Dresden's apartment is a lot like him. Rough, unfinished, hidden and beaten, but simple, comfortable and, for those who come to know him, sheltering and welcoming. It is cold down in that little basement, and often dark, but it is not the biting cold or the blinding darkness. Instead it is the soothing balm of a night's sleep under the Lord's stars.
It's a pity that he himself doesn't fully appreciate his own best qualities.
I suppose few men appreciate the qualities that truly make them good, most are more taken up with the more obvious features.
Still, I had a task to accomplish here, I couldn't be distracted from it.
I walked down the steps and up to the heavy steel door that most would view as an attempt to keep the world out rather than protect what was inside. And then I rapped politely on the door.
I am moderately ashamed to admit that I find it so very amusing to watch Dresden struggle with his door. I sometimes think he engineers such difficulties for himself to remind him of humility. It is hard to tell with him sometimes.
"Michael?" Dresden said with a bit of surprise. "Don't tell me she did it again, damn girl's going to give me an ulcer. Give me a moment, I'll get my stuff and we can go un-purple things."
"I'm not here about Molly, Harry," I told him, bringing him up short for a moment before he turned about.
"Something need doing?" he asked.
"I'm not sure I could be forgiven for dragging the injured into battle before they're recovered, Harry," I responded lightly.
I believe the Lord would forgive me a little humor.
My next statement was considerably heavier.
"I spoke to Father Forthill," I told him and a look of comprehension started to come over his face.
"You want to talk about Lash," he said with a frown and a curious expression as he waved me to come inside.
I took his invitation and stepped down into the cool atmosphere of Harry's apartment, looking about as labored to close his door and replace the protections on its entrance. As he did so, the wizard's dog rose himself up to come forward and greet me, mouth opened wide and eyes glittering with laughter. I reached out to pet the animal and he glanced toward Dresden with a worried expression that made me wonder if I should have brought the sword with me.
"Do you want something to drink?" Dresden asked, passing me by as he left the re-secured door behind him.
"A soda if you would," I said seriously.
Harry nodded and returned quickly enough with a Coke for me and bottle of beer for him. He looked haunted as he usually did after a major battle, and he was still moving stiffly from the accumulated injuries of this and other battles.
I sat down at his silent gesture and watched him do likewise. Quietly he picked up his guitar and held it for several seconds staring at it before dropping it into his lap and casually plucking at the strings. There was little technical skill in the few notes he played, but a clear and piercing quality that stirred emotions strangely.
I pray the Lord would forgive me for growing impatient at his stalling.
"Harry, turning over the coin will not help you keep Lasciel from..."
"It's not a problem," he said simply.
There were two, maybe three more notes played on the guitar and then he set aside, carefully before meeting my eyes.
"She's...not going to be influencing me," Harry said flatly.
There was a mildly dangerous tone to his voice that I'm fairly certain he wasn't quite aware of. The last time I'd heard it was shortly before he unleashed a torrent of fire onto a den of unholy vampires.
I glanced back toward the door.
"You haven't forsaken your power," I noted cautiously.
"And I'm not going to," he responded.
"Then you still have Lasciel's shadow in your..."
"Lash," Harry said.
"Excuse me?" I said, frowning.
The shortened name was what he'd called her before, I had thought...hoped...it was just him being lazy.
"Lasciel is the thing in the coin," he explained the picture of calm. "The one in my head was Lash."
The rage behind his eyes as he spoke of Lasciel was akin to the righteous fury that sparked there whenever a friend or an innocent was harmed under his protection.
"If she has so much influence over you that you are behaving this way," I said warningly, "then I fear you've given her too much leeway."
"You don't have to worry," Dresden responded.
"When one of my friends gives a servant of..." I was interrupted briefly as the wizard rose his hand.
"She's dead," he explained.
That made no sense at all. The Fallen of the Denarians imprinted their minds on their chosen hosts. That entity never left, not entirely. Not unless the host took up the coin in truth and the imprint rejoined with the true Fallen. The best that could be hoped for was to encourage the entity to dwindle.
"Did she make you see this, Harry? Remember that she is a spirit and cannot truly be killed," I reminded him. "I should not have to tell you these things."
A slight smile came to his face briefly before he leaned forward and spoke to me of Lasci...Lash's actions in the White Court's disastrous meeting.
He spoke with the quietness and directness that usually accompanied his heaviest peaks of emotion. And he was very descriptive, at least of the interchange with the...entity.
"Harry, if that's true, it's astounding," I said, wide eyed.
"Astounding," he repeated. "She escaped her promise to tell me about my mother."
The statement was a clear and obvious facade and I thought carefully about how to proceed.
"Harry, you redeemed a Fallen angel," I reminded him. "Or at least part of one."
"And what use is that?" he snapped. "I've saved my own ass again. No more Hellfire, no more threat of being Lasciel's plaything, no more..."
He looked down and then back up.
"If what I did was so astounding, then where is Lash right now?" he asked.
And it was obvious then.
He did not see this accomplishment as a great victory. Instead, he simply saw a friend that he had not protected. One he had not even realized needed protecting.
"She only did what you showed her," I reminded him.
"Get fucked up?"
I shook my head resolutely.
"She took on the pain of her friend," I explained to him patiently. "Making sure they were safe whatever the cost. But you know this."
"Knowing and knowing are two different things," he said morosely before reaching for the guitar again.
I couldn't argue with him there.