"What's inner beauty compared to outer beauty?!" She shouted as she edged near the cliff. "People tell me I'm funny and clever, but they all want to date my empty headed sisters."
I didn't have a good answer for her. Something had to form and come out my mouth, something positive for her to believe in, to snap her back to reality, but my brain was coming up short.
"My mom is more desirable then me." I could hear her chocking her tears. "My mom. She's pretty, but god, you've met her. She's a living nightmare that sends everyone screaming."
My heart stopped as I watched her throw her hands up in the air and then back down again. Flailing is not something that should be legal in suicide attempts.
"Listen to me." I edged towards her. "Listen to me. Those men who date your sisters, your mother, who see only what's on the outside, they're not worth even thinking about."
"They're every man I've ever met." She sniffled "That includes you too, Mr. Dresden."
I stopped. I opened my mouth to auto-respond, but I had to stop and think about it for a second.
There was a party at her parents house while I was investigating the sudden rash of suicides in her family. I had talked to her mother and sisters first, her last. It if wasn't for a small family photo on the mantel, it would have slipped by me that they were all related, as this one had taken far more from her father then her mother.
Her mother and sisters were the type of women that only a White Court vampire could beat. They were tall with flawless skin, hair and clothes that made you think twice about whatever relationship you were in. Though her mother sat rather high on the scale set for humans, her sisters were good enough to take on the laws involving sex with her 15 year old and make anyone jump at the older 25 year old.
Magic had been involved with those two. Glamour was something they had nearly sold their souls for. Literally.
"I'm not worth your time." I shook my head. "Someone who's as brilliant as you does not want a guy like me. You broke the code for a smuggling ring the FBI couldn't get into. I broke my car. You could take over the world with a mind like that."
"But I'll be alone." She played with the sleeve of her jacket. "I'll have the world and I will be alone." She looked over at me and I could see she was on the verge of crying. "I don't want to be alone anymore Mr. Dresden. I don't want to be the girl anymore who keeps getting passed up for someone prettier. Do you know how many times that's happened?!"
Her voice cracked and I could see Skavis's magic flicker in her eyes. They had this girl by the throat and they were going to make me watch as they plugged their depression magic in her brain with a magical earpiece; a killer earworm.
There was literally a talking worm in her ear depressing her to hell. I know. Gross.
"Look at me, I'm 21." Her eyes cast downward. "I've never been on a date. I've never had sex. I've never even been kissed. I never held a guy's hand."
She held up her own hand and looked like it was missing something, and I felt a pain in my heart for this kid.
A broken home was hard on a kid, I would know. But from what I understand, her parents had been arguing non-stop since she was born. Divorced when she was 13. Her mother had taken her sisters and deliberately left her behind with her three brothers, never to be seen again until the war forced her mother's hand.
None of them had paid any attention to her during the party, and they apparently had all been living together for quite a while.
Now that must have hurt. Abandonment. Blatant unaddressed abandonment.
My mother's been dead since the day I was born, but it was sad that must be a step up from a mother that wanted nothing to do with you. Who wouldn't reference you in conversation and look at you with disdain.
At least I had Elaine growing up. Justin may have been harsh, but at least he had given me a sense of being at home before he tried to kill me. Ebenezer was there when it all fell though for a second chance.
She had no one. And she had to deal with that, everyday, for years. No one was there at the cliff but me and her. No one was here to talk her away from it, to give her a second chance.
"It's not for a lack of trying, you know." She swallowed her tears back. "I tried. I really legitimately tried. Every guy just...doesn't want a girl like me."
She back up a bit and my heart skipped a beat. Between the need to pull her away from there and the sympathy she was generating, I wasn't coming up with many ways this could end well.
"They want my sister. Or my best friend." She shook her head in an ironic smile. "Or my brothers. Or all the above." Her smile faded as she looked at me. "But not me. Never me."
"Then you hang around some of the stupidest people in the universe." I inched closer. "Because one day those boys are going to wake up next to a girl like your sister and realize they made the bad choice. They could have you, the most brilliant and funny girl and they chose wrapping paper instead. They will regret it for the rest of their lives."
"You're wrong." Her face saddened.
"No, I'm right. I know I'm right." I scooted even closer to her. "One day a guy's going to look at you and think you're the most beautiful, wonderful, smartest and important girl in all of creation. He'll love you and you'll never be alone ever again."
"That can't be true." Tears ran down her face. "I'm always alone. I'll always be alone."
"I swear to you, you will find him one day." I was just a little short of arms reach. "And he will love you deeper and stronger then anything your sisters could get."
"How can you be so sure, huh?" She shook her head. "Look at me. I'm 5'2", 250 pounds, and dress like a boy. Who loves that?"
"Someone who can see beyond a pretty face." Her foot started to slip behind her. "Which, I'll admit, for men your age, is rare. But it does happen. And if there's one thing I'm certain of, it'll happen for you."
"Liar." She shook her head and leaned back. "I'm sorry, Harry."
"Ventas!" I shouted as I poured my will into it and pointed it at a higher rock face. The miniature whirlwind bounced off the rock face at an angle and pushed her forward towards me.
I grabbed her and jumped away from the jagged edges of death. I reached down and pulled on a black mass in one of her ears. Six inches of long stingy black mind controlling grossness hung in my hand as she rolled over and shifted her glance between me and it.
"This looked so much cooler in the Wrath of Khan."
She rolled her eyes and got up, wiping the tears from her eyes and I put the worm in a plastic bag. It's kinda a rule of mine that anyone who tries to make a girl throw themselves off a cliff by calling them fat get's torched.
Later that day, she ended up in the hospital for smoke inhalation, because I can't go anywhere in the universe without setting at least one building on fire, and she wasn't prepared to leave one of the newbie Wardens that had come to help.
I stood outside, trying not to trip up any of the equipment, looking in from the glass walls. An older gentleman sat down next to me on the bench.
"They had this room built for people like us, you know." He smiled. "Wizards on the outside, patients on the inside."
I turned my head and he laughed. He was the girl's father, weary from spending the entire day casting spells and brewing potions to help. He had some fairly strong arthritis that kept him at home, but with the help of a cane leaned against his side of the wall, he got around just fine.
"It's true." He smiled. "My boys and myself got hurt a lot over the years, and the Director of the place owed me a favor for axing a poltergeist, so she had a special room built. Goddamn is it useful."
"I could use one of these back home." I nodded as the old man sighed.
"You Wardens need everything." He shook his fist in protest. "You whiners don't know how to guard or take a damn punch and we're in a middle of a war."
I laughed a little, and old man patted me on the shoulder.
"I should thank you, Warden Dresden." He nodded. "I heard you saved my little girl's life. First good thing I heard a Warden do in a awful long time."
"Thank you, I guess." I nodded with it.
He continued talking, holding a conversation as the time passed.
He bragged about his little girl, spat out his ex-wife's name like a curse, and told me the whole reason that the girl's life had come to this. All for something she couldn't control; her talent.
The four children her mother had left behind had one thing in common besides blood, and it was something they had all fashioned into a weapon in some way or another. One was in Iraq, using it to help end the 'War on Terror'. He was a Quartermaster who's armor he sent out was far strong then it should be with supplies that lasted longer then they should have.
Another was a cop, and the third a firefighter, that followed the same basic outline as their oldest brother. Fireproof armor, tracking spells, and more effective hoses without ever breaking a single law of magic.
Crime had never been lower and fires never been so easy with this family around. Almost everyone who has worked with her brother in Iraq has come home safe.
The old man boasted happily. I let him continue, for here was something I rarely came across but always happy to see; a man proud of his children.
I thought back and remembered that I had seen the application forms on the girl's desk when I was snooping. Law schools. She wanted to be a lawyer and was developing a bracelet that could detect lies. Holes in stories. If something was relevant or not. All functioning on people simply telling her a story. She would have to fill in the blanks herself, but if that bracelet worked, she would be able to guess-and-check the stories to figure out what happened and who to prosecute when Colonel Mustard died with the lead pipe in the conservatory.
I honestly wanted one if she could figure it out. God knows it would make my life a hell of a lot simpler. But right now it was just drawings in a notebook with a reasonable amount of magical thought behind it.
The old man stopped his stories and looked into the room, which redirected my attention.
There was a boy sitting on the edge of her bed, about the same age, that she was glaring at. He was pale with long brown hair with perfect bad boy look that all the girls seems to want on a platter.
There was a White Court vampire in his daughter's room and all he wants to do is sit and glare at it.
"Damn Raith." He glared. "Freakin' vamps are everywhere."
"You're not alarmed?" I questioned, throwing my line of sight between him, the door, and the girl.
"Nah. Those two have been at each other's throats it since before he turned and she discovered her talent." He groaned, folded his arms, and leaned back. "Guy's a wuss. She can take him."
"...Really?" I bounced my line of sight back and forth like a ping pong match.
"Follow me Gigntor." He grabbed his cane and walked towards the door, he peeked it open a little. I followed and he stopped right next to the wall. "Listen."
I looked over at them and Listened, carefully blocking out each sound until I could only them.
"Seriously, what are you doing here Raith?" She said in a way that seems like it was impossible to say without sounding annoyed. "You know I can throw you out that window with one word, right?"
"Oh, I know, but I heard my favorite wizard near choked on her own air, so you know."
"I was saving a Warden, you know, people you're family is trying to kill?"
"That's the Reds, not the Whites, Williams."
"You're all trying to kills us, don't see much of a difference." She groaned. "Some in more clever ways then others."
"Why would I ever try to kill you?" He sounded offended. "Though, I have heard you nearly threw yourself off a cliff earlier."
"Thanks for reminding me of my insecurities, my suicide attempt, and the fact that a vampire got in my head." She sighed. "What? Sad you didn't think of it first? I have pushed you through a window before."
"Why would I ever want to kill a brilliant mind like you?" He paused, picking his words carefully. "Jesus, Williams, if there was ever a side I need to pick for this war, it'll be yours. Between that thing with the FBI and that magic in your blood, you're freaking unstoppable."
There was a pause. "Did you just...compliment me?"
"Smart's the new sexy." I could feel in grin on his face. "Also, the best way to survive this mess we call a war, right, Williams?"
Another pause. "I have first name, you know."
"I know." I looked over. He was looking down and she was was trying to hide her smile. "Piper, right?"
"You know it is, Shaun." She took a deep breath. "Maybe, we got off on the wrong foot. Wanna try this conversation again?"
There was another pause as he looked up at her. "I heard you were hurt and you tried to kill yourself. I was worried. Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, thank you." She smiled. They both laughed for how new they were at this. "I don't know what else to say."
"Good on you, kid." I said, returning to my normal level of hearing.
"Think carefully, Warden Dresden." He tapped the glass and my face sank.
"White Court. House Raith. " I bowed my head. "She cannot catch a break."
"No she cannot." He sighed. "That's what makes her stronger. I told you that they have been at each other's throats since they were in diapers. Give me the reason a boy picks on a girl that young."
I thought about it and smiled. "Because he likes her."
"It's never really set in for her that might be the case." He shrugged. "He vamped, she developed talent, but they'd never kill each other. Push each other off the side of a school, sure, but kill? Nah. He's never once tried to feed on her, despite it all. I think I can trust just the one."
I leaned against the glass that I watched the two of them laugh and snark at each other. Even when I couldn't hear them, it still looked like they were making fun of each other, but at least it was playful, even if they were both a little bit guarded about it.
I thought about my own cursed love life and looked back at those two. Maybe it does get better. Maybe there really is hope at the end of if a cursed relationship was still worth a shot. Or maybe they're too young and stupid to realize it. Or maybe I'm just too old and jaded.
"Good for you, Piper." I smiled at her. "You found him. I told you ya would."