See the plot prompts here. I took plot "W" - the lust potion.
Title: Wild About Harry
Fandom: Dresden Files (bookverse)
Rating: PG-13 for language and innuendo
Word Count: 12,700
Pairing: mild Harry/Murphy, plus tongue-in-cheek hints of Harry/everything, but really more gen than anything else
Summary: Everyone in Chicago has the hots for Harry, including his cat.
Spoilers: takes place after Book 9, contains spoilers for the series up to that point.
I woke from a dream of being suffocated by a malevolent pillow demon to discover that it was, well, true. Sort of. I was facedown on my pillow with a large weight on the back of my head and a low rumble, akin to the sound of a unmuffled motorcycle engine, going off in my ear. And I couldn't breathe.
"Damn it, Mister!" I sat up, tumbling the cat to my lap like a sack of flour -- Mister is not a small cat. Instinctively, I clapped my hand to my scalp, because head wounds bleed a lot and Mister would be unlikely to take that sort of insult with claws unsheathed.
But I wasn't bleeding. Instead, Mister sort of puddled in my lap and went right on purring.
I poked at him cautiously, checked his markings to make sure that it was my cat and not some kind of ringer that one of my enemies had somehow slipped into my apartment to suffocate me in my sleep. But no, it was Mister. Just a very mellow, happy Mister.
"Did Thomas slip you spiked catnip again?"
The cat's only answer was a rumbling purr that vibrated my lap. I shoved him off onto the mattress, where he conformed to my hip like a furry octopus and kept right on purring.
I definitely needed to have a long talk with Thomas about pets and the proper care and feeding thereof.
Scraping off Mister, I lurched to my feet. I am not a morning person. Neither is Mouse, who cracked an eye at me from his position on the couch and then went back to sleep. At least he hadn't suddenly turned into two hundred pounds of affection; if that had been the case, I might never have woken up at all.
I stumbled into the bathroom. Mister followed, weaving around my ankles in a wizard-tripping sort of way, and his behavior started making more sense. He was probably hungry, although he didn't usually get this insistent about it. "Feed you in a minute," I told him, and pushed him out the door with a foot -- fully expecting a flaying for such a gross invasion of his personal cat-space, but it didn't materialize. I slammed the door and staggered into the shower for my refreshing dose of ice-cold water.
Over the sound of the shower, I heard a sudden, familiar thump-screech, thump-screech: my bent door being slowly pounded open. There are only three people who can get through the door without tripping my wards -- Murphy, Molly and my brother -- so it was either one of those three, or I was in trouble. Mouse wasn't growling, though, which would tend to point towards a friendly presence at the door.
"Harry?" Molly's voice called.
"Bathroom!" I yelled, and, pulling my head back into the shower, began to lather up my hair.
A minute later, the bathroom door opened. "Harry?" Molly said again.
Jesus! "I'm in the shower! Go put the coffee on like a good apprentice!" What are they teaching young people about personal space these days? grouched my inner crotchety old man.
A gray shadow, cat-height, ghosted back and forth outside the shower curtain, purring loud enough to wake the dead; on top of everything else, she'd let Mister into the bathroom. "And feed the damn cat!" I bellowed, tilting my head back to wash the shampoo off my hair.
With my eyes closed, I didn't get any warning before a double armful of lithe, naked, very-nearly-jailbait apprentice glommed onto me from behind.
We'd been through this before, but she hadn't been nearly this insistent before. I reacted on pure instinct, yelling and throwing her away from me as hard as I could. She collided with the shower curtain and kept going, tearing it off the curtain rod and going down hard on the floor in a tangle of naked limbs and plastic with yellow duckies on it.
Maybe there's a reason why I have so much trouble getting laid.
"Christ, Molly, what the hell!" I try not to swear around Molly, partly because I know Michael and Charity wouldn't like it, and partly because, considering what I do for a living, I probably don't need to rack up gratuitous amounts of bad karma in the heaven department. But I am not now nor will ever be Saint Harry the Virtuous, either.
Molly thrashed around, trying to free herself and showing me way, way more than I ever wanted to see of any of my friends' daughters.
"Harry!" she gasped, her voice half-muffled by shower curtain. "I burn for your touch! Please!" She got her head free and it popped up, wet hair plastered in her wide, somewhat wild eyes. "Harry, I need you!" She managed to free an arm. "I can make you so happy!" Still encased in shower curtain from the waist down, she began slithering towards me like a large, molting, amorous garden snail.
I think my eyes just about popped out of my head. "Stay right there," I told her, and marched out of the bathroom, grabbing a pair of mostly clean underwear on my way past the dresser. I retrieved a coil of rope from its hook on the wall.
Molly had made it all the way to the bed, shedding shower curtain as she went. I warily circled the bed, holding the rope in front of me like an animal control officer approaching a stray dog.
She giggled and flumped down on her front. "Ooh, kinky! I like it! Will you bind me with magic?"
"Well, with something, anyway." She didn't put up much of a fight as I twisted her hands behind her back and roped them together, followed by her ankles. Charity with an ice pick. Charity with an ax. Charity, in the library, with a candlestick, I chanted to myself by way of keeping myself focused and undistracted.
"Yummy," she murmured, following me with her eyes as I got a blanket off the bed and wrapped her in it. "Er, is this the part where you take me like a virgin on her wedding night?"
"Not in this lifetime," I said, pulling on a pair of pants, boots and my duster.
"Ooh, are you going to do it with your boots on?" she simpered, and giggled some more.
"Sure, whatever." I picked up the hogtied, blanket-wrapped, giggling bundle of Molly. Whatever had been done to her -- drug, spell -- I needed to get her home, where it could wear off without a horny wizard around.
Her clothes were scattered across the floor, making a trail from the door to the bathroom. Good God. When I found whoever had done this, I was going to pound them senseless and then turn Charity loose on them. I would let Charity have them first, but then there wouldn't be enough left for me to beat the crap out of.
Mouse raised his head and looked at me dolefully as I hauled Molly towards the door. You know, TV makes it look easy to sling women around like that. It's not, especially when there's thirty pounds of cat trying to trip you at the same time.
"Sorry, guys." I shoved Mister back into the apartment with my foot and slung Molly over my shoulder so that I could shut the door. "Feeding and walking will have to wait until I get back, if Charity leaves me alive, that is."
"This isn't the bedroom," Molly said as I toted her up the stairs to the street level.
"Nope." I tossed her in the backseat of the Beetle, slammed the door, and realized that I'd left my staff back in the apartment. Damn it. I didn't want to leave her alone, though, not in this condition, and I couldn't carry the staff and her.
I started the engine. "Are we going to a secret love nest?" Molly called from the backseat.
"Sort of." I pointed the car towards the Carpenters' and forced myself to drive the speed limit, because this is really, really not the sort of situation in which anyone, least of all me, wants to be pulled over by the cops. Meanwhile I was trying desperately to come up with some way to explain this to Charity and Michael before one of them beheaded me. I needed an explanation I could babble out in the four or five seconds it would take Michael to unsheathe his sword. Someone drugged Molly and it wasn't me! didn't quite have the right ring of innocent victimhood to it.
I swore under my breath, realizing that I should've taken her down to see Bob and get his opinion on whether or not she was under a spell, rather than rushing her out of the apartment. Completely rattled and still half asleep, all I'd been able to think about was getting her home. I contemplated turning around, although we were already more than halfway to the Carpenters'.
"Harry," her breathy voice issued from the backseat, "the vibration of this car is really turning me on."
Okay, the Carpenters' place was closer, so the Carpenters' it would be. Hopefully Michael would answer the door rather than Charity, because he, at least, would ask questions first and disembowel second. I hoped.
I pulled into the Carpenters' driveway behind Michael's truck and manhandled Molly out of the backseat, slinging her over my shoulder again. "I love it when you're all forceful," she said, hanging head-down against my back.
"And they say women's lib is dead." I paused at the front door to slide her down off my shoulder into my arms, like a bride being carried across the threshold -- no, bad thought, bad wizard. More like a shield covering my vital organs. No matter how much they might want me dead, I didn't think Michael or Charity would stab their own daughter to get me.
I rang the doorbell, and contemplated dropping Molly and running like hell.
"Oh wow, you want to do it in my bedroom? In my parents' house?" Molly asked, looking up at the door. "That's seriously kinky."
The door swung open and there was Charity, six feet of avenging angel with a flour-dusted apron on top. She did not appear to be armed, at least not yet. My day was looking up.
"Charity," I began, trying to get out as many words as possible before she took in the scene before her, "this isn't what it looks like, Molly is drugged or under a spell and I need you and Michael to --"
I didn't get any farther because Charity flung her floury arms around me and closed her mouth over mine in perhaps the most forceful and least erotic French kiss that I have ever received.
My arms flung out to the sides and I dropped Molly, who landed on her backside with a loud "Ow!"
Charity broke the kiss and stared at me with a glow of -- oh help -- lust in her eyes. "Wow," she breathed, running her tongue across her lips, and lunged.
I held her off at arm's length. If I were a shorter man, I'd probably be screwed, but my arms were longer than hers, even though she could probably have beaten me at arm wrestling. She was slowly gaining ground, though. I felt something damp from the vicinity of my leg and looked down to see Molly enthusiastically making out with my kneecap.
"Michael!" I yelled -- or more accurately, wailed -- at the top of my lungs.
Heavy footsteps came thumping downstairs and Michael appeared in the hallway, claw hammer in one hand and sawdust on his shirt. Unfortunately that was the moment Charity broke through my defenses and latched onto my neck.
"Don't kill me!" I yelped, trying to find a part of his wife's torso that I could use to shove her away without getting myself into even worse trouble. "Not my fault! I have no idea what's going on here! I need some rope, or maybe chain would be better -- uh, Michael?"
I really did not like the way he was looking at me. His fingers opened and the claw hammer fell to the floor. He took a step forward.
I am not adept at recognizing the signs of arousal in other men -- aside from the obvious one -- and so it took me that long to realize that the look on his face wasn't anger. It was much, much, much worse than that. I could sort of, almost, deal with the idea of Charity Carpenter wanting to tear my clothes off. The idea of Michael wanting to tear my clothes off just made my brain shut down.
I should've brought my staff. I didn't even have my blasting rod. Not that I had any intention of blasting Michael and his family, assuming it was really them, but I hated the helpless feeling, because clearly something weird was going on here. Either the entire Carpenter family was under some kind of spell -- or replaced by doppelgangers --
-- or it was me.
I thought about the way Mister had been acting earlier. Damn ... it really could be me.
"Michael!" I yelled as he advanced on me, while simultaneously prying Charity's fingers off the collar of my duster. Unfortunately I was naked to the waist underneath it, since I hadn't bothered to put on a shirt before throwing Molly in my car. Charity's hand slipped under the coat and up my side. "Michael, there's some kind of spell -- or -- something! Michael, snap out of it! I need your help!" Even with her hands tied, Molly had made it up to my thigh, nibbling at my leg through the cloth of my jeans. This was bad.
But Michael stopped, and blinked, frowning at me. He looked hazy and confused, but at least he no longer looked as if he wanted to knock me down and ravish me on the porch. "Harry? What's happening?"
"Beats me," I said between my teeth. Charity had both her arms around my rib cage and had latched onto my ear with her lips. "I could really use a hand, though."
He got his arms around his wife and dragged her bodily off me. She was making little whimpering noises. I might have made a little whimpering noise, too, because she really didn't want to let go of my ear and for a minute I thought I might have to choose between dignity and permanent disfigurement.
Now that I had my hands free, I could detach Molly. "Aww," she said as I pushed her back down onto the porch.
"Harry," Michael said, controlling Charity with an effort, "I don't understand what's happening. I love my wife. I'm very devoted to my wife. But when I look at you -- the things I'm feeling are -- this is very wrong, Harry."
No kidding. I swallowed and backed away, though what I really wanted to do was run. "Were you feeling, er, this way before?"
His eyes went wide. "No! I was working on the kids' new bunk beds -- then I heard you call my name, and the minute I saw you --" He gulped and tore his gaze away from me, staring at the wall while a flaming blush crept up his cheekbones. "Looking at you is very bad right now, Harry."
"It's no bed of roses for me," I said weakly, and kept backing away. "Is it getting any, uh, better?"
He made a small moaning sound in his throat and kept staring at the wall.
"I'll take that as a no. Listen, I'm going home to consult with Bob." And get far away from all of you. "I'll call you. You're not, uh, feeling any attraction to anyone other than me, are you?" I didn't think I could live with myself if I ended up being some kind of aphrodisiac Typhoid Mary who drove the entire family into a group orgy.
"No," Michael said, his voice low and hoarse. "Just you. Harry, don't take this the wrong way, but please leave."
"Going!" I made a dash for the Blue Beetle. My heart rate didn't start to slow down until I was most of the way back to my apartment.
What the hell. I cast my mind back to the previous few days. Had I been exposed to any weird magic? Done any spells that misfired? I couldn't think of anything. It had been a relatively calm month; I'd done a few simple jobs, finding lost items, and taught Molly some new meditation techniques, as well as going through chapters XII to XVIII of Haepharcus's Daemonology Grimoire. (Hey, I don't make up the names for this stuff. There are times when I wonder if most of the rest of the wizarding world has been inhaling the fumes from their cauldrons for a little too long, though.)
As I parked the Beetle and got out, the neighbor across the street caught my eye. Mrs. Reyes inhabited a rent-controlled walk-up across from my building, and the old bat hated me. We'd clashed ever since I'd been renting my apartment. She claimed I was dangerous and that nothing good would ever come of having me in the neighborhood. Considering some of the stuff that had happened since I'd been here, which I was more or less directly responsible for, I could sort of see her point -- but admitting it would be a show of weakness, and even a wizard's got to live somewhere.
On this particular morning, she'd stopped in the act of hauling her trash to the curb, and was just standing there staring at me, with the bag resting against the pavement. I raised my hand in a jaunty wave.
She kept right on staring; then she dropped the bag of trash, spilling coffee grounds and orange peels across the sidewalk, and started towards me at a rapid hobble.
Luckily, the day I can't outrun an 80-year-old woman down a flight of stairs is the day I turn in my wizarding badge and put myself out to pasture. I fled to my apartment door, flung myself against it and knocked it open in one blow, then slammed it behind me.
Belatedly, I realized that I might have just left a (relatively) harmless old woman to be fried by my wards. Opening the door a crack, I peeked up the stairs.
"Mr. Dresden?" The voice came quavering down from above.
"Mrs. Reyes," I returned cautiously, feeling a little braver now that I had six inches of plate steel between me and her. Besides, maybe I was so jumpy and paranoid from the Molly thing that I'd mistaken her intentions.
"I believe I was wrong about you all these years," she called down to me. "I never realized -- until I saw you today in --" Her voice went low; forty years ago, it might have been sultry. "-- those pants."
Nope. Not paranoia. I slammed the door and hoped she had sense enough not to break in.
A slithery, furry feeling from my ankles made me look down at Mister twining himself around my legs. Much, much too friendly. I looked up and met Mouse's eyes, a bit warily.
"No offense, big guy, but if you try anything, I'll toast you."
He just stared at me for a minute, then unfolded himself slowly from the couch, shook all over in a leisurely sort of way, and padded into the kitchen where he proceeded to stare at me again. His tail swung ponderously back and forth.
At least Mouse was normal. I fed him, and Mister, who dashed all my hopes by ignoring the food and remaining clamped to my ankles. Mouse gave him what I read as a disgusted look, and tucked into his breakfast.
I detached Mister and ducked down through the trapdoor into the basement lab. "Bob! Hey, wake up! I need some help, and I need it fast."
The skull's eyelights lit up, and it made a drawn-out yawning sound. "I'm up, boss, I'm up." There was a pause, then: "Have you done something different with your hair?"
"It's called letting it dry with shampoo in it, and I'm not in the mood." I stomped over to the worktable nearest the skull, and slammed some books down onto it, everything to do with spells and curses that I could find.
"You may not be in the mood, but I am." The skull blinked its eyelights slowly at me. "I never noticed what a nice ass you have there, chief."
My mouth dropped open, and I stared at Bob until he batted his eyelights at me again, which was so disturbing that I had to look away before I succumbed to the urge to throw him across the room. "Not you too. Tell me you're just being your usual, obnoxious self."
"I'd love to, boss, but I'm too busy admiring your ass. And, wow, your shoulders."
"Bob," I said between my teeth, "is there some kind of spell on me?"
"Now that you mention it, yeah, there is. It sets off your eyes nicely."
In a way, that was a relief, because now I had at least some idea what was happening to me. The whole world hadn't gone crazy; I'd just somehow gotten cursed with a lust spell.
"Can you tell who put it there? Or how to remove it?"
"Not from all the way over here. You'll need to get closer."
I actually took a couple of steps towards him before I remembered who I was dealing with, and froze.
"Closer," Bob said. "And turn a little to the left. You know, I can't see a thing through those jeans."
I crossed my arms. "Like hell. I'm not playing male underwear model for you. Physical objects have never gotten in the way of your ability to see ensorcelment before."
The eyelights widened. "Do you know how much of a turn-on big words are for me? Especially coming from you."
"Bob. The spell."
"I'm telling you, I can't get a good look. Not from here. Let me out of the skull."
"Oh, hell no."
"I could help you better if I could get a closer look at it," Bob wheedled. "Just for a minute."
Being raped by an amorous energy being was exactly what my lousy day didn't need. "No."
"If you don't want me running around loose, I could possess something."
"Bob, the only living beings in this apartment, other than me, are Mister and Mouse, and I'm less than enthusiastic about the idea of being ravished by either one of them, especially with you in the driver's seat." I spread my arms out, wishing to high heaven that I'd put on a shirt before coming down here. "What you see is what you get. Now tell me what you can about the spell, and that's an order."
The skull let out a long sigh, sounding both wistful and put-upon. "It's tidy work. Very subtle. I don't know if I would have noticed it if I hadn't been staring at your incredible ass. It's sort of concentrated in the groin area."
That made me shudder. I like to consider myself a fairly secure and enlightened guy, but no male likes the idea that someone's been tinkering with his gonads. "Do you have any idea where it might have come from?"
"I really can't tell, boss. Someone good, that's for sure. Like I said, it's subtle."
Subtle. That let out quite a lot of my enemies, most of whom were as subtle as a hammer to the face. "And it's a lust spell? Something like that?"
"Yup. Anyone who gets close to you is going to want to jump your bones. Mmmm. Such nice bones too." The eyelights closed blissfully.
"Anyone or anything, apparently."
His eyelights popped open again. "No need to be hurtful, boss."
I began to pace, trying not to notice the way that the skull's gaze riveted itself to my lower half. "Okay, so -- let's take the big questions from the top. First: Who did it?"
"No clue," Bob said.
"We'll come back to that one, then. Second question: How did they do it?"
"Have you come into contact with any unfamiliar practitioners lately?"
I thought about it. "Not that I'm aware of, and I haven't really been getting out much."
"Well, it'd either take actual physical contact, or at least proximity -- or they'd need something personal of yours. Hair, saliva, blood, a familiar object. Come on, this is elemental stuff, boss. Just because you're hot doesn't mean you can get away with being denser than usual."
The urge to smack the skull had returned -- along with a lot of anxiety. "But if someone who's got it in for me has something of mine, they could have done one hell of a lot worse than a lust spell."
"Then maybe they don't want you dead," Bob said. "Maybe they just want to humiliate you. Or, heck, maybe they were trying to throw a love spell on you, kind of like you did with Susan that one time. The hussy," he added, eyelights flickering in jealous indignation.
I really didn't want to think about Susan right now. "So you're saying I might have some kind of secret admirer?" A very stupid one, from the sound of things. Just my luck.
"Hell, Harry, who wouldn't want you? Your thighs alone should be a national treasure."
I put a little more space between myself and the skull. "Bob, that's the spell talking, not you."
"Oh, I know it is. But come on -- why fight the inevitable? Are all your jeans that tight, by the way?"
I was all the way at the ladder by this point. "How do I remove it?"
"Your jeans? Well, start with the zipper --"
"The spell, Bob, the spell!"
"Oh," the skull said airily, "that. Why would you want to? I mean, I'd give my occipital bone to have--"
"Let's just assume that I do," I said between my teeth.
Bob made small teeth-sucking noises as he contemplated me. I didn't want to know what he was thinking about. "I don't think you can," he said at last. "Not without help, anyway -- either from the original warlock who placed the spell, or from someone with a lot more knowledge and skill at detailed spellworking than you have. I mean, when you aren't the one who placed a spell like that, it's next to impossible to remove it from the inside even if you know what you're doing. And you aren't exactly the world's foremost expert on detail magic."
"Great." I sighed and leaned against the ladder. "So I have to find someone to help me remove it, and every time I get near anyone, all they're going to be able to think about is sleeping with me -- which isn't exactly conducive to a calm, spell-working sort of mentality."
"I didn't say it'd be easy, boss."
"What about blocking the effects of the spell, at least temporarily? Is that possible?"
"Hmm. It might be." Bob contemplated that for a moment. "Much as I hate to say it, though, having you down here is -- let's just say, not making it easy to concentrate on working out a counterspell. Not that the tight jeans aren't their own reward..."
I was already halfway up the ladder before he'd stopped talking. "Okay, I'll do a little legwork and see if I can figure out who's responsible for this, and you try to work out a counterspell. At least something that'll make me functional around other people."
"Can do, boss." The skull sighed. "I hate to see you go, but love to watch you leave ... Oh, and, Harry?"
"What?" I asked warily as I reached for the trapdoor.
"If you won't let me possess someone and do the horizontal mambo with you, at the very least could you bring me back some gay porn? Preferably featuring tall, messy-haired brunet-- hey!" His voice rose into a squawk of indignation as I slammed the trapdoor.
I took Mouse for a thoughtful walk, in the process fending off two street-corner vendors, a mailman, a traffic cop writing parking tickets, and a utility company employee who could run really, really fast. Not to mention several stray cats, a few small fae, and an extremely persistent pigeon. When I got back to my apartment, Mrs. Reyes' curtains were drawn back and I caught a glimpse of her staring through a set of huge binoculars. I shut the door hastily, strengthened my wards, and glanced down at the dog. "Okay, it's time for you to learn to use the toilet, because I'm not going out there again."
Mouse opened his mouth in a doggie grin, and nosed at my sleeve until I scratched him behind the ears. At least he seemed unaffected, but then, he'd always been somewhat magic-resistant.
Mister, on the other hand, was getting on my nerves so badly that I shoved him out the door and let him beat up on the other cats for a while, chasing off various rivals for my sexy lovin'.
I hadn't really narrowed down my list of enemies on my walk. The trouble was, pretty much everyone I'd pissed off lately either had the skills to pull off something like this, or the money and/or influence to hire someone who could. Clearly, I needed to start cultivating a lesser class of enemy.
And there was no shortage of suspects. Anyone in the Faery Courts could have done it. It didn't really seem Mavra's style, but I couldn't rule her out; she'd been around long enough to know a lot of different kinds of magic, and had every reason to make my life miserable. My mysterious enemy on the White Council seemed like a very long shot, because this sort of spell was pretty clearly a violation of the Laws, but maybe they were sneaky, egotistical or desperate enough to think they wouldn't get caught. And aside from the big players, there were all the other people whose toes I'd stepped on over the last couple of decades -- cheating spouses, cultists, hedge wizards. People with some small magic of their own, like Morty Lindquist, or people who had friends or relatives with just enough magic to make my life difficult. From what Bob had said, it was probably someone whose skills were fairly advanced, which narrowed down the pool considerably -- but how many of the people I'd insulted, cheated or sent to jail during my Wizard For Hire tenure might know someone like that?
Sure, I'd narrowed down my list of suspects ... to the entire population of Chicago, give or take a few.
I had a prime suspect, though, or at least a place to start. The nature of the lust curse made me think immediately of the White Court. And while I doubted if Lara would try anything -- because she owed me, if nothing else -- there were quite a lot of vampire families who might well consider me responsible for the deaths of their relatives.
I also had a connection: Thomas.
No, I wasn't going to go see him -- no matter what people say, I'm not insane. Between his own magical abilities and the fact that he was my brother, Thomas had a pretty good shot at being immune to the curse in the same way that Mouse appeared to be, but I didn't want to risk it. Getting near a lust vampire in my present condition would be a good way to end up very, very dead. But I could call him. Even if the spell's effects worked through the phone, neither of us could do any harm to the other one with several miles between us.
At least I hoped not. But I couldn't see how. I dialed, and got his machine.
"Thomas, it's Harry." I spoke quickly before my magical nature accidentally killed the machine, and tried to think technologically friendly thoughts. "I need to talk to you. Call me. Don't come over. Seriously. Do not come to my apartment. I'll explain when you call."
I hung up and thought for a minute. Now what? Normally I'd hit the street and start talking to people, but in this case, I couldn't. I didn't even dare leave my apartment.
Was this what Thomas's life was like? Good God! No wonder he hadn't been able to live a normal life. Next time I saw him, after the curse was lifted, I was going to have to buy him a sympathetic beer, or twelve.
So. I was pretty much restricted to calling people on the phone, or driving around and trying not to make eye contact with anybody. My little shoulder devil, of course, wanted to put in an immediate call to Murphy and tell her that she needed to come over the apartment on urgent business. Luckily my angel on the other shoulder beat the crap out of the little bastard and I managed to control myself.
The phone rang. I jumped.
It was Michael, and he started talking before I even finished my "hello". "Harry, I am so terribly, terribly sorry for what happened today. For everything that happened today. I have no idea what could have caused --"
"Whoa, whoa, slow down. It's okay." I realized that I was holding up a hand, but of course he couldn't see me. "It's a spell; I mean, there's some kind of curse on me. A lust spell of some kind."
There was a pause, then in a slightly different tone, he said, "Did you know?"
Not having daughters myself, it took me a minute to figure out where his train of thought must have gone. "What? No! I had no idea, I swear. I didn't know anything was wrong until Molly showed up and started trying to -- er --" Okay, details probably weren't helping my case. "Anyway, I took her over to your place and you know what --"
"I remember," he said quickly.
"Right. Anyway, I came straight back here and Bob, soul of generosity that he is, let me know that there's a spell on me. He doesn't know how to get it off" -- oh crap, very bad turn of phrase -- "but we're working on it." At least I hoped he was working on it rather than jerking off to fantasies of me, a possibility I really didn't want to think about.
After an awkward pause, Michael cleared his throat. "Harry, I really don't want to ask you this, but I have to know --"
"Nothing happened! Je-- Chri-- Darn it, Michael, you know me. Do you really think I'd take advantage of your daughter?"
"No, of course not." He sounded relieved. "Can I help in any way?"
It's good to have friends. "At the moment, I can't really think how, but it could come in handy having someone on the outside, since I can't really leave my apartment right now."
"I'll ask around, see if anyone knows anything," Michael said. "And ... Harry?"
"Until this wears off ... there is no polite way to say this, but if I see you anywhere near my daughter, I --"
"Yeah, yeah -- trust me, I'll kick my own ass before I let anything happen to her."
"Colorful," Michael said, and I could hear the grin in his voice, "but I appreciate the sentiment, Harry."
Yep, I'm just a big sentimental sucker; that's me. "See you," I said, and hung up.
Okay, great. I was trapped in my apartment with an oversexed air spirit who wanted to jump my bones (literally, perhaps) and a dog who ...
"Say, why aren't you affected by this, anyhow?" I asked Mouse. He just thumped his tail lazily and laid his massive head down on his paws. I was still pretty sure that it was due to his innate magic-resistance, but just in case it lost its effectiveness all of a sudden, I kept an eye on convenient escape routes as I moved around the apartment.
My resolve to stay in my apartment and not molest the locals lasted until I found myself actually dusting, at which point I realized that it was time to do something before I went stir crazy (or stir crazier, anyhow). I paced while trying to think of who might know something. Aside from Thomas, Bob, and various people that I really, really did not want to get close to right now, the best one I could come up with was Lily, the Summer Lady. White Court or faeries were at the top of my suspect list right now, and fortunately I had connections among both ... though Lily was less reliable these days than she'd once been, torn by conflicting loyalties.
I wrote a note to Lily, weighted it with a conspicuous book in the middle of my coffee table, and left the apartment so that my faery housekeepers could have a crack at the place. I'd never tried to get in touch with Lily in quite that way before, but it was about the fastest way I could think of that didn't involve talking to anybody in person. I really need to make friends with more people who have telephones.
Kitted out for travel -- duster, blasting rod, et cetera -- and with Mouse in tow, I made a dash up the stairs for the Beetle. I only had to fend off one telephone pole repairman along the way. For a while, I just drove around aimlessly, because I really didn't have a destination in mind and every scenario I could come up with for information-gathering ended with me getting molested.
At one point I caught myself heading down the road to Murphy's office, and wrenched the wheel to divert myself onto a side road. Bad Harry, very bad. I didn't, consciously, want to take advantage of Murphy. God, that's the last thing I'd ever want to do. It's just that when I'm in trouble, I gravitate towards her, and being in a situation where I really couldn't ask Murphy for help was weird for me.
Of course, I could just call her...
I drove around until I located a fairly isolated pay phone with no one using it. Sure, I could have gone back to the Batcave and used the phone there, but I was thoroughly sick of staring at the same four walls, and besides, I wanted to give the faeries an opportunity to get my message to Lily.
I stared at the phone for a while, until I was at least fairly confident in my own motives. And, also, some joggers were starting to show untoward interest in my phone booth. I dialed and went through the police switchboard and got transferred to ...
"Murphy." She sounded tired, distracted.
"Harry." Her small, happy laugh made something in me sing, because I could tell that just hearing my voice had actually perked her up a little. Maybe the lust spell was working on me now; I felt warm all the way down to my toes. "What do you want?" she added, and my ardor cooled a bit.
"Don't I ever just call to say hello, Murphy?"
"Not usually." I heard her yawn, heard her chair creak as she stretched. "Still, whatever you want has to be better than paperwork. Shoot."
A few minutes of explanation later, I got to hear Murphy laugh again. And laugh. And laugh. At my expense.
"Stop it," I said flatly, giving a nervous glower at the small cluster of pigeons and stray cats forming outside my phone booth. I made sure the door was snugged shut. "This is serious. I'm attracting pigeons now."
For some reason this didn't make her stop laughing.
"Damn it, Murph, if I don't find a way to get rid of this spell, I'll never be able to go out in public again!"
"The city of Chicago would probably thank you for that," she said, managing to get control of herself except for a tiny giggle escaping now and then.
"The city I have repeatedly saved from the forces of darkness," I retorted stiffly, kicking at the glass door of the phone booth in an attempt to drive the pigeons away. The shadow of a seagull fell across the roof, and I sighed. "It's going to put a damper on my evil-thwarting if I have to do it while pigeons and stray mailmen hump my legs, you know."
There were little squeaky sounds on the other end of the line that I realized were Murphy's semi-successful attempts to fight off laughter. "I'm sorry, Harry," she said, clearing her throat. "Yes, it's serious. Now what do you expect me to do about it?"
"I don't think there's anything you can do" Down, libido, down boy! "but thanks for the thought. I'm checking with some magical sources now, exploring possible ways of getting the damn thing off me."
"You just called me to tell me?"
"A warning seemed to be in order," I said, now holding the door closed against the press of pigeons on the other side.
"But mostly you just wanted to talk?" She sounded thoughtful.
"Yeah, so?" I demanded, feeling defensive, though some of it could be the seagulls on the roof and the unpleasant thought of what was going to happen when I left the phone booth. I really didn't want to star in my own pornographic version of Hitchcock's The Birds.
"Nothing, just ..." There was a hesitation on the other end of the line, and her voice, when she spoke again, was warm in a way that made me feel about twenty feet tall. "Thank you, Harry. It makes me feel good that you can -- you know. Come to me with things."
Not wanting to spoil the moment, I very sternly fought down the dozen off-color jokes that came instantly to mind. The phone helped me out by fizzling and dying before I could say anything else.
"Damn it." I looked out at my ever-growing array of admirers, braced myself, opened the door and Forzared their little feathered asses like so many squawking tumbleweeds. Taking out my sexual frustration on the local wildlife is probably not a very wizardly thing to do, but I am who I am.
Mouse filled the backseat of the Beetle like a sleeping sofa. He raised his head with drowsy curiosity when I got into the car. He gave no sign of having even noticed a couple hundred shrieking birds being blasted down a half-mile of sidewalk. Perhaps, considering that he'd lived with me since puppyhood, he just accepted that sort of thing as normal.
"I'm going home and never coming out again," I told him.
Mouse thumped his tail against the side of the car. Apparently he thought it was a good idea.
Continue on to part two