Zombies, vampires, fae, random abstracts made flesh trying to eat one’s face, Harry would admit, if prompted, occasionally sucked. They tried to kill/molest/eat/sell you on Ebay, and it became tiring after a while, especially since the higher the chance of certain death, the less likely there was someone to pay him. Saving the world from a bunch of necromancers? Yeah, right. At least he wasn’t billed for Sue’s destruction.
Still, the insult to the head injuries/random bites/broken bones came after.
The domestic portion.
Cleaning the blood out of his clothes (if he even could), buying new boots after a black dog ate one of them, trying to figure out if certain potion ingredients were tax deductible…Harry doubted Dick Tracy ever had to do any of that.
The worst insult? Taking Mouse to the vet after yet another major fight. Unfortunately, Mouse agreed.
Harry would never admit it to anyone, but if Marcone offered him his own personal vet, he might consider working for the mob boss. Might. Possibly. The chance to never hear this conversation again was tempting.
“Good morning!” the receptionist chirped as the doorbell rang. Harry automatically looked up to see who entered the small waiting room and cringed. He thought he heard Mouse groan quietly. “Do you have an appointment?”
And thus The Insult walked into the small but comfortable waiting room, a beautiful white poodle half Mouse’s height and less than half his impressive girth strutting behind her. Harry quickly looked away before eye contact could be made, only to see Mouse sitting up with a straightness that would make any soldier proud. Mouse’s muzzle went up a notch, and Harry swore he saw a disdain in his eyes that could have only been learned from Mister.
“No,” the woman said, walking past Harry as if he didn’t exist. The poodle did the same, and Mouse snorted once. The poodle’s head jerked up so his nose was in the air. Harry wanted to go back to bed. “I just need to see the vet for vaccinations.”
Harry looked up to see the receptionist smile politely at the woman. Harry catalogued details as she did so: sharp black heels which disturbingly matched the poodle’s shiny black collar, an equally sharp striped business suit that cost more than most of Harry’s wardrobe combined, and blond hair piled on her head in a way that made the ozone weep in despair. The woman’s face would have been beautiful except for the slight sneer.
“I’ll let him know you’re in, but you will have to wait.” Harry knew what was coming and tried not to cringe when the receptionist nodded his way. “We have another patient with an appointment waiting.”
Harry grinned winningly at the woman when bright blue eyes glanced his way. Mouse just stared back in a way that made Harry wonder if he needed to encourage Mouse to hang around more dogs.
The woman turned back to the receptionist and sniffed. Sniffed! Harry idly studied her hair and wondered how much the hair products would affect a small curse if he could snag a strand. Just a small curse. Maybe a bad luck curse? “But it’s just some mutt! My dog is a pure breed and it cost over $1000!”
And off she went, ranting about the poodle’s lineage even as the receptionist’s smile grew more strained. After years of marketing himself as a wizard and an incident or two with a show which should not be named, most insults slid off Harry like slime off a troll. Harassing a woman who was just doing her job? Insulting Mouse? That was going too far.
Harry cleared his throat and stood up. Mouse enthusiastically began to pant and wag his tail. The woman’s rant didn’t stop, so Harry cleared his throat again. Nothing. He sighed. “And your point is?” he asked, raising his voice to be heard above hers.
Now the woman turned on him. Give him Winter fae, give him water nymphs, give him anything but righteous assholes.
Still, sometimes the level of satisfaction came frighteningly close to each other.
He heard the doorbell ring again as the woman turned her rant on him. “I’m in a hurry! Can’t you just wait a bit longer? Your dog isn’t a valuable pure breed.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. He was prouder of learning how to do that than learning most spells. “...So, he's inbred then?” he inquired.
The woman’s rant stopped mid-word. Harry let himself smile. Just a little. “What?”
Just a little, little smile as he continued, “’Purest of purebreds', right? That generally means the family tree doesn't fork.” A sweet smile even, not smug in the slightest. “So. How purebred is purebred?”
The color of the woman’s angry flush matched her lipstick. As a detective, Harry needed to make note of these things. He also noticed, purely on a wizardly level, how the purebred poodle rolled on the ground and bared its belly to Mouse. Mouse gracefully accepted its offering by placing a paw on its neck. Based on the lack of screech, Harry guessed his owner hadn’t noticed yet.
The greatest proof he wasn’t a warlock? He didn’t curse the sneer off the woman’s face. “And I’m sure your mutt is worth so much?”
Okay, maybe now it was more of a smirk than a smile. He had probably saved this woman’s life multiple times. He was allowed to smirk a little. “Actually, he's a rather rare breed. They're hardly ever seen out of Tibet. Wars have been fought over the honor of being gifted with the companionship of one.” Harry reached down to scratch Mouse’s ear. Mouse casually leaned into his hand, never moving his paw from the poodle’s neck.
The woman’s mouth opened again, but another voice cut her off. Suddenly, Harry’s day grew that much worse. “Indeed, Mr. Dresden. One day you will need to tell me how you acquired such a prize.”
The woman’s face changed from red to white so quickly it amazed Harry she didn’t faint. “Mr. Marcone. Sir!”
Yeah. Give Harry zombies any day of the week. Nothing wrong with zombies, really, if you ignore the breaking of the Law and how their skin never quite stayed where it was supposed to.
He sighed his most long-suffering sigh – living with Thomas helped him improve it – and turned to an annoyingly familiar face. “Really? Out of all the vets in Chicago, you come to this one?”
Cursing that smile off Marcone’s face surely wouldn’t count as a warlock act right? Right? Marcone stood by the door in a suit that probably cost three of the woman’s, at least, with Hendricks a hulking shadow behind him. A Doberman rested docilely in Hendricks’ arms, eyes a little too dull, nose too clearly dry from even this distance. Still, the Doberman looked at Mouse, panted, and wagged its tail. Harry looked down to see Mouse seem to nod back. Harry sighed and turned back to Marcone.
“Mr. Marcone,” the receptionist began, and it was the panic in her voice that made Harry turn back and look at her. Her head jerked with her eyes as she took in the woman, Harry, and Marcone, only one of which, Harry guessed, actually had an appointment. While she felt brave enough to tell the woman to get back in line, telling that to Gentleman Johnny Marcone was another matter. Harry let a hint of teeth come through his smile. That was fine. Harry had no problem telling him to get in line.
Except it didn’t come down to that. Marcone smiled charmingly at the receptionist, and she almost swooned. Harry groaned under his breath and heard Mouse huffing beside him. When Harry looked down at him, though, Mouse just stared back with wide, innocent eyes.
Definitely didn’t learn that trick from Mister.
“I would like to schedule an appointment for Lady, please,” Marcone said politely. He gestured to the Doberman in Hendricks’ arms. Now that Harry was paying attention, he realized the dog was young, probably just out of puppyhood. Apparently, Marcone’s protectiveness of his employees included the four-legged kind, too. “I understand that my appointment will be after Mr. Dresden’s, of course.”
As the woman tried to step back, only to realize her poodle was still under Mouse’s paw, Harry realized that the Doberman not-puppy probably, somehow, impossibly, cost more than her four-legged fluff ball. He looked down at Mouse, who happily panted and wagged his tail, and felt his brain break a little as he remembered how he acquired the legendary breed. Yeah. Zombies were more understandable. On another note…
“Lady?” he inquired, trying not to flinch when he realized how few seats there were. He hastily scooted to take one before Marcone could sit down. Mouse relented and let the poodle rise, and the poodle scurried after its owner.
Marcone raised an eyebrow, which made Harry twitch a little, and then had the audacity to sit beside Harry, which made him just want to start throwing around fireballs. “Mouse?” the bastard returned, voice as polite as ever.
Harry scowled. “It made sense at the time.”
Even as Marcone nodded in a way that made it clear he was simply humoring the poor, brain-defective man, Hendricks attempted to sit down on Marcone’s other side. The dog in his arms had other ideas. Hendricks flailed after the Doberman, but she had already jumped down to lay at Mouse’s feet. Marcone stopped mid condescending nod to watch at Lady staring adoringly at Mouse. Harry just groaned as Mouse sat up with military precision again, gesturing at Lady as if to tell her to do the same. After a moment, she did, sitting up elegant and straight and still staring at Mouse with wide eyes.
“Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?” Hendricks asked lowly.
Harry shrugged and leaned back in his chair. He knew there was more room between the waiting room chairs than this, but he could still feel the heat of Marcone’s body. Maybe the room was smaller than he thought. “Yeah, he can be a bit of a know-it-all at times, but you get used to it.”
Marcone stared at the pair in fascination, even as Lady tried to sidle a little closer to Mouse. Mouse huffed at her, and Lady whined. “…she’s fixed.”
Harry shrugged again. “You should see what happens when I take him to the park.”
Marcone smiled at him, a gentle curving of lips Harry never saw in the newspapers. “Is that an invitation, Mr. Dresden?”
“Mr. Dresden and Mouse?” the vet called, even as the receptionist began coughing. His skin suddenly feeling too tight over his bones, Harry hurriedly stood up. “You can come back now.”
“Coming!” he said quickly. He made the mistake of looking once at Marcone before tightening his grip on Mouse’s leash and striding to the door beside the reception desk. Mouse huffed quietly as they walked, but Harry lifted his chin and ignored him. The receptionist stared wide-eyed between Marcone and Harry as Harry exited the room, and Harry wondered if she just wasn’t used to seeing someone talk back to Gentleman Johnny.
“Hello, Mouse!” a voice greeted from the back. “I hear you might need some shots today!”
Mouse’s huffing vanished into an annoyed whine, and Harry’s smile returned.
At least he wouldn’t have to suffer through this domestic nonsense alone. If it didn’t feel so domestic taking a Foo dog to the vet and having a mobster sit and chat with him, well, it was more domestic than zombies.
Even if he would still take the zombies.