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Somnus

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.


I've never been very good at sleeping, even when I was a kid. Even before I found out I was a wizard. There was the excitement of staying up late to watch my dad perform and then being too wound up to sleep, or what my already over-active imagination dreamt up to be hiding under my bed. Later I learned that there really were things that hid under your bed, which did nothing to help my insomnia. My dad was always very good at getting me to sleep. He had a very soothing voice and I'd get him talking about something �" Houdini or Sinatra or my mom. It calmed me down and losing it made it very hard for me to sleep for a long time. The creepy giant mansion I had moved into didn't help either.

In my adult years I've seen a lot of bad stuff. A lot of people can go to sleep to escape bad things but when I sleep, all the bad things come in. I've been told many times that I look troubled in my sleep. I feel troubled in my sleep. Those kinds of bad things love to crawl around in your dreams.

I woke up screaming. I was extremely disoriented and fought the arms trying to comfort me.

"Harry, Harry!" A woman's voice said, nervously.

I looked beside me and for a moment, I had no idea who she was. Which was ridiculous, because it was Susan and I know Susan. She wasn't some one night stand I'd picked up at a bar the night before. I relaxed and let her hold me. She stroked my cheek and made a shushing noise.

"Are you alright?" she asked. "You were thrashing around. I'm going to have bruises. Not the good kind either."

"Nightmare," I said. I was shivering.

"What about?"

"I don't...remember. What time is it?"

She looked past me to my clock, which I could have done myself if I'd thought about it. She had to lean across me though, and that was nice. Warmed me right up.

"4:37," she reported. She moved to sit in my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck. "I should get back and start on the article this morning. It's due tomorrow." This was broken by a few kisses here and there. I returned them on her neck. "But...I think...I could..."

She never finished the sentence and pretty soon, I'd forgotten the nightmare altogether. We woke up again at 10:30 when Susan's cellphone rang. She immediately got her 'don't bother me, I'm composing hard hitting journalism in my head' look. I saw her on her way and didn't have time to shower before my client was due to arrive. I makeshifted a bath in the sink, made sure I wasn't smelly (smelly isn't professional), got dressed, brushed my hair, which looked pretty much the same when I was done as when I started, and made it downstairs in time to let an adorable old lady into my shop.

Things had been pretty hectic the previous few days. I'd been juggling four cases at once and I was now significantly richer. My bank account was even making interest, for once. Plus, I'd had the bonus of Susan snooping around for a scoop. She's very good at getting what she wants and it's always very fun getting there.

I was glad that the final case was wrapping up that morning, though. I was ready for a few peril-free days. I let myself be kissed on both cheeks by Mrs. Delorio (the adorable old lady whose stolen wedding ring I'd found) and accepted her plate of cookies, then saw her on her way. For the record, if you ever need to hire me, I can be paid with food.

I took a handful of cookies to the lab with me to visit Bob. With the running around and the dodging and the entertaining of beautiful women, I hadn't seen him very much. He was contemplating some equation he'd written in the air, one hand under his chin and the other folded across his chest. I recognized this as his deep-thinking pose. Usually he assumed this stance while staring over my shoulder, frowning over some mistake I was making but that he wasn't going to tell me about until I was done making it.

"Don't say anything, I'm thinking," he warned, holding his arm out to me in a 'stop' motion.

I sat down at the table and munched on my cookies, waiting. After several moments, he shook his head and sighed.

"It's gone. I thought that I had the resolution for a moment, but evidently not," he said. He turned to look at me. "Is your reporter lass departed?"

"Susan," I pronounced. "Her name is Susan. She left half an hour ago."

"You realize she is merely using you to boost her writing career?"

"Yep," I said, happily. "I'm a whore."

Bob sighed and turned his back to me, regarding the equation again. I looked at it too, but it was all Greek to me. For all I knew, it could actually have been Greek. I let him ponder until he wanted to talk again, not wanting to interrupt any stroke of genius that might occur to him. I munched on my double chocolate macadamia nut cookies and debated important issues in my mind, like whether or not I should get some milk.

"You have returned Mrs. Delorio's jewelry?" Bob asked, awhile later. He was still staring at the golden symbols in the air. "She was due to arrive at eleven."

"Done and done," I replied. "She said I was a very nice young man and that I should eat more."

"Well, you can afford to now, I suspect."

"Yeah. I think I can afford new shoes, too." My left runner had come apart along the front and my toes peeked out every time I took a step. It made running from scary monsters very difficult. Luckily, I am a trained professional with excellent skills. I also have many Band-Aids. "So...do you need anything?"

"Such as?"

"I dunno. New book? Music? A pony?"

He looked over his shoulder at me. "I don't think you are that rich, Harry. I'm fine. You're going out then?"

"I'm taking my money to the bank, and then getting new shoes and some groceries," I confirmed. I put on my best enticing voice, "I can buy you a trashy romance novel."

He raised an eyebrow. "Are you trying to bribe me for something?"

"No. I just haven't seen you much; I wanted to make sure you were entertained."

"It may shock you to realize that I actually entertained myself quite well for several hundred years before you came along, Harry," he said, patiently. "I am fine. Furthermore, you cannot buy my approval."

"Not even with a really trashy romance novel?" I asked.

He thought about this. "Perhaps."

I grinned and finished off the last of my cookies. They made a very good breakfast. "Alright. I'll see you later then."

"I'll be waiting with baited breath."

I left him to his equation and got my shoes. I held up my runner and shook it up and down a few times. The toes flapped open.

"Hey wizard," I puppeted, in time with my shaking. I assumed an appropriately high 'sneaker' voice for my ventriloquism. "Please kill me now."

I put it on my foot instead, fastening it closed with some duct tape. By the time I had finished and gotten my other one on, plus grabbed my coat and keys and gone to the door, Murphy was on the other side of it. She lowered the hand she had ready for knocking and I opened the door.

"Hey, Murph," I said. "What's up?"

"I brought you your paycheck," she answered. "For last month's work. It finally came through all the red tape."

"Thanks," I said, adding the envelope to the rest of my funds. I gave her a look. "Why did you really come?"

"What do you mean?"

"Last I checked, there was this thing called the U.S Postal Service," I said. "Wait, stay with me, I hear they even have these things called vans to deliver the mail in. They're as powerful as one hundred horses."

Murphy was laughing. "I get it, I get it. I just..." Her expression changed to a more solemn one. "I needed to get out of there for a bit. One of the officers, a rookie, died this morning."

I pulled my foot from my mouth and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Oh, God, Murphy. I'm sorry. What happened?"

"It's so weird," she said. I hate it when she says things like that. "He fell into a coma three days ago. He just went to sleep and never woke up. His girlfriend called 911 when she couldn't wake him. He's been in the hospital and then he had a cardiac arrest this morning and died. The doctors couldn't find anything wrong with him. He was in perfect health. He was only twenty-seven."

"Wow," I said. "Well, sometimes...meh, I'll spare you the 'God's plan' speech."

"Thanks," she said. She scratched her head, agitated.

"Do you want to come in?" I asked.

"Nah, I have to get back," she declined. "I have tons of paperwork. Thanks, though."

"How about dinner?" I pressed. Her face was being held in that strained look she gets when she's really stressed. "I'll cook."

"You know, you really shouldn't ask a girl on a date when you still smell like the perfume of the last one," Murphy stated.

"Oh, I didn't...I wasn't..." I sputtered. "I just..."

She smiled and rolled her eyes, putting her hand on my arm to stop me. "I was joking. What are you making?"

I relaxed. "Spaghetti," I answered, promptly.

"Of course," she said. "What time to do you want me here?"

"Seven?"

"Count me in."

"Good."

"You look like you're on your way out. I'll let you go to it."

I nodded and followed her out, locking up behind me. She got into her car and gave me a wave as she left. I headed to the jeep and I noted I could probably afford to get that huge claw mark on the side fixed now. My mind wandered back to Murph as I drove to the bank. She was right, it was weird. I tried not to get paranoid about it. Sometimes weird things just happened and they weren't related to the paranormal at all.

Right. And sometimes it rains Skittles and Ancient Mai drops by to tell me how great I am.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.


My new shoes were very nice. The saleslady simply did not understand my joy at having them. Maybe she buys more than one pair of shoes per decade. I wore them out of the store and gave my old pair a proper burial in the garbage can outside. RIP, blue Converse sneakers. You served me well.

I got a large load of groceries, enjoying the fact that I would still have money in the bank when I was done. The bank guy didn’t understand my joy at making interest, either. People really need to check their priorities. By the time I got home and put everything away, it was nearly three and I decided a nap was in order. Between Susan and the nightmare, I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep. I hadn’t thought about the nightmare until then and I couldn’t even remember what it was about. All I knew was that it had terrified me and even contemplating it made me shiver.

I was dreamless during my nap and got up when the phone rang at quarter to six. It was Susan, checking some details for her story. I dodged all the questions I couldn’t answer and answered the ones I could.

“That it?” I asked, glancing at my watch.

“Uh...yes,” she said. I could hear her rustling some papers. “Big date?”

“Dinner,” I answered. “Cooking for Murphy.”

That might have made some girls jealous, but Susan had better things to do with her time. “Spaghetti?”

“Yep.”

“How is the lovely lieutenant?”

“Stressed.”

“Oh.” Actually it was more of an ‘oh?’. “What about?”

“No story,” I said, firmly. “I gave you front page material yesterday, you greedy wench. What more do you want from me?”

“I could make a list,” she purred. I grinned at the wall. There was a pause. “Did you just call me ‘wench’?”

“I’m taking pirate lessons. I really have to go, Suz, I’ll talk to you soon.”

“I have ways of making you talk, Dresden.”

“Looking forward to them. Bye!”

I got started on the food and Murphy arrived at five after seven, looking even more stressed than earlier. She had her hair back in a ponytail, which I always take as a sign of impending doom. Ponytails mean you don’t want your hair to get in your face while you’re performing murder.

“Sorry I’m late,” she said.

“You’re not really late,” I pointed out.

She looked at her watch. “I guess not. Seems like I am. Long day.”

“Sit down and let me ply you with cheap alcohol,” I offered.

She smiled slightly. “Deal.”

I got her a beer and returned to cooking, keeping my stance angled so I didn’t have my back to her and seem anti-social. She drank in silence for a few minutes, staring at the wall. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence, just one of those ones that fall between friends who don’t have to cover awkwardness with talk.

“The funeral’s tomorrow,” she finally said. “He was Jewish, so it’s custom to bury him as soon as possible. His brother has to get here, or else it would probably have been today.”

“What about an autopsy?” I asked. “Are they gonna allow that? It goes against Jewish tradition, right?”

“You can have it ordered by law,” Murphy replied, looking surprised at my knowledge. I listen when Bob drones, sometimes. “But it’s not really a suspicious death, just weird. So, I don’t think they’re gonna do one.” I nodded and stirred the spaghetti sauce. “Do you have a religion?”

“Not that I’m aware of. Churches kinda freak me out. What about you?”

“Catholic, sort of,” she answered, with a smirk. “I haven’t been since I was a kid. My grandmother Murphy was very religious, she used to take me. I was never confirmed or anything. I think churches are comforting, though. Safe.”

“That’s because they have a threshold,” I explained. “Nothing bad can pass through the doors with its powers still intact.”

“Do you need help with any of that?” Murphy asked, changing the subject. She liked to do that when we got into the magic stuff. She listened, and then politely pretended she hadn’t heard. It was a step up from interrupting me in the middle of me saying something, though, or getting angry at me. There was hope.

“Thanks, but I think it’s ready,” I declined.

I served and we ate, moving on topics less serious than death and magic (which, by the way, will probably be the name of my autobiography). Murphy loosened up as we went along, especially once I asked about Anna and by the time we were on post-dinner coffee, she was smiling.

“They’re very nice shoes, Harry,” she told me, as I flashed my foot to her. “Aren’t they the same as your old ones, though?”

“These ones are green,” I said, hurt. “Those ones were blue.”

“Of course,” Murphy said. “How could I have missed that?” I grinned and she grinned back.

Then her phone rang. We both immediately sobered up and I snatched up some dishes to take to the sink, and out of her range. I listened in on her side of the conversation, using my super awesome wizardly hearing. Her face was stressed again and I silently cursed the person on the other end who had upset her.

“Who...? And it’s the same...? So, are they gonna...? Jesus,” Murphy’s side went. “The family is okay with that? No, if they can handle it, let them sit in. It’ll be a little comfort. Why are you asking me, by the way? Well, he has a phone number too. No, I don’t care if he’s eating dinner, it’s his officer. Oh, I get it. No, let him know I gave permission. Yeah, it’s my fault. Thanks, Karen.” She turned off the phone and sighed. “Two more people have arrived at Cook County with the same symptoms as Jake had. They’ve ordered an autopsy on him now. They’re worried it’s contagious.” She stood up. “We’re going to the hospital.”

“I...me?” I said, surprised. “Why?”

“I dunno,” she replied, with a frown. “But the words ‘because I said so’ come to mind. I feel like I should go and you should come with. Plus, I’ve been drinking and you haven’t.”

I nodded. “I’ll get my coat.”

I’m not too fond of hospitals, though I’ve been in them often enough. There’s just too much stuff for me to break and I have really to concentrate on not shorting out someone’s life-support as I pass by. Usually, if I’m calm, the electricity gods take pity on me, but as soon as I have any emotion, good or bad, modern technology bites me in the ass. You can imagine that when you are faced with the possibility of killing some little old lady on a ventilator, it’s hard to stay calm, too. Bob’s worked with me on a way to hold my magic close to my body, though, and I employed that technique as best I could while we traveled the halls of Cook County.

“Do I need to get out the oil can?” Murphy muttered to me. She mimicked my stiff stance. “You look like the Tinman in the Wizard of Oz. Relax, Dresden.”

“I don’t like hospitals,” I said. “Hospitals don’t like me.”

She rolled her eyes and pressed the elevator button. I held my breath all the way to the basement, where the morgue was. I didn’t want to battle with the elevator gods either.

A young Asian woman was sitting on a bench nearby the morgue entrance. Murphy murmured to me that she was Jake’s girlfriend. She was well put together – no make-up, but unruffled clothes and hair back in a slick ponytail. Her nail polish was chipped off bitten nails, one of which was in her mouth as we approached. She glanced up at us with red rimmed eyes, but we didn’t seem to be the people she was expecting and she looked down again.

Neither Murphy nor I said anything as we passed by, on into the morgue. I’ve always found condolences from strangers annoying and I try not to offer them unless courtesy demands it. I relaxed once we were in the morgue – which is weird, I know. In a morgue, though, everyone’s already dead and no matter how much I screw up the equipment, they aren’t getting anymore dead than they already are.

“Masks, caps, gowns, gloves!” The medical examiner barked at us, without looking up. She pointed with a scalpel to the boxes of medical paraphernalia. “We are in isolation here, people! Nobody watches the light!”

“Hey Candy,” Murphy greeted her. She shoved a box of gowns my way.

“Oh, hello Connie,” Candy replied, looking over. “Sorry, I thought you were one of those buzzy doctors asking me what I’ve found. I keep telling them that the more they interrupt me, the less work I get done, but they’re in a tizzy.”

Murphy and I mask, cap, gown, gloved ourselves and entered the room proper. The Beatles sang about Lady Madonna softly in the background and Candy’s foot tapped to the beat. I couldn’t see much of her, but her eyes were young and extremely sparkly. They went nuts with the reflections of the fluorescent lighting, making her hard to read.

“Candida Cuccioli, this is Harry Dresden,” Murphy introduced us, muffled by the mask she wore. “Harry, this is Candy.”

“Ah, the wizard,” Candy said. “I can’t tell if you’re cute or not. I’ve heard rumours.”

I blushed, thankfully hidden by my doctor outfit. “All lies.”

Murphy rolled her eyes. “Do you know anything yet?”

Candy shook her head. “All I know is that he shouldn’t be dead. He’s in great shape. The only reason he’s dead is because he isn’t alive. I still have to examine the brain.”

I had to close my eyes and think of something happy at that point. The body on the table I could take. The fact that his chest was open I could take. The thought that Candy was going to chop up his brain I could not take. I’m very fond of my brain. It may not be the best brain, but it’s mine and I don’t want anyone chopping it up.

“If you’re going to faint, do it outside,” Candy ordered.

“I’m fine,” I said. I let out a long breath and opened my eyes. “I’m fine.”

I looked to Murphy. She had her eyes on Candy and they didn’t move down to the body. The lines at the corners of her eyes were deep and her fingers were digging at her head in an upset fashion.

“You okay?” I asked, under my breath. She nodded, stiffly. “You don’t have to stay.” She shrugged. “Murphy?”

“I’m fine,” she snapped, her voice harsh. I took a step away. She sighed and looked upwards briefly. “It’s harder when you know them. He’s in pieces.”

I didn’t know what to say and decided to leave it be. Candy was looking between us, openly curious at our hushed exchange. I offered a smile she couldn’t see under my mask and took a step closer to the table. I focused on his face and not on the organs that were peeping out of his chest. He was dead, obviously, so it wasn’t the best time to get a read on what he looked like, but he seemed to be a fairly good-looking guy. He had dark brown hair that was cut in a style meant to be gelled up, but it sort of flopped here and there without having had specific guidance. His nose looked like it’d been broken a couple of times and the lashes on his closed eyes were long and contrasted noticeably against the bloodless, white skin. He was very young looking.

“Who’s that?” Murphy asked, gesturing to the corner. I hadn’t noticed the guy who was standing there, reading a book.

“The shomer,” Candy replied. We looked at her blankly. “The guard. He stays with the body until it’s buried. Jewish thing.” She glanced over to him, approving. “Strong stomach. Hasn’t even flinched.” She winked at me. I blushed again.

“I’m going to talk to him,” Murphy said. She walked away from us.

“Do you mind if I...” I made a gesture to Candy, towards Jake’s head. “Um...”

“Do weird wizarding stuff?” She filled in. “Do you have to touch him?”

“Nope.”

“Then go for it.”

“Thanks.”

I held out my hand, just above his chest and closed my eyes, concentrating on the forces flowing around him. It’s far easier to detect a spell on someone when he’s alive and you can feel it interfering with his own energies. Spells linger though, and he hadn’t been dead for too long, so it was possible to catch something if I looked hard enough.

“You channeling his spirit?” Candy asked, amusement in her voice.

“Something like that,” I muttered.

“You look like you should be calling on the Lord to heal this lost lamb,” she said.

“I think he’s a little past that, now. Though, I might be more inclined to believe in the Almighty if it worked.”

I felt a very faint twinge of energy, but every time I tried to get a closer read, it felt like it darted away, like that Greek myth with the guy cursed to be eternally hungry and thirsty. He’s sitting in a lake, with grapes dangling above him, but each time he tries to eat or drink, the water and grapes move out of his reach.

“What are you doing?” That was Murphy’s voice, now. I cracked an eye and she was glaring at me.

“Looking for harmful energy?” I offered.

“This is a morgue, Harry, not feng shui class,” she snapped. “Thanks for your time, Candy. Can you call me if you find anything unusual?”

“Sure thing. I’ll add you to my ever growing list of people who are just dying to talk to me.” She winced. “Ooh. No pun intended.”

Murphy’s eyes twinkled a bit. “Thanks, Candy.”

“See ya.”

“Bye,” I said.

Murphy tugged me to the door. “Do you have to embarrass me wherever I take you?”

“It’s what I live for,” I said, seriously. Her eyes twinkled again. “Sometimes I spend whole days coming up with new ideas on how to do it.”

Murphy pulled her mask away and she was fighting a smile. “You’re such a freak, Dresden.”

I grinned. “You know you like it.”

“C’mon, smartass, we’re going upstairs,” she said.

“Yes ma’am.”

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.


The new patients were on the second floor, in isolation. Murphy and I took the elevator up and emerged on two security guards. They backed off when Murphy flashed her badge and we were able to go down the hall. The little common room was occupied by a nurse and a few family members who weren’t allowed in to see the isolated patients. There was a young guy, holding a toddler, who was gesturing elaborately toward the nurse. In return, the nurse was speaking loud and slowly to him.

“Not stupid,” the young guy replied, angrily. He had what I took to be a Spanish accent. “I not understand English! You talk big, it not help!” Then he said something that I don’t think was very nice.

Murphy detoured from our walk to go in and intercept. I followed her and stood there, completely useless, while she spoke to the guy in rapid Spanish. I’ve done a lot of traveling in Spanish speaking countries and I can get by with ‘a cup of coffee, please’ and ‘my name is Harry’ and ‘do you mind if I exorcise that demon living in your attic?’. I can follow most conversation, if the person is speaking slowly. They were not speaking slowly and the only thing I could clearly catch was ‘policía’, when Murphy flashed her badge.

“Why don’t you have a translator here?” She asked, after she’d spoken with the guy for a bit. “He says no one has been able to tell him what’s happening.”

“Things are a bit chaotic right now,” the nurse said, apologetically. “We have a deadly, apparently contagious disease that no one has ever heard of before and everyone is trying to decide how serious it is, whether we need to call the CDC or if it’s just a fluke, how these people contracted it from one another and how we go about treating something that has no obvious symptoms. It’s a mess. Unfortunately, things are getting lost in the cracks.”

“He wants to know how his sister is doing,” Murphy relayed. “Catalina Hernandez?”

“She’s like the other one, out cold, but stable,” the nurse answered. “They’re both in a coma and we have no idea why. Can you phrase that to seem less hopeless?”

Murphy did so. She also seemed to say something calming that made the guy go to sit in one of the chairs. The nurse looked like he wanted to hug her. Murphy was still in cop mode, though.

“You should get someone up here to translate,” she suggested, in a way making it clear it was an order. “And I want to know what’s going on with the patients.”

“I will,” the nurse promised. “Dr. Forrester is in charge of the isolation cases. He’s down the hall, you should talk to him.”

“Thank you,” Murphy said. She marched off and I went after her.

“I didn’t know you spoke Spanish,” I said.

“Did you think Constanza was an Irish name?” She asked, amused.

“Assuming doesn’t work out well for me,” I explained. “I try to do it as little as possible.”

“Well, I’m half Cuban,” she said. “My mother’s family defected.”

“Cool,” I said. “In that, you know what you are. I have no idea what my family were.” Except, maybe, a long line of frighteningly powerful wizards. I don’t think that’s an ethnicity, though.

“You’re obviously a mutt,” she teased, with a smirk.

“Ruff,” I replied.

As we approached the isolation rooms, a tall man in scrubs came out of one and a flurry of residents came after him. He gave a few orders and the residents split off in different directions. He leaned against the wall and lowered his mask.

“Are you Dr. Forrester?” Murphy asked him.

“I’m sorry, you have to stay in the waiting room,” he said, tiredly. He had a springy sort of British accent. “Family isn’t allowed down here.”

Murphy flashed her badge again. “I’m with the Chicago PD. I know you’re busy, but can I ask you a few questions?”

Forrester straightened up. He was really tall, maybe an inch shorter than me. That’s saying something. “Oh, sorry, m’um. It’s been a long few days. That young man, the policeman, I’m very sorry for your loss.” He peeled off the glove on his right hand and trashed it, before offering the hand to shake. “I’m Darcy Forrester. I’m the chief diagnostician.”

“Lieutenant Connie Murphy,” she replied. “This is Harry Dresden. He’s a consultant with the police.”

I got a handshake too. The powder from the gloves itched on my palm. After getting the formalities out of the way, Forrester leaned back against the wall, looking exhausted. He forced a polite smile to us, though.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

“We’d just like to know what’s going on,” Murphy explained. “It’s all very strange.”

“It is,” Forrester agreed, fervently. “It was weird enough when Officer Bloom came in, but to think it might be contagious is disturbing. Basically, in all three cases the patient fell asleep as normal, and then simply never woke up. We’ve done everything we can think of – noise, shaking, drugs, they don’t respond to any of it, which makes them technically in a coma.”

“Technically?” I repeated.

“Well, that’s the mad part of it,” he replied. He seemed sort of enthusiastic about the madness. I guess that he liked his job. I can understand that; I get very excited about sandalwood oil. “They’re dreaming.”

“And that’s not normal for a coma?” Murphy questioned.

“No, see, there’s a coma scale, and you have these levels of coma, with characteristics of each which you evaluate them by,” Forrester continued. “All of them register a 1, which isn’t good. That’s no response to noise, light or pain stimuli. Sleeping has a cycle, yeah? So, you go through 3 to 4 stages of sleep before you enter REM. Then you come out of it and start the cycle over again. You have to have a sleep cycle to be in REM, where you can dream, but coma patients don’t have a sleep cycle. But, and here’s the part that is really weird – they’ve been dreaming non-stop. Babies have about 50 REM sleep and adults have about 20 REM sleep. You think that if we get about 6 hours sleep a night, then we’re dreaming for about one and a half hours of that. Officer Bloom was in REM sleep for nearly 68 hours straight.”

Something about that made me shiver, instinctively. Dreaming for wizards is a bit different from dreaming for straights. We can usually get in there and actively control it – even talk to the people in it and sort out our problems. The thought of being inside a dream for 68 hours was scary.

“Can I see them?” I asked. “Do you mind?”

Forrester thought about it. “I suppose not. Why exactly do you need to see them?”

The sucky thing about intelligent people is they rarely go for the ‘I’m a wizard and I want to’ argument. I shrugged to stall for time and finally came up with, “I’m a visual person. I have trouble going by descriptions.”

Forrester seemed skeptical, but Murphy raised her chin defiantly and he relented. Murphy always has my back, even when she wants to stab it. Though, Murphy would always stab someone face to face, I’m sure. Forrester pulled his mask back up and opened the door to an antechamber. Murphy and I had to mask, cap, gown, glove ourselves again and then he opened the door to the main isolation room.

This one belonged to Catalina Hernandez. She was about twenty-four, all exotic features and silky hair. She was attached to several machines, but was breathing on her own. She had probes stuck to her head and chest, measuring various bodily activities. She didn’t look sick, which I found odd. She just looked like she was sleeping.

The room gave me the creeps and I didn’t know why. It made my skin crawl and my shoulders hunch up instinctively, like I wanted to be as small as possible. I looked over to the doctor and cop but neither of them seemed to be feeling the same thing as me. I walked over to the patient and felt around with my senses.

“They have an elevated heart rate,” Forrester narrated. “We’ve been able to control it with drugs, but when they wear off, the heart starts racing again. Brain activity is very high, too. That’s another odd thing about the coma. There are very few things we can treat at all. If you can’t treat the disease, you treat the symptoms. They have fevers, almost routinely, that spike up high. We can control those, too. Fever suggests infection, but none of the blood tests, or LPs or swabs, or anything has been positive. We put Officer Bloom through Cts, MRIs, X-rays, the works and there was no trauma to the head – to anywhere. It’s utterly baffling.”

I looked down at Catalina Hernandez. I could see her eyes moving under her lids, back and forth frantically. The rest of her body was utterly still, aside from her chest rising and falling as she breathed. She seemed to be breathing a bit fast. Forrester came over and lifted one of her eyelids. He shone a penlight into her eye.

“You can see the pupil doesn’t respond to light,” he said. “But her eyes are still moving rapidly.”

Her eyes were light brown. I looked into the open one and my skin crawled some more. Her pupil was huge, leaving only a rim of brown around the edge. She didn’t look peaceful. It’s hard to say why. She wasn’t frowning or furrowed or anything, but when people sleep, as I’ve mentioned, they tend to look calm. She didn’t look calm and as I moved my hand up to the railing of her bed, I got a jolt through my fingertips that made me feel wrong. I resisted the urge to twist and writhe, trying to shake the bad feeling off me.

“Harry?” Murphy asked. “Are you alright?”

I shuddered and stepped back from the bed, feeling sick. There was magic afoot there and it wasn’t good magic. Catalina’s monitors blipped and went dead. The lights followed and I pushed my way out of that room as fast as I could.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.


I found a supply cupboard and ducked inside it, tearing off my mask and trying to breathe calmly. I felt extremely agitated but away from the room and the magic, I felt better and silly for reacting so violently. I was a capable wizard. I was hiding in a supply closet. I sighed and rubbed my eyes.

“Harry?”

Murphy stuck her head in then the rest of her followed when she saw me there. She closed the door behind her, leaving the flimsy bare bulb hanging above us as the only light. It flickered ominously.

“You okay?” she asked. She lowered her mask too and peeled off her gloves.

“Yeah, just a little...” I looked for the right word. “You didn’t feel that?”

“What?”

“That...energy? Like little ants were crawling over your skin or someone was watching you and you couldn’t see them?”

She frowned. “No. I think you’re being paranoid again.”

“Maybe,” I said. “Sorry for freaking out.”

“Do you think...do you think someone did this to them?” she asked. “Or is that just me being a cop? It seems so weird. I guess if they were drugged or something it would show up. I just want there to be something for me to do, you know? Jake’s dead. He shouldn’t be. I want there to be someone I can go and arrest.”

“I don’t know what’s going on,” I admitted. “But I don’t think it’s natural. There was magic in there -” I held up my hand before she could object. “There was. I could feel it.”

Murphy shifted on her feet. “Well...what sort of magic, then?”

“Not the good kind.”

“Can you fix it?”

I frowned. “I dunno. But I’m gonna try.”

She sighed and I wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be fine. I didn’t though. Murphy doesn’t do hugs. At least, not with me. We stood, staring at each other for a few moments before Murphy stirred started to scratch at her scalp again, leaving powder in her hair from the gloves.

“What’s wrong with your head?” I demanded.

“I got my hair cut yesterday and whatever they washed my hair with made my scalp react,” she replied.

She dug further at her head, annoyed. I reached out and took her wrist, pulling her hand away.

“You’ll make it worse,” I told her, sounding like Bob for one scary moment.

“Let’s go,” she said, not even fighting my grip. “I’m tired. Maybe things will look better in the morning.”

I agreed and we left the hospital after deposing of the rest of our isolation outfits. Before we’d reached the front door, there was a Code Blue called for Dr. Forrester. Murphy and I looked at each other, frowning, and left in silence.

Murphy asked me to drive, even though we both knew she was alcohol-free by this point. I politely let her criticize my driving all the way back to my place. I recognized that she needed to be angry with someone and if that someone was me and my apparent inability to turn a corner properly, no harm done. I decided not to tell her that I had failed my drivers test six times in a row before getting my license and that it was a minor miracle I could drive at all.

She declined my offer to come in and got into the driver’s seat of her car like she was afraid it might run away from the shock of having been driven by me. She gave the steering wheel a surreptitious pat.

“Thanks for coming with me,” she said, before she left. “I know you don’t like hospitals.” She looked down at the steering wheel for a moment. “I didn’t want to go alone.”

I smiled and shut the car door, speaking through the open window. “No problem, Murph. Drive safe.”

“I will. ’Night.”

“’Night.”


I had more bad dreams. Horrible ones with things in the dark that I couldn’t see or fight. They were doing nasty things to me and I woke up screaming in the middle of the night. This time, there was no Susan to distract me and I shook for a lot longer. I got up and went downstairs to get some tea. Bob was hovering at the bottom of the staircase. He can move in any direction away from his skull, but up and down seem to have less of a leash than straight. He couldn’t reach me in the loft and he looked fussed.

“Is everything alright?” He asked. “You sounded as though you were frightened.”

I deviated from my kitchen path to the lab to grab his skull. “Just a nightmare,” I answered.

“You look quite pale, Harry,” he pressed, following me to the kitchen. I set his skull on the counter and put the kettle on. “Do you wish to talk about it?”

“I can’t remember what it was about,” I said. “I don’t even know if it was about anything. There’s nothing to interpret. It was just scary.” I gripped onto the counter to hide the fact that I was still shaking.

He backed off, changing the subject smoothly. “I have been considering what you told me earlier.” I’d filled him in on the events when I got home from the hospital, before I’d gone to bed. “I don’t suppose it would be possible for you to get some hair from one of the victims?”

“I could probably wing it,” I said. “Will it help?”

“It might let us know exactly what spell is working on them.”

I nodded and took the kettle off. My hand shook badly as I poured the water and it splashed onto my hand.

“Fuck!” I said, with feeling. I ran my fingers under cold water. “What the hell is going on, Bob?”

“I don’t know, Harry,” he replied. “But I’ve never seen you this agitated after a dream, not even when you were a child.”

I leaned on the counter and tried to calm down. “This whole thing has really thrown me for a loop,” I admitted, quietly. “I don’t know why. There was something in that room that just made me...afraid.”

“It seems odd that you would be experiencing nightmares at the same time these victims are in very high levels of dream sleep,” Bob mused.

I swallowed and carefully voiced my fears out loud, “Do you think I’m getting sick?”

“I don’t know, Harry,” he repeated.

“Why not?! You’re supposed to know things!” I yelled at him. He backed off a few steps, looking hurt. I took a deep breath, unsure of where the outburst had even come from. “Sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I’m just really tired. And freaked out.” He nodded a curt acceptance, but I knew that he forgave me despite the coolness. He had to keep his dignity. “Can we make a potion or something?”

“If you wish. Under the circumstances I suggest something simple,” he replied. He smirked a little. “Or a mood lifter?”

I laughed and let the tension flow out of me through it, then inhaled some clean, non-aggressive oxygen. I put the kettle back on the burner until it whistled again and got water into the mug without shaking. The fear started to lift and as it did, it seemed out of place and artificial, like it had never belonged to me.

“Maybe I’m just going crazy,” I said. “You’d tell me, right?”

“Of course.”

“Thanks.”

We settled on an energy potion. Not the simplest thing, but not the trickiest potion in the book, either. Just enough to keep my mind occupied without overloading it. Bob corrected any mistakes I was about to make, in between the research on nightmares he was doing. I got out several tomes he requested and he stuck a hand in each of them, absorbing up the information through osmosis or however he does it.

I finished mixing and used all my bad feelings to charge the liquid. It glowed briefly, then starting bubbling around in a hyper fashion. I slumped, no energy left now that I’d put it into the potion. I yawned as I bottled the juice and labeled it.

“Goin’ to bed now,” I told Bob.

“Mmm,” he replied, engrossed in his reading.

“Night.”

He waved a hand at me. I smiled. Bob with a book was how the world should be. Right then, I needed the world to be as it should be, even if it was just in one corner of my apartment. I staggered upstairs, falling into bed and a dreamless sleep.


When I came downstairs at 8am, the phone was ringing. I caught it on about the sixth or seventh ring and, after I said hello, it took a moment for anyone to respond. I guess she’d given up.

“Hello?” she asked, uncertainly.

“Hi, sorry,” I said. “I’m here.”

“Oh, did I wake you? I’ve been up all night; I was trying to wait for a decent hour to call. This is Sheryl Sharp. Scott’s mom?”

I’d blanked on the name, so it’s good she threw that last clarification in. “Oh, hey Sheryl. What’s up?”

“It’s Scott,” she said. “He’s been up all night with bad dreams. He was screaming. He won’t leave his room. I don’t know what to do. You said I could call you if anything weird happened?”

“I did,” I agreed. “He’s having nightmares. What about?”

“He says he doesn’t remember,” she said. “But he’s terrified, Harry.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said, absently. The now familiar feeling of anxiety welled up in my stomach. “Will he come to the phone?”

“I’ll try.” There was the sound of the receiver being put down and footsteps moving away. I waited. A few minutes later footsteps came back and someone lifted the receiver again. It was Sheryl. “He won’t leave his room, I’m sorry. He still has that shield on his door.”

“And he doesn’t want to move away from it,” I guessed. “Alright. I’ll be over as soon as I can.”

“Thanks, Harry.”

I showered (I really needed to by this point), and stopped by the lab to talk to Bob before heading out. He was in his skull but didn’t even wait for me to call before popping out of it. I told him about Scott. He raised an eyebrow.

“The child is having the same nightmares as you?” he verified.

“I dunno, but it sounds like it,” I said.

“Perhaps I was on to something then...”

“What’s that?”

“Do you remember the universal consciousness theory?”

I thought. “Yeah, that’s...psychology. Dream interpretation with the archetypes and stuff.”

“No, that’s the universal unconscious,” Bob said, patiently. “The universal consciousness is a belief among many spiritualists that our minds are all connected on a subconscious level. According to this theory, everyone then has the potential to be telepathic or clairvoyant or psychic, but most people are afraid and it lies dormant.”

“Is that Jung?” I asked.

“No, that is still the unconscious,” he corrected, less patiently. I caught the ‘smarten up, Harry’ tone in his voice and tried to focus. “What I am trying to say is that, according to the universal conscious theory, everyone can be connected through the Dreamscape.”

“You think that’s what’s happening with the sick people?” I questioned. “They’re all in the same dream?”

“Perhaps. If so, I wondered if it might not be affecting your sleep as well. If the Dreamscape is being used unnaturally, you might be able to feel it.”

“Like, if a butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the world, it causes a hurricane on the other, or whatever,” I mused. “If someone is messing about in one dream, it screws up the rest of them.”

“Something like that,” Bob agreed. “And, as a wizard, you are more in tune to the conscious; therefore what would affect a normal person only minimally has an amplified effect on you.”

“And Scott,” I added.

“He has also been proven to possess a good deal of power, just like you,” Bob pointed out.

I thought on this for a few more minutes. “Why? And how do I stop it?”

Bob’s self-satisfied expression dimmed a bit. “I don’t know that. Yet. If I had a sample of hair, I might be able to tell how it is being accomplished and thus, its purpose and how to counter it.”

“Gotcha,” I said. I gave him a thumb’s up. “Rock on, Bob.” He smiled. “Okay, I will get you that hair. After I calm down Scott and check on Murphy. Hell, I think I’ll stop world hunger while I’m at it. Just a few minutes out of my way.”

“Yes, well, good luck with that,” Bob said, shaking his head.

“Thanks. I expect a Nobel Peace Prize by the end of the week. I’ll thank you in my speech.”

“I expect to be there when you deliver it.”

“I’ll have them reserve a seat for your skull.”


Sheryl Sharp had obviously not slept at all the night before. She answered the door in her bathrobe, with large dark circles under eyes and hair that hadn’t seen a brush yet. I felt bad for her, but it was mixed with a little pride that she was comfortable enough with me not to make an effort.

“Thanks for coming,” she said. “Do you want coffee? I’m already making some.”

“Sure,” I accepted. “You okay?”

“I’m very, very tired,” she admitted. “But I’m fine. Scott is still in his room.”

“On it,” I said. I remembered the way and went on my own when Sheryl went to the kitchen. I knocked on the door, above where the torn shield symbol I’d drawn him was taped. “Scott? It’s Harry. Can I come in?”

“Yeah,” he called back.

I opened the door. Scott had obviously been making an effort for me. He sat crossed legged on a hastily made bed, fully dressed and looked at me with eyes that had been rubbed furiously – either to wipe away sleep or tears. He still looked exhausted and his body language indicated anxiety.

“Hey kid,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” he replied, quickly. “I told her you didn’t have to come.”

I pulled a chair from the small desk and sat down in it backwards, next to his bed. “She’s just worried about you. That’s what mothers do. She said you had a bad night last night.”

He shrugged and picked at a thread on the comforter. “Just some nightmares. It’s no big deal.”

“I had them too,” I shared. “Really bad ones. I was really scared.”

He looked at me askance. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. I woke up screaming and shaking,” I said. I showed him my burned fingers. “I was shaking so badly, I spilled my tea.”

“I was scared too,” he said, softly. “I just wanted to hide.”

“Me too.”

“Is that what happens with us?” he asked. “With the magic? Is that why we get them?”

“Sort of,” I said. “Dreams are weird things, and they’re weirder with us. But this isn’t normal. There’s something wrong. Someone’s doing some bad magic and it’s making our dreams worse.”

He considered this. “Why?”

“Why is it making our dreams worse or why is someone doing it?”

“Both.”

“It’s complicated,” I answered. “For both things. When I was a kid, I had a teacher who taught me how to use my magic and how not to use my magic.” For the most part. “Some people, they don’t get those lessons and they think they can do whatever they want with it. It’s never okay to hurt someone with your powers, alright?”

He nodded, solemnly. “Will you teach me?”

“You bet. When you’re a bit older, you can be my apprentice, if your mom agrees.”

That brightened him up. “Cool!”

I grinned. “For now, though, I’m gonna teach you how to clear your mind so you can sleep. I’m not sure if it’ll block out the nightmares, but you can use it to calm you down when you feel scared.”

“Okay,” he accepted, eagerly. “What do I do?”

I taught him some basic meditation skills and walked him through it. He picked it up pretty quick, though, like any kid, he had trouble holding still for long enough to clear his mind. He kept twitching. I found it more amusing than Bob found me when he tried to teach me. I was about twenty before I got the hang of it and that was only after spending a couple weeks with a family in Japan. Nice people, the Buddhists.

By the time I was done, Scott could barely keep his eyes open. He tried, for my sake, but ultimately failed. He sunk down the headboard as he talked to me, until he was horizontal and then he was asleep. I tossed a blanket over him and let him get to it. Sheryl was waiting for me on the other side of the door, pretending she wasn’t. She backed off quickly when I opened it and thrust a cup of coffee my way.

“Milk and 3 sugars,” she recited. “Right?”

“Yep,” I agreed. I took a sip from the mug. It was lukewarm, but in every way drinkable. “Thank you. He’s asleep now. I hope it’ll last, but I can’t say for sure.”

She nodded. “What do I do? If he gets more of them?”

“Just comfort him. I taught him a couple of tricks to calm himself down. It won’t get completely better until I fix this problem I’m working on. Let him stay home from school if he wants. Try to rest, yourself. I’ll call you when everything’s okay again.”

We’d moved to the kitchen table without my making much notice of it. I just followed when she started to walk. I sat down and drank more coffee. She poured herself a second cup then joined me.

“This ‘problem’,” she said. “It’s like the bird thing isn’t it? Something I won’t understand?”

“I could explain it,” I said. “But...I don’t really get it myself. How is the bird thing, by the way?”

“They’re still around. I see them. I’m not afraid of them anymore and neither is Scott. I think they just want to make sure he’s safe.” She gave me a tired smile. “Birds want to make sure my son is safe.”

I laughed. “It’s not so bad. The weirdness. Once you start to get used to it. I’d like to teach Scott when his powers fully emerge, with your permission. He’ll need some guidance to get it under control. I had a good teacher, growing up, and I think I can pass some of that onto Scott. I’d like to, anyway.”

“I think that would be good for him,” she said. “He really looks up to you.”

I shrugged that away, flushing. “I’ll try to teach him better judgment than that.”

She smiled and reached across the table to pat my hand in a friendly manner. We talked our way through our coffee and I requested use of her phone when my cup was empty. I called Murphy, got the news that three more people had fallen ill and arranged to meet her at the hospital. Scott was still sleeping soundly when Sheryl and I checked on him. I made her go lie down instead of walking me to the door. I left, putting a simple ward over the front door as I did. You can never be too careful.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes: The description of Murphy as she appears under Harry's Third Eye is based on Mr. Butcher's descriptions in the books and modified to work with Murphy's TV appearance.


Murphy was in her dress uniform for Jake’s funeral later that day. She had on her beaked cap, hair pinned neatly underneath and her buttons gleamed in the sunlight.

“Very snazzy,” I told her. “Maybe I should get a uniform.”

“I can probably hook you up with some prison garb,” she said, sweetly.

“How did you sleep?” I asked, as we entered the lobby. I had been contemplating several approaches to that question on the ride over and couldn’t think of a good segue for it. It’s too bad there weren’t any sheep nearby. I could have worked with sheep.

She gave me a suspicious look. “Fine. Why?”

“Just thinking of your well-being, Murph,” I told her. “If you get sick or something, who’s going to keep me out of trouble?”

“I’m pretty sure I only get into trouble when you’re around,” she returned.

“That hurts, Lieutenant.”

She touched her cheek as though wiping away a tear. I laughed. The elevator doors abruptly shorted out and jammed into our sides. Stupid elevators. We freed ourselves and got upstairs without further incident. There were no guards to greet us when we stepped out. They were at the doors of the waiting room instead. I glanced into it as we passed. It was packed with worried looking people.

If Forrester looked exhausted the day before, today he looked half-dead. I wondered if he’d gone home or even lay down at all since I’d last seen him. He eyed me and Murphy with annoyance, though I don’t think it was really at seeing us so much as having something else to do when he was already so busy. He undid his mask and it fell to his neck. There was a fine black stubble around his jaw and he scratched at it irritably.

“Leftenant Murphy, Mr. Dresden,” he greeted us. He looked to me. “You don’t have a title, do you?”

“I’m just Harry,” I confirmed.

He smiled a little and scratched his face again. “Aren’t we all.” I smiled back. “I assume you’ve heard about the recent developments? Nurse Myers informed me he’d talked to you on the phone earlier this morning, Leftenant.”

“That’s right,” Murphy said. “Three more in, he said?”

“Yes, and one out,” he replied, sadly. “Last night, shortly after you left. Serena Bailzow. She was 93 years old. She was - “ His pants started to beep. He pulled out a pager and looked at it. “Pardon me. If you suit up and stay out of the way, you may see any of the patients.” His hazel eyes moved between us rapidly, maybe hoping for a clue as to why we were so interested. “Excuse me.”

He passed us to walk down to the nurses’ station. Murphy sighed and looked at me, letting me lead the way.

“I want to see Catalina Hernandez again,” I said, lying through my teeth. There was no way I wanted to enter that room again, but I’d decided that, since the spell had been working on her the longest, her hair would have the most magic residue on it.

Murphy nodded, without asking any questions. We donned our suits of armour and I took a deep breath before plunging into the uncomfortable atmosphere of the hospital room once again.

It was eerie in Catalina’s room. The magic was much stronger than it had been the day before and it gave me an urgent, panicked feeling. Like I had to do something soon or else bad things would happen. Even Murphy could feel it this time. She shifted uncomfortably and went to the window, looking out at the street below. It was actually good for me. I managed to cut a good sized lock of hair from the back of Catalina’s head without her noticing.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, as I wrapped the long tress of black hair in a handkerchief. I pocketed it and the pair of safety scissors I’d brought with me. “But you’ll thank me for it, later. Hopefully.”

“I had nightmares,” Murphy said, suddenly. She was still looking out the window.

“Sorry?” I said.

She looked over her shoulder at me. “You asked how I slept. I had nightmares.”

“Oh,” I said. My stomach hurt. “Bad ones?”

“Not as bad as before, after Boone,” she answered. She turned all the way around from the window and folded her arms across her chest. “How did you know to ask? What’s going on?”

“I should like to know that myself,” Dr. Forrester interrupted. He closed the door to the antechamber he’d just emerged from and focused his sharp gaze on me. “I have been in medicine for twenty-three years, Mr. Dresden, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I have called every colleague I have, I have read books, I have even Googled, for God’s sake, and there’s nothing like this ever recorded.” He looked over to Murphy and back to me again. “Now, I’d like to know why the police are interested. It goes beyond Officer Bloom’s death, correct?”

I felt a sudden surge of annoyance at the both of them. Murphy was asking me for an explanation she knew she wouldn’t believe and Forrester wanted a medical reason that I couldn’t give him. I gritted my teeth and the screen of Catalina’s monitor flickered.

“I don’t know,” I said, firmly. “I don’t know what’s going on. If I did, believe me, I would let you know. Both of you.”

“What do you do?” Forrester demanded. “You aren’t a police officer, are you?

I held up my hand to him. “I’m a wizard. I’m a consultant with the police and right now, I am trying to help these people. So, just back off and let me work on figuring this out, okay?”

He frowned heavily under his mask, looking like he was about to ask another question, but retreated, and instead went to look at Catalina’s monitor. Murphy turned her back to me again, her stance tense and angry. I set my jaw and turned my attention back to Catalina.

I opened up my Third Eye. To my left, there was a warm yellow glow. I was used to it, though, that was just Murphy. When you use your Sight, it lets you see things as they really are, no facades or fronts put up. What Murphy was at heart, according my sight, was an angel of justice. Her gun became a sword, her badge became a shield. She glowed with fire and fury and she wore a white tabard, stained with blood and dirt. She also had a helmet on today, which I guess was the true form of her beaked cap. She stood there by the window, wings twitching irritably on her back, sword in its scabbard at her hip, glowing away and she didn’t even realise it.

Forrester wasn’t quite as angelic, but he definitely had a guardian air to him. His stethoscope became a snake, curled around his neck, like the rod of Asclepius. It lifted its head to hiss at me and looked ready to bite Death in the ass if it got too close to a patient. His scrub shirt had a large red cross on the back of it. He was imposing and gave off this feeling of safety, almost like a father. Like, if you stuck with him, you knew nothing too bad could happen to you.

I tore my Sight away from them and aimed it at Catalina Hernandez. As useful as a Third Eye is, there are downsides to it. For one thing, if you look through it too much, it’ll make you nuts. There’s a reason we don’t see things as they really are – it’d make our heads explode. Another downside is that whatever you see stays with you, you can’t forget it. And sometimes, what you see with your Sight are things that you want to forget.

As I looked at Catalina with my Sight, I was reminded of a painting that had been in my uncle’s study. It’s called ‘The Nightmare’ by Henry Fuseli, done in the late 1700’s. It’s of a young woman, draped over a chaise lounge, looking dead, with a gargoyle-esque thing sitting on her chest. I hated it. It freaked me right out. My uncle had explained to me that it represented that feeling of terror and heavy breathing you get waking up from a bad dream, when you can’t move. Scientists call it ‘sleep paralysis’.

A large black cloud of energy hovered over Catalina’s chest, looking like it had hands inside her body. I reached out, tentative, and the cloud parted around my hand, not touching it. I moved my hand around, but the cloud jumped away like when you put the same poles of two magnets next to each other. Murphy still had her back to me but Forrester was watching and had stopped all pretense of pretending to like me. Now he just glared. I lowered my hand under his gaze.

There was a gaping wound in the side of Catalina’s head, where more of the energy was pouring in. She panted heavily and her mouth opened and closed as though she was trying to scream, but couldn’t. I knew then that she wasn’t just dreaming – she was in a nightmare. She was trapped in there. If she was under the same effect, that meant Jake Bloom had been trapped as well. For 68 hours he’d been in a nightmare he couldn’t wake up from.

“Hell’s Bells,” I muttered.

With my Sight open, the terror hanging in the room was worse and made me dizzy. Before I realized it, I was on my knees on the floor. Forrester hurried to me, kneeling down. Up close, his hazel eyes were painfully green and sharp like daggers. The snake around his neck reached out to me and brushed on my chest, hissing in a worried manner. I hastily snapped my Third Eye shut and the snake turned back into Forrester’s stethoscope, which had swung out when he leaned forward to take my pulse.

“Mr. Dresden,” he said, in a way that sounded like it wasn’t the first time he’d addressed me. “Are you alright?”

“Huh? Yeah,” I replied. “Sorry. Just got a little dizzy.” I looked to my side to find Murphy there, her wings gone now, her hand on my shoulder. “I need to get out of here.”

She nodded. She and Forrester hoisted me to my feet with ease. I wobbled unsteadily as they got me out into the antechamber and then into the hall. Forrester directed us to a room next door and ordered me to sit on the bed, dammit. So I sat. The room was empty of patients and I pulled my mask and cap off. Murphy did the same to hers and then sat on the bed next to me while Forrester fussed out of the room.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“What are you sorry for?” I asked. “Did you make me dizzy?”

“I mean, for getting snappy with you,” she replied. “I should know by now that you don’t make sense to me. I should just let you work. I should trust you.”

I was surprised. “Well, that’d be nice. But then, how would I know you were still my Murphy if you started being nice to me?”

She knocked into my side, with a smile. “Shut up. Everything is just bad, you know? I mean, I know it’s not, not everything, but it feels like it’s all bad.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “I know what you mean. It’s part of the spell, I think.” She twitched a little next to me. “Would it help if I used a substitute word for spell? How about kitten? Kittens aren’t scary. ‘It’s part of the kitten’.”

She laughed. “I like kittens.”

“There you go.”

She looked at her watch. “I should go get Sid. The funeral starts in an hour.”

“Go ahead, I’ll be fine,” I told her.

“Are you sure?”

“Yep.”

“Call me later.”

“I will call you later.”

She nudged my shoulder again and got up. I gave her a reassuring smile that I dropped once she’d left the room. I fell back on the bed and sighed heavily, trying to relax. It felt like the whole world was out of control. I felt afraid. I hate feeling afraid. It makes me very angry.

“Mr. Dresden?” Forrester’s face came into view above mine. “Are you alright?”

“I think I’m going crazy,” I replied.

“Well, I’m glad to have some company,” he said, with a small smile. “Now, drink this apple juice and explain to me precisely what a wizard does for the Chicago Police Department.”

I talked. I had to self-censor, but I told him what I could. To his credit, he didn’t laugh or have me committed. He just nodded and hmmmed occasionally. I downed three little hospital cups of apple juice and two cups of lime jello at his bequest, had my blood pressure taken to make sure I wouldn’t faint when I stood up and was given permission to leave.

“In my profession, I’ve seen some strange things,” he said, when I was done and he’d had a few minutes to ponder. “I don’t know if I believe in magic, but I do believe there are some things I can’t explain. Ruling out any possibility is foolish. So...I hope you do your job, whatever it might be, Mr. Dresden. I’ll keep doing mine. Hopefully one of us will make some difference in the end.”

After that, I had no problems with Darcy Forrester ever again. In fact, I actually started to like the guy, as much as anyone like me can like a doctor. I make it my mission in life to avoid them as much as possible. It doesn’t ever really work out that well.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.


I tried to leave after being released by Forrester, but was stopped by someone calling ‘Mr. Dresden?’. I turned around, impatient to get moving and found a young man in a hospital gown standing behind me. It took a moment for me to realize it was Jake Bloom.

“Uh...hi,” I said.

“You can see me?” he asked.

“Yep,” I said, feeling extremely tired.

He looked relieved. “Good. No one else can, I thought you might be able to. I need to talk to you.”

“Okay,” I nodded. A nurse was giving me an odd look, talking to nothing as I was. “Follow me, huh?”

I went into the supply closet again. Jake followed me in and I shut the door behind him. In his ghostly form, he looked normal. Or at least, not dead. His nose was back in line and he had colour in his cheeks. His hair was gelled up in spikes. Apparently there is hair gel in the afterlife.

“Uh, not to be blunt or anything,” I started, before he could speak. “But you do realize you’re dead, right?”

“Yeah, I figured that out,” he agreed.

“Sometimes people are in denial,” I explained.

“No, I’m pretty sure I’m dead,” he said.

“You seem to be taking it pretty well.”

He shrugged. “What’re ya gonna do? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m really, really pissed. I had plans, you know? Dying wasn’t on my To-Do list. But, I can’t really do anything about it now. Except...well, shouldn’t I be in Heaven? Or at least...not here?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m not really sure how that works exactly, but you shouldn’t be here. Sometimes when people die suddenly or violently, or they feel like they need to do something here or be avenged, they get sort of stuck half way between Here and There. There isn’t, like, a light anywhere, is there?”

“I haven’t seen one, no,” he replied. “And I’ve been all around this place.” He looked thoughtful. “Are you going to have to exorcise me?”

“I hope not,” I said, with a smile. “Are you causing trouble?”

“No, I can’t do much of anything,” he answered. “I woke up in the morgue, just before you came in with Lt. Murphy. I hid, ‘cause I was really freaked out. Then I saw Jade and I wanted to talk to her - “

“Jade?”

“My girlfriend.”

“Oh, right.” Jake and Jade, that was cute. I felt bad for them and added that feeling to the growing ball of anger in my stomach.

“She was getting ready to deal with my mother. Jade isn’t Jewish and my mother has a thing about it,” he continued. He rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I wanted to comfort her or something, but she couldn’t see me or hear me. By the time I figured it out, you and Lt. Murphy were gone. I tried to follow Jade back home, but I can’t leave the hospital.”

“You’re probably bound here,” I explained. “It’s where you died.”

“Whatever,” he dismissed. “So I sort of wandered around for awhile. You and Lt. Murphy came in the next day, but I was talking to Mrs. Bailzow.”

“Serena Bailzow?”

“Yeah, she had the same illness as me. She was a really great old lady. Do you know she was a Holocaust survivor?” I shook my head. “That’s amazing. She was Roma – a gypsy? From Poland. She’s got, like, a billion grandkids. We talked for a bit. I think she was trying to keep me company, but then she said she had to go and then she sort of disappeared.”

“So, she wasn’t stuck then?” I asked.

“No, she said she was ready to go,” he said. He looked angry. “Can you imagine surviving that and living for so long, only to be killed by some stupid disease? It’s horrible.”

“This isn’t a disease, Jake,” I said. “It’s a spell. Someone, or a bunch of people, is doing this to people.”

“A spell?” he repeated, skeptically. “No way, man.”

“Jake, you’re a ghost talking to a wizard,” I pointed out. “Are you really gonna doubt me on this?”

He smirked. “I guess not.” He cocked his head to one side. “So, you’re really a wizard? I mean, I was there with those people on that drug, Third Eye? That was insane. I saw you do some amazing stuff, but it was dark and I figured I was just imagining things.”

“I’m really a wizard,” I confirmed. “And I’m trying to stop this before anyone else dies. You can help me. What do you remember about being sick?”

“Uh...not a lot,” he said. “I went to bed before Jade; she was watching some late night talk show. She loves those. I went to sleep, I guess. I had this really weird dream.”

“What about?” I prompted.

“Do you know what a golem is?” he asked.

“It’s a creature made of clay that you activate by putting a magic word in its mouth,” I recited. “Then it acts as your servant..”

“Right, sort of,” he said. “Well, I dunno, I suppose you know more than me. But it’s a Jewish legend. This Rabbi makes a golem; he activates it by putting the name of God in its mouth. The golem becomes a guard to protect the village. At the end of the tale, the golem gets enough experience that it starts to get a human personality. It attacks the people its supposed to be protecting and the Rabbi has to destroy it. My grandmother told it to me when I was a kid and it terrified me.” He looked sheepish and scratched at his head. “Stupid, I know.”

“No,” I assured him. “I’m afraid of clowns. That’s stupid.”

“Man, who isn’t afraid of clowns?” he asked. “Anyway, that’s what I dreamed about. The golem. It was chasing me and I kept running and hiding and running and hiding and it always found me. It went on for a really long time. I got so tired. In the end, it found me and I couldn’t run anymore. I think it killed me. Then I woke up in the morgue.”

I shuddered. That confirmed the whole ‘trapped in a nightmare’ theory, which didn’t make me feel any better about the situation. It just made me feel more panicked. I had to get everyone out of there.

“Mr. Dresden?” Jake asked, when I didn’t respond.

“Sorry, just thinking,” I said. “Did Mrs. Bailzow dream about the golem too?”

“No, she said she dreamed about being in the concentration camps,” he said, sadly. “That sort of thing sticks with you your whole life. You never escape from it. Doesn’t that make you want to break things?” I nodded an agreement. “She said she’d heard about her brother dying in the gas chambers and she’s always had dreams about it. She dreamed she was in there and they turned on the gas.”

“And she died,” I finished. “So, we’re talking your worst or subconscious fears, here?”

“I guess so, yeah,” he said. “I hadn’t really thought about it like that.”

I started to pace. It was hard to pace in that small a space, especially with Jake’s ghost occupying half of it. It’s not polite to walk through a ghost you don’t know. I thought some more, my tired brain a little slow in getting the gears to work. Jake watched me, stirring restlessly. I decided not to tell him his foot was in the mop bucket.

“Did you know Mrs. Bailzow?” I asked. “Before she, uh, died?”

“No,” he replied. “Why?”

“I’m trying to figure out how everyone connects,” I said. “Okay...do you know how someone might have gotten a hold of a piece of you? Your hair, your blood, your spit, anything?”

“Um...no,” he said. “I’ll think about it, though. Things are sort of jumbled up in my mind right now.”

“I understand,” I said. “I have to go, Jake, and try to figure this all out. But, I will get you to the other side, I promise.”

“I know you will,” Jake told me. “I’ve seen you in action.”

I smiled and left the closet.


I’d had enough of the hospital by the time I was done with Forrester and Jake. I returned home to bring Catalina’s hair to Bob. I brought a bowl of Cheerios into the lab with me and scarfed it down while he contemplated the sample and I filled him in on what I’d learned.

“Do you have to crunch?” he snapped, suddenly.

I swallowed the cereal with a gulp. “Sorry.”

“You look terrible, Harry,” he said. “You should lie down.”

I didn’t know if that was actual concern or an attempt to get me out of his way. I was too chicken to try to sleep, so I mumbled some excuse and stuck around, but abandoned the Cheerios. After about half an hour of sitting there, a combination of exhaustion and boredom took over my brain. I knew my staring at him wasn’t helping him think any faster and I was risking face planting into the bowl of cereal and drowning in the milk. Death by cereal: not the way I want to go out.

I went upstairs, dreading the thought of sleeping. It didn’t stop me from conking out almost immediately, though. I was dreamless for the next four hours and woke feeling relieved. I lay there for awhile, considering things and organizing my brain, before I got up and went back to the lab.

“It’s a ritual, isn’t it?” I demanded without preamble. I looked around. “Bob?”

He stuck his head through a wall. “I am out here, Harry.”

“Oh.” I exited the lab and went to the storefront. He had his hand in one of the books on the shelf over my desk. “It’s a ritual, right?”

“What makes you say that?” He asked.

“I’ve only gotten the nightmares at night,” I said, talking it out. I started to pace. “And remember a few nights ago, I had that bad nightmare about my dad? We decided it was just because it’s almost the anniversary of his death but - “ I held up a finger. “That was the night before Jake Bloom got sick. Then, yesterday morning, when Susan was here, I had nightmares again – worse ones.” I held up another finger. “Then, Jake Bloom died and Catalina Hernandez and Serena Bailzow were admitted. Last night, more nightmares, this morning more patients.” I held up a third finger. “The worse the nightmares, the more people end up sick. Plus, when I lay down during the day yesterday and just now, I didn’t have nightmares. That means the spell is spiking at night, say between sunset and sunrise and rituals get their power from being done at the same time in the same way each time. Three strikes and you’re a ritual.”

“Indeed, those were my thoughts as well,” Bob agreed.

“Then why did you have me say all that?” I demanded, tiredly.

“I'm not a mind-reader, Harry,” he replied. “Now, from what I can tell, whomever is casting this spell is using thaumaturgy. Adding to that what Officer Bloom said, I would say the caster is using the connection to enter the dreams of the victims and manipulate them. The connection is weak, since the lock of hair you gave me is no longer attached to the victim, but the remnants of it are still there.”

“Thaumaturgy,” I repeated. I rubbed my forehead. “But...we have to be looking at a group, then, right? I mean, not even the Merlin could keep up a spell continuously for that length of time, let alone doing it for six people at once.”

“Correct,” Bob said. “The strain on the caster would be enormous. I would say at least one caster per victim, if not more.”

“Okay...but this is more than just a case of stabbing a voodoo doll in the head,” I pointed out. “There isn’t any injury, it’s all psychological. How are they getting inside people’s heads?”

“That’s why I am looking here,” he said, gesturing to a book on the shelf. It was one of the more ornate ones, which I put out for atmosphere. It was about herbs and their uses. “Everything one does to the symbol of the person is amplified on the actual person, that is how thaumaturgy works.”

“I know,” I said, impatiently. “I kinda have experience with it, Bob, thanks. So what are they doing to the doll?”

He glared at me. I was ruining his dramatic moment. I really shouldn’t do that, it’s not like he gets a lot of time to be impressive. I made up my mind to shut up and nodded at him encouragingly.

“I know of no specific potion or spell to create the symptoms you describe,” he went on. “So, it is probably something cobbled together from more than one concept. A portmanteau, if you will.”

“A coat rack?” Me and shutting up never got along well.

“A catch-all, Harry,” Bob groaned.

“Ah,” I said. “Well, I translated it properly, though.”

“Yes, that’s something.”

“Okay.” I started to pace again. “We got a half dozen or more sorcerers with a snazzy new spell or potion using thaumaturgy to trap people in their nightmares. Question one: who?”

“That is not my area of expertise, Harry,” Bob said. “You’re the legman.”

“Right. Okay, I’ll come back to that. Question two: why?”

“If I had to guess, I would venture that they are using fear in order to gather up a great deal of power, perhaps for a larger spell or to perform a complicated rite.”

I frowned. “So – not a good thing.”

“No.”

“Okay. Question three: why these victims? What do they have in common and how did their hair, or whatever the casters are using, get into their possession?”

Bob was silent and then shrugged. “Again, that is more your area of work, I should think.”

I sat down on my desk, knocking a pile of expense reports on the floor. “Once, I’d like weirdness to be related to something good. Like ‘oh, we were trapping people in their nightmares so we can find a cure for cancer’. No one is ever nefarious for the greater good.”

Bob smiled, sardonically. “I believe most of them would disagree with that opinion. Everyone believes they are working for the greater good. I doubt anyone sets out with the express purpose of being nefarious.”

“I guess not,” I said. I yawned. “Okay. Plan of action...” I stared into space for awhile, waiting for my brain to work. “How do you feel about the Bahamas, Bob? You and I could skip town. I have money. I could buy a hammock and take a nice long nap by the beach.”

He chuckled. “The entire time you would be worrying about everyone here and I would have to listen to you. You’re too benevolent to be a coward.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. “That’s me. Freakin’ Mother Theresa.” He snorted. “Could I track the caster of the spell backwards from the hair?”

“Theoretically, yes,” he said.

“But...” I filled in.

“But, it requires a good deal of concentration and finesse with delicate spells,” he explained. “As you know, your forte is not with delicacy.”

“No,” I agreed. “Harry like things go boom.”

“Precisely.”

“Alright. Let’s save that for when we’re desperate. Could I use the hair to do the same ritual as the bad guys and kick them out of her head?”

“That would be dark magic, Harry,” Bob pointed out. “Also, we do not yet know how the ritual works and there would be no limits to what the other casters could do to you, once you were inside her head. You might overwhelm her brain and cause damage, as well.”

“That’s another big no, then. Alright. Let’s go the private eye route – if we could find out what spells or potions this coat rack is made up of, I could call some of the dealers up and see if anyone has bought those particular ingredients lately,” I mused. “It’s better than nothing.” Bob nodded. “Okay. Let’s get cracking.”

I will spare you the details of our research. In short, it took all of the afternoon and well into the evening and made my living room look like an antique bookstore had thrown up on it. I took notes on several neon Post-It notes, which I stuck to various surfaces as I filled them. So, then my living room looked like an antique bookstore suffering from a 60’s acid trip had thrown up on it. The air in the lab was filled with golden writing. Bob and I compared notes, filed down our lists to several core ingredients and then narrowed that down to the most unusual ones.

It was too late to call anyone by that time and I was yawning every few seconds. Enough that even Bob started to yawn. I wondered if scientists would be interested to know that ghosts suffer from contagious yawning.

“I’ll call Joya in the morning,” I told Bob, getting up from the table. “She’s the most popular and most reasonable dealer in town, so I’ll start with her.”

“Do you think you should contact the Council?” he asked.

“I...don’t know,” I said. “I think I should wait. They probably already know the gist of it. I should come to them when I can prove what’s going on and who’s doing it. I know I’ll need back-up. I can’t handle a coven on my own.”

Bob relaxed, clearly having expected to fight with me about it. The truth was - I was exhausted. I might have been more inclined to argue if I was well-rested and feeling good about the world. Right then, I felt like the world was a scary, horrible place that I should hide from.

“That seems reasonable,” Bob said.

“I know,” I replied, with a smile. “Where the hell did that come from, huh?”

“Indeed.”

I said goodnight, ducked under the writing still hanging in the air and went upstairs. As I climbed into bed, I remembered I hadn't called Murphy. It was too late for that now, though. If something really important had happened, she would have called me. I made a mental note to call her in the morning and followed the advice I'd given to Scott, doing a little meditation before I fell into another night of fitful sleep.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes:
I've made my own history for Murphy's personal life, cobbled together from the books, the show and my own head. I felt I needed it this chapter. Anyway, it's just my own interpretation. :-)


I battled nightmares until four am. Thankfully, I wasn’t trapped in any of them. I didn’t think anyone had my hair or blood or anything, I try to keep those on and in me at all times. You never know, though, and going to sleep was now a very scary concept. It was sad; sleep shouldn’t be scary.

I went downstairs at four, cleared myself a spot in the living room, shoving the books into haphazard piles and did some yoga to try and get myself together. I was in the middle of a very good side crow pose (which, let me tell you, is not easy) when Bob did that thing where he forgets to walk. He popped up right in front of me and said “oh, you’re awake.”

“Ahhh!” I replied, and toppled over elegantly into my mat.

“That was very impressive,” he said.

“Thank you, I spent years perfecting that face plant in the Munich Circus,” I muttered. I rolled over and looked up at him from my back. “Can I help you?”

“No,” he answered. “May I help you?”

“I need sleep, the address to a coven of nightmare enthusiasts and a really beautiful woman to soothe my frazzled nerves,” I answered. “Like, a really beautiful woman. Can you help with any of those things?”

“No,” he said, with a smirk.

“Oh, well then, I appreciate the offer but I think I’ll take a raincheque, thanks.” He nodded. “What time is it?”

He looked around to the clock. “Just after 5 A.M.”

“It feels like it should be at least 9:00,” I said. “Time sucks.” I rolled back onto my stomach and stood up. My muscles felt nicely stretchy. “I need to kill some until I can call Joya.”

“Why don’t you clean?” he suggested, looking around at the mess.

I looked too. “Yeah...alright,” I said, without much enthusiasm.

So, I cleaned. I returned all the books to their shelves. I cleaned out my fridge and disposed of the radioactive food inside it. I organized the shelves in the lab. I changed the sheets on my bed. I filed all the papers on my desk away and saw the top of it for the first time in several months. I dusted Bob’s skull. Then I had a shower. Cleaning includes me, too.

After I was dressed, it was 8:42. I contemplated getting the newspaper and working on the crossword. I’d have to keep it away from Bob, though. He has a nasty habit of giving the answers over my shoulder (and, seriously, how does he know who starred with Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing? Guess nobody puts Bob in a corner.) The phone ringing prevented this, however.

I was feeling mildly calm by this point. Having a clean house puts you in a good mood. It puts me in a good mood, anyway. So, when I picked up the phone and heard Kirmani on the other end, it was like being blindsided by a mac truck.

“Connie’s sick,” he said.

To which I sensibly replied, “Fuck!”

“Yeah,” he agreed.

“She’s at Cook?” I asked, in a voice that was very calm considering my decreasing level of sanity.

“Yeah. She -”

“I’ll be right there.”

I hung up the phone over his objections and left. I didn’t have a coat, I didn’t have a wand, and I didn’t have car keys. I went back for the car keys. Then I left again. I may have driven recklessly, but you can’t prove anything. Those traffic cams don’t stand a chance against my magic. I took the stairs up to the second floor of the hospital two at a time, not trusting the elevators to carry me safely.

The isolation had been upped. There were medical personal running around the place and the back of the hall was sealed off. I marched past the security guards at the elevators. They didn’t try to stop me, I must have either looked official (ha!) or they recognized me from another trip. I put on my best ‘don’t mess with the wizard’ face and continued my march forward towards the isolation sheeting. Someone in head-to-toe isolation gear stepped in front of me.

“I’m sorry, only medical personal are allowed past this point,” he said.

“I -” I began.

“He’s with me,” Kirmani said. He appeared beside me and flashed his badge.

“Alright,” the isolation guy said, reluctantly. “But you’ll have to -”

“Caps, masks, gowns, gloves,” I filled in.

“And boots,” the guy added.

“And boots,” I amended.

We were allowed through the sheet. Kirmani and I dressed ourselves up from boxes standing inside the barrier.

“Thank you,” I told him.

He shrugged. “Connie talked to me yesterday, after Jake’s funeral. She said you were on about something weird. I figured I might as well get you in here before you threw a fit.”

“It’s okay,” I assured him. “I didn’t assume you were being friendly or anything. I won’t invite you for tea.”

“Heh,” he snorted.

We made our way down the hall. The little cloth booties I had to put over my sneakers were very slippery on the well-scrubbed floor. I gave up trying to look dignified and settled on trying to look sober. Kirmani swaggered. I resisted the urge to trip him.

Forrester was asleep in the bed I had collapsed on the day before. I could see him through the open door as I passed. He looked as if he’d fallen asleep on his feet and someone had caught him on the mattress before he hit the ground. He was sprawled on his stomach, his feet hanging over the end of the bed and his mouth wide open. The stubble on his chin was more pronounced. I felt sorry for him.

Murphy was across the hall from Catalina Hernandez. We traveled through the antechamber to her. She didn’t look any different from Catalina in terms of symptoms.

“I called her to come in on a case last night,” Kirmani explained. “Around eleven or so. There was no answer at home or on her cell phone. That’s not like Murphy you know?” I nodded. “So, I went over to her place and her car was there, but she didn’t answer the door. I busted it down and she was asleep. I couldn’t wake her up.”

It was testament to how worried Kirmani was that he was confiding in me. I didn’t think about it at the time, though. I was too busy listening to my brain go ‘snap, snap, snap’ in my skull. I didn’t yell at him for not calling me sooner. It wouldn’t help. I went over to her bed and opened my Third Eye.

The black smog was there, over her chest and pouring into her skull. It wasn’t as thick as Catalina’s was. Her glow was dimmed and her wings were missing. It was odd – the first time I’d seen her with my Third Eye, it freaked me right out. Now, seeing what wasn’t there, it freaked me out again. She wasn’t screaming like Catalina had been, but her mouth was set in a furious line and her brow was furrowed. I reached out to the smog again, concentrating on trying to get a sense of what it was.

“What are you doing?” Kirmani demanded.

I looked over to him and took a step back. I don’t know Kirmani that well, so it felt like a real invasion of his privacy to see him in his true form. He had a vicious looking knife at his hip, where his gun was. It slithered in elegant waves and was very carefully maintained to be sharp and shiny. His clothes were tattered and dirty. There was a large patch of dried blood near his right shoulder, where he’d been shot some point, I’d guess. He wore it like a badge of honour, where Murphy would have tried to hide her battle scars. There were rusted medals pinned to his chest, over his heart. Citations, maybe. He was definitely a warrior, like Murphy was, but her opposite in appearance. Where Murphy was aristocratic, Kirmani was peasantry – and not in a bad way. He was just part of the people. He belonged here, in Chicago, and probably knew it like the back of his hand. Furthermore, he’d fight for it. He’d die to protect it.

“Why are you lookin’ at me like that?” he asked, shifting uncomfortably.

I snapped my Eye shut. “Sorry.” I looked back down to Murphy and got back to my train of thought. “I don’t know what to do for her.” I rubbed my eyes. “I have to figure out how everyone connects.” I looked to him. “Can you get me all the victims’ names and information?”

“Maybe,” he replied. “What do you need to know?”

“Everything,” I said. “Name, address, ethnicity, age, job - everything. It can’t be random. They have to connect somehow.”

“There’s only so far I can take things before I’m abusing my position,” Kirmani said. “This isn’t an official investigation. I can’t just interrogate people ‘cause you want me to.”

“Listen, Murphy’s sick,” I explained. “You’re her partner. That means you get to step in when she’s out. You’re my new Murphy.”

He actually shuddered at that. “I’m not yer anything, Dresden, except yer arresting officer the minute I get the chance.”

“She’d want you to help me,” I pointed out. “You’ve already lost one cop, you wanna lose another?”

“Of course not,” he said. “But I’m not gonna be yer rent-a-cop, Dresden. I don’t take orders from you and I’m def’n’tly not going to break laws for you.”

“You don’t have to!” I said, my voice rising. “Do what you can. Work the system. Murphy does it all the time.”

“She shouldn’t,” he retorted, matching my volume.

“She’s dying!” I yelled. The lights flashed and Murphy’s monitor bleeped grumpily. “Unless I do something to stop it. This isn’t about you or me or how much we like each other. This is about stopping this before anyone else dies!”

I might have keeled over dead from the look Kirmani gave me then. He set his jaw and folded his arms across his chest. I thought for certain I’d gone too far and screwed it up. I should have remembered his true form though. Kirmani protects his city.

“I’ll do what I can.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“I don’t get why you gotta save the world all the time, Dresden,” he said.

I shrugged. “Someone has to.”

“We do,” he corrected, tapping his badge. He looked down at Murphy. “We try.”

“There are some things you can’t fight, Sid,” I told him.

He twitched a little. “Spooky stuff.”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll get what you need.”

“Thanks.”

“Get lost,” he jerked his chin to the door. “I can only be in the same room with you for so long before I wanna kill you.”

I grinned. “Hey, you’ve got the Murphy gig down already.”

“Out.”

I left and stripped free of my isolation gear, stuffing everything into a large garbage hamper inside the sheeting. I was about to step through when Forrester stopped me. He was rumpled from his nap and clung to a cup of coffee like it was a loved one.

“I’m very sorry about Leftenant Murphy,” he said, sincerely.

“Thanks,” I said. “You been home yet?”

“Not since...I don’t even know,” he said, with a sigh. “My wife came in this morning. I’d almost forgotten how beautiful she is. She brought donuts. That, of course, made her even more beautiful.” I smiled. “I nearly made it out last night, but Leftenant Murphy was brought in and shortly afterwards, Fiona Jackson went into cardiac arrest. She was only twenty.”

“Was,” I muttered.

“She died, yes,” he said, sadly. “She had such a nice father too. I spoke with him during one of the lulls.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, I’m blathering to you.”

“No problem,” I said.

A nurse called for Forrester. He gave me a tired smile.

“Three more came in last night, plus the leftenant,” he told me.

“1, 2, 3, 4,” I said.

He frowned. “Yes, I suppose so.” He shook his head. “I must run.”

“Good luck.”

“Thank you.”

I went on, but as I passed the waiting room on my way out, someone called my name. I turned around; ready to be very grumpy with whoever was trying to stop me. Anna Murphy threw herself at me. My anger died immediately.

“Harry!” she cried. “Mom’s sick!”

A tall man exited the waiting room after her and gave me an appraising look. He had a bulge at his hip that was very clearly a gun and the way his eyes moved informed me he was definitely a lawman of some sort. The colour of his eyes informed me he was also Murphy’s ex-husband. Or, at least, Anna’s father. I didn’t know if those two were the same person or not. Murphy didn’t talk about her ex. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t even know if Anna’s last name is Murphy. But, she’s Murphy’s Anna, so she will remain Anna Murphy to me until I am told otherwise.

In any case, whoever he was, he was not pleased that I was hugging his daughter, even if she technically had initiated it. I released her.

“I know,” I told her. “I’m sorry.”

“They won’t let me see her. They said maybe later on, but I know they’re lying.” She had a stubborn look that only Murphy women possess and her hands balled into fists at her side. “Dad wants me to go to school like normal, but I’m staying ‘til I know what’s wrong. Did you see her?”

I looked over her to ‘Dad’. He had his arms folded across his chest. He was very handsome, but that didn’t surprise me. He was tall, not as tall as me but a good 6 feet and change, and solid. It would take a lot to knock him over. His hair was very shiny. I had an urge to use my Sight on him to see if he was really all that. I didn’t like him. He gave me a brief nod.

“I did,” I confirmed, after being granted permission. “She’s in a coma, Anna. Do you know what that is?”

She nodded. “I watch House with my step-mom.” She frowned. “But, why’s she sick?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know, kiddo.”

She looked up at me. “Can you fix her?”

“I’m not a doctor,” I said, gently.

“I know that,” she replied, with an impatient sigh. “But you’re a wizard! Can’t you do something to help?”

My first instinct was to say, ‘of course’. You can’t say no to eyes that big and trusting. I resisted though and settled for, “I’m gonna try.”

Anna nodded. “Okay. Thank you, Harry.”

That casual, simple acceptance from her made my heart twist a bit and that growing ball of anger in my stomach a little bigger. I forced a smile and patted her head in a very patronizing fashion. She wrinkled her nose at me and I stopped.

“I have to go now,” I said. “You should go to school. School is important.”

“Mom’s importanter,” she retorted.

I couldn’t argue with that. “Yeah. She is.” I made up my mind to get Murphy out of there. You know, if only to save Anna’s education.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes: The concept of soulgazing is from the books and I've fiddled with it to fit the TVVerse.

It was a good thing that the route from the hospital was so familiar to me now. It meant I didn’t have to try and deal with deciding which corner to turn while my brain went racing 100 miles an hour and my stomach tied itself in knots.

Murphy’s sick. Have to help Murphy. Promised Anna. She can’t die. You have to fix it. You have to fix everyone. You have to figure out how to stop this. You’re not that tired. You’re not that scared. Suck it up, you wuss.

“Bob!” I bellowed, upon entering my home again. I ran to the lab. “Bob!”

“You always shout like you think I might not be here,” he said, with a sigh. “Where would I go?” He took a look at me. “Oh dear. What’s happened?”

“Murphy’s sick,” I said.

He frowned. “I’m sorry, Harry.”

“I have to fix this,” I said. I was pacing furiously. “I have to wake her up. If I can wake her up, I can wake everyone else up. I can get time to find out who’s doing this. No one should have to die. It’s ridiculous.”

“Harry,” Bob interrupted. “You should call the Council.”

“And tell them what? My friend is sick, come help me, I’m pathetic?” I snapped. “If they knew how to stop it, they would have done it already.”

“Sit down for a moment,” Bob demanded, pointing to a chair. “For Heaven’s sake, Harry!”

I ignored him. “There’s gotta be a way to wake them up without stopping the spell itself. It’s a nightmare, right? Nightmare’s end when you die or when you defeat whatever it is that’s scary. If I could help them...” I sighed and slumped into the chair. “I dunno. I don’t know.” I could see Bob out of the corner of my eye. He looked thoughtful, then got a dawning expression on his face and then quickly hid it. “What did you just figure out?”

He gave me an innocent look. Bob can never quite pull off innocent. “I’m sorry?”

“What did you just figure out?” I repeated. “You just found the answer to something.”

“It’s nothing,” he dismissed it.

“Tell me,” I insisted.

“Harry - “

I glared at him. He glared back. We both knew that I could order him to tell me and he’d have to comply. We both knew I was about at that point with my level of patience and good humour. We both didn’t want me to have to do it. There was a silent argument in the air between us before he relented.

“I believe I know a way you could help Lt. Murphy,” he said, with a sigh. “But it’s dangerous and it’s foolish and it will probably be considered breaking at least one of the Seven Laws.”

“Do I have to kill anyone?” I asked.

“No.”

“Well then, tell me what to do.”

He walked over to one of the bookshelves and pointed to a dusty tome in the middle. “Take that out.” I got up and did so. “Page 213.”

I flipped through. The illustrations in it were very...interesting. The tips of my ears started to burn. “What the hell is this? Kama Sutra for Wizards?”

“Not far from that, yes,” Bob replied.

“And why do I own it?” I asked.

“It was one of your uncle’s books,” he said. “I suggested you keep it.”

“Ewww,” I decided. I did not want to think of my uncle in that way.

“Harry, it isn’t about sex,” Bob sighed. “It’s about intimacy and connection. You need those things to manipulate someone and, as you know, your uncle was very good at manipulating people.”

I nodded an agreement. “And why did we need to keep it?” I raised an amused eyebrow at him.

He shrugged. “Well, it has come in handy, hasn’t it?”

“Whatever, Bob,” I said. “Page 213.”

I brought the book over to the candles to see it better. This illustration was thankfully quite tame.

“If lovers first soulgaze upon each other before falling asleep together, they may share a dream in which they both participate and shape actively,” I read. I looked up again. “Elaine and I never did that, and we soulgazed the first time when we...” My cheeks flushed. “You know.”

“Yes,” Bob said, obviously amused at my discomfort. “But I don’t think that you, ahem, ‘slept’ directly after the soulgaze?”

“No,” I admitted. I thought the concept over. “Three problems. One: Murphy and I aren’t lovers.”

“You are close,” he said. “You trust each other. Like I said, Harry, it is intimacy, not sex.”

“Alright,” I conceded. “Problem two: she’s already asleep.”

“Yes, that is where we might have some difficulty,” he agreed. “It may be that you will be unable to shape the dream, only to appear in it. What is the third problem?”

“I can’t soulgaze Murphy, Bob,” I said. “That’s like...I dunno...molesting her. She can’t agree to it and I’m not going to go around looking at people’s innermost essences without their permission.”

“She most likely will not remember what she sees in you, if she sees anything,” Bob said, ignoring my argument entirely. “She has other things on her mind.”

I squirmed uncomfortably. Bob sometimes knows things about me before I know them and it’s just freaky. I looked back down at the book and he backed off. I read through the instructions.

“It’s the whole ‘not invade the mind of another’ law, you’re worried about, right?” I asked.

“Yes,” he agreed. “And while that law has some grey areas...”

“I’m not exactly in good enough books to be shown leniency,” I finished. “Yeah.” I thought about this for a moment. “Can you think of any other way to do this?”

“Find the culprits and stop them,” Bob said.

“Yeah...what are the chances of me working that reverse tracking spell?”

“In your current state? You would most likely blow yourself up and possibly this building as well,” he answered.

“So...Murphy’s on a deadline, I don’t have a lead nor time to look for a lead and I can’t do the spell that would help me find a lead,” I summed up. Bob nodded, reluctantly. “Alright then. Let’s break the law.”

“Harry,” Bob said, warningly.

“Bob, it’s Murphy,” I replied, starting to get what I needed from the shelves. “She’s got a kid. She’s the only person in the Chicago Police Department who will even consider the existence of the arcane and she’s a good cop. Do you know how much stuff I’ve shown her? Scary stuff, Bob. Stuff that I know gives her nightmares and right now, her nightmares are very real. She’s worth it and she’d do it for me. I can’t leave her in there.”

“And if the Council finds out?”

“Then they can kiss my ass!” I yelled. “They should be the ones doing this. It shouldn’t always be up to me!”

“It doesn’t have to be,” Bob said, calmly.

“Yes it does,” I said. “I can’t let her die, Bob.”

“There’s no saying she will die!” Bob exclaimed. “Officer Bloom lasted three days.”

“Serena Bailzow lasted four hours,” I countered. “We don’t know what’s going on. If I can figure it out, I’m helping everyone.”

“You’re infuriating, Dresden,” he muttered.

I winced a little. Bob only calls me Dresden when he’s at the end of his rope with me. “So are you, Bainbridge.” He rolled his eyes. “Now, you’ve done your Jiminy Cricket bit. Help me out.”

He sighed and nodded. “Alright.”


I did do one thing before I went racing back to the hospital. I called Susan. She answered on the first ring, which meant she was waiting for a call on a story. I wasn’t that call and she made no effort to hide the fact that I wasn’t the person she wanted to talk to right then.

“I need a favour,” I said, cutting to the chase.

“I hate it when you need favours, Harry,” she groaned, but there was a gentle teasing in her voice. “What’s up?”

“I need you to call a woman named Joya for me and convince her to tell you who might have bought a few ingredients that I’m going to give you,” I explained.

“That’s boring,” she said. “No dragons? No throwing myself recklessly into danger? I’m disappointed in you, Mr. Dresden.”

“It’s really important,” I insisted. Her cheerful voice was very comforting to me and had me smiling at the phone. “Please?”

“I do owe you,” she allowed. “Number?” I gave her the number. Scratch, scratch, scratch went her pen. “Ingredients?” I read her my list. “Time frame?”

“As soon as possible,” I said.

“Life or death?”

“Uh, life, preferably.”

“Ha. I’ll see what I can do. I have a lead I need to follow up on.”

“Thanks, Suz.”

“Be careful.”

“I will.”

Satisfied that I wasn’t abandoning everyone else while I tried to save Murphy, I packed my bag and went back to the hospital. The guy at the main desk in the hospital lobby actually gave me a cheerful wave of recognition. I had been there way too much lately. I hoped my trips would be fewer soon. I headed past the waiting room and spotted Anna in there. She had her head on the shoulder of a blonde woman I guessed was her step-mom. Anna gave me a nod as I passed.

“You can’t bring that in there,” The isolation guy told me when I approached him, pointing at my backpack of supplies. “It’s not sterile.”

“It’s important,” I insisted. “I need to bring it in.”

“It’s not sterile,” he repeated.

‘It doesn’t have to be sterile, idiot, they aren’t actually sick!’ I wanted to yell. I didn’t though. Getting kicked out wouldn’t help Murphy. I retreated from the plastic sheeting and leaned against the wall, waiting for an opportunity to make a break for it. Isolation guy had a suspicious eye on me, though. Honestly, what’s suspicious about a wizard carrying a backpack with a sleeping potion, a bag of salt and a drumstick in it? People are so distrusting these days.

I was distracted by someone peeking out of the waiting room. Anna Murphy’s mischievous face was stuck out of the doorway. She gave me a wink and then marched up to the isolation guy.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You can’t go back there.”

“I want to see my mommy,” she declared.

“I’m sorry, I can’t let you.”

“I want to see my mommy!” Anna said, louder.

“You aren’t allowed back there,” isolation guy insisted, making a ‘shushing’ motion with his hand.

I want to see my mommy!” Anna bellowed.

She stomped hard on his foot and then burst into a wailing hissy fit of tears. Her step-mom came running from the waiting room. Nurses came running from the station. Isolation guy hopped in a circle on one foot. I watched the scene unfold with admiration. Anna raised her head briefly from her step-mom’s chest to give me a ‘move it!’ look and I hightailed it through the sheeting, down the hall and into Murphy’s room. No one noticed. I made a mental note to buy Anna a pony.

The build-up of bad energy I had felt in Catalina’s room was now evident in Murphy’s, even in the short time I’d been away. A quick check with my sight saw that the smog around her body was much thicker. I got to work. I took out the bag of salt and poured it in a circle around me. I tore some skin off my finger and touched my blood to the salt. The circle popped closed and the bad energy feeling moved away.

I sat down, cross-legged, and rested my hands on my knees. I started to meditate. It didn’t take me long to get to a peaceful place – I’d had practice recently having taught Scott. Or, it wouldn’t have taken me very long if Kirmani hadn’t come in.

“What are you doing?” he demanded.

I cracked an eyelid at him. “Meditating. You should try it. You’re a very tense individual.”

“Why are you meditating in Murphy’s hospital room?” he snapped. “God. I thought, ‘maybe he’s right, maybe I should help him this time’. Yer a freak, Dresden.”

“You’re ruining my inner peace,” I said, calmly. “Shhh.”

“I should just shoot you,” he muttered.

“Can’t cross my circle,” I sang.

There was more muttering I couldn’t discern. “You don’t got a mask on.”

“No need.”

He sighed. “What are you doing?”

“I am meditating, Kirmani, so that my mind is clear enough to perform a complicated spell to make Murphy wake up,” I replied.

There was hesitation before he asked, “how?”

“I am going to go into her nightmare and help her get out of it,” I explained.

“How do you know she’s having nightmares?”

“'Only the crystal-clear question yields a transparent answer',” I quoted, in my best Zen voice.

“Are. You. Crazy?” He pronounced, clearly.

“No,” I said. “Now, shut up. Please.”

He did, which surprised me. Kirmani’s not as stupid as he looks. Or acts. I managed to get to an ethereal state of existence and once there, I opened my eyes and scuffed out the circle. The good energy rushed out of it and the bad energy rushed in, but I didn’t take any note of it. I wasn’t really in the room anymore. I got up and got my backpack, walking serenely past Kirmani who was looking confused. Not hostile, just confused.

“Once I take the potion,” I said to him. My voice sounded very far away from where I was. “I’m probably going to fall asleep very fast. It would be nice if you would make sure I don’t break anything on my way down, but no hard feelings if you don’t.”

“Huh?” he said.

“Just go with it,” I advised.

“Are you going to hurt her?” he asked me, seriously.

“No,” I said. “I’m going to help her, if I can.”

He nodded and stepped up to the bed with his game face on. Or at least, I assume so. I could only see the part of his face that wasn’t covered by his mask. He had his game forehead on, anyway.

I pushed Murphy’s bed away from the wall and lowered the back of it so she was lying flat. I stood at her head and drew up some sleeping potion into an eyedropper. Bob and I decided that, in my current state, I wouldn’t need much to help me sleep if I wanted to wake up again at some point.

“Okay,” I said to Kirmani. “Don’t let anyone in here until Murphy or I or both of us are awake again.” He nodded, openly curious now. I pulled on Murphy’s eyelids to hold them open and bent over her, looking into her frantically darting eyes.

You have to have eye contact for a soulgaze and it was hard to catch her eyes as they were moving so quickly.

“C’mon Murph,” I muttered. “I’m trying to help you here. Gimme a hand.”

I tried a few different angles and finally caught her full on for about half a second. It was enough.

All wizards can do a soulgaze with someone when they make eye contact, if they choose. During a soulgaze, both people are laid open. You can see everything about a person – who they are, who they were, and who they could become. What they’ve done and what they’d be willing to do if necessary. It’s the ultimate in intimate connections and it’s not something I do very often. I don’t want people to know me that well.

I stepped into a massive room with a clean, wooden floor that made my shoes click on it. Around the perimeter, hundreds of old-time movie projectors were set-up, each playing a flickering clip of Murphy’s life. There was a girl, alone, having been abandoned by her mother and unable to reach her father. The same girl, older, pumping life into a dying man on the floor. The girl, a woman now, graduating from the police academy. Holding a baby girl. Watching the baby take her first steps. They were the important moments of Murphy’s life, the events that had shaped her and made her who she was.

I was surprised and touched to find that meeting me was a moment she counted as important. There I was, flickering on the wall. One of the ones closest to where I stood was Boone killing himself. It ran on a short loop, over and over and over again. I realized that I already knew about a lot of the events being played out. I knew Murphy more than I thought I did. It gave me a pleasant feeling in my stomach.

There was nothing in there that told me what was happening in Murphy’s brain at that moment. The soulgaze only lasted a few seconds, but I got a good look around the room. I wouldn’t forget it any time soon. I came back to reality and quickly squeezed a few drops of potion onto my tongue. The effect was almost instantaneous. My eyelids drooped and then I drooped, my knees giving out. I had the sensation of doing a somersault out of my body and falling through space until I hit solid ground again.

I took a look around. This was definitely not Kansas. I had landed smack dab in the middle of Murphy’s nightmare.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.

I ended up in an alley. It looked like every alley in Chicago and I looked down it to the street to see if I could place it. I couldn’t see the end of it. I guess dream alleys don’t have to have an end.

I could see Murphy, hunched down behind some garbage cans. She had her gun out and was breathing heavily. I walked towards her. There was an old, cracked mirror leaning up against the wall by some garbage bags and as I passed, I could see my reflection in it. I had taken on the appearance of how Murphy saw me, subconsciously. Dream Me was a bit taller and skinnier (like I needed help with either of those things). My face was sort of gaunt and my eyes were very dark, almost dangerous. My hair was wilder than I try to wear it. I had my hockey stick in my left hand and it had no runes or anything on it. Murphy couldn’t see those, so to her, it was just a regular hockey stick. My clothes were worn, but comfy and I had a pair of red converse sneakers on. I don’t own red sneakers, but I won’t hold that against Murphy’s subconscious. I continued down the alley.

“Hey Murph,” I said.

She whipped around and pointed her gun at me. Dream Murphy appeared as she saw herself. She was a bit chubbier than in real life (though, hardly chubby by definition). Her hair frizzed a bit and she was less in control, sort of nervous looking. Not as confident as Real Murphy. She was also quite small. With my added height and her lost height, I towered over her like a monster.

“Get down!” she hissed, and yanked at my hand. I obliged and crouched behind the garbage cans with her. “How did you find me?”

“Uh, tracking spell,” I said. She nodded, as though it made perfect sense to her. I guess Dream Murphy believed in magic. I wish Real Murphy was a bit more like Dream Murphy. “What’s up?”

“I don’t...I don’t know,” she said, looking confused. “I’ve been here for so long. Every time I move, they shoot, but I can’t see them. They won’t talk to me either; I don’t even know who they are. Sid and I got split up. I hope he’s okay.” She bit her lower lip, something she never would have done in real life. She wouldn’t have shown me she was afraid.

“He’s fine,” I soothed her. Not a lie. “I saw him.”

She looked relieved. “I tried to call for back-up, but the radio won’t work,” she explained. “How did you get past them?”

I looked back down the way I’d come. It was a total dead end, a brick wall rose high above us. I thought rapidly.

“I used a veil,” I said. I suck at veils in real life, but maybe Dream me could pull one off. “It makes you sort of invisible. I’m gonna cast one and get us out, okay?”

Murphy gave me a skeptical look. I guess Dream Murphy had a limit to her willingness to believe in magic too. I gave her a confident smile and offered her my hand. She took it without hesitation and I drew up the best veil I could. I didn’t know how magic worked in this kind of situation; if it worked when you were walking through someone else’s dream. I figured it couldn’t hurt though and went through all the motions.

“Alright,” I said. “Let’s go.”

I stood up and a bullet promptly flew over my shoulder. Murphy pulled me down again. I glared at her. Her stupid subconscious ruined my crappy veil. She looked small and lost though and all the anger melted away from me. Poor Murph. It said a lot about her, what she feared. What her nightmares would be. Alone, afraid, in danger from an unknown force. Probably an unknown force I brought down on her. I impulsively gave her a hug and she sort of slumped into it gratefully. Real Murphy would never have done that, either.

“It’ll be okay,” I promised. “We’ll figure this out.”

She nodded against my chest and didn’t pull back, so I kept my arms around her until she wanted me to let go. The calmer she was, the easier it would be to get her out, I figured. The more upset she was, the worst the nightmare would get. Dream physics. She practically snuggled with me, which was so unlike Murphy that it sort of freaked me out. I’m not complaining though. She’s actually a very good snuggler. She was all tiny and fit perfectly in my arms.

“I think I have a Plan B,” I said, after contemplating for a bit.

“Is it better than Plan A?” she asked, hopefully.

“Yes. You know my bracelet?”

“The one with the coins on it?”

I held out my wrist and decided they could look like coins, if you didn’t know what they were supposed to be. I wondered if it looked this gaudy in real life, or if it was just Murphy’s opinion of how it looked. I was very fond it of it, of course, but I didn’t wear it for the sake of fashion.

“They’re shields,” I explained. “I can make them deflect bullets, just like forcefields in science fiction. I can set it up in front of us and the bullets’ll bounce off.”

Murphy pulled away and made a face at me. “Veils and shields. Can’t you do anything without your stupid magic?”

“Not really. I’m sort of a total loser without it,” I admitted. Feeling slightly hurt, I added, “It’s not stupid.”

“Sorry, Harry,” she said, with a sigh. “Do you think it’ll work?”

“Yes,” I said, confidently. “But you have to believe it will, too. Just like Peter Pan.”

“If don’t clap my hands, will you die?” She teased, looking a little more like Real Murphy. I grinned. “But I don’t believe, Harry. I think it’s a bracelet. It’s not going to protect us.”

“Do you trust me?”

She had to think on that. “Yes.”

“Do you trust me to get you out of here alive if I say I will?”

No hesitation this time. “Yes.”

“Then that’s all you need. I promise we will get out of here, Connie. Okay?”

“Okay.”

I offered my hand again and forced a little of my will through my bracelet. “I know it doesn’t look like it, but it’s there,” I said. “Alright?” She nodded. “Good. Here we go.”

I stood up and aimed my wrist forwards. Bullets flew again but this time they stopped a foot in front of me and bounced off with blue sparks. I resisted a whoop of triumph and pulled Murphy behind me. She held her gun out, around the side of my shoulder, peeking slightly above it. I think Action Murphy is adorable, but don’t tell her I said that.

There were a lot of bullets as we moved down the alley. They pinged off my shield with a steady rhythm that echoed in between the narrow walls. My wrist started to heat up, but I concentrated on holding the shield steady. It was the longest alley I’d ever seen. We walked and walked and there was just no end to it. My arm was getting tired and the hot metal of the shields bit into my hand. Finally, there was an end in sight. I could see streetlights. We made it to the threshold and there was no one there. No one to be shooting bullets at us. They stopped abruptly, once we had reached that conclusion.

“Maybe they ran?” Murphy answered the unvoiced question.

“Maybe,” I agreed. I didn’t believe it. If we were out of danger, Murphy would be waking up.

“I’ll try my radio again,” she said. She reached for it on her hip and pressed a button, but before she could say anything, her head snapped up again. “Did you hear that?”

“I didn’t hear anything,” I replied, Listening.

“It sounded like - “

“Mommy!”

That I did hear. A child crying out, terrified.

“Murphy, no!” I tried, but she was already racing off the in the direction of the voice. I swore loudly and went after her. She obviously didn’t know the Laws of Horror Movies. One being that ‘it’s never what it sounds like’. It’s right up there with ‘if people are being murdered, don’t take a bubble bath’. “Murphy - “

I chased her down the street and around a corner, then into another alley. That’s another Law of Horror Movies -’ never go into the alley’. I got to her just in time to see the shape of Anna Murphy fall to the ground. Murphy fell to her knees beside her, shaking her and calling her name. Anna’s eyes opened up and she started to laugh in a very unsettling way. Then she bent and contorted and ripped apart to become the biggest, ugliest monster I had ever seen. Reality has nothing on what your imagination can do and Murphy’s imagination was talented. She backed away from it until she was near my feet. I hoisted her back onto hers. Then something else stepped out of the shadows and it was much worse. It was me.

Murphy was justifiably confused. She ignored the monster completely in favour of gaping at me. Other Me. He was pretty much my twin, as Murphy saw us anyway, only he looked a lot cooler than me. He had a long black duster and a proper staff, which he held with the sense that he knew how to use it. His clothes were neat and slick, all black. He had an ugly sneer on his face and that was aimed at Murphy, who shrunk back from it, into me. She looked between me and him several times and the dream world shook, trying to sort out the kinks in logic.

“Murphy,” I said, and she shrunk back from me, too. “Murphy, that’s not me. It’s not the real me.”

“I – what if neither of you are the real you?” she demanded. The world shook some more and I stumbled sideways. “I never know which one I’m going to get.”

“Look, he’s clearly the evil one,” I pointed out. “If we were in a movie, he’d be twirling his mustache and cackling.” I looked at him again. “Besides, I couldn’t afford that coat.”

Murphy closed her eyes and slid down the wall to the ground. Other Me smirked and took a step forward, monster at his side. I got between him and Murphy and threw up my shield again. He made the same movement in a mocking way.

“I don’t know who you think you are,” Other Me said. “But just back off and you can run away. You’re not the one I’m interested in. I don’t need to hurt...me.”

“Like I’m gonna believe that,” I replied. “You’re Darth Harry. Back off.”

I rolled my eyes. Or, he rolled his eyes. He rolled my eyes? In any case, eyes were rolled at me and he raised his staff. A burst of red light shot forth and hit my shield, hard. It pushed me back, sliding on my feet, but didn’t hurt me. I raised my hockey stick and shot back. He stumbled, but his shield held too.

“Murphy,” I said. “Murphy, you have to help me.”

“Leave me alone!” Murphy yelled. A glance behind me showed she had her head in her hands. “I’m so tired of all this.”

“Snap out of it!” I yelled back. “You are a trained member of the Chicago Police Department and you are cowering like a girl. Get your ass over here and shoot me or I swear to God I will let every cop in this city know what a pansy you’re being!”

There were a few long moments of silence and I thought it was all over and Murphy was just going let us both be killed. I didn’t matter if I fought like hell; the only person who could end this was her. She needed to be the one to defeat her fears. Which were apparently, at this point, me. No guilt there.

“I’m sorry, cowering like a what?” she asked, stepping up beside me. She had her gun up and pointing at Other Me.

I beamed at her. “Like a wimpy little girl in pig-tails, Murph.”

“I’m going to shoot you next,” she warned.

“Just take him out first.”

Other Me was looking a little less confident now. His eyes darted from one side to the other, thinking. I tried to predict what he might do next, considering I should know how he would think. I didn’t anticipate what he would do though. A vicious sneer broke out on his face and he waved a hand at the monster by his side. It began to twist and shrink until it was the spitting image of Anna Murphy again. He grabbed it by the shoulders and forced it in front of him, resting the top of his staff against her temple. Murphy’s gun faltered.

“It’s not her,” I reminded her. “It’s just an illusion.”

“Mommy!” Anna wailed. Tears streamed down her cheeks. “Help me, please! I’m scared!”

Murphy closed her eyes. I thought she was going to lose it. Then, inhaling deeply, her eyes snapped open, her gun rose again and there was a bullet through my head. Right between the eyes. Other Me fell to the ground and I fell into darkness and did a front somersault back into my body. My eyes blinked open at the ceiling of Murphy’s hospital room.

“Jesus Christ,” Kirmani said.

I sat up, feeling like overcooked pasta and realized I was on the floor. Kirmani had at least gotten a pillow under my head. He might get a Christmas card from me this year. I got to my feet, immediately toppling forward. I caught myself on the railing of Murphy’s bed.

Her eyelids were fluttering and I held my breath. Kirmani grabbed my arm to hold me upright while we both waited. A couple of blinks and then her eyes opened. Her lips moved. I had to lean in to hear her slurred words.

“Not a wimp,” she said.

“No, Murph,” I told her. “You’re a totally kick-ass chick.”

She smiled.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.

I let myself collapse after I was sure Murphy was awake. Kirmani let go of me and let me collapse too. He kept looking between me and Murphy, eyes very wide. I became aware of the fact that Murphy’s monitor was letting out a shrill scream and I gave it a glare. It shut up.

The door to the antechamber burst open and Forrester raced in, followed by Nurse Myers (the guy who didn’t speak Spanish) and a resident, who was pushing a crash cart. Forrester stopped short when he saw Murphy awake and then looked down to me on the floor. The resident rammed the crash cart into his back, but he was too surprised to do anything except stumble forward a step. All three medical people were gaping.

“I heard...” Forrester started. “The alarm...” He jumped on the one thing that he could comprehend: “I thought you left.”

“I came back,” I said.

“You’re not in isolation gear,” he scolded.

“Sorry,” I said.

“Go put some on,” he ordered.

“Alright,” I said.

“Harry?” Murphy asked, sounding lost.

“Down here.” I stood up again, my legs feeling more solid beneath me. I bent over the railing of the bed so she could see me. Forrester went to the other side of the bed and started to poke at her. “Hey, Murph.”

“Where am I?” Murphy asked. She tried to sit up, but Forrester held her down with a hand on her shoulder. She frowned at him and looked around. “Sid?” Kirmani nodded. “Thought so. Can’t see your face. Where am I?”

“You’re in the hospital, boss,” he told her. “You caught what Jake had.”

“What Jake...” she muttered. “Hospital?”

“Yeah, you’re in the hospital,” Kirmani repeated. “You’re okay now, though. You woke up.”

Murphy looked no less confused.

“Look at me, please, Leftenant,” Forrester requested. Murphy did so, wincing away as he flashed his little flashlight into her eyes. I was pleased to see that her pupils contracted on cue. So, it seemed, was Forrester. He unholstered something from the wall, stuck it in Murphy’s ear and a second later it beeped. “Hmmm. Normal temperature. What’s your - “ He looked to the monitor. “Nick, turn on the monitor, please?” Nurse Myers fiddled with it and got it up and running again. “Slightly elevated heart rate. Much better than before however.” Forrester shook his head and started speaking in rapid medicalese to the resident.

“Hey, Harry,” Murphy said, bringing her attention to me now that Forrester was distracted. She caught my hand, giving it a squeeze. “You get sick too?”

“Nope, I’m fine,” I assured her. I put on my best Russian accent, “I am strong like ox.”

“Mr. Dresden,” Forrester warned, interrupting his flow of jargon. “Your gear, please?”

“Be back in a second,” I told Murphy. “Don’t go anywhere.”

“...find an orderly and clean up that...what is that, salt? Who poured salt on the floor?” Forrester finished his line of instructions. I moved a little faster.

I left Murphy’s room and went to the sheeting to get doctored up. Isolation guy, holding an icepack to one of his toes, gave me a double take. I waved at him and covered my friendly smile with a mask. The resident pushed past me through the sheeting.

“That was so cool,” Jake Bloom said, enthusiastically. He had stepped out of the wall in front of me. “I was watching. It was like...you were talking to each other, but I couldn’t hear what you were saying. You’d twitch and then she’d twitch. Were you really inside her nightmare?”

“Yeah,” I confirmed.

“That is so cool,” Jake reiterated.

“Thanks,” I said. Isolation guy was really starting to be freaked out by me. I didn’t really care. I put some booties on. “Now, if I could just do it six more times exactly like that, everyone’s cured.”

“Can’t you?” Jake asked.

“Dunno,” I said. “I feel like I’ve been put through a strainer. Magic’s not in endless supply, you know, you have to let it recharge. I’m exhausted. I’ll have to give it a bit.”

“That sucks,” he said. He ran a hand through his hair and all the spikes flattened then jumped back into place again. Even after years of living with Bob, it still fascinates me what mannerisms people keep after they’re dead. Bob still goes through the motions of breathing even though it serves no purpose. He twists the rings on his fingers when he’s thinking and he paces when he’s worried. “Mr. Dresden? You’re staring at my hair.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“Is there something wrong with it?” he asked, running a hand through it again.

I stifled a laugh. He was of the age where your hair looking good was important, even if you were dead. “No, it looks fine. Good…uh, ‘chic’.”

“Jade made me get it cut last week,” he said. “She threatened to do it herself while I slept if I didn’t go. Said she couldn’t see my eyes.”

There was something important in what he said, I realized. My brain waved some flags around telling me that. It was tired though and couldn’t decide exactly what was important about it. I tried to work past the mental block, but it didn’t work.

“I wish I could help,” Jake said. It took me a moment to realize he was talking about the patients and not the fact my brain wasn’t working. “I mean, I have to be good for something except talking to you. No offense.”

“None taken,” I assured him. “I wouldn’t want to have to talk to me either.”

The resident and an orderly with a gurney came back through the sheeting, pushing me into the wall again. I rolled my eyes and waited for them to pass, and then put my gloves on.

“I’m going to see what I can do,” Jake announced, and disappeared before I could answer.

The orderly emerged from Murphy’s room a minute later with Murphy on the gurney, masked, capped and gloved herself. She looked tired and pale. Forrester walked along side and Kirmani trailed behind them. Forrester looked utterly joyful. I wondered how big his smile was under his mask.

“I told you not to go anywhere,” I scolded her, lightly.

“I’m being tested,” Murphy replied. I fell into step with the procession “Apparently I’m a medical anomaly.”

“Nifty,” I told her. “Can you put that on a résumé?”

Forrester was scribbling furiously on a clipboard, shuffling papers around on it and shaking a couple of tubes of blood in his right hand when he had the chance. A few fell papers fell off and I saw that they were requisitions for different tests before Kirmani picked them up again. I was glad they were doing that. Bob had theorized that because I was becoming part of the nightmare and not trying to play tug of war with her mind, there wouldn’t be any brain damage. It was just a theory, though, and even though she was talking and coherent, I wanted to make sure I hadn’t messed her up. Forrester clipped the papers back to the board and stuck it in the holder for Murphy’s chart at the side of the gurney. He was still smiling, in his eyes.

“I want to talk to you,” he told me.

“Alright,” I said. I didn’t know what I was going to say.

There was a pattering of feet as we passed by the waiting room. Anna Murphy appeared in a blur and I caught her mid-air as she tried to jump on her mother.

“Mom!” she cried, holding out her hand. “You’re okay!”

“Why aren’t you in school?” Murphy demanded. She took her daughter’s hand through the railing and rubbed her gloved thumb over Anna’s palm.

“Duh, Mom, you’re in the hospital,” Anna pointed out.

“Right,” Murphy said, as though she’d just remembered. Maybe she had. I imagine going to bed in your own home and waking up somewhere else without any memory of getting there was probably pretty disorienting. “You should go to school. I’m fine now.” She craned her head around to Kirmani. “And you should be at work.”

“Yes ma’am,” Kirmani agreed. He was giving me a wide berth. “Sorry for caring, boss.”

Murphy swatted at him. We’d reached the elevators and were waiting for one to arrive. Murphy repeated her orders to Kirmani and Anna when it did, then the doors shut on her, the orderly and the resident. Anna leapt at me.

“You fixed her!” she cheered, throwing her arms around my neck. No mean feat, considering the height she had to cover.

“She fixed herself,” I corrected.

“You totally helped,” Anna insisted. “I know you did.”

“I may have helped a little,” I admitted.

“You’ll have to tell me about that,” Forrester said.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Probably I will. Gimme a second?” Forrester nodded and went back to the nurses’ station. I set Anna back on the ground. “You should go to school, kid.”

“But - “

“School’s important,” I reminded her.

“Oh fine!” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up. “I’ll go learn stuff! But if anything happens and I’m not here, I’m totally blaming you.”

“Deal,” I agreed and we shook on it. Kirmani followed her to the waiting room. I went over to Forrester. He was sticking labels to the tubes of blood and checking off boxes on a sheet. “Hey.”

“Hello,” he returned. He stuffed everything into a large plastic tube and put it in a machine on the wall. He pressed a couple of buttons, there was a sucking sound and the tube disappeared up a pipe. “Pneumatic delivery system.”

“Neat,” I said, appreciatively.

“I’ve always thought so.” He rested his back against the counter and lowered his mask. “Now. May I ask you a few questions?”

“Sure,” I said, amiably. “No guarantees I can answer them all, though.”

“Fair enough. Did you wake the leftenant up?”

“Yes.”

“Did you put the salt on the floor of her room?”

“Yes.”

“Are those two things related?”

“Sort of.”

“Did you use any scientific or medical means to wake her up?”

“No.”

“So, there’s no chance for me to repeat the procedure on the other patients?”

“Not really.”

“Do you think your result was permanent?”

“I hope so.”

“Are you going to be able to wake the other patients up?”

“I’m still working on that.”

Forrester sighed and thumbed his eyebrow. “I’m not accustomed to being helpless. I don’t enjoy it. I feel like I’m swinging a sword in the dark and hoping it will hit the monster.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” I said, sympathetically.

“But,” he said, with a sudden smile. “I don’t want you to think I’m not grateful. I am immensely grateful.”

He looked past me, distracted, and his smile widened. I looked around to see what the source of it was. A pretty woman had stepped out of the elevator, carrying a stack of pizzas. She was part Indian it looked like, and had very nice blue eyes that stood out as especially exotic. She walked over to the nurses’ station and set the pizzas down. They were swarmed immediately by hungry staff. Forrester swooped in too, kissed her and swung her in a joyful circle.

“It’s just pizza,” she said, bewildered.

He laughed and kissed her again. I decided she was his wife. Either that or his wife should be very pissed off. Forrester led her away from the swarm of ravenous medical people, speaking quickly and excitedly to her. She looked over to me a few times, so I assumed I was being talked about. At some point, one of the nurses pushed a piece of pizza on a napkin in front of me. I thanked her and took it to the waiting room, using the distraction of Mrs. Forrester to sneak away from the doctor. I slumped into a seat to eat, rest and collect my thoughts. It was about that time I realized that – hey, Murphy was awake! I gave myself a mental pat on the back for that and let the happy feeling push out some of the exhaustion.

The waiting room only had a few people besides me in it. People had to get to work or had come to realize that they wouldn’t do any good sitting there. Catalina Hernandez’s brother was still there, as was the toddler. She skipped around with toddler energy and stumbled in front of me, grabbing onto my pant leg to keep herself upright. She looked up at me.

“Hi,” I said.

She burst into tears. I am awesome with kids. Catalina’s brother swooped in and croodled her for a moment until she calmed down. He looked about as exhausted as I felt. I gave him a sympathetic smile.

“Catalina?” he asked.

“She sleeps still,” I managed, in decent Spanish.

“Who woke up?” he asked, speaking slowly for my benefit.

“A policewoman,” I replied. “The one to whom you spoke on Tuesday.” It was textbook Spanish, that sentence. “My friend.”

He nodded. “Maybe it will help the others who are sick.”

“Maybe,” I agreed.

“Diego,” he said, pointing to himself.

“Harry,” I returned. We shook hands. The toddler gave me a wary look. I stuck my tongue out at her and she giggled in surprise.

“This is Rosario,” Diego introduced me. “My niece.”

Hola, Rosario,” I said.

Hola,” she returned, shyly. She looked to Diego. “Hungry!”

He gave me an apologetic smile and left me to rummage through a baby bag in the corner. I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes, stretching my legs out in front of me and generally making a fire hazard of myself.

“Dresden.”

I opened up my eyes a few minutes later when Kirmani addressed me. He shoved a handful of pages ripped from his notebook at my head.

“Names and addresses of the victims,” he said. “I didn’t get a chance to give them to you before you went weird on me again.”

“That was fast,” I said. I glanced down the list.

“I got skills,” he replied. “I’m going to work or else Connie’s gonna drop kick me when she gets back up here. Don’t do any else stupid. You’ve filled your stupid quotient for the day.”

“Can I borrow some stupid from tomorrow?” I asked.

“Depends on how much you want me to punch you,” he replied.

Anna skipped up to us. “Sid’s going to drop me off at school on his way back to work,” she announced. “He and my step-mom both say I gotta go too.” She sighed and then perked up. “Thanks again, Harry.”

“No problem,” I said.

She hugged me. “C’mon, Sid, if we go now, I can get back in time for art, but too late for gym.”

“Thanks,” I said to Kirmani, waving the notebook sheets around.

He nodded and fell into step with Anna, who was going on about pastels and how she couldn’t dribble a basketball. I ate my pizza. That, combined with Anna’s hug, and residual joy from having succeeded got my inner workings going again. You have to run on something. I run on happy children and rescued damsels. And pepperoni.


By the time I exited the waiting room again, all the pizza was gone. Open boxes lay willy-nilly over the nurses’ station, making it look like a dorm room. Mrs. Forrester remained, however. She patiently held a plate of pizza while Forrester talked, thrusting it at him every so often to get him to eat it in between sentences. I put my mask back up and headed back through the sheeting. Isolation guy didn’t give me a second look. I think he was trying not to make eye contact. I retrieved my stuff from Murphy’s room and found Jake in there, sitting on the bed. Well, making an effort to sit on the bed. His left hand was through mattress.

“Hey Jake,” I said. “What’s up?”

“I don’t think I can help,” he said, sounding frustrated.

“It’s okay,” I assured him. “You’ve already helped by giving me information.”

“I guess so. I just – I’m a cop. I was a cop. I’m supposed to help people. I’m just useless. Being dead sucks.”

I opened my mouth to say something sympathetic and reassuring, but was distracted by the irritable scratching motion he was making at his head. Just like Murphy. My brain finally let me in on what I had figured out earlier.

“You got your hair cut!” I exclaimed, triumphantly. Jake nodded. His eyes darted to the side in a move I’ve come to identify as someone thinking I’m not all there. The ghost thought I was crazy. Nice to be consistent. “Murphy got her hair cut...That’s a link. If anyone else got their hair cut recently...”

“I can ask Fiona,” Jake offered.

“Fiona?” I asked.

“Fiona Jackson,” he reminded me. “She died too. This morning.”

“I didn’t know she was still around,” I said.

“Yeah, I tried to get her to come and talk to you but she’s too shy,” he explained. “I’ll be right back.”

He walked through the wall and I waited, bouncing on the balls of my feet in an effort to wake myself up some more and get my brain moving faster.

Jake returned a minute later. “She did.”

“Did she say where?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes and disappeared again. “Sapphire Salon, same place as me,” he reported when he returned. “Or maybe it’s Surefire? We couldn’t agree. It’s near the station; a lot of us go there ‘cause it’s close. And cheap. I never paid much attention to it before.”

“You didn’t notice anything weird?” I asked.

“It’s a haircut, what’s gonna be weird about it?”

“I dunno.” I massaged my forehead. “Okay. Think.” I thought. I pulled the list of victims out of my pocket and looked at it. I went over the addresses a few times in my mind, trying to place everyone. “I need a map of Chicago...”

Jake looked at the addresses too, reading upside down.. “Those are all streets on my beat,” he said. “Around the station. Except for mine.”

“That’s what I thought,” I said. “Around the hair salon too, right?”

He nodded. “Yeah. You think we got sick from being there. Or,” he corrected himself. “You think that the spell that’s making us sick started there.”

“Yeah,” I said. I stared at him blankly for a few moments, waiting for my brain to catch up to itself. Ah, there it was. That spark of hope in my stomach. “I should call Susan again.”

“There’s a phone in the room where Dr. Forrester has been sleeping,” Jake informed me.

“Thanks,” I told him. “See, you are completely not useless.” He smiled. I found the phone and called Susan again. It took a couple of rings for her to answer. She gave me a very glum hello. “No luck on that lead?”

“He called me a paparazzi!” She exclaimed.

“Bastard,” I said, fervently.

“I know.” She sighed. “I called that Joya lady. You owe her a lot of money.”

I winced. “Yeah. I forgot about that.”

“She didn’t. I paid for you.”

“I’ll pay you back,” I promised.

“You better. I may have to retire a year later than planned because of this. Either that or my children won’t have shoes. Anyway, she’s going to call me back after she looks through her records.”

“Well, while you’re waiting...” I said. “I have another favour to ask.”

“Of course you do,” she said, with a smile in her voice. “Will it cost me anything?”

“Dunno. If it does, I promise to always pay for your children’s shoes.”

She chuckled. “Deal. What do you need?”

“I need you to find a hair salon near the 27th District,” I began. “Called either Sapphire or Surefire Salon, or some variant there of, and find out if certain people have been there in the last few weeks.”

“Ah, now that’s more my style,” she declared. “Undercover work.”

“Can you do it without them getting suspicious?” I asked.

“Of course.”

“Oh, and don’t let them cut your hair.”

“You want me to snoop around a hair salon without getting my hair cut?” she repeated.

“Yes.”

“You’re lucky I’m so talented.”

“And beautiful and charming and kind and smart,” I filled in.

“Shut up and gimme the names.”

“Yes’m,” I checked my notes and rattled off the names. “That’s only nine...” One was missing...duh. “And Connie Murphy.” Kirmani probably assumed I’d know her info or forgot about her like I did. ‘Murphy’ and ‘victim’ aren’t two words that go together.

“Connie Murphy,” Susan repeated, her pen scratching away. “Your Murphy?”

“Yeah.”

“Hmm.” More scratching. “And I get first dibs on whatever it is you’re working on, right?” she demanded.

“You get only dibs,” I assured her.

“Alright. I’ll call you.”

“Thanks, Suz.”

“Good luck.”

“Thanks, I’ll need it.”

She hung up and I reached to put the receiver back when I heard Jake’s alarmed voice say “Mr. Dresden!”

I turned around just in time to be punched in the face by a half deveiled Morgan. I fell back against the bed, knocking my head on the frame, then to the floor on my back. Not one of my more graceful moments. Morgan’s veil dropped completely and he withdrew his warden’s sword, placing the tip of it to my neck. He reached over and calmly hung the phone up.

“Wizard Harry Dresden,” he recited. “You are under arrest for breaking the Third Law of Magic.”

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.

“’Bout time you showed up,” I said to Morgan. “I broke the law at least an hour ago, where’ve you been?”

“Mr. Dresden?” Jake asked. He looked upset. As one might be, if someone showed up and started threatening someone else with a sword. “What’s going on? Who’s he?”

“Wizard police,” I answered.

“He has a sword.”

“Yeah, they do tend to.”

“There are wizard cops with swords,” Jake recapped. “Man. I know way more being dead than I ever did alive. Why is he here?”

“Silence, ghost,” Morgan commanded, angrily. He flicked his eyes to me. “You too.”

“I don’t remember having the right to remain silent,” I said.

Jake walked up to stand beside Morgan. He folded his arms and gave the Warden an appraising look. I was impressed with his ability to appear intimidating while wearing a hospital gown. “You got a license for that sword?”

“Yes,” Morgan said. He waved a hand at Jake like he was an annoying fly. “Your trial will begin at dawn tomorrow morning.”

“That was fast,” I noted. “Doesn’t the Council have to get here?”

“They are already here for a meeting.”

“Oh,” I said. “They don’t send me the newsletter anymore. Not since that tapioca incident.”

“What trial?” Jake asked. “What did you do?”

“Broke a law of magic,” I explained. “Thou shalt not invade the mind of another.

“You didn’t say you were breaking a law,” Jake said, looking dismayed. I was now being appraised. “You didn’t say you had laws.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“What happens if they find you guilty?”

“They cut off my head.”

“What?!” Jake whirled back to Morgan. “You can’t do that! You can’t just go around cutting peoples’ heads off! You have no authority!”

“S’okay, Jake,” I said.

“Okay? You’re okay with getting your head cut off?” Jake exclaimed. “Because, if you’re that keen to die, maybe you wanna change places with me? I wasn’t quite ready for it.”

I winced. “Sorry. It’s just...how we work. I knew this might happen before I woke Murphy up. It was my choice.”

“You get a trial, he said?” Jake asked. I nodded. Well, as much as you can nod with a sword at your throat. “Can I speak at it?”

“No,” Morgan intercepted.

“It’s not so much a trial as some people deciding whether or not to kill me,” I explained. “Don’t worry, though, I’ve been through one before. I still have my head.”

“Barely,” Morgan reminded me. “Get up.”

He moved the sword away from my person and I got to my feet. I crashed down to my knees again, dizzy and disoriented from the bump to my head. Morgan did nothing to help me. He leaned on his sword, waiting for me to get upright again. Jake reflexively offered me a useless hand. I took a few deep breaths, found my center of balance and made it successfully to my feet.

“You know this is totally ridiculous, right?” Jake said. “Everything about this – me being dead, me being a ghost, people trapped in their nightmares, guys with swords who arrest wizards. You live in a crazy, fucked-up universe, man. When do I wake up from this?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, again. “I wish I could help. If I can’t finish this, if I can’t catch the bad guys, someone will do it for me. I will see that someone does it. You’ll be able to crossover after that, I’m pretty sure.”

“Mr. Dresden,” Jake rolled his eyes. “I’m already dead. Whether I stay here or go somewhere else doesn’t bother me. I mean, it sucks, yeah, but I can deal with it. You don’t have to be dead. That bothers me. Murder bothers me.” He glared at Morgan. “And if I wasn’t dead... sword license my ass.”

“Dresden...” Morgan warned me.

“I know, I know,” I muttered. “Good luck, Jake.”

“You too,” he returned, with a sigh. “I really hope you don’t die.”

“Thanks,” I said, feeling genuine gratefulness towards the ghost. It’s nice to have someone to stand up for you, even if they’re dead.

Morgan stuck his sword in the pocket of his long coat. I think he might have a portal to the Nevernever in there, just to have enough room for the sword. He pushed me into the hallway and disappeared. His veils are way better than mine. In that they work.

I bumped into Forrester in the hall. His eyes were glowing with a giddy sort of delight that was lack of sleep coupled with good news. He gave me a friendly clap on my arm and for one terrifying moment I thought he might hug me. I noticed a flurry of activity around us. People were running everywhere.

“What’s happening?” I asked.

Forrester looked confused. “You didn’t do it?”

“Do what?”

“Ellie Marx, Sam Francis and Keevy O’Hanlon have woken up,” he explained.

“They have?”

“Yes, in about two minute intervals of one another,” Forrester elaborated. He watched my confusion for a moment. “You really didn’t do it?”

I gaped around and gave a shake of my head. I had woken Murphy up. I hadn’t done anything to anyone else. Was it some sort of chain reaction? Then, it hit me. I gave a manic sort of laugh. “Universal consciousness. Butterfly flaps its wings in one dream, everyone else gets the hurricane.”

“I’m sorry?” Forrester said. “I don’t follow.”

“It’s nothing,” I replied, dismissively. I could feel Morgan hovering beside me.

Forrester gave me a scrutinizing look. “You look peaky, are you alright?”

“Just tired,” I said. I tried a smile, but I didn’t have to see it to know it was a half-assed attempt.

“Ah,” he nodded. “I’m past tired now. I’m into the stage where everything seems utterly hilarious.” A resident tapped him on the shoulder and muttered something in his ear. He laughed a little. “Danny Zowsky has woken up.”

I caught a little of his contagious joy, which was abruptly stomped out by a sharp poke to my back. “That’s great, doc. I, uh, I have to go. Emergency thing. I’m sorry.”

“Why are you apologizing?” He asked, with another laugh. “I think you’ve moved enough mountains for today – you deserve a rest. I greatly appreciate your efforts, Mr. Dresden. I don’t have the slightest idea exactly what your efforts were, but I appreciate them nonetheless. By all means, go. And get some sleep.”

“I’ll try.”

He saluted me with the clipboard he was holding and moved on down the hall. I turned to glare at the air beside me and then walked down to the plastic sheeting. Isolation guy was still nursing his toe. Baby. I gave Diego a wave as I passed the waiting room. He was bouncing Rosario, waiting eagerly at the door. I noted that Catalina hadn’t been on the list of people who had woken up.

Morgan deveiled himself again after we’d passed unnoticed through the metal detector and on into the parking lot. He corrected my path to the jeep with a yank on my sleeve. “My car.”

“Do you have an invisible car, too?” I asked. “I’ve never seen you in one before.”

“You never see me, period, Dresden,” he noted. “That’s part of your problem.”

“Hey now, we see each other plenty,” I objected. “That’s my problem.”

If I spent less time hunting monsters and more time looking at car magazines, I might be able to tell you exactly what make, model and year Morgan’s car was. As it is, I can only tell you that it was silver, shiny and far too small for me to ride comfortably in. My legs got stuffed under the dashboard and no matter how I folded them, there was just not enough room.

“So, where’re we goin’?” I asked.

“You are under house arrest,” Morgan replied. “You are to be kept under surveillance until your trial.”

“Great,” I muttered. “I hate house guests.”


Morgan drove like I expected he would. You can tell a lot about someone by how they drive. His eyes moved constantly, always aware of what was going on. He didn’t miss a stop sign or a red light. He never drove through a yellow light. He drove confidently, smooth and occasionally cornered or passed in an efficient, quick way that threw me off-balance. We didn’t talk and he switched the radio off as soon as I put it on.

I was given time to think. I thought about my trial, which would not be a picnic. I thought about how I might defend myself. I thought about Murphy and wondered if her tests would come back normal. I wondered if she would slip right back into trouble as soon as she fell asleep again. I wondered if I had made things worse by waking her. It had obviously shaken things up. Would the bad guys respond more violently? Would they give up? I noted that Morgan looked tired and realized that he was probably feeling the effects of the nightmares as much as I was. He may be a jerk, but he’s a powerful wizard too. If it was affecting Scott and I, it was affecting everyone with power.

Bob was pacing when I came in. He looked up at the sound of the door opening.

“Hey Bob,” I said, brightly. “I brought home a friend.”

Bob frowned at the sight of Morgan. “I see. You must have succeeded in your task, then?”

“I did,” I confirmed. “I succeeded so much, the Council wants to talk to me about it. Tomorrow, at dawn.”

“Ah.” Bob frowned some more. “That is rather quick to assemble.”

“Apparently they’re having a party in town,” I explained. “I wasn’t invited.” Morgan brushed past me to the phone and started dialing. “Hey, feel free to use my phone. No need to ask or anything.” I was ignored. Morgan spoke secretively into the receiver.

“You woke Lt. Murphy up?” Bob verified.

“Yep,” I said. I went on to explain about the nightmare and how I helped her out of it. He listened and looked fairly impressed. There is a part of me, the student part, which always feels very satisfied when Bob is impressed by me. “And then, about an hour after she woke up, some of the others did too. Four of them were awake when I left.”

“Really?” Bob said. “That’s interesting. I imagine waking the lieutenant up would require a forceful ejection of the caster from her mind. Perhaps you caused enough of a jolt for him or her to lose their hold on the spell keeping the rest asleep.”

“Maybe,” I agreed. “Anyway, it worked. So, yay. Except for the part where they want to cut my head off. Again. Well, I suppose they never really stopped wanting to cut it off. Just sort of put it on the back burner. The want, not my head.”

“Are you nattering?” Bob asked, concerned.

“Sounds like it,” I said. “I’ll shut up.”

“Perhaps you should rest,” he suggested.

“Love to,” I said. “But...I don’t want Morgan touching all my stuff while I’m asleep.”

Bob sighed and walked away from me. I flopped onto the couch to glare at Morgan while he finished up his phone call. I continued to glare while he removed his coat and tossed it over a chair. I continued to glare while he withdrew his sword and carried it with him to the bookshelf. I kept glaring when he selected a book and sat down in the chair with it, putting the sword within easy reach on the floor next to him. Then I stopped glaring, because he wasn’t looking at me and there didn’t seem to be any point to it.

“So, you’re just gonna sit here?” I asked him.

“Yes.”

“Baby-sitting me?”

“Yes.”

“Until dawn?”

“No. There will be a shift change in six hours.”

“Great.”

“I suggest you spend you the time in peaceful reflection, Dresden,” he said, calmly flipping a page. “These might be your last hours.”

“You don’t really think I deserve to die for this, do you?” I asked.

He raised his gaze to me, briefly. “It’s not up to me, Dresden.”

“Yes, but you have to have an opinion on the subject,” I pressed.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” Morgan replied, over-annunciating in a way telling me that he was annoyed. “I have a job and I do it.”

“Blindly,” I muttered.

“Well,” he countered.

We fell into silence after that. I stretched out on the couch, staring at the ceiling and zoning out into a place between awake and asleep. Morgan read, turning the pages in predictable, rhythmic intervals. Bob paced through the apartment, looking preoccupied and wouldn’t talk or look at me. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to come up with a plan to help me or if he was trying to distance himself from me before my trial.

“What will happen to him?” I asked Morgan, after Bob made his ninth or tenth trip through the wall to the lab. “If I die?”

“The Council will decide what to do with it,” Morgan replied.

“Him,” I corrected. “You can’t just toss him in some box in the back closet of the Council’s secret stash. He’ll go crazy.”

“His punishment didn’t include scheming with overzealous wizards,” Morgan said. “He’s lucky to have existed this long in the company of others.”

My further argument was cut off by the phone ringing. I got up to answer it and found Morgan’s sword held to block my path. He glanced over to me from the book. “Don’t answer.”

“How will I get busted out of this joint if my cronies can’t contact me?” I complained. “It’ll ruin the whole plan.”

The flat side of the sword was placed against my stomach and I was pushed back by it. “You are to receive no outside communication.”

‘You are to receive no outside communication,’ I mouthed, mimicking him. I was feeling very childish at this point. It might have been the desperation starting to kick in. I went back to the couch. The phone stopped ringing and a minute later, the red light on my answering machine started to flash. It must have sensed the desperation and decided to cooperate.

It took me a few minutes to formulate a plan. I got up, walked over to the LP player and put a record on. It scratched to life. Morgan’s eyes followed me and then went back to the book. I dove sideways and hit the button on the answering machine. Two seconds later, I was flattened over the desk on my back, with Morgan holding the sword at my throat. I held my hands up peacefully and watched the muscle in his jaw twitch.

“Hello Harry Dresden, wizard, this is Susan Rodriguez, reporter,” Susan’s voice sounded from the answering machine. “You know, the one who is spending copious amounts of money to get you information? The one you could at least be home to take a call from? When did you even get an answering machine? Anyway, I went by Sapphire Salon. I managed to get a quick look through their appointment book. Most of the names you gave me were in there in the last few weeks. I might have missed the others; I only got a few seconds to look before the girl came back. That Joya lady called too. She said she had three people who bought those ingredients recently. Hayden Price, Lori Gallagher and Nick Myers, in that order. She said that last one, Myers, bought a large amount. Hope that helps. Call me!”

There was a beep and then silence. Morgan had been listening as much as I had.

“Nick Myers,” I said, after a moment. “Is - ”

“A nurse at the hospital,” Morgan cut me off. “I know.”

“You do?” I asked, surprised.

“Just because you don’t see me, doesn’t mean I’m not there,” he replied. He stepped back from me and I straightened again. “And just because you don’t approve of us, doesn’t mean we don’t do our jobs.”

“Did you know Nick Myers was involved?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, with a frown.

He stared at me, but not really at me so much as staring at something which happened to be me. He looked exhausted. I felt exhausted. I ran my hands through my hair and he folded his arms and we both sighed.

“Okay, look,” I said. “I have information and you have information. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

“I don’t need your help,” he said, immediately.

“I know,” I said. “But I’m willing to give it anyway. I know how the victims are connected, I know that Nick Myers is involved in some way, I know pretty much how the spell is being done. I know what it’s like being in one of the nightmares. I even know how to track down the casters, but I can’t do the spell to do it.”

Morgan sighed again and rubbed his eyes. “We haven’t been able to locate the precise source of the spell. We know the general area of its origin, but we haven’t had time to go into a more thorough search because of the meeting. We suspect it would have to be a group of people to pull off a spell of this size.”

“I have a sample of one of the victim’s hair,” I said. “Bob knows a reverse tracking spell, but it’s not my forte. It’s delicate work. I don’t do delicate well. You can have the hair if you think you could work the spell. And Bob, to tell you how to do it.”

“Delicate isn’t my forte either,” he admitted, shifting uncomfortably. “But I know of someone who has a talent for subtle spellwork.”

“I’ll give you the hair on one condition,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“Let me call Kirmani to get Myers picked up.”

“That’s what you want?” Morgan asked. He looked surprised. “A phone call?”

I shrugged. “I don’t have room for a pony.”

He may have smiled just slightly. “I could just get another piece of hair myself.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “But you’d have to sneak around and get it and just because things are okay now doesn’t mean they won’t get bad again. You have time working against you. Plus, you don't have Bob.”

He thought for a moment, pacing away from me. “You realize this doesn’t change anything? If this is some desperate effort to win approval - ”

“I know, you’re still the cop and I’m still the criminal,” I assured him. “I’m part of the mess. I want to help fix it.”

He nodded in a precise manner. “Agreed.”

“Do you want to shake on it?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “You have my word.”

“Good. You have mine. Let’s get going.”

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes: I have borrowed a book character, Ramirez, who first appears in Dead Beat, because he's awesome. I've fiddled with him to fit the TV verse.


My phone got a very good work out. I called Kirmani first and convinced him to hold Nick Myers as long as possible, even if it was a flimsy charge. I didn’t know what Myers was doing – if anything, but I didn’t want to run the risk of him hurting someone while I was stuck at home and nobody else was looking.

Morgan made a series of calls after that. I didn’t get a lot of what he was saying; it was mostly non-sensical. Something about an ochre grasshopper. I have a Council codebook lying around somewhere but it’s out of date and I didn’t know what he was relaying to the people on the other end of the line.

“Does the eagle fly at midnight?” I asked him, when he hung up on the third call.

“Reinforcements are on their way,” he replied.

Truce called, Morgan was less hostile towards me. In the wizarding world, your word counts as a legally binding contract. No one breaks it and if you do, you might as well throw yourself on your sword and get it over with. You’ll never work in this town again. He let me move freely around to gather up everything and talk to Bob.

Half an hour later there was a knock on the door. Two people were on the other side – a man and a woman. A boy and a girl, really. The girl I recognized as Amber. I’d met her when my apartment was temporarily transferred to Hell. It happens.

“This is your reinforcement?” I asked Morgan. “Baby wardens? They don’t even have their swords yet!”

“Hey, I’m not just a pretty face over here,” the boy said. I hadn’t met him before. He was probably in his very early twenties and had a confident, cocky air to him. He gave me a hand to shake. “Ramirez. Carlos. Cavalry.”

“Dresden, Harry,” I returned. “Dead man walking.”

He grinned. His looks were dark (one of Bob’s romance novels might have called him ‘swarthy’) and he had an open, friendly face. He had a tube slung on a strap around his back, one of those ones artists use to transport rolled up artwork. The cap was off and a simple, sturdy wood staff poked a few inches out of the top.

“Hello, Harry,” Amber greeted me, in her calm, smooth voice. She gave me a shy smile and a wave.

“Hey,” I returned. “How’s it going?”

“I understand the fate of the universe may depend on my ability to do a spell,” she replied. “So, great.”

“Come in,” Morgan commanded. They immediately came in. I closed the door behind them. “We should begin.”

Morgan shuffled the babies back into the lab and I followed after them. We’d set up for the spell already. The table had been pushed to one side and a map of Chicago was spread out on the floor. I’d marked my apartment with a pin on it. Bob was waiting for us, standing with his hands clasped neatly behind his back.

“Amber,” I reminded him, pointing. “And Ramirez. This is Bob.”

“How do you do?” Bob said, politely.

“Hey,” Ramirez replied.

Amber just nodded and smiled to him. We left her there to talk to him and learn what to do without us staring at her.

“Seriously, where is the rest of the cavalry?” I asked, in the hall outside the lab.

“We were the only ones available,” Ramirez explained. “There are...’other matters’.” He made little quotation marks in the air with his fingers. “We’ve got the least seniority. So, we do all the scutwork. Slime, rodents, cats up trees, that sort of thing.”

“This doesn’t count as big?” I demanded. “This is big!”

“This is big in Chicago,” Ramirez allowed. “But, like, in the whole world and all its sub-worlds? It’s...mildly off-putting.”

“Wow,” I said, imagining what might be happening elsewhere. This was why I did what I did. Someone needed to handle mildly off-putting while the wardens handled the crises of the world. Mildly off-putting still meant deadly. “I’m going to make coffee.”

“I’m in,” Ramirez offered.

“Do you want to come and make sure I don’t poison anyone?” I asked Morgan.

He didn’t dignify me with an answer. He just blinked at me twice, enough to make me feel about two inches tall and then went back into the lab. Ramirez was grinning. He seemed to do that a lot. We went to the kitchen and I started the coffee brewing.

Ramirez chatted easily without much prompting. He was from L.A. He had been chosen to be a warden and started his training in California but his regional commander had been killed in battle.

“You should have seen his Death Curse, man,” he related. “Took everyone out and brought down the building too. We all would have died if he hadn’t done it.” He shook his head, a wistful look of awe on his face. “Anyway, the new commander didn’t have enough experience to take on trainees, so we got split up and sent elsewhere. I got sent here, to Morgan.”

“Lucky you,” I muttered.

Carlos grinned again. “He’s not so bad if he doesn’t hate you.”

“I wouldn’t know what that’s like,” I said.

We got the coffee brewed and brought mugs to Morgan and Amber. Morgan accepted his without taking his eyes off Bob (who he seemed to be eyeing as though he expected him to attack Amber in some way) and gave me an absent nod of thanks. Amber looked a bit wide-eyed. She took her mug from Carlos but didn’t drink it.

“I don’t want to be jumpy for this,” she explained.

The coffee was gone quickly by those who were drinking it – we were all at that same stage of lack of sleep. Amber set herself up on the floor by the map and meditated while we drank. Her features relaxed and when she opened her eyes, she looked distant.

“Alright,” she said. “I’m ready.”

I gave her the lock of Catalina’s hair and there was some shuffling between me and Morgan about who was going to man the map.

“My ghost, my spell, my hair, my map,” I told him. “I win.”

He sighed and backed off. I knelt on the floor by Amber. Carlos knelt on the other side, eyes eager and curious to see what was going to happen. Amber mumbled some quasi-Latin and zoned out completely. Her eyes got a glossy look. She looked from left to right a few times, as though lost, and then settled back in her posture.

“I’m in your apartment, Harry,” she said. “Oh, this is weird. I can see me and you guys, but like we’re ghosts. Okay, give me a second.” She abruptly lost her otherworldly look and jumped a little. “Sorry, I dropped it. Let me try again.” She got it going once more, only to lose it on her way out of my apartment. Another try and another fail. “I’m sorry, it’s really slippery. I’m sorry.”

“If it were simple, I would do it myself,” Morgan said, calmly. “That is why I called you here. I wouldn’t have asked you to do if I didn’t believe you could.”

Amber nodded, reassured and closed her eyes again.

“And we’re not even paying attention, are we?” Carlos added, jovially. “So...how about those...” He cast his eyes around. “...Etrus...cans?”

“...They certainly are a...dead civilization,” I agreed, playing along as best I could.

Amber laughed and relaxed, starting the spell once more.

“Etruscan?” I whispered.

Carlos pointed to a book that had fallen to the floor during my rearranging of furniture. ‘Etruscan Language and Culture’. “I blanked.”

I shrugged and we waited silently for Amber to get the spell going again. This time, she seemed more still and when her eyes opened, they were looking at something we couldn’t see.

“I’m leaving your apartment, Harry,” she announced, a minute later. She pulled on the air like she was following an invisible string.

“Front or back?” I asked, readying a pin in my hand.

“The shop part, where your sign is,” she replied. “I’m following the spell down the street to the right. Turning at the first corner.” I put a pin on the street corner. “It’s really hard to concentrate with all these people moving around.”

“Keep your mind focused on the path of light,” Bob advised. “The people cannot see you, pay no mind to them.”

“I’ve passed the first intersection,” Amber continued to narrate. “And the second. I’m turning left on the third.” I put another pin in the map. She kept talking and I kept pinning for the next few minutes. She occasionally got lost, but backtracked to the last pin when I gave her directions and she found her way again. She started to sweat and soon it was running down her face. I looked to Bob to see if we should stop her, but he shook his head that she was fine. “Okay...the light is really strong here. I think it’s there.” She pointed ahead of her, with a hand shaking from the effort of the spell.

“That doesn’t help us, babe,” Ramirez reminded her.

“Sorry, it’s about halfway up the street, on the left,” she elaborated. “I’ll know it when I see it. Should I go inside?”

“Yes,” Carlos and I said.

“No,” Bob and Morgan said.

“Uh...what?” Amber asked. Her whole body was starting to shake now.

Everyone looked to Bob for advice. “If there is a ward on the threshold of the building, she could be hurt,” he said. “Her psyche will be attacked and it will rebound on her physical body.”

“Can’t she check for a ward?” Carlos asked.

“It’s too dangerous,” Morgan dismissed it. “She is straining herself as it is.”

“I think I could do it,” Amber said, reaching forward in the air.

“No,” Morgan said. “Return to your body.” I bet that’s an order he doesn’t get to give very often.

Amber’s eyes widened suddenly and her head snapped back as though someone had given her an uppercut. Ramirez caught her as she fell backwards. Morgan knocked a few pins out of place as he trampled the map to get to her. “Amber?”

“I’m fine,” she said, blinking up at the ceiling. “I dropped the spell. I got distracted. That’s definitely where the spell is coming from, though. There were a half-dozen or so faint sources and one very strong one.”

“A half dozen or more is a lot of people,” Ramirez said, looking to Morgan with worry on his face. “We shouldn’t go in there outnumbered.”

“The strong one is most likely an active spell, while the others merely have spell residue on them,” Bob announced.

“We have no choice,” Morgan told Carlos. “There’s no one else to help.”

“So, does that mean only one person is still being kept asleep?” I asked Bob.

“We could wait, couldn’t we?” Carlos insisted. “Or Dresden could...”

“It would appear so,” Bob answered. “Unless one person is able to keep a group of people in a permanent dreamstate. It would take a very powerful sorcerer to keep it all going, though. Rather like trying to keep several plates spinning on poles at the same time.”

“No,” Morgan said, firmly. “Dresden is not going to - “

“Was that a popular pastime in your day?” I asked Bob.

“Guys?” Amber’s voice cut through the conversation. We all looked to her. “Could I have that coffee now?”


While Amber recovered herself, Morgan, Carlos and I argued about whether or not I should be allowed to come. Carlos was in favour of it, insisting they needed the help and Morgan was opposed, insisting I was a liability.

“You can’t leave me here,” I pointed out. “What if I skip town?”

“I’ll find you again,” Morgan replied, simply. “You know you can’t hide.”

“Maybe not, but the Council will be pretty pissed if you lose me,” I said.

“We’re short-handed as it is,” Carlos added. “You always say that in an emergency, you have to use every resource available to you. It seems to me that Dresden is a resource.” Morgan glared at him and opened his mouth to say something, but Carlos cut him off. “And, you said that going into any situation unprepared is stupid and dangerous. We don’t know what we’re facing. An extra hand is good planning.”

Morgan scowled. There’s nothing worse than having your own advice thrown back at you. In the end, it was Amber who was the deciding vote. She quietly suggested she’d feel better if I came along. In the face of both his students rebelling, Morgan reluctantly agreed to let me come, so long as I promised to follow his lead.

“I’ll do my best,” I said. “But it’s sort of knee-jerk reaction to do the opposite of whatever you say.”

I grabbed my hockey stick and my backpack, tossing a few things I thought I might need in it. The wardens were having an emergency wardens-only huddle in the hallway and that left me alone with Bob.

“Thanks for your help,” I said to him. He politely inclined his head to me. He was still being distant, despite my best efforts to get him to relax. “It’ll be alright, you know.”

He nodded and twisted one of the rings on his fingers. “I know.”

“I’ll come back,” I said.

He forced a smile at me and nodded again. “Be careful.”

“I will.”


Getting us all into Morgan’s little car was a challenge. I stuffed my legs under the dashboard again and it would have been very helpful if my hockey stick folded. It ended up sort of under one of my legs, over the other, through the gap in the front seats and very close to Ramirez’s stomach. If we crashed, it was definitely going to break a few of his ribs. His staff was across his and Amber’s lap. Amber favoured a small anthame with a jeweled hilt as her weapon of choice, which went with her more subtle spellcasting style. It fit in her pocket and we didn’t have to worry about squeezing it in with us.

“When we get out again, a hundred clowns are going to come out after us, right?” Ramirez grumbled, slinging an arm over Amber’s shoulders to give them more wiggle room. “You need a bigger boat, boss.”

The street Amber had indicated was located in the student ghetto, around the University of Chicago. The building itself, when we arrived there, looked to be abandoned. It was in bad repair with chipped brick and dirty windows. There was a very flimsy ward over the door that Morgan and I unraveled easily while Amber and Carlos took point. Morgan threw a veil over us all as we entered the building.

There wasn’t much to see on the first level. It used to be a shop, I would have said. There was a dusty sheet covering a counter and there were shelves around the walls, where spiders had taken up residence. The light was fading outside and very little came through the grimy windows. I lit my pentacle and it shone helpfully through the gloaming. We had to move in a fairly tight group. Morgan’s veil, while very good, couldn’t stretch over long distances.

The storeroom had a door with a faint glow coming through the cracks. It opened onto stairs, which went down to a little hallway, which had an open doorway at the end of it, where the glow of candles could be seen. We all crouched in the doorway and looked around.

In one corner there were five or six pallets made up on the floor. Four of them were occupied by sleeping people. A guy sat not too far away from them, grinding herbs with a mortar and pestle. Across the room from him, a girl sat, chanting, with a blank look on her face. Another girl knelt in front of her as we arrived. She took hold of the hair in the first girl’s hand and started to chant in time with her, quiet at first and then growing louder. After a few moments, the second girl got the blank look and the first girl lost hers. She blinked a few times, stood up and stretched, then walked over to a pallet and collapsed onto it, falling asleep almost immediately. The second girl continued to chant.

“They’re handing off the spell,” I whispered. “That’s how they’ve been able to keep it going continuously.”

“I can see that,” Morgan whispered back.

“I was just stating it for the viewers at home,” I muttered.

“They don’t look very culty,” Carlos said.

They didn’t. They didn’t have matching outfits or tattoos as far as I could see. There were no symbols on the wall, no blood on the floor. They looked like kids. They couldn’t have been much older than Amber and Carlos. They were probably university students. It seemed odd.

“There’s something in the corner,” Amber said. “In the circle.”

Behind where the girl had been chanting (and now in front of the new girl) there was a ring of squat, thick candles burning. I hadn’t noticed the shape in it, because it wasn’t so much there as not there. Light seemed to avoid it and it was just a black shape where the universe should be.

“Demon?” I wondered.

“Perhaps,” Morgan agreed. “It seems trapped for now; we can deal with it later. We’ll start with the boy.” He pointed to guy with the herbs. “Take him down quietly. Once he’s out of the way, we can attempt to break the girl’s spell. If we wake the others up before then, we run the risk of breaking her concentration and killing whoever is on the receiving end of the spell.”

I would have liked a plan with a little more detail, but I had no time to ask questions before everyone else was moving and I had to move with them to stay in the veil. We walked slowly and quietly. The herb grinding guy looked up and around as we neared. Carlos, Amber and Morgan surrounded him. Amber poised her hand to cover his mouth, Carlos got ready to hold him down and Morgan raised his sword. They all nodded ‘one, two, three’ together and two seconds later, the guy was unconscious from a light blow of energy from the sword. His gasp was muffled by Amber’s hand and his flailing stopped by Carlos. None of the sleepers stirred. I felt vaguely like I was in a James Bond movie, only with less scantily clad women.

Herb Guy dealt with, we moved on to Chanting Girl and the circle. Inside the ring of candles was another circle of symbols written in chalk. I looked up at the thing inside it and felt immediately uneasy, though I could barely make out what it was. All four of us stared at it for a bit, mesmerized, until Morgan shook his head free and put us back on the right track.

“We will deal with it later,” he repeated. “Whatever it is.”

I knelt in front of Chanting Girl. She was too busy chanting to take any note of us. She looked through me.

“So, how are going to do this?” Carlos asked.

“I’ll take over the spell and stop it,” I decided. “That way if it messes up my brain and I die, you guys can still do your job and I won’t be any worse off than I will be at dawn anyway.”

Nobody made an argument, which, really, they could have done to be polite. I took a deep breath and Listened to the chanting, picking out the words and slowly putting them together. Once I had the chant, I listened to her rhythm and matched it, chanting softly and then louder as I grew more confident. I took hold of the hair in her hand and a faint image appeared in front of me. With each word, the image became more opaque, until I was fully surrounded by it. It was a shipwreck, in the middle of a storm. I could see a child floating on the wreckage. I could feel the spell slowly moving from Chanting Girl to me, until, suddenly, all the weight was on me and I had to struggle to adjust and keep it steady.

I could hear words in my head, Spanish ones that I couldn’t understand. It didn’t matter, because there were images to go with them. I could see a woman’s worry for the child, who was blue and lethargic. I could see her struggling to keep above the cold water. I could see her exhaustion and her will to fight to keep her child safe. The child was Rosario, the words told me, and I concluded I was in Catalina’s head.

I knew that one of Catalina’s worst fears was drowning. She wasn’t a strong swimmer. The worst fear was any mother’s fear – losing her child. I could have put that together from what I saw, but I didn’t have to, because I could see those concepts in her head. It was a really, really trippy experience.

I realized quickly that I was the storm, I was the waves and the ocean. I was everything in the image. A little Will on my part made things happen. A wave crashed where I told it to and the wind howled when I sent it blowing. So, I started to reverse things. I lessened the storm, until it was a drizzle. I let a little sunlight through the clouds. I brought a fishing boat in and made it signal to Catalina that they had seen her. I warmed the toddler up. Catalina’s mind did the rest. She handed Rosario up to the fishermen and let herself be pulled over the side of the boat too. I told the men to get some blankets around her and she added some hot coffee to go with them. The rain stopped and I hadn’t told it to. Then, with what felt like a kick to my stomach, she pushed me out of her head and I snapped back to reality.

In reality, as it wont to happen around me, chaos had broken out. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened, but Herb Guy was back on his feet and all the sleepers seemed to have woken up. Everyone was running everywhere. Amber was doing her best to keep me from harm’s way while also trying to round up the kids. They didn’t seem to be fighting us, so much as trying to get past us. The only guy who seemed actually antagonistic was a guy with a bunch of Celtic knot work tattooed around his upper arm. He was slinging spells left and right.

Standard warden operating procedure when dealing with a crowd of wizards, I found out, was to draw a large circle on the floor with chalk (Morgan’s task) and herd everyone towards the circle (Amber and Carlos’) task, then to keep everyone in the circle (also Morgan’s task). I joined in the chaos and did a little rounding up myself. The main objective for most of the kids was to get through the door to the stairs. Carlos had cast some sort of spell that resembled large blobs of green jello-y light floating in the air by the threshold, blocking the exit. As soon as any of the kids hit it, they slowed down to a snail’s pace and he was able to pull them free and send them over to Morgan. I picked up particularly tiny girl with blue streaks in her hair and carried her under my arm to the circle while she kicked uselessly at me.

The fight didn’t last long. I helped Morgan keep the kids in the circle once they got there and we soon had everyone but Tattoo inside. He was still slinging spells with abandon, mostly at Amber who was trying to take him down, but could only dodge what he was throwing at her. She finally managed to shoot a blast from the edge of her knife – a blue, thin, precise ray of energy. Tattoo stumbled backwards and the heel of his foot hit one of the candles.

“Amber, the circle!” Morgan called, urgently.

Amber was already diving for the candle, but it tipped over before she could get to it. Melted wax spilt out over the symbols of the inner circle and though she managed to get the candle upright again, it didn’t help. The thing inside it seeped out like smoke. The circle was broken.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.

It was a few seconds before anyone reacted. It felt more like a minute. The demon-smoke-thing seeped out of the circle and everyone watched. Then time snapped into its usual speed and things moved far too quickly.


Something resembling an appendage (let’s say it was an arm) swept Amber aside like she was a rag doll. She slid across the floor and into the wall, hard. She didn’t move. Ramirez let out an angry cry and raced towards her.

“Ramirez, stop!” Morgan barked.

He stopped, as suddenly as if someone had turned him to stone. Morgan had them well-trained, I have to admit. I wondered if he gave them biscuits as a reward. Another appendage slammed down where Ramirez would have stepped next and missed him by a few inches. He jumped back from it.

Yet another appendage swiped at Tattoo, who was crab walking away from the circle as fast as he could go. He flattened himself to the ground and the arm-thing swept over him, into the wall. Dust shook loose from the ceiling. Tattoo got to his feet and made a break for it. I ran after him. Ramirez’s spell was weakening, but still slowed Tattoo enough for me to grab him by the hood of his vest. He snarled and cursed and squirmed until I gave him a bop on the head with my hockey stick. He was dazed after that and I dragged him back to Morgan’s circle.

“Stay there and think about what you’ve done,” I told him.

Morgan was ready with some blood on his finger and touched the circle as soon as Tattoo was inside. It closed with a pop, trapping the kids. Morgan raced into the fray and I had to stop to get my bearings. Lack of sleep + jumping in and out of people’s heads + physical exertion a very tired wizard. The last bout of head jumping had left me with a feeling like I wasn’t quite in my body. I couldn’t afford to be slow and I slung my backpack from my shoulders, ripped it open, pulled out a sports bottle and took a swig from it. The energy potion I had made earlier in the week ran through my veins like a little Kentucky Derby was taking place and there was a happy, cheerful symphony in my head. Everything snapped into focus and I instantly felt like leaping a few buildings in a single bound. In lieu of that, I raced into the fight.

Ramirez and Morgan were already battling with Smokey the demon’s many appendages, trying to keep him from moving too far from the circle. Ramirez was like a cat – he leapt, he ducked, he swung, he flipped, he rolled and he dodged with balletic agility. His staff swung around his body efficiently and poked and slammed into the demon in little teasing taps. Morgan favoured a simple, more measured approach. His sword glinted in the candle light as it arced through the air, throwing out spells and hacking at limbs. I joined in with my usual attack plan – do as much damage as possible without getting killed. It’s not pretty, but it works. Most of the time.

There was a lot of noise. Smokey roared with fury. Morgan yelled out directions. The kids screamed and gasped. The symphony in my head drowned most of it out. I ducked and dodged easily, almost like I knew what was going to happen before it happened. Energy flowed into my staff with effortless Will. I cheerfully decided that energy potions were the best potions ever and should be put into some sort of potion hall of fame.

The longer Smokey was out of the circle, the more solid he became. He was a towering thing, something like 9 feet tall, and had horns that curled around his pointy ears several times before sticking out like tusks by his mouth. Every time one of his arms came my way (which was frequently, considering how many arms he seemed to have), I got a jolt of panic through me. The kind of panic that sends you running for a place to hide. The panic blasts grew stronger the longer he was out. We fought for a long time and the longer we fought, the harder it became not to cut and run.

Morgan finally managed to doge his way through flailing limbs and over to where the circle had broken. He pried up the hardened wax and tossed it away, then pulled a piece of chalk from his pocket and started to fill in the gaps. Ramirez and I did our best to distract Smokey from him, but when you have that many arms flying around, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Morgan had to retreat, but he left the chalk behind. Ramirez dodged in next, sliding through the demon’s legs and did some more work on the circle before rolling out of the way again, leaving me a gap to take my turn. I ducked under an arm and slid the rest of the way on my knees.

I looked to either side of the hole for a guide on how the symbols should look and drew them in as exactly as I could. It was hard to be precise with a demon looming over me. I connected the bottom line of the circle again and then retreated. I wasn’t quick enough to avoid an arm though, and I got slammed into the same wall as Amber. I didn’t have as far to slide and my right arm took the brunt of it. There was a very nasty crack that sounded like it should have hurt, but I couldn’t feel anything. I dropped my hockey stick, unable to direct my fingers to hold on it anymore.

“Crap,” I muttered, then got up again.

Ramirez and Morgan were slowly battling Smokey back into the circle. I cradled my arm to my chest, picked up my staff with my other hand and shot off a few blasts. Smokey roared and swung, but finally his whole body was in the circle. All three of us moved in after him. I reopened the wound I had made on my finger earlier in the day. Ramirez raked a fingernail across his gums to get some of his blood and Morgan swiped at a cut on his cheek. We all touched the circle and it lit up, sending a green shield of light up to the ceiling. Morgan and Ramirez righted the other candles that had been overturned in the fight.

“Flickum bicus,” I commanded holding out my good hand. The candles lit up and another layer of shield crackled to life.

Smokey dissolved into black smog again, bashing uselessly at the walls of the circle and roaring. Ramirez was on his way to Amber before I had time to even think about what to do next. Morgan and I followed him. She was in a crumpled heap where she’d landed, but stirred when Ramirez touched her shoulder.

“Did we win?” she asked, groggily.

The three of us were panting heavily. We looked at one another and shrugged that we probably had.

“’Course,” Ramirez decided.

“That’s good,” she noted. “I like it when we win.”


With both Smokey and the kids in their respective circles, there was time to relax a little and tend to wounds. Amber didn’t look good.

“I’m fine...” she answered when I asked her how she was doing. She blinked at me.

“...Harry,” I filled in.

“Harry,” she agreed, vaguely. “I knew that. Don’t tell Morgan I didn’t know that.”

She had a nasty bump on her head and her neck seemed to have been wrenched quite badly. We didn’t let her move at all, even though she kept insisting she was fine. Eventually, she admitted in whisper to Ramirez and I that she was having trouble feeling her toes. She didn’t want Morgan to know that either. I didn’t know whether it was because she was afraid he would be angry with her, or that she didn’t want him to worry or that she just didn’t want to bother him when he was busy.

Morgan was doing...stuff. I didn’t know exactly what that stuff was, but he did it with a purposeful march in and out of the room and I didn’t doubt that there was stuff happening, even if I didn’t know what it was. Every time he passed by the circle, the kids would shrink back from him. He had a look of perpetual fury on his face and, having been on the receiving end of that fury on more than one occasion, I could understand how the kids might have found him intimidating. Tattoo was the only one who didn’t react. He was sitting calmly and looked like the whole thing bored him. The other kids had left a noticeable gap between them and him, huddling together away from where he sat. Morgan came over to talk to Amber a few times, checking see how she was doing.

“I told you not to tell him!” she hissed to Ramirez, after Morgan had left again.

“I didn’t!” Ramirez objected. “You know how he is. He just knows things.” Solemn looks of mutual agreement passed between them.

There was no calling an ambulance for her. We couldn’t let people into a room with a bunch of magic kids trapped in one circle and a smoke demon trapped in another and try to explain how she’d ended up injured during the inevitable battle one has when they have a group of magic kids and a demon in the same room. Nobody seemed worried about this except for me, so I assumed there was some sort of warden procedure for this sort of thing. We couldn’t move Amber for fear of doing more damage to her neck. I pulled a blanket from one of the pallets in the corner and settled it over her.

Ramirez was manning the First Aid kit I had in my backpack. His style of healing seemed to be that more is more. After applying no less than five Band-Aids and a lot of anti-biotic cream to a gash on Amber’s forehead, he broke the ice pack so that it got cold and I let Amber have it for her head, since that was the gentlemanly thing to do. My arm was swelling with every passing second, but I was still grooving the symphony in my head and I couldn’t have cared less. I was still up for a few more rounds of demon bashing. Hell, I could have run a few marathons. While bashing demons.

“Sit down, Harry,” Ramirez ordered, for the third or forth time.

Every time I sat down I felt like I should get up again, but once I was up, I didn’t know what to do with myself and Ramirez would order me to sit down. He was losing patience with trying to heal me. He splinted my arm by wrapping gauze exactly five billion times around two wooden rods on either side of the broken bone. I sat there and twitched. I might have put a bit too much coffee in the energy potion.

“That was awesome,” Ramirez said, enthusiastically, as he wrapped. “The fighting? The fire spells and stuff. I’ve never seen anyone fight like that.”

“With the flailing and the panic?” I said. “That’s patented Dresden Kung-Fu.”

He grinned. “Seriously. Everyone says you’re dangerous or whatever, but nobody ever says that you’re talented. I suppose you wouldn’t be dangerous if you weren’t talented.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I think.” I gestured with my chin to the doorway. “That spell you did with the jello? That was water magic, right?” He nodded. “That was cool too.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I know.” He tied a sling around my neck with six tight knots. “I told you I wasn’t just a pretty face.”

He gave me another grin and pronounced me healed. Then he leaned over to check on Amber, who murmured that she was still fine. “They should be here for you soon, babe.”

“’They’?” I asked.

“Medical people,” he answered. “They’ll take her to headquarters and get her fixed up. Don’t want to risk taking her to the hospital and missing something important because the equipment screws up.”

“I didn’t know you had a headquarters,” I said.

“’Course. Where do you think we keep the Bat-Signal?”

“I thought you guys had some sort of wrong-doing alarm implanted in your brains.”

“That’s just Morgan,” he corrected. “I think he’s a robot. One day, some supernatural badass is going to punch him in the chest and come out with a hand full of wires.”

“I can hear you, Ramirez,” Morgan said.

“Sorry, boss,” Ramirez called. He turned to me, widened his eyes and mouthed ‘robot!’

The medical wardens arrived soon after and put a cervical collar on Amber’s neck, which made me feel much less worried for her. I imagine it probably made her feel better too. The two wardens, plus Morgan and Ramirez, carefully got her up on a triage. I was useless with my one arm.

“Harry?” she asked.

“I’m here,” I said.

“Good luck,” she said.

I smiled. “You too.”

They carried her out and Morgan trailed after them. Ramirez followed them as far as the door, teasing her and saying goodbye. He came back and we both turned our attention to the circle of kids. By this point, we’d ignored them so long they were starting to really freak out. One girl was weeping loudly, another just shook and Herb Guy was systematically chewing off all his fingernails. They all look petrified. Except for Tattoo. He met my gaze and was apparently unimpressed by me.

“I want to punch that one,” Ramirez muttered.

“When does the interrogation start?” I asked.

His eyes moved to the doorway, where Morgan reentered and stalked over to the circle. The kids, minus Tattoo, all scooted back again.

“Right now.”


We positioned ourselves around the edge of the circle. Morgan and Ramirez just stared, so I joined in and stared too. The kids started to squirm under our frank gazes and then, as one, they all burst into explanations. Except for Tattoo. He just rolled his eyes at them.

“Silence,” Morgan commanded, after letting them natter for a few seconds. They all fell silent. “Who is the leader here?”

Eyes all went to Tattoo. He didn’t make any motion to speak. The guy sitting next to Weepy, who had an arm around her, spoke up.

“I’ll speak for us,” he said. He was clean cut and looked like he’d just stepped out of a cologne ad. “You can ask me your questions.”

“Who are you?” Morgan asked. “Your group.”

“We’re sort of a...club, I guess,” Cologne Ad answered, uncertainly. “We’re all students at the university. Jamie started it.” He nodded towards Tattoo. “We all have the gift, for magic? So we all started meeting to sort of...hang out. Just to have people who were like you to talk to, you know?”

“How did you go from hanging out to summoning demons?” I asked.

All eyes once again went to Tattoo, but Cologne Ad continued to field the questions. “We were doing a bit of stuff, nothing dangerous, just seeing what we could do. Jamie had a book and he wanted to try this summoning spell. Most of us thought it was too dangerous so we said no. But Jamie and Nate did it anyway, by themselves.”

“Which one of you is Nate?” Morgan asked.

“He’s...dead,” Cologne Ad answered. Weepy started to weep harder and he shushed her. “After they summoned him – the demon, they kept him in the circle, the outer one. But he can do things...he says things right into your head. Makes you panic and do stupid things and the more you panic, the stronger he gets. He broke out of the circle and attacked Nate. We got him to the hospital, but he died in the ER. We told them he was mugged.” He seemed to be waiting for us to have a response of horror or shock or something to this information, but none of us said anything. “So...uh, Seana looked around in some books and came up with an inner circle that was stronger. She drew it up for us and we got him from the candles into there, and then put the candles around him again.” He had been nodding towards a girl who was wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Wave the flag, Maroons!’ on it and had a picture of the University crest. I assumed she was Seana. She was also the one who had been chanting when we came in, before handing it off to Chanting Girl. “And it was better, because he couldn’t get out, but he could still talk to us and make us panic. Make us do stupid things. He said he’d kill more of us if we didn’t help him.”

“Okay, why didn’t you just send him back?” Ramirez demanded. “Unsummon him?”

“We tried!” Formerly Chanting Girl Seana burst out. “I looked everywhere, in every book I could find and we tried everything and we couldn’t get him to go! He’s stuck here.”

“He said he wanted you to help him,” I said. “How?”

“He needed to...feed,” Cologne Ad picked up again. “He sort of feeds on fear. That’s why he makes you panic. He made Izzie so afraid, she nearly broke the circle for him.” Izzie was Blue Streaks. “So, we had to come up with away for him to feed, but not on us. So Seana looked through some more books and she came up with the nightmare idea. Izzie works at the hair salon and she got us some hair to work with. Her step-brother, Nick?”

“The nurse,” I said.

“Yeah...he was floating in the ER when they brought Nate in. He knew we were lying. He was worried about Izzie and he wanted to help-”

“I didn’t tell him what we were doing,” Izzie broke in, quickly. “He doesn’t know what happened exactly. He doesn’t have the gift. He just wanted to help me, so I asked him to get the ingredients for us. The ones Seana came up with.”

“So they couldn’t be traced back to you,” Morgan filled in.

“Yeah,” Izzie admitted. “And because he had the money to buy them. We’re students. We don’t have money. I figured, he wasn’t doing anything bad with them, so he wouldn’t get in trouble. He doesn’t know what we were doing, honest. He didn’t do anything wrong.”

“So, you had the hair and the herbs,” Morgan said, ignoring her. “Who started the spell?”

“I did,” Seana said. “I came up with it. If anything went wrong, it would have been on me. The plan was for the demon to feed off the fear in us, from the nightmare. It was just until I could come up with a way to send the demon back. He stopped feeding on us once we started the spell and we let him have enough to keep him happy, but not too much so that he’d get strong enough to get out. That was the plan.”

“But Jake died,” I said.

“That was all my fault!” Weepy wept. She was supermodel gorgeous, or she would have been, if she didn’t have tears and mucus running down her face. “He was getting tired and I was trying to keep it from killing him, but the spell slipped and the thing he was dreaming about killed him instead. I didn’t mean to! I didn’t mean to...” she sobbed harder and Cologne Ad petted her hair and gave her a kiss on her forehead.

“We were gonna stop,” Seana said. “But as soon as we did, he started to feed on us again. Cody just cracked – he went absolutely insane! All he did was sit in a corner and sob. We were afraid...we thought he might try to hurt himself.”

“Where’s Cody?” Morgan asked.

“He ran,” Cologne Ad answered. “With some of the others. There were 13 of us to start with, including Nate. When the spell on the policewoman broke, some of the others just ran. They knew you were on to us and they left.”

“But you stayed,” Ramirez said.

“We couldn’t leave the demon here,” Cologne Ad said, in a voice indicating that should be obvious. “What if he got loose? Besides...we’re so tired. None of us have slept much and it’s got way out of hand. The more we tried to fix it, the worse it got. We figured if you were coming to stop us, then... it would be over.”

“Why didn’t you come for help?” Morgan said. “Before it got out of hand?”

“Who were we supposed to get help from?” Cologne Ad replied. “There was only a couple of us who knew about the Council at all. If we told you what happened, you’d have killed us. There was no one else to go to.”

Ramirez and Morgan both shifted a little and gave me quick glances. I didn’t say anything. The symphony in my head was starting to quiet and there was a faint twinge of pain starting up in my arm. I put it to the back of my mind.

“We’ve gotten a little ahead of the story,” I said. “What happened after you started the spells again?”

“I got more hair,” Izzie picked up. “I couldn’t tell who belonged to the different pieces though; they all get swept into a pile together. It was random. We started the spell on the Spanish lady, but he didn’t let up on us. The demon. He wanted more. So, we started the spell on the older lady, too.”

“She went so fast,” Chanting Girl said. She had a faint Southern accent. “And the dream was so bad. I had her and I had to fight for it not to kill her. But she didn’t fight back, not very much anyway. She gave up and I couldn’t stop it in time.” Her face was tight with horror at the memory.

“And we kept having to add more people, because the more tired we got, the less the spells worked,” Cologne Ad continued. “And Dana got so tired. She just started sobbing in the middle of her shift and that’s when the younger woman died.”

“Dana ran too, I gather?” Morgan asked.

“Yeah,” Cologne Ad confirmed.

“You said ‘shift’?” Ramirez said. “You had some sort of schedule going for this?”

“We had to hand the spells off so people wouldn’t get too tired,” Seana explained. “And then, when the sun came up in the mornings, the spell would degrade and we’d have to top it up again. So, I came up with a plan to keep it all going and giving everyone time to keep up with classes or whatever. It didn’t last long, though, we all had to stop going to school. We slept here and ate here and everything. Dan brought us stuff.” She indicated Herb Guy.

“I couldn’t do the spell,” Dan said. “I’m not talented enough. So I made the potions for the hair and was on lookout and stuff. It was Chris and I, before he ran.”

“We couldn’t sleep really, either,” Chanting Girl added. “Everyone got nightmares.”

“You were messing with the universal consciousness,” I explained. “Everyone felt it, not just you.”

“We thought it was just the demon messing with us,” Chanting Girl said.

“So, in the end, all of us were going day and night trying to keep up with all of it,” Cologne Ad carried on. “Then Keating sort of jolted out of his spell and it threw everyone else off their rhythm too. Except for Seana, she managed to keep hers going. Keating said that someone had come into the policewoman’s dream that wasn't really a part of it, he was real. He was doing magic and stuff inside it. He helped her wake up and it kicked Keating out. Then everyone panicked and some of them left and...” He looked exhausted and about ready to just start sobbing along with Weepy. “It’s over now.”

There was silence again, except for Weepy weeping and the demon roaring in the background. It lasted for awhile, while everyone soaked in all the information. Ramirez looked stunned, Morgan looked furious. I just felt exhausted.

“One final question,” Morgan said, eventually. “Why did you summon the demon in the first place?”

Tattoo rolled his eyes and pulled on one of his shoelaces. “Because I could.”

“People died,” I snapped.

“Straights,” he counted, in a bored voice. “Look, I can do things other people can’t. We can do them, we all can. All you guys do is come up with laws so we never use them. It’s stupid. What’s the point in having powers if you never get to experiment with them?”

“Do you really think bringing a demon into the world is the best way to experiment?” Morgan asked.

“I wanted to see if I could do it,” Tattoo replied. “And I could.”

“Can I punch him now?” Ramirez demanded.

“Later,” Morgan said.

“What’s going to happen to us?” Seana asked.

“The Council will decide,” Morgan answered.

The kids all nodded, apparently resigned to this fact. Except for Weepy, who just wept. I was still trying sort out in my mind what to feel about them. They were stupid, but they were kids and when you’re a kid, you’re stupid. You make stupid mistakes. When you’re a magic kid, your stupid mistakes tend to be a hundred times worse than if you were a normal one. They were also fairly responsible; they tried to fix the problem. They were trying to help their friend, even if he was a sociopath. In the end, all I could come up with was disappointment. A lot of kids with a lot of potential who would now likely have no future. Life is stupid, sometimes.

Madre de Dios,” Ramirez muttered, which pretty much summed up what I was feeling.

“What now?” I asked him.

“Council’ll come,” he replied, with a shrug. “Clean up the mess.”

“The Council will come here?” I repeated. “While I’m here?” He nodded. “Madre de Dios.”

That wasn’t going to be fun.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.
Author's Notes: Most of the Council members are based on their book incarnations, with the exception of Ancient Mai, who is from the TVverse and Squeaky, who is from my head.


Within the next fifteen minutes, the energy potion had worn off enough for me to want to tear my arm off. It burned with pain and throbbed against the tight bindings Ramirez had put on it. It was nothing, though, in comparison to the sheer panic I was experiencing at the thought of the Council showing up. I had been distracted before - I had people to rescue. Now that the threat was over, there was room in my head to decide that I didn’t want to die. In fact, I was very violently opposed to the thought of it.

“What time it is?” I asked Ramirez.

“Uh...” he looked at his watch. “9:30 am.” He tapped it. “It’s been 9:30 am for the last three days, though. I need to get it fixed. Don’t you have a watch?”

“It’s been mummified with the rest of my arm,” I said. “Archeologists will discover it in a few thousand years and marvel at the technology.”

“It’s about eleven,” Chanting Girl informed me, helpfully.

“Thanks,” I said. “Eleven. I like eleven. Eleven is a good time. Eleven isn’t dawn at all.”

“I’m sure it’s dawn somewhere in the world,” Ramirez pointed out. He frowned. “Sorry...that sounded comforting in my head.” He put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a serious look. “It will be alright...Did that help at all?”

“Yes, the universe suddenly makes sense,” I replied, with a roll of my eyes. “Thanks.”

“Hey, I got top marks in personal skills,” he said. “It’s not my fault if you aren’t swayed by my good looks and winning personality.”

“I’m just a bit busy freaking out over my impending death,” I explained. “If there’s some sort of ‘how did you like your warden service?’ comment card, I’d be happy to fill it out for you.”

“I left it in my other pants,” he said.

I don’t know how long it took for the Council to arrive, but it seemed like a very long time. The energy potion ebbed away with every second and by the time the first official looking person came into the room, I was sitting with my back against the wall, yawning every 30 seconds and generally trying not to pass out. I kept my mind alert by trying to figure out how to say ‘it’s not my fault, please don’t kill me’ in Latin.

The High Council (or Senior Council, if you’re old school, and most wizards are) consists of 7 very old and powerful wizards. Six of them entered the basement that night. My mind was too fuzzy to try and think of who was missing. Among those I recognized were Ancient Mai (of course), the Merlin (the head of the High Council) and Ebenezar McCoy (who was an acquaintance of the Morningway family, had known my mother, and saved my ass after my uncle died). A handful of wardens proceeded and followed them in, secret service style.

McCoy was a very comforting sight, even if he did give me an extremely grumpy look when he spotted me in the corner. I’d spent a few weeks with him one summer in my teen years, at his farm in Missouri. He augmented the education I had been getting from Bob with the fundamental morals of magic – when and why to use it and when and why not to. Bob, while a master with theory, didn’t quite have a grip on those concepts.

Morgan went to meet the Council, with Ramirez flanking him. He stood quietly while Morgan explained the situation. I couldn’t hear it, but I could see from his gestures what he might be saying. At one point, his arm moved in my direction and six pairs of disapproving eyes landed on me. I hunched down into myself like I was a five-year-old who’d broken an expensive vase and was relieved when the eyes moved back to Morgan. Two pairs lingered longer than the others – Mai’s and McCoy’s. Mai looked as though she wanted to eat me and McCoy looked like he wanted to knock me over the head with the staff he was leaning on. I gave him a weak smile and he nodded to me before turning his attention back to Morgan’s explanation.

Morgan took them on a tour of the room, starting with the demon. They circled the circle and talked amongst themselves about it, then headed over to the circle containing the kids. Weepy, who had temporarily wept herself out, started with fresh sobs as they approached. The rest of the kids shrunk to the back of the circle and even Tattoo was looking a bit nervous. The Council asked various questions, which Cologne Ad fielded. Ramirez snuck over to me while they talked.

“After they’re done with the kids, they’re going to send the demon back,” he whispered. “And then they’re going to deal with you.”

“I have until dawn,” I objected.

“They said that nothing you do in the next few hours is going to help or hurt you, so they might as well get it over with,” he shrugged. “Sorry.”

“Not your fault,” I said. “Thanks for telling me.”

He nodded and went back to Morgan’s side.

“What is the demon’s name?” Mai was demanding of Cologne Ad.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “Jamie never told us...”

Everyone looked to Tattoo. He raised his chin defiantly, which lasted all of two seconds before Mai broke out her angry demon face and he cracked. “Deimus.”

“Thank you,” Mai said, sarcastically.

She snapped her fingers at the wardens who had accompanied the Council in. A few of them came over while the rest stayed watching the door. There was a huddle and then they broke off, with Morgan and Ramirez, to the demon’s circle. Within two minutes, the demon was gone and the wardens were back wardening. Focus turned to me.

“Wizard Dresden,” the Merlin addressed me. “Do you have any objections to your trial being conducted here?”

“Um...no, I guess,” I answered. “I have few objections to it being done now, though.”

“Your objections are noted,” the Merlin said. “Your trial will begin in fifteen minutes.”

“Thanks,” I muttered.

I got to my feet and an ocean in my brain sloshed around in a nauseating fashion. Exhaustion has its own kind of nausea that is particularly unpleasant. I braced myself against the wall until the ocean settled again. When I opened my eyes, McCoy was standing in front of me.

“You look like hell, hoss,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” I agreed. He’s one of those people who you call sir. It’s instinctive.

“Gonna make it?”

“Is that a trick question, sir?”

He raised an eyebrow at me. “Don’t be a smartass.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Mai’s our for yer blood.”

“Yes, sir.”

He gave me an appraising look. “Try not to be an idiot.”

“Bit late for that,” I said. “Er...yes, sir.”

He nodded and left to join the Council again. I took an unsteady step away from the wall and fought against the urge to face plant. One step, two steps.

“Red steps,” I muttered. “Blue steps.” I frowned at myself and drawled in a Bob-like accent: “Now is not the appropriate time for Dr. Seuss, Harry.” Bob, scarily enough, is often the voice reason in my head. Which is probably a good thing, since I seem to have misplaced my own somewhere along the way.

Fifteen minutes passed very quickly and it took me all of them to make it over to the middle of the room where the Council stood. They formed a semi-circle in front of me and some of the wardens, including Morgan and Ramirez, formed another one behind me for that nice, claustrophobic feel.

“I’ll need your pentacle and shield bracelet,” Morgan told me, wearing his best stone face.

I slung the necklace off and held out my left arm for him to take the bracelet. I couldn’t do it myself with one hand. It felt very odd to have the bracelet off - I couldn’t remember the last time it hadn’t been on my wrist. I felt very vulnerable, which was probably the point. Morgan handed my jewelry off to Ramirez and gave me a pat down to make sure I wasn’t harbouring any guns in my pants or anything.

“Kneel,” he ordered.

I was very happy to kneel. Standing was highly overrated, especially when you are suffering from the drop after an energy potion and intense pain. I didn’t do it very elegantly, but I got on my knees and steadied myself. Morgan took a black piece of fabric from Ramirez.

“Oh, do we have to do the - “ I began. The fabric was dropped over my head. “ - hood thing. Guess so.”

“Wizard Harry Dresden,” the Merlin intoned from somewhere in front of me. “You are to stand trial for breaking the Third Law of Magic.”

At least, I think that’s what he said. It was in Latin. Despite Bob’s best efforts, my Latin still sucked. I got the gist of what was going on.

“Do you need a translation?” McCoy’s voice interrupted.

“No, sir,” I mumbled. “I’m getting it. If I have to speak, though...”

“I’ll take care of it,” McCoy said.

“Thank you, sir.”

There was a lot of talking after that. The Merlin went on for awhile about my crimes and how I had done them. I could hear Morgan murmuring behind me, translating for Ramirez, I think. Figures his Latin would be better than mine. Robot.

After the Merlin was done with how horrible I was, the Council was given a chance to voice their opinions. They seemed to be split down the middle – three were inclined to give me lenience and three were inclined to cut my head off immediately. Mai led the latter, claiming that I had broken the laws before and been shown mercy and what had I done with it? She was also eager to detail every time she and I had butted heads in the past five years. McCoy countered that nobody was hurt by my actions, that, in fact, lives were saved by them and no lasting damage was inflicted upon the ‘victim’. I didn’t like them referring to Murphy as the victim, but I didn’t know how to say ‘she’ll kill you if she knew you said that’ in Latin.

A man with a pseudo-British accent and a squeaky voice spoke up. I didn’t recognize his voice, nor had I gotten a good look at him, and so my mind decided he was about 3 feet tall, with a white beard and a pointy hat and possibly wore those pointy shoes with the toes that curled up. His opinion of the situation came down to ‘Mai scares me and I’m going to agree with everything she says’. The Merlin also favoured Mai’s side. He hasn’t liked me since I insulted his tie when I was fourteen.

Martha Liberty, a tall, stern black woman, claimed that I was a nice young man and that I had perhaps acted hastily, but understandably given my friendship with the ‘victim’. Listens-To-Wind, an ancient Native-American, was with Liberty and McCoy and so, it seemed, was his raccoon. I could hear him chittering on Listens-To-Wind’s shoulder. You give a raccoon a candy bar and he’s your friend for life.

“What about the Gatekeeper?” I broke in, suddenly realizing who was missing. McCoy quickly translated for me. “He’s not here, but he should have a vote, right?”

“I will vote as his proxy,” the Merlin informed me.

“That’s - “ I started.

“Dresden,” McCoy warned.

“Unfortunate,” I finished.

“Do you have anything to say your own behalf Wizard Dresden?” Liberty asked me.

I tried to come up with some stroke of genius, but I was so far beyond it at that point that all I could do was shake my hooded head. “I’m sorry for breaking the law,” I finally said. “I thought I had no other choice.”

“Would you do it again, given the result?” The squeaky voiced wizard asked.

“Yes,” I admitted, tiredly. “I wouldn’t let Murphy die.”

“Thank you,” the Merlin said, briskly. “I will give everyone a minute to make their final decisions.”

Blinded, exhausted, hurt and feeling very alone, I had a hard time staying conscious. I couldn’t see a thing and there were times when I had trouble deciding whether I had already lost consciousness or not. I reminded myself that if I was unconscious, I wouldn’t be conscious enough to wonder whether I was conscious or not. Then my brain hurt and I decided to stop thinking all together. It never occurred to me to take the hood off, despite the fact that my hands weren’t bound. They couldn’t be, with one arm in a sling.

“We will now vote,” the Merlin announced, a minute later. I actually heard it as ‘we will now choke’, but realized my mistranslation fairly quickly.

There were three ayes – Squeaky, Mai and the Merlin. Listens-to-Wind, McCoy and Liberty gave three nays.

“As I have the Gatekeeper’s vote,” the Merlin announced. “That makes four in favour and three against. Therefore, it is the decision of the Council that Wizard Dresden be put to death, immediately.”

“That’s crap!” Someone broke out, from behind me. I almost missed it because of the loud whine my heart was making as it dropped into my shoes.

“Ramirez,” Morgan barked.

“Let him speak,” McCoy said, amused.

“Do you have something to say, Wizard ...?” Liberty began.

“Ramirez,” Morgan filled in, sounding as though Ramirez was some embarrassing relative he was attempting to hide.

“Ramirez?” Liberty finished.

“Yes,” Ramirez said. He sounded less confident, but no less angry. “I do. Harry, er, Wizard Dresden, was doing what we would have done and should have been doing. Nobody here has slept in a week, we’re all exhausted and Dresden is the only one of us who bothered to investigate why because we were too busy talking and voting on things.”

Morgan translated rapidly for him, believing maybe, that if he talked fast enough that the words wouldn’t be as offensive. It wouldn’t have worked – the Council all spoke English anyway. They just insisted on Latin to make those of us who were born in the last hundred years feel inferior.

“This guy,” Ramirez continued. I obviously couldn’t see who he was indicating. “Summoned a freakin’ demon that killed three people and then covered it up!” Morgan stumbled on “freakin’”, which I was tired enough to find amusing. “Harry soulgazed a friend, which isn’t a crime, and entered her dream and didn’t do anything but help her get out of it.”

“Were you there as well to see what he did to the victim’s mind?” Mai hissed.

“No,” Ramirez replied. “But neither were the rest of you, and you get to decide whether he should be killed for it after thinking about it for less than a minute. These people?” Again, I couldn’t see who he was indicating. “They were too afraid to contact us for help. If they had known about someone like Harry and been able to go to him for help about what was happening? Nobody would have had to die.”

“That’s enough,” the Merlin said.

“Shut up, Langtry,” McCoy ordered. “The boy has a point.”

“It makes no difference,” the Merlin insisted. “The vote has taken place.”

“No harm in doing another,” McCoy replied, calmly. “All in favour of executing Wizard Dresden for his crimes?”

“Aye!” the Merlin yelled.

“Aye,” Mai hissed.

Silence said Squeaky.

“And all in favour of sparing Wizard Dresden?” McCoy hurried on, quickly.

“Aye,” Liberty declared.

“Aye,” Listens-To-Wind and his racoon said.

“Aye,” McCoy grunted.

“Aye,” Squeaky squeaked.

“Cassian,” Mai barked.

“Aye,” Squeaky repeated, more firmly.

“Aye,” Ramirez muttered from behind me.

“Well then,” McCoy announced. “That makes three in favour and four against. Therefore, it is the decision of the Council that Wizard Dresden be released, immediately.”

“McCoy,” the Merlin warned.

“Can’t stop democracy,” McCoy said. “Warden Morgan, please return Wizard Dresden’s effects to him.”

“Yes, sir,” Morgan said.

The hood was pulled from my head and I toppled over sideways in dizziness and relief. Morgan grabbed my collar to prevent me landing on my broken arm and yanked me back onto my knees by it. He placed my pentacle and shield bracelet into my hand. “You are very, very lucky, Dresden.”

“No kidding,” I agreed. I looked around for Ramirez. He was attempting to ignore Mai’s glare, but at any moment, the left side of his face was likely to burst into flames and melt. “Thank you.”

“She’s going to eat me, isn’t she?” he asked.

“Sleep with one eye open,” I suggested.

He nodded and carefully hid behind a particularly tall security warden.

The Council left, or stormed out and the wardens trailed after them, leaving Morgan and Ramirez to keep an eye on the kids. McCoy also stayed back. I got to my feet, weaving like a sapling in a hurricane and faced him.

“Thank you, sir,” I said.

“You’re an idiot,” he replied.

“Yes, sir,” I agreed. “I’m sorry.”

He nodded, briefly.

“What will happen to the kids?” I asked.

“They’ll get a trial,” he said. “After we’ve had a good night sleep. Should be beneficial to us all.” He leaned on his staff a little and stared at me. “You’re just like your mother, hoss.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said.

“It wasn’t a compliment.”

It was, really. “No, sir.”

“That’s twice I’ve saved your hide. Don’t make it a third time.”

“No, sir.”

“There will be a third time won’t there?”

“Most likely, sir,” I agreed.

“Just like your mother,” he muttered.

I nodded, which wasn’t the best move. The flooding in my head sloshed around in a sickening fashion. “I’m sorry, sir.”

“What are you apologizing for, now?”

“It’s preemptive,” I explained. “I’m about to pass out on you.”

“Oh,” he said.

And then I did.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.

In my dream, I was swinging in a hammock at the beach, sipping at a cocktail and enjoying the tropical breeze on my face. The palm trees rustled in the wind and the waves crashed on the shore. The sun was shining brightly, but I was nice and cool in the shade of the palm trees. A pretty, exotic looking bird flew down and landed on my arm. Its talons dug into me and I winced, trying to shoo it off. The bird dug in harder.

I awoke with a start and bumped my forehead off of Murphy’s. She straightened up from where she had been leaning over me and rubbed her head.

“Smuf?” I asked, intelligently.

“Ow!” she replied. “Geez, Dresden.”

“Smuf?” I insisted.

“You keep trying to lie on that arm,” she said.

I looked down to find my right arm encased in a heavy cast. My fingers were swollen and purple looking. I looked back up to Murphy. “Y’okay?”

“Am I okay?” she repeated. “Harry, I came in here and found you unconcious on your couch with your arm in a cast. You want to know if I’m okay?”

“Y’shospital,” I pointed out, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

“I checked out this morning,” she said. “I’m fine. They wouldn’t let me come back to work, though, so I came here to see how you were doing and there was this young guy here who asked me to look after you and left. He left a note.”

She pointed to a bottle of prescription painkillers on the coffee table. A neon green Post-It note was attached to it with barely decipherable scribble on it.

Left you with the cute cop chica. Hope you aren’t dead.
• Ramirez
312-555-9726
Marauding Christmas Trees
Xylophone

“How long’ve you been here?” I asked, as I tried to make sense of the note.

“Since about 9 a.m. I had to go pick Anna up from school at one point but I brought her back here. The guy said you needed to sleep, so I didn’t wake you. What happened?”

“Wall,” I muttered. “Ouch.” I rubbed at my face, which had lines from the fabric of the couch embedded in it. “What time is it?”

“5:30,” she answered.

I looked around. “What day is it?”

“Friday, Harry.” Murphy bent over and peered into my eyes. “Are you okay? Did you hit your head, too?”

“Maybe,” I said. “I was unconscious before I hit the ground, so I don’t really remember.”

“Great, Harry, that’s very reassuring,” Murphy said, with a roll of her eyes. She pushed some hair off my forehead. “You don’t look good.”

“There’s a dragon on my arm,” I said, looking at my cast.

“Anna decorated it,” she explained.

A very adorable green dragon was breathing fire from my elbow up to my knuckles. It was adorable in the way that it was clearly meant not to be adorable. It was adorably ferocious. “Heh, reminds me of you, Murph.”

She swatted at me. “Very funny.” She sat down on the coffee table, facing me. “You gonna tell me what really happened?”

“Nope,” I said.

She glared at me. “Not even a little bit?”

“There was a wall, I hit it,” I summed up. “There was an energy potion, I drank it. There was a fall after the energy potion, I took it. End of story.” I carefully pushed myself up to a sitting position. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine,” she replied, promptly. “It wasn’t that big a deal. Everyone’s fussing.” She looked at her hands briefly. “Anna seems to think that...that you had something to do with me getting better. She has this idea that you did some sort of ‘magic’ on me.”

“What do you remember?” I asked, deciding it was far too early in the day...er...evening to be having this conversation.

“Nothing,” she said. “Just bits here and there. I was dreaming a lot, I think. Bad dreams and you...it seemed like you were there to help me in them.”

I studied her and tried to decide whether she was in a believing mood today or not. From the defiant set of her jaw and the way she was carefully avoiding looking me in the eyes, I guessed her ‘open to the unknown’ level was a little low.

“Well, I guess you must have dreamt me up, Murph,” I said, finally. I gave her a smile. “You dream about me a lot?”

She rolled her eyes. “Just about ways to kill you, Dresden.”

I grinned and she grinned back. She touched my hand briefly before she stood up again and the moment was over. She retrieved a stack of yellow Post-It-Notes from the table behind her. They were scribbled on in her small, no-nonsense writing.

“Phone’s been ringing off the hook,” she announced. She leafed through the papers as she rattled off the messages. “Someone named ‘Ramirez’ called. I think he was the young guy who left you with me. He said to tell you ‘Amber’ will make a full recovery. She hit a wall too?”

“A big one,” I confirmed.

“Susan Rodriguez called to tell you she got the story in by her deadline and she wants you to call her back,” Murphy continued.

“The story...” I muttered. “Did I...? Was she here?”

“She called, Harry,” Murphy pronounced, slowly. She held up her hand by her ear in a telephone shape. “On the phone.”

“No, I just –” I tried. “Oh, never mind. Who else called?”

“Sheryl Sharp,” she continued, moving onto the next note. “Said not to worry, give her a call if you have a minute. Do I know her?”

“Her son was kidnapped by his teacher. You worked it with me,” I said. Murphy looked blank. “Gas explosion?”

“Oh! Right.” Murphy nodded. “I didn’t know you kept in touch with them.” I shrugged. She flipped onto the next note. “‘McCoy’ wants you to ‘give him a ring at the farm, hoss’.” She did a very good impression of McCoy’s Scottish by way of Missouri drawl. “And, Sid called. He says -” she slapped me in the back of the head.

“Ow!” I complained. “What was that for?”

“He said to tell you that the next time you make him arrest an innocent man, you can do the paperwork,” she informed me.

“Oh,” I said. “Yeah.” I rubbed at my face some more and tried to blink away the fuzz in my head. “Thanks, Murph. For staying. I’m okay, though. I’m sure you’ve got something better to do than hang around here.”

“Anna’s ordering Chinese food,” Murphy said.

“Like I was saying, stay as long as you want,” I corrected. She grinned.

Before I embarked on the epic journey that was returning calls, I had a few things to attend to. Like personal hygiene, and eating dinner. I managed to snag a conversation with Bob in between those two activities. He had been trapped in the lab since Murphy showed up, but was able to fill me in on how exactly I’d gotten from the shop basement to my apartment.

“McCoy and Ramirez brought you in at around two am this morning,” he explained. “You were conscious, but you weren’t very lucid.”

“I didn’t sing, did I?” I asked, with a wince.

“No, not this time,” he assured me. “McCoy said you fainted after your trial- “

“Passed-out,” I corrected. “I passed-out in a manly fashion.”

“If you insist,” he said. “In any case, he and Ramirez took you to the hospital and you had your arm set and the cast put on.”

“I…sort of remember that...” I said. “I think...”

“He said you were asleep for most of it and every time they woke you up, you fell back asleep within a few minutes. The hospital wanted to keep you overnight, but McCoy thought you would be more comfortable here.”

“In other words: I was babbling and they didn’t want me revealing anything?” I guessed.

“Yes,” he agreed. “I believe there was also an issue with something called an ‘ECG’.”

“Ah.” I nodded. “My old nemesis.”

“You arrived here this morning, as I said,” he continued. “I have to admit, I was starting to think the worst.”

“You were worried?” I goaded.

“Concerned,” he corrected. “For your well-being.”

“I like you too, Bob.”

“Yes, well, McCoy left,” he carried on, ignoring me. “Around 7:30 this morning, after speaking with your reporter lass, who was camping outside your door. She was quite furious you hadn’t called her back. Ramirez stayed until Lt. Murphy arrived. He ate the rest of your cookies and peppered me with useless questions. It was rather like having a younger, louder version of you in here.”

“I do not ask useless questions,” I objected. “My questions are always very thoughtful and full of purpose and deep reflection. And he’s not that much younger than me.” Bob raised an eyebrow. “Shut up.”

“Anyway, you seem to be recovered,” he said. “McCoy said you had a close call at the trial. I am pleased that you returned relatively unharmed.”

“Thanks, Bob,” I said.

“I quite like this lab,” he said, looking around. “I would have been very put out to have to move.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

He smiled his cat’s grin at me. Murphy called out that the food was here and I left to attend to my growling stomach.


“It’s a dragon,” Anna explained to me, over dinner. “It’s not done though. You moved before I could finish his mouth and I couldn’t reach your arm anymore.”

“Sorry,” I said. “But I like it anyway.”

“See, Mom,” she declared, turning to Murphy triumphantly. “I told you he wouldn’t mind.”

“I don’t mind,” I agreed.

“You would have minded if it was pink bunnies,” Murphy pointed out.

“I wouldn’t put pink bunnies on him!” Anna said. “He’s a boy.”

“You did notice that, didn’t you?” I asked Murphy.

“Are you kidding?” she said, with a smirk. “From the way you drive me insane, you must be male.”

Anna giggled. She was attempting to wrangle the chicken su-gui with her chopsticks, tongue peeking out of her mouth in concentration. Murphy and I watched, like she was attempting some complicated trick on the flying trapeze. She dropped the food and Murphy and I both made clicking noises of sympathy.

“How do you make your thingies do that?” Anna demanded, pointing to noodles that were halfway to my mouth.

“Practice,” I said. “And three months in Japan.”

“They use chopsticks in Japan too?” she asked.

“Yep. But they’re pointier,” I explained. “You couldn’t kill anyone with these.” I snapped the blunt half-sticks at her and she giggled again.

“Harry!” Murphy exclaimed.

“Not that you should ever kill anyone with a chopstick,” I quickly added. “Or kill anyone at all, ever. With anything.”

Have you ever killed anyone with a chopstick?” Anna asked, curiously.

“Uhhh...” I said. “No. No. Of course not. Not anyone.”

“Can we move off this topic?” Murphy requested. She flicked her sticks at Anna. “Use your fork.”

“That’s cheating,” Anna said, shocked.

“Here,” I said. “Hold the bottom one steady and move the top one to meet it.”

The phone rang. I cut off the lesson to get it. It was McCoy. I could tell by the way he didn’t actually say hello.

“Hoss,” he barked. “You’re awake.”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

“Good. I’m leaving town again, I wanted to talk to you before I left,” he explained.

“Again? How long have you been there?” I asked.

“Two hours,” he said. “I fed the horses. They’ll be fine. Chase is coming back to care for things.”

“That’s good,” I said. “Because that’s what I was worried about. The horses.”

“I can still kick your ass, you know.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You okay?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Good. You were looking pretty bad when I left. Had to take care of business with those kids or I woulda stayed longer.”

“No problem, sir,” I said. “What happened with them?”

“Most got put on probation,” McCoy answered, sounding tired. “First offense, reacting to circumstances and all that. Have to round up the runners as part of their punishment.” I had a sudden mental image of Cologne Ad on horseback, galloping after the runaways with a lasso over his head as the rest of the kids herded them like sheepdogs. McCoy always makes me think in cowboy metaphors. “Freckles showed some talent with theoretical magic. Gonna put her in the warden program, see how she does.”

“Freckles?”

“Little red-head.”

“Oh, Seana,” I said. He grunted an affirmative. “Bet Morgan was thrilled about that.” He grunted another affirmative. “You said ‘most’.”

“Petulant took a little longer to decide on,” he said. I assumed Petulant was Tattoo. “Tried to give him a chance to defend himself. Made a mess of it. Yammering on about his rights as a wizard. Total bunk.”

“So?” I prompted.

“Gave him to Mai,” McCoy answered. “Her jurisdiction and we couldn’t settle anything by vote. No Ramirez to speak up for him. Dunno what she decided to do.”

I could guess. I shuddered a little and changed the subject. “Bob says you talked to Susan?”

“Eh?”

“Blonde. Asks a lot of questions. Cell phone glued to her ear.”

“Reporter.”

“That’s the one.”

“Nosy-thing. I spun her something for the press. Kids messing around with chemicals, got in the water system at the hair salon, made people sick,” he explained. “Said you asked me to tell her.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t like her as much as the brunette, hoss,” he said.

I glanced over my shoulder to where Murphy was wrestling with Anna’s chopsticks. “I’ll keep that in mind, sir. When did you meet her? I thought you’d gone by the time she showed up today.”

“Y’kept asking about her at the hospital,” he said. “Every time you were awake. Went upstairs to check on her to shut you up. She was barking at the docs, trying to get home.”

I smiled, able to picture it perfectly. “Uh, about the hospital, sir. You wouldn’t know how much it cost to get my arm fixed, would you?”

“Doc upstairs said he’d cover it, seemed to know you,” he answered. “Limey fella.”

“Forrester,” I said, feeling a swell of fraternal affection for the doctor.

“Yeah.”

“I’ll let you go,” I said.

“Take care of yourself, hoss.”

“I will, sir. Thank you for your help.”

“Won’t always be there.”

“No, sir.”

“Bye, hoss.”

“Bye, sir.”

“Who was that?” Anna asked me, when I rejoined the table.

“A grumpy old man,” I answered. “How is that chopsticks lesson coming along?”

“I’ve decided to use a fork.”


After supper Anna had to finish her dragon, and then we played cards for awhile. Murphy didn’t seem to believe me when I said I was alright, but after I beat her at a few round of ‘Cheat’ she was satisfied I wasn’t going to die if she left me alone. Anna gave me a hug at the door, which surprised both me and Murphy.

“What did you do?” Murphy asked, after Anna had skipped out.

“I drugged her food with a ‘Like Harry’ potion,” I said. I gave her a hug too, since there was hugging going around. She returned it. “I’m glad you’re okay, Murph.”

“Me too,” she said. “Only you.” She stepped back and looked me in the eyes. “I don’t know if you’re lying to me. About what really happened. Anna seems to think I should thank you, though. So, if I should, thank you.”

“You don’t need to,” I insisted. “But if I did do something, theoretically and all, you’re welcome.”

She smiled. “Call me tomorrow. If you don’t, I’m coming here to check on you.”

“I could think of worse threats,” I said.

She rolled her eyes and smiled again. “G’night, Dresden.”

“G’night, Murph.”


I settled in at my desk to return phone calls. I started with the Sharps, since I figured it would be too late to call them soon. Scott answered and chattered with me for a bit, before handing it off to Sheryl.

“I just wanted to let you know that Scott’s doing better,” she said. “But I suppose you’ve figured that out by now.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Did you know he hit a homerun in gym class today? Apparently it was super-awesome.”

She laughed. “I heard. I wanted to see if you were alright, too. You didn’t look good when you were here.”

“Geez, everyone keeps telling me that. It’s starting to hurt my feelings.”

“You looked worried.”

“I’m not worried anymore. I fixed that problem I was telling you about. No nightmares last night?” I asked.

“None. Quite a relief.”

“I can imagine.”

“Scott wanted me to ask you for dinner again soon,” she said. “I think it’s our turn to cook?”

“You don’t have to do that,” I said.

“No, I don’t. You didn’t have to come and help us, either, but you did. I think I can manage dinner in return for you saving the world,” she replied.

“What makes you think I saved the world?” I asked, surprised.

“You got Scott back for me. Saved my world. That’s what you do,” she answered, simply. “Maybe not the whole world, but the important parts. Someone’s world.” My stomach felt very warm and tingly at that. I didn’t know what to say. “Come for dinner on Monday.”

“Yes ma’am.”

I called Susan next and got an earful about sending people on wild goose chases and did I think she was some floozy I could call whenever I needed info and then ignore afterwards and -

“You should call people back!” She finished. “Because people worry!”

“I’m sorry,” I said, after waiting for a moment to make sure she was done. “It was very inappropriate of me not to call you back.”

“Yes it was,” she agreed.

“And I’m a horrible human being.”

“Yes, you are. But, one who I do have to thank.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I got a job offer in New York. They’ve been following some of my stories here. Like my ‘insider’s point of view’,” she explained, obvious pride in her voice.

“That’s awesome,” I said. “Are you going to take it?”

“I...I sort of already did,” she admitted. “They want me there in two weeks.”

“That’s soon,” I said.

“I know, but I couldn’t refuse. I get my own byline and everything.”

“You deserve it, Suz. Let me take you out for dinner or something before you go, okay?”

“Okay,” she agreed. “I’ll let you take it off the money you owe me.”

“Big reporter like you?” I scoffed. “You don’t need my money.”

“Nice try, Dresden.”

“Damn.”

“So, that old guy I met this morning?” She asked. “How much of what he told me was a lie?”

“Most of it,” I said. “I’ll tell you the truth over dinner. Off the record.”

“No promises.” Her cell phone rang in the background. “Gotta run. I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Bye.”

The phone was cradled haphazardly and I held my end away from my ear. I stared thoughtfully at it for a moment, trying to decide whether to be happy or sad. I settled on happy. There was too much sad going around. I hung up the phone and then picked it up again to dial the number on Ramirez’s note. The conversation went like this:

Official Sounding Woman: “Hello.”
Me: “Hello, I’m look-”
OSW: “Purple albatross?”
Me: “I’m sorry?”
OSW: “Purple. Alabtross.”
Me: “Uh...marauding Christmas trees?”
OSW: shuffles some papers around “Pineapple?”
Me: “Xylophone.”
OSW: “I see. To whom may I connect you?”
Me: “Carlos Ramirez?”
OSW: “One moment.”

Several moments passed.

Ramirez: “Harry?”
Me: “Yep. What was with the code?”
Ramirez: “They like to pretend we’re MI6. How are you?”
Me: “Fine. How’s Amber?”
Ramirez: “Good. Swelling’s gone down around her spine and she’s wiggling her toes now. Healers say she’ll be up and about in no time. How’s your cute cop chica?”
Me: “Gone.”
Ramirez: “You and she...?”
Me: “No.”
Ramirez: “Do you think she’d - ?”
Me: “No.”
Ramirez: “Understood, man. Just a sec..” muffled “Your mama!” muttering “'Who am I talking to?’ what is this, boarding school? Spends the whole day sitting with Amber, finally goes to sleep and has to wake up the minute I start talking to you. It’s like living with a freakin’ cylon.”
Me: “Morgan?”
Ramirez: “Yeah. Hey, if anyone asks, you didn’t get this number from me.”
Me: “Is this message going to self-destruct?”
Ramirez: “No, but you won’t remember this conversation in the morning.”
Me: “Got it. Everything back to normal, then? Nightmares, demons, children?”
Ramirez: “Seems like it. Council’s gone to some other city. ¡Y adiós muy buenas! Back to normal, everyday monster fighting. I hate diplomacy.”
Me: “I thought you got top marks in personal skills?”
Ramirez: “They only seem to work on women. You’re sure that cop - ”
Me: “Yes.”
Ramirez: “’Kay. Can’t blame me for trying. I gotta run before Morgan takes away my phone time. Keep in touch, yeah?”
Me: “I don’t think your parents will approve.”
Ramirez: “Heh. Later.”
Me: “See ya.”

By this point, it was definitely time for some more sleep. I swallowed some painkillers for the ache in my arm, said goodnight to Bob, who was back to his formula calculations, and went up to my bedroom. I was surprised the bed was made, until I remembered my cleaning spree of the previous morning. It seemed a very long time ago. I crawled into bed, settled my cast to comfortable position and drifted off into a blissful, dreamless, non-scary sleep.

Chapter Text

Title: Somnus
Spoilers: Heavy book references in this one, a few book characters appear later on. No plot spoilers, however. TV references: Storm Front, Birds of a Feather, Things That Go Bump
Summary: An unusual epidemic has hit Chicago and Harry's in the thick of it.

I woke up around 8 A.M on Saturday. The panic and fear I had been experiencing all week had vanished, leaving a pleasant sort of exhaustion in the void. I decided to give into it, since I had been ignoring my body and I didn’t want to get sick on top of everything. So, I went back to sleep and woke up at 2 P.M when I rolled over onto my arm and it yelled at me fiercely for being an idiot.

I ate the left over Chinese food for lunch, sitting in the lab and watching Bob work. He wasn’t in a talking mood. He was very, very close to figuring out that formula and his hand was moving in a blur through the symbols, dusting them out, redrawing them, muttering about them. He didn’t even notice when I left to make my trip to the hospital.

I had to take a cab because my jeep was still in the parking garage. I estimated that when I drove it out and gave my ticket in, it would cost me roughly my first born. It’s times like that when I wish I could use an ATM. I took the ticket in with me in the hopes that maybe someone could validate it and I could hold on to one of my children.

I arrived at the second floor to find the isolation had been severely reduced. Isolation guy was gone, as was the sheeting he was so valiantly guarding. The waiting room was empty. The staff was fresh faced and rested. A tall, curly haired man was at the pneumatic delivery sucking station and it took me a moment to realize it was Forrester. I hadn’t seen his hair before; it was always hidden under his scrub cap.

“Hey,” I greeted him.

“Hello, Mr. Dresden,” he returned, without looking up from the boxes he was checking. He stuck the paperwork in a tube and we both watched it get sucked up the pipes before he turned to look at me. He had a paper mask hanging by its elastic from one ear and looked rested and happy. “How are you doing?”

“Fi-” I began. He had taken my broken arm and started to examine it critically. “Fine. Thank you, for covering the costs of the cast and everything.”

“’Least I could do. I went down to check on you before I went home yesterday but you were gone,” he said. “Interesting design.”

“Lt. Murphy’s daughter,” I explained.

“Ah yes, the one who broke Michael’s toes,” he recalled, with a smile. “No excess pain or swelling?”

“Nope,” I said.

“Do come in if it changes,” he ordered.

“Yessir,” I agreed.

“Have you seen the leftenant since she left? She discharged herself against advisement, you know,” he informed me, in the same tone of voice you might use to say ‘she murdered that puppy, you know’.

“She’s fine,” I told him. “Very bossy.” He nodded, looking reassured. “How’s things here?”

“Excellent!” He said, enthusiastically. “Everyone has been discharged except for Catalina Hernandez. She still has a bit of a fever and elevated heart rate.I want to keep her until that’s gone away.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have any new cases,” I said.

He cocked his head and gave me curious look. I swear I could hear his stethoscope hissing at me. “Well, I can’t say that doesn’t please me. I wish I knew exactly what went on though. It worries me that there are forces out there that I have no control over. Medically speaking, I mean. I can accept when a patient dies from a disease I can’t cure, but to lose a patient to a disease I can neither identify nor treat is another matter.”

“I wish I could say something reassuring,” I said. “But...sometimes, you just have to accept the fact that you can’t save everyone.”

“I was never very good at that,” he admitted, with a wry smile.

“Me neither,” I agreed. “Listen, do you mind if I look around a bit?”

“No, go ahead,” he said. “Don’t break anything.” He pointed to the parking ticket in my hand. “Do you want me to validate that?”

“Do you wash the floors in your spare time, too?” I asked, handing over the ticket. “Cook a little?”

He grinned. “On Sundays I declaim in the OR.” He eyed the pipes above us and a moment later the pneumatic delivery system spat out a plastic tube. “That never gets old. Wear a mask.”

I nodded an agreement, retrieved one and headed down the hall in search of ghosts. If all had gone well, Jake should be gone. If not, I had more work to do. Before I found him, I bumped into a toddler. Or rather, she bumped into me as she made a giggling escape out of Catalina’s room. She fell onto her backside and I knelt down to right her again.

Hola, Rosario,” I said.

Hola,” she replied, shyly. She had on a pink, child sized mask which was dangerously close to falling off. Her eyes darted from side to side before she held out a wrapped mint in her hand.

I took it. “Gracias.”

De nada,” she mumbled. “Adios.”

She took off down the hall. Diego exited the room and chased after her with a quick, “Hola, Harry,” to me.

I took a look in at Catalina. She was sitting up in bed, smiling after her family and looking quite pink in the cheeks. Diego returned with Rosario, setting her down on the bed. She crawled up to snuggle with her mother, who fixed her mask.

“What happened to your arm?” Jake Bloom asked me.

I jumped in surprise. “Gah!”

“Sorry,” he said. “I’ve gotten used to being ignored. What happened to your arm?”

“I had a fight with a wall,” I answered. “You’re still here.”

“I am,” he agreed. “But only for the moment. Fiona’s left already and I know where I need to go.” He gestured off towards something I couldn’t see. “I was just waiting to see if you’d come back. I guess they didn’t kill you.”

“Not so much, no.”

“I’m glad. But that’s still ridiculous. You should tell Lt. Murphy about them. Anyway, I wanted to thank you.”

“You’re very welcome,” I said. “I’m glad it worked.”

He nodded. “It looks nice there,” he said, gesturing towards the unknown again.

“I’ve heard it’s pretty awesome,” I agreed.

“So...I’m gonna go,” he continued.

“Sounds like a plan,” I said. I waited for a few moments. “Jake?”

“I...I know you’ve done, like, a lot for me,” he burst out, raking his hands through his hair. “But...can I ask you for one more favour?”

“Definitely,” I said.

“Oh, good. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful,” he said. I found that highly amusing on many levels, not the least of which was the obvious ‘ungrateful dead’ joke that I was far too mature to make. “But there’s something in my locker at work, for Jade? It’s a present and I want to make sure she gets it. Can you get it to her?”

“Sure,” I agreed.

“Thank you. My locker has my name on it. The combination is 1686,” he said.

“1686,” I repeated. “Got it.”

“Yeah. She should be at our place,” he said. “I don’t think she’d sit shiva with my family. I mean, I don’t think they’d let her.”

“I’ll find her,” I promised.

“Okay,” he said. “Thank you.” I nodded, encouragingly. “Tell her I love her.”

“I will,” I said. “And hey, thank you for all your help.”

He smiled. “No problem. Okay. Goodbye, Harry.” He turned walked in the direction he had been indicating. Then he disappeared.

“Bye, Jake,” I murmured.

I watched after him for a few moments, until Rosario’s giggling broke into my thoughts. I shrugged to myself and walked back down to the nurses’ station, where Forrester was stamping my ticket.

“Everything ship shape?” he asked, handing it back to me.

“Everything’s good,” I confirmed. “How are you, by the way?”

“I’m in fine fettle,” he dismissed it. “I spent time at home yesterday. In my home. Where I live. In my own bed.”

“Good,” I said.

“This is shaping up to be a goodbye, isn’t it?” he asked. “You look very solemn. Should I look solemn too?” He put on a serious face. “It has been a pleasure working with you, Mr. Dresden.”

I laughed. “Likewise.” We shook left handed. “Take care of yourself. Remember to sleep.”

“I shall,” he said. “You too. You’re a jouster, watch out for that.”

“A jouster?”

“Of windmills,” he clarified.

“Oh, yeah,” I agreed. “Quixotic quests, that’s me.”

“’There’s no taking trout with dry breeches,’” he quoted. “Cervantes. One of my favourite books.” He accepted a clipboard from one of the nurses and started to skim through it.

“I’ll let you get back to work,” I said.

“Good day, Mr. Dresden,” he said, absently.

“See ya.”


I returned to the parking garage, got into the jeep, started it up, reached for the stick shift and knocked my cast against the top of it. I stared down at my arm, only then realizing that it could pose a problem in my driving abilities. I turned the car off again and went through a list of possibilities. I dismissed attempting to drive anyway as stupid. If I didn’t kill myself, Murphy would kill me. I could call another cab, but my jeep would still be there, collecting hourly parking fees. Finally, I went back to the lobby of the hospital and called Mike, the wonder mechanic. He agreed to come and lend me his car for the day, until I could get a rental, and drive my jeep back to the garage. I decided to get the claw mark fixed while it was there.

In Mike’s (automatic) car, I drove down to the 27th district where I encountered my second problem of the day. No one bothered me when I came in, except for a few people who offered me a hello. I steered well clear of Kirmani, who I could see was attempting to be both Kirmani and Murphy and finding it an understandably difficult task. He had his cell phone to one ear, Murphy’s landline to the other and was snapping his fingers at someone to bring him a file. I didn’t want to throw myself into the middle of that and have him shoot me on sight.

I snuck into the locker room very stealthily, which turned out to be a waste of steathiness, since no one was paying any attention to me. You’d think a police station would have better security. Any wizard off the street could come in and steal staplers or something. There was no one in the locker room, so I was free to find ‘Bloom J.’s’ locker and magic the lock open without anyone questioning me. Unfortunately, the locker was empty. On the list of things that I had failed to consider, ‘Jake has been dead for nearly a week, even if you have been talking to him’ was next after ‘you can’t drive a manual transmission with a broken arm, you dolt’. His effects had been removed. I banged my head against the locker door and headed out to talk to Kirmani.

“Got a minute?” I asked, brightly.

He glared up at me from Murphy’s desk, holding the landline receiver to his shoulder. “Fuck off, Dresden,” he stated. Into the cell phone he added, “Not you, Al, this idiot who’s in front of me here. Yeah, I can hold. I got all day.” He shouldered the cell phone too. “10 seconds.”

“Do you know where the contents of Jake Bloom’s locker went?” I asked.

“Why?”

“I need to look at something.”

He sighed. “I don’t got time to deal with you. We put it all in lock-up ‘til his family comes to get it.” He waved down a harried looking blonde woman. “Karen. Take Dresden to look at Jake’s stuff, please?” He lifted the cell phone again. “Yeah, I’m here. No, Johnston, Al, there’s a ‘T’, I don’t care about anyone named Johnson.” He held the cell phone away from his mouth again. “I find out anything went missing, Dresden, I will come and – J-O-H-N-S-T-O-N!”

“I got it,” I said, holding my hands up in peace. “You don’t have to spell at me.”

Karen let me into the evidence locker and handed me a box of stuff. I shuffled though a pile of crumpled clothing, a neatly kept spare uniform, a handful of pictures and found the present inside of one of the shiny shoes near the bottom. I got it into my coat pocket without notice and shuffled through the box a bit more to make it look like I was doing something important.

“What happened to your arm?” Karen asked.

“Knitting accident,” I said. I settled everything back into the box. “Okay, I’m done, thank you. I think I’ll just slip out the back.”

“Good idea,” she agreed.

Jake and Jade’s apartment was on the 8th floor of their building. I risked the elevators, since the thought of going up eight flights of stairs was extremely unappealing. Aside from having to curse at the 8th floor button, which did not register until the forth time I punched it, the ride went smooth and I went down the hall to 805 and knocked on the door.

Jade looked about the same as she had at the morgue, only a little more tired and a lot redder around her eyes. She gave me a weak smile and cocked her head expectantly, her ponytail brushing over her shoulder.

“Hi,” I began, awkwardly. “My name is Harry Dresden. I knew Jake...”

She nodded. “I saw you at the hospital, with Lt. Murphy.”

“That’s right. I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.”

“I...he...” I stumbled over the words, wishing I had thought them out before knocking. ‘Your dead boyfriend’s ghost asked me to give you this present’ didn’t seem to be the right approach. “This was in his locker, at work.” I handed her the box. “It’s for you. I thought you should have it.”

She turned the present over in her hands a few times, looking unsure, before she steeled herself up and slipped a finger under the wrapping paper to rip it off. I took the paper so she could open the box. Inside was an elegant looking gold fountain pen and there was a handful of business cards underneath it, which read ‘Jade Nguyen, Attorney-at-Law’ on them.

“I’m supposed to sit my bar exam on Monday,” she explained, smiling at them a little. “I got appendicitis the day before I was supposed to take it the first time. It’s just not working out for me really well.” She sort of half laughed, and blinked back a few tears.

“I think he’d want you to sit it anyway,” I offered. “He was very proud of you, obviously.”

She nodded and rolled her eyes up to the ceiling for a moment to calm herself. “He’s been helping me study for weeks.” She brought her eyes back down to look at me. “I’m sorry; I totally missed your name when you said it.”

“Harry Dresden.”

“Harry Dresden,” she repeated, to herself. “I’d invite you in for tea or something, but I honestly don’t know if I have any. Everyone brings you food, but no one ever brings tea. Do you want a sandwich or a cookie or something? I have lots of those.”

“That’s okay, thanks,” I said.

“If you’re sure?” I nodded. “Alright. Thank you, Mr. Dresden, for bringing this,” she said, holding up the box. “Did you know Jake well?”

“Not as well as I wish I had,” I said. “But I know that he loved you very much.”

She smiled again. “Thank you.”

“Good luck on your exam.”

“Thanks.” She blew out a long breath. “I’ll need it.”

“You could give me one of those cards,” I suggested. “I’ll need a lawyer someday, I’m sure. It’s inevitable.”

She laughed out loud at that and selected one to give to me. When I took it, she stood on her tip-toes and gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for making me smile. Everyone’s afraid of me right now. It’s nice to smile.”

“Happy to oblige,” I said, blushing. “Take care of yourself.”

“I will,” she said.

I left her smiling at the box and headed back to the elevator. I looked upwards. “How’d I do?” I asked the ceiling. The elevator dinged cheerfully in response. I stepped in, got the button going on the first try and rode smoothly to the main floor.


When I got back home, Murphy was on my doorstep. She smacked me in the shoulder when she saw me. “You didn’t call me and you didn’t answer your phone!”

“I was out!” I defended myself. “Chill out, Murph. You’re just grumpy because they won’t let you go to work.”

“How do you know that?” she asked.

“Because if they were letting you, you wouldn’t be here attacking me,” I replied.

“They won’t let me back until Monday,” she said, pouting.

“Wow, you’d think you’d been in the hospital or something.”

She smacked me again. “Shut up, Dresden. Hey, where’s your jeep?”

“Shop.”

“Again?”

“C’mon, it’s been at least a month since it was last there,” I objected, as I let us into the apartment and scouted for Bob in case I had to shoo him off. “Where’s Anna?”

“Friend’s house,” she answered. “Birthday party sleepover thing.”

“Wanna stay for supper?”

“Yes,” she said. “But I’m cooking. I don’t want spaghetti again.”

“I could make...” I started, trying to think. “Hey, how about you make dinner?”

She shook her head. “You think you’re cute, but you’re not.”

“Not even a little bit?” I asked.

“Maybe a little,” she admitted.

I grinned and received another smack in response to it. She headed off to the kitchen and I went into the lab to drop off the ‘emergency ghost kit’ I had brought in case Jake was still stuck. Bob was standing in front of his equation, looking very satisfied with himself. I had to move carefully because there were numbers and symbols everywhere, most of them crossed-out and discarded. I did a lot of ducking.

“Is the young man crossed over?” he asked.

“Done and done,” I said. “Find out how to turn coal into gold yet?”

“I have solved Rossum’s Theorum,” he announced.

“What does that do?” I asked, standing next to him in hopes that point of view would yield better understanding.

“Nothing, Harry, it’s merely an equation,” he explained.

“What’s the answer?”

“42.”

“Well, that’s not very useful,” I said.

“It is not intended to be useful. It is intended to challenge and expand the mind,” he intoned.

“Seems stupid to me,” I stated.

“Yes, Harry, and that is why your career as a wizard will consist of nothing more than a long list of items which you have blown-up.”

“I’m okay with that,” I decided. He sighed heavily. “Murphy’s here.”

“Yes, I know,” he said.

“How?”

“Aside from the fact that she has spent the last ten minutes pacing outside your door, you are wearing the smile you always wear when she is around,” he explained.

“I have a Murphy smile?” I asked.

“Yes,” he confirmed.

“What does it look like?”

He shifted into my doppelganger and smiled, demonstrating. “Like this.”

I examined it for a moment. “Nah,” I said, dismissing it.

He rolled his eyes and shifted back to his usual appearance. “Allow me to add ‘failing to notice the obvious’ to your list of career achievements.”

“What’s the obvious?” I asked.

He sighed again. “Never mind. Did the young man say anything? Of what it was like, on the other side?”

“No,” I said. “I mean, he said it looked nice. Then he just sort of walked away and...” I made a poof motion. “Disappeared.”

“I see,” he said, looking disappointed.

“Sorry,” I offered.

He shrugged and went back to eyeing his equation. I waited for a few moments to see if he was going to say anything else, but he just looked contemplative and I left him to contemplate. Murphy was tossing things into a pot on the stove. I took over stirring for her and she continued to chop things up with violent knife-karate chop action. The carrots were quaking in anticipation. I pushed up my sleeves and started to transfer the carnage to the pot. She stopped and took my arm, looking down at my hand with a frown.

“Murph?” I asked.

“Shields,” she muttered. She looked up at me. “It’s a shield bracelet.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“I thought they were coins,” she said.

“They’re shields,” I said.

She nodded, looking a bit zoned out for a moment. “You’re not a total loser.”

“Thanks,” I said.

She went back to chopping and I blew out a relieved breath. She didn’t mention anything else from her dream, though I did catch her giving me funny looks a few times. We ate and were not interrupted by any phone calls telling us of strange epidemics.


On Monday morning, I went down to the bank to get the money I owed Susan, the money I owed Mike and the money I would need to rent a car for the next few weeks. When I left, I had exactly $8.75 in my account. The bank lady looked sad for me, but I just smiled. Life was back to normal.