Chapter 1: Take Me By The Tongue
April 15, 2007
Sam had leaped again. This time it was during the afternoon. He was outside, on a city street. The time traveler heard someone talking to him and looked up.
"Could you slap me?" The dark-haired man was taller than Sam and wearing a leather jacket.
"What?" Sam asked, confused. He caught sight of his reflection in the sunglasses the speaker was wearing and bit his tongue to keep from cursing. He had leaped into a woman, again.
"Could you slap me? You see, I need a peak emotional surge, 'cause I got to jolt up the ant vomit a little, you see, so could you slap me?"
Sam shook his head. Was his host's friend nuts?
"I'm not slapping you."
"Alright," Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden replied. Murphy left him no choice. The wizard/private investigator had to do something to boost the power of the tracking spell, after all. How else could they follow the murderer’s trail? Without any warning, he wrapped his arms around Connie, leaned down and kissed her.
Sam's body went lax and his eyes drifted closed. He was being kissed! As the man's tongue began exploring his mouth, one thought formed in his brain.
INSERT THEME MUSIC
Sam was being kissed by a man. During his years of quantum leaping, he’d been a woman several times. He’d been a secretary, a beauty pageant contestant, a rape victim, even roughly nine-months pregnant, but he’d never had a man kissing him before. He wasn’t ready for this.
Surprisingly, though, the experience wasn’t entirely unpleasant… Whoa. Where did that thought come from?
Neither knew that they were being watched and photographed by a journalist by the name of D.W. Herrick.
Dresden pulled back, breaking the kiss.
Sam blinked. Then he reared back and slapped him.
Harry reeled from the blow, recovered himself, and looked back at the trail, which was no longer cold. He could now make out the tire tracks from the killer’s vehicle.
“Perfect,” he proclaimed, as if he hadn’t been slapped in the face. “Let’s go.” He started walking, expecting Murphy to follow him.
Sam stood there for a minute and then jogged to catch up.
“Wait, what was that about?”
“I told you. I needed a jolt to strengthen the tracking spell. It worked.”
“Did you say spell? As in magic?”
May 31, 2011
Project Quantum Leap HQ
Stallions Gate, New Mexico
Admiral Al Calavicci drained the last of his chocolate milk from his mug and set it down on his desk before leaving his office. Ziggy said the beverage was supposed to help him with the headaches he’d been experiencing.
“I know, Ziggy,” Al cut off the artificially intelligent computer his friend had invented. “Sam’s leaped again,” he said as he headed towards the Imaging Chamber.
Years ago Dr. Sam Beckett, Al’s best friend, had discovered how to time travel within one’s lifetime. Sam was able to “leap” into another person’s life. People would see Sam as if he was the person he’d temporarily switched places with. The only catch was that Sam had gone back in time before figuring out how to return. (Yeah, Sam probably should’ve known better. But Project Quantum Leap relied on government funding, and their funding would have been cut off if he’d waited any longer.) Ever since he’d left, God, Fate, Time, or Whatever had taken control of Sam’s journey, giving Sam the opportunity to put right what had once gone wrong. And Sam, being Mr. Morals, always did, with help from Al and Ziggy.
Sam, the genius (with seven doctorates to his name) had not only made breakthroughs in time travel and artificial intelligence. He’d also worked out a way for Al to stay in touch with the time traveler. It involved somehow linking their neurons and mesons, well, Al wasn’t exactly sure what the specifics were, but he knew he was keyed into Sam’s brainwaves. As long as Al was inside the Imaging Chamber, he could appear as a hologram that (for the most part) only Sam would be able to communicate with, and in turn, Sam and his surroundings would appear as a hologram to Al.
Pretty neat stuff; unfortunately, though, time travel had given Sam a case of amnesia. Together they’d dubbed it the “Swiss-cheese effect,” after the holes left in Sam’s otherwise photographic memory. A lot of the holes had filled in over time, but not all of them, and more appeared in between leaps.
“Where is he this time?” Al asked Ziggy as he entered the chamber.
April 15, 2007
“There’s no such thing as magic!” Sam insisted as the Imaging Chamber door opened and shut behind his friend.
“Are you sure about that, Sam?” Al asked. He tried to hide his appraisal of Sam’s latest appearance—that of a cute brunette, around five feet tall. No reason for both of them to be creeped out just because Al found the illusion of the young woman appealing. He’d make an appointment with Verbena Beeks, the project’s psychiatrist, soon. ‘Bena always knew what to say to make Al feel less uncomfortable with these situations.
“Murphy,” Harry groaned. The wizard nearly stopped in his tracks, before continuing. “I thought we’ve been through this already.”
It had only been weeks since he’d explained to Murph that he’d killed his uncle, Justin Morningway, with black magic (in self-defense, of course). He might not have exactly given her a full crash course in magic, but she’d still accepted, however grudgingly, that magic was real. Her sudden denial was fishy, though he didn’t have time to stop and explore it now.
“You know magic is real—why else did you allow me to pour ant vomit on your sunglasses?”
“You poured ant vomit on,” Sam wrinkled his nose.
“Ugh. Charming,” Al commented.
“It’ll wash off,” Harry said, defensively. “But if it bothers you that much, I’ll buy you a new pair: After the Chicago PD pays my consultant’s fee.” Harry made a mental note to check later to see if the kiss had somehow inadvertently damaged Murphy’s brain. He doubted that was possible, but Bob would know if it was.
Sam continued to follow the P.I., but lagged behind a bit to talk with Al.
“Al, thank god. What am I doing here?” Sam whispered. Al plucked a hand-link out of a pocket.
“Well, let’s see. It’s April 15, 2007. You’re in Chicago and you’re Lieutenant Connie Murphy, of the Chicago Police Department. You’re in charge of the Special Investigations Division.”
“What does Special Investigations handle?”
“From what I can gather, cases the other departments don’t want. They get calls about sewer monsters and the boogeyman, that sort of thing.”
“Terrific. Any idea who the moron that thinks he can do magic with a pair of sunglasses and ant vomit is?”
Al pressed a couple of buttons on the hand-link before replying.
“Oh, that’s probably Harry Dresden. He’s been consulting for Special Investigations and he advertises in the phone book as a wizard.”
“A wizard?” Sam asked, skeptically.
“Stranger things have happened,” Al replied. “Remember that time you were a vampire?” Sam shook his head.
“Oh come on, Al: A real vampire? That’s ridiculous.”
“Well, how about the time you were nearly abducted by aliens?”
“Okay, that I remember,” Sam sighed, wistfully. “But that’s completely different.” Aliens were real; wizards weren’t. “Anyway, why am I here?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“Well, Dresden goes missing sometime in the next few days. He’s presumed dead. Ziggy thinks there’s a 78.3% chance that you’re supposed to save him.”
“If that’s it, then why did you say you didn’t know?”
“Because there’s also a 96% chance that saving Dresden is ancillary to the rest of your mission, and Ziggy’s not sure what that is. She says she needs more information.”
“But you’ve been keeping Ziggy’s databanks up to date.”
“So how could Ziggy possibly not have enough information?”
“It’s happened before, Sam. We got that stupid ‘access denied’ message on that spy leap…” Al trailed off.
“What is it?”
“There might be another computer we could consult…” After Sam had saved Stephen Bartowski, a.k.a. Orion, from death at the hands of rival spies, Orion had joined the team in New Mexico. Bartowski’s I.Q. was somewhere around Sam’s, and he’d been working on the Retrieval Program to get Sam home. The man was a retired spy who had invented a computer system called the Intersect that could be downloaded into the brain—and he’d tested it on himself.
Maybe the Intersect would have more information about this leap. It was worth a shot.
“I’ll be back later, Sam.”
“And what do I do in the meantime?”
“Just follow Dresden’s lead.” With that, Al departed.
“Stephen,” Al called. Bartowski had come back to work this morning. Seeing his face was always a little disorienting: Bartowski was the spitting image of Sam. Al wondered if they’d been separated at birth. “Is there anything in the Intersect about Harry Dresden?”
“No, Al.” When something was in the Intersect, a name, a face, a picture, something would trigger a flash. Stephen would see a series of encoded images as the knowledge from the computer was unlocked. The name Dresden wasn’t triggering anything, which meant that neither the CIA nor the NSA had had a file on him.
“What about Connie Murphy?”
They tried a few more prompts without finding out anything useful.
“Although,” Orion pointed out, “at least we can be pretty sure they’re not spies. Ziggy’s got nothing to go on?” Al sighed.
“Not a thing, which means whatever happened, there’s no record of it. We’re going to have to do some old-fashioned investigating.”
“So you’re flying out to Chicago?”
“Are you kidding? I went on the last two trips. Isn’t it your turn?”
“No can do, Al. I’m this close to perfecting the Retrieval Program.”
Then, Sam would finally be able to come home. His days of leaping were almost over. Wow.
“Ain’t that a kick in the butt,” Al cracked a smile. “Okay. Can you spare Sammy Jo?”
“I need her to help me with the Retrieval Program.”
“What about Chuck?” Al asked, referring to Stephen’s son, who’d gone into the family business.
“Charles and Sarah are on their honeymoon now. They are not to be disturbed. That leaves you, Al. You’ll just have to tear yourself away from--”
“What about Frost?” Orion considered the suggestion.
“She might be willing to help. But she won’t be happy about it. She’s been looking forward to spending more time with her granddaughter.”
“Clara’s four months old. She’ll still be there when Mary gets back.”
Harry had apparently arrived at their destination. They’d followed the magical trail into a building and to the door of an apartment.
“The trail ends here,” Harry explained.
“So this is….” Sam trailed off.
“Where the killer went after he drowned Reyes last night,” Harry finished. The wizard still wanted to know how the perp had drowned someone outside a convenience store.
Harry seemed to be waiting for Sam’s reaction. That’s right; Sam was supposed to be in the Chicago Police Department. That explained the pistol he was carrying on him.
“You’re sure this is the right place?” Sam asked.
“Okay.” Sam shrugged. He turned towards the door and kicked it in.
“What? Murphy! I thought you had to get a warrant for that! Not to mention knock and announce!”
“Right. POLICE,” Sam called into the dark apartment as they stepped inside.
Harry apparently got over his concern for the fourth amendment pretty quickly and began looking for clues. He found the brand that had been used the night before and then a scrapbook full of newspaper articles, including one of Reyes. There was a pattern here. The articles were about the killer’s victims. But the last few pages had been torn out…
A figure rushed out at them from a closet and started to attack.
Harry reached a hand into his leather jacket to pull out a weapon. Sam blinked. Was that a drumstick? How the hell was he going to defend himself with a drumstick?
Author’s Note: Welcome to the latest installment in the Project Quantum Leap series. You don’t have to have read the previous fics to read this one (not that I’d complain if you look them up). You also shouldn’t have to be familiar with all of the fandoms at play in this fic.
If you’re keeping score at home, this crossover includes “Chuck” (somewhat, since this is in the same series as Chuck v. Project Quantum Leap). Other than that, it mixes “Quantum Leap” with “The Dresden Files”. And when I say The Dresden Files, I’m trying to meld the TV ‘verse with the book ‘verse. But when in doubt, assume its TV ‘verse (that or you haven’t gotten to the correct book yet. Or I’m changing something for the fic.) I haven’t read “Ghost Story” yet. Anything before that is fair game for inspiration, so beware of potential spoilers ahead.
I’m disregarding Quantum Leap’s series finale, “Mirror Image.” I’ve decided it didn’t happen in this ‘verse. So Al’s currently not married. Sorry, Al.
And in case you didn’t catch it in the summary, this fic may contain slash.
What did you think of chapter one? Am I boring you already? Mixing too many fandoms? You know how to let me know.
Chapter 2: Forgotten, But Not Gone
April 15, 2007
What Sam didn’t know was that the drumstick was Harry’s blasting rod. The wizard was all set to send blasts of energy hurling at their foe, who had dodged past them into the hallway outside the door.
As far as Sam was concerned, Dresden’s best weapon was a drumstick, whereas he had a gun. The leaper aimed at the villain and fired repeatedly, emptying the magazine. Yet it wasn’t enough to stop the unknown man, who ran off. They were too stunned to give chase.
“I shot him,” Sam said, turning to face the self-proclaimed wizard. Harry’s brows creased.
“I know.” But the enemy hadn’t been wounded. There had been no blood (human or otherwise) left behind.
“He must’ve been wearing a bullet-proof vest,” Sam concluded.
“Not necessarily,” Harry countered. Bullets weren’t deadly to all creatures. Hell, he’d stopped bullets with his shield bracelet. He led the way back into the apartment. “Come on. I found some evidence for you to take to your boss.”
The killer had taken the brand with him, but the scrapbook was still there. They bagged it up and took it to the Chicago P.D. For some reason, Murphy’s captain wasn’t impressed.
“You’re off the case, Murphy.”
“What? Why?” Sam asked.
Harry tried to come to his friend’s defense, pointing out how the scrapbook could lead them to the killer. Unfortunately, this only drew attention to his presence there; his, apparently, unwelcome presence. Yeesh, as if hiring a wizard consultant wasn’t money well spent.
“Sam, we’ve sent Frost to do some digging,” Al began as he entered the Imaging Chamber.
“Lieutenant, what is your relationship with this man?” the captain asked.
“My relationship? He’s a consultant,” Sam replied.
“Then how do you explain this?” The captain tossed a photograph of the earlier kiss onto Murphy’s desk. Harry looked up and saw the photographer, D.W. Herrick, standing in the bullpen.
Sam choked. Al took a look at the picture.
“Must’ve been taken before you leaped in, Sam…” The project observer trailed off as he took in Sam’s expression. “It was before you leaped in, right?”
“Uh, there’s a perfectly logical explanation—”
“Sam, you didn’t!”
“You’re off the case, Murphy,” the captain repeated. “Kirmani,” Murphy’s partner, “can take it from here.”
Connie’s father, Joe Murphy, had witnessed the scene. Joe had flown into Chicago the night before. Connie hadn’t been thrilled by the surprise visit from her dad. (They weren’t close.) Similarly, Joe wasn’t taking kindly to his daughter’s association with Dresden. Not that Sam knew any of that.
Joe approached Sam and invited the leaper to join him for a beer. Over drinks, Murphy tried to convince his daughter that Dresden was a con-artist. It was a hopeless endeavor—would’ve been, even if Sam hadn’t switched places with Connie.
“Did you know he stole a carriage?” Joe asked, after he’d detailed how Harry had lost his parents. “Which also makes him a horse thief,” the retired officer added.
“Dad, look: I know you mean well,” Sam began, “but you don’t know Harry. I trust him,” which was true, even though the time traveler thought Dresden was nuts.
They were both surprised when Detective Kirmani came in to arrest Joe for murder.
June 1, 2011
“Hi. I’m Mary Bartowski,” the spy offered her a hand. “I was told you’re the person to ask about Harry Dresden.” Murphy narrowed her eyes.
“Oh? What’s your interest in Dresden?”
“I’m his aunt. I haven’t heard from him in a long time and I’m getting worried.”
“His aunt; nice try, lady, but Dresden doesn’t have any family. His last relative, Justin Morningway, died years ago.”
“Morningway was my maiden name—”
“Sure it was. I don’t know who you are, but Dresden was my friend. You’re poking at a wound,” she said in a level voice. “I think you’d better leave now.”
Mary entered the abandoned building. The letters on the glass door that had said, “Harry Dresden, Wizard,” had been chipped off. She frowned as she looked around. The place looked too clean for a property that hadn’t been in use for four years. There should have been dust everywhere. She pulled out her cell phone and called her husband.
“Alright, Stephen, I’m here.”
“Did you find anything?”
“So far all I’ve found out is that the place is suspiciously clean, but then, the landlady may have someone come by to maintain it in the hopes that someone else will rent it, someday…”
The truth was that there were fairies that had been cleaning Harry’s office/home since before his forced retirement. However, they hadn’t been responsible for feeding Harry’s cat, Mister, whom Murphy had inherited.
“You’re telling me the property has been vacant for four years?”
“That’s right. There hasn’t been another tenant since Dresden went missing. Apparently there’s some rumor floating around that the place is haunted.”
“Have you been to the C…?”
“Yes, I went to the Chicago PD first. Missing Persons sent me to see Lieutenant Murphy. She didn’t buy that I was a long-lost relative of Dresden’s from out-of-town.”
“You posed as a relative? Wouldn’t you have been better off pretending you wanted to hire Dresden’s services?”
“His ad was pulled out of the yellow pages years ago; how was I going to pose as a potential client? Especially when he was supposed to have been a wizard…
“What was I supposed to do, tell her the truth? That there’s a secret government project involving time travel and we’re working to try to change history? The project’s supposedly saved your life and I still can’t believe it.
“Look, I’ll sneak in later and take a look at their files, but I think this is a waste of time. I’m retired now. We’re grandparents. We should be spending time with Clara. I—we’ve both lost enough time with Ellie and Chuck.”
God, her children had been so young when she’d abandoned them. It had killed her to leave them behind, but she had to. Someone had to infiltrate Volkoff Industries and she couldn’t do that from Burbank. At least they had still had their father…up until Stephen, too, had left.
He’d become obsessed with trying to track her down and bring her home. And besides, Orion had racked up a number of enemies. People were forever seeking to get their hands on his invention, the Intersect. Stephen couldn’t let Eleanor or Charles get dragged into that mess. (But despite his best efforts, they were dragged in eventually, anyway. He blamed Charles’ college roommate, Bryce Larkin.)
“If anything had been turned up, Ziggy would’ve known about it. Sam will just have to watch Dresden’s back if he wants to save him from whoever got … Well, he’ll just have to figure out what the rest of his mission is when the time comes. At any rate, if you accomplish your mission and bring Sam back, it’ll be a moot poi—
“Did you find something?”
“No, it’s nothing. Just looking at the pamphlets still lying around Dresden’s office; he’s got one here resembling the Ten Commandments called the ‘Laws of Magic’ and they mention time travel—”
“Actually, they prohibit time travel: On pain of death.” Frost spun around and, with her free hand, aimed a gun at the speaker—a British man with silver hair. The gun pointed at his chest didn’t seem to faze him in the least.
“Honey, I’m going to have to call you back,” Mary said, before disconnecting the call. The man continued speaking.
“It’s ‘thou shall not swim against the currents of time,’ and it also ensures that portents be kept vague to avoid creating paradoxes.”
“Who are you?” Frost demanded.
“Considering that this has been my home for nearly a decade, I rather think that I should be asking you that.”
“You’ve been living here? I thought Dresden had lived here alone.”
“He didn’t like to talk about me—”
“He still doesn’t.” Harry emerged from another room. “Bob, I told you to stay in the other room and keep quiet.”
“You can’t give me orders anymore,” Bob said, softly, reaching a hand out towards Harry, who scowled. Hrothbert of Bainbridge had become Harry’s mentor after the wizard was orphaned at the age of eleven. Centuries ago, Hrothbert had been convicted of necromancy, executed, and sentenced to spend eternity as a ghost. ‘Bob’, as Harry had christened him, had been bound to his skull and was compelled to serve whoever was in possession of it. When they had met, Justin Morningway had been the skull’s owner. When Justin died, Harry had picked up the skull.
But Harry wasn’t the skull’s owner anymore. At the moment, no one was.
“I know. It wasn’t an order, but—”
“Mr. Dresden, I presume? It appears rumors of your death have been greatly exaggerated.” Harry pursed his lips and avoided meeting her blue eyes.
“And you would be?” he asked.
“Looking for information,” the brunette began. Neither man had tried to get her to put down the gun. It might as well have been invisible, for all the good it was doing her. She sighed and lowered her weapon, stowing it behind her back.
“You can call me Mary.” She gestured at the pamphlets. “Do you really believe this stuff, about magic…?”
“And being a wizard?” Harry looked to Bob and silently communicated: I thought I was through with facing that question years ago. “Yes, Mary. I’m for real. As you may have guessed, we were eavesdropping on your conversation just now. We know you tried—and failed—to pull a fast one on Murphy. And we know you’re not here because you need the help of Chicago’s former professional wizard. So, how about we cut to the chase? Why are you really here?” Frost searched his face and then nodded.
“You do believe that time travel is possible?”
“I suppose so. Can’t imagine why it would be illegal if it wasn’t.” He frowned. “Oh, stars. Don’t tell me you’re a warlock!” Seeing the woman’s confusion, Bob spoke up.
“A warlock is someone who has broken the Laws of Magic,” he explained.
“Right, well, Mr. Potter, seeing as how I’m a muggle, I don’t see how those laws would apply to me.” Harry winced.
“Okay, normally I love a pop culture reference as much as the next guy, but not when I’m being compared to Potter. And we don’t say ‘muggle,’ we say ‘vanilla mortal.’”
“I stand corrected,” she drawled. “Okay.” She could not believe she was having this conversation. When she got her hands on Stephen… “Suffice it to say that another ‘vanilla mortal’ found a way to travel through time, without magic. He needs to know what happened back in 2007 so that he can fix it.”
“If she’s telling the truth,” Hrothbert began, “well, the Laws were never meant to be enforced against mortals.”
“Whose Laws?” Mrs. Bartowski finally blurted out. “And enforced how?”
“Can’t tell you who,” Harry said. “But the laws are enforced by beheading offenders.”
The High Council of Wizards was very big on secrecy. If there was an unwritten Eighth Law of Magic, it was: Thou Shall Not Tell Mortals about the High Council. Harry had a few issues with the governing body of wizards, mostly because they had tried him for capital offenses and found him guilty, twice. The first time, he’d been granted the High Council’s version of leniency, wherein he got to keep his head until he went back to the use of black magic. The second time, well… The High Council really didn’t give you more than two strikes.
“Any wizard helping you and your friend change time could get in trouble for breaking the Laws.”
“Oh, Harry. What are they going to do, kill you?” Bob asked. He reached a hand out towards the wizard again, and this time Harry grasped it and squeezed back.
“I feel like I’m missing something here,” Mary observed.
“You wanted to find out what happened to me in 2007?” Harry asked. She nodded. “That’s simple: I died.”
“You died?” Frost was extremely skeptical.
“I was executed for committing treason.”
Chapter title from the Goo Goo Dolls’ song, “Broadway.” Congratulations to those of you who caught the reference to Men In Black 3 in the first chapter.
Have any thoughts on the new chapter? Upset about the cliffhanger? Tired of “Second City” or the Bartowskis? You know the drill.
Chapter 3: Not Like We're Dead
April 15, 2007
“Sam, I’m still waiting for that ‘logical explanation’ as to why you were playing tonsil hockey with Dresden,” Al said. Sam was on his way to the CPD to find out why Joe had been arrested.
“Al, Connie’s father’s just been arrested for murder and that’s all you can think of?”
“Relax. Murphy Senior gets released in a couple of hours, Sam. You’ve been straight for as long as I’ve known you, which is a pretty damn long time.” Sam had been leaping since the mid-1990s. The two had become friends before Project Quantum Leap ever began. “So spill,” Al insisted.
“He said something about needing a peak emotional surge for the spell he was trying to cast,” Sam said. He was not blushing, damn it!
Al wasn’t convinced.
“Thought you didn’t believe in spells, Sam.”
“I don’t! Look, the photo doesn’t show you me slapping him two seconds later. Now does Ziggy have more information or not?”
“We’re still working on that. I’ll go pay a visit to Mr. Peak Emotional Surge and see if I can figure anything out. Gooshie, center me on Dresden!”
Back in his office, Harry and Bob looked at the photo Herrick had taken.
“What’s with the sunglasses?” the ghost asked.
“The ant vomit solution for the tracking spell, remember?” Harry replied.
“Right, I see. And… you were kissing because…?”
“I needed a jolt.”
“A jolt: That’s good; I’ve never heard that one before.”
“Harry, if you want to seduce the fair Lieutenant, you don’t need to use a pretense like…”
“Who said anything about seducing Murphy?”
“Oh come now, it’s quite obvious. Look, no one expects you to maintain a vow of celibacy. It’s not like you’re dead… Who are you?” Hrothbert stared at the stranger. The Italian American’s hair, once dark, was now streaked with almost as much silver as Bob’s.
“You can see me?” Al asked, his brown eyes wide. The list of people in the past who could see Al was pretty limited (though many animals could). Outside of Sam, it was mostly only young children, people with mental disorders, guardian angels… There had been a Nerd Herder a couple of leaps ago that had apparently been able to see Al because he was high on something. The admiral wondered what category Dresden’s friend fell into. For that matter, who was he? Ziggy hadn’t had any information on Dresden having a roommate.
“Yes, I can see you,” Bob replied, his eyes narrowing. Perhaps the intruder had been using a veil to hide himself?
“Bob, who are you talking to?” Harry asked.
“That man right over—you can’t see him?”
“See who? There’s no one there!” the wizard insisted. Meanwhile, Al hurriedly opened the Imaging Chamber door and left.
“Yes, there is. Take a look at him with your Sight. Where did he go?”
June 1, 2011
“Let me get this straight: You expect me to believe that you’re a ghost,” Mary addressed Dresden.
“This coming from the lady that wanted to make sure that I believe in time travel,” Harry replied, rolling his eyes.
“Perhaps a demonstration might be in order,” Hrothbert suggested.
“Fine, whatever, just don’t walk through—” Bob vanished in a puff of smoke and gold sparks, and then rematerialized across the room. Mary stared at him.
“How did you do that?”
“I hope that convinced you, because the next step would be for one of us to walk through you. Trust me, that’s not the most pleasant experience for the living,” Harry confided to her as Bob went back to his side.
“Who are you?” Frost asked.
“I am Hrothbert of Bainbridge. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mary.”
“Likewise,” she replied. “Maybe you should begin at the beginning.”
“That would be with the High Council. God, if Morgan knew what I was about to tell you…” he trailed off, and bit his lip.
“Are you alright, Harry?” Bob asked.
“Yeah; just, never thought I’d miss Morgan, of all people, you know?”
“If I’d known, I’d never have suggested killing him.” (Long story: They had trapped Morgan in the lab to keep him from interfering with a case. Bob had been tasked with watching the warden while Harry rushed off to save the day.)
“That joke was in bad taste,” Harry said. Bob decided not to point out that he hadn’t been joking. He was still somewhat fuzzy on the whole good versus evil dichotomy. Harry cleared his throat before continuing.
“Anyway, wizards are self-governing. See, we have to maintain a low-profile—”
“Why?” Mary asked.
“Are you kidding? Does the term ‘witch hunt’ ring a bell?”
“I see your point. I always thought that those were mortals that were burned at the stake.”
“Most of them were hanged, not burned,” Bob corrected her. “And few of them were talented enough to qualify as wizards, but there were a number of practitioners--”
“Getting off topic, Bob,” Harry interrupted him. “Anyway, low profile and we have to crack down on black magic… Maybe you should tell her this, Bob.”
“Alright; centuries ago, wizards banded together to form the High Council and laid down the Seven Laws of Magic that you read there. The Senior Council, composed of a select few, leads the organization, though occasionally matters will be opened to the general membership for a vote.”
“Back up a minute,” Frost turned to the younger spirit. “You said that the punishment for breaking one of the laws is beheading?”
“Yeah, they have an officer called a warden chop your head off with a sword, to be more specific. Morgan—Donald Morgan was the warden assigned to me after I broke the First Law of Magic.” Frost went back to the pamphlet she’d found.
“You killed someone,” she said, non-judgmentally. As a spy, she had had occasion to kill a few people over the years.
“It was self-defense,” Harry explained, “but that didn’t stop Morgan from dreaming of the day he’d get to cut my head off.”
“And he finally did?” Frost asked. Bob took Harry’s hand again as the wizard shook his head.
“No, he didn’t. He… About four years ago, he came to me for help.”
“Why would he ask you for help if he hated you?” Mary asked, puzzled. “He would have had to have been—”
“Desperate? Yeah, he was. He came to me because the Council was going to execute him for a crime he didn’t commit. Funny thing was, despite our history, Morgan knew that I knew what it was like to have the Council unfairly pass judgment against you. And I knew that Morgan had to be innocent.
“He wasn’t a warden because he got a kick out of wielding a sword. He did what he did because it was his calling, because he was trying to protect the world from warlocks. He’d wanted me dead for so long because he truly believed I was a danger that had to be eliminated.
“Stars and stones, he was being framed for killing a member of the Senior Council! It was obvious that Morgan would sooner fall on his sword than lift a hand against Ancient Mai.”
“So what happened?” Frost pressed.
“We figured out that someone must’ve used an illusion to make himself look like Morgan when he killed Mai, but we didn’t get the chance to prove it.” Wizards generally weren’t that impressed by illusions. It wasn’t that illusions were easy to pull off, which they weren’t. It was that they assumed that they wouldn’t be taken in by them, as mortals would, because their gift of Sight would allow them to see through a mirage. The one problem with this reasoning was that wizards didn’t go around using their Sight 24/7. If they did, it would do more harm than good.
“The wardens came here, found that I’d been ‘harboring a fugitive,’ and they got two heads for the price of one that day,” Harry concluded.
“Two heads, not three?” Frost asked, looking at Bob speculatively as Harry swiped at his face.
“Oh, I’ve been dead quite a bit longer than four years,” the necromancer answered. “In case you were wondering, the High Council hasn’t changed its execution methods since its inception,” though at least Harry hadn’t been bound to his skull for eternity.
“I see. So you,” she turned towards Dresden, “hung around with a ghost while you were still alive.” Harry smiled.
“He’s a pretty good roommate actually, when he’s not singing show tunes or nagging me about the rent.” The spy muttered something under her breath that sounded like ‘wizards.’
“So you’re saying you and this warden were executed. Is he a ghost, too?”
“No, I haven’t seen Morgan since,” Harry added. “I guess he must’ve gone on to whatever comes next instead of becoming a ghost.” Harry, on the other hand, had stayed behind with Bob. Luckily, none of the wardens had come to take Bob away and find his skull a new owner. Harry suspected that they were somehow under the impression that the skull had been destroyed. Thank god for that.
“Harry,” Bob sighed, wrapping an arm around the other ghost.
“I’m okay,” Harry replied, but he leaned against his mentor. He didn’t know what he would’ve done without Bob. Their relationship had grown and changed since his death.
April 15, 2007
After they’d stopped puzzling over the mystery of the invisible man, Harry got to thinking about why Herrick had taken that picture. That photo had gotten Murphy kicked off the investigation… Herrick had to be their killer, then. He knew they were getting too close, so he’d gone over Murphy’s head. If only Harry had proof!
That photo album that they’d found… there had been a few pages missing in the back, no doubt including the killer’s intended future victims. If they could show that Herrick had those pages, they could nail him.
Lunch would have to wait. Ignoring his growling stomach, Harry headed over to Herrick’s office to do a little breaking and entering.
Meanwhile, at the Chicago PD, a sheepish Detective Kirmani entered the interrogation room that Joe Murphy had been escorted to.
“So, it turns out that you really were on a flight from Florida to Chicago at the time Reyes was drowned last night.”
“What do you know? Guess I’m not your guy,” Joe announced, his tone wry.
“I’ll just go start on the paperwork to get you out of here,” Kirmani said before making his escape.
Harry wasn’t having much luck ransacking the file cabinets in Herrick’s office. When the journalist came in, the wizard pulled his hockey stick on him. (He’d turned it into his wizard’s staff. It worked fine. Mortals might not believe in wizards, but they weren’t interested in having hockey sticks collide with parts of their anatomy, either.)
Herrick, far from coming across as a suspected serial killer, seemed to be genuinely perplexed. He insisted on his innocence.
“Then why follow us to take pictures?” Harry demanded.
“It was Munzer’s idea,” Herrick explained. He was writing a book all about Munzer—a cop with an unbelievable track record. (Murphy seemed to think Munzer was an ass. Having met him, Harry was inclined to agree with her.) Now Harry approached the bulletin board Herrick had set up, chronicling Munzer’s accomplishments. He’d had…quite a lot of near misses, actually. Wearing a Kevlar vest wouldn’t have accounted for the number of times this guy had cheated death.
Something niggled at Harry’s brain. The killer’s victims had all had brushes with death before that they’d miraculously survived. And each time, the killer had replicated the circumstances that had almost killed the person before. Reyes, for instance, had nearly drowned, been resuscitated, and then went about his life until last night, when he’d mysteriously drowned in the middle of a frozen Chicago street.
Harry went home and used Bob as a sounding board. Now that they knew what to look for, the pieces clicked into place. The killer—Munzer—was taking the second chances these people had been given at life for himself. That brand he used to burn victims was the murder weapon—it combined runes that together allowed him to cheat death. That was how Munzer had survived all the deadly situations he’d been in over the years. That’s how he’d barely flinched when Murphy had shot him earlier.
But he’d used up one of his second chances earlier to survive the shooting. He was going to have to restock his supply tonight.
Harry had to call Murphy and Kirmani. They had to stop Munzer before he killed again.
I’m sorry if anyone was dismayed by the revelation in the previous chapter. I realize you may not feel very reassured by this update, but remember, Sam’s there to change the timeline. And, besides, there are worse fates than death.
So, time to weigh in. Any thoughts on Bob being able to see Al? Dismayed by the bloodbath Sam is being tasked with averting?
June 1, 2011
After getting as much information about the original timeline as she could, Frost spent a few minutes trying to explain to the deceased wizards what they were doing at Project Quantum Leap. Harry’s eyes glazed over pretty quickly, but she hadn’t lost his attention.
“Whatever you do, you can’t let Morgan know that time travel is involved,” he said eventually. “He literally would not break the Laws of Magic to save his life.”
“But you would?” Frost asked.
“If I have anything to say about it,” Bob cut in, “then yes.”
“Bob,” Harry started.
“There was no reason for you to die so young, Harry.” As a wizard, Dresden should have had centuries ahead of him to enjoy life to the fullest, rather than an eternity of being taunted by a world he was no longer a part of.
“It hasn’t been all bad,” Harry replied. It was true that dying had taken almost everything from him, but it had given him something else. For the first time in all the years he’d known the sorcerer, he’d been able to touch Bob. (Well, actually it was the second time. But the brief time that Bob had been brought back to life had been a cruel joke.)
April 15, 2007
Harry still didn’t know how Murphy had known where to find Munzer. It wasn’t as if they’d known who the officer’s next target was going to be. Yet, almost immediately after the wizard had explained to her that Munzer was their guy she’d spouted off the address of a restaurant where they would find him.
They headed out, leaving Joe Murphy behind at the station, since he fit the profile of Munzer’s victims. And they arrived at the (closed) restaurant just in time to find Munzer about to use the brand on the waitress who’d been getting ready to lock up for the night. If Harry hadn’t known better, he’d think that Murphy had used magic.
Well, whatever her sources, she’d gotten them there in time to save the day. The waitress—an ex-con who had had a near-death experience, of course—got away unharmed. Munzer was fresh out of get-out-of-death-free cards. Looking between the wizard’s staff and the lieutenant’s gun, he realized they had him dead to rights and went quietly.
Harry took the brand with him. After all, it could hardly be produced as the murder weapon to a vanilla mortal tribunal.
June 2, 2011
Stallions’ Gate, New Mexico
“Do you want to run that by me again?” Al asked, pinching his nose.
Frost had returned from Chicago and shared what she had discovered with Ziggy. (Ziggy had provided the information needed to catch Munzer. Sam hadn’t leaped afterwards, but he hadn’t expected to. Ziggy swore that Dresden and his friend had miraculously arrived to save the day the first time around, too.)
The admiral was just briefed on the original timeline. If Al didn’t know any better, he’d think that the parallel-hybrid computer was pulling his leg (that or this was Frost’s idea of a joke). All this stuff about wizards and ghosts and illusions sounded a little out there…
Then again, in the first five years of Sam’s leaping alone, Al had seen proof of mummies, guardian angels, and aliens. Maybe wizardry wasn’t such a stretch of the imagination, after all. He must have spoken aloud, because the computer replied:
“Good luck convincing Dr. Beckett of that.”
Al grimaced as he headed to the Imaging Chamber.
April 16, 2007
“Ain’t that a kick in the butt, Sam?” Al added, after he’d related the data from Ziggy.
“Al, don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you should make an appointment with Verbena,” Sam replied. The night before, he’d gotten a ride back to Murphy’s apartment after finishing the paperwork on Munzer’s arrest.
“I’ve already scheduled an appointment with her for,” Al considered what Sam meant by suggesting he visit the therapist and changed gears. “I’m not going crazy.”
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘crazy’—”
“Look, this is the information that Frost got from Dresden and Bainbridge.”
“From their ghosts, you say?”
“You’ve got to admit that being a ghost might explain how Bainbridge was able to see me.”
“That Nerd Herder, what was his name—?”
“Right, Jeff was able to see you, too, and last time I checked, he wasn’t a ghost. Maybe Frost should be the one to see Verbena.”
“…Perhaps she’s been under a lot of stress. She was separated from her family for a long time—”
Being separated from her husband didn’t make Donna see things. Al bit his tongue. He couldn’t tell Sam about Donna. The amnesia was probably for the best.
“So now you think Mary’s been hallucinating?” he asked.
“You said she saw two men dissolve into orange and blue sparks and enter a skull. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of confidence in her mental stability, Al.”
“Sam, wake up! You’ve accepted time travel, an artificially intelligent computer and interacting with a hologram as the norm for years. I don’t think you’re in a position to question anyone’s mental stability.”
“What did you just say?” Sam asked, narrowing his eyes.
Al ran a hand through his hair and desperately tried to ignore the fact that Sam—as Murphy—looked cute when he was angry. It was just an illusion. His friend wasn’t really a five-foot tall woman.
“I just meant that you should keep an open-mind, Sam.”
“So now I’m close-minded? There’s this thing called the scientific method, Al. That’s how I designed Ziggy and the Acceleration Chamber and the Imaging Chamber—”
“How would you subject ‘magic’ to scientific testing?”
“You’ve got me there. But Sam, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m your friend, remember?”
“I know,” Sam deflated. “I’m sorry, Al. It’s not your fault that all we have to go on sounds like it came from some Rowling-wannabe.” Having been busy leaping through time, Sam had never gotten around to reading any of the Harry Potter books or watching any of the movies—not that it sounded like his cup of tea in the first place. He vaguely recalled Al filling him in on the basics of the series on an earlier leap. (For the life of him, though, he couldn’t remember why that would have been important to know in order to put things right.)
“Alright, what do we know? If we put magic aside,” Sam began, “we know that someone named Donald Morgan is going to be framed for murder and then killed by a group of vigilantes.”
“I think the High Council would prefer ‘international secret society,’” Al interjected.
“And Dresden’s going to get dragged down with him,” Sam continued, ignoring the interruption. “So my mission is to keep that from happening?”
“Yes, Ziggy’s 93.8% sure that that’s why you’re here.”
“Well, it’s a start. Thank you, Al.”
“What are friends for, Sam?” Al smiled.
“What do we know about Donald Morgan?”
“Well, let’s see,” Al consulted the hand-link. “Donald Morgan, born in eighteen sixty—”
“That can’t be right.”
Al smacked the hand-link, in case it was malfunctioning again. It wasn’t.
“According to Ziggy—”
“Al, you expect me to believe this guy’s been alive for more than a century? No; don’t answer that.” Sam headed towards the door.
“Where are you going?” Al asked.
“To Dresden’s place; maybe there I can find out what’s really going on. You said he knows Morgan, right?”
“Yeah; I mean the guy’s been chasing Dresden around with a sword for five years.”
“A sword,” Sam repeated, shaking his head. Maybe I’m the one going crazy… “I suppose that makes more sense than going up against a serial killer with a hockey stick.”
“Oh, there’s one more thing, Sam.”
“Don’t let him use the tracking spell as an excuse to make out with you again. You know what they say: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice—”
Throwing the nearest object at Al, Sam reflected, would’ve been much more satisfying if it didn’t go straight through him.
Meanwhile, Harry looked down at the brand in his hands. Bob watched him.
“What are you going to do with it?” the ghost asked. When the wizard didn’t reply right away, he continued. “It could be useful, having a second chance or more tucked away. Your work is dangerous.”
“You’re right,” Harry agreed, without taking his eyes off the instrument. “But you know what they say about life.”
“One to a customer,” Harry replied, as he pushed forth his will and dissolved the brand in a shower of blue sparks. Bob sighed. Far be it for Harry to work with a safety net.
Harry’s cat, Mister, perhaps attracted by the light show, padded over to Harry and collided with the wizard’s knees. Dresden bent down and scratched the grey feline behind the ears. Mister meowed. Probably time to feed the not-so-little fur ball. He went into the kitchen and poured some cola for the pet. Once his cat was lapping at the soda, he addressed his mentor.
“Bob, I’ve been thinking.” He held up a hand. “And no wisecracks about that.” The sorcerer smiled.
“If you insist; go on.”
“Munzer was just a mundane man—not a wizard, not even a practitioner. So how did he get his hands on a magical artifact like that brand?” Bob frowned.
“And it’s not just the brand,” Harry went on. “There was the Hand of Glory those kids had been using to walk through walls. Those FBI agents that had been turned into werewolves; and that father that unknowingly summoned up the same demon that killed his daughter—when neither of them had had more than a little talent. They never should’ve gotten mixed up with black magic in the first place.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“I’m thinking they had help; that there were people behind the scenes orchestrating these events.”
“You mean warlocks,” Hrothbert realized.
“Exactly,” Harry nodded. “Like an anti-High Council.” He frowned. “So what do we call it? The Low Council?”
“I know; it sounds terrible. The Warlock Council? Evil Council? Give me a minute; I’ll think of something.” Some people might think his sense of priorities was a little off, but Harry believed there was no better way to face something scary than to make fun of it. (Barring that, running away was the next-best-thing; hence his jogging habit. He should probably go for a run soon.)
“It might be best if you don’t call it anything. If this secret society exists—”
“Hey, don’t go betting against my gut! When was the last time it was wrong? And women don’t count,” Harry hastened to add before Bob could say anything. Alright, the last woman that he’d slept with had been a plant who stole Bob’s skull. She’d seemed nice at the time! Nice girls probably didn’t carry handcuffs, or get mixed up with anyone like Justin, but still…
“As I was saying, assuming you’re right, this group consists of wizards-turned-warlocks, and they’d also have to be a part of—”
“The High Council,” Harry realized. He, himself, was a member of the High Council—all full-fledged wizards were—though he didn’t carry much clout in the organization. He grimaced, hardly registering the sound of the door opening.
“Bingo,” Bob replied.
“Hell’s bells. So we have an unknown number of traitors in our midst.”
“What’s this about traitors?” Sam asked.
“Hey there, Murphy! How’s your dad? I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.”
“He’s fine; on his way back to Florida. Who’s your friend, Harry?”
“My friend?” Harry repeated, his face blank.
Sam inclined his head towards Bob. This must be the guy Al had told him about; the one that was supposedly a ghost—ridiculous.
“Oh, you mean him! Uh, Murphy, this is, this is, uh…” His tongue was tied. He should’ve known he couldn’t hide Bob from Murphy forever. That was it! “Bob. This is Bob.”
“Nice to meet you, Bob,” Sam said. “Any idea why Harry’s acting like he’s just seen a ghost?”
I’d like to address a question I received. The question being why Harry’s ghost would be visible when he didn’t receive the getting-cursed-to-a-skull treatment from the Council. The truth is that, using my prerogative as author of the fic, I decided that since Bob was visible as a ghost, Harry would be, too, despite not being cursed. But for those of you who would like an explanation, let’s borrow from “Ghost Story.” (Yes, I read it after starting the fic.) Specifically, let’s borrow the idea that Bob can illuminate Harry's spirit.
Chapter title from The Used’s “The Bird and The Worm.”
Chapter 5: Set the World on Fire
June 2, 2011
Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico
Al Calavicci was lying down on the couch in Verbena Beek’s office. The blue color scheme that pervaded Project Quantum Leap Headquarters carried over to the room, but any similarity between the office and the Waiting Room ended there. (The Waiting Room, where Murphy was currently staying, seemed like something out of a spy movie. It was virtually impossible to make out the room’s dimensions. Al wondered if it was purposely designed that way to keep the visitors out of sorts. In contrast, Verbena’s office could have belonged to any civilian therapist.)
“So you find the aura of Sam’s host, Murphy, attractive and are disturbed by this attraction?”
“Why else would I be lying here, Verbena?”
“You’re right. We do seem to have had this discussion before. Remember what I said, about the platonic love one feels for a friend?”
“I remember, and I’ve been using it as a mantra, but it doesn’t seem to be enough this time.”
“I see. Perhaps that’s because you’re between lovers at the moment?” On Sam’s first leap as a woman, the return of Al’s peace of mind had coincided with his girlfriend staying the night. But Tina had been married to Gooshie for some time now.
“Not to mention between marriages?” Al quipped. He had been married five times, after all. He shrugged. He’d spent the night with Tina back then to celebrate the return of his sanity; the technician hadn’t caused it.
“Let me ask you this, Al: How did you feel when you found out about Sam and Dresden’s kiss?”
“I don’t know!”
“Were you aroused?”
“NO!” Al glared at her. “I was shocked, I suppose. Not, not disgusted, if that’s what you were thinking.” Al didn’t care what anyone thought, he was not homophobic.
“It’s just,” he continued, “Sam’s into women! With all the leaps he’s been on over the years, he’s spent most of them kissing women.” Although, come to think of it, Sam had taken few of them to bed, despite the many opportunities he’d had. But that was because of Sam’s idea of morals, wasn’t it? He knew that was it. He’d accidentally lost his libido to Sam on one leap. It was a wonder that the doctor ever got laid without it.
“He’s also spent few of his leaps as women,” Verbena pointed out, “and there’s never been a case where it was confirmed that his host was a gay man.”
“Completely not the point,” Al said, shaking his head. “You can’t explain away Donna. Sam was nuts about her.” He probably would be still, if he could remember her.
“I would never make light of what Dr. Beckett and Dr. Eleese shared. And I’m not qualified to suggest at this juncture that Sam is bisexual, but the possibility has occurred to you, hasn’t it?”
“No,” Al shook his head. “It hasn’t. Maybe he just, I don’t know, merged minds with Murphy a little. I mean, he’s done that before, right? He completely immersed himself in Oswald’s mind that time. And just this past leap he’d retained his host’s escape artist skills and was able to do those other tricks with that cape.”
“It is possible that Lieutenant Murphy left some of her neurons behind in Sam,” the African American therapist allowed. “Have there been other signs of Sam acting unlike himself on this leap?”
“Not so far,” Al conceded. “Look, how did we get to analyzing Sam’s orientation anyway? I thought this session was supposed to be about getting inside my head.”
“Fair enough; we were discussing your attraction to Sam—”
“To Sam’s aura,” Al interjected. It was an important distinction. “To the body he appears to be in, but isn’t actually in.”
“Have you considered,” Verbena continued, “the possibility of the attraction being reciprocal?”
“WHAT?!” Al spluttered.
“You told me that you suspect Sam enjoyed being kissed by another man, Dresden. You’d grown accustomed to Sam’s occasional leaps as women. Could it be that what’s really bothering you now is the possibility that he could feel the same way about you?”
“Oh, because I have so much in common with Chicago’s professional wizard,” Al scoffed. When Verbena continued staring at him, he added, “no. It couldn’t.”
April 16, 2007
“What ghost? No idea what you’re talking about, Murph,” Harry interjected quickly.
“Wait, you’re actually nervous about me meeting Bob? Afraid I’ll be jealous or something?” Sam’s hand nearly flew to his mouth. Where the hell had those words come from? He hadn’t thought that his host had left neurons behind this time.
“Very funny, Murph,” Harry replied, regaining his composure at last. “Was there something you wanted? Or did you just come here to annoy me?”
“Relax, Dresden. I didn’t come here to give you grief about your living arrangements. I came to talk with my consultant. You got a minute?”
“Yeah, come and sit down.”
“Is it okay to talk in front of…?”
“Yeah, Bob’s cool. What happened?” Harry asked, once the two were seated.
“Special Investigations received an anonymous tip,” Sam lied, “but there were some holes that I need filled in. What can you tell me about a Donald Morgan?”
“Morgan?!” Harry repeated. “Are you sure that was the name?” he asked, completely failing to act nonchalant.
“Positive,” Sam replied.
Stars and stones, who the hell had told Murphy about Morgan? Okay, technically, she’d seen Morgan that one time after he’d been holed up in the house with Ancient Mai, a few wardens, and a freaking shape shifting dragon that had been wearing Murphy’s face, but they’d never been formally introduced.
“Murph, would you excuse me a second? I want to have a quick word with Bob.” Without waiting for her reply, Harry walked just out of earshot, Bob following. “This can’t be good,” he whispered to his friend.
“There’s the understatement of the century,” Bob drawled. “The last time your lieutenant there got an anonymous tip like that, she started investigating you for murder.” He didn’t mention that she’d had Justin Morningway’s corpse dug up to have it autopsied.
“Yeah, you’d think that escaping the Council’s ‘justice’ would keep you from worrying about the Chicago P.D.”
“No, I think that friends wouldn’t accuse each other of murder—”
“Yeah, but she’s a cop. And to be fair, I did kill Justin. Anyway, would you forget about that for a minute? The point is that that tip came from Justin’s double. This one has to be from the Low Council.”
“I thought you said you weren’t going to call it that.”
“It’s just until I think of something better.”
“Anytime you’re ready, boys,” Sam called.
Harry resumed his seat on the couch. Bob hovered nearby.
“So, you were going to tell me about Morgan,” Sam prompted Harry.
“Did your tip say that Morgan’s up to something? Because I got to tell you, unless it’s threatening fluffy bunny rabbits with sharp pointed objects*, you’ve got the wrong guy.”
“What? That’s not it. Although, maybe there’s something you’d like to share with the ASPCA.”
“It was just a joke, Murph,” mostly, as far as he knew, anyway, although who knew what Morgan did in his spare time. He couldn’t picture Morgan having hobbies that didn’t involve swords.
Dresden’s cat crawled over Sam’s feet and looked up at him. Sam petted the cat.
“Hey there, little guy. What’s your name?”
“Murphy, you remember Mister,” Harry said, frowning. Connie was acting odd.
“Mister, of course, I knew that. So, the information I have is that Morgan’s going to be framed, possibly by a group called the High Council. Ring any bells?”
“Hells’ bells,” Harry cursed. He had told Murphy about magic, but he hadn’t mentioned the High Council to her.
“Harry, I know that you know what I’m talking about. You have to help me out here.”
“Alright, hang on. What is Morgan supposedly going to be framed for?”
“The murder of someone called Ancient Mai.”
“That’s not possible!” Bob exclaimed.
“It is if the Low Council’s gotten ambitious. I knew I was onto something.”
“Wait, Low Council?” Sam asked.
“I’ll explain later. Murphy, you have to tell me everything you know. We’ll have to warn Ancient Mai right away.”
“All I know is that, according to my source, Ancient Mai is going to be stabbed to death tomorrow and witness testimony—I mean Morgan’s going to be caught leaving the scene, which would lead to him being pursued…”
“And executed,” Harry muttered.
“So it’s true, then. This High Council group has a bunch of vigilantes behead people without giving them a fair trial?”
“Who told you that?” Bob asked.
“You—you don’t need to know that.”
“Yes, we do,” Harry retorted. “You heard us talking about traitors when you walked in?”
“Harry,” Bob called, his voice full of a warning that went unheeded.
“There are traitors in the High Council. It sounds like one of them is going to kill Mai. Or it could be that one of them fed you false information to throw us off. Either way, I have to be able to follow up on this.”
“You want to help? I think it’s great that you want to save the day, Dresden. Why don’t you start by reporting the Council to the authorities?”
“The Council has its own set of laws, the mortal ones don’t apply,” Harry tried to explain.
“The hell they don’t! Harry, whatever cult you’ve been mixed up in—”
“It’s not a cult, Murph.”
“Not quite, although there are some similarities,” Bob added. There was no love lost between him and the High Council.
“Well, whatever it is, I wouldn’t make excuses for it if I were you. Harry, I didn’t want to tell you this, but according to my informant, they’re going to kill—”
“Sam! You would not believe the bull that Verbena… Oh, you’re still at Dresden’s,” Al said, after entering the Imaging Chamber. “I’ll just go before Bob spots me.”
“Too late for that,” Bob said. “Harry, that guy’s back. Open your Sight, now!”
The Sight wasn’t exactly a third-eye, though that was a useful metaphor. Wizards had a gift that enabled them to see things others couldn’t. It was good for things like getting a good look at a spell and seeing past veils and illusions. The reason wizards didn’t use the gift as a matter of course was that you were stuck with the memory of what you Saw in High Definition forever—and some of those things could be downright disturbing. Opening the Sight should allow Harry to see their mysterious invisible man. And it should be safe because Bob didn’t seem traumatized by the sight of him and the only other person there was Murphy.
Harry had Seen Murphy before. Under the Sight, she looked less like a cop and more like a brunette angel. She was not supposed to look like a man in his fifties. Harry pulled his blasting rod out of the pocket of his hoodie and pointed it at the imposter.
“You have about five seconds to tell me who the hell you are.” No wonder she—he, Harry corrected—hadn’t known Mister’s name.
“Uh, Sam, I think your boyfriend can see the real you.”
“He’s not my boyfriend, and that’s not possible,” Sam replied.
“You want to bet?” Harry asked. “How did you get past my wards?”
“What the—what on earth are you talking about?” Beckett was perplexed.
“He thinks we’re wizards, Sam.”
“I knew he was insane.”
“Why, because he kissed you?” Al asked.
“What is that supposed to mean?” the time traveler demanded.
Unbelievable; he was pointing a blasting rod at them and they were ignoring him. Rather a blow to the ego of arguably the most powerful wizard of his generation. Harry contemplated lighting something up with his blasting rod, before deciding he didn’t want to damage his apartment any more than he had to. Lowering the weapon slightly, he pushed forth an effort of will as he muttered two pseudo-Latin words.
The candles around the room blazing to life certainly got the attention of his two guests.
“Hate to interrupt this lovers’ spat, but you didn’t answer my questions: Who are you and how did you get in here?”
*Obviously this fic is drawing heavily from Jim Butcher’s “Turn Coat.” Here the line references Harry’s testimony in the book on behalf of Morgan. Something along the lines of Morgan couldn’t possibly have killed a Senior Council member, but if the charge was ‘chopping off the heads of bunny rabbits because they’d been accused of black magic,’ that Harry would believe. Some lawyer Harry would make, huh? :)
So, what do you think of Harry being able to see Sam and Al? Surprised that I updated again so soon? You know the drill.
Chapter 6: Not Saying I'm Sorry
April 16, 2007
“I told you he was a real wizard,” Al said as his friend stared at the suddenly lit candles.
“Oh, like you’ve never heard of illusions. That has to be a trick,” Sam responded.
“And I suppose seeing through Murphy’s aura is also a trick,” Al shot back.
Sam frowned. He didn’t have an answer for that. Maybe if Dresden had been able to see the real him from the start of the leap, he could’ve figured out how it was possible, but to suddenly see him now? Although, hadn’t there been a couple of women…? He vaguely recalled a psychic and another leaper. He was pretty sure they had managed to see through his façade eventually. But then, Harry was also able to see Al, when the hologram had been invisible to him before. That had never happened on a previous leap.
“Ahem,” Harry cleared his throat, interrupting Sam’s thought. “They’re not tricks. Angry wizard here, still waiting for an explanation,” he waved his blasting rod. Then, without turning his head, he addressed Bob.
“Bob, you didn’t tell me you sensed anything different about ‘Murphy!’”
“That’s because I didn’t,” Bob answered. He wondered what Harry was able to see with his Sight that he couldn’t.
“You may as well tell them, Sam,” Al sighed. He hated compromising the security of the project, but it was too late at this point.
“Even if I did, they wouldn’t believe me.”
“Try us,” Bob said.
“Fine,” Sam threw up his hands in exasperation. “I’m from the future!”
Sam expected disbelief from Dresden and Bainbridge. He didn’t expect them to grow pale.
“Warlocks,” Bob muttered.
“Oh, for god’s sake! No, not warlocks, humans,” Sam corrected the Brit. “Look: My name is Sam Beckett. I was given a grant from the United States government to travel through time and I did it.”
He tried to dredge up some of the pride he had felt over his accomplishment, achieving the seemingly impossible. Unfortunately, it was buried under the weariness from years of quantum leaping. Time travel had lost its appeal. He just wanted to go home.
“That would explain how they got through the wards without invitations,” Bob mused. “Vanilla mortals are unaffected.” He turned to the person who, to him, still resembled Murphy. “You’re saying you invented a time machine, but if you had, it should’ve stopped functioning around Harry.” At the mortals’ blank looks, he continued. “Technology doesn’t work around wizards. For that matter, hot water doesn’t—”
“You made your point, Bob,” Harry cut him off.
“I’m just saying. Why do you think he has so many candles?” Bob added for the time traveler’s benefit.
“It doesn’t work that way. I mean, I don’t travel through time in a DeLorean or anything,” Sam explained. He didn’t really believe that Dresden acted like a human electromagnetic pulse, but he didn’t mind explaining his method. “I designed an Acceleration Chamber—”
“He stepped into a nuclear accelerator before anyone could stop him,” Al broke in. “Without even finishing his research, I might add,” or saying goodbye. It had occurred to Al that, though Sam had leaped, something might have gone wrong with the Imaging Chamber or the linking of their brainwaves. Sam might’ve gone back without having a functional link to the present—without being able to stay in touch with him. He doubted that had occurred to the genius either before or after he’d left, the nozzle.
“A nuclear accelerator,” Harry repeated.
Bob gave Harry a look that the wizard (correctly) interpreted to mean: “And I thought you did dumb things.”
“And you followed him?” Harry asked the Italian-American.
“I’m not really here,” Al responded.
“Buddy, that’s got to be the worst attempt at hypnotism that I’ve ever…”
“I’m serious. You’re seeing a holographic representation of me; another of Sam’s brilliant ideas. The real me is in 2011.” Al eyed the ghost. “So that makes two of us that can walk through objects.”
“Touché,” Bob conceded. “How did you know?”
“From the future, remember? We did our homework. Well, we sent someone to do it for us; same difference. Only this one,” Al nodded towards Sam, “doesn’t want to hear a word about magic or ghosts.”
“You’re saying that he doesn’t believe in magic and neither of you is a practitioner,” Harry summed up. “Then you want to explain how he’s projecting an illusion of my best friend?”
“Ahem,” Bob cleared his throat. What was he, chopped liver?
“…Best living friend,” Harry amended. At that, Mister sniffed and stalked out of the room. Well, can’t please everyone. Like the cat was going to qualify as his best friend! He only showed him attention when he wanted to be fed and when he was ramming into his knees—oh, and if he felt he was being ignored.
“It’s not an illusion. It’s Murphy’s aura. It’s complicated,” the quantum physicist ran a hand through his hair. “I travel through time by leaping into other peoples’ lives. When I switch places with them, their auras cling to me, so I always look like my host—in this case, Murphy.”
“Then where is the real Murphy?” Dresden demanded.
“With me, in 2011,” Al answered. He might be immune to the wizard’s magic, but Sam wasn’t as fortunate and he wasn’t going to let his friend suffer the younger man’s wrath if he could help it. “She’s fine,” he went on. “That is, I haven’t spoken with her personally, but I’ve been assured that she’s fine. You’re not her favorite person at the moment, though. Apparently she thinks you’re pulling some kind of practical joke on her.
“Don’t worry! She won’t be mad at you when she gets back. She won’t remember the experience.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? If you do anything to hurt her,” Harry began.
“It’s a natural part of the process! We call it the ‘Swiss cheese effect.’ All of the people Sam switches with suffer from it. I mean, suffer may have been a poor choice of words… Even Sam has it!”
“I couldn’t remember my own name on my first leap, let alone Al,” Sam admitted. “My past memories have been restored,” more or less, I think, “but I currently suffer from a version of anterograde amnesia.”
“English, please?” Harry asked.
“I have trouble forming memories of leaps. I’ll forget things from one leap to the next. Your friend won’t have a problem forming new memories after this is over, she just won’t remember much, if anything, about her time in the future. Meanwhile, I probably won’t remember meeting either of you or what it was I was supposed to fix on this leap.”
“What do you mean, ‘supposed to fix’?” Bob asked.
“I discovered how to travel back in time, but I don’t control my leaps.”
“We think God, Fate, Time or Whatever does,” Al interjected.
“At any rate, I’ve always leaped after I fix something that went wrong the first time around.”
“Let me get this straight: You think that God or some analogous power wants you to change the past,” Bob summarized.
“If I ran around changing history, I’d have my head cut off,” Harry pointed out.
“By that High Council, right?” Sam asked.
“For two people who claim they don’t have any powers, you seem to know an awful lot about our world,” Bainbridge remarked.
“We got your future selves to talk to one of our people,” Al explained.
“That’s preposterous,” the ghost scoffed. “Our future selves wouldn’t have done anything so risky—”
“Not even if your boy’s life was on the line?” Al asked.
“Come again?” Harry spoke up.
“I didn’t want to say anything if I didn’t have to,” Sam addressed the wizard. “But our associate said that the High Council is going to kill you for trying to help Morgan.” He turned back to Al. “Although I can’t believe she saw Dresden’s ghost.”
The admiral groaned. Sam’s persistent skepticism was getting to be annoying.
Harry and Bob both looked stricken. The wardens were going to behead Harry?
“Well,” Bob cleared his throat. “I guess that would explain why our future selves would cooperate with you, even if it meant breaking the Sixth Law.”
“Bob, are you okay?” Harry asked. He saw tears glimmering in the other’s eyes.
“Of course I am. We’re about to put one over on the High Council. Why wouldn’t I be alright?” He turned to their visitors. “You have to tell us everything you learned. We can’t let that happen this time around.”
It was quickly decided that Al should recount Mary Bartowski’s tale, given that Sam would have given a biased version of it. When that was done, the four put their heads together to begin coming up with a plan to put right what once went wrong.
“Well, I can’t be the one to contact Morgan,” Harry stated. “We need help.”
“Don’t say it,” Bob implored.
“We need the Blackstaff.”
“…So he says it anyway.”
“Says what?” Sam asked. “Who is he talking about?”
April 17, 2007
Ebenezer McCoy, newly minted member of the Senior Council, was Harry’s favorite member on the panel. That might have had something to do with the fact that McCoy was the one who had spoken up for Harry at his murder trial, and thus the reason that Harry’s head was still attached to his body for the time being. Harry wasn’t sure why the older wizard had sided with him, but he wasn’t going to complain about having a friend on the Senior Council—especially when that someone was the Blackstaff.
You know how some people think they’re above the laws that apply to everyone else? The Blackstaff actually is; it was a position created by the High Council: One person would have license to violate any/all of the Seven Laws of Magic, provided that it was for the greater good of the Council, of course.
All in all, Harry was glad that McCoy had answered his call and made the trip out to Chicago for him.
He was a bit taken aback when after making the journey, McCoy told him ‘no.’
“What do you mean, ‘no’?” Harry demanded.
“I can’t keep Morgan occupied. He doesn’t trust me.”
“But, Sir, you’re a member of the Senior Council!”
“And I stood between him and getting to chop off your head, Hoss.”
“That still had to go to a vote, though. That wouldn’t mean…”
“If you must know, his distrust for me goes back longer than that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Did Justin or Bainbridge tell you much about your mother?”
“Not really. Did you know her?” Harry asked. His mother had died giving birth to him. Even his father hadn’t talked much about her.
“Everyone on the Council knew about Margaret Morningway. Supposedly she turned warlock. I was sent to take her down, but I wouldn’t. Donald Morgan hasn’t trusted me since.”
“You disobeyed the Council.”
“One of the perks of the job,” McCoy replied.
“You believed in her innocence.”
“And yours. Justin may have turned out to be a bad apple, but that doesn’t make all of the Morningways tainted.”
“I appreciate the vote of confidence,” Harry replied. “But I’d appreciate a hand, too. You wouldn’t even have to keep him distracted for long! Just lure him away from Ancient Mai and then I can handle the rest.”
“You can’t imprison him again, Hoss. That would be too suspicious.”
“Wait, ‘again’? Who told you about the first time?”
“Everyone knows about the first time.”
“Oh, I’ll bet Morgan loves that. Trust me; I have it figured out. Please?”
“Blackstaff McCoy. This better be good,” Warden Donald Morgan said. The two were meeting just outside Millennium Park.
“Good to see you, too, Warden Morgan. Do you take that tone with Ancient Mai?”
“Ancient Mai didn’t cozy up to the Morningways. What do you want?”
“I’m not going to apologize for keeping innocent wizards from being killed for crimes they didn’t commit. But perhaps I do owe you an apology.”
“And what would that apology be for?”
“For this,” a female voice called. The mortal waved a badge. “Lieutenant Murphy, Chicago Police Department,” Sam gave his host’s identity. “Is that a sword in your hand, or are you just pleased to see me?”
Chapter title from Thirty Seconds to Mars’ “Closer to the Edge.” The unfortunate position that Morgan is now finding himself in is courtesy of an idea from Dragomir. Thanks D!
Anyone else excited about Paul Blackthorne starring in The CW’s Arrow? (Yes, that is completely different than David Lyons being in Revolution. 1. I will boycott NBC until they bring back The Cape or hell freezes over. 2. At least Arrow has a decent premise.) Anyone not know who David Lyons is?
You know the drill.
Chapter 7: Vicious Little Game
Here are some things you may need to know or, maybe, you just forgot:
Dr. Sam Beckett leaped into Lieutenant Connie Murphy, head of the Special Investigations unit of the Chicago Police Department, to put right what once went wrong.
In this case, what went wrong in the original timeline involved someone killing Ancient Mai, Senior Council member, and framing Donald Morgan for the murder. This was to lead to both Morgan and Harry Dresden being executed for committing treason.
Apprised of the situation, Harry asked Ebenezer McCoy, the Blackstaff, for help. McCoy lured Morgan to a meeting, not telling him about the part that ‘Murphy’ was to play.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
April 17, 2007
“I’m placing you under arrest,” Sam hurried on, trying not to be mortified by the pun he’d just made. That had to be his host’s influence. Sam Beckett did not use innuendos.
“What’s the charge?” Morgan growled.
“Possession of a deadly weapon,” Sam replied, gesturing to the sword Morgan held by his side.
“That’s only illegal if I was planning on using it on someone,” Morgan stated.
Sam blinked. What next? Was the man going to cite the statute and subsection of the Illinois law? For a guy that was supposed to be out of touch with reality (believing not only that he was a wizard and was over a century old, but also that other wizards had given him license to chop off heads), Donald Morgan seemed to know an awful lot about his rights.
“And who says you weren’t?” Sam returned, as if he weren’t caught off guard. “Word is that you’ve threatened people with that sword on more than one occasion.”
“Wait, I recognize you,” Morgan said. “You’re Dresden’s friend. I don’t know what he told you, but—”
“For all I know,” Sam cut him off, “you were planning on using it on that gentleman over there,” he indicated McCoy.
“Oh, he was,” Ebenezer spoke up on cue, though he looked nothing like a vulnerable elderly man.
“You!” the warden spun towards the Senior Council member. “You set me up? You called in the mortal authorities?”
“This is for your own good,” Ebenezer replied, smiling.
“Put your hands behind your head,” Sam instructed Morgan.
Sam stepped forward and grabbed hold of Morgan’s right arm. The warden twisted out of the leaper’s grip, grabbed the man in turn and flung him to the ground, once more catching Beckett off guard.
But Sam recovered. He latched onto one of Morgan’s legs before he could escape, and made him lose his balance, falling to the ground beside him. The sword clattered down a short distance away. The time traveler quickly rolled on top of the other man, pinning Morgan underneath him. The two panted heavily before catching their breaths.
“That was resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. So, ready to come quietly now?” Sam asked.
Back at Dresden’s place, Bob addressed Al.
“Shouldn’t you be on your way to the main event? Or have you been left behind, too?”
“It’s not like that,” Al shook his head. “We can hone in on Sam’s brainwaves, but I don’t have to stay within a fixed distance of him. Since I’m not physically here, I can just pop over to wherever Sam is later, without having to cover the space in between.”
“Must be nice,” Hrothbert mused, “to be able to follow him, to see whether he’s in danger, whether he’s even,” still alive, he finished mentally. Al got the gist.
“A lot of times it’s frustrating, actually,” Calavicci replied, “to see him in trouble and not be able to lend him a hand. Sometimes I feel—”
“Helpless?” Bob suggested.
“Exactly,” Al nodded. “Although, I have been able to help him in other ways, but it’s still easy to feel powerless.”
“Admiral, I know precisely what you mean.”
“Well, on a less depressing note, there’s something I wanted to ask you.”
“You know I can neither confirm nor deny anything they may have told you in Sunday school,” the ghost told the lapsed Catholic. “After all, I’ve never been allowed to depart this world.”
“No, it’s not an esoteric question.” Al gestured to the photograph that Herrick had taken towards the beginning of the leap of the infamous kiss. “Did that come as a surprise to you? Because it did to me; far as I know, Sam’s never been with another guy before.”
“So Sam is short for Samuel, not Samantha,” Bob observed. “No, Harry’s never ‘been with’ another man before, either. I should know. I’ve known him since he was eleven.”
“Stop the car,” Morgan ordered Lieutenant Murphy.
“How the hell did you get out of those handcuffs?” Sam asked. His eyes were on the reflection of the passenger in the backseat of Murphy’s car.
“Child’s play; even a wizard as young as Dresden can master the skill,” Morgan explained. He would have pulled his sword on her, but she’d locked it in the trunk of her car. He’d have to recover it after he got her to pull over. “Now stop the car and tell me what McCoy and Dresden have planned!”
“Nothing sinister, I assure you,” Sam said, ignoring the command and continuing to drive in the direction of Special Investigations. “They just didn’t have time to convince you that you didn’t have to interfere. And I wanted to ask you about this whole High Council habit of chopping off peoples’ heads, so two birds with one stone—”
“Warlocks’ heads,” he corrected her. “I only execute those who have been tried and found guilty of violating the Laws.”
“But don’t you see that no one gets a fair trial from the Council?” Sam asked. “Do you have any idea how easy it would be for the—wizards—to turn on you and say you’d violated the Laws?
“We got information that that was exactly what was going to happen today. We’re giving you an alibi that even the fools on the Senior Council won’t be able to challenge. You’re welcome, by the way.”
“I didn’t ask for your help. And what do I need an alibi for? If you know that warlocks are about to strike, you shouldn’t be wasting my time taking me to prison!”
“Harry’s handling the situation,” Sam replied. “He doesn’t need your help for this one.”
“You trust him?”
“Yes, I do.”
“This even though he’s killed?”
“Buddy, from what I hear, he’s killed a lot fewer people than you have.” His face softened. “I am sorry about the arresting you part, though. We just figured that if you’re locked up at the precinct at the time, no one can accuse you of—”
“Accuse me of?” Morgan prompted.
“Never mind, you’ll find out soon enough.”
“I could sue you for this,” Morgan complained, “for wrongful imprisonment. There are other airtight alibis than being in prison, you know.”
“Ever hear of McAnally’s, Lieutenant?”
“Good evening, Ancient Mai.”
“Warden Morgan,” Ancient Mai greeted the man who had entered her quarters. He faltered when he saw the other person in the room.
“Morgan!” Harry grinned.
“I apologize; I didn’t realize you had company. I can come back later—”
“That won’t be necessary.”
“Yeah, don’t go! You’re just the guy I wanted to see,” Harry said. “See, if I go too long without you threatening to behead me, I start to get tremors.”
The imposter said something under his breath that might have been “smartass.” He slipped something back into his coat pocket. Then, without warning, Ancient Mai opened her Sight and turned it on the intruder.
“Wizard Dresden, if you would be so kind as to detain Wizard Peabody until we can question him—”
Samuel Peabody, the Senior Council’s glorified secretary, hadn’t been among Harry’s friends. Truthfully, Harry had thought of him as an annoying bureaucrat, if he thought of him at all. He often blended into the background at High Council meetings. Harry couldn’t think of someone less likely to try to kill Ancient Mai and frame Morgan, but the Sight didn’t lie. If nothing else, Peabody had a talent for illusions.
But was he also good at running? Harry wondered, as the traitor turned and fled.
“Go after him!” Mai shouted.
Dresden gained on him quickly. Regular jogging definitely paid off. He aimed his hockey stick at the warlock’s back.
“FORZARE!” The force from the spell threw Peabody against the wall and caused him to drop the knife he’d been carrying.
“Got you,” Dresden sneered, as the illusion of Morgan faded away to reveal the scribe’s features.
“Sam! Good news! Dresden stopped the assassination attempt… Hey, this isn’t the Chicago Police Department.” Al took in the scene and frowned. Sam was seated across from Morgan at a booth, in what was apparently a pub. There were bottles of beer in front of both men, who had been busy chatting when Al arrived.
Perhaps flirting, whispered a voice in Al’s mind.
McAnally’s pub was one of the wizarding community’s best kept secrets, right next to the High Council and the existence of wizards. It occupied a cellar off of one of Chicago’s streets and, everyone agreed, offered the best beer ever: Mac’s own brew. It also offered “neutral territory,” meaning that all fights had to be left, or taken, outside and pretty good feng shui thanks to all the thirteens that Mac had used in designing the place (i.e. thirteen carved pillars holding up the ceiling and thirteen tables).
During business hours, at any given moment, the place was guaranteed to have at least a couple of practitioners, if not full-blown wizards, sitting down for a brew. Morgan was right; it provided a good alibi, one that didn’t involve Sam filling out a stack of paperwork.
Beckett picked up Connie’s purse and rose from the table.
“Donald, I just remembered I have to go make a phone call. I’ll be back shortly, okay?”
Morgan acquiesced, figuring that it was best for the survival of Connie’s cell phone if he wasn’t nearby when she used it.
Sam climbed the steps that would take him out of the pub and lifted the phone as a prop before facing Al.
“So what happened? Dresden saved Ancient Mai?”
“Yes, he did. Now you tell me what happened. Coming to,” Al read the name on the sign, “McAnally’s wasn’t part of the plan, Sam.”
“No, but it got the job done. I got him safely out of the way—”
“You protected him by taking him out on a date?” Al asked.
“No one said it was a date.”
“I think your body language did.”
“Are you jealous, Al?”
“You’re making a big deal out of the possibility that I was out on a date with another guy. So I want to know: Are you jealous?”
“That is absurd, I’m not dignifying that with a response,” Al fumbled for the hand-link and started jabbing at buttons. He cleared his throat. “Anyway, the would-be assassin’s name is Samuel Peabody, not that you care. Dresden helped to apprehend him and the Council is going to try him soon. Ziggy says Ancient Mai is safe, Morgan’s in the clear, so you should be good to… That can’t be right.”
“What is it?” Sam asked.
“Ziggy says there’s still a 52% chance that the Council is going to execute Dresden.”
“How is that possible?”
“I don’t know.”
“You said that Dresden was going to be killed for aiding and abetting Donald. There’s about half a dozen witnesses back there that saw him at Mac’s, not to mention a Senior Council member that saw him getting arrested earlier.”
“Which will make total sense to the tribunal: He was arrested and forced to drink beer.”
Sam glared at his friend and continued.
“This Peabody guy can’t frame Donald, which means he won’t ask Dresden to harbor a fugitive. What excuse could they possibly make up for killing the P.I.?”
April 18, 2007
“I can’t believe the Council is executing Peabody without finding out who he was working with,” Harry muttered to Bob. They were in a warehouse, where the Council had just tried Peabody for treason and found him guilty. Peabody hadn’t given up any details about the plot against the High Council; he merely babbled something about the end being near.
Harry averted his eyes as the traitor was beheaded. The executions tended to turn his stomach, probably because he’d narrowly avoided one after his uncle’s death.
“I can. The Merlin doesn’t want to acknowledge that a conspiracy exists. It wouldn’t exactly be good for morale,” Bob replied.
“I figured out what to call them, by the way,” Harry continued, sotto voce.
“Harry, now is probably not the time…”
“The members practice black magic, right? So we call it the Black Council!”
“Wizard Dresden,” the Council’s leader called him.
“You are hereby charged with violating the Sixth Law of Magic: Thou shall not swim against the currents of time. How do you plead?”
Harry stared at the Merlin in disbelief.
“Uh, not guilty?”
Chapter title from Skye Sweetnam’s song: “Cartoon.”
I would like to thank those who have left kudos on this story.
Hey, the update is just in time for Dresden's birthday! Happy Halloween folks!
Chapter 8: I'll Be Coming Home
April 18, 2007
He would’ve stopped breathing if he weren’t already dead. Dimly, Bob recognized that if Harry had not taken his skull along to Peabody’s trial, he wouldn’t have known about Harry being charged—at least, not until it was too late. (Not, he thought bitterly, that he’d be able to sway the outcome of the hearing. The number of people that trusted his word could be counted on one hand.)
Arthur Langtry, the current Merlin of the High Council, was speaking again, announcing the basis for the charge. He nodded towards another Senior Council member. As usual, the hood of the Gatekeeper’s robe concealed his face.
“Rashid says that he foresaw Ancient Mai getting killed and Warden Morgan eventually being apprehended for the crime.”
And of course the Gatekeeper hadn’t intervened because doing so would’ve violated the Sixth Law.
Harry stared back dully. If he’d done nothing, he would have been executed for treason. Having intervened and saved the day, they were still going to kill him. He suddenly wished that Langtry was part of the Black Council. Sure, that would mean that a warlock was in control of the wizard’s government, but he’d feel better about the antagonism if the Merlin was a traitor and not simply a prick.
“Are we ready to vote on Dresden’s guilt?” Langtry asked.
“Harry, breathe,” Bob instructed him. “There are seven members on the panel, which means that four votes are needed for a conviction. There’s no way that is going to happen.”
“Yeah, because I have so many friends on the—”
Harry turned towards Ancient Mai, who was staring down Langtry. Evidently she was grateful about being saved, no matter what laws were broken in the process.
“Guilty,” Langtry voted. “So for the moment the votes are tied—”
“NOT GUILTY!” Ebenezer shouted. “And before you take any more votes, I’d like to testify.”
“Very well; the floor recognizes Blackstaff McCoy,” the Merlin said. He was trying to calculate whether there were enough members on the council that would side with him and vote to convict Dresden.
“The only one here that violated the Sixth Law was me,” McCoy stated.
“You were the one?” Langtry asked.
“What’s he doing?” Harry whispered to Bob.
“Apparently saving your neck,” the ghost whispered back.
“Yes, I was. I’m the one that received information about the future and went about changing it. Dresden was a pawn. I never told him anything about what was supposed to happen or what I was trying to change. There’s no way he could’ve interfered with the timeline,” Ebenezer continued.
“Wizard Dresden, is this true?” Arthur demanded.
“Ah, yes. I had no idea what I was going to find when I went to Ancient Mai’s.” Harry looked at Bob, worried that he’d sounded sarcastic.
If he had, though, Langtry hadn’t picked up on his tone. He was too busy mulling over the testimony. It was McCoy’s right as Blackstaff to violate the Laws for the good of the Council, and saving a Senior Council member and one of the top wardens would definitely qualify as justification.
“In light of this evidence, I vote not guilty,” the Gatekeeper said. “May I suggest that we drop the charges now?”
The Merlin knew it was over. Rashid was the swing vote. Dresden only needed one more vote for acquittal, and McCoy’s faction on the Council hadn’t finished voting.
“It appears we have no choice. Wizard Dresden, you’re free to go.” He looked as if someone had just kicked his favorite puppy.
Langtry and other council members began filing out of the warehouse. Harry dragged Bob with him as he caught up to Ebenezer.
“Sir, I just wanted to say thank you for—”
“Hoss, there’s no need to thank me. I couldn’t just stand there and watch them kill you.”
The wardens, his fellow council members, everyone thought McCoy had simply befriended Harry and that was the way he wanted to keep it. It was best that even Harry didn’t know Ebenezer was the father of Margaret Dresden née Morningway, Harry’s mother.
“Sam!” Al’s hologram appeared in Murphy’s apartment. “Good news! Dresden survived the High Council hearing—”
Someone knocked on Connie’s door. Sam pulled it open.
“Hi Donald; come in! To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I wanted to acknowledge that you were right, about Dresden. It appears I owe him my life,” Morgan grimaced.
“Well, I won’t spread it around if you won’t,” Sam winked.
“I believe I also owe you my thanks and an apology for the way I acted.”
“Ahem,” Al cleared his throat. “Mr. I Wasn’t Out on a Date Last Night, Ziggy says that Murphy and Morgan get married in 2010.”
“Tell you what, Donald,” Sam smiled. “Take me to dinner and we’ll call it even.”
June 4, 2011
Project Quantum Leap Headquarters,
Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico
Stephen Bartowski exhaled slowly. This was the moment of truth. He was ready to test the Retrieval Program.
“Ready to retrieve?” Orion asked Ziggy.
“Ready,” the computer affirmed.
“Retrieving,” Stephen said, as he pushed the appropriate controls.
April 18, 2007
The blue energy that accompanied all of Sam’s leaps engulfed him, separating him from Murphy’s aura and sweeping him to another destination.
June 4, 2011
Sam Beckett came to in the Waiting Room. He gazed into the mirror and saw his own reflection staring back at him. After all these years, it was over. He was home.
He turned away from the mirror and saw another familiar face. Sam beamed.
“Verbena!” He engulfed the therapist in a hug.
“Good to have you back, Sam!” After they separated, she opened the door for him. “I think there are a number of people that are eager to see you.”
Sam followed her out of the room, grinning. Verbena was probably right. He couldn’t wait to see Gooshie and Tina, or to be able to see Al in the flesh again, although he had to remember not to wait too long before greeting Ziggy, since he’d upset her the last time he’d been home…
Al’s arms were around Sam before certain memories started attacking the former leaper. Donna… They were going to be married. The first time around, she had left him standing at the altar, but he’d somehow changed that on one of his leaps…
“I didn’t want to say anything about the progress being made on the Retrieval Program in case it didn’t work. Sam, meet your double. This is Stephen Bartowski, the man responsible for bringing you home,” Al introduced them.
“I can’t thank you enough,” Sam shook his hand, marveling once again at the uncanny resemblance they shared.
“It was the least I could do after you saved my life. Besides, I didn’t do it alone. You should also meet Sammy Jo. Her help was invaluable.”
“I look forward to seeing her,” Sam replied, before turning to Al. “Al, where’s Donna? Where’s my wife?”
“Uh, Sam, we’d better talk. Why don’t you come with me to my office?”
“What is it?” Sam asked as Al led him down the hallway.
“About Donna… I don’t know how to tell you this…” He opened the door of his office and they sat down.
“Just say it.”
“Sam, Donna filed for divorce years ago.”
April 20, 2007
Harry checked to see who was at his door, then slammed it shut in the visitor’s face.
“Dresden, open this door!” Morgan shouted.
“Morgan, didn’t you get the memo?” Harry yelled back through the closed door. “The Council acquitted me of all charges.”
“I know that! I’m not here to arrest you!” Morgan growled.
“Okay, well, if this is about you getting arrested, that wasn’t my idea,” Harry fibbed.
“That’s not why I’m here, either. Now will you let me in?”
“…You swear you’re not here to chop my head off?”
“I swear,” Morgan gritted out.
“…Or any other parts of my anatomy?”
“Alright, alright,” Harry unlocked the door and lowered his wards so they wouldn’t blow the warden to smithereens when he tried to enter. “Come in, then, if you must. What is this about?”
“I’ve been ordered to give you this,” Morgan replied. Looking pained, he held out a gray cloak to the younger wizard. Harry’s eyes grew wide as Morgan got tired of waiting for him to take it and shoved it into his hands.
The gray cloak was a status symbol belonging to the wardens. He never saw Morgan wearing one outside of official Council meetings, but there was no mistaking the meaning of the gesture.
“You can’t be serious. Someone sent you to recruit me?” The unspoken question hung in the air: Why?
“It’s the consensus that your acts in saving Ancient Mai, as well as myself, and apprehending the warlock in our midst show that you are more than qualified to be a warden.” Morgan continued to give off the impression that he would rather be anywhere else at the moment. The holding cells at Special Investigations suddenly seemed appealing…
“So you’re saying I’m warden material, even though I’ve been under the Doom?”
“Even so,” Morgan jerked his head in what was supposed to have been a nod.
“I don’t know what to say—” Harry said, frowning.
“Are you joking? Say yes!” Bob urged him. He’d overheard the entire conversation, though Harry hadn’t noticed him enter the room.
“Bob, you hate the wardens.”
“I hate it when they threaten your life, yes, but that’s no reason to turn down the power you’re being offered.”
“You might want to listen to Bainbridge,” Morgan added, before realizing who he was agreeing with.
“Would I have to leave Chicago?” Harry asked, hesitating.
“Occasionally, but I’m sure Ancient Mai can arrange to have you based out of Chicago, if that is your wish.”
“It is. Okay, then. I accept.”
“See you around, then, Dresden,” Morgan said as he turned to leave. After the door was closed, Bob went up to Harry, who was gazing at the cloak in his hands, unable to believe what had just transpired.
“You know one of the perks of being a warden, Harry, is the salary. That should help pay the rent.”
“Bob, I don’t care about… What kind of salary are we talking about here?”
June 4, 2011
“Divorce,” Sam repeated. “I don’t… She was waiting for me. I remember now, the last time I was home and I was getting into the Acceleration Chamber. ” Didn’t she say she would wait for him to return? “What happened?” he asked.
“She was waiting for you, Sam, but that was before…”
“That was before what? Was it something I did?” Sam hadn’t been back long, but already his memories of his leaps were fading fast.
“It was before Donna found out that, ah jeez,” he trailed off. It was awkward, knowing more about Sam’s life than Sam did. He’d had to keep secrets from Sam before. Donna had told him not to remind Sam that he was married during his leaps. Look what that had led to.
“What did she find out, Al?”
“While you were leaping, you had a daughter. Sammy Jo Fuller, the woman that assisted Bartowski in bringing you back, she’s your daughter.”
“Oh my god; I don’t—”
“I know you don’t remember, Sam. Your memories were Swiss-cheesed on the following leap. And I know you never intended to be unfaithful to Donna. I told her that, after she’d gotten the information from Ziggy. I don’t think she really blames you, Sam. She just… she said she couldn’t keep waiting for you to come back, after that. She wanted to move on.
“I’ve been there, Sam. I know what it was like, coming back from Vietnam and finding out that Beth,” Al’s first wife, “had remarried. It hurts now, but things will get easier. Eventually, you’ll meet another woman—or man, whatever…”
“How old is Sammy Jo?” Sam asked.
“Ah, I think she’s about forty-four now. She was born in, let me see, 1967.”
Sam’s head started to hurt. Thanks to time traveling, not only did he have a daughter he couldn’t remember meeting, but he was, at most, fourteen years older than she was. For the life of him, he couldn’t recall who her mother was or who he had leaped into at the time…
“I want to meet her, Al.”
“Of course, Sam; you should probably know…”
“She doesn’t know you’re her father.”
Chapter title from the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.”
I guess in this hybrid ‘verse Morningway was Margaret’s mother’s surname… As you may have noticed, I took pity on Harry and had the hearing in English instead of Latin.
Sam’s home at last, his final leap is complete. The story is not quite done yet. I’ll at least add an epilogue, okay?
Chapter 9: Epilogue: Ever, Ever After
Final disclaimer: I do not own "Chuck," "The Dresden Files," "Quantum Leap," or the song by Uncle Kracker.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
June 5, 2011
Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico
Sam searched Dr. Fuller’s face for some sign that the woman was his daughter, but had trouble seeing it. There was a stronger resemblance between him and Stephen’s son, Charles Bartowski. Still, he didn’t doubt that what Al had told him was true. And he had said that Sammy Jo had inherited his eidetic memory.
“Dr. Beckett, welcome home.”
“Thank you. I understand that you helped fix the Retrieval Program.”
“Well, Orion deserves most of the cred—”
“Please, accept my thanks.”
“Okay. You’re welcome. What have you got there?” she nodded towards the paperwork in his hands.
“This is the file on one of my leaps. Specifically, it’s about a leap I made to June 14, 1966. I’ve only just read it myself, but I want you to read it.”
“But my security clearance isn’t high enough to—”
“Consider the file declassified, then. It’s important to me that you know. Please.”
“Alright,” she accepted the file from him. “Dr. Beckett—” she called, as he turned to leave her office. He made a show of wincing.
“Please, Dr. Beckett’s too formal. Call me Sam.”
“Sam, are you holding up alright? I know Dr. Eleese’s…leaving…must’ve come as quite a shock.”
“It did, but Al tells me it will get easier. I don’t regret entering the Acceleration Chamber. If I had to do it all over again, I would.”
She nodded, thinking of all the good she’d heard he had done for the world, and for his family. She’d heard rumors that his older brother, Tom, had died in the Vietnam War the first time around and that his sister had originally had an abusive husband.
It wasn’t until after Sam had left that she finally began reading the document, and learned that he had leaped into her mother’s fiancé.
“You’re leaving already, Stephen?” Al asked, as he watched Bartowski packing up his things.
“Might as well. My work here is done. Heck, the whole project’s finished, isn’t it? I can’t imagine Sam will want to look at another Acceleration Chamber for as long as he lives.”
“If he does, I’ll kill him,” Al joked. But seriously, he was going to keep his friend from leaping ever again if he had to tie him up and—
“Almost forgot,” Orion handed Al two discs. “They’re copies of Charles’ and Sarah’s wedding video. One for you and Sam; the other one Mary says you should send to Dresden and Bainbridge.”
“They won’t remember meeting her,” Al pointed out.
“That’s what I told her, but she wouldn’t listen. Keep in touch, Al,” Stephen said, sticking out his hand for the admiral to grasp.
“Will do,” Al promised.
June 12, 2011
“Come on in, Murph,” Harry greeted his friend.
“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” she asked. (After Sam’s final leap, the guys had forgotten that the real Murphy hadn’t met Bob and were obliged to introduce her to the ghost.)
“Nah, Bob and I were just watching a DVD someone sent us.” He still hadn’t made the connection between the wedding video that had come in the mail and the time traveler he’d met four years ago.
“A DVD,” Connie repeated. “Since when do DVD players work around you?”
“Well, we’re going to see how long our luck holds,” Harry replied, gesturing for her to join him and Bob at the couch.
“What brings you here today Lieutenant?” Bob asked.
“I wanted to share the good news with you.” She grinned. “I’m pregnant!”
“Hell’s bells. Congratulations, Murph!” Harry embraced her. Bob would’ve done the same, if not for the small matter of not being tangible. Instead, he had to settle for offering her his congratulations.
(They didn’t ask her why Morgan hadn’t come over, too. While the older warden no longer distrusted Dresden the way he’d used to, Donald generally felt they saw enough of each other at work. Murphy thought she might get her husband to warm up to her best friend someday, but wasn’t going to put any money on that.)
On the screen in front of them, Jeffster took the stage and Lester Patel began singing.
“You don’t know how you met me. You don’t know why
you can’t turn around and say goodbye.
All you know is when I’m with you
I make you free …”
Murphy was rather hazy on how she and Donald had met back in 2007. She remembered coming to her senses in her apartment, with a hole in her memories and this man standing there, under the impression that she’d just asked him out on a date. It had been bizarre, to say the least, rather up there with Dresden’s recent insistence that he could do magic by pouring ant vomit on her sunglasses. But odd as the whole situation was, she had kept the date with him.
And the rest was history. Three years afterwards she’d found herself married to Warden Donald Morgan.
Follow me and everything is alright.
I’ll be the one to tuck you in at night.
And if you want to leave, I can guarantee
you won’t find nobody else like me…”
Sometime after Harry had escaped being sentenced to death, Bob had cautiously brought up the kiss that Harry had thought he’d shared with Murphy, but that in actuality had been with Beckett. There had been an awkward point where Dresden admitted that no, he wasn’t sure what it said about him that he’d enjoyed kissing the man.
At some point, they deduced that the wizard would have preferred to kiss a certain retired sorcerer.
(Some days, when he was feeling particularly morbid, he would wonder what things would have been like had he been executed by the High Council. The hologram had said that he would have returned as a ghost. Harry was pretty sure he knew what his unfinished business would have been and that it had nothing to do with the Black Council.)
Murphy glanced over and saw that Harry was now sitting with Bob’s skull in his lap. She glanced away, pretending not to have noticed, and looked at the T.V. The Jewish Nerd Herder was still singing.
“…‘cause as long as no one knows, then nobody can care.
You’re feelin’ guilty and I’m well aware,
but you don’t look ashamed and baby, I’m not scared.
Follow me; everything is alright.
I’ll be the one to tuck you in at night.
And if you want to leave, I can guarantee
you won’t find nobody else like me.”
The camera shifted from the band to pan the crowd. Stephen Bartowski was dancing with his wife, Mary. The bride and groom, Sarah and Charles, were also on the dance floor, as were Charles’ sister, Eleanor, and brother-in-law, Devon (a.k.a. Captain Awesome) and Morgan Grimes and his date, Alex. In the background, Alex’s father, John Casey, glared daggers at Morgan, while Morgan’s stepfather, Big Mike, danced with his wife.
“Won’t give you money; I can’t give you the sky.
You’re better off if…”
The image froze abruptly and then went blank as the DVD player finally broke down. Harry sighed, disappointed but unsurprised. He turned to Murphy.
“You know, this is going to happen in your house, too, between your husband and the kids once they come along.”
“I know.” She made a face. “I know,” she repeated. There were drawbacks to marrying a wizard. But at least she and Morgan still had a working water heater and her car was in better shape than the piece of crap Dresden called a Jeep.
Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Sam was watching the same video with Al.
“…You don’t know why
you can’t turn around and say goodbye.
All you know is when I’m with you
I make you free
and swim through your veins like a fish in the sea…”
“Al, about this last leap; are we going to talk about what happened?”
“Don’t know what you mean, Sam.”
He was hoping Sam’s memories of the last leap had been Swiss-cheesed. Not that there was anything for him to be embarrassed about. It wasn’t like he’d been jealous of Dresden or Morgan…not really.
“Hm, if that’s how you want to play it,” Sam said eventually. “Al?”
“How soon after Beth did you meet your second wife?”
“Are you kidding? My second through fifth marriages are all a blur… Why do you want to know?” Al narrowed his eyes in suspicion.
Follow me; everything is alright.
I’ll be the one to tuck you in at night.
And if you want to leave, I can guarantee
you won’t find nobody else like me.”
November 20, 2012
“We got a letter from Stephen today, Sam,” Al announced. “He’s going to be having another grandchild. Sarah’s pregnant.”
“That’s great! We’ll have to congratulate them,” Sam responded. “What else does it say?”
“Jeffster is going on tour. Apparently they got their big break…Oh, listen to this: Morgan and Alex are getting married.”
It had taken Al weeks of introspection (and many hours of therapy with Verbena) to come to terms with the fact that yes, he had been jealous during Sam’s last leap and no, it hadn’t been strictly because of Murphy’s aura around Sam. For Sam’s part, it turned out that the flirting hadn’t simply been caused by Murphy’s left behind neurons.
Within months, Sam had moved in with Al.
As for Sammy Jo, she and Sam were making an effort to get to know one another, but nothing would ever be able to replace the years they’d been separated. She’d gone most of her life accepting that she would never know her father, and even after her time at Project Quantum Leap, it was difficult to accept Sam as a father-figure when there was such a small age gap between them.
December 1, 2019
The conspiracy was over. The Black Council, as Harry had dubbed it years before, had finally been defeated.
Uncle Harry and Uncle Bob were babysitting the twins, Karen and Jack Morgan. Since they couldn’t exactly play videogames there, the kids were going to play make-believe. Jack wanted to be a cop, like his mom. Karen was going to be a warden.
“Like your Uncle Harry?” Dresden asked.
“I was thinking more like Dad,” Karen replied.
“Ah, naturally,” Harry said. “Sure you wouldn’t rather be a P.I.?”
“I’m sure. But if I’m a warden, I should have a sword. Uncle Harry, how come you don’t carry a sword like Daddy does?”
“Because a hockey stick is way cooler,” Harry answered.
“No it isn’t.” The seven-year-old shook her head, causing her black curls to swing to and fro.
“It is too,” Harry replied, making Bob cringe. Was it really possible that Harry was no more mature now than he was at eleven?
The Black Council might be gone, but there would be other foes to conquer. If Harry was one of the strongest wizards of his generation…Dear lord, what would become of the world? On the other hand, Bob looked at Morgan’s kids. Maybe there was hope. Karen, at least, was going to be a full-blown wizard, like her father. It was still too soon to tell with Jack. He might have to settle for being a practitioner.
They were distracted by Mister knocking the newly-acquired puppy against a wall. Mister was currently a few times the dog’s size and yet, the cat somehow failed to inflict fear in the little pup’s heart.
“Uncle Harry, does the puppy have a name, yet?” Jack asked, as the canine regained his balance and barked happily.
“Well, he likes to take on creatures that are bigger than him,” Hrothbert observed. “How about we call him, ‘Little Harry’?”
“Very funny, Bob,” Harry rolled his eyes.
“We could call him Mouse,” Karen suggested, “since he kind of looks like one.”
“Mouse, huh?” Harry considered it.
“Harry, Foo Dogs—” Bob began.
“What?” the warden asked.
“Never mind; you’ll find out eventually.”
“You kids go have fun while you can,” Harry said. “In a few years, Uncle Bob will start lecturing you on magic and then…”
“Are you trying to suggest that I’m no fun, Dresden?”
“Well, no, Bob, I wouldn’t say that,” Harry quirked a smile.
Thus concludes “The Dresden Leap” and the series, “Project Quantum Leap.” I hope you enjoyed the ride.
I assume the Dresden Files fans are looking forward to “Cold Days.” :) Plus the fans of the show can enjoy Paul Blackthorne on Arrow, that is, when he’s actually on Arrow.
Disappointed the story’s over? Fear not. If you’re looking for more fic, even though I’ve concluded this story I somehow managed to keep the number of WIPs at three. If you’re disappointed PQL is over, you can always go back and check out the first two installments of the trilogy. (“The Big Sister” was really just a deleted scene, so I think it’s still fair to call it a trilogy.)
The song used in the epilogue was Uncle Kracker’s “Follow Me.” Go Jeffster!