Title: Child's Play
Spoilers: None in this chapter
Summary: Harry's latest case is uncomfortably familiar and starts him on another quixotic crusade. The only trouble is, how do you stop a killer when you're stuck baby-sitting?
Disclaimer: Harry's world does not belong to me. It belongs to Jim Butcher and SciFi. I merely frolic around merrily in it.
Tamsin's funeral was the next day and Jordana made it known to me that I would not be unwelcome if I chose to come, but I didn't feel comfortable with that. I didn't know Tamsin when she was alive and a funeral should be about the life a person lived, not the death they had.
Graylin and Dylan stopped by afterwards, to say goodbye before they went to England. Dylan wandered off to look at my wizardish stuff while Graylin and I parted ways. Both Cartwrights looked worn and teary.
"How you doin', kiddo?" I asked Graylin. I was sitting on the two steps that come up from the living room while she stood in front of me, putting us at eye level with each other.
"It was sad," she said.
"Yeah," I agreed. "They're like that."
"I cried," she confided.
"I know. Uncle Dylan said so."
"He's a smart guy."
"I was too busy being scared before to be sad," she told me, in one of those startlingly philosophical moments kids tend to have. "Now I'm not scared anymore because you made it better, so I can be sad." She toyed with the hem of the little dress she had on. "Uncle Dylan said it's okay not to be sad all the time though. We got ice cream and I wasn't sad then." She looked me in the eyes. "I think you should get ice cream too, Harry. 'Cause sometimes you look sad."
It was about at that point I decided I might just kidnap her and keep her for myself, so she could say wonderfully kid-like things like that all the time and cheer me up.
"I'll try that," I promised, with a smile.
"Uncle Dylan says England is far away," she told me. "Is flying scary?"
"Nah," I assured her. "Your ears will feel funny when you take off and land, but they have really good cheese." She seemed to accept this. "Listen, cutestuff, you're gonna have to go soon, so I want you to have this." I gave her the stuffed bunny that I'd rescued from the mess at Blake's place, which I had put a little protection spell on. You can never be too careful.
Her face lit up. "Really? But you won't have anything to snuggle with!"
"I'll be alright. He likes you more than me, I think."
She hugged him to her chest. "I'm going to call him Bob."
"Excellent name." Bob would love having a fluffy pink bunny with a heart-shaped nose as his namesake, I was sure.
There was a crash from behind us and Dylan gave me a sheepish look. "I'll pay for that."
I laughed. "Don't worry about it."
He pulled a pocket watch out and examined the time. "We've got to go soon, Graylin, to catch our flight. Why don't you go say goodbye to your ghost friend? I want to talk to Mr. Dresden for a minute."
"He's just down the hall, where he always is," I told her, pointing. "Just yell for him, he'll come out."
I got to my feet and Graylin hurried down the hall, bunny in hand. Dylan put his watch back into his pocket and watched her go, with the kind of smile on his face you only get to have when you're a parent or equivalent to someone.
"She's a lot like Tamsin," he shared. "When she was little. There's some of Jeremy in there though, I think I'll have to watch out for it. He was my friend, you know, Jeremy. I introduced them."
"It's not your fault," I offered.
He ran a hand through his hair, looking tired. "No, it's not. I know that. It'll just take me awhile to convince myself of it. Uh, that's not what I wanted to talk to you about, though. Last night a man with a sword came to our hotel room?"
"Morgan," I muttered.
"Yes, Morgan," he said, with a laugh. "He gave me a spiel about how Graylin would be better off in the care of the council and she was special and needed to be watched over. It was a nice spiel, actually, very enthusiastic."
"Morgan takes his job as Warden very seriously," I agreed.
"Yeah. I've only ever met my Warden the once. Her name is Shelley. Very Irish. This big," he made a pinching measurement. "Scary as all hell. Nearly took my head off for saving my girlfriend from some lycanthropes. Anyway, I told him to shove off. I thought I'd let you know, since he seemed to think you were behind my reasoning. You might be getting a visit is what I'm saying."
"Yeah, I'll be getting one eventually," I dismissed it. "It happens every few days or so."
He smiled. "Well, good luck. And thank you, sincerely and honestly." He fumbled for words for a second before settling on, "You're awesome. What you did for us was awesome. So thank you."
I felt my cheeks flush. They do that. "It wasn't any trouble," I started. Dylan gave me a look. "Okay, it was lots of trouble but I don't regret it. Just look after her. Morgan's right – she's special. You ever need anything, advice or help or just someone to talk to, gimme a call."
"I will, thank you."
We shook hands and waited by the door for Graylin to return. She did about a minute later. I could see the flash of Bob returning to his skull behind her.
"I'm ready now," Graylin declared, on arrival. She motioned for me to crouch and she wrapped her arms around my neck when I did so. "Bye, Harry. Thank you for being my friend and helping me. And for Bob."
"No problem, kiddo," I said. "You behave yourself. No spell casting until you're at least ten and stay very far away from faeries. They're rampant in England."
She giggled. "Okay."
She slipped into the coat Dylan held for her and took his hand. Dylan and I shook hands again. I could feel the magic in him, good magic, flowing up my arm. He was a good guy. They left and got into the waiting taxi. Graylin waved at me until they were out of sight. I closed the door and sighed a little. I could see Bob flash into existence in the reflection of the glass.
"She will be alright, Harry," he said.
"I know," I told his reflection.
His mouth twitched slightly. "Bob?"
I laughed and raised my hands in a sign of innocence. "I had nothing to do with it, I swear."
We were silent for a long minute, just staring out the window. I grabbed my coat and scarf from the rack with sudden decision.
"Where are you going?" Bob asked, with a frown.
I shrugged and smiled at him. "I'm going to get some ice cream."
Jordana Cartwright dropped by two days later as part of her 'wrapping up business' before heading home. She wanted to pay me for my services, and we argued for about ten minutes before compromising on half my usual rate and her taking me out for dinner. We avoided all topics of unpleasantness and she turned out be very charming date. She went home the next day and that was the last I heard from any Cartwrights for a long time.
This morning, about six months since Tamsin's death, I got a letter with a return address in England. Inside was a long piece of parchment with wizardly scrawl on it. 'A Letter from Miss Graylin Cartwright to Wizard Harry Dresden, as transcribed by Mr. Dylan Cartwright'. It told me about England, the rainy weather, school, Dylan's fiancee, his cat and swimming lessons. She sounded very happy. The envelope also contained a drawing of a little girl with a pink bunny and a very tall man with a hockey stick.
I've stuck it on my refrigerator.