Title: Christmas Quartet: "Happy New Year" (part 4)
Characters: Harry, Murphy, Anna (Murphy's daughter)
Summary: After they make their Christmas Eve a visit to Harry, Murphy and Anna drop by once more on New Year's Eve. (Harry's POV)
Normally on New Year's Eve I'd have a date, but I wasn't up to taking anyone out on the town this year. My back still hurt and I was out of the painkillers the hospital gave me. Bob was very dubious about me refilling my prescription. He thought I'd get addicted and let me tell you, I wasn't far-off. Those were some nice pills. I suspected that even the high of the pills would not drown out Bob's lectures, though. So, I was suffering through the back spasms as best I could and stuck to regular doses of ibuprofen. I was very grumpy and Bob was avoiding me.
There was a knock at my door and I groaned at the thought of getting up to answer it. I was on the living room couch, under a blanket, wallowing in self-pity. Extremely busy, in other words, and not inclined to be disturbed.
I got up with a sigh and shuffled towards the door. I couldn't see anyone through the shop window and I decided if someone had decided to ding-dong-ditch me, I was going to turn them into a toad. I didn't know how to do that, but I was sure Bob could help if I asked nicely.
As I neared the door, a small pair of eyes rose up and peered through the glass. They belonged to Anna Murphy. She was on her tip toes to see through the window and quickly dropped down when I came into view.
"Hi Mr. Dresden," Anna said, when I opened the door.
"Hello," I returned. "How was your trip?"
"Wicked," Anna said.
"You swim a lot?"
"Excellent." I looked around. "Where's your mom?"
"Parking. We stopped by to see how you were." Her eyes flicked sideways for a moment and then back up to me. "And to use your bathroom."
"Ah," I said, stepping aside. "C'mon in. Down the hall to your right."
Anna removed her boots and hurried away from me. As she passed, my wizardly olfactory senses detected the smell of chlorine. I briefly pictured her with a mermaid's tail, decided it suited her and moved on to other things. Like Murphy, who had appeared in the doorway and was looking all relaxed from her vacation. Her face looked softer than normal, as though she wasn't tensing it up to deal with everything.
"Hey Murph," I greeted her.
"Hey Harry. How are you?" she asked, in her 'don't bullshit me' tone.
"Cold," I answered.
I shuffled around her and shut the door. The blizzard had been a good one and more light snow had fallen for most of the week. I really needed to shovel my walkway. I really needed some Vicodin too, but it, like the shoveling, was not likely to happen in the near future.
"Do you want some tea or something? Are you in a hurry?" I asked, hoping to steer away from my health.
"A bit Harry, yeah," Murphy replied, regretfully. She looked at her watch. "We're sort of behind schedule, but Anna really wanted to stop by and see you."
"It's alright," I said. "I'm not much company right no-ow!"
My back decided to go into a spasm. I closed my eyes and waited for it to pass. Then a pair of cold hands were up the back of my shirt and thumbs were digging into the exact place it hurt.
"Mmmm," I said, approvingly.
"Am I in the right spot?" Murphy asked.
"Ya-huh," I managed to get out. "It hurts everywhere except where the bullet went in."
"You twist funny to keep your back from hurting where the wound is and then all your muscles tense up from being in the wrong position," she explained. She gave a sharp slap to my shoulder. "Relax, Dresden."
It was very hard to relax when a beautiful woman, who not a week earlier kissed you and gave you a very nice Christmas present, has her hands up your shirt and was doing wonderful, wonderful things with them. I wasn't about to tell her that, though and attempted to release the tension in my shoulders. My muscles twinged but Murphy pushed her fingers into them and the pain started to ease.
"You're very good at this," I said.
"I've been shot before too," she said. "I know how it feels." She paused. "Thank you, for pushing me out of the way."
"You've already thanked me," I reminded her. "More than once. You're welcome. I accept cash donations, though, if you feel the need to show your appreciation in a more concrete form."
She gave me another slap on my shoulder. "I'm not that grateful."
"Fair enough," I said.
My eyes started to close as I relaxed and I made happy noises before I could stop myself. My head dropped forward and Murphy moved her hands up to my neck, where a particular large knot made me hum a little as she massaged it. Murphy has very nice hands.
Anna's very pointed footsteps caused Murphy to draw back sooner than I would have liked. My back protested the lack of her touch loudly, but overall, it felt much better. Anna stopped stomping and skipped the rest of the way to us, landing with a bounce at Murphy's side.
"I got you a present," she said. She pulled a small box from her pocket and held it out to me. "It's not very fancy or anything, but I wanted to get you something 'cause you gave me something and it's wicked." She gestured to the necklace that still hung around her neck.
"Thank you very much," I said, surprised and touched.
"I'm going to hug you," Anna announced.
I blinked. "Alright."
She hugged me around the waist. I couldn't bend much to reciprocate, but I put my arm around her back as best I could and the general feeling got across. After a few moments, Murphy said something that I think was in Spanish, because Anna replied 'Si, Mom' and released me.
"We should get going," Murphy said.
"You should come for dinner when you feel better," Anna told me. She jammed the words together as though she had only a second or two to get them out before she turned back into a pumpkin.
Murphy made a sort of squawking noise. "Only if you want to, Harry," she said, quickly. "The next time Anna's with me."
"Sure," I accepted. "That'd be nice."
Both Murphys relaxed and Anna gave me a wave as Murphy opened the door. "Bye Mr. Dresden, Happy New Year!"
"Back atcha," I told her. I raised my eyes to Murphy. "Happy New Year."
"Happy New Year, Harry," she returned. "Thanks for your Christmas present, by the way. It was lovely. I didn't know you were even listening that day."
"I always listen to you, Murphy," I told her, surprised. She looked sort of taken aback. "You'd kill me if I didn't."
She laughed. "It'd be nice if you listened as well as listened," she said.
"New Year's resolution," I promised. She gave me a skeptical look, but smiled. "Thank you for your present, too. It was great."
"I thought you must have a lot of books on magic already," she said, almost shyly. "But the guy at the shop thought you'd like it, when I described you to him."
"It was great," I repeated. "It made me remember a lot of good things." We stared at each other for a moment. "I'm going to hug you."
I hugged her and she gave me a kiss on the cheek. Anna gave me a smile as I looked at her over Murphy's shoulder. I winked at her and stepped back. Murphy smiled at me too, and I noted that the two Murphy women had the same smile. She stepped off into the night, taking Anna by the hand. I closed the door behind them and turned my attention to the present Anna had got me.
There was a ridiculous amount of scotch tape used to hold the wrapping on and I had to rip into the paper, which stuck to my fingers. I opened the long box and inside was a bookmark. It was a red, faux leather and there was a quotation in gold written on it:
"The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."
I brought it to the kitchen, where the book Murphy had got me for Christmas sat on the table and swapped it in place of the playing card that I was using for a bookmark. Then I sat down and wondered why I ever thought I needed painkillers, when a cop and her daughter could make me feel this good.