Our Sister, The Idiot.
A Ranma, Sailor Moon, Dresden Files fic thingy.
By Sunshine Temple
Naturally, I own neither Sailor Moon nor Ranma nor the Dresden Files. So here's the disclaimer:
Ranma 1/2 and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. And the Dresden Files is owned by Jim Butcher.
Previous chapters and other works can be found at my fanfiction website.
Temporary Backup Site.
Other website Temple of Ranma's Senshi Seifuku
C&C as always is wanted.
Our Sister, The Idiot.
This is set between chapters 4 and 5 of Bonding Allure, the Return Book 6.
After Invisible Hand.
And after Skin Game but before Peace Talks of the Dresden Files.
Chapter 1: Missed Connection
Addendum Report: submitted by Special Contractor R Saotome 5th NH Task Force.
The Following Document is rated LC Tempest and sole property of Willard International Consulting.
Access to this document is restricted to those with Need to Know for the following specific programs: Good Neighbor / Tacit Abraham / Prompt Aberlin / Ross-Kruger
My little sister is an idiot. Perhaps that sounds a bit harsh. But I was waiting and waiting and waiting for her in a local bar; one she had picked. And she was nowhere to be found.
At least the steak sandwiches were delicious and the beer was good. Even though I did have to show ID to the barman. Frankly, that was a novelty. Still, my impatience at my little sister was starting to shift to worry. It wasn't like her to be late and irresponsible.
There was no answer at my sister's apartment. Calling her... landlord was a bit more problematic. It turns out Svartalves adhered to security procedures with a rigor that would impress the eldest of my little sisters. Even with a begrudging admission that I had the correct code phrase for one of BlackStone's sisters there was little they could tell me and less that they would.
Visiting and inspecting her apartment was out of the question. I was doubtful they would let me on the embassy grounds, let alone the residence areas. Technically, my sister lived on sovereign Svartalfheim territory, and more technically as a long-term guest of the Winter Lady who did something to earn the respect and trust of the Svartalves.
This was my first visit so they did not have any of my biometric nonsense on file. I might be able to find someone who was already in their system, and use them to get in, but I was not sure sneaking into a sovereign nation's embassy would be the best option.
Contrary to what some of my sisters think, I can show restraint. Anyway, BlackStone has a good thing with Svartalfheim, that was something the Family can build on.
Going through our mutual contacts yielded nothing. Doctor Butters was on alert and would check with the Carpenters. So, I started calling "non-mutual" contacts.
Naturally, I went with family first. And that's what started all this. And why I'm writing this report under the direct observation of a certain blonde relative.
A report that Eve will no doubt complain about. But these After Action Reports are supposed to contain the unvarnished truth. Well... subject to the standard clearance restrictions.
Fine, if Eve's going to go through this with a black marker redacting the stuff I shouldn't talk about, then she can also edit it for tone.
Which is silly, this entire log is subject to considerable secrecy. And is probably some sort of restricted index to the official report. The people cleared to read this have all earned their big girl pants.
Report, document. Whatever.
Eve is always better at making official sounding terms. Which I can say with the utmost sincerity.
Right. The bar.
It was getting late, and the evening was starting to get underway. While waiting, I had put my phone, a locally bought burner, down on the table and glared at it. There's a whole rigmarole to the purchase and activation, but I had my daughters handle that.
There was even more of a hassle of getting funding and setting up accounts. Any American currency we brought over was functionally counterfeit which made its use risky in the long term. Gold and other precious metals could be converted to dollars but that takes time and has its own risks. Funds and accounts could also be established as part of a business relationship with local groups, but that was more of the realm of a certain blonde sister of mine.
Times like this, I could understand the burden of my youngest sister's powers. Though, if she were in a fight or... indisposed she wouldn't be able to answer even if her magic didn't keep her from using mobile phones.
But the whole reason I was here was for family, something that she had to know. Something she had a right to contribute to.
Nabiki and Morrison noticed my discomfort. Draining my bottle, I gave a somewhat reassuring smile. "Contact Eve, update her on the situation."
I stood up. "Watch if I get a callback."
As I approached the bar, I looked around the establishment. Smaller than the Red Turtle, it was a cozy, calming place. In a basement, the bar had a few windows high up on the walls and a scattering of lights. It had better woodcraft in the walls than the Turtle, especially the pillars that supported the ceiling. I wove my way around the baker's dozen tables.
On one of the pillars hung a sign declaring "Accorded Neutral Territory." Useful to know.
Energy tingled and popped from the occupants of the room. However, it was kept nicely grounded. My sister had said this place was a hangout of her city's minor practitioners. I made my way to the bar itself.
A tall, spare man in a spotless apron busied himself behind the wood counter. His head was shaved and he met my gaze with a refreshing directness. I'd put his age at somewhere in the forties, plus or minus a decade. He smelled human.
But that didn't diminish him as a potential threat, especially given the way he moved and the focus in his eyes. I marked the man down as a player, and understood the wisdom of my sister using this as meeting place.
"Beer and two more steaks." I tapped the surface. And put a few bills on the bar. After the purchases we made for phones and other local gear, I had a stash of local currency on remainder. I might as well use it.
His gaze went from me to the sign hanging from one of the pillars.
"I'm just waiting for my sister."
A bit of a frown creased his face, but he went to a cabinet behind the bar and pulled out a bottle.
He held it in front of me and paused. His gaze got critical for a moment.
"Yes, I'm over nineteen," I lied, though not by much. He had seen my ID. Or at least the one I used for most public purposes. Annoyingly, over here, the quality of those papers had gone from "real" fake ID, to "fake" fake ID.
There was more groundwork to be laid and assets to be secured before certain parties would be satisfied with our resources here.
The bartender grunted. "Twenty-one."
"That too," I huffed. We had done this song and dance before. Eve would laugh at my slipup. This wasn't my city. It could have gone worse. I was not sure Silvana even had a drinking age, or at least a purchase age. Maybe I could have had Nabiki test that, when she wasn't accompanied by me or one of my sisters.
His expression remained skeptical but he put the bottle down and went to an icebox, pulled out a couple skirt steaks, and then went to the charcoal grill.
Popping the top off, I took a sip of beer. Beer was not normally my thing, but he could make me a convert. I leaned over the bar, and inhaled. McAnally used good wood in his grill. And he was a deft hand. I wasn't sure if he was as good as Jacob, but it would be a close run thing.
By the time he had finished grilling the steaks and servicing a couple other customers, my bottle was two-thirds empty.
He dropped two plates of heavenly, and extra-rare meat in front of me. On none of my orders had I asked for it that way, and I noticed with others he tended to cook more on the medium-rare end of things. So, he seemed to... know his customers. Another mark in the man's favor.
I did inhale deeply and give a smile, but before I dug in, I tapped the bottle with a nail.
He made a grunt and put another bottle next to it. He wiped down a bit of the pristine bar, made another study of my face, and came to a conclusion. "Dresden?" he asked.
"Yeah, you seen her?" I asked draining the last in my opened bottle.
His face twisted a tiny bit and he gave a grunt in the affirmative.
This grunt was in negation.
"We were supposed to meet-up. But she's late." I shrugged.
He gave me another opaque look, and this time glanced towards the stairs that led up to the door.
I looked over, no one had arrived yet.
"And lemonades for the girls," I added. I wasn't even going to let Nabiki try to pass off at being overage. Silvan restaurants had no problem serving her at least when accompanied by me or one of my sisters, but here wasn't there.
And my niece was a bit too "duty bound" to drink when on mission. Even though this was supposed to be a just family event. But it turned out Morrison was right and I was wrong. More reason to be on the safe side and have a nosh.
Balancing the plates, two glasses, and that sealed bottle, I was walking to the table when I smelled the Pattern V enter the pub.
I put the food and drinks down and watched the vampire descend the stairs. It was a... novel experience. First, he wasn't like the normal Pattern V's. He felt alive. Very alive. He was also far prettier. I was used to the whole spirit-possessing-their-own animated corpse style of vampire. Well, with one key exception.
More than his long black hair, his tall fit body, and his sculpted features was a sense of... cloying perfection. Part of me wondered if this was how others saw my kind.
And given how his easy, confident smile briefly flicked befuddlement that might be right.
He sauntered towards our table. It was an easy motion, an instinctual predatory prowl. Grey eyes scanned the room.
"You must be Ranma?" he asked, his grin returning. It was the same voice that had answered when I called.
I let him keep his mask as I slipped into my chair and gestured to the empty one opposite me. "Thomas, then?"
He looked between my daughter and niece. Confusion flickered across his face for an instant. A silvery sheen came over his eyes.
"Harry's said a lot about you," I offered, carefully tracking his gaze.
"Where is he?" A bit of steel entered his voice. "Er... she," he corrected, but still kept his edge.
"That's why I called you," I shrugged and started eating my steak. "Is she normally late to family appointments?"
I let a little growl escape. "You don't know where she is?"
The vampire exhaled. "I was really hoping you knew where he was."
I'd like to say that the worst part about being in the Venatori was the paperwork.
But that's not true. Lara's actually pretty hands off, at least with these activities (for good and ill). And for obvious reasons, those of us that fight in the Oblivion War don't like documenting our activities.
However, every once in a while a mission requires oversight from the home office. Whoever they are. The Venatori are organized into cells for a reason. And here I am in a room I swept for bugs, without any windows going over the report I wrote out in longhand. I was given warnings about the paper and the pens. Both of which Lara took out of special cases and did smell a bit of chemicals.
Personally, I'll be happy once I finish checking this thing; redact as much of the personal stuff I can away with, I don't trust people who can order my sister Lara around; and submit it. And then I can burn it and try to forget the reason why I had to write this in the first place. I really don't want to think of another factor in this frustrating shadow war.
I have enough family drama on my plate.
If there's one upside, my orders were explicit, This was eyes only for the home office. Lara's not to read the full account of these events. So, at least I was able tweak a sibling out of this.
My name's Thomas Raith. I'm a monster, and sometimes I help make sure things that are best forgotten stay forgotten. Even if that means I have to keep secrets from my brother... who isn't exactly my brother. Well, Harry's still my... whatever.
At first, I didn't think this was Venator business. At first, I thought this was merely some trouble Harry had gotten into.
Okay, if I'm being honest, at first I thought I was being called by a crazy lady. I was doing errands and had just got finished talking with Justine. Harry does think that he... that she could help. I'm not sure though. Our child is going to inherit my...
And Justine is going to suffer for it...
No. Justine's condition was not pertinent to this mission.
Still, I wasn't in the best of moods when my phone rang and some random woman called. Given what I am, hearing her rich contralto purr was at first a pleasant surprise. Then she imperiously demanded to know where Dresden was.
Now, it's a pretty guarded secret that I'm Harry Dresden's half-brother. Knowledge like that is powerful leverage. The golden "bad boy" of House Raith of the White Court of the Vampires and the Winter Knight Warden Dresden being related? Just think of the blackmail possible with a secret like that. Now add in that Dresden is also the Winter Knight.
Course the whole dynamic was upended when Dresden returned from a Winter Court mission... changed. It's amusing that even as a succubus my brother can still be an awkward dope.
If I didn't know Harry, or Halley as she is now so cunningly calling herself, better, I would say that was an excellent bit of camouflage. One worthy of the more devious members of the White Court. But no, she really was that clumsy of a succubus.
Anyway, once the demanding woman on the phone got around to introducing herself, my heart sank. She was one of Dresden's new sisters. It's bad enough dealing with my succubus sisters, but now I had to wrangle Harry's?
Worse, her concerns were valid. She had a point: Harry had been acting strange. Dresden thought Murphy was up to something.
Okay stranger than normal... and given Harry's a geeky wizard sidhe succubus that's pretty strange. Worse, I knew Harry was looking forward to this meeting for a while, though I didn't know it was today, and Harry had been making gifts, one of which she gave me.
I gave a long sigh and promised I'd make some calls and get back to her. And it was what I found, or didn't, that caused me to turn my car around and drive to the bar and meet with an impatient demon as the setting sun made the shadows lengthen.
I parked in the small lot near McAnallay's and sighed again. I made a few more calls. On the face of it, Dresden being unreachable didn't mean much. I mean: Wizard. The dope can't use a cell phone and is more often than not out doing some mystical claptrap.
On the other hand, Harry is also a creature of habit. She likes hanging out in the apartment and spending time with her kids. Empty Night, Burger King was still her favorite restaurant. Not counting Mac's.
On the other, other, hand... Butters said Maggie and Bonnie were at the Carpenters. Normally Harry has Hope Carpenter baby-sit for her. Harry's kids aren't bundled off to the Carpenters unless he's... she's planning on being gone for a while or doing something "not family friendly".
Karin Murphy didn't answer her phone either, but Chicago's most clued in former-cop was, despite her injuries, doing a lot of her own things. She was still a big wheel in the Brighter Future Society.
I gave another sigh and exited the car. I shivered a bit as I crossed the lot. The whole thing gave me a bad feeling. It was one thing to interact with my latest succubus sister; I had experience with that. But meeting the demon who turned Dresden?
Forcing a smile, I went down the stairs two at a time and entered the pub. Once again with those low ceilings, I felt like I had to duck under the ceiling fans. I don't know how Harry could keep coming here.
Okay, I knew why Harry kept coming back. Mac's beer was that good, but I don't know how Harry avoided getting hit on the head.
Well... I suppose that was less of a problem now; Dresden was shorter now. Then again she had a supply of leather high-heeled boots that Justine found very impressive. I was not sure why my brother was indulging in high fashion footwear, but she had been cagey on where they came from.
I scanned across the room, but it was easy to tell who had called me. A trio of pale, beautiful women with vibrant unnatural hair colors. Okay, that shade of red could almost be a human color, but the others weren't human.
But they weren't dye jobs either. Their tresses didn't have any of the slight stiffness that comes with cheaper dyes; they had no exposed roots of a different color; and their eyebrows were also the same shade.
Look, I made a career out of styling hair. And it wasn't the coffee that kept my expensive clientele coming back. I was good at it. Okay, maybe that I was feeding, nibbling really, on some of my clients that helped, but not by much.
Empty Night, It was like they weren't even trying to blend in. Well... they didn't have horns, tails, or wings out. And at least they weren't dressed too provocatively.
Okay, the redhead was a bit motorcycle fetish, the green-haired one was wearing a prim grey suit coat and skirt, and the young one was in a tooth-achingly cute shiny Chinese-themed blue and white dress with little snowflakes. But compared to the stuff my sisters wore, it was acceptable enough.
"You must be Ranma?" I asked, striding over. Dresden had talked about her sisters enough for me to readily recognize the redhead.
"Thomas, then," the redhead stated, her voice almost a growl. Her gaze fixed on me she motioned for me to take a seat.
I glanced at the other two demons at the table. The green-haired one had a stern expression, while the younger one in blue had an earnest, innocent look that immediately set off alarm bells. My Hunger was... confused. The hungry emptiness within me wasn't sure to classify these women as threats or as food.
"Harry's said a lot about you," the redhead added. Her tone softening and revealing a slight Japanese accent. However, her deep purple eyes continued to bore onto me.
I met her gaze. I was used to dealing with Lara, and before my sister turned him into a puppet, my father. "Where is he? Er... she," I corrected.
The demon sniffed the air and started eating her bloody steak. "That's why I called you. Is she normally late to family appointments?"
I had to laugh. Clearly, someone didn't know Dresden very well.
The redhead snarled a tiny bit and gently lowered her knife. I noticed it wasn't one of Mac's steak-knives. Instead it was an anodized folder with a black blade and a gleaming edge. "You don't know where she is?"
I tried to affect a relaxed slouch. "I was really hoping you knew where he was."
Her eyes flashed. "I called you," she slowly enunciated. She glanced to the others and popped the cap off her beer bottle with her hand.
I frowned. Mac didn't use twist offs. I then noticed the easy springiness to her posture and how she shifted to one side. Vague disquiet also passed over her; it was a pensive nervous expression I had seen on Harry's face.
If we weren't in public I'd bet I'd see her tail out nervously swishing about. That was another tell Harry had developed. Thanks to the buxom redhead before me. "You're genuinely worried about Harry?"
And then she looked at me like I was a moron. The two other girls glanced between themselves and pointedly ignored us and ate their meals
The redheaded demon took a long drink. "You really are her brother aren't you?"
"He does smell like Auntie BlackStone," the young succubus with the powder-blue hair happily said.
"True Nabiki, very true." Ranma contemplated her bottle. She put it down and went back to her steak.
I glared as she ate.
The redhead, hardly taking her eyes off her meal, motioned to the green-haired succubus. She got up and quickly returned with an open bottle which was placed in front of me.
"Sorry, that was rude," the redhead said, not sounding contrite at all, as she finished her dinner.
I took a sip. "You've got that in common with Harry."
She laughed. It was rich and a bit deep, like her voice. Once again, my Hunger's interest nudged at me. It was probably for the best I was pretty well fed today.
The redhead looked me over. "Right," she nodded to herself before standing up. "You're a local boy, I'm sure you have some emergency way to find Dresden, right?"
I took a pull from my beer. At least she was willing to buy me a drink.
"Good, finish up and we can go find her," she pronounced shifting her leather jacket. I caught a glimpse of the various Kydex and leather rigs she had concealed under the garment.
"And you're arrogant and demanding like Harry," I noted. "Are you also as subtle as he is?"
The redhead laughed as she made her way out of the bar.
I felt the vampire ascend the stairs behind me. Nabiki and Morrison followed him up. I didn't expect trouble from him. Well... not much trouble. He was related to Dresden, and seemed about as stubborn as my sister.
Brisk early spring wind blew across the parking lot. Street lamps had started to turn on. It still had the bitter chill of winter.
"What's the plan?" I asked, once Thomas finished climbing the steps.
Grumbling, he stepped into view. "You think I have a plan?"
"It's your city." I spread my hand. "If you prefer... we can look for our sister my way..."
"But Mother, where will we rent a helicopter at this hour?" Nabiki asked.
I glanced over at the vampire. He had a good poker face.
"Yes, but where will we find a Valkyrie with a mini-gun?" I mused, catching the vampire's eye. Even sister's tragic stories had their amusing moments.
"When mother gets back, she can man the belt-feed," Morrison suggested.
"I suppose a blonde Germanic demon will have to suffice," I turned to the tall dark-haired man. "Unless, you have a better suggestion?" I asked with a warm smile.
"I might have a way to find Dresden," Thomas casually said. There was only the tiniest bit of silvery glint to his gaze that betrayed his discomfort. He really did have a good poker face.
"Excellent," I agreed. "Nabiki. Morrison. Contact Eve. Then meet up with Butters."
"You're bringing a Knight into this?" Now, Thomas' composure cracked a bit.
I exhaled. "Way I heard, it doesn't work that way," I looked around the lot. A chill passed over my spine. I wished I could have my horns out, with them hidden things felt... muffled.
He nodded. "Yeah... the folks 'upstairs' bring him in. You can't force the Knights to fight."
"Ah, but I can have him go over to the Carpenter's and check out my nieces. And if anyone goes after the kids..." I shrugged.
"Not to mention the Carpenter residence is protected ground."
I tilted my head slightly. BlackStone and Dr. Butters had mentioned something to that effect. Part of the retirement deal given to retired Knights.
He looked thoughtful. "But that only works against supernatural threats. Pure mortals, with mortal weapons, can just walk on through."
I simply let my eyes drift to my daughter and niece.
"Sure, angels and demons protecting the runts. That'll work great." Thomas snorted. "You gonna tell Charity about the backup?"
I shrugged. "I'll let the doctor handle it."
Nabiki frowned while Morrison gave me an opaque look. I could tell neither was terribly happy. "I'm serious, we're guests here. And you'll need to defer to his judgment."
Thomas looked out past the parking lot and down the street. "Yeah... that's a good idea... she likes him better than Harry. Still, that's a hell of a surprise to drop on their lap."
I snorted. A hell of a surprise would be more of my girls with a couple Operations Section squads and some aerial fire-support and over-watch. Dropping in a few Pattern Silvers for mobile artillery would nicely round things out.
But, I didn't have those resources. Not here, not yet. Building relationships with organizations that were... similar to the Company was not my part of this mission.
Putting my hands in my pockets, I let my eyes survey the cityscape. Lit up like this, it didn't look half bad. I took a moment to follow the vehicles and people walking about.
It was similar enough to my city, as flawed as that place could be, but... it was different enough to reinforce just how far from home I was. In a way, it felt a bit more alien than Silvana. The smell was off. More importantly, it showed my normal means of backup were at the end of a long tether.
As for differences... the smell alone... I wrinkled my nose. I had mentioned it before, but Toronto was a fairly clean city, and Silvana was built by beings with noses far more sensitive than humans.
On the upside, I could tell that my sister frequented this place and lived around here. That was reassuring, and almost worth the vaguely rotted fish and industrial stench coming from the rivers and canals around us.
"You could call Mrs. Carpenter," I offered. Partially out of politeness, I didn't want him to feel too railroaded, and partially to sound out his reaction.
Thomas actually looked embarrassed. "Uh... she likes Butters better than me as well. Neither me nor Harry are her favorite people."
Stepping towards the van we had rented, I cocked an eyebrow. "You? Who could ever dislike a handsome man like you?"
Thomas' composure came back as Morrison and Nabiki went to the vehicle and started making more calls. He gave them a confident look with big white teeth; the vampire did pull of the suave look. I could give him that. "She's pretty religious and..."
"Vampire, wizard, and demon mean trouble then?" I asked.
He shrugged. The gesture made it seem that something was bothering him, more than what we were saying. "It doesn't help that Harry's..."
"Well... Harry and Charity are getting along better these days... I think she likes that she's got a new range of things to be critical to Harry about."
I made a curious noise.
Thomas gave a winning smile. "Mom stuff."
A deep chuckle burbled within me. "She does have heart but experience is..." I trailed off. Being clumsy at motherhood was something I could sympathize with.
"Yeah... puts Charity's mind off of the whole... " He gestured towards me with some embarrassment.
Pulling at my coat, I shrugged. The Denarians in general, and their leader in specific, had a personal vendetta against the Carpenter family. And the Fallen were pretty demonic.
"But the way Harry tells it, an Archangel was there to play meet and greet," Thomas shook his head. Not in disbelief but more in amazement at the nonsense his sibling had to deal with.
I snorted then nodded to my daughter as she buckled up in the shotgun seat and watched as Morrison put the van in gear and drove off. It was a rental. Local assets were still pretty light.
He took an unconscious step towards a white luxury SUV across the tiny lot. "There's a few addresses we can try. Good thing about Harry is he doesn't go to very many places, we just left the only bar and restaurant he... she really likes."
"Not counting Burger King as a restaurant?" I asked.
The handsome vampire snorted. "Would you?"
I smiled. "I knew we'd find some common ground."
"Still, there's a few of Dresden's haunts we can try."
"And calling in any local kami," I offered.
"Spirits, small gods... the wee folk," I snapped my fingers. "Doesn't Dresden have a bunch of 'em?"
Thomas chuckled. "Sure. I know how to order pizza but I don't really know how to get into contact with Harry's little fairy army."
I sighed. Of course, wizards were not big on redundancy. They horded secrets as bad as spooks. Though I'm sure my eldest little sister would contend she has well-thought-out contingency plans.
"There is a guy who can summon ghosts and the like I know of, but there's still some legwork we can do," he offered.
"Or you can use magic," I mildly suggested and relished his flummoxed expression.
"Magic?" I asked the smug, perky demon. I had some ability. It was not the flowery and complicated stuff my brother did. He... she was a savant, a disciple, a total magic nerd. Magic was all about Harry Dresden.
Think of it this way. My brother wore a silver pentacle amulet around her neck. It was part of her, almost but not quite, posture collar of a choker. But it started out as a pendant. It was the twin of mine. Our mother left them to us. Mom was really big into magic. Her taste in men however...
The star represented the five elements constrained in the circle of mortal will. Harry believed that. It was key to everything that made Dresden well... Dresden, from the pokey Volkswagen, to the questionable job, to the awkward clumsy, and collateral damage-inducing heroing.
Speaking of the Volkswagen, I was shocked my brother had two cars. One was a giant dark blue Cadillac hearse so creatively called the Munstermobile that technically belonged to the Winter Court. Which was why Dresden had spent a bit extra on an orange Volkswagen Thing. You can guess what superhero related name Harry gave that car. The Thing was used for getting around town in something that the Winter Queen didn't own.
Yeah, not only did my dorky brother have a convertible, but she was also using some sense and subtlety. Okay... the convertible still had no engine power and was boxy and ugly, but still... it was progress, while still being very Dresden.
Magic, properly used magic, was Dresden's faith. She might quibble over the term. She preferred "Forces of Creation", which was pretty religious sounding in my book, but where to me my pentacle was a valuable symbol of the part of my family that wasn't... overtly monstrous. To my brother...
See, the difference was that she could use her pentacle to fight off Black Court vampires. In her hands the pentacle hurt them as much as a crucifix, a Star of David, or other religious symbol in the hands of the truly faithful.
When all was said and done, magic was my brother's identity. She could accept being a demon, a succubus; she could handle being Mab's leg-breaker, or bed-warmer. She could deal with it all as long as she was still a Practitioner.
Meanwhile, to me, magic was a trade. It was a means to an end. It was hard and took a lot of skill and talent, and as such there were a few things I could do.
As I mused, the redhead had been making level, direct eye contact. It was a bit unnerving. Especially given Dresden's habit of avoiding such things.
"Harry's the wizard." I stated. My magical ability, such as it was, was also something I kept hidden. That was the whole point of secret talents.
The redhead gave me a patient look.
I crossed my arms and decided to wait her out.
"Vampire," she eventually said.
"That doesn't mean I'm a Practitioner."
"Maybe not as good as your little brother," the redhead flashed her teeth. "But you're a magical creature, you share a mother; you'd have to have some talent."
"By that logic why don't we use yours?" I casually glanced about. Sure, people like us didn't have to keep too low of a profile when it came to keeping the normals from finding out about the supernatural, but Red here was really pushing the line.
"Too many people interfering. Think of it like scent. Get me within a block and I should be able to suss out if she's been there recently, closer and I can do more."
"Right." I drawled.
"But that's these," she gestured to where horns would be on her head. "I don't have skill in thaumaturgy."
"And you think I do?" I asked, tone skeptical.
She gave me a quietly judgmental and disappointed look. Empty Night. I had lost my mother when I was young; she uh... ran away. My father was a real piece of work. The pentacle amulet I was given for my fifth birthday was one of the last things she gave me.
Unlike my half brother, I had memories of her. Our mother died in childbirth, thanks to a spell my son-of-a-bitch vampire father used.
The look the redhead gave me was... uncomfortably familiar.
I snorted back at her.
"If you can't do it, we can search my way," she shrugged with the easy air of someone who had just got into the driver's seat of a rental car, someone else's rental.
I looked down at her. "And that is?"
"I'll improvise." Her expression seemed sincere and aloof, but I could feel the worry and annoyance beneath that.
"You really think I can do magic?"
"Given your-" The smile she flashed was all teeth. "-brother? I can see you keeping that on the down-low, for a few reasons."
"And what are you keeping from Harry?"
Purple eyes widened. "I'm not trying to keep anything from her. In fact, the whole reason I'm here is to keep her informed," the demon said with utter sincerity.
I couldn't help myself and snorted again. "You're just guessing. This is a fishing trip."
"And I'm getting nibbles." She sing-songed. "If you're worried I'll blab to BlackStone about it, I'll keep your secret."
"You just said you don't keep secrets from Harry."
"I implied," the redhead stated.
She pointed to herself. "Demon."
I swear she smirked when I glanced around the dim parking lot.
"Please, no one cares. I could go out with my horns and no one would notice. Well... maybe not the big ones," she murmured.
"And the tail and wings?" I asked. The set Dresden had was immense, but she was like a foot taller than the redhead.
"Fair." She nodded amiably. "So? Magic time."
"I'm not as good; it'll take me a while," I admitted. Magic... magic was special to my brother. And she was rather prickly about it. I swear that was half the reason why she had issues with her fairy godmother, because heaven forbid someone be a better Practitioner than her.
Though between the Winter and demon stuff, she probably got along better with the Leanansidhe.
Doing a good job at containing her pleasure, the redhead shrugged. "More skill than I have."
"Aren't you some kind of magical girl," I asked , relenting and going back to my truck.
She pulled at her leather coat and idly fluffed her teased, full-bodied tresses. "Yeah, the dark kind."
"Meaning?" I used a fob to unlock the doors.
"Heavy on assault and infiltration; light on utility spells." She leaned on the front fender.
"Right," I drawled out the word. The redhead was about as subtle as a brick to the face... thrown by an 80's glam rock groupie from the hood of a van with an mural of a wizard on a T-rex airbrushed on the side.
I rummaged around the truck's rear seat area pushing a few, more martial, supplies aside before I got a box of chalk out.
By the time I had gotten it and started to make a circle on the lot, the redhead had hopped up onto the hood and was watching with her legs crossed, sans brick.
"I'm not as fast as Harry, but I'll get it done," I promised as I sealed the circle with an act of will.
"My. Phrasing?" The demon laughed.
I eyed her and undid my pentacle necklace. A few years back, Bob the Skull had given me a few pointers to help improve my journeyman tracking spell. Think of it like getting a few tips from a master craftsman.
Sure, the spirit of intellect who lived in the skull was big on magical theory. Which, honestly, made him a great fit with the newest, and most polka-loving, Knight of the Cross. But Bob was able to dumb his hints down enough to help make my spell a bit harder to spoof.
Honestly, I kind of wanted to get Bob's advice, or at least fob off the demoness onto Sir Waldo. But the polka-man had been real busy lately, and really cagy about the skull. I was suspicious, but my brother, well... he trusted Butters.
I pushed those thoughts aside, and the ones about how the demon bounced one leg as she intently watched me. Instead, I organized the mental constructs of the spell and set each piece into motion as I focused the power around my pentacle.
Yeah, I was a lot slower than Harry at this. Gimmie a break. Dresden's the wizard.
The spell would form a link to the nearest one that had the same resonance. And my mother only had two pentacles that she gave to her two sons. That meant it would find my dope of a brother.
Especially, since Harry had taken to wearing her pentacle as the centerpiece of that not-quite-a-posture collar she wore.
Once all the parts were together, I exhaled and broke the circle. The magical barrier dropped and the spell activated. The chain swung a bit and then hung to one side, being pulled an inch out of plum.
The redhead hopped off and circled around me. "West south west?" she ventured.
"What, you want a compass?"
She gave me a dry look. "Even Harry knows how to triangulate."
"Get in the car."
"I've got a compass and paper, and the math ain't that hard." she patted her jacket and I could hear the rustle of a few folded bits of paper.
I looked down at the shorter woman.
"Fine, but since you're navigating, I should drive," she offered, trying to look helpful.
I shook my head. There was something about her expression that did not make me want to trust her with my vehicle's well-being.
She shrugged and went over to the passenger seat. Where she actually pulled it forward a few inches. Huh, even Murphy didn't do that.
I closed the door and turned on the engine. Okay, it was a bit complicated keeping the pentacle up in the air while I did all that, not to mention having to keep the spell active in my mind. It was like humming a tune while doing a crossword, and playing mini-golf, only more complicated.
The redhead shrugged and leaned back, a little smile on her lips.
As I drove down the early evening Chicago traffic, I noticed she had stopped the chatter and was simply watching out the windows. Her expression was a bit pensive but she knew not to be a distraction.
Which was good, because if Harry were here she'd be chatting aimlessly or brooding. I suppose that was once advantage of her being all gothy sidhe succubus, it complimented her when she got all broody.
Still, if Harry were here, I wouldn't be trying to keep a spell in one hand and a steering wheel in the other. And that was only partially because the whole point of the spell was to find my idiot brother.
After a couple miles of driving we ended up in one of the more... transitory areas of Chicago. That is where even the most optimistic influxes of urban renewal spending had yet to touch. My sister and Gentleman Johnny Marcone both loved using real estate to launder money, but even they had limits.
There was a pair of tram lines. A "park" that was just a wide area of trees and grass that was cut-off from pedestrian access by the pot-hole filled major artery road we had just pulled off of.
Let's put it this way, the free clinic down the road and the questionable bodega were the most appealing locations, and the few people meandering outside both were extra furtive.
Though four or so blocks to the south was about the best taco joint in the city.
As I circled a block of non-too-appealing bunker-like warehouses, I noted how my pentacle focused on the worst of the lot. Seriously, there was evidence of fire damage on an entire wall. Which was simply boarded over with plywood.
Having cracked the window, the redhead perked up and actually sniffed the air. She let out a noise that was vaguely feline, like some sort of confused trilling growl.
"Lemmie guess super-succubus senses are picking Harry up, too?" I asked giving the warehouse a casual eye as we drove past. It was not a happy place. Definite bad vibes; of course.
"Definitely a succubus," she inhaled. "It's... odd there's masking, a lot of... death. Not quite the literal scent of death, but a feeling, you know?" Her fingers flicked a bit as she played with the door handle.
"Oh, Empty Night," I sighed. Black Magic, she was picking up on it too. At least I should be happy that the demon was getting the heebie jeebies. I half expected her to find dark power delicious.
I leaned back in the seat. "How do you want to play this?" I asked the vampire.
"You don't wanna go in guns blazing?" he asked. For such a pretty-boy, he could be contemplative.
"You're the local boy. I don't see you rushing in to save our sibling," I said.
Eyeing the leaning pentacle, he started counting off. "First, we're not sure Harry's even in there. Second, even if she is, we don't know what's going on. What if Harry's doing some Council, or Winter Court business?"
I nodded. "Right, like the time Harry was working for the Denarians as part of Mab's little scam?"
"Yeah." He drove down a block that ran parallel to the street the building was on.
Good, a few more drives around and he was bound to get noticed. "We don't know that Harry needs help. Chances are good she does, chances are also good she's still in the 'talk to the creepy supernatural black-hats' phase of her cases."
"Which happens right before things get all fireballs and ice-bolts," I noted and rolled a shoulder. "Recon then? A little light burgling?"
"Yeah," he looked me over, only partially appreciatively. "Can you be... stealthy?"
"Quiet thief instead of noisy thief? I think I can manage that," I purred.
"And you can keep up?" he asked.
I gave him a level look. "You really want to get into an endurance contest Mr. Never-does-a-sit-up?"
He blinked, and looked maybe a bit guilty. "Okay, how much did Harry tell you?"
"Enough, like how, she uses that nickname for you,"
"That's because he's jealous. Besides Harry was crazy about exercise before you came along and would drag me along on his morning runs."
"Yes, a two hundred pound weight vest. So strong," I snorted.
Thomas stared at me. "Harry wasn't exaggerating about the training you put him through."
Jealousy might not be all of the reason why she teased her brother. "Don't worry about me, I actually push myself to my limits when I work out. I don't just rely on mail-order vampire muscles." I shook my head. "Not even a real vampire," I muttered.
"You want a real vampire?" Ire edged his voice.
I smiled. "Sure, I've worked with 'em before, but it's a bit of a drive to London."
He looked confused then gave a resigned sigh. "This is like when Harry babbles about some comicbook thing only he knows about."
"I give her credit for staying pretty up to date on all the geek stuff, given her handicap." Scanning the neighboring buildings, I frowned. The warehouse was not alone on its block, but even with deepening twilight it was still a bit bright for a second story job.
"At first, I thought it was just Harry's ire towards vampires. I mean he once dressed up as a cheesy lame vampire to a Red Court ball. And that was before the war."
I gave him a quick look before pondering my ingress. As much as my sister's yelling of Parkour was annoying, and not actually Parkour, that art had its purposes.
Thomas drummed the steering wheel. "That started the war. And he liked being high and mighty over my sister Lara, which, given some of the stuff the White Court gets up to... not to mention her issues with the Black Court."
Using my wings, I could simply fly over there, but again stealth. Still, it was not like I was lacking in climbing or vertical leap. Even by succubus standards, I was at the top, which was the whole point of training.
"But ever since she came back... as a she, she's been looking down her nose even more at Lara. Mostly because it tweaks my sister, but..." He eyed me, a bit of silver glinting in his gaze. "I mean Lara sees Dresden as a challenge but also..."
I set my jaw and let out a small growl that might have had a bit of a purr to it. He was being distracting.
"But you're all like this aren't you? Egotistical and proud?"
I wanted to roll my eyes and give a dismissive snuff. Which would have proved his point. And that was not the only thing I wanted but there were more pressing matters.
Visiting my grandmother, spending time in her Palace, and seeing just what House BlackSky was all about was... well in some ways it was a humbling experience. But mostly in the context of showing what an elder demoness could accomplish with enough intelligence, will, and time.
I bowed my head to him. "This is your city. I'm following your lead. Heck, you got us here with your magical skills."
"Yes..." Blinking, Thomas turned suspicious. "What are you buttering me up for?"
I laughed. He did smell delicious. "I'm guessing I'm better at second story work than you are, and since you're local you'd probably get more out of any paperwork a dumpster dive would turn up."
"Come on pretty boy, you don't like to get dirty?" I teased.
"Now can we talk about 'phrasing'?" he asked, throwing my previous comment back at me.
I nodded. "Fair, come on, let's get to sneaking," I waited for him to slow down, hopped out the door, and started walking. I wasn't going to get too far ahead. Besides there was a parking spot just down the block he could use.
End Chapter 1
The concept of this story came when I thought about how Ranma, chaotic ball of destruction would do in Dresden's Chicago, but without much of her support structure, and instead decided to go for local help.
And what better "local guide" for her than Thomas. Especially given both are close to their sibling. The whole story was written well before Peace Talks came out, and I was happy that only some slight revisions were required. Mostly to add in things about Thomas, Lara, and Lara's new hire that fit too well to not add in.
I'd like to thank the prereaders for their help in this project: J St C Patrick, DCG, Kevin Hammel, and Ellf. Special thanks to J St C Patrick for going through this with impressive speed. The other 3 parts are written and are just being edited right now.
I am also working on a long-form essay that documents the structure and organization of the Imperial Legions and Household Fleet of House BlackSky. Lot of information about Succubus Legionaries and Demonic zeppelins.