. "Ridiculous to be sentimental about it. I can only assume Harry emits an archaic chivalry field as well as an anti-technology one."

"It is perfectly natural to want your loved ones to be happy," Gard said carefully.

"We're not in love," John retorted. "We're just stuck with each other. And as we are, it makes sense to try to get along."

"Yours would not be the first arranged match to turn into a love one," Gard told him seriously.

"I do not require love any more than I require enjoyment to thrive, Ms. Gard," John said quietly.

She shook her head, and somewhere in the gesture something about her face changed subtly. "Love has stood between you and death more than once, John Marcone," she said, voice bright and fierce. "You know I speak the truth."

John barely managed to repress a shudder as her face and voice returned to normal. He did know it for truth, voice of eldritch horror notwithstanding. But he did not require it of Harry. He had no right to demand such of Harry. Harry's life, yes, unto death, even -- Harry had signed that away -- but not his love. "Yes, it has," he acknowledged. "But ours is not a love match, and it never will be. We are, at best, wary allies, and we will be lucky indeed if we can one day count each other as friends. I am not so rich that I can afford illusions, Ms. Gard."

Gard pursued her lips as she sometimes did, but she said nothing further.

John nodded and returned to his room. Harry had awoken, and was sitting up in bed, his head thrown back against the headboard. He smiled as John approached, and John had to repress the urge to kiss it off his face. Really, what had Harry to smile about?

"I thought I heard voices," Harry said.

"Yes," John agreed, dropping onto the bed, sitting so he could face Harry. "Ms. Gard had news about Rudolph. It's not over yet. Would you rather wait until it is, or get a progress report now?"

Harry had to think about it for a moment, that was obvious. John watched his face flicker through several emotions before settling on cautious hope. "A progress report," he decided.

John nodded. "Rudolph apparently sold himself some time ago to some Red Court competitors of mine -- "

Harry made a choking sound. "You have competition from the Red Court?"

"I believe you're aware there's a war on?" John refrained from reminding Harry that he started it; Harry had made it plain he felt bad about that.

"Yes," Harry said, "But why go after you?"

"As the Baron of this city, I take my duties to protect it seriously. Beyond which, you are now my consort. 'Your enemies shall be my enemies' and all that," John said. " I will be taking a closer look at their activities and holdings very soon, but that's not really germane to this conversation. Rudolph's corruption is eminently provable, and add to that the complaints we filed this morning and his career is over. In fact, there's a good chance he will find himself facing prison time. He also undoubtedly made himself many enemies in the department today -- I'm sorry to have to tell you that Karrin Murphy was fired this morning."

Harry's face dropped into a look of sadness, but not surprise. "Aw, Murph," he said quietly.

"It's possible that she can appeal the decision, given Rudolph's involvement, but I am not, personally, hopeful of her chances. In related news, Mr. Carpenter has agreed to act as a go between for the two of you. It would be wise to hold to that precaution in case I am wrong." Harry simply nodded, thoughtful. "I had some time to think while you were sleeping," John said. "Perhaps it is too much time spent among Accorded beings, but I'm beginning to think like them. If favors and gifts should come in pairs, why not secrets? You told me some revealing things from your past, and I know it must have been difficult. So let me share something likewise with you."

Harry's eyes as they met John's were full of curiosity, but he said nothing, only nodding.

"Corporal punishment -- well, you're not that much younger than me, and given that it was still legal in schools here until '93, I'm sure you're familiar with how common it was." John ran a hand through his hair, and Harry nodded. "It was even more common when I was growing up, and every kid anyone gave a damn about got smacked. It was just how things were done. It was no different for me. Or so I told myself," John said. Harry looked stricken just in anticipation of what he'd hear next, and John had to look away. "So then a few years ago -- well, I say a few; it was a long time ago now, really -- my father passed away. I had distanced myself from my family because of business, as you could probably guess. I had distanced myself thoroughly, and even if I hadn't, well, there wasn't really anyone left to use to hurt me. I didn't have much family to start with. All my grandparents were long since dead; my mother had passed away when I was in high school; my father was the last one left. It was safe enough to turn up for the funeral. I couldn't figure out why I didn't want to go. I tried to tell myself that I'd said my goodbyes to him years ago, along with the rest of my old life, but it wasn't quite true. So I talked it out with Hendricks. Tried out the line about having said my goodbyes already. He didn't have any opinion on whether I should go; it was low risk. But he started talking to me, like you do at a wake. About the dead person. About memories, good and bad. People always think Hendricks is dangerous because he's big, he's strong, he's armed. A few people in the know think he's dangerous because he's smart. Hendricks is all those things. But what really makes Hendricks dangerous is that he listens, and then he thinks about what he's heard. Hardly anybody does.

"And you know how you cover horror stories with humor, to stay sane, and you don't always even know you're doing it? I realized, as I sat there telling my best friend about my father, about my childhood, that that's what I was doing. So I stopped. Backtracked. Pointed out how everybody's parents resorted to corporal punishment in those days. It was normal. Hell, they thought they were doing God's work. And Hendricks had been sitting there quiet for a while, this thoughtful look on his face. And he just said, 'Sure, Johnny, mine too. But they didn't leave me limping from the pain of it'. And I told him it wasn't so bad. My pop was only doing it because he loved me, because God said so. Other kids had it worse. And Hendricks just listened until I stopped talking, and said, 'Johnny, people in healthy situations don't need to convince themselves that they're not being abused'. And it was -- I can't even tell you what it was like -- the scales fell away from my eyes, I suppose. That voice in your head telling you that it isn't so bad and other people have it worse? The presence of that voice is a clue, and you should ignore what it says."

"'Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain'," Harry murmured.

"Kill the man behind the curtain, Harry," John said with feeling. "You deserve better."




Re: Bring Not All Mischief 8/?

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Re: Bring Not All Mischief 8/?

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Bring Not All Mischief 9/?

(Anonymous) 2011-12-20 05:09 pm (UTC)(link)
A/N: Sorry, no. Apparently the Murphy thing will be in the next chapter.



Harry looked at him sharply, then, but his voice was soft when he spoke. "Hey. What's this about? You don't have worry about me. I'm okay."

"Yeah," John snorted. "Sure you are. You're always okay."

"Are you okay?" Harry asked softly, after a pause. "Between the thing with Helen, and, uh, I know about the power of old memories…" Harry trailed off, looking uncertain. "Do you want to talk about it? The thing with your father, or the other thing?"

"Neither of them, thank you," John said dryly.

Silence passed between them for a long moment, as Harry studied him. Finally, he spoke. "Come on," Harry said softly. "It's been a long day. It's been a long few days, actually. And you haven't slept properly. Lie down for a while. I promise I won't even try to seduce you."

John scrubbed his face with his hand. "You're welcome to try," he said wryly.

"Am I?" Harry breathed, smiling wide. "Okay."

And John hadn't really meant it, but he didn't have the heart to wipe the smile away, either. "I promise nothing, Harry," he said.

"Oh, it's your turn to be lazy, is it?" Harry returned. "I can work with that."

John's heart skipped a beat. Was Harry offering what John thought he was offering? John liked having his prostate stimulated as much as the next guy, but he didn't always dare admit it, even to those to whom he admitted his bisexuality. It had been -- hell, come to think of it, it had been years since he'd gotten to do this. Far, far too fucking long. He stood and shed his bathrobe; Harry took the opportunity to gently shimmy John's boxers over his ass and down to the floor. John stepped out of them, and pulled his tee over his head; Harry shed his own clothes quickly, and pulled one of their pillows into the middle of the bed. John draped himself across it.

Harry started slowly, just soft touches, a kind of haphazard massage. He said nothing, and John was lulled into a drowsy sort of semi-arousal. It was comfortable, but he felt no urgent need to pursue it. After a while, he heard the low rasp of the drawer to his bedside table as it opened, and a small click as Harry opened the top of the tube of slick. There was a short pause, while nothing happened; but when Harry touched his finger, finally, to John's hole, it was plain that pause had been Harry warming the lube in his hands. Harry proceeded with a careful confidence that suggested that he'd been practicing. It was a strange revelation. Harry had once told him, apropos of nothing, that he didn't masturbate much, and didn't care for it. But Harry had done this. They hadn't had much sex, particularly by newlywed standards, but Harry had seemed to enjoy himself. Had he merely prepping himself in the hopes of surprising John with sex they hadn't gotten around to? Exploring the strange sensations on his own, that he better enjoy their coupling? Or had he been imagining his first time taking John, this slowly, this sweetly?

Somehow, John suspected the later, and it hit him in his groin; his cock, half-interested in the proceedings up til now, finally committed to the project. Harry slipped his fingers out, and as John felt the blunt head of Harry's cock at his hole, he canted his hips; Harry slipped in with ferocious ease. This, too, he'd never had, the bare feeling of another man inside him, with nothing between them. Harry groaned deeply above him, and went still as he bottomed out. Harry leaned forward, his excessive height so useful now, to kiss John between his shoulder blades, and up his neck, and down again, to the shoulder, where he began worrying a hickey into John's flesh.

"You can move, Harry," John moaned. It wasn't desperate, not like sex could be, but he did want just… something more. The pressure was lovely, and Harry filled him gratifyingly, and really, he could have fallen asleep like that, but it would sort of be a shame to miss the main event.

Harry moved, slowly and gently, like he really didn't mind of John fell asleep mid-act. As if, in fact, the whole thing was a sort of elaborate lullaby for John, utterly tender lovemaking. Part of John, aware of how very long it had been since he done this, want to get his knees under him, his hand on his cock, and really go to town, but really, it would be a shame not to let Harry have it his way. And if Harry decided he liked it, well, then maybe it would not be so long til the next time, and they could do it fast and hard and maybe even a little rough. So he contented himself with taking what Harry was giving him, though as his arousal rose, he couldn't quite stop himself from rocking back into Harry's thrusts; when he came, eleven hundred years after they'd started, on his husband's cock alone, his toes curled so hard he thought they'd cramp.

Harry stilled. "Should I stop?" he asked softly after John came back down.

"Mmh? Oh, no," John replied. John would never admit it, but he did almost fall asleep in the afterglow; he woke to Harry curled over his back, mouth pressed in a kiss to the crown of his skull, as he came, frozen. John wished he could see what Harry looked like in that moment. But all too soon, Harry slipped from within him, and collapsed beside him.

Harry slide the sheet up to their waists, and slung an arm over John's shoulders. As John drifted off to sleep, Harry's face press close to his, he felt Harry rubbing circles into his shoulders… as if John could possibly be more relaxed than he was in that moment. It dawned on him, just before he slipped from consciousness that Harry wasn't rubbing circles -- he was drawing hearts, nine of them, in a line across his shoulders, over and over. Three times. Sentimental magic? He snorted, but it came out as a sigh. The very last thing he noticed, before dreams claimed him, was that Harry was speaking. Whispering, the barest breath of words, of promise: "How did that go? Um. 'Had I the heaven's embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light'…"

And so John feel asleep. It was only when he awoke later that the horror dawned. Harry had fallen in love with him. And Gard had tried to warn him. He slipped from the bed silently, pausing only to throw on pajama bottoms and his bathrobe. It didn't matter; Hendricks had seen him in a worse condition.

Hendricks wasn't in his bedroom; John found him in the study -- John's study, really, though given how much time Hendricks spent there it was hard to deny him some claim on it. Gard was with him, stretched out on the couch in companionable silence while Hendricks worked, reading something in her native language. John felt it better not to enquire too closely. The cover suggested it was the sort of book where the protagonists spent as much time fighting as fucking, and probably managed to do both at the same time. Though if you reversed the hair color on the ax-wielding maiden and the sword carrying barbarian, you would wind up with a certain blonde and red-haired duo… and John stopped his brain right there. At least Hendricks only tried to break his mind with philosophy.

Gard took one look at John and excused herself. She left the book behind. Cover up.

John waited until the door had fully closed before dropping into the chair in front of his desk. Hendricks looked up at him, expectantly. "Harry's fallen in love with me," John said hoarsely.

Hendricks' eyebrows rose. "He told you?"

"No -- wait, did you know? Why didn't you tell me?" John asked, suppressing a wail, as far too dramatic, however terrifying the situation was.

"I tried, boss. Gard too. Figured you'd figure it out eventually." Was Hendricks thinking of laughing? John would not be responsible for his actions. "So. Did he tell you, or did you figure it out?"

"Both," John said. "In a way. He thought I was asleep. And I was, mostly. The night we got married I told him you'd suggested 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' for the engraving on the ring, and I recited it for him. He… whispered it to me as I fell asleep."

"There are worse fates than having your husband love you, Johnny," Hendricks said, and John was sure Hendricks was only barely suppressing a grin. "But if it bothers you so much, you don't have to do anything about it until he tells you. Which he might not. I doubt he believes you feel the same way."

"I don't feel the same way, Mr. Hendricks, or all of this would be a great deal more pleasant," John sighed.

"'The course of true love never did run smooth', boss," Hendricks replied.

John suppressed a growl, barely. "You and Gard. What is with you two today?"

"Well," Hendricks said in a philosophical tone, "you did give us the day off. Still, maybe you should give some thought to what you'll say if Dresden does spring a declaration on you."

John covered his face with his hand. "Yes. I suppose I had. Thank you Mr. Hendricks. I will leave you to your homework."

As John left, Gard let herself back into the room. She hadn't fully closed the door before she started speaking, and John couldn't quite resist listening. "How did it go?" she asked.

"Oh. Well, half the problem's sorted, I think," Hendricks said in a tone of frustration. John immediately felt bad. How long had it been since he'd asked Hendricks how his thesis was going? Hendricks was right; he really could be a complete jackass at times. "You know the boss' birthday's coming up, right? What about a trip to Egypt?"

"I don't know. Too esoteric, I think," Gard said.

It was a thought, however. John and Harry hadn't gotten to have a honeymoon. Maybe they should take off somewhere. Not Egypt though. Harry would probably find some way of disturbing the mummies and crumbling the pyramids. Italy, maybe? Or a little Mediterranean cruise?

"You're probably right. Skywriting, maybe?" Hendricks suggested.

For Gentlemen Johnny's birthday? How hard had Hendricks hit his head?

"I don't think he'd appreciate it," Gard said.

"Yeah. Well, we'll have to think of something," Hendricks said, sounding a little down about it.

"We have some time yet," Gard said.

John slipped away before he invaded their privacy anymore, and made his way back to his bedroom, to shower and change. The cast was annoying, but one he had practice at dealing with. He'd live. He'd thrive.

Regardless of the curveballs Harry Dresden seemed set on sending his way. He let the water run down his back, leaning forward, one had on the tile, and thought. So Harry had fallen in love; perhaps it should have been obvious in retrospect. Despite what he'd said to Hendricks, Harry wasn't generally compliant under pressure; he in fact grew ever more contrary. So Harry had been wooing him all along. Why? Was it really so simple as the fact that they were married?

Perhaps, he considered. In the only conversation they'd had on that subject, those had been practically Harry's only words. 'We're married' repeated over and over -- no. Said precisely three times. Thrice said and done. Harry had committed himself body and soul to the marriage, and apparently, mind and heart had followed.

It presented John with a dilemma. He was not, by nature, a cruel man. Careful, cold, calculating, yes, but not entirely remorseless nor without the capacity to feel pity. Harry had had to give up a great deal to buy John's protection. John had kept the terms reasonable, but they were not, truthfully, equitable. And yet Harry had buried his resentment along with his reluctance and gave himself in truth as well as law over to a man who had been his enemy. John could, all too easily, use this to his advantage. There were things he had not asked of Harry, which now seemed within reach. John was not a good man. He knew that. And yet… he couldn't quite bring himself to be even less deserving of the trust and love Harry had so freely offered.

It didn't matter what Harry had signed away anymore than it mattered what Hendricks had. There were just things he could not ask of him. And if he demanded Harry's loyalty, he surely had to return it. But as for Harry's love of him… that was not something he could make himself return, and it made his heart hurt just thinking about it. He'd stopped needing life to be fair a long time ago, but he'd have liked to be able to even the score, just a little, for Harry.

Tread softly, indeed.

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 9/?

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Re: Bring Not All Mischief 9/?

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Re: Bring Not All Mischief 9/?

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Bring Not All Mischief 10/?

(Anonymous) 2012-01-06 04:43 pm (UTC)(link)
A/N: Happy New Year! I hope you had a lovely late December. BNAM will be back to its (ir)regular (but reasonably speedy) schedule, assuming nothing terrible goes wrong.

Some text lifted from Dead Beat.



When John got out of the shower, Harry had disappeared. Hendricks was still working on his thesis in John’s office. Gard was still reading her book of dubious quality. "Michael Carpenter picked him up," Hendricks informed him. "Apparently Dresden’s gone to get Murphy ‘very drunk’."

"You’d think he could leave a note," John complained.

Hendricks grunted sympathetically. "Don’t worry about it boss. We have eyes on him."

"Thank you," John cleared his throat. "How is your thesis progressing, Mr. Hendricks?"

Hendricks looked up, surprised. "Oh, it’s going okay, boss. This chapter’s still kicking my ass, but I kinda expected that."

"Anything I can help with?" John offered diffidently. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gard looking up over the top of book.

"Would you prefer ontology or epistemology?" Hendricks asked.

Dammit. It took John a moment just to remember which one was which. The nature of being and the question of what it’s possible to know, in layman’s terms. "Perhaps this is a bad idea. We always end up arguing."

"Debating, Johnny!" Hendricks corrected.

True. And it was enjoyable enough over a couple of drinks. But today… "I’m afraid I would only be distracting you."

Hendricks shrugged. "Sigrun’s been reading me bits of her book aloud."

"Funny bits," Gard said.

"Also the sex scenes, but sometimes she reverses the gender of the participants," Hendricks said conscientiously. "If the woman’s being particularly traditional about her role."

John tried not to look at them like they were insane. "I thought you were working?"

"Day off. It’s a day to kickback. Take things slow." Hendricks shrugged again. "It’s pretty hilarious. She does voices."

Normally, John would only suggest proceeding with the inclusion of alcohol, but Hendricks would have to abstain because of his concussion. So John just settled himself back on the couch and nodded to Gard. "All right. This I have to hear."

Gard smiled brilliantly, and began.

Harry, however, had no problems getting drunk, or so came, eventually, the report from the gate guard.

"He's come into the house," Hendricks reported. "Murphy and Carpenter are at the gate -- looks like Carpenter got to play designated driver." A duty Hendricks wound up with more than once, come to that. "They're not leaving though." Another minute passed, Harry hadn't appeared, and Hendricks picked up his phone again. "Okay, this is weird. Harry's apparently just come back out to the truck carrying what looks like a sword."

"Carpenter's?" John said, his throat suddenly dry. Was Carpenter taking up the sword again? Was that even possible?

"No. Assuming the description of the scabbard is correct. Katana, by the sound of it," Hendricks continued.

"The Sword of Gathering Clouds," Gard said shortly. "Fidelacchius. The Sword of Faith. Kusanagi, in its own tongue."

Harry had brought a fucking Sword of Cross into his home. Good God. "Somebody gave Harry Dresden a Sword of the Cross?" John breathed.

Gard half-shrugged. "It has been speculated that Dresden had been appointed its guardian until a bearer could be found. It's believed he has Amoracchius as well, though that makes sense, given his friendship with Carpenter, and that its best guardian was a wizard. Amoracchius is Excalibur."

There was a roaring sound in John's ears, over which he tried to hear Gard's words. Jesus Fucking Christ. Amoracchius was in his home. His home. Despite his size, Hendricks could move fast, like the linebacker he had been in another life. Hendricks thrust a glass of brandy at him, and when John didn't take it, Hendricks took his hand, and wrapped his fingers around it. John took a mouthful of amber liquid. "It shouldn't be here," he managed to grind out.

Hendricks, if you could read his face well, and even in this state, John could, peripherally, looked worried. Gard's face was intent, but not otherworldly, thankfully. John couldn't take that right now. "The swords are in no danger from their presence in your home. And though Harry is not the guardian I think most people would have chosen, the swords do have ways of making their will known. It may be some time yet before Harry finds a bearer for Amoracchius."

"How long?" John asked. At a gesture from Hendricks, I didn't give that to you to sip, John took another mouthful.

Gard hesitated. "Amoracchius, sleeps, I suppose, more than the others do. The swords can only be harmed by their wielder violating that virtue which they embody. And it is easier to find those of perfect hope and perfect faith. Perfect love is another matter. But fortunately, wizards live such a long time."

"You're talking about centuries?" Hendricks balked.

Gard tipped her head to once side. "Perhaps."

John took another mouthful of brandy, larger this time, not so much for the shock, which was passing, but for the realization that even if John managed to live to be old and die in his bed, Harry would just… continue on. With him. Without his protection. And John was not likely to live to be old and die in his bed. He should take steps… make plans. Make sure Harry's protection wouldn't end with John's life. A conversation to have with Hendricks and Gard, to be sure, but not yet. He had given them the day off… and he needed to wrap his mind around it first.

"And to think I used to worry about drinking with Harry Dresden because of his sophomoric sense of humor," John managed.

"Worried he'd draw a dick on your face?" Hendricks said, cracking a smile.

"In sum," John sighed as Gard snort a laugh. "Yes."

Hendricks frowned at his phone again. "Report's come in. Carpenter and Murphy are leaving… Dresden's heading back to the house. With a box. Case of beer, it looks like."

Less than a minute later, John -- and probably everyone else in the house -- heard, "Honey, I'm home," as Harry called loudly from somewhere on staircase. "I come bearing gifts!" John cracked the door to the study in time to hear Harry grunt. "Heavy gifts," Harry said.

"You could have left that downstairs," John pointed out with a smile.

"I'm a little drunk," Harry confessed, and swayed.

"I had noticed," John replied dryly. Hendricks shouldered past John as he stepped out into the hallway, and met Harry on the stairs.

"You're a menace, Dresden," Hendricks sighed as he took the case out of Harry's unsteady hands. "But with good taste in beer," he granted.

Harry beamed up at John. "Mac's. For you. A present."

"So you mentioned. Dare I ask the occasion?" An early birthday present, perhaps? Bad enough that Hendricks kept reminding him of his ever-increasing age.

Harry shook his head. "Just because." Oh. Actually, that was worse. Dammit. Harry had to go and fall in love with him just as they were starting to get along. Harry scrunched up his face thoughtfully.

Which reminded John that Harry was probably far more than three sheets to the wind, if Murphy had been drunk enough to take up a Sword of the Cross. That was going to be some hangover; he didn't envy her it. "Let's get you to bed," John said. "Back to bed," he corrected, remembering where he'd last left his husband. Maybe he should tie him there, to keep him from running off like that, wrecking havoc. John helped Harry back to their bedroom, though Harry was fairly steady on his feet once the case of beer had been taken away. "Gard tells me that you managed to find a bearer for the Sword of Faith," John said as he helped Harry into bed. "Is it… binding, I suppose, if the bearer is drunk when they agree to take it up?"

Harry laughed, loud and rich. "Yep. Though, Murph can put it back down anytime she likes. But I don't think she will. She's not like that."

"Not the kind of person to break faith," John murmured.

Harry nodded, smiling happily. "It picked her, and it liked her even better when she turned it down because she was already sworn to her duty as a cop. So it wasn't really my idea. And Michael did most of the convincing. I just nodded in the right places."

"So things are all right between you and Ms. Murphy, then?" John asked quietly as he dropped onto the bed next to Harry.

"Yeah," Harry said, his brow furrowing. "I'm glad Michael was there for that part. It was hard admitting the part about my ignoring Helen's connection to the Denarians in front of him, but Murphy's scary when she's mad and she was really pissed with me about Helen. I mean, she was right. I went to the safe house to grab Helen to bring her back to be killed. She was right about it, and right to be pissed. But when I explained it wasn't a mob job, about what Helen had done… yeah. She was still pissed, but for a different reason. Thinking about it now, I don't know what I was thinking not telling anyone what she'd done. So I'm not surprised that everyone's… surprised." Harry sighed, though whether it was at himself, or at the effort of trying to think while drunk, John couldn't say. "Michael -- I know he's not happy about the killing Helen part either, but they both understood that it was, well, not the right choice, exactly. But the lesser evil, I guess. If murder can ever be a lesser evil. I don't know."

"You didn't kill Helen, Harry," John reminded him gently. "You were in fact imprisoned when Helen died."

"I set it up," Harry said. "Knowing what you would do."

He'd warned Harry not to ask questions he didn't want answers to; was Harry avoiding asking if John had personally killed Helen, or did he simply assume John had? "Murder can be a lesser evil, Harry. Take it from someone who knows. In the case of Helen… I can't say that it was. All I can truthfully say about that was that it was necessary. She would have tried again, and she was utterly unconcerned about collateral damage. And, for what it's worth, she didn't suffer." A sharp pinprick, that was all she had felt; she'd been drugged and questioned, and while Helen had talked, Gard had, unseen, pushed anesthetic into her IV. Once Helen was asleep, a sharp blade severed the blood vessels in her neck, and with them, her connection to this world. Gard had done that, too, with the greatest care. "She never even saw her death coming."

Harry nodded, "That's good," he breathed. "No death curse."

"No," John said. That was what Gard had said too, but Gard could be… subtle. She was not dishonest; nor did she delight as Fae did in twisting truth into something worse than a lie, but Gard chose her words carefully. The precise method of execution had prevented Helen's death curse, but John could not help but think it had been a sort of mercy killing, and as much for John as Helen. But John, at least, knew better than to ask questions he didn't want the answers to. Time to change the subject, perhaps. "Gard tells me you are also playing the part of Merlin for Amoracchius, formerly known as Excalibur," he said lightly. "Any bearer in mind for that?"

Unexpectedly, Harry nodded slowly. "I'm thinking Thomas," Harry said.

"Thomas Raith?" John said, blinking in confusion.

Harry sighed and nodded. "Not immediately. I know he's… not himself at the moment. But yeah. Thomas."

"Not that I wish to insult your brother, whom I'm sure has many fine qualities," John said, and it was only a little bit of a lie. John knew that Raith was brave and loyal, and those were fine qualities indeed; but beyond that, all that John could say about Raith was that he was clever. "But I can think of no-one further from Michael Carpenter than Thomas." Now that was a lie, but for the purposes of rhetoric, it would stand. "The swords can only be harmed by being wielded by one who violates the virtue they embody. Or so I am told." Harry nodded. "Is a sex demon really the best fit you can think of? The best example of perfect love?"

Harry did not get angry, as John thought he might. He just nodded. "You know who's also pretty far from Michael Carpenter? King Arthur. He himself was the product of rape. His wife left him for his best friend after a lengthy adulterous affair. And depending on which version of the legends you read, the enemy who finally slew him, Mordred, was his only child, conceived by a rape committed on Arthur by his half-sister."

Now they were getting to the heart of John's objection. He took a breath. "You realize that Thomas, as a White Court vampire, is by definition a rapist?"

Harry met his eyes. "You asked me if you put a gun to my head and ordered me to masturbate, wouldn't it be rape?" Not exactly the wording John had used, but he nodded anyway. "If you put a gun to my head and ordered me to rape someone else, wouldn't it still be rape?"

John nodded. "I see your point." However awkwardly made. But then, Harry was drunk; drunk enough to be talking about this. "Yes, both you and the third party would have been raped."

"Thomas has a gun to his head." Harry looked… incredibly sad, actually. John hoped Harry wasn't a weepy drunk. He wasn't sure how to handle that. It was on the tip of John's tongue to point out that the White Court got pleasure from what they did… but so did their victims. A physiological reaction was not consent. But Harry was still speaking.

"I asked him once what it was like, feeding the way he does -- did. Always nibbling, never just taking. We were on the beach of the lake, running, and he didn't want to tell me. He was a bad mood and I was being stupid, and he made me a deal. If I could beat him back to the end of the beach, he'd tell me. Even if I'd been fresh, it would have been hard. It's work to beat a fucking vampire in a foot race. So I cheated." John blinked surprise, and Harry smiled wide. "He's my older brother. I'm supposed to cheat. Anyway, I hooked a foot behind Thomas's calf, shoved him down to the sand, and took off down the beach at a dead sprint. Thomas got up pretty fast, and even got ahead of me at one point. But he tried to get me back for cheating at the start, and kicked back with his heel, flinging sand into my face and eyes. I inhaled some of it, started gasping and choking, but! I managed to hook my fingers in the back of Thomas's T-shirt. I tugged hard as he stepped, and I outweigh Thomas considerably. He stumbled again, and still gasping, I got ahead of him. I regained my lead and held it. I beat Thomas to the SUV by maybe four steps, and grabbed the water bottle I'd left there. I took this one heavenly sip… and Thomas batted the bottle right out of my hand. It was such a dickish thing to do, and the bottle just arched through the air and landed on the sand. I remember it spilling uselessly onto the beach, and I remember staring at him in surprised anger. He met eyes and said, 'It's like that'."

John had gotten sufficiently caught up in Harry's story that he hadn't seen the end coming, though it was obvious on reflection. Had Raith let Harry win? It seemed likely. Given Harry a hard race, and then the hard truth. Be careful what you ask.

"Michael's perfect love is God. Arthur's was Camelot. Thomas… well, you know what they say. No greater love hath any man…" Harry trailed off.

"That he lay down his life for his friends," John sighed. As Harry all too often offered to do. Something the brothers had in common; John had seen Raith in action, as he had seen Harry in action. Harry would not leave without Raith, and Raith would not leave without Justine. John had heard the desperation in Raith's voice, as he called for his brother's help, and John had no doubt that had Harry not given it, Raith would indeed have fought on, to victory or death. For a woman who ought to have been a food animal. Perfect love? Perhaps.

Re: Bring Not All Mischief 10/?

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Re: Bring Not All Mischief 10/?

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Re: Bring Not All Mischief 10/?

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Bring Not All Mischief 11/?

(Anonymous) 2012-01-20 02:36 pm (UTC)(link)
"Speaking of Thomas," John continued. "I was thinking about what you were saying earlier. My birthday is coming up, and Mr. Hendricks normally arranges for a party for some of my… associates. It's not entirely a business affair." John waved a hand, tired. "Airing out the entrepreneur/philanthropist mask. You can probably guess what it's like. I wouldn't normally invite Accorded beings, as they tend to sound like fruitcakes to those not in the know…" Harry huffed a laugh. "But that would not be an obstacle to Thomas. I was wondering if you would like me to extend him the courtesy of an invitation?"

Harry's face brightened. "Yeah. I think he'd like that, actually. Family matters to Thomas. You including him… yeah. Thanks, John. When is this?"

"The fourteenth," John said.

"I should have guessed you for Virgo," Harry said. "That's really soon."

John shrugged. "I imagine the invitations will be going out in the next few days."

"Although," Harry began, and sat up a bit further on the pillows. "I have to ask. Is this your real birthday, or your official birthday?"

"It can't be both?" John smiled wryly.

"Well, yeah. Most people's are. But you know what I mean," Harry retorted.

"It's my official birthday. But only just. I was born on the thirteenth, just before midnight. To my mother's parents, it was the fourteenth, and my yaya never could keep it straight in her head. Building this life… I left everything behind that I could. This was -- something I could keep, I guess," John said. It had been such a long time since he'd talked about it. Hendricks knew, of course, but Hendricks knew pretty much everything there was to know about John, and what he didn't know probably wasn't worth knowing. They didn't dreg up old ground like this, though Hendricks did acknowledge John's true birthday, a couple of drinks, a night in, a movie… something old friends might do anyway. Nothing needed be said.

"Huh," Harry said thoughtfully. "You're going to be a pain to shop for. You already have everything you want."

"Most everything, yes," John agreed.

"Only most?" Harry said, plainly looking for a clue.

John smiled. Harry would not want the truth, and they were having such a nice conversation, so John did not give it to him, just as Harry could not, or would not, depending, give John those things he truly wanted: more power; Amanda healthy. Chicago safe -- Harry wanted that every bit as badly as John did, and worked every bit as hard for it. Bled every bit as much, and more besides. "I'm sure you'll think of something in time, dear."

"I'll ask Hendricks," Harry said.

"You do that," John said, amused, before a thought hit. "But if he suggests philosophy, he's trolling you."


John's party was a masterpiece of lavish elegance. It was sufficiently warm and dry for the party to be held in the garden (though John's careful staff ensured that there were rooms in the mansion on standby, should they be needed). The glorious colors of the natural world, sunset on fallen leaves, had been the focus of the decorator's attention. Low-key lighting and live music, and the best food and finest wine, and what more could one want? It was gorgeous and mellow, and if John suspected Hendricks had designed it all as a metaphor for middle age, he could only enjoy it, because it was so artfully done.

John would have been enjoying himself more, however, if his husband had deigned to make an appearance. He was fingering his gifts -- a fifteenth century copy of The Flower of Battle, from Gard, for which he suspected he would need to buy a climate-controlled vault, and which he should probably stop touching, and a recent edition of The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard, from Hendricks, who was getting gratifyingly wily in his own middle age -- when John was approached by Thomas Raith.

"What did Harry decide on, in the end?" Raith said, like a man launching an opening salvo.

John raised an eyebrow and responded far more coolly than the belligerent tone merited. "I do not know." He spread his hands. "As you can see, Harry has yet to put in an appearance."

"You think he's forgotten all about your little fete, don't you?" Raith remarked.

The thought had crossed John's mind, but he was not in the mood to engage with a cranky vampire. "I have no doubt that whatever has detained Harry is of the greatest importance."

Raith snorted, and his stance eased somewhat. John didn't believe it for a second. "Liar. But I'm sure he hasn't forgotten you, he's been bothering everyone for weeks for ideas about what to get you." John tried to picture this. It didn't quite fit in his head. But Raith was still speaking. "I suggested sex toys. Everyone likes sex, and there are just so very many to choose from. Dildos, vibes, plugs, jewelry. Oh! And that's not even getting creative. I asked him if you were kinky. He didn't say, but he did blush, so I assumed that was a yes. What's your poison? Ropes, chains, handcuffs?"

In a very low tone of voice, after checking they were quite alone, John managed to breathe, "You realize this is your brother's sex life you are so graphically speculating on?"

The smile Raith returned was pure White Court Vampire, and John was suddenly deeply regretting inviting his brother in law into his home. "You are a fool, John Marcone," Raith said, smile showing, just as suddenly, rather a lot of teeth. "My brother didn't forget your birthday. If he's not here, it's because he can't be, and I can't figure out how the Baron of Chicago can keep on top of everything else, but can still lose his consort. And this is not the first time."

It was blindingly obvious that there would be no third time. John remembered what Harry had said about his brother. You were safe, because I rely on your protection, and he wouldn't jeopardize that. But you have to understand, he could have killed Hendricks, right there, and you couldn't have stopped him. And I hate to say it, but it probably crossed his mind. But John had had his cage -- literal and metaphorical -- rattled by beings with many centuries more experience, and exponentially more power, than Raith. John kept his gaze and voice perfectly level as he answered. "My consort is perfectly fine, Mr. Raith. I have men following Harry whenever he leaves the house. And they have an hourly check in, which they have met. If Harry is running over schedule, they are required to check in every fifteen minutes, though they are not, as a rule, asked why Harry is late nor what he is doing. If the check in is more than one hundred twenty seconds late, I am alerted. Harry is fine. Though if you would care to step into my study, I will call his team and you can verify that for yourself."

Raith nodded, and as they walked entered the house, Hendricks and Gard fell into line beside them, though John waited until they were in the downstairs study -- a reading room off the library, really -- to explain. Hendricks pulled out his phone, and quickly double-checked that all the check ins had been made. He nodded blandly. "Next check in, just under seven minutes."

"Nonetheless, Mr. Hendricks," John said, "I would like you to put in a call to the team."

Hendricks picked up the phone on the desk, dialing one-handed and reading the number off his smart phone.

"Put it on speaker phone," John instructed quietly, before the call connected.

"Rossi, Hendricks," Hendricks said before Rossi had a chance to say anything.

"Yeah, boss?" Rossi's voice came wary over the phone.

"Dresden's running more than a little late, Rossi," Hendricks said. Hendricks, expert multi-tasker that he was, had his attention split between the call on the line, and whatever his fingers were tapping into his smart phone.

"Nothing I can do about that, boss," Rossi told him.

Hendricks sighed. "Just tell Dresden to call his husband."

"No can do, boss. You know what Mr. Marcone said about Dresden wanting his privacy," Rossi said.

"Alright. I'm moving the check ins up to ten minutes, and the window down to sixty seconds. So I don't hear from you in six minutes, Dresden's is not the only ass getting kicked. Capiche?"

"Yeah, boss. I hear you," Rossi said. "I'll see you when I see you, I guess."

Hendricks grunted and cut the call.

White Court Vampires didn't do embarrassment very well; Raith merely looked subdued as he apologized. "It would appear I over reacted," he began.

"Not at all," John replied, mouth dry. "I'm sorry to say you were correct. Harry is indeed in trouble."

"What?" Raith managed, gesturing to the handset. Gard, attention grabbed by his tone, looked up from her own quick tapping on her smart phone.

"We cannot assume that a compromised team can send a distress signal," John explained grimly. "So in a call like this there is also a code phrase that essentially means that all is well. Rossi did not give it. We did get some other information from Rossi -- he isn't being held with Harry." John turned to Hendricks. "Send a clean team down to the mail room. I want you to know if Rossi's actually been calling in, or if someone down there's been sending up false positives. And if they have -- "

"The last time Rossi called in. I know, boss," Hendricks said quietly. "I've sent a team. I've also sent a team to Dresden's office."

"Michael Carpenter spoke to Harry this morning," Gard broke in. "No other known contacts have reported seeing or speaking to him today."

John nodded, feeling very cold, though his heart beat far faster than it ought. "Mr. Hendricks, send a fixer to McAnally's. 'Rewards for information leading to', you know the drill." He turned back to Gard. "I doubt we have time to organize Einherjar. Contact Karrin Murphy, and ask her to round up whatever battalions of Dresden's private army she can. After which, I'd like you to prepare the nuclear option." He said this calmly, and truthfully, he felt at peace saying it. If it truly came down to that, yes. He would do it. Ever-watchful Gard took his meaning immediately, and nodded once.

"What's the nuclear option?" Raith asked. John had no doubt that Raith was down with whatever was on the table, so long as it resulted in getting his brother back.

"I contact the Leanansidhe, and confess my failure to her, and beg for her aid in getting Harry back safely," John told him bluntly. He took in the faces around him, a portrait in shades of gray. "We have one hour, people. Let's get to it."


Re: Bring Not All Mischief 11/?

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Bring Not All Mischief 12/?

(Anonymous) 2012-01-23 05:02 pm (UTC)(link)
Raith immediately pulled out his phone, and secreted himself in one corner of the room. Hendricks and Gard were hives of subdued activity, each tap of their fingers getting John a little closer to Harry.

Then Gard stood, and with a nod to John, left the room. He took a deep breath. He pulled out his own phone, and debated placing the call. They only had fifty-nine minutes now; hard to know if Kincaid could even get to Chicago in time. Still, there wasn't anything else he could do just at present. But as he moved his thumb to the place the call, his phone rang. Kincaid's number. John picked up. "Marcone," he identified himself, in some semblance of his normal voice.

"The kid said there was a seventy-nine percent chance you're call. I don't like waiting around," Kincaid said smoothly. "Also, she said to tell you, 'there are no records'. I assume you know what that means."

And the horror of it was, John did. There had been no records of any plans to kidnap Harry. Nothing written down, until the Outfit's texts had started flying through the ether. A plan like this, to capture a man as powerful as Harry, had to be so carefully crafted, so complex, there were only two reasons John could imagine where there wouldn't be something written down, however briefly. One: Harry's adversary or adversaries were so powerful not to need such a plan; or two: they were deliberately keeping The Archive out of the loop.

And yes, Ivy cared about Harry. Cared about John, too, he knew. But she was also neutral. It was possible, though John didn't think it likely, that she would -- or possibly, could choose to help them. It was much more likely that it was because The Archive herself was the target of the attack. God, John hoped that wasn't true.

It also meant there was no way in hell John would ask for Kincaid's help, not when there was a chance Harry was merely bait in a trap to get Ivy, just as there was no way in hell Kincaid would ever give it. "I understand completely, Mr. Kincaid. Please pass on my regards to The Archive."

"Will do," Kincaid said, the closest John suspect the Hellhound had come to an apology in centuries, and cut the line.

John cradled the phone in one hand, the other one coming up to cover his mouth. T-57. He reshuffled his mental list of likely suspects against this new information, and made a decision. There were proper channels, but John didn't have time for them. Harry didn't have time for them. The White Council had both the sheer power to trap Harry and the knowledge to keep Ivy out of the loop, and motivation enough to do so. But Harry, team player that he was, had given John -- for emergency use only, John! I mean it! -- the local Warden hotline number. John dialed.

"Yes?" a polite and youthful male voice, with the slightest trace of a French accent, answered.

"This is John Marcone, Freeholding Lord of the Unseelie Accords. Forgive me, I don't have time for pleasantries. I am calling on an urgent and time-sensitive Accords matter that I have reason to believe involves your Council. Under the terms of the Accords, I must ask you to pass my call to Captain Luccio or a member of the senior council."

"Sir," the voice temporized, "that may take some time. Perhaps --"

"No," John growled. "It will not. If you cannot immediately pass me to Luccio or the senior council, then pass me to the most senior wizard in your vicinity. I will not be put off. I am considering appropriate responses under the terms of the Accords as we speak."

"One moment, sir," the voice said. He didn't put John on hold, though. John could hear frantic whispering in the background, though he couldn't make out what was being said. A door opened and closed, and opened and closed again. He looked at the clock. T-53.

The phone scraped off the desk as it was lifted up, and a soft breath came down the line. "This is Captain Luccio, Baron Marcone," and this time, the youthful voice had centuries of experience behind it.

"Harry has been kidnapped. I don't have all the details yet, but I have enough to consider the White Council among the most likely candidates for this attack," John said, keeping his voice measured only by years of practice in stressful situations. "I am not going to mince words, Captain. If the council has taken my husband, I want him returned, unharmed, and I will considered arbitration under terms instead of launching an immediate --"

"Baron Marcone," Luccio broke in, voice serious. "We have not taken your husband."

"Think carefully, Captain. I am not like the rest of you. I do not play word games. If the White Council has not authorized this kidnapping, but one or more of its members are found to be involved, I will take every inch of action I am allowed under the Accords. And if that does not satisfy my revenge, I would caution you to remember that I wasn't always the Baron of Chicago."

"I am aware of your lack of respect for the law, Baron," Luccio said. "Do not imagine me impressed by your threats. No one has authorized unauthorized jaunts to take back your husband. And if someone has indeed taken action against Harry, let me assure you, we wish to hunt them as much as you do." Code for the Black Council, perhaps? John was finding himself in the odd position of believing her, but it still gained him nothing. "Further, do not imagine that you present a threat to us. You do not. You have seen the damage one wizard, not even forty years old, can do. Should it come to war between us, you would lose."

It was said so calmly, so baldly, that it gave John pause. And in that pause, he had time to think. It was true. Harry had spoken, from time to time, of the feats of the senior council. The Merlin's control, The Gatekeeper's knowledge, his mentor's sheer power, pulling a satellite from the very sky. So why had the Leanansidhe chosen him? Oh, she'd said something about desiring Harry's happiness, but she cared much more about his safety, and even Harry had referred to John as "someone the White Council wants to piss off less than they want to kill me". But Luccio was correct. John was not a threat to the Council, not on his own. Not even with the resources of the Outfit behind him. Had he been a potential ally, then? Or merely a sufficiently tenacious opponent that war with him would have taken too many resources from their war with the Red Court? Either way, it didn't matter.

"My apologies, Captain," John said, drawing in a breath, and with it, some semblance of self-control.

"Think nothing of it," she said. "You are living a nightmare. Grief is only to be expected." She paused. "Should information related to the disappearance of your consort come to my attention, I will see to it that it is passed to you immediately."

"Thank you," John said, preparing to end a second fruitless call, when a thought occurred. "In a similar spirit, I feel I should note that one of the reasons I considered the White Council a likely source of the attack was that I received information that there were no records of plans to kidnap Harry."

Luccio sucked in a sharp breath. "And I thank you, Baron Marcone." She cut the call. Hopefully, she would also take action, should it come to it.

Raith's conversation had begun sotto voce, but his voice had risen with his aggravation. "He would do it for you," Raith was telling someone, insistently. After a pause, he acknowledged, "Fine, he would do it for me, for you. And you know it!" Another pause, and then a quiet, sincere, "Thank you, Lara," followed by a sigh and, "Yeah. I know." Raith put the phone away and turned back to John. "Lara is sending Natalia and Elisa. Two of my sisters."

Normally, John would have balked at the presumption, if nothing else. But he couldn't care. They needed every warm body they could get, and every Raith was a super soldier. He'd worry about the cost later -- if there was a later. John nodded his thanks. T-49.

Hendricks continued tapping in the ensuing silence -- instructions to the gate, most likely. Mid-tap, his phone emitted a shrill cry, and Hendricks had the phone to his ear, and his eyes on John. "Hendricks." Then, "Get her to the cold room. I'll get someone down there. Stick someone on the board. Let me know if there's any contact. Last call?" A pause, a grunt, and another cut line. T-44. "Fran killed herself when Daly got to the mailroom. Bullet to the brain. Rossi last checked in himself at 6." An hour and a half before the party was due to start. Harry would have been running over time after 6.30, so Rossi's next check in should have been 6.45. So they had a window for when Harry had been kidnapped. Unfortunately, it was a big window.

"Get Gard to the cold room," John ordered. If there were clues on Fran's body, Gard would find them. "And order a scan for all the usual checks while they wait." Corpses could hold all sorts of unpleasant surprises, John had learned. Unlikely, in this case, but in usual battle irony, they were both short on time, and yet all they could do was wait…

T-41.

Gard's call came in, a terse, "Red Court servitor," their first real break. So they knew who was behind the attack -- but that didn't tell them where Harry was being held.

John glanced -- again -- at the clock. T-29. "Is the nuclear option ready?" he asked. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hendricks grip his phone a little tighter. Sadly, those huge hands were unlikely to be pulling John's fat from the fire this time.

"Yes," Gard said, in cool counterpoint.

"Then I need you back here," John said.

"Hmm," Gard acknowledged, because Valkyrie-Berserker though she was, Gard had never quite managed to master the caveman grunt favored by Hendricks and Murphy.

John relayed Gard's information to Hendricks and Raith. Raith looked troubled; no surprises there, and picked up his phone again. John did so as well, sending a brief update to Kincaid. "Helen," Hendricks said unexpectedly. "She and Fran were friends. Or I guess Fran was friends with her."

And Helen had proven she had no problems working with anyone to get her revenge. And Rudolph, her stalking horse in her last salvo, had been bought off by the Red Court… click, click, click, the dominoes were falling into place… just not fast enough, and with the most important piece of information, Harry's location, not just out of reach, but entirely out of sight.

Hendricks' phone beeped. "Murphy's at the gate with what sounds like the Bordens and Sanya." Wielder of Esperacchius, last name unknown, John's brain supplied. T-27. Three minutes later, a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith pulled into the drive.

John went to dress. Hendricks followed him upstairs, ostensibly for the same purpose, but John had his doubts. Hendricks had a lot of problems with what John did, and not least with the risks he took. John asking a lot of Hendricks was nothing new; John had always asked a lot of Hendricks. Today, however… John suspected he might have crossed the line into asking too much. John had no doubt that Hendricks cared much more about John than he cared about John's friendship; Hendricks, thus, might ultimately present a problem. John hoped it wouldn't come to that, but it was one thing to watch a friend go into danger, and to their possible death. It was quite another to let them trade themselves into a living nightmare lovingly crafted by an enraged, powerful -- and, critically -- immortal sadist. T-18.

Hendricks knocked on the door to John's bedroom. John debated not answering; in the end he merely positioned himself so he could, if he had to, stop Hendricks from doing something they would both regret.

"Easy, Johnny," Hendricks said. "I'm not going to stop you."

"No," John said flatly, "You're not."

Hendricks rolled his eyes. "Okay. I'm not going to try. Happy now?"

Perhaps foolishly, given everything he knew about his friend, John trusted him, and relaxed his stance. "Dare I ask why?"

Hendricks nodded slowly. "I thought about it," he admitted. "But if I did, and something happened to Dresden -- "

"Nothing would ever be the same between us," John finished for him.

"Fuck that," Hendricks said, a trace of genuine anger behind the words. "You would never be the same."

John nodded to himself. Hendricks could live with John's anger, if it kept John alive and safe. But just as John had rules, sometimes inexplicable to outsiders, so did Hendricks. And John being alive and safe wasn't good enough for Hendricks. Amanda was alive and safe. They didn't talk about it, because they weren't those kind of men, but John's -- call it happiness, call it sanity -- mattered just as much as John's safety did to Hendricks, and frankly, he probably thought about them more than John himself did.

Eros, agape, storge, and philia; during Hendricks' Greek phase, he'd talked about them a lot and John had subsequently never been able to get them out of his skull. Plato had loved talking about love; John half-remembered Hendricks lecturing him on the fact that Plato mentioned the word 'freedom' in only one book, and there only three times. 'Love', by constrast, appeared over two hundred times across his works. Well, it wasn't like they could get each other Hallmark cards. A brother for a brother, he'd said himself, referring to Hendricks. Hendricks would let John walk into Hell, because he loved John too much do anything more.

And John, John would walk into Hell, eyes and arms wide open, because he loved Harry too much to do anything less.

No more lies.

T-14.


Re: Bring Not All Mischief 12/?

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Bring Not All Mischief 13/?

(Anonymous) 2012-02-03 08:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Sorry about the delay. I wanted to re-read a couple of The Dresden Files before I wrote the end, and now seemed like the right time to do that. I think there are only a couple more parts, but I thought that for the last couple chapters, so.

Anyway, the next part should go up *fingers crossed* Monday sometime.



When John returned to the downstairs study, he heard Thomas' voice, come desolate, through the open door. "They've had him before," he said. "It was…" but Thomas didn't complete the sentence. A female voice -- had Gard returned? -- murmured something in response, too quiet for John to catch. John scanned the room as he stepped into it, but only the Raith siblings were present. Surreptitiously, Natalia removed her hand from where it rested on Thomas', but John caught the gesture anyway.

Family matters to Thomas, Harry had said. It appeared to be the White Court weakness, in fact. Lara, sending her sisters. The sisters, comforting their brother, all three of whom only slightly kinder to their prey than the Reds who had Harry. John didn't dare ask Thomas what had been done to Harry the last time. Things would not necessarily play out the same again, for a start, and it would be dangerous to assume they would. Beyond that, beyond his own burning need to know… John needed Thomas functional, and Thomas had been barely hanging by a thread since he'd first approached John that evening, and then he'd only had a suspicion. And now he knew; had Thomas been one of John's men, he would have been sidelined from the mission. He'd been tortured too recently, too badly, to have recovered enough to be involved.

"We'll get him back. He'll be okay," Thomas said, looking at John and voice barely wavering.

John nodded. Look at us, he thought. Monsters comforting monsters that other monsters won't have hurt the person we love too badly to be fixed.

"From your lips to God's ears," Hendricks rumbled from behind John.

John looked at his watch again. T-8. "Where is Gard?" he asked.

"Right behind you," she said, coming through the door at a fast walk, face flushed and breath coming a little heavier than usual, like someone who had been running.

Except that John knew mere exertion couldn't do this to Gard -- he'd seen her hurt, and even then she hadn't looked like this. This was something else, a state he'd never driven her to before. But she seemed fine. "Dare I ask what delayed you?" He'd expected her return almost ten minutes earlier.

"I was collecting a late birthday present," she said, and John's eyebrows rose at the words. Gard did not joke, not at times like these, so the words were literally true. And she was not frivolous, which meant in turn -- "I'll explain later," she said. "Right now I need you and Mr. Raith to come with me."

The Raith sisters glanced at each other in silent conversation, but Thomas stood immediately, as if on autopilot, and followed her out of the room. John joined them. "Where are we going?" he asked, as he caught up with them.

"Harry's lab," Gard said. "Thomas can get us past the wards."

"I don't think there are -- " John began, intending to finish with any wards, but Gard interrupted.

"There are. To prevent intrusion and theft. Merely entering the room wouldn't necessarily trigger them." They couldn't possibly; he and Hendricks had both entered at will at one point or another, for one reason or another. "And you are keyed into the wards. But you can't bring me with you."

"Hence Mr. Raith," John murmured. "You're quite certain this will work?" he asked as they reached Harry's lab.

"Absolutely," Gard said evenly.

Thomas merely lifted a silver pentacle from his chest, and held the door open, for Gard to pass. Mouse lifted his head and huffed at them; Mister deigned to open one eye. John reached down to pet the cat, and Mister allowed John this liberty. It was soothing, the feeling of soft fur under his hand, and the knowledge that there was at least one creature more arrogant than him living in his house.

"All right," Gard said, looking around the room, eyes burning brighter than usual. John averted his own. There was something deep in John's Catholic soul that grated against the obvious proof that what he believed could not be entirely true. After a moment, she walked to the bed pushed up against the wall, and pulled something out from underneath it. It looked like a scale model of --

"Little Chicago," Thomas breathed. "And you can use it to find Harry?"

Gard nodded. "With your pendant and some of your blood and hair, yes."

Thomas promptly drew a knife and asked, "Do you need to collect it?"

"No. But wait until I tell you. Hair first." Thomas plucked a strand of his hair by the root without flinching, and passed it too her. "Now the pendant," she said, and he passed that to her, too. She wound the strand around and through the pendent. "Now," she said. "Smear your blood on the pendant."

Thomas punctured the tip of one finger with the tip of the blade, and asked, "Hair too?" Gard nodded. He pressed his bloody finger to the pentacle. "Couldn't we have done this an hour ago?" Thomas asked carefully.

"No," Gard said flatly. "This was the birthday present I spoke of." That got John's full attention. "Courtesy of my employer. A gift for the occasion of your natal anniversary," she said to John. "It generates no obligation."

The CEO of Monoc Securities -- a literal god of the ancient world, and the head of the planet's most talented and expensive mercenary company -- was going to help John secure the return of his consort for free? It boggled the mind, yet John did not doubt Gard's words. It could only mean that Vadderung too wanted Harry's safe return, and badly enough to take care to ensure it.

John turned away as Gard began swinging the fetish over Harry's bizarre voodoo-doll city -- and my, didn't that beg some questions of its own? -- and browsed the other curiosities Harry had stored in his lab. There was the skull, prominently placed on top of a trunk John had never opened, though he'd often been tempted. John regarded the skull once more, unsure why Harry had it, what it was for -- why it was so damned important to Harry. It clearly was; Harry became amazingly evasive when the subject was brought up. And somewhere in here amid the flotsam of Harry's magic and the jetsam of Harry's life, lay the sword Amoracchius. No sooner than had he thought that, a faint and familiar hum resonated against his mind. John walked to the closet, and opened the door. Hanging there, on the back of the door was a long black scabbard, and within it, the Sword of Love. It had been in his mind often, in thoughts both holy and profane. John took it down, and drew it only a little from its scabbard. John could see the nail worked into the hilt, His blood there stained forever. John had once used the burial shroud of Christ to save the life of the man who carried His sword. And then, in his turn, John had very nearly been the cause of His knight's death. It defied explanation. It defied understanding.

Gard had told him once that she had seen Michael Carpenter's death, and that Carpenter had not been alone, that Harry too had died. Harry had been going to be next up in the harness, and would have died there while Carpenter, though horrifically injured, had lived, when he had been slated to die on the island. 'What happened?' he had asked her. 'Dresden,' she'd said laconically. She'd been trying, John thought, to tell him, however obliquely, not to blame himself. In the end, she'd told him precisely the opposite. If choices changed outcomes -- changed destinies -- then it truly was John's choices, evil ones, absolutely and objectively, that had led them all to that island. John hadn't made Vargassi's choices, nor Helen's, nor any of the other myriad players, and thus, of course, he was not wholly to blame. But wholly didn't matter. Eternity didn't come in fractions. John's choices, as much as anyone else's, had led them to that place. Had led them to this place. He slid the sword back into its scabbard.

When he looked up, Thomas was staring at him unabashedly, as Gard worked in the background. A strange impulse took him, and he thrust the Sword at Thomas. Thomas drew the blade half-way out of the scabbard, looking at it silently. Then, just as silently, he raised his eyes to John's in mute question.

"I want you to take it," John said. "There's no point in leaving it here while we charge into battle."

"There is," Thomas said, thrusting the sword back into its scabbard with barely-controlled force. "These aren't toys. And I kill innocents all the time." And again, with barely-controlled force, Thomas thrust the sword back at John.

"No you don't," John said. "You have killed innocents, but very rarely, and, I believe, only under the strongest duress." Thomas looked away, but continued holding the sword out to John. It was very heavy; John knew most other men's muscles would be tiring now, even quivering, but Thomas stood utterly still. John continued. "Harry wants you to have it. He planned on asking you himself."

"Harry," Thomas said, somewhere between a breath of disbelief and snort of derision.

"You're going into danger. Perhaps even death -- or worse, capture by the same enemies who stole your brother," John said quietly. A tremble, then, but John understood. It wasn't a full thought, more a creeping fear at the edge of his mind, but then, he'd had time to recover from his ordeal. Time to face his demons, as it were. Thomas had had no such luxury, and yet, even with the terror voiced, Thomas did not shrink from it. "' In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.'"

"'And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.'" Thomas snorted. "Charity. You know the other versions all list it as love, don't you? The greatest of these is love. It's even there in the original. The literal translation is: 'and now there doth remain faith, hope, love -- these three; and the greatest of these is love'. 'In this we have known the love, because he for us his life did lay down'. What are you so afraid of? The love part or the God part?"

Stung, John's response was not what it might otherwise have been. "How does a --" he began, and Thomas cut him off with smile.

"A demon know so much about the bible? Or a sex vampire come to know so much about love? A nice deflection, but I know what I am," Thomas snarled. "The devil quotes scripture, and all that."

"That's not from the bible," John remarked, though he had heard it before. From Hendricks, probably.

"It's Shakespeare," Thomas said. Even now, his hand was steady on the sword, still held out and away from him; John knew his own would be shaking with the strain of it by now.

John considered for a moment, and then said, "I'll answer your question, vampire, if you answer one of mine, first."

"Ask, mortal," Thomas said snidely.

Not a promise to answer, but John wasn't deterred. If Thomas answered truthfully, he'd have earned his question in turn. "How did you know that Harry had been taken?"

"Family matters to Harry," Thomas said, unconsciously echoing his brother. "Birthdays matter to Harry."

"That is not an answer," John told him. Annoyance flickered across Thomas' face. It made the resemblance to Harry much sharper, and John had to suppress a smile.

"One year, Harry got me a set of Rock'em Sock'em Robots." John's brow furrowed, and Thomas nodded. "Yes, the toys. Not because I wanted them, but because he'd seen an ad for them the first Christmas he was in the orphanage, two brothers playing with them. And it stuck with him. It was a totally stupid present, wrapped in Valentine's Day paper -- my birthday, which you undoubtedly already know --" John nodded. An ironic day for a sex demon to be born, he'd thought. And it had an extra connation for any Chicago mobster up on his history -- massacre. Now he couldn't help but remember that it was called St. Valentine's Day for a reason, and that the aforementioned saint was a martyr. But Thomas was still speaking. "If you only look at the surface of it. But if it really is the thought that counts…" Thomas shrugged.

"Did he really ask you for ideas for a present for me?" John asked.

"That's two questions," Thomas retorted, and John shrugged. "But yes. And I really did suggest sex toys. Alas, I believe he made you some sort of shield charm. And he probably had it on him when he was taken."

"The love part," John said quietly but baldly.

"Why?" Thomas asked, smile feral.

Two questions, right. John's smile was rueful. "Men in my line of work… I can't have handles on me, places for enemies to put the twist. Love hurts, but I don't have to tell you that," a man for whom loved burned, and yet Thomas courted it anyway, even more of a masochist than his brother. "Love makes you vulnerable, and worse than that, it inevitably places the loved one in danger. I won't have that. I have people I protect, and people who are loyal to me. To love them would be a disservice to them." And yet he was loved. John had tried to get Hendricks to leave the Outfit. Hendricks could have done other things. Great things, John had no doubt, if he applied his brilliant mind to something more than looking after a man whose acts he disapproved of. But Hendricks hadn't, knowing that John didn't have friends outside the business. Hendricks had known that if he left, he'd be cut off, and he was right. Hendricks had called John an asshole then, too, come to it. "It doesn't matter how you do it," John sighed. "Eros, agape, storge, or philia; love hurts."

"Love hurts," Thomas agreed.

"You're going into the possibility of capture and subsequent torture, not yet healed from what was last done to you and you want to tell me you're not the man to carry the sword?"

"That's different," Thomas said. "He'd come for me. He has come for me, more than once."

"You love him," John said.

"So do you," Thomas retorted.

John nodded slowly. "But it's not me whom he wants to take up the sword. And when he told me, I confess I was surprised. I see it now."

"I don't want this," Thomas said, teeth gritted.

John shrugged. "When did you last get what you wanted?" And again, the mulish look on Thomas' face reminded him of Harry. Very quietly, he asked, as he could not of Harry, "Have you ever?"

Thomas faded into utter stillness for a moment; when that passed, it was with the bowing of his head, and lowering of his arm.


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Bring Not All Mischief 14/14

(Anonymous) 2012-02-07 03:59 pm (UTC)(link)
I hope everyone enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I want to say thank you to everyone who shared the journey with me. I would especially like to thank to the OP, for fantastic prompt.




"Got him," Gard said, the barest flare of triumph in her voice.

"Let's go," John said.


Later, when he tried to recall the events of the night, he would find it nearly impossible. Adrenalin flowed -- it always did at such times -- and time appeared to slow, though what was truly happening was that he was moving faster, accomplishing more, thinking over options and choosing between them, noting and cataloguing on the fly… and normally, he would later be able to recall such moments in a far higher degree of precision and with far less effort than, say, the events of a board meeting. He understood how it worked, in practice if not theory; he remembered, for example, the Raith Deeps and the island his husband had apparently and appropriately named Demonreach, with the clarity and cutting edge of a particularly fine diamond.

Other things faded, as they did for all men.

It was the way of the world.

But he would remember little of the battle that led him to his husband; perhaps he simply did not care enough about his own safety to lay down such memories; perhaps his memory, for once, was simply being kind. The battle was brutal, though fortunately more for the Reds than his own strike team: Will Borden's femur was snapped in the fighting, and Hendricks' face had been deeply scored, nearly costing him an eye, but Arianna Ortega and her hell-bound minions had died, though he had to take Gard's word for it, because he remembered that part least of all.

What he did remember, and would forevermore, was finding Harry, bound, naked, in thorn manacles and covered in blood and filth. John wouldn't remember, not with the precise and cataloguing mind he normally had at his beck and call, how much blood there was to how much filth, and, later, when he tried to recall the events of the night, he would not be able to decide if that was a cruelty or a mercy. Suffice it to say that Harry was debauched. Tear tracks marred Harry's normally stoic face, two singular clean trails amid lines of dirt. Harry lay curled around himself, drawing in deep and painful breaths. Worst of all was the look in Harry's eyes, the look of a man at the edge of his nerve, at the edge of his will, who would, were he asked, give anything to be elsewhere…

… Dr. Schulman pushed narcotics. Not illegal; medical narcotics, to dull the pain and dim the edge of memory. When Harry surfaced again, he would wake to his own room, clean and dry and on the mend. It was little enough, but John knew how a man could cling to that like a life raft. John watched as Harry's eyes drifted closed; when they were all certain Harry was asleep, Dr. Schulman walked them to the door. The desire to stay warred with the self-knowledge that John would not want an audience were the situation reversed. He turned to Dr. Schulman and spoke in a low voice, "I want a full report when you're finished. But no names, initials, or identifying marks."

Dr. Schulman nodded; they both jumped a little when Thomas spoke up, a quiet and harsh, "No." John turned and raised an eyebrow in query, feigning a calmness he didn't feel. Thomas plainly had no desire to pretend to be anything other furious. "If he doesn't tell you, you don't get to know," Thomas said darkly.

"He is my husband. It is my duty to help him, which I cannot do --" John began.

"If he doesn't trust you," Thomas finished for John.

It had not been what John was going to say, but he could almost see Thomas' point. He led the Thomas into the waiting room, leaving Harry in the good doctor's hands. "I don't believe he will be inclined to tell me. Harry seems to sublimate on reflex."

"With a strong sideline on denial and repression. Yeah," Thomas sighed. "But stealing his secrets won't help. He'll pretend he doesn't care. He'll tell himself he doesn't mind. That he understands. You won't have changed anything. He'll just be repressing his feelings at your betrayal instead of what the Red Court did to him."

John was silent for a long moment, while the vampire stared at him. "Tell me this," John said finally. "I overheard you talking to your sisters just before I came in. You said something about the Reds having him before. You didn't finish. Is this what you were talking about?" John waved a hand back at the door beyond which Harry lay.

Thomas went still. "Yes," he said slowly. "And to the best of my knowledge, he's never spoken about it to anyone."

"Then how do you know?" John asked.

"Beyond knowing what vampires are like?" Thomas asked rhetorically. "Justine was there. I know." Thomas looked at John steadily, never breaking eye contact. It occurred to John that Thomas' vengeance had been a long time in coming. No wonder he had such insight into his brother's psyche; Thomas was more self-aware, but just as reliant on such mental tricks to get through his day.

Slowly, John nodded, and walked to the door, rapping on it gently. A minute later, Dr. Schulman opened it a crack. "No report. No records," John told him, and let the doctor return to his work. The words reminded him once more of Ivy, and he tapped out a quick update to Kincaid. After that, there was nothing more he could do but wait.

He filled the time by authorizing the release of pension funds to the families of Rossi, Garcia, Robinson and Clark; he debated whether or not to release Fran's but ultimately did so anyway. Then he called up the White Council and formally entered their war with the Red Court; that done, he passed a few more minutes by checking up on the rest of the injured; he'd moved on to drafting thank-you notes for his birthday gifts, starting with Vadderung, before Dr. Schulman was finished.

Gard drove them all back to the house. The party had long ago petered out; he'd have to follow up on that, he knew, but all he had the energy for was getting Harry settled in bed, and crawling in after him. Hendricks took the room next door, and Thomas announced his intention of crashing in Harry's lab. Gard patrolled the hall like a particularly winsome guardian angel.

When Harry woke the sun was edging toward noon. He woke quietly, blinking his eyes open. "Drugs?" Harry asked.

John, seated at the table where he could keep an eye on his husband, frowned. "Are you asking for more or asking whether you've been medicated?"

"Whether," Harry drawled.

"You've been medicated," John confirmed.

"Is nice," Harry told him confidently.

"My husband the lush," John said lightly, pretending to be amused. Truthfully, it was little shy of horrid to see Harry so spacey, a parody of the cheerful drunk he'd been only a fortnight earlier. But then, too, chemicals had covered hurt. John forced himself to smile. Harry patted the bed next to him with a bandaged hand, and John shook his head. "Some of us have things to do."

"Like stare at me while I'm sleeping?" Harry said, though his smirk transformed into a frown as his lips pulled at their stitches.

John found himself by Harry's side in an instant, stroking his hair. "Take it easy," he swallowed. "You've been hurt."

"I was there for that part," Harry admitted.

"You should try to sleep some more," John said quietly.

"Will you stay?" Harry asked.

It was as close as Harry would get, even drugged, to asking John to do so. "Yes," John acquiesced quietly, and dropped onto the bed. Harry curled on his side, and stuck his head in John's lap, and drifted back into sleep easily. John lay there, stroking Harry's hair and thinking for -- he couldn't say how long.

Harry healed faster than, well, any non-wizard would. That was nice to see, but it made John wary too. As the physical damage vanished, it was all too easy to pretend that no damage had occurred at all, which was Harry's apparent strategy.

John had only once, as neutrally as he could, told Harry that he could tell John anything. That they could talk about what happened. He'd considered, briefly, suggesting Harry talk to a professional, but he could guess how that would go down. He'd braced himself for anger, or sadness, and even, unlikely as he knew it to be, for Harry to break down and tell him -- but Harry had only looked serious, and thanked John for his rescue, and reassured John that he was doing fine and healing well.

Things came to a head a few days later -- and of all the ways he'd worried about it happening, he'd never considered the scenario Harry actually pulled on him; Murphy's Law. Five second fuses always burn three seconds. If your attack is going well, it's an ambush. The easy way is always mined. Field experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

John woke up to Harry sucking a hickey into the base of his throat, where it would be easily hidden from all prying eyes, something only they would know about. Harry'd done it once or twice before, and John had tolerated it, not realizing at the time what it meant. But now his heart hammered in his chest; it had somehow never occurred to him that Harry would simply spring sex on him. But it was what Harry did, wasn't it? Ignored, repressed, went on with his life. He hadn't had help the last time the Reds had captured him. He'd just gone back to his life as if nothing had happened. Hell, on their wedding night, Harry had told John that he'd never had sex with a man before, and John was now pretty sure that had been a lie in fact, if not in Harry's head.

"I can tell you're awake," Harry murmured into his ear, and ground his erection into John's thigh.

"Mmm," John acknowledged, trying to sound sleepy despite the adrenaline coursing through his veins. What should he do now? Ignore his misgivings and the nausea in his stomach, and give Harry what he seemed to want? Force the issue with Harry by flatly refusing? What would that get him? Harry was unlikely to have his eyes opened to his own mental health issues simply because John turned him down. No; it was far more likely that Harry would decide instead that it was one more example of John's lack of regard for him. Harry didn't deserve that. And beyond that, truthfully, though he would give Harry the world if deigned to ask for it, all Harry wanted, John realized, was to be allowed his own agency. "Dare I ask what you have in mind at this unholy hour of the morning?"

"You get up earlier than this all the time," Harry chided. John could feel the smile against his throat.

"Not on Sunday," John said, pitching his voice lower than even sleep had left it. "And my question stands."

"So bossy," Harry said, nipping the spot he'd sucked raw. "And yet so lazy."

In a single fluid movement, John rolled to face Harry and opened his eyes, arching an eyebrow. "I'll give you what you want. Whatever you want. If you'll just tell me what it is."

"Fuck, John," Harry said, when his breath came back.

"As you wish," John said and pressed a kiss to Harry's lips. "How do you want me?" he smiled.

Harry smirked and batted him lightly on the chest. "You know that's not what I meant." Harry's eyes narrowed in contemplation, though his pupils remained alluringly wide. "Although…"

"Yes?" John prompted, as the moment passed. "Anything you want. Whatever you want." The world. Your enemies returned to life so you can kill them with fire. Anything. I'll find a way to make it happen. You have only to say.

"Smoldering," Harry said suddenly. "I always wondered what that meant, when someone was described as smoldering. You smolder. That's what you do."

John smiled, inwardly as well as outwardly, though somewhat wryly. "Ah, but I'm told you're very good with flame."

Harry sucked in a breath. "You mouth. On me." Perversely, John drew a nipple into his mouth. "Oh, you're good," Harry murmured. "But no. On my cock," he said, and the waver in his voice could simply have been arousal. John doubted he would ever know, and did as he was told. Harry issued no more orders as John licked and sucked and nuzzled, though his hands on John's shoulders grew tighter as he neared his climax. "Uh," Harry managed. "Close." John swept a hand, low, across Harry's belly, just above his groin, and swallowed Harry to the root just as Harry's body arched and tightened like a bow.

John swallowed, and nuzzled Harry as he shuddered through the after shocks; finally Harry went still, breathing heavily. As John lay his head back down on his pillow, Harry blinked owlishly at him. John smiled. "Was it to your satisfaction?"

"To my? Oh. If I could move, I would hit you," Harry said dreamily.

"You brute," John teased, and latched once more on to Harry's nipple. Harry stroked John's hair and John considered sucking a hickey there, in a turn-about-is-fair-play way, but thought better of it in time. It would probably hurt. Reluctantly, he let it slip from between his lips.

"We're at war," Harry said out of the blue. "I heard Hendricks and Gard talking about it last night."

"Yes," John said, frowning. It wasn't a secret. He hadn't brought it up with Harry, because Jesus. Harry had enough going on. But what had Harry expected? That John would just -- he stopped himself there. Yes, that's exactly what Harry expected. That John, like everyone else, would just ignore that Harry had been hurt. "Do you have some objection?"

"No," Harry said. "I just -- no one's every gone to war over me before." He shook his head. "Though I suppose that's not true. I guess I did start the war with the Reds."

"Did you truly imagine that I would not?" John asked quietly, though he knew the answer.

Harry shrugged. "I knew you'd come for me," he said lightly. "I knew you wouldn't stand for anyone fucking with anything that's yours. You know. Like Chicago."

John stiffened. "No," he said harshly. "What I won't stand for is anyone hurting what -- or those -- I love."

Harry blinked, his jaw falling open just a little. "You don't have to," he said finally.

"I am perfectly aware of that," John said flatly. "It is what it is. I do not require a similar declaration from you," John told him. "I know this has come as a surprise. It should not have. I should have told you long before now. I am afraid I'm not very good at expressing such sentiments in words."

"Uh," Harry said. "Me neither." There was a long pause as Harry ran a hand through his hair. "You'd think this would make everything easier."

"Simpler," John murmured, "perhaps. Easier, no." In war, the important things are always simple, and the simple things are always hard.

"Uh, I love you too," Harry said, like a man expecting an ambush.

John smiled, and kissed Harry gently, urging Harry's lips open with little licks and tiny nibbles. Gradually, Harry let him in, until they were making love with only their mouths. They had come so far, and had so far left to go; yet, somehow that didn't matter. His ring, on Harry's finger, pressed cold against his back. Property of John Marcone, Harry had wondered. Had believed it meant for so long. John deepened the kiss as the ring warmed against his skin.

Both now and for aye to endure.


OP

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Bring Not All Mischief (bibliography)

(Anonymous) 2012-02-07 04:05 pm (UTC)(link)

Hendricks made me do it.




Some thirty-thousand words later, and we are done. If you were wondering:

The title is borrowed from the poet Saadi, who wrote: "Reveal not every secret you have to a friend, for how can you tell but that friend may hereafter become an enemy. And bring not all mischief you are able to upon an enemy, for he may one day become your friend."

P1:
The (unspecified) Yeats that Hendricks tosses out at the Leanansidhe, perhaps unwisely, was: "She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree", from "Down by the Salley Gardens". It seems like one the Leanansidhe would know well.

"He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" is also by Yeats.

"Both now and for aye to endure" comes from Kormak's Saga and tells of the story of the titular poet and his beloved.

P2:
"What fools these mortals be" is from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

P4:
Several sections are lifted directly from "Even Hand", a DF short story (by Jim Butcher), in the mix anthology called Dark and Stormy Knights (edited by P. N. Elrod).

P6:
"Madam, how like you this play?" is a line from Hamlet. Hamlet asks it of his mother, and it immediately precedes her response, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

P8:
"Your enemies shall be my enemies" is from Beowulf, from the politically-motivated wedding of Freawaru and Ingeld.

"The scales fell away from my eyes" is a common enough idiom about seeing a previously-hidden truth, but the origin is biblical (Acts 9:18), and has a slightly different context. John is using it in the idiomatic sense.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" comes from The Wizard of Oz.

P9:
"The course of true love never did run smooth" is from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

P10:
Part of Harry's dialogue is lifted directly from Dead Beat.

There are a number of variations on Harry's line "No greater love hath any man", which John replies to: (Greater love than this no man hath), that a man lay down his life for his friends. It's from the bible, 1 John 15:13, in this case, the Douay-Rheims (an older and more traditional Catholic) version.

P11:
September 13th, given here as John's birthday, is, by the Catholic liturgical calendar, the feast of St. John Chrysostom (Chrysostom meaning "golden-mouthed", he was a noted orator).

September 14th, John's "official" birthday, is, by the Catholic liturgical calendar, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

P13:
"From your lips to God's ears" -- an idiomatic expression that essentially means "may what you just said come true". It is sometimes used sarcastically in the same way "good luck with that" might be. Though used in English, the origin is Yiddish. In this context, however, I suppose it is mostly a prayer.

"In this we have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 John 3:16, Douay-Rheims Bible.) Thomas' response, comes from the same edition (1 Corinthians 13:13) and his retorts, "and now there doth remain faith, hope, love -- these three; and the greatest of these is love" and "in this we have known the love, because he for us his life did lay down" come from the aptly named Young's Literal Translation.

"The devil quotes scripture" is a paraphrase of "The devil can cite scripture for his purpose", from The Merchant of Venice.

P14:
"Five second fuses always burn three seconds", "If your attack is going really well, it's an ambush", "The easy way is always mined", and "Field experience is something you don't get until just after you need it" are variants of Murphy's Law (i.e. "If it can go wrong, it will"), specifically, Murphy's Laws of Combat, as is "In war, the important things are always simple, and the simple things are always hard".

"As you wish", of course, means "I love you", and is borrowed from The Princess Bride.


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