Categories > Books > Dresden Files

Too Little Time

by mitsukai613 0 reviews

Spoilers for Changes. Harry Dresden is dead. John can't believe it. It seems like just yesterday he had only met the wizard, found out he could live for hundreds upon hundreds of years. He thoug...

Category: Dresden Files - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst,Romance - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2015-07-04 - 4528 words - Complete

When I got The Call, my office was cold. I refused to think of that as any sort of an omen. My heart went tight at one of my guy’s words, so unreal, unfathomable, that my entire world suddenly tilted sideways on its axis and shook me off, sent me spiraling out into empty space.

“The wizard is dead,” the voice said, cold, emotionless as I should’ve been, just stating a simple fact. Today was Tuesday, it was cloudy, and the wizard was dead.

“What?” I asked, before I could control the impulse; replace the foolish word with something else, some useful question.

“Harry Dresden, that wackjob P.I. you had us tail, the one who said he could do magic. He’s dead.” Still, the words didn’t quite register, didn’t quite come through as pure fact, because how could a man such as Harry Dresden die? He was larger than life and twice as untamable. What could possibly have enough firepower to kill him? I couldn’t think of anything, in this plane or the other. Hell, he’d just recently proven himself against demigods of the highest order, against the entire Red Court of vampires. He’d killed them all, or so I’d heard. I’d wished he’d called me to help, actually, although I did assist in arranging Vadderung’s help. My stomach twisted in on itself at the mere thought of something that could take the man down, even as my heart continued to constrict. My eyes burned.

“What happened?” I asked, and I heard a small crack in my voice, hardly noticeable but so distinctly there it nearly made me wince.

“Bullet to the heart, by all accounts. He was staying on that Raith guy’s boat, had to have been some kind of sniper. They dredged him out of Lake Michigan a few hours ago. He’s in the morgue now.” A bullet. One simple bullet to his heart, and he was gone. The man who could’ve lived for hundreds of years, now dead, lying cold and alone in a morgue. I’d warned him. Hardly two days ago, I’d warned him there in that Burger King. I’d meant it mostly as a precautionary measure against the supernatural secrets he was pulling from the darkness, the powerful, godlike beings he was pissing off, but I’d hoped he’d take note of the mortal forces that wanted him dead as well, the hits, the hatred I could never totally contain. He hadn’t, and he was dead. Dead, dead, dead. Harry Dresden. Dead. The words didn’t seem to go together. I still wasn’t sure I even believed it.

“Are you sure? It could be a construct of some sort. He could be faking it.” The man on the other end paused.

“You don’t sound too good, Boss, spouting off that stupid magic shit. You know it ain’t real.” I cleared my throat, a headache starting somewhere in the back of my neck and spreading up to my temples, around to throb behind my eyes.

“Yes, of course. I’m sorry, it’s just a bit shocking, I suppose. I’ll have something new for you to handle by tomorrow. You may go home if you wish.” The man made a noise of ascent, sounding a little worried over me.

“Thanks, Boss.” The line went dead, ringing in my ear and making my headache worse. I called for Gard, and she came quickly, the tight bun into which she’d tied her hair bouncing steadily behind her.

“Yes, Mr. Marcone?” Her voice was quieter than I was used to, her tone delicate and steady, as though she were dealing with a frightened animal. I noticed suddenly that my hands were shaking severely, and forced them back under control. I felt frozen to the bone, like one quick strike would make me shatter into a million tiny, worthless pieces.

“I’ve received a report that Mr. Dresden is dead. I’d like you to verify this, be certain that the body in the morgue is really his.” She smiled at me, calm and gentle. I felt sick.

“There is no need, Mr. Marcone. I’m afraid that Mr. Dresden has indeed perished, as I told you he would, no matter your warnings.” Sick and so, so cold, too chilled to even think, to react. My left hand was shaking again, and I covered it with my right. It was much simpler to focus on keeping only one of them still. Gard politely didn’t comment on it, though I’m sure she knew what was going on. She was a bright woman, powerful, brave to a fault, and though I’d never been able to admit it, those similarities she had to Harry were part of the reason I’d hired her. But now he was dead, so I didn’t think it would matter if thoughts like that came out. He wouldn’t hear them. He’d never hear anything again. “I am sorry,” she said, and it was genuine. It isn’t often that Gard apologizes, but when she does, one can always trust her to be sincere.

“Thank you,” I said, seeing no point in lying about being upset, as long as I wasn’t directly asked if I was upset. My body ached miserably, angrily, for no reason. Gard’s hand settled on my shoulder.

“He would not like it, if you grew depressed over his death.” I managed a small smile, a cracking, mostly shattered laugh. The fingers of my left hand were creating a staccato drumbeat on the desk because of the damnable shaking. I pressed my right down harder on it to still it.

“Likely true. I keep it up, and I’ll have his ghost haunting me, eh?” She smiled, and her hand clenched companionably on my shoulder before it rose to clap me on the back. I wondered if it would truly be all that bad, to have his ghost around. If his ghost haunted me, I’d still have a piece of him, no matter how small, how ephemeral. I could still talk to him, hear his voice, laugh at his snarky comments. I’d even welcome him yelling about me pushing old women down flights of stairs, at this point. A ragged chuckle slid from my throat at the memory of him doing exactly that, on one occasion a few months after that incident with the werewolves.

“Indeed. Will you be well, or do you wish for my companionship for a while?” I shook my head.

“I’m alright. Go, get your work done. Perhaps you and Nathan can have a nice dinner together this evening.” The depression was turning to numbness as I walled the pain away into some dark corner. If I didn’t think of him, it’d be like he never existed it all. If I ignored the memories, his smile, his sharp, angular face, the way his eyes blazed as his magic burst forth from him, they couldn’t hurt me. I simply had to avoid thinking of him, his defiance, that ridiculous coat, his righteous anger, his immense power. It all had to become nothing, something far, far away that happened to someone else, not me, never me. I’m Gentleman John. I simply don’t get close to people, and certainly not people who proclaim to hate me and everything I stand for. Gard left with a worried glance. She’d probably tell Hendricks that I was upset. I’d likely get a visit from him by the end of the day. I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to forget. I wanted to get shit-faced drunk and pass out. I wanted to hate him for leaving me. For saving me, and then dying himself. For creating a gaping, festering wound in Chicago, in my heart, that simply couldn’t be healed by anything, anyone, but him. I couldn’t manage it. My head throbbed miserably.

I had to believe it was fact now, the infuriating man’s death. I don’t know why I bothered attempting to prevent it in the first place. None of Gard’s predictions, at least not the ones she’s actively spoken about, have been wrong. I sighed, and it ended in a soft, whining noise I’d never make in public again. Harry Dresden was dead. I could not change that fact without having that White Council of his on my ass, and that was not something I needed just then, not with my newly blossomed power through the Accords. I didn’t need more targets on my back than I already had. I found myself not really caring, wanting to call Gard back in and have her research ways he could be returned to the mortal plane. It was wrong of me to think it, perhaps disgusting, because there was a good chance that what came back wouldn’t be all Harry, a chance that he was happy wherever he was now. He deserved happiness more than most I knew. I didn’t want to tear him away from that, force him into some sort of half-life he didn’t ask for, didn’t want. I closed my eyes and rubbed the palm of my hand against them to try and alleviate the ache. It only intensified as I sunk deeper into numbness with the knowledge. Brilliant, scarlet rage began to fight against it, though, overwhelm the sadness, the numbness, the everything.

Someone had come into Chicago, my city, and killed my wizard without me knowing. They’d torn away a life before its time, perhaps not an innocent one, but one that was inherently, purely good. The man had already had everything taken from him, these past few days, his home, his office, his car. His life had been all he’d had left, and someone had stolen it. A thief and a killer of the lowest order. I’d make them regret it. I’d make them sob. I’d make them beg to die and I wouldn’t let them. I’d keep them alive, I’d torture them, send them to the brink only to reel them back, over and over and over until I was satisfied, and I’d never be satisfied because Harry was gone and he didn’t deserve it. He deserved it less than any other man I’d ever met.

Harry had battled valiantly, saved his daughter (Vadderung had been quick to tell me of his relationship with the little girl he wished to retrieve so desperately), and wanted nothing but rest. He’d gotten it eternal. Or he’d gotten more suffering. I’m a lapsed catholic, have been for many years. I don’t quite trust in God’s perfect goodness, his all-encompassing might. I don’t quite trust that he’d give a fair shake to the scraggly wizard who’d killed and battled his entire life like an animal. I shook my head. It wouldn’t do to think of that, not then, because it might send me off doing something… ill-advised. I rubbed at my skull, pinched the bridge of my nose, sighed again. My voice was rough, tired. My hands were both at least moderately still, however. With another deep breath I had them completely back to normal, my walls mostly back up to snuff. I picked up the phone and started making calls to my guys, sending them out to find out just who it was that had sent out that fateful bullet.

My guys sounded frightened of me. That doesn’t happen often, if ever. The closest they generally come is when I’ve got them out looking for a child, or someone who’s known to have involved one, and that’s more a fear of disappointing me than a fear of me. Now their voices were slow and stuttering, and I could nearly hear it when they flinched away from my words, my tone. It was worse with those who were closer to me, the ones who knew about magic, knew Harry could use it, knew we’d worked together, knew how I felt about the wizard despite the steps I’d taken to hide it. God. My foot was tapping against the floor, rapid-fire, as though it wanted me to stand up and do some sort of dance. I fought with it for a while, and finally managed to make it stop, only to find myself twining my fingers around one another under the desk, popping my knuckles. I wasn’t twitchy, I couldn’t be. Men like me, when they got twitchy, they got dead, and they got there fast. I wouldn’t be any good to Harry that way, wouldn’t be able to avenge him. I shoved away the thought that maybe if I died I could see him again. If heaven was even a real thing, a real place, there was no god in this world or any other that would be willing to send me there. Harry had to be there, in heaven. I’d make myself go crazy if I thought there was any possibility he wasn’t.

Hendricks came by sometime around two in the morning, dark circles marring the flesh beneath his glazed eyes. I recalled that he’d said something about having a paper due soon. A spark of guilt fluttered through me for a second, at keeping him so late, but it died quickly enough. He walked over to me on nearly silent feet, something that had always surprised me a bit, given his bulk. His eyes were warm, beneath the glaze, pitying. I hated seeing him that way, I always had. This wasn’t the first time he’d pitied me. It was, though, perhaps the first time I’d not mentioned it, asked him to stop. Though it pained me to admit it, I wanted the comfort, this time. I wanted him to tell me he was sorry, to ask if there was anything he could do. I wanted to weep and scream my rage out to the heavens, to curse every god I knew by name whether they were really there or not. I didn’t do any of that. I stared at him, blank as ever, not letting on that I was hurting, physically and emotionally. Showing such weakness in the face of a death, especially the death of someone who was more annoyance than ally, was bad for business. Hendricks’ large hand settled on my shoulder, the weight comforting, solid. It reminded me that there were still some alive that I cared for, other beings I had to fight to protect.

“Boss,” he began, and then something in my expression must have shifted, because he amended himself to John. “I know that this is… it’s got to be hard. Hell, it’s strange for me, to think that fucker isn’t going to suddenly burst into the office anymore flinging fire around, yelling Hell’s Bells or Stars and Stones or any of that other weird shit. He was… he’s going to leave a big hole, for a lot of people, me included. I know that hole is going to be a lot bigger for you. I’m not going to say I’m sorry, because death isn’t something anyone can apologize for; it’s just something that has to happen. I just… if you need to talk to someone, you know I’m always going to be right here beside you. I don’t want you to go off and do something stupid.” After making my calls, I’d spent much of the day thinking. What if my men couldn’t find who’d done Harry in? What if the killer had gotten away clean? It had been a sniper anyway, and he had enough enemies for a hundred men his size. The police would be hard pressed to find the one that had finally gone about taking him out in the logical way. The way I’d have done it. I’d be under suspicion, I knew, from Ms. Murphy especially. I didn’t care. I had to… there had to be more I could do. I’d been looking for ways much of the day, ways to bring him back, despite how only a few hours had passed since I swore to myself that I wouldn’t try that, because there was too much risk. My head thrummed madly, twanging harshly like an out of tune guitar. My toes were curling in my shoes.

“What would you qualify as doing something stupid, Nathan?” I asked quietly. I couldn’t bring myself to look into his eyes, so instead fixed them on the bridge of his nose, as Harry did with most people he knew. Except me, and those others he’d shared a Soul Gaze with. After that day, the day we’d met, he’d always looked me in the eye. I could still remember the brilliance of his soul, gleaming white, spattered in gray and black, cut up and stitched back together crudely, covered in puckered scars where bits and pieces of him had been ripped away, magic glittering red-blue-red like gems in a mine. I wondered if he’d seen anything half as wonderful in my own soul, something that made me worth knowing. I recalled he’d only been shocked, at the end of our look into one another, but not really frightened. I remembered he’d always respected me, whether he wished to admit it to my face or not. That respect, coming from a man like him… it’d made me remember my old self, the me I was before I became the Gentleman. It made me think that perhaps, deep within myself, I wasn’t the slavering monster dressed up in a fancy suit that I’d though I was. It had made me think that there was perhaps hope for even a man like me. Now that reminder was gone, but I’d always have the knowledge that he hadn’t hated me, that that wonderful, amazing, powerful, beautiful man had seen something worthwhile in me. It didn’t mean nearly as much, without him there to reassure me that that fact hadn’t changed sometime when I wasn’t looking. Hendricks tightened his hand and brought me back into the real world with his words.

“This, John. What you’re doing now. Tearing yourself up from the inside out. Working yourself ragged to find who did it. God, John, can’t you imagine the fit he’d have if he knew you were doing this? He’d go on and on, yelling about how he wasn’t your wizard, and how he could handle this himself.” I managed a smile, and slid my own hand up to pat Hendricks’.

“I’ve never listened to him before. Why in hell would I start now that he’s dead?” I couldn’t bring myself to use his name, not out loud, because that would make all this real, somehow. It didn’t seem like Hendricks could do it either, although his was perhaps more for fear that the use of his name would upset me. I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t, honestly. It was still hard, to think of how despite Harry’s strength, despite all he’d lived through, he was mortal. As temporary and fleeting as any other living thing. As susceptible to a bullet as any common man on the street. He had no regeneration ability, like the vampires did. He had no thick hide, like some beasts of the Nevernever did. He did not have gaping maw filled with needle teeth, no sharp knives for limbs, not even a set of claws. He was merely human, if a very extraordinary one. Human. Weak. Breakable. Dead. I choked, and had to close my eyes to get rid of the burn that once again plagued them. I would not cry. I had not cried since I was a child. I would not start again now. Hendricks’ hand slid down to grip my bicep, almost as though he wanted to shake sense into me.

“John, damn it, don’t do this to yourself. I know it hurts. It’s not like I’ve never had someone I care for die. Dwelling on it like this won’t make him come back!” He sounded almost desperate, or as desperate as he could sound. I laughed, and it sounded half-hysterical even to me.

“There has to be a way to return him to life. There must be. There’s always… there’s always a way. He’s taught me that much. No matter the odds, there’s a way to win. If anyone… if there’s a man on this planet capable of beating death, it’s him. I could… there must be a way to help him along.” I sounded icy, and Hendricks actually shuddered at my tone, before he brought himself under control and really did shake me.

“You’ve tried this already, John, with Amanda. The only thing you could come up with was the Shroud of Turin, and it didn’t work. She’s only in a coma, John. How much harder do you think it would be to reverse death?” I stared at him, blank, but there had to be something in my eyes, some madness, some determination, because he was starting to look pathetic, hopeless. That, I knew, most certainly did not mean he’d stop trying to talk sense into me. He never gave up on doing that.

“There is a way,” I said, because if I said it out loud, with certainty, it would, of course, be true. It had to work like that now, even if it never did before, because something so great was at stake.

“Damn it, John, dead is dead! Haven’t you told me that before? You can’t bring someone back when they’re gone! That’s what you told me when my mom died, John, and that’s what I’m going to tell you now!” I allowed a small smile to curve the corners of my lips.

“I did not know about magic then. Surely if necromancy works, there must be some way to fully revive someone, without making them into a mindless zombie.” I heard Gard’s voice suddenly and wondered how much she’d heard.

“Magic is not a cure-all, Baron, nor even a patch, in most cases. Despite the wizard’s incessant rambling, it is not inherently good or bad; therefore it can be used for both purposes. Magic is simply the changing of forms, one thing to another. Remove the heat from an area to create fire. Pull the water up from the earth to create a wall. Exchange, one thing for another. There is nothing one can exchange to truly pull a soul back into its body, not even another life.” I shook my head. I would not believe that. I refused to. Harry would… I had to bring him back, I had to, he had to be here, to protect my city, our city. Gard sighed, and shifted to stand by Hendricks. They shared a look with one another, as they often did, and an entire conversation seemed to pass between them.

“The Holy Grail, I’ve been researching it. Perhaps… perhaps that would work, to have him drink of it.”

“That is a ritual beyond knowledge, by now. Belief in its very existence has dwindled enough that it would likely be ineffective anyway. Added in is the fact that the grail must be found before it could be used, and I do not believe it would restore the wizard’s flesh once it began to decompose.” I shook my head.

“I could find it. You know that I could, if I focused enough resources on it. I notice that you said likely, by the way, not certainly. If there is even a chance of it working, I will try it. This is my only option. I know that the Shroud of Turin will not work. I will try this. Arrange a ticket for me to go to Rome. My search will begin there.”

“John,” Hendricks tried, “This isn’t thought out at all. It’s dangerous. You’ll be leaving Chicago open to attack, if you leave.” I continued as if I hadn’t heard him.

“And please start getting construction plans together. I believe I have a place for the headquarters to the Chicago Alliance to be built. Buy up the land where Harry’s apartment once stood, and get a permit for the structure. He’d… I think he’d appreciate it. He will appreciate it, when he is brought back.” They looked unwilling. They looked nervous. They looked tired. My hands and feet and legs refused to stop fidgeting, no matter how I attempted to get them under control. I didn’t care, not anymore. I wouldn’t care again until I had Harry back in front of me, flinging his wild fire and calling me a criminal scumbag. I wouldn’t care until I’d ripped his soul back from the hands of whatever now held it, shoved it back into his body, watched him stand up, miles and miles of sharp angles and planes. Until I saw him smile again, saw the sharp line of his mouth curl up into a soft, welcoming curve. Until I heard him laugh. Until he was making bad movie references again. Until my ears were assaulted with his atrocious Latin. Until he was fighting me, fate, all the bad guys that polluted the city streets. Until I stopped feeling so empty and desolate and numb and alone and angry and miserable. Until we’d saved the world together, one insane, suicidal leap forward at a time. Gard and Hendricks left to follow my orders. I cupped my head in my hands and released a wet sounding, shuddery sigh.

I supposed that the worst part of this was that I’d been such a coward, while Harry was alive. That I’d never told him that one thing, those three little words that hold more weight than any others. The words that could’ve stopped all the fighting between us, made him accept my protection, my help. I’d never hugged him close and whispered sweet words in his ear. I’d never healed any of his innumerable scars. I’d never held his hand when he was frightened. I’d never gotten to kiss him. Damn him, the stupid bastard, I’d never gotten to tell him how he was my most important person. I’d never gotten to tell him I loved him. I sunk down slowly, pillowed my head on my arms, and wept like a child into my desk.
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