Fic: Desperate Measures
Title: Desperate Measures (1/4)
Fandom: Dresden Files
Spoilers: Up to White Night. Also set in my Dresdlet-verse and follows Persistent Illusion.
Summary: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Margaret Dresden has been dead for two years, and now she's coming home.
Notes: This chapter cowritten by Puck. All of it beta'd with loving mild insanity by Pris.
Smoke drifted across the corridors still; the greeny-white smoke of misfired spells combining with myriad small fires. The Maligare had put up a good fight, but all six of the wizards were now in custody, their minions had been rounded up, and the two Corpsetakers were safely in the traps. Now all that remained was the cleanup.
Cleanup, and finding whoever Luccio had on the inside. There had to be a mole, even if the Commander hadn’t said so explicitly; they could not have caught the Corpsetakers otherwise. But thus far, the mole had not made his or her appearance.
Morgan carefully picked his way through the wreckage of the facility, hoping their mole had not been killed in the battle. He kept a spell ready, just in case they had missed someone during the sweep foolish enough not to surrender peaceably.
A few steps on and he caught a faint sound coming from somewhere to his left, a sniffling. Had one of the locals gotten caught up in the fight? Carefully, he turned toward the noise and prowled in that direction.
The sniffling sound came softly from a mostly-intact room with the door standing open. Inside, a blonde woman sat against the wall, her knees drawn up to her chest and her face buried in her arms. She wore the same rough brown dress that the female underlings had worn, and if he had not known very well that Karrin Murphy was dead, he would have thought for a moment that it was her.
Morgan stopped and stared at her. After a moment, he whispered, "...Margaret?"
The woman jumped and scrambled to her feet, scrubbing at her face with the heel of her hand in a familiar gesture. She stared at him, her blue eyes wide, her entire stance speaking of uncertainty and sorrow. After a moment, she managed, “H-hi.”
There were a thousand things he could say and a thousand things he could not. None of them could quite convey the feelings running through his mind as he realized that Margaret must have been their inside source. Rather than say anything, he took a step forward and opened his arms.
Her lip trembled, and she ran forward, not bothering to slow down any when she collided with him—she needn’t have, anyway, since she had clearly lost a great deal of weight. She buried her face in his chest, like a small child, and started to cry. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean… I’m sorry…”
Morgan hugged her tightly against him, keeping one hand against the back of her head comfortingly. "It's all right, Margaret," he said softly. "It's all right. I understand."
“I couldn’t tell anyone,” she whispered, then took a deep, trembling breath, and stepped back, visibly forcing herself to calm down. Her hands still shook; she twisted them hard together. “I… how’s Arthur? And Julia?”
"Julia is pregnant," he told her softly. "Arthur has his hands full." He didn't tell her that the children missed her; she certainly knew that, and Morgan wasn't the sort to say things they both knew.
She sniffed again, and huffed a laugh. “Good for her. She must… they must be happy.” Another hesitation, and then she asked, tentatively, “And Daddy?” She avoided looking at him.
"Still grieving," he told her. "Fine in all other ways."
Margaret bit her lip, and still did not look at him. "And... and you? I mean, it's been..." She trailed off, twisting her hands, and began again. "I guess we won."
"We did," Morgan replied. "We got them." Stepping forward again, he wrapped one arm around her shoulders and gave her a paternal kiss on the forehead. "And I'm proud of you, Margaret."
She bit harder into her lip and kept back tears with another visible effort. “I thought you’d be angry.”
He shook his head. "You did a very brave, difficult thing, Margaret. And you in no small way helped bring the Maligare down tonight. How could I be angry with you for making such a sacrifice for the greater good?"
She hugged him again, and he could feel that she was trembling, very slightly. “Because I hated it. Every minute. I wanted to be home, and I couldn’t tell anyone because it would wreck the whole thing, and I looked like Mom and I was scared all the time and I saw everything…” she drew in a breath and it sounded like a sob.
His returning hug was tight. "It's never easy to work under cover, Margaret." This is why I don't do it anymore. "I would have been worried if you had liked it."
“And you’re really not mad at me?” She still sounded vulnerable.
"I'm really not," he assured her gently.
Margaret drew in a deep breath and got control of herself again, though she did not move away. “I want to go home,” she said, surprisingly steady. “Can I go home now?”
"It's all over," he replied. "Of course you can go home."
“Will you take me?” she asked, looking up at him. “I don’t want to be by myself. I’m scared.” What exactly she was scared of, she did not elaborate.
"It would be my pleasure to, Margaret," he told her, kindness in his grey eyes.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and hugged him hard once more.