The Dresden Files/Codex Alera is copyright Jim Butcher. This story is licensed under the Creative Commons as derivative, noncommercial fiction.
A/N: This story covers something I've wondered about – seeing what lengths Harry went to in Storm Front to get his hair back, I can't imagine he'd just waltz on down to Pro-Cuts for a new 'do. Another brother story for you guys, this time with Murphy, who shows up near the end.
DF fans can get a little fierce. I know this because I am one, so thank you to everyone who reads and reviews, and if you don't like it, well, you can't please everybody all the time.
Any mistakes and/or incongruities are due to my own faulty memory banks, since most of my books are currently loaned out to new converts. Bwahahaha.
My apartment smelled like cordite and burning hair. Smoke was still curling out of the open trapdoor to the lab as I dialed for help.
No, not 911. Quit looking at me like that.
"Dude. Are you busy?"
"Not really. What's up?" my brother asked. He sounded a little wary, and rightly so – during the past times I've asked him for an assist, there have been (on mostly separate occasions) demonic shapeshifting fallen angels, ghouls, faeries, zombies, vampires of three different kinds, porn star sorceresses (not as fun as it sounds) and flying monkeys flinging napalm poo.
Yeah. You heard me. Napalm poo.
"I've got a…situation. Can you come over?"
"Cool. Bring some scissors."
"Scissors?" He echoed. Now he just sounded confused.
"And a comb."
"I don't like where this is going, Harry."
"I have beer," I said.
"See you in a few."
Thomas arrived about half an hour later, walked in with a duffel bag over his shoulder and started stomping snow off his boots.
"Here." I held out a brown bottle. "You'll need this."
He paused in mid-stomp and stared at me. "What did you do?"
"There was an incident," I said, snapping the cap off my own (third or fourth) beer, "Involving gunpowder and some magnesium filings—"
"Dammit, Harry. I was here when Murph told you not to try to make your own incendiary rounds anymore."
"She's not the boss of me," I said. Even though it's totally not true. She was the one who gave me the shotgun shell loader in the first place, so it's really her fault, right?
"If you say so." He took the bottle, then kicked off his still-snowy boots and dropped them on the hearth next to Mouse. "Was there a fire?"
"A small but impressive explosion," I said, leaning against the fridge. Lucky for me, my neighbors are elderly and mostly deaf and probably thought it was a car backfiring, or something. Lucky for them, the containment wards on the lab work really well; distracted wizards and flammable materials do not a winning combination make.
My hair was singed pretty good in a couple of places, and by 'pretty good,' I mean 'about an inch and a half shorter than the rest' and by 'in a couple of places,' I mean 'the whole left side of my head.'
Unlike Thomas's Harlequin cover-inspired ponytail, my hair is just kinda…there. It doesn't do anything special. It's kind of a messy brown-black, usually a little too shaggy and never in a cool way.
"How do you still have eyebrows?"
"I did this," I said, and clapped my leather-gloved left hand over my eyes.
"Oh." He grimaced. "It's gonna be really short."
"It'll grow back, Fabio."
He blinked at me as if this was an entirely foreign concept.
"Where do you usually have it done?"
"Have it done? No, see, the girls at Wal-Mart told me it's against policy to give people their hair back after it's cut. Something about health reasons, I dunno."
He kept on staring at me as if I was speaking Klingon.
"I used to cut it myself, but—" I wiggled the fingers of my still mostly useless left hand. "So Georgia's done it since then. She said I was just a wine bottle and a shopping cart from looking like a hobo."
"That's insulting to hobos."
"That's exactly what I told her."
"Let's get this over with," said Thomas, waving vaguely toward my face. "Go wash…that."
"Okay." I turned around, turned on the kitchen tap and reached for the bottle of dish soap.
"For Christ's sake." He dug around in the bag for a minute, then slammed a bottle of shampoo down on the kitchen counter. "No wonder you never get laid."
"I'm working on it," I said, reading the bottle. "Strawberry? This is gonna make me smell like a chick."
"Not a lot of guys are willing to drop three hundred bucks on a haircut, and women like to smell like fruit."
"They'd have better luck if they smelled like bacon."
"The directions are on the bottle." Thomas said, pointing imperiously toward the sink.
Ladies and gentlemen, my brother, the queen.
I grabbed the sprayer thingy from the sink and started washing up like I do when my hair is a bird and it's really cold out and hopping into a freezing shower just ain't happening. A towel appeared near my elbow as I rinsed.
"You didn't repeat."
"I like to live on the edge," I said, trying to mop up icy water before it ran down my neck. He held out one of those barbershop capes, a pink leopard print one. "Not a chance in hell, man."
"Fine," he said, and I sat down in the chair he'd pulled out from the table. "So when's your date with the captain?"
I gave him the 'I have no idea what you're talking about, you must be crazy' look.
"I'm not an idiot, Harry. You wouldn't have called me if there wasn't a smokin' hot Italian reason for you to get this fixed as soon as possible," he said, and mercilessly yanked a comb through what was left of my hair.
"Tomorrow night!" I yelped.
"See? Was that so hard?"
"You're a lot nicer when you're gay."
He laughed, then fell quiet for a while and the only sounds were Mouse's snoring and the snip of very sharp scissors.
"Tomorrow night, hmm?"
"Classy. So how long has it been since you—"
"I am so not telling you that."
Relationships – not something we usually talk about, because with us, it's usually more problem than relationship. For example, the last few women I've been even a teensy little bit involved with have been; a) pretending to be dead for a decade, b) a half-turned vampire working for a secret society, c) somewhat imaginary and d) a marksmanship champ consistently shooting down any offers I make.
Thomas has it infinitely worse – he can't touch the girl he loves because he loves her.
What kind of sick universe is this?
"Excuse me for being interested in your life," he said indignantly, and jabbed me between the shoulder blades with the comb. Ow. "Seriously, when was the last time you even kissed a woman?"
"Uh," I counted on my fingers. "Couple days ago?"
"Really?" He sounded impressed. "How'd that happen?"
I muttered something about it not being any of his damned business.
"Can't hear you, bro," said Thomas, brandishing the very shiny, very sharp scissors.
Talk about your boundary issues. While most people don't go around broadcasting their sex lives (or lack thereof), it's normal dinnertime conversation for the Raiths. They bring a whole new dimension to the word 'sharing.'
Seriously, Thomas once sent his girlfriend – wearing nothing but a ribbon – to my apartment. Awkward.
And he's the least Raithiest of the bunch.
So we're different enough as far as siblings go, but when it comes down to it, he's just as stubborn a sonofabitch as I am. So I gave up.
"We, uh…" Oh god, I could feel my face turning red. "We kinda made out in the Carpenters' laundry room."
"Ten points to Gryffindor," he said with a grin, holding out a hand for a celebratory fist bump.
His grin widened. "Oh, I know what's going on. You're freaking out."
"I am not—"
"You clean when you're nervous and," he looked around, "Aside from smelling like a warzone, this place is fucking pristine—"
"I'm not freaking out—"
"Says the wizard who just caught his own hair on fire."
"I'm not freaking out—"
"Uh-huh," he said, and replaced the now-empty beer in my hand with a full one. "You know you could talk about it instead of trying to blow up your apartment. It'll make you feel better and won't raise your insurance premiums."
"Talking is for girls. Guys are supposed to bottle up those talky emotions and then go shoot at things until they feel better."
"Or compulsively clean."
"Or that," I said.
"Okay, you're good to go," he said, taking a step back.
"That was fast. And relatively painless."
He grinned as he put away his gear. "You aren't a beautiful woman paying me hundreds of dollars. Speaking of which, if the good captain needs a cut or color—"
"Out of the two of you, I'd say she'd probably be the one doing the cutting."
"What is it with you and violent women?"
I shrugged, rubbing a hand across the top of my head. It felt weird. My hair hadn't been this short since the time I accidentally burned down Ebenezar's barn.
"Violent older women."
"What are you getting at, Raith?"
"Just making an observation," he said, wearing a shit-eating grin. "There's a definite theme, here."
"Here's an observation, howsabout I beat you to death with a copy of Twilight?"
"Bring it on, cougar bait."
"Fuck you, I'm not gonna say it!"
Thomas had me in a headlock when somebody – a short, blonde somebody—shoved the front door open and stepped inside. She stared at us for a second.
"Hello, Karrin," Thomas said, sweetly. He let me go. "We were just talking about you."
"We were?" I asked.
"Am I…interrupting something?"
"Harry's just getting in touch with his feminine side," my brother said.
I glared at him, then scrambled out of my disastrously itchy t-shirt (my fault for not wearing the cape, I guess) and shook it a couple times. Thomas found the broom and started sweeping up.
Murph, with a skeptical look in my direction, dropped her coat in a chair and got one of the Diet Cokes she makes me keep in the icebox.
"You know, I've always thought that if Harry actually had a feminine side, we'd never be able to pry him off of it."
"You mean to say he'd be touching it all the time?" Thomas grinned as they both laughed and high-fived.
"Guys," I said, pulling my shirt back on. "I'm right here."
"I like the new look. Was there a fire?"
"A small but impressive explosion."
It speaks for our relationship that she didn't even blink.
"It'll grow back," she teased. "Kinda sexy, though."
I blushed again and Thomas snickered. Murph missed all of this.
"I just stopped by to show you what I got today," she said and started unbuttoning her shirt – one of those oversized flannel ones she always wears to conceal a weapon or twelve.
Thomas elbowed me and wiggled his eyebrows, and thank god she didn't see that either, because from the shoulder rig underneath the shirt she brought out a pair of black Beretta 9 mils, ejected the magazines, checked the chambers and laid them on the table.
"Ooh," we said in stereo. I reached for one of the guns and she batted my hand away. My brother and I exchanged a look over her head; he mouthed the word 'violent,' I flipped him off.
"Okay," she said, sniffing. "Which one of you smells like a girl?"
Thomas took a step away from me, whistling innocently.
"That's it. Get your keys, Raith," I said. "We're going to Borders."
Karrin raised an eyebrow.
"Harry's going to beat me to death with cheesy romance novels," Thomas said, conversationally.
She was unfazed by this as well, and sat down at the table, taking a sip of Diet Coke.
"You boys have fun with that."
Unlike sexy vampires, I feed on reviews.