Warning: the last line of the chapter is a very substantial spoiler for The Dresden Files. If you not either past Changes, or unconcerned about spoilers, stop now.

I woke up, and one of the lessons Justin had drilled into me kicked in immediately.

"If you wake up and you don't know where you are," he had told us, "Don't react. Relax and pretend you are still asleep. Gather information before you do anything."

According to Justin, the main reason was to avoid blowing out the TV or elevators if we ended up staying in a hotel. Frying the electrical system could be problematic. And potentially expensive if they tracked it back. Of course, frying the tech in a hospital would be even worse, and that was the next lost likely scenario. But, while he never said it directly, it seemed like he was really teaching Elaine and me how to deal with being kidnapped or captured in battle. The longer you could fake being out, the longer you could gather information and avoid being interrogated.

Okay, so, I'm sitting upright. And it's pretty comfortable. Better than my threadbare bed or the cheap couch in Justin's parlor. Not quite as soft as Justin's personal use only armchair (so of course Elaine and I tried it out when we knew he would be away for a day or more), but pretty close.

Of course, the real clue was the pressure from my left shoulder to my right hip and across my lap. A seatbelt. I was in a car. And based on the belt, the driver's side. It must have been a decent sized car, since my legs weren't cramped at all.

There was a steady hum, and an infrequent yet gentle double thump. That meant it was a moving car, probably on the freeway. But a really quiet one, at least compared the school bus or Justin's old clunker.

Right, how did I end up in this car? I remember Elaine was feeling sick, so I skipped out of school early to check on her. Only she wasn't sick. She and Justin were preparing some sort of ritual. One that would make me a thrall. I resisted. Justin blasted me out of the window. I ran. The gas station. Stan. The monster... no the Outsider. I couldn't remember where I heard it, but somehow I knew that was the right term. And words are important. Names especially. They have power.

He Who Walks Behind had killed Stan. Desperate, I had blown up the gas station. It was enough. Barely. But the fire spread. I saw a phone booth, and...

"There is food on the seat next to you, Harry," she said to me, "Regular and powdered sugar donuts, a pack of bacon jerky, an apple, and a banana. Plus bottles of water, skim milk, and orange juice. You're welcome to whatever you want in there. And if it's not enough, let me know and we'll find a place to stop and get a real breakfast."

The goddess. Lind. She put out the fire. She knew things about me. She offered me a wish.

My eyes snapped open. I could see her face in the rear view mirror. It was the same face, only the blue marks on her forehead were gone. Same hair as well, and from what I could tell, the same build. But her crazy-cool goddess costume was gone, in favor of a black t-shirt with Optimus Prime on it. I didn't recognize the car we were in, either.

Now that I was looking, I could see the highway out the windshield, buzzing past, mostly empty. The predawn light played through the trees. It was pretty scenic, and I would have taken a moment to appreciate it, had my stomach not made its displeasure known.

I ignored her amused smile and opened the bag. Part of Justin's training screamed that I shouldn't eat any of it. But, I had been at her mercy at least overnight, and other than my hunger I felt fine. Plus the whole wish and 'can't lie' thing.

In the reusable shopping bag I pulled out those long boxes on mini-donuts. One chocolate and one powdered sugar. I guess chocolate counted as regular to her? Not that I necessarily disagreed. I cracked the choco donuts and fished out the apple. As my hand brushed one bottles, it was still cold. Not cool, like fresh from the fridge cold.

"Sooo," I said aftering swallowing the first pastry, "can I ask what is going on? Where are we going?"

"How much do you remember?" she asked back. I told her about my day. About my failed attempt at robbery. The Walker.

"Then you told me how I could use a greedy wish to be a good guy," I frowned, "And I'm guessing I passed out after that. Next thing I knew, I woke up here."

"I thought that might be the case," Lind told me. She paused for a moment, thinking. I opened the jerky while she did.

"Harry, you know the importance of words, right?" she asked, "I've got more than a few bones to pick with Justin about your education to this point, but he at least taught you that, didn't he?"

"Yeah," I mumbled around a mouthful of apple and bacon "Sorry."

"I did tell you to eat and then ask you a question," she shrugged, "But maybe don't make a habit of it. Okay, back on topic. You made your wish. Just before you fell unconscious. So I will tell you what you wished. It's important you listen closely and memorize it."

"Sure. But why?"

"The exact wording of your wish is like a password," Lind explained, "Only you and I are supposed to know it, though there is an encrypted version stored in Yggdrasil. If we ever needed to verify your identity, or someone tampered with your wish, you would need to be able to say it back exactly, to confirm it."

"Tampered with my wish?" I parroted.

"It happens," she confirmed, "Sometimes devils or fae will try to do it to mess with a person or goddess. Sometimes it happens unintentionally, through the influence of an Outsider or someone experimenting with magic. Most wishes are one and done, so it isn't an issue. But longer term wishes like yours... Well, we need a backup."

I nodded seriously, "OK, I'm listening."

"Your wish was, 'You know what I want? No, you know what I need? I need a guardian, a mentor, a real teacher. Someone who will protect me when I need it. But also let me fall and help me back up. Who will really, honestly teach me, not try to shape me into what they want. A friend, a relative, a something… Someone who will never lie to me. Never betray me. Never leave me…. Can that wish give me that? Can you be that for me, Goddess Lind?'. And so, here we are."

"That was..." I was going to say cringeworthy, but settled on, "long. Could you say it again?"

"Just once more," she agreed, "and only because it is rather long and unique. And this is a unique circumstance."

She dutifully repeated it.

"Thanks," I sighed, running it over in my head a couple more times. Then noted, "I didn't actually say 'I wish'."

"No," she said, "But the intent was there. And I'm not a genie. Like I said, I'm here to give you what you want, not parse the exact thing you say."

"Right. So... this means you are my new guardian?"

"As of last night, yes. I am your guardian. I am also now your paternal aunt, Lindsey Dresden."

I frowned, glancing at her face in the mirror. I didn't want to risk a soulgaze, though I wasn't sure if it would work on her, or if it would work in a mirror.

"At the risk of getting smited, I thought you couldn't lie."

"It's not a lie," she smiled kindly, happily, "I have a birth certificate, social security card, Illinois drivers license, and Bachelor's degree. I also have health and car and home insurance. Tax records. I have a bank account and credit cards. More than that, I have memories of of my life as Lindsey. Of Mom and Dad and Mal. There are other people out there who will now remember Lindsey, though their memories will be more vague. If you and I were to each take a DNA test, it would show we were related. And that I am, at least for now, Human. That is what your wish did. You asked for a relative, and for me. So Yggdrasil has... tweaked reality, to make me your aunt."

"No offense," I said, my voice trembling a bit, "But that is some freaky, scary... stuff."

"And I don't disagree," Lind sighed.

"So, you are my dad's sister?" I prompted.

"To be a bit more technical," she explained, "I, the goddess Lind, now retroactively chose to incarnate as a human, just about twenty-four years ago. So I was born as Lindsey Dresden, and when I was nineteen, regained my memories. And a moderate portion of my powers."

"But what about all the things that you originally did over the last twenty-four years?" I pressed.

"Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey," she said. Then she grinned. So did I.

"I should probably tell you our backstory," Lind told me, "As in, why you haven't been living with me until now, but why you will be."

"That does sound like something I should know," I agreed sarcastically.

"Well, to give you the short version, it was a post office error," she said.

"A post office error?" I said incredulously.

"Yes," she agreed, "After Mal went on the road, we mostly kept in touch by mail. And after Dad died, Mal stopped coming home. He and I were half-siblings, Dad married my Mom after his first wife passed away. All that happened in the original timeline, too, just Mom and Dad were never able to have a child. Unfortunately, Mal and Mom didn't really get along. And after Dad died, things were tough for me and Mom, so we had to sell the house, and move to a small apartment. And the post office messed up the forwarding. So we never got Mal's letters and stuff. I thought we just drifted apart, but he kept reaching out."

"So how did you find out?" I asked gently. There was genuine sadness in her voice, at the end. I could only imagine, suddenly gaining memories of a whole other life and family. Only to know that family was mostly gone already.

"My mom died three years ago. I finished college, alone. Still in that apartment. But living there, without her... It was painful. Then, about a six months ago, I finished what was supposed to be my master's thesis project, a new search algorithm. It got the attention of Microsoft and Google, and... Do you what they are?"

"Yes," I rolled my eyes, "I may blow up computers on contact, but I can still hear other people talk and can read a newspaper."

"Okay, okay," she took one hand off the wheel to wave me down, "Anyway, they found out about my program, and got into a bidding war over it. And in the end I walked away with a middle eight figures payout."

I whistled. Lind bobbed her head.

"I know," she agreed, "The first thing I did, once the check cleared and I hired a lawyer and accountant, was to buy a house. Our old house wasn't available, so I found an even nicer one in the same general area. And it seems my second change of address form caused someone in the post office to make the connection to this box of undeliverable mail. Suddenly I had stacks of old bills, junk mail for days. And also all of Mal's letters. The announcement of his and Margaret's wedding. Her pregnancy. Your birth, and your mother's death. A copy of Malcolm's updated will, asking me to take care of you if anything ever happened to him. A will that was never executed, for some reason. And lastly, a letter from his manager, informing me of Mal's death."

She paused, taking a harsh breath.

"Not only was my brother definitely gone, I had a nephew I never knew about," she said, "I was supposed to be caring for him, but I didn't know where he was or if he was even alive. Of course, I had the resources to fix that, both as an incarnate goddess and as a newly well-to-do person. I hired another lawyer and a couple of PIs. Cast a few spells. And together, we found you."

"And I was less than impressed with how your adoptive 'father' was treating you," her expression darkened, "So I arranged a meeting with Justin DuMorne. I told him that he was going to let me meet you. Get to know you. Then you could choose, come with me. Or stay with Justin, and in that case you could decide whether you want me in your life or not."

"Do you think that's why he was trying to turn me into a thrall?" I asked, "So I would tell you to leave, that I wanted nothing to do with you?"

"Well, he was going to make you a thrall, which is what led to you calling me on the Helpline," she countered, "But it would make sense if Yggdrasil changed that to the reason when history shifted. Either way, you escaped, and called me. I picked you up..."

"As for what happened while you were sleeping," she explained, "I went back to confront Justin, but he was gone. Justin and Elaine both, vanished into the night. I'm not a great tracker, and I didn't want to put you at risk, so I didn't try to find them. I'll leave that up to the police and the Wardens, after I have a chat with the Council."

I raised an eyebrow, remembering she had mentioned a 'White Council' yesterday, but not sure what it was. Still, I didn't interrupt.

"The way he partially packed up and abandoned the house left the Threshold in tatters," Lind said dismissively, "Not that it was terribly strong to begin with. So I packed up your clothes and personal items, such as they were. Then I broke some of his wards, and went into his lab. I took the more safe items, things that will be useful in your training. Mostly reagents and a few books. And also a few objects too dark or powerful to trust with the Council. I'll eliminate them when we get home."

"Where is it?" Justin DuMorne raged. A quick, if dangerous trip through the Ways brought them to Cairo. Then a boat ride up the Nile to Girga, a fine city with the useful distinction of having the thicker than normal barrier to the Nevernever and no known paths in the Ways. Which made it an ideal place for a safehouse.

"Where is what?" Elaine asked dully. She sat stiffly, only responding to orders and questions.

"The skull!" he shouted, "I told you to pack everything important!"

"I was instructed never to touch the skull," she stated mechanically. Justin blinked. Now that she was a thrall, she couldn't influence the spirit's personality or take control of the skull. But he hadn't thought to rescind the order he had drilled into both apprentices. An order that carried over to Mallory's new, enslaved state.

"Do I dare go back for it?" Justin asked himself, "It would take hours to reach a reasonable Way. And by then, the Council will have already found and entered my lab. No, it is lost to me. But at least I don't have to worry, when they find the skull, they will certainly destroy it."

"The rest of Justin's library, I left for the Wardens," Lind continued, "What was down there... It is more than enough to backup your story and see DuMorne declared a warlock... Harry, it is a bit difficult to talk like this. How about we find a restaurant, and after we eat you can sit up front?"

She noticed that the food was all gone, as were the milk and OJ. I was nursing the bottle of water, not wanting to ask her to stop, either for another drink or for my bladder.

"I wouldn't object to a bit more food, if you are offering..." I paused and looked at her, "What should I call you? Lind? Lindsey? Aunt Lindsey? Goddess?"

"Not the last one," she told me. Her tone was joking, but I could also tell she was serious about me not calling her that, "Other than that, Lind or Lindsey are both fine. Whether or not you call me Aunt is up to you. I do draw the line at Auntie."

"Fair enough," I agreed quickly, "Anyway, food, sure. But it's probably better if I don't sit up front in a car this modern. Just riding in the back makes me nervous."

I mean, it had one of those monitors built into the dashboard. I felt lucky nothing was letting out blue smoke yet.

"You don't have to worry about that," she smiled, "Heaven keeps up to date on technology, so we know how to protect it from magic. That is one of the things I'll teach you... Well, actually, I'm not that good at it personally. But I'll find someone to teach both of us. This car and my phone came out of the wish, so they are safe around you. Hopefully the TV, network, and other electronics in the house are, too. I'm not sure though, so we'll find out when we get there."

"So what is the plan?" I asked, "We're going to your home, right? Where? And what are we going to do when we get there?"

"First, it is our home, Harry," Lind's voice was gentle, yet firm. "Which is in Chicago, to answer your earlier question. And I was thinking we'll move your stuff into what will be your room. Then, there is one of our neighbors I want to introduce you to. He's a... well I won't say friend, not yet. But I helped him defeat a dragon and we are on friendly terms at least. I'm hoping you can get along well with his family, since you need some good connections and he can use a babysitter. And I'm hoping you can spend a few hours with them, or getting settled in at home alone, because there is someone I very much need to talk to. Then, depending on how today goes, either today or tomorrow we'll go shopping for the many, many things you should have but don't. We'll also need to look into school for you, though I do know the school I would like you to go to."

"Someone on this Council?" I deduced, "This person you need to talk to today, they're on this White Council, aren't they?"

"Yes," Lind agreed, "But his seat on the Council is not the only reason I need to speak with him. It's not even the main reason."

"That sounds..." I trailed off.

"Mildly threatening?" she filled in for me.

"Sure, let's go with that," I nodded.

"Good," she frowned, "Because I am most upset with this person."

We stopped at the Cracker Barrel. Harry may have implied the snack bag had been enough, but when I told him to order whatever he wanted, he got three thick cut slices of french toast, a slab of ham, four sausage links, what looked like a half-pound of hash browns, and medium bowls of both a vegetable medley and country style apple sauce. And he washed it all down with a large Coke. I wondered if I should add underfeeding Harry to the list of Justin's sins.

I just had two pancakes and some bacon. My original memories and my Lindsey memories were still fitting together, and so I wasn't used to eating like a normal person. Goddesses could and did eat, but we didn't need it the same way Humans did, so many of us didn't follow a regular schedule. Now that I was in a Human body I had to be more careful about that. Especially since I was taking care of a growing teenage boy.

Or, watching him eat, maybe a Human/mountain goat hybrid.

"Harry, there is something we need to talk about before we visit our neighbor," I said to him, "Something I should warn you about."

"Okay," he said slowly, his eyes filling with caution.

"It's nothing bad," I regretted my tone and phrasing, "He is a good man. He is almost literally a paladin. Though saying that, I assume Mal taught you D&D like he did me."

Harry nodded.

"Well, Michael is like a real life paladin, holy sword and all. He isn't someone who chose to be a paladin for power. He doesn't struggle with balancing law and good. It is just who and what he is. Doing the right thing comes almost as naturally to him as breathing."

"Wow," Harry blinked, "If you weren't you, Aunt... no, doesn't feel right. If you weren't you, Lind, I would think you were exaggerating."

"Assuming he hasn't changed, I'm not. Like I said, I helped him kill a dragon. Not like Smaug from the Hobbit, either. This was a true and ancient dragon, much closer to the god-killer Jörmungandr from the Norse Pantheon. And the first of the three times we worked together, Michael saved me and most of my platoon at the time from an abnormally large shoggoth... I say that as if there is anything normal about any mid-rank or higher Outsider."

"You said He Who..." Harry started, but I held up my hand to cut him off.

"I'll tell you more about Outsiders later," I interrupted, "It is one of many, many topics we need to cover. But you should not say that name if you can avoid it. For multiple reasons."

"That's its True name?" he asked incredulously, "It's a phrase in English."

"Many of the normal rules don't apply to Outsiders. Like I said, later. We are a bit off topic. My warning about Michael is that he is a firm Christian. Technically a Catholic, but I know that he has some issues with the current state of the church."

"So he's going to want to burn me at the stake?" Harry looked nervous.

"No," I shook my head, "Michael knows better than that. He might be a bit more cautious around you, but he won't judge you or attack you for being a wizard. No, the warning is about me. I already asked you not to refer to me as a goddess. That goes double around Michael. In his mind there is only one God. He thinks goddesses like me are at best mislabeled archangels, and at worst blasphemous pretenders. He and I are fine, but he only calls me a Valkyrie, never a goddess. And things will go much smoother if you don't bring it up around him or his family."

"Sure," Harry agreed, "I probably wouldn't have brought it up, anyway. But now I'll try my best to steer clear of that word."

"Great," I sighed in mock relief, "Now finish your breakfast so we can get back on the road. We're still thirty minutes out... Or more like an hour in normal traffic."

After we got to Lind's... no, our house, she gave me a key. And it was on a Lonely Mountain keychain, which was pretty cool. We pulled the boxes out of the trunk. Most of them went up to a room on the second floor. The rest we took down to the basement. Lind placed three of them in a magic circle in the lab, and the other two just on the desk. I guess that was the separation of stuff we can use and stuff we need to destroy.

It was a pretty impressive house, too. You could have fit all of Justin's house on the first floor. The basement was divided into four rooms. A pair of matched three-quarters bathrooms. A large, magic lab; like Justin's only less creepy. Most of the basement was a gym. It had a weight machine, an exercise bike, a treadmill. But most of the gym was open but covered by a large mat. And on the wall were a number of wooden weapons. It looked like dojo.

The main floor had the kitchen, large pantry, laundry slash mud room, and dining room across the back. The right side was a large family room. And the left side was divided into another three-quarters bath, Lind's office (which was also the server room), and a library of books and movies that almost brought a tear to my eye.

The second floor had the master bedroom suite, four other still really big bedrooms, and two more full bathrooms. That's right, five bedrooms and six baths, though Lind pointed out she had the basement rebuilt and the second bath installed so that guests or clients using the gym would have a place to clean up. She had mentioned on the trip that she might teach martial arts part-time. As a war goddess she was versed in multiple forms of unarmed and weapons combat, from aikido to tae kwon do in order alphabetical. Though unarmed and spears were her prefered styles.

There was also an attic that Lind showed me briefly, but it was empty and unfinished at the moment.

After the unloading and the tour, she led me across the street and halfway down the block. We came to a colonial house with a traditional white picket fence. Even as we walked up the path that split the invitingly green lawn, I could feel the threshold of the house looming over me. It was like Fort Knox, if Knox was made of adamantium and had a forcefield projected from the nearby forest moon protecting it. If I was stupid enough to try to break in there, I'd probably knock myself unconscious from the attempt.

Lind didn't even hesitate. She walked right up to the door, and rang the bell.

"Dad!" I heard a little girl shout from inside. Some heavy footsteps, and then a moment later, the door opened.

This Michael was big guy. He had an inch or two on me, at least for the moment. And he looked like he weighed twice what I did. But he wasn't overweight, he was built. Like the Rock, or Hulk Hogan in his prime. He looked to be in his mid-thirties, with short, dark brown hair. His grey eyes were kind, but not soft. Like he would give his jacket to a homeless person in the dead of winter, than grab a purse-snatcher and hold him until the cops arrived.

Those eyes narrowed in recognition of my new aunt. Then locked on her forehead and blinked in surprise.

"Hello Lind," he rumbled cautiously, "What can I do for you?"

Though it sounded to me like he was really asking 'How big is the emergency and how soon do we need to leave?'.

"Well, we just moved into the house at the end of the block," Lind said casually, and the man looked surprised again, "And since I already know you, I thought I should come over and say hi. Let you know. Introduce you to my nephew, Harry."

The man looked poleaxed. The expression was completely out of place on his face, and I struggled not to chuckle.

"Really," he said eventually, "then in that case, you should probably come in..."

I was officially introduced to Michael Carpenter, and also his wife Charity. Charity was about as tall as Lind, but more muscles and more curves. She was pretty and blonde and very, very pregnant.

"So you were working the... Helpline," Mrs. Carpenter summed up the situation, "And got a call from young Harry here. As a result of his wish, you are now his Human aunt, and living in our neighborhood."

"Effectively," Lind agreed. The four of us were sitting around a large table in their kitchen. Michael was frowning in thought. Charity was just frowning, and she had been since Lind mentioned I was a wizard in training.

"So you are in the old O'Neill house?" Michael asked, "What happened to the guardian?"

Lind cocked her head up for a moment, looking at the ceiling, though I got the impression her gaze didn't end there.

"It seems Bell had a talk with him," Lind said after a moment, "Explained who needed the house and why. So he agreed to pass on."

"And the Little Folk?" Michael added.

"Haven't seen them," Lind said, "But I also haven't taken any action to bar them. They may not be comfortable around me."

"Young man," Charity said to me sharply. Lind and Michael both gave her looks. Her husband's look was one of exasperated amusement. My aunt's expression was more dangerous.

"Harry," she started again, more politely, "Can I ask you to go into the living room and check on the kids?"

"Leave so the grownups can talk about me behind my back. Can do!"

I gave her a crisp salute with the wrong hand, and then walked down the short hallway into the living room.

There were two children in there. The younger was a dark haired boy, probably just over a year old, sleeping in a crib. Sitting on the couch was a small blonde girl, probably five or six. She was playing with a trio of dolls; they looked like teenage, stylized versions of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Harley Quinn. The girl stopped playing and looked up at me curiously.

"Hello," she said after a moment, "Who are you?"

"I'm Harry," I told her, "I'm moving in down the street, and my aunt knows your parents. Who are you?"

"I'm Supergirl," she declared, trying to project but also keeping her voice down for her brother, "But you can call me Molly."

"Molly?" I asked, smiling, "Not Kara?"

"You know Supergirl?" she asked with a expression of joy and wonder.

"Yup," I confirmed, "And Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn, too."

My dad had introduced me to comics, among other things. And Justin hadn't given us much of an allowance, but I could skim them at the bookstore and buy a few. Or bum some off other guys or read the trade paperbacks at the library. Spider-man was my favorite, but aside from him I was generally more of a DC guy, especially Batman.

"Did you know Supergirl is from Krypton?" Molly asked, starting to fill me in.

Charity was standing at the kitchen door, watching Harry. I couldn't see what was going on, but she seemed to relax a little.

"I'm surprised," Michael told me, "I heard bits and pieces about the wish that Japanese boy made with Belldandy. That may have worked out well, but I thought this sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen anymore."

"It isn't," I agreed, "But it did. For some reason an exception was made. And Harry needs me, so I didn't fight it."

"He's a wizard," Charity said softly, "Are you sure he can be trusted?"

"When I told him about the wish, do you know what the first thing he asked for was?" I prompted. They couldn't know the answer but that was the point. Both Carpenters shook their heads.

"The Outsider that attacked him... a Walker of the Outside," I emphasized the point again, "that Harry defeated. When the Walker first found him, it killed another person. right in front of Harry. When I offered Harry his wish, the first thing he asked for was if I could bring that other young man back. He felt responsible, and was willing to use his wish to put it right. There was nothing in it for him, but that was his first impulse. I couldn't do it, because again, Outsider, and that upset Harry. So yes, Charity, as far as I'm concerned Harry is one of the most trustworthy Humans I have ever met."

The other woman paused, and looked into the other room again.

"Okay," she said, "I'll give him a chance. Heaven knows we could use a good sitter, and Molly seems to be taking to him."

"That's all I ask," I told her, "Well, that, and maybe some recipes. Even with these new memories, I still don't seem to know how to cook."

I didn't end up staying at the Carpenter's house. We went home... Man that is weird to say, but feels strangely natural after less than a day. Anyway, we went home. Lind told me she was going to see that other person. That she would bring back dinner, and I was welcome to anything in the fridge in the meantime. I checked, more out of curiosity than intent, but there wasn't any booze. She told me I could start unpacking if the furniture in my room was fine. And if not, I could check out the library, or the two 'safe' boxes of stuff she took from Justin's house.

Naturally, as soon as she was gone, I went downstairs, into the lab. The circle was still glowing. Not that I would have opened those boxes. I didn't want to pay back Lind's trust like that. Or get myself killed by some black magic monster. Instead I opened the first box. I recognized the first two books, Elementary Magic and Natural Elements. I set them aside. Underneath them, surrounded by boxes of insect parts and rare minerals, was a vaguely familiar Human skull. I had only seen to once, but Justin had made double damned sure Elaine and I knew he would beat us six ways from Sunday and throw us out on the street if we ever touched it. Except now, not quite on accident, my fingertips brushed the bone.

An orange light began to glow in each of the empty, shadowed eye sockets.

My teleportation circle set me down just outside his property line. But I had deliberately overcharged it, to announce my presence. As expected, even before the light faded, he was marching up. Black wooden staff in his right hand and shotgun in his left. He looked like he was about three times my age, though in reality he was a few decades younger than me.

Though I was still Human, I had shifted back to my uniform in transit. I almost summoned my spear as well, but decided not to. Yet.

"Ebenezar McCoy," I growled, "we NEED to talk."

The Blackstaff, secret assassin of the White Council and Harry Dresden's maternal grandfather, went pale as a bleached cloud.

Author's Note: Since this has been asked a few times, this story is neither done nor ongoing. It is sort of in limbo, as one might guess from the three years between chapters and fact it is marked complete. I don't intend to continue it any time soon. And not regularly until one of my other active stories concludes. But I can't guarantee my muse won't push me to write another chapter or two of this before then.