The knock came just as I managed to persuade my eyes to close, and I let out one of the most heartfelt groans I could muster, tugged a cushion over my aching head and attempted to send a very fervent telepathic 'bugger off' signal. Whoever was outside ignored it, and kept right on knocking. I lay there for a second and snarled at the ceiling, determinedly not moving. After 34 hours running around the place getting pounded on, I really, really wasn't in the mood. I ached all over, my head felt as though a troll with a toothache was taking out his anger on it with a five-iron, and I could barely muster the energy to close my eyes, let alone get up and deal with someone. I wasn't moving, and that was final!
"Mr Dresden?" The familiar, urbane voice made itself known at the edges of my consciousness, and I groaned. "If I might have a word?"
No, you may not! I thought, viciously, but one doesn't ignore Gentleman John. Not if one wants to keep one's limbs in the order they came in, anyway, and I'd had enough of being beaten up for a couple of weeks. For a lifetime, really, but I'm not that much of an optimist. Grumbling, I made my staggery way to the door, checked the wards on pure autopilot, and managed to wrestle it open enough to lean on the doorframe and glare.
"What?" I growled. Well, I never said I was going to be polite about it.
Gentleman John raised one eyebrow at that. In amusement, rather than affront, the smug bastard.
"Something the matter, Mr Dresden?" he smiled, and if I had had more energy, and a lot less survival instinct, I'd have been tempted to try and smack him for it. Fortunately, common sense kicked in before I could do anything stupid.
"John," I managed. "I'm really, seriously not in the mood. Can we do this later?"
He frowned, then, money-coloured eyes going sharp and assessing, running rapidly over me to take in the hunch, the bandaged wrist, the spectacular black eye. He noted all that, inside of an instant, and something changed in his face that I was too bone-tired to comprehend. And then, slowly, as if I had the energy to stop him, he raised a hand to lay it carefully on my cheek, beneath the bruise.
I blinked at him.
"No, Harry," he murmured, and there was no mockery there, just a kind of quiet seriousness that I'd only seen once before from him, in a hospital outside the city, where a young woman lay in a coma. "I think we should do this now."
"... This?" I whispered, roughly, and he smiled, just a little.
"This," he nodded, and leant forward to kiss me, very softly, a whisper there and gone again. He kissed me, and moved into the door to wrap his arms around me, taking some of my weight off the doorframe, the muscles under his boater's tan shifting smoothly. I blinked some more, confused, worried, and ... warm. Warmed. All the way through. I should have fought, maybe, thrown him off. Should have pointed out the whole range of flaws in this plan of his. But I didn't. I was just too tired of being hurt.
He pulled back a little, the most dangerous man in Chicago, and looked me gently in the eyes, something deep and sparkling in his. I opened my mouth, tried to say something, but he shook his head. "For once in your life, Mr Dresden, please refrain from making a joke," he smiled, and I shut my mouth with a snap, and glared. He chuckled lightly, then turned serious again. "Harry," he murmured, brushing a hand over my cheek, his arm still firm around my waist. "Hush. Let me take care of you."
And maybe it was the fact that he was the first person in a long time to say that to me and mean it, maybe it was that he could, maybe it was just that I was too tired to fight, but I didn't say no.