I'm trying to get back into the habit of posting my fic here on LJ, so here's my most recent story.
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Title: A Well-Aimed Bullet
Fandom: The Dresden Files
Pairing/Characters: pre-Harry Dresden/John Marcone, Sigrun Gard, Nathan Hendricks
Word Count: 2,181
Summary: Harry Dresden learns a lesson the hard way, and Miss Gard starts plotting. (aka, Harry Overreacts To Things, John Is A Bad Patient, and Gard Ships It)
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Harry Dresden burst into John Marcone’s downtown office the way he usually did when he was riled: boot first, staff in hand, duster swirling around legs a mile long. His sharp eyes fixed on me—the only poor soul in the office at the moment—and in three long strides he was hovering over my desk. I am not ashamed to say that my right hand crept a little closer to the small silver axe I kept lodged beneath my desk, but I plastered a bland smile on my face and greeted him with a polite “Good morning,” which went utterly unnoticed.
“Is it true?” Dresden demanded, glaring down at me.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to be a bit more specific, Mr. Dresden,” I replied smoothly.
His nostrils flared with barely restrained fury and for a moment I swore there was fire in his eyes, but then he thrust one hand into the inner folds of his duster, wrestled with something for a moment, and slammed a wrinkled copy of that morning’s Tribune onto my desk, sending pens and paper clips flying.
I barely glanced at the headline. I had already memorized it.
CHICAGO’S KINGPIN SHOT, PRESUMED DEAD.
I stared blankly up at Dresden, my lips sealed. To say he looked tense would be a severe understatement; he was almost on the brink of fidgeting, and the hand that lay sprawled across the newspaper, partially obscuring the headline and the small black and white headshot of an unsmiling John Marcone—probably the only image of him available to the papers at such late notice—was trembling ever so slightly.
“Is. This. True?” he repeated, every syllable packed with menace, and I reminded myself that this man had killed one of the faerie queens.
I folded my hands delicately on top of the newspaper, never dropping my gaze. I had nothing to fear from a soulgaze, of course. I wanted to see how this played out.
“Which part, exactly?” I asked.
The question seemed to make him stumble for a moment. He glanced at the paper on the desk, his lips parted, and then he closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. “Is he dead?”
I did not answer. I had sworn not to, after all, for the safety of everyone involved. But Dresden was not a rival gangster looking to take over the Outfit in Marcone’s absence. He wasn’t an informer, wasn’t a member of the police, and he certainly wasn’t a reporter.
I wondered if I should tell him.
“Why do you want to know?” I asked instead, both playing for time and genuinely curious. Dresden seemed downright distressed; I would have expected Marcone’s apparent downfall to be met with relief or satisfaction from the wizard, if anything. But Dresden’s downturned mouth and stormy eyes told a different tale.
He hesitated before answering, finally drawing his hand back from my desk to run it anxiously through his hair. From the looks of it, he had been doing that a lot. His hair stood up at all angles, making him look rather like a schoolboy who had spent the entire night cramming for a test he still was not prepared to take. His eyes kept getting drawn to the paper, although he must have read that headline as often as I had.
“I don’t know,” he admitted after a moment of silence. “I just… I need to know for sure.”
“If you’ve come here to gloat—”
Dresden slammed his hand down again, and this time I did jump a little; the runes on his staff were smoldering. I eyed it warily, my right hand inching toward the axe hidden beneath my desk, although I hoped I wouldn’t have to use it.
“Is that what you think?” he snapped, eyes flashing. “That I’d come all the way down here just to laugh in your face because your boss is dead? That’s not…” His anger began to dissipate, replaced again by jittery anxiety. Smoke curled away from his staff, and his face twisted between rage and confusion as he pulled away from my desk once more. I deliberately placed my hand back on the desk. He saw, and managed to flash me a sheepish grin. “Sorry.”
“No,” I said. “It was my mistake. I assumed too much.”
“Yeah, I just… I would never do that, okay? I may not like Marcone’s methods, but he’s…” Dresden broke off with a huff, clearly frustrated with his inability to express himself, and ran a hand through his hair again. “He’s a necessary evil, I guess. But we have a history, you know? I’ve known him for almost nine years now. To think that he’s just… dead, now, from a few stupid bullets, after everything else he’s faced, is just… It doesn’t sit right with me. So I need to know.” His shoulders lifted in a jerky shrug, and the brief glance he spared me was abashed, like a dog who knew he had done something shameful. “Does that make sense?”
“It does,” I said. “And I think Marcone would have been pleased to know you worry for him.”
I realized my mistake as soon as the words left my mouth. Dresden’s entire form slumped. His eyes went wide, his jaw hung open, his shoulders dropped, and honestly, if there hadn’t been a leather chair near my desk, I think he would have collapsed to the floor. As it was, he sank into the chair and held his head in his hands, letting his staff clatter to the ground.
“’Would have been,’” he repeated, rolling the words slowly in his mouth, his muffled voice morose. He let out a humorless laugh. “He’s dead, then. Great. Just great.” His fingers curled in his hair, and he let out a whispered curse: "Damnit."
I knew I should have corrected my mistake, but I was fascinated by what I was seeing. It was something I was more than familiar with, after all.
This was true grief.
For a moment I merely watched him breathe. He did not cry or wail, which I found admirable, but there was such defeat in his posture that I knew this could not be an act. Harry Dresden cared that John Marcone was apparently dead and gone, defeated by something as unremarkable as a well-aimed bullet. The wizard would mourn him, when the Baron's time actually came. There was something significant about that, something I couldn't quite delve into at the moment, but I would have ample time after this little confrontation, I knew, and for the moment my silence was only prolonging Dresden's pain.
“He is alive, Mr. Dresden,” I said, and Dresden’s head snapped up.
“I’m sorry,” I said, rather belatedly. “What I said came out wrong. I only meant that if Marcone had been here, in the office with us, he would’ve been pleased to know you worry for him. I didn’t mean to imply that he was dead. I'm sorry,” I said again, because he still looked rather wretched.
“So… he’s alive.” He sounded skeptical. I couldn’t blame him, really. English is such a fickle tongue.
“Oh. Okay. Stars.” Dresden sat back in the chair with a heavy sigh, staring at the ceiling. He rubbed one hand over the small growth of stubble on his chin. “So, uh. How is he?”
“The last I heard he had made it through all of his surgeries, and was holding stable.”
“And when was that?” he asked, eyeing me sidelong.
“About five minutes before you stormed in.”
Dresden snorted and turned his gaze back to the ceiling. “Hendricks?”
“Also fine.” I felt my lips curl into a fond smirk as I considered the hulking bodyguard, who was texting me constant updates from his own recovery bed in the same room as his boss’. He refused to be parted from him, even after taking four of the seven bullets meant for Marcone. His quick reflexes (and his Kevlar vest) had saved Marcone’s life; there was no doubt in my mind about that. And yet he still considered it a failure, because Marcone hadn’t made it out unscathed.
Nathan Hendricks. A remarkable man.
“Okay.” Dresden let out a long breath and rubbed his fists into his eyes. It was an incredibly childlike gesture, and he caught me smiling at him. He made a face, cheeks flushing. “Look, can we not talk about this ever again?”
“I have to tell Marcone that you know he’s alive,” I warned.
“Okay, yeah, that’s fine,” Dresden said with a wave of his hand. “But my whole confession and breakdown thing? Can we just pretend that didn’t happen? I, uh, don’t want him to get the wrong idea.”
“You mean you don’t want him to know that you actually rather like him?” I asked, just to be clear. (And perhaps a little annoying.)
“Exactly,” Dresden said. “We've gotten along fine so far with the whole ‘I-don’t-like-you-and-your-ways-but-I-gu
“And, uh.” He bit his bottom lip, hesitant. “Tell him to get his ass better soon, okay? I’d feel better with him prowling around again.”
I inclined my head. “I will pass on the sentiment.”
“Good.” He lingered for a moment by the door, then turned to go with a little wave.
“Wait,” I called. I neatly folded up the newspaper he had slammed on my desk and rose to my feet to hand it to him. “Don’t forget this.”
“Keep it,” he said with a crooked smile. “I don’t need the reminder.”
I nodded, and he left.
The newspaper went in the trash, and I picked up the phone on my desk, rather amazed that it still had a dial tone after all of the emotions Dresden had thrown around the office. I dialed and waited, drumming my fingers on the desk.
A gruff voice answered. “Hendricks.”
“The wizard knows.”
Hendricks grunted. “Guess I’m not surprised. He won’t tell anyone.”
“No,” I said, smiling softly. “No, he won’t. He sends his best to Marcone, by the way.”
That got an actual laugh from him. “I’m sure he does.”
“How’s our man doing?”
“Awake and already complaining. I confiscated his phone. Told him to sleep.”
“I think he called me a testa di cazzo.”
I chuckled. “How exotic.”
I heard the low murmur of Marcone’s voice in the background, and when Hendricks next spoke his voice was muffled, like he had placed a palm over the mouthpiece of the phone.
“It’s Gard,” he said. “Apparently Dresden knows you’re alive and sends his warm wishes.” Another, quieter laugh, followed by Marcone’s soft voice and Hendricks snorting, saying, “Yeah. Right.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Johnny says he expects flowers and a card at the very least. Warm wishes are cheap.”
“I hope he doesn’t expect me to pass that on to Dresden. I don’t get paid nearly enough to play courier for two men too thick-skulled to realize they actually like each other.”
“I’ll let him know. Is that all?”
“Victor Scolzi stopped by about an hour before Dresden did, looking for information.”
“You let him know there wasn’t any?”
“He got the message,” I said with a grin, briefly touching the small silver hammer beneath my desk.
“Good. Hang on.” His voice became muffled again, so low I could barely hear it, and then he was back. “Johnny says thank you for holding down the fort, and also that he’ll be back on his feet the day after tomorrow.”
“Don’t get me started,” Hendricks grumbled.
“Get well, you two,” I said, and after a confirmatory grunt from Hendricks, I placed the phone back in its cradle.
I turned my attention to the computer at my workplace. A quick wiggle of the mouse brought the machine to life, and a few clicks brought up John Marcone’s schedule for the next week. I blacked out the remaining appointments for that afternoon and the next day, but the day after remained full. It was optimistic, at best, but I supposed that if anyone could recover from three gunshot wounds in three days, it was the Baron.
I paused before closing the calendar. In my mind's eye I saw Harry Dresden, slumped and beaten, mourning a man he could barely admit was his friend.
It only took two clicks and a moment of typing, and then the deed was done. Instead of a quarterly review at 6PM on the Friday after Marcone’s return, there was a new event: Dinner with Warden Dresden, 7PM, The Gage.
Satisfied, I closed the calendar and picked up the phone again, dialing a different number this time.
“Thank you for calling the Gage, how may I help you?”
I leaned back in my chair, crossing my legs gracefully beneath my desk. “Yes, I’d like to make a reservation for two for this Friday night, please…”
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testa di cazzo: "dickhead," according to my very limited Italian. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
And yes, I'm thinking this will turn into a little series focused mainly on Gard shipping Harry and Marcone, and Harry and Marcone being... well, themselves. And Hendricks being disgruntled because he did not sign up for this shit.
Anyway, thanks for reading!