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a mite whimsical in the brainpan ([info]tigerkat24) wrote,
@ 2008-02-27 00:02:00

Previous Entry  Add to memories!  Tell a Friend!  Next Entry
Entry tags:dresden files, dresdletverse, fanfiction, harry/murphy

Desperate Measures (3/4)
Title: Desperate Measures (3/4)
Fandom: Dresden Files
Spoilers: Up to White Night. Also set in my Dresdlet-verse and follows Persistent Illusion.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Margaret Dresden has been dead for two years, and now she's coming home. Beta'd with loving mild insanity by Pris.

Julia was more than ready to have this baby already, and she wasn’t even seven months along yet. At least it wasn’t as bad as it could be. She’d heard horror stories from both her mother and Arthur’s, enough to give her the sweats when she thought about it. But she’d had a textbook pregnancy, no complications, only a touch of morning sickness instead of the five months of wretchedness Arthur’s mother had suffered, and the baby only kicked every once in a while. She smiled a little, involuntarily, remembering; her mother, complaining that Maggie had kicked her black and blue and nailed her in the lungs every time, and Maggie retorting from the kitchen that it was only in her nature…

Maggie and her mother. Her smile faded, and she pressed her hand against the curve of her stomach again. At least with Maggie they hadn’t seen it coming; there had been no anticipation to make the pain worse.

The phone rang, and grateful for the distraction she levered herself up out of her seat and answered it. “Morgan household, this is Julia,” she said.

“Hey, Jujube,” her father said, his voice warm with affection. “How are you?”

She smiled again, and leaned against the wall. “Fine, thanks. You?”

He hesitated.

Julia frowned at the phone. Usually that question got a litany of complaints; a client had done this, Uncle Thomas had done that, did you really have to marry a Morgan, Julia, it’ll be the end of me someday… but not this silence. “Daddy?” she asked, shifting the phone to her other ear.

He huffed a rough laugh into the phone. “Oh, man, Julia, don’t call me that now. Look, you’re not going to believe this over the phone. You’d better come over.”

She glanced at the clock; Arthur wouldn’t be home for at least another hour. She could leave a note… “I’m not sure,” she temporized. “What is it? Are you in trouble?”

“No, no. Really, would I ask my baby girl to come bail me out of trouble?”

He’d asked Maggie, once… she shoved the unworthy thought away. She was all he had now, and even if she wasn’t her mother, wasn’t her sister, he had to love her all the same. “I guess not. What is it, then?”

He paused again. “A surprise,” he said, finally. “Just come and see, Juju. I can’t really explain it.”

“A good surprise or a bad surprise?” She scribbled a brief note for Arthur and tacked it on the table where he’d be sure to see it.

“Kind of both,” her father said. “Nothing nasty, just… you’ll see.”

She worried over his words the whole drive there. Harry Dresden was not usually given to being cryptic. The last time she could remember was when he was worried about something and wanted to talk it over with her mother without worrying anyone else. They still had worried, naturally, and all the more for not knowing precisely what was going on. But he was a man. He didn’t quite understand that.

More precisely he was like Maggie. Maggie had always assumed that if her family didn’t know how dangerous her work was, they wouldn’t worry. And to some extent that had been true—Julia still felt guilty whenever she thought of that last mission. She hadn’t even known Maggie was going out again, for goodness’s sake. They’d had a sisters outing the week before and Maggie hadn’t said a word. If she’d known…

If she’d known she might not have worried anyway. Maggie had been capable, strong, intelligent. She had fully expected that Maggie would live a long and hair-raising life.

Guilt. So much guilt. There had been a time somewhere in her late teens, when Maggie was training to be a Warden and kicking supernatural ass daily, when she’d hated her sister. Not the usual sibling rivalry, either; they’d had that phase and gotten over it before their parents even noticed they’d started. Real, true hatred, because Maggie was everything her parents had wanted.

Maggie was brave and strong and smart; Maggie was the fighter, the honest one, upfront and quick. It seemed like every time she got home she heard some new story about Maggie’s exploits. She was graduating, applying to college, going away and coming back new and elegant and polished and she still felt not quite good enough, because she wasn’t Maggie.

That had eased a little, when she married; there had been a little spiteful twinge of glee that no one was looking at Maggie the way Arthur looked at her, and then she was over it, living her own life and becoming her own person. She’d found a job she loved, she had Arthur, she had a close and caring circle of friends; what more could she possibly ask for? She was over it. Mostly.

Mostly, that was the key. And then Maggie had died, so sudden, and she couldn’t hate her anymore.

Julia hadn’t been back to her sister’s grave since the funeral. She couldn’t force herself to go.

She shook off the dark thoughts as she turned down her father’s street. It had nothing to do with Maggie, this call, it couldn’t have. Bittersweet news, probably. There might be tears or smiles before the day was out. But her father could not be dying (she could not imagine on what planet that could be construed as good news), and that was really the only horror left for her, from that quarter, anyway.

Harry Dresden was waiting on the curb for her, his hands shoved deep in his pockets and his expression distant. He blinked back into reality as she parked, and smiled. “Julia. How are you, darling?” He held his arms open.

“You just asked me that a minute ago, Daddy.” She got out of the car and hugged her father. This required some careful negotiation because of her belly, but she managed all the same. “And I’m still fine. I promise.”

“Good.” He rested his chin on top of her head for a moment, then pulled back, kissed her forehead and said, “Well, come in then.”

“Daddy, really,” Julia started, following him towards the house. She accepted his hand down the stairs—she usually didn’t, but she was so off-balance recently and she really did not want to take a tumble due to pride. “It’s not like you to be cryptic.”

“I’m not being cryptic,” he replied, holding open the door for her. That she’d gotten used to, since nothing up to and including force would ever make him stop (and her mother had tried). “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. Enter and be welcome in my home.”

Julia paused just inside the threshold and gave him a look. “I grew up with parents who fought monsters for a living. My first babysitter was a werewolf and by the time I was five I’d been kidnapped by vampires twice. I’m married to a wizard and I’m not so bad at magic myself. And you claim I wouldn’t believe you.”

He laughed. “I know. But I’m serious. You wouldn’t believe me.” He stepped inside, closed the door.

The room probably looked better when it was lit by candlelight as it was now. That, Julia decided, was the sad part.

Her father lived in a pigsty. There were simply no other words for it. Books all over the apartment in untidy stacks, Mouse doing his best impression of a shag rug and the duster inevitably thrown on the floor. Julia made a clucking sound and stepped delicately over a toppled tower of books. “I can’t believe you live in this.”

“Don’t you get smart with me. I’ve seen your house.” Harry frowned absently at the room. “Now where did she go…?”

Julia opened her mouth to ask who he meant.

At approximately the same time, the trapdoor creaked open and the question died on her lips.

Maggie climbed out of the sub-basement lab, looking tense and unhappy. Her dark wavy hair had blonde streaks in it; that and several new lines around her eyes and mouth made her look unnervingly like their mother. She had dropped a lot of weight, probably more than was healthy. And she was very clearly, indisputably alive.

Julia had to sit down. Hard.

“Hey,” Maggie said, quietly. She’d dropped her eyes more or less immediately on seeing Julia, and stood next to the trapdoor fiddling with her hair as if she’d quite like to bolt back down into the lab.

“You’re alive,” Julia said, softly. Behind her, relatively unnoticed, her father went back outside and shut the door.

“Yes.” Maggie went to the couch and sat down, curling herself into the corner and hugging a pillow to her chest.

She seemed determined not to talk without being asked questions. Well, all right then, Julia wasn’t too proud to ask. Especially not when she was this bewildered. If Maggie wasn’t dead…but how could Maggie not be dead? They’d had a funeral. Simon had watched her die. How…

“How are you not dead?” she blurted.

Maggie shrugged uncomfortably. “I faked my death under orders from Commander Luccio,” she recited, staring at the floor. “I infiltrated a group working against the Council and helped to bring them down. That’s where I’ve been.”

“But Simon said…” Maggie actually flinched at Simon’s name, and Julia shut her mouth abruptly. There was a whole can of worms that hadn’t been opened yet.

Awkward silence reigned for a moment; finally, Maggie looked up and straight at her sister. “Julia,” she said, steadily, “if you’re going to yell at me, could you get it over with? It’d be easier for everyone.”

Julia stared at her for a moment, and then said, “Stars and stones. Maggie, I’m not going to yell at you, who do you think I am?”

Her sister gave a quick, wry, hurting smile. “Daddy,” she said, and tucked her arms just a little tighter around the pillow.

Julia felt her mouth set into a thin line. She was going to have words with her father. “I’m sorry,” she said, but the words felt so inadequate in her mouth. Sorry for what? I’m sorry for not being here when our father decided to yell at you? I’m sorry for not knowing you were leaving, not wishing you luck or telling you I loved you? I’m sorry for quietly hating you for years for something you couldn’t help or change?

Maggie was shrugging again, her eyes back on the floor. “It’s hardly your fault,” she said.

Then whose fault was it? “Why’d you do it?” Julia asked, rather at random. “I know under orders, but why?”

“Because….I was ordered. I’m not really sure what you’re asking, Julia.”

She opened her mouth, and closed it again. What was she asking?

“Why did you agree to do it?” she asked, at last, slowly. “Was it something I did?”

Maggie jerked her gaze up and stared at her for a moment, then blurted, “No! Why would you…” She paused, then said, “Well, maybe, in a very strange roundabout way. More the way I reacted to something you did. Nothing you should blame yourself for.”

The sinking feeling in the region of Julia’s heart could not, unfortunately, be blamed on the baby. “No, Maggie, please. I want to know.” She hesitated. “I need to know.”

Maggie was quiet for a very long time, so long that Julia was afraid she was right, that Maggie had known about the quiet hatred, and that she had gone away because of it. That she could not forgive it. Her heart sank deeper—had she lost her sister for good?

“You don’t remember this,” Maggie said, suddenly, startling Julia out of her haze. “But when you were born, I made you a promise. They let me hold you for a little bit while Dad and Mom were talking, and I promised you that I would always keep you safe.” Maggie looked down at her lap. “That’s why I went, in the end. To keep that promise. That’s why I’ve done most of the things in my life, to keep you and everyone else safe.” Her voice sank, and Julia heard the beginnings of a sob beneath the words. “I just wanted to keep my promises.”

Well, this was absurd. Julia got up from the footstool she’d thumped down on, sat beside her sister, and hugged Maggie against her shoulder as best she could. It was a little hard, since Maggie was so small and thin and Julia was so tall and distinctly not thin, but they managed, they had always managed.

Maggie cried for some time, making the soft lost snuffling sounds Julia associated with sick children. When she finally lifted her head, she gave a watery chuckle and said, “I’m crying a lot today.”

“You deserve it,” Julia said firmly, stomping on the guilt some more. “It must have been awful for you.”

“It was,” Maggie said, her voice soft, then added, a little louder, “I really am sorry, Jujube.”

An old, sweet, childish nickname—Julia smiled. “It’s okay,” she said. “You saved the world.”

“I guess I did,” Maggie said, and smiled wanly back.

Julia almost said something then—almost said, A long time ago I would have been jealous, almost explained about the envy, the hatred, the guilt. But not now, not when Maggie was still so hurt. Someday when her sister was more herself, she would tell her, and they’d have a roaring fight and put it behind them. But not now.

Now Maggie needed her. So she’d be there. That was, after all, what sisters were for. Julia hugged her sister’s shoulders again, and began plotting out the beginning of the fight.

(Post a new comment)

2008-02-27 06:16 am UTC (link)
Good chapter. Very awwwww-inspiring.

(Reply to this)(Thread)

2008-03-08 01:11 am UTC (link)
Hee, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

(Reply to this)(Parent)

2008-02-27 06:18 am UTC (link)
Awwwwwwwwwww! That's so adorable. *snuggles them both* Well-done as per usual, Katkat!

(Reply to this)(Thread)

2008-03-08 01:12 am UTC (link)
They need snuggles. I'm glad you're willing to oblige. And that "as per usual" makes me squee inside. Glad you enjoyed it!

(Reply to this)(Parent)

from Priscellie
2008-02-27 04:26 pm UTC (link)
The changes you made to the end are excellent--just what this chapter needed! Brava, darling!

(Reply to this)(Thread)

Re: from Priscellie
2008-03-08 01:13 am UTC (link)
...I honestly can't remember making changes to the end, but if I did, I'm glad you liked them. Thank you!

(Reply to this)(Parent)

2008-02-28 07:38 pm UTC (link)
Awww. It's so...awww. I...awww. You rock.

(Reply to this)(Thread)

2008-03-08 01:14 am UTC (link)
Oh, thank you. I was afraid nobody would like my OC's, but your approval means a lot. ^.^ Glad you enjoyed it!

(Reply to this)(Parent)

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