Feel My Fire
I like my boss.
Take that whatever way you want, it's accurate. Harry Dresden is a great guy, a good man, and if I could get into his pants, I would. Unfortunately for me, for all the little spikes of lust I can provoke out of my boss with the right outfit, he's still adamant about seeing me as his friend's little girl. Never mind the fact that I've been legal to drink for a few years now.
And yes, I know when Harry finds me hot. I'm an apprentice wizard with a gift for empathy and mind magics. I can feel the emotions of the people around me, almost as if they were my own. It's not mind reading, per-say, but if I know a person, that little peek into what they're feeling, regardless of what emotions they're showing, can make it seem that way.
So I knew that morning, after Harry had finished the healthy breakfast I made him and got over his morning grump, that something was up, even before he announced it.
Harry's always been an easy empathic read. Everyone has an aura of magic, of life, and my sensitivity allows me to not only feel it but read it too. As a very powerful brute wizard, my boss has got a huge aura, so picking out his emotions is like looking at a huge billboard. Any powerful emotions he's feeling are written in ten-foot letters with flashing lights, battering at my senses. Of course, Harry knows that it's a bad idea to let his emotions run wild given the kind of power he can bring to bear, so he tries to bottle it up until he needs it, but that doesn't mean I can't feel it anyways.
That's why I knew things were up. With the cloud of morning grump worn away and his brain kicking back into gear, Harry was twisting into a mess of suppressed emotion. There was frustration, from things not going right in whatever new mess had landed in his lap, from not getting laid in a year. There was worry, for someone in trouble that he couldn't yet reach out and save, for those who would walk into the fire beside him, and just a little for himself. My boss was not very good at looking out for himself. There was joy intermingled with feelings of guilt and betrayal. There was confusion and startled disbelief. There was a weariness that always came about when Harry had a case where it was all or nothing.
And beneath it all…
Beneath it all was a Rage the likes of which I'd only ever felt maybe once or twice. He had it leashed for now, but it prickled at my senses, at great beast snarling at the bars of its cage, ready to rend and tear and devour.
My boss could be a very, very scary guy sometimes.
Harry took a moment to think when I asked him what was up. That was warning enough that this would be dangerous.
Then he explained it, in short sentences, and I knew where I'd felt that Rage before.
A few years back, less than a year after Papa's forced retirement from Holy Knighting, there'd been a rogue priest intent on getting the Swords of the Cross in Harry's care back out into the world, and he'd kidnapped my little sister Alicia to make Harry hand them over. Papa had been furious that one of his little girls had been taken, threatened like that. Usually, the bad stuff from Papa's work left us alone, we just had to deal with the post-battle care. His Rage over Leech's kidnapping by a man who should have been an ally had been incandescent. Papa was a dad, we were his kids, he was supposed to keep us safe and by God, he would do all he could to see that happen.
Now Harry was in Papa's shoes, even if he'd never met his kid.
Kids have always been one of Harry's protective override buttons. So have people that are part of his family, by blood or by choice. This little girl─ Maggie, she was Harry's and Harry protected what was his, often to lethal effect for the monsters.
Harry's storytelling, the strength of the storm of his emotions, had drawn me in close to him, where I could reach out to him, offer my hand and my help.
"Wow, Harry," I said when he finished explaining.
I'm not sure what else there was to say about having a kid with your ex who fucked off to South America to be an anti-vampire terrorist without telling you about the kid until said kid had been kidnapped beyond the ex's ability to take back on her own. I had no doubt that bitch would have skipped telling Harry if she could have gotten Maggie back without him, given how she'd already forcibly kept them apart.
"Yeah," he sighed. I was starting to think part of the tired feeling I was getting from him was from containing all the swirling emotions these events stirred up in him.
"Wow," I repeated. I wasn't sure it could be repeated enough.
"You said that," he snarked back, giving me just a flash of regular old Harry.
"This changes everything." I knew that just from the change that occurred with every new sibling I got. I couldn't imagine what it was like to be on the parent side of that, to know that you were wholly responsible for a new little life instead of just having another Jawa to babysit and teach the finer points of sibling love and rivalry.
Harry just nodded in silence. I don't think he could much imagine himself as a parent either.
"How can I help?"
Some of the tension in his body, his emotions, ebbed away. But it got replaced by a new little spike of worry. My boss is always concerned about those under his care.
"You tell me. What's the smart move, padawan?" Harry never really let a moment of learning pass us by.
I considered what he'd told me about the situation, what I'd been taught about wizardly problem solving, and what Harry wouldn't want to do in his emotional turmoil but probably should do if he wanted to fix this.
"We need information." Step one to any plan of action: know what you're getting yourself into. "And we need backup." Never go it alone if you don't have to. Make sure you have more than enough firepower to finish the fight. "Edinburgh?" Home of the White Council, who hated us, but definitely had the power to intervene.
"Bingo," he said, grumpiness recoloring his emotions as he finished his orange juice.
The trip to Edinburgh had been going well until we hit the harried phone operator. She was just a ball of annoyance at the stupidity of her fellow humans, and not at all happy to see the two ex-warlocks of the Council standing before her.
"Ah, Wizard Dresden. I am quite busy," she said, a spike of disdain for him, us, in her aura.
"It looks like it," Harry agreed personably with a nod. "Wizard MacFee, right? Where is everybody?"
MacFee lit up with surprise. I guess she'd never had to deal with how oblivious Harry can be sometimes. Or how the Council wasn't keen to keep us in the loop.
"Why, they're in the Senior Council's residence hall. It was the only place big enough for everyone who wanted to witness it."
Harry nodded along as annoyance bubbled up from him. As much as Harry likes issuing vague statements to others, he really hates when other people do it to him. But he tried to play nice and not scare the poor phone wizard any more than showing up had. "Witness what?"
"The ambassador," MacFee replied, annoyance reclaiming her surprise. "You haven't heard?"
"Was sort of busy yesterday." Harry was too busy for political Council nonsense most days, what with being busy actually making a difference for people. Me, bitter about the high horse riding the Council did? Surely not. "Heard what?"
"Why, the Red Court, of course." I felt my stomach drop out. Harry was not in a good space to hear anything about the Red Court except 'we're going to wipe them all out,' and I doubted that was the good news. "They've sent an ambassador plenipotentiary." She smiled, giddy joy and hope suffusing her. "They want to change the ceasefire to a genuine peace. They've sent no less than Duchess Arianna Ortega to ask for terms."
HATE. KILL. DESTROY!
I lost seconds, floored by the tsunami of Harry's Rage. Long enough for him to exit the phone room.
MacFee looked just as shaken as I felt.
But I didn't have time to be shaken. My boss had just set out on a suicide run, and this time he didn't have a plan beyond 'attack.'
It was easy to track him through the halls. He was a beacon of lethal intent and power. Harry is one of the more powerful wizards alive, by sheer magical muscle. The amount of power Harry moves in a typical day would leave me barely standing, never mind when he's throwing down in a fight. I am a wizard of gossamer threads, Harry is a wizard of suspension bridge cables. You do the math.
As I caught up to him, it was pretty obvious he was gearing up for a fight. Besides the overwhelming rage pouring off of Harry, the air around him was seething with power that was overflowing from the glowing runes of his staff and blasting rod. I'd seen my boss light up his gear as an intimidation tactic before. A visible sign that he had power at the ready, so did you really want to mess with him? But I also knew that light effects that weren't deliberate were a sloppy waste of energy, or an unconscious bleeding off of excess energy. My boss was not in the habit of sloppy spell casting.
Harry was moving down the hallway fast. He wasn't running, but his long-legged strides and smooth, steady gait could eat up ground like nobody's business even at a quick walk. I considered running in front of him to get him to stop and think, but quickly trashed the idea. Besides the effort it would take to overtake Harry, I didn't think it would be safe to stand between him and the bloodsucking bitch he was marching to war on.
Harry was feeling way more than he was thinking right now, and, given how much the feedback was clouding my thoughts, I didn't think he'd be working on anything but instinct right now. My boss has very lethal combat instincts. I was terrified of getting in the way of those, the memory of a much lighter anger and a face melting ball of sunshine meant as a lesson flashing through my head.
I still had to stop him though.
If Harry went in there spoiling for a fight, either the Council would put him down for trying to flambé their hope for 'peace' or the bloodsucking bitch would sucker punch him while he was too angry to think straight.
I did the only thing I could think of. I called his name and grabbed his arm to try and stop him.
I certainly didn't expect Harry to have the kind of strength necessary to bodily drag me along behind him without breaking stride. That was its own kind of terrifying. I'm a big girl, an inch of two shy of six feet and made of muscle. Harry's a good head taller than me and skinny-lean. He doesn't look like he could drag someone like me without noticing the extra weight.
I kept calling his name and trying to get better purchase with my sneakers on the old stone floors of the Hidden Halls of Edinburgh.
There was a twitch of stifled surprise against the rage, and Harry's head tilted down a bit to see my hands clinging to his left arm, a tilt more to see the rest of me hanging off of him.
"Harry! Harry, you can't!" I pleaded, trying to stir up that faint flicker of removed interest before the rage drowned it out.
He faced forward again, stride unbroken, rage still seething.
"Harry, please! This won't help Maggie!" I sobbed out. I didn't want to see my boss die in a useless blaze of rage.
That got through to him. I could feel something worming its way up under the rage. It took a few seconds to build up, for Harry to stop walking and take a breath.
I tightened my grip on his arm, pressing my head against his shoulder to provide as much of a physical anchor for him as I could. And for me too. I was drowning in my terror of what Harry would do unchecked, and the rage that was still coiled and roiling around him.
"Please. You can't. You can't go in there like this. They'll kill you," I said, panting and shaking from all the emotion and effort of slowing him down. I swallowed the broken sobs that wanted to get out and continued, "If we have to do it this way…" let me go out beside you. Let me change their minds so you can do what you need to do. But my boss, in his right mind, would never accept that. The idea that he might go back on everything he taught me for this… I didn't want to know if he would.
"At least let me veil you," I offered instead. I doubted he could get very far like that. Harry was too worked up for delicate magics to contain and hide his presence very well, especially against wizards who had a lot more experience with veils than me, even with my natural gift for them.
Harry remained still, his shoulder moving beneath my forehead in the large breaths I could hear him taking. His rage slowly withdrew.
I felt him shift and moved back a bit to meet his eyes as he looked back at me.
"I'm okay," he said gently.
He was lying. He may have swallowed the storm of rage, but it hadn't abated in the slightest. All it would take was another good rattle to let that storm back out of the bottle, and Harry had every intention of walking into an earthquake zone.
"Okay," I said. I didn't think there was anything I could do to change his mind. Not without breaking the Laws and any trust he had in me.
He leaned down and kissed the crown of my head, like Papa would when I'd come running to him after nightmares. God, I wished this was just a nightmare.
"Thank you, Molly," he said. I supposed the return of manners was a good sign. It at least meant he was thinking again.
"You can let go of my arm now," he gently insisted after a few more moments of calmed silence.
"Oh, right. Sorry," I said, releasing him and giving him space. God that was so embarrassing, still clinging to my crush and boss like that.
Harry had turned his attention back down the hall though, finally considering making an actual plan.
"Harry?" I asked, still concerned about what the plan might be.
"This isn't the time or the place to fight," he stated.
"Um, yes. I mean, clearly." Given Harry's March of Doom down the halls we'd just finished, I was kind of surprised my boss had managed to reach that conclusion.
"Don't start," he reprimanded me, but there was the slightest hint of his usual wiseassery in it. "Okay. So the duchess is here to play games…" his jaw clenched and the storm threatened to shatter its bottle again. "Fine. Game on."
He took off in that ground-eating, Molly-dragging stride again and I hoped we weren't walking to our fiery, passionate deaths as I hurried after him.
I was browsing Changes and bumped into this scene and thought "Huh. That must have been a hell of a thing for Molly, given her free-range empath powers." And so here we are. Let me know what you think.