tir_synni: Harry Dresden (Dresden)
[personal profile] tir_synni
Title: Ashes and Dust
Fandom: Dresden Files
Pairing: pre-Marcone/Dresden
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: angst, manipulative!Marcone, morbidity, spoilers up to Changes
Summary: Harry didn’t die when he was supposed to. Now he has no idea how to live.
Sequel to The Last Day

Ashes and Dust

I died before.

I could still remember the stillness, the feel of water surrounding me.

Survived the greatest and worst battle of my life, only to be sniped standing on my brother’s boat.

But like everything else in my life, I failed to do death right, too.

If Gard and Uriel were right, I was supposed to die – and stay dead – several times over.

I was pretty sure I was supposed to be dead now.

I stared at what could only be a canopy over my head and didn’t think. I took in the elegant draping of the canopy and how it fell around the large bed, crimson blanketing the large bed frame and myself. I didn’t look at the rest of the room or at the bandage on my side.

I stared at the dark red silk and didn’t think.

Couldn’t think.

I couldn’t feel my side or even my toes and fingers. I could feel a distant warmth but could only barely feel the bed under me or the lush blanket on me or my head on my neck. I couldn’t hear my thoughts over my breathing.

There was no other noise in the world: just my breathing.

I wasn’t supposed to be breathing.

I was supposed to be done.

“He died doing the right thing.”

There was only silence, broken by the sound of my breathing.

I exhaled and let the world fade away.


“Mr. Dresden.”

I recognized that voice. I didn’t want to recognize it.

“Mr. Dresden.”

It comforted me. It was warm and calm and strong. Familiar.

I was so tired.

A hand gripped mine. The left one. I felt a callused thumb slide over scarred and unscarred skin.

“Mr. Dresden. I know you’re awake.”

I didn’t want to respond. I didn’t want to open my eyes.

“Harry. Please.”

I exhaled. I opened my eyes.

The red canopy again. I blinked and it blurred. The hand around mine squeezed. I shifted, my muscles heavy and sluggish. Marcone leaned into my view.

“You’ve lost a lot of blood,” Marcone said quietly. He didn’t look triumphant. His eyes remained as warm as his voice. He could be nice now: he won. I looked back at the canopy. “Ms. Gard also informed me you were magically drained to a dangerous level, but you’re recovering.”

I sighed and let my head loll so cheek rested on the pillow. From this angle, I could see his hand wrapped around mine. I watched his thumb move over the back of my hand. The light reflected off the silvery scars on both our hands. “Now what?”

“Now you rest, Harry.” I hated the gentleness in his voice and how it comforted me. I wanted to rail against it, but I couldn’t find the strength.

I was supposed to be done fighting.

He squeezed my hand. I looked back up at him. He met my gaze, still so warm.

“No more fighting, Harry,” Marcone said. “Just rest.”

I closed my eyes.


The bedroom seemed to have a red theme. I wondered if someone was trying to hint something.

I leaned against my crutch and looked over my shiny new bookcase. Ancient tomes looked out of place beside Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novels. The fact that Marcone knew my tastes didn’t surprise me. The fact that none of them were catching my eye did.

Every now and then, someone peeked in. I tried to ignore them. It wasn’t as hard as I thought. Hendricks came in once and just stared silently at me. I ignored him and fingered the novels. He left by the time I finally found one that I thought I could read. Gard came in once and just sat with me. When I had fought Marcone, I had fought her, too, but she knew enough to not take it personally. I read and she read and several hours later she left. I never said a word.

It took those several hours to finish a chapter. The words kept blurring with the white space, leaving the page a mess of grey. I would look up and focus on the walls, and the grey shifted from the page to them.

Marcone came in after nightfall. He stood beside me where I sat with American Gods. The book was my version of a realistic horror novel and always made me want to zap televisions.

“You should be lying down,” he said mildly. “You have a hole the size of a fist in your side.”

I flipped a page. “A hole I can’t feel,” I pointed out. Mostly, anyway. I felt the occasional tug in my side, but it was muted by the drugs. Everything was, really. I watched the black blur into the white until there was no empty space left.

“But it’s still there.” Marcone knelt in front of me and tried to meet my eyes, his favorite trick. I studied his chin. He had a nice chin. Who had a nice chin outside of the White Court? I bet he had nice knees and feet, too. He touched my own knobby knee, and my hands tightened on the book. “Your friends are all right. You appeared to be the worst injured.”

Marcone sounded so disgusted that I finally looked up at him. He smiled at me, and his shoulders relaxed a little. “That’s the first time I’ve seen you smile since you woke up.”

I hadn’t realized I was smiling. I felt it drop away, though, and I looked toward the bookshelf.

Marcone didn’t push. He just squeezed my knee. “We’re still looking for your pets. Do you have anything we need to pick up?”

I stared at the bookshelf, but I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone what was on it. Before I went to confront Marcone, I left my bag – all my worldly possessions, including Bob – on Demonreach. Mouse had joined me in the battle and had been separated fro me.

I had never found Mister.

“Looking for my cat, too?” I asked. The books kept shifting before my eyes.

Another squeeze. “Mister, too.”

That convinced me to look at Marcone again. He remained kneeling in front of me. Had he even moved? He stared at me, an unfamiliar expression on his face. He also looked at me like he had no intention of ever looking away.

“What do you want from me, John?” I tried to sound bitter. I couldn’t. I just sounded tired. “You going to hand me another contract? A collar?”

He kept looking at me. I let my head roll back, my hands going limp on my book. My side was beginning to throb, but it was still far away.

“This is a discussion that can wait until you’re clear-headed and off the painkillers.” He nodded toward my book. “Until then, rest and relax. There will be no threats or expectations. Why don’t you move to the bed and continue reading that?”

He sounded like a parent coaxing a tired child to bed. I stared at the ceiling in response. The design there reminded me of flames. Was that just in my head or should I start asking about the designer?

“The White Council is a mess,” I started. The words came out automatically, no conscious help from me needed. I was still a Warden, after all. Thanks to Marcone.

Marcone’s hand tightened on my knee. My gaze drifted back to him. His mouth thinned to a pale line, and his eyes glittered. I blinked at him, and his face came more into focus.

His words came out clipped, too sharp for the fuzziness of the drugs. “Don’t worry about them.” I stared at him, and Marcone’s face softened, the lines around his mouth and eyes relaxing. “Please, Harry, just rest. I don’t think you realize how close to death you came.”

I looked at his hand on my knee. I could feel it like I could feel everything else, through a drugged haze. His thumb was rubbing the inside of my knee. I hadn’t noticed. I watched his hand tightened, crumpling the thin black slacks. “…or maybe you did.”

Marcone patted my knee and stood up. “I’ll come check on you tomorrow. We can eat dinner together.”

He said it casually, but I knew he knew that I hadn’t been eating. I had a hole in my side, drugs pumping through my veins, and they fed me soup. Not good for the appetite.

I considered sleeping in the chair, just to spite him. In the end, I moved back to the bed. I thought someone woke me up for more medicine during the night, but that could have been an odd dream.

I didn’t know.


John Marcone: the Gentleman, the Baron, mafia lord and mortal signatory of the Accords…

Professional motherhen.

Considering his people were the best protected in the country, I should have guessed.

I went from bleeding to death to sitting on my bed with Marcone and being coaxed to eat my soup. I had no idea what to think.

Marcone stared disapprovingly at the bowl on the tray on my lap. “You’ve barely touched your dinner. Would you prefer tomato soup?”

Maybe I had died. That might explain it. Even for my life, this was too strange.

I shook my head and swirled my spoon through the broth. Bits of chicken and vegetables floated around before settling again. “I’m not hungry,” I said honestly.

More disapproval. I didn’t know if I should apologize or pinch my arm. “Harry…”

And when was the last time I corrected him on that?

Was there any point anymore?

Even as Marcone looked like he was readying a lecture, Hendricks shouted, “Boss!”

The man shot up in his chair. I sat up straighter, too, but he put out a hand like he could hold me still by sheer will. I scowled at him, but Marcone’s attention remained focused on the door. “Mr. Hendricks?” he called back.

Then I heard a familiar meow. “Mister?” I breathed. Only Marcone’s quick hands kept my soup from falling and staining the bedspread.

Hendricks swung the door open, and Mouse and Mister strolled in, casual as you please. I couldn’t describe the noise I made then.

Mouse huffed and bounced to Marcone’s side. He panted like he was coming fresh from the battle, tail wagging so hard it shook his entire body. His coat was dirty but I couldn’t see blood. In contrast, Mister looked impeccable. He leaped up onto the bed and walked beside me. He bumped my hand, and I started petting him.

I knew I was grinning like an idiot, but I couldn’t stop.

“You were looking for Mister, weren’t you?” I cooed. I almost knocked over my soup when I reached over to pet Mouse, but Marcone’s quick reflexes saved it again. It was a slight stretch, so Mouse stood up and placed his front paws on the bed. He leaned into my hand, and I cooed nonsense at him.

Hendricks watched me from the doorway and Marcone watched me beside Mouse’s paws, and I couldn’t give a damn. Mister’s engine of a purr filled the room.

“Does your cat eat anything specific, Harry?” Marcone inquired.

I looked up at him and grinned. “Sheep.”

To my surprise, Marcone grinned back. “I think we can manage that.”


I took to limping around Marcone’s mansion with Mouse attached to my hip. Sometimes, Mister followed, but for the most part, he seemed content to claim the bedroom. Sometimes, Marcone joined me, a silent, strangely soothing presence at my side. Sometimes Gard or Hendricks followed me, too. If I was planning on burning the place down, I would at least wait until I was in good enough shape to run away.

The more I walked, the more I wanted to walk and the more I wanted to look around. I noticed how big the mansion was, how everything was sickeningly spotless. People were everywhere, some obviously around, others not so much. People nodded respectfully or subtly cowered. It baffled me.

One day, Marcone opened my bedroom window and Toot-Toot flew in, armed with a makeshift spear and a salute. I almost cried.

It took another week to ask about my friends. Marcone and I sat on my bed again, although now I had an actual plate of food rather than soup. It was all soft, mashed potatoes, peas, applesauce, and noodles with beef. Apparently, my stomach was improving, but not enough for a Whopper.

“Do my friends think I’m dead?” I asked casually, feeding Mister a piece of beef off my fingers. It was funny watching Marcone twitch. He spent fifteen minutes lecturing me earlier about eating my own food and how Mister had perfectly good food in his dish.

Because Marcone ate whatever I ate, he was pointedly eating his own noodles and beef. He paused at my question and lowered his fork.

“They know you’re alive,” he said. “They wish to see you. They think you’re my prisoner.”

I fed Mister another piece of beef. He lapped at my fingers. “What am I?”

“Eat your dinner, Harry.”

Another non-answer. My chest grew tight. I looked at Mouse where he rested on the end of the bed, easily taking up the bottom half. He whined and wagged his tail.

Marcone ate silently beside me. Mister licked the juice off my fingers. Mouse laid his head back down and closed his eyes. All I could hear was my breathing.

I made a point of listening to it for a moment, the steady inhale, the soft exhale. Just over it, I could hear a little voice whispering how I shouldn’t be able to hear that at all.

I shouldn’t be able to hear anything.

“I want to see Thomas,” I said, surprising myself.

Marcone stiffened, just a little. But he nodded.

What would I have done if he said no?

Then the thought drifted away.



Thomas’s voice woke me up. I hadn’t realized I had fallen asleep. My hand still rested on Good Omens. Mister curled up beside my head, sleepily purring. On the floor beside the bed, Mouse raised his head and sneezed.

Hendricks held open the door, face expressionless but somehow still radiating disapproval. He was talented like that.

Thomas strode past Hendricks like he was part of the scenery. His eyes never wavered from me.

I slowly sat up. My side ached, but only a little. Mister meowed indignantly, and I started petting him. He quieted to a low, rumbling purr.

When Thomas sat beside me, he extended his arms like he was thinking about giving me a hug but didn’t know what part of me was safe to touch. I smiled tiredly at him. He smiled back, but his arms still wobbled, outstretched.

“Just avoid my side,” I said wryly.

He smiled, and I felt its warmth in my chest. He hugged me like I would break, and I rested my head on his shoulder.

“We thought you were dead,” Thomas said into my hair.

I laughed. Laughing didn’t hurt as much anymore; it mostly just tugged a little. I pulled back, and his hands lingered on my shoulders. “You should have known it would take more than that.”

Thomas leaned back and studied me. I stayed still, content to let him. My loose black shirt and grey slacks hid the bandages, and the bruises had mostly faded.

“You look tired,” he said finally.

I shrugged. “It’s been a long month.” Year. Decade. Whatever.

Thomas heard what I didn’t say. His mouth twisted downward. “I was thinking about taking a vacation,” he said. I stared at him. “Somewhere warm. I know a place in Hawaii. Come with me. We can take a vacation together.”

It was…tempting. We never became close again after the shapeshifter. Sometimes, I thought I had lost him like I had lost so many others over the years, alive but out of my reach. Maybe…

I closed my eyes and rested my cheek against his shoulder. “I just want to sleep,” I said truthfully. Never wake up. “I just…I’m tired, Thomas.”

There was more to it than that, but I couldn’t explain it to myself, nonetheless someone else. I just…I just couldn’t do it.

Thomas’s hand wrapped around the back of my neck. “You need a break, Harry. Let’s get out of Chicago.”

I leaned into his hand. Somewhere warm, somewhere away from all of this.

But just the thought of leaving here…

Leaving home.

I opened my eyes and smiled weakly at him. “I’m going to take a vacation,” I agreed, “here. If I leave…”

I might keep running and never come back.

I pulled back enough to watch the thoughts flick over his face like an old-time movie projector. “I can still move back to my apartment,” he offered. “You can move in with me. It’ll be like before.”

My heart felt like it would burst. My smile grew a little stronger. Thomas smiled hopefully back.

“Thank you,” I said sincerely, “but right now, this is good for me.”

Thomas stared at me. I closed my eyes and rested my head back on his shoulder. I wanted to explain it to him, but that would mean I needed to explain it to myself. His other hand touched my cheek.

“Harry,” Thomas said urgently, “he caught you at a bad moment. You were hurt and vulnerable. You’re exhausted. He’s taking advantage of you.”

I huffed. Right then it felt like I was taking advantage of Marcone. He treated me like I was going to break. Fitting, I guessed.

“Harry,” Thomas said, and someone cleared his throat. I opened my eyes and looked up.

Marcone stood by the door, face calm but lips a tad too tight. Hendricks stood behind him, one hand slightly raised, for defense or offense, I didn’t know.

“Mr. Raith,” Marcone said evenly, “Mr. Dresden looks exhausted. You can, of course, return to visit later.”

I felt Thomas’s hand trembling against my cheek. I raised my hand and touched the back of his. When he looked at me, I forced a smile. “I’ll see you later, Thomas.”

Frustration flitted over his face before he shuttered it away. “I’ll be back,” he said. I couldn’t tell if it was a promise or a warning.

Marcone waited until Thomas left before coming into the room. He sat beside me. I closed my eyes and rested against the headboard. “Harry, are you all right?”

I slit my eyes open again, just enough to look at him. He didn’t look like he should, like a tiger who had finally hunted his prey down. He almost looked as tired as I felt.

“We need to talk, John.”

Marcone nodded. “I know, but it can wait until you can stay awake and coherent through the whole conversation.”

I shook my head. The world moved a little too much with the motion. I needed the world to stop moving, just for a moment. “Why are you doing this? Why are you giving me this time?”

He smiled a little, just a quirk of the lips. “That can wait until you’re stronger, too.” Marcone reached up and fingered my cheek. His hand slid so he cupped my face like Thomas had. I couldn’t decipher the look on his face. “Soon, though.”

I looked away. Marcone’s hand slid down to touch my throat before vanishing. He stood up, and the bed barely shifted. “Rest, Harry.”

Sleep came too quickly, too easily.

I didn’t remember my dreams.


I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and studied my side. The scar was fresh and ugly. One side of my mouth quirked up and I slid my hand over it. At least my looks weren’t what attracted people: just my ability to blow shit up.

I hesitated, and then I touched my side with my left hand. I looked at the scars, at the mangled flesh.

I looked away.

My insides were still sore, and Marcone grew anxious if I walked too far or fast. Still, I was much better than when I arrived.

I would survive.

Beside me, Mouse whined. I reached down and absently began to pet him.

“What now, Mouse?” I whispered. He licked my hand.

“Harry?” Marcone called from the bedroom. I wondered when I began to pick up the strain in his voice.

“In here!” I scratched Mouse’s head one more time and then limped out of the bathroom. Mouse stayed by my side. I wasn’t sure if he was acting as a possible crutch or a sheepdog.

Marcone stood in the middle of the room, king of his domestic domain. I waved at him and carefully walked over to the window. After a moment, Marcone joined me.

“Why did you save me?”

Standing tall at my side, taller than I felt, Marcone stared out the window. I thought I could see the pit in the distance. I wondered if he was looking for it, too. I wondered if he even heard my question. I wondered if I had even asked it out loud. Then he finally spoke.

“I never wanted to be your enemy,” he said. “I wanted you to work for me, and then I wanted you to work with me. I believe we work well together. I believe we can change things for the better.” Marcone didn’t look at me. “I believe we already have.”

I wanted to laugh but couldn’t. My throat felt too brittle. My tongue felt thick and clumsy in my mouth. “The White Council is in shambles,” I said. There was the bitterness I had been looking for. “The Faerie Courts are a mess. Everything is a mess. How are things changed for the better?”

Marcone didn’t answer immediately. My breath caught when he twined his fingers with mine. When he spoke, there was something dark in his voice, firm and infinitely proud.

A tiger who caught his prey.

“Because now we can start anew.”

Date: 2011-06-23 02:11 am (UTC)
yoiyami: Oruha, Clover, CLAMP (Default)
From: [personal profile] yoiyami
Very interesting! I'm excited to this universe expanded more. The idea of the motherhen tiger is entertaining. The floating feeling of pain comes through very well. Looking forward to see if anything else results from this universe.

(I did catch one thing though; I believe "Beside me, Marcone whined." should actually be Mouse whining?)

Date: 2011-06-23 05:46 am (UTC)
ellie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ellie
Oh, this is good. I would like to write something insightful; however, I am to caught up in the squee to do anything else. Though I admit I am dying to know what happens next.

P.S. I think you meant "Beside me, Mouse whined. I reached down and absently began to pet him."

Date: 2011-06-23 07:26 am (UTC)
forestgreen: charchoil picture: Iason embracing Riki possessively and Riki reluctantly surrendering. Charecters from Ai No Kusabi (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestgreen
Interesting story. It let me wanting to know more.


tir_synni: (Default)

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