luciazephyr: a black porcelain cup with a tea bag waiting inside. ([Misc] my greatest addiction-- tea)
[personal profile] luciazephyr
Title: The Stars and Scones Bakery and Coffee Shop (2/3 or 4)
Pairings: Harry Dresden/John Marcone
Warnings/Content: Eventual explicit sex, references to past child abuse (Justin is evil in every AU), and one oblique reference to possible self-harm.
Summary: In which Harry is the best baker in Chicago, but still ends up starting a few fires along the way.
Word Count: 6260

Act One

Act Two: a ginger sling and a pineapple heart

Dramatis Personae

The Bakery Staff
Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden (An eccentric baker who might in fact exist in a state of perpetual obliviousness)
Hrothbert "Bob" Bainbridge (A barista who with a guilt complex and some surprising protective urges)
Molly Carpenter (A baker's assistant who doesn't know the meaning of stranger danger)

Regulars
John Marcone (A name partner who is accustomed to getting what he wants)
Sigrun Gard (A junior partner who is above all this drama, frankly)
Nathan J. Hendricks (A philosophy student who really needs a quieter place to work if he's going to pass his midterms)

New Arrivals
Thomas Raith (A half-brother and hair-stylist with no sense of personal space)



Bob left early, claiming to have an actual date, which I found laughable. I let him off anyway. It was a Saturday, so Molly didn't have school to worry about and could help me out with the closing duties. Given she was still in school, Molly worked the evening shift anyway while Bob helped in the mornings. Letting him go early wasn't a hardship. Molly and I took our time cleaning up, playing music on the radio, and sharing space. I sang along to anything recorded pre-1990s, and Molly drummed out the beat to anything released after that point. It was a nice routine we fell into, comfortable in my shop with the Top 40s and Jon Bon Jovi, and with each other's company.

That I could still be comfortable around people after what Justin did surprised me every time.

Rain pelted against the windows. Most days, I drove Molly home after her shift, but Sunday was always a big day with the church crowd and my Saturday nights were always dominated by prep and night baking. I made us dinner, put a large batch of muffins into the oven, and the two of us sat by the door, keeping watch for the taxi that would take her to Wrigleyville.

"You still have that can of mace Murphy gave you?" I asked her. We'd done this plenty of times, but I never really stopped worrying about her. I'd known Molly since she was a kid, and in some part of my mind, she'd always be that little thing hiding behind Michael's legs.

"It's on my keychain," she said, showing me. She pointed it at my face, and I yelped, covering myself with my arms. She laughed.

"Brat," I muttered. "I could make you stand out in the rain."

"I'll tell Mom," she replied breezily.

I sighed. One of the few upshots of being an orphan was not having parents to scold you. Or at least in theory: I was as dependent upon Charity's mercy as any of her children. I told her as much in a moment of frustration, and she just tutted and turned me around so she could unknot my apron for me.

A yellow cab pulled up in front of the shop and I jumped to unlock the door for Molly. "Make sure you call me when you get there--"

"Oh my God, Harry, you have problems, you know that?" Molly got up more calmly, slinging her bag over her shoulder and giving me a severe eye-roll. I glared at her and childishly stuck my tongue out. Without missing a beat, she leaned to grab a saltshaker off the nearest table. I backed away, hands up in surrender as she laughed.

By the time we'd subsided, the cab... had pulled away. A man had gotten out and, wow. He was a little shorter than me with glossy, wavy hair framed his movie star-good looks perfectly. His eyes were grey, set off like diamonds by his golden suntan. He was trim in the way a swimmer or runner might be, his physique shown off by a tight tee and tighter pants. His hair had started to sag in the rain, but it took nothing away from how good he looked. Quite the opposite, actually.

I swallowed and had a moment of feeling intensely inadequate. Running a bakery didn't leave me much time to get to the gym, and normally I didn't mind. But right now, I really did. It was stupid to compare myself to this guy, but he looked so good, it was like a beacon of 'you are a boy among men and here is a list of all your physical failings and by the way when was the last time you shaved?' shining in the rainy Chicago night.

He had to be a celebrity. Only celebrities looked that good. And it wouldn't be the first time I got a late-night call from someone like that. A few years ago a sports star had knocked on my door at one in the morning, begging for my vanilla and chocolate fudge brownies. Unsurprisingly, he got busted for drug use a few months later.

I hadn't known who that guy was then, and I didn't know who this supermodel guy was now, so I looked to Molly. She was female and teenage, so to my reasoning she must have memorized the names and faces of everyone with even an ounce of star power.

She was gaping as much as I was and she offered no insight besides, "Oh, I hope he's coming here. Open the door, turn on the sign!"

"I-- It's eleven at night, I am not turning on the sign!" I nudged her away from the door. "He's probably headed for the L station--"

"No, look, he's coming this way!" She ran her fingers through her hair. "How do I look?"

"Um."

"Oh, don't answer that, no one in their right mind would trust your opinion." I made a hurt noise, but Molly shushed me. "Here he comes!"

Something caught my eye and I pointed. "So does your ride."

Molly spotted the taxi and groaned. "No, why can't they be late? This timing sucks!"

She got no disagreement from me. The weird hot guy was definitely coming our way and I didn't want to let Molly out with him lurking around. He could be a chloroform-wielding lunatic for all we knew. Looks could be deceiving. And maybe on some level I just didn't trust anyone that attractive. It wasn't natural. Maybe this guy had made a deal with the devil or something.

Giving into the need to protect my employee, I pulled Molly behind me, putting myself between her and the door just before the knock came.

The shop lights were dim, but the curtain on the door was up. he had to be able to see us. I was quiet, hoping the stranger would take the hint and just leave. Instead, he knocked again.

"Coming, hold on!" Molly called and shoved past me, hurrying to the door. I flailed, trying to grab her, but she had the door swinging open before I could react.

"Mols--" I came up behind her, trying to look intimidating.

The stranger guy was half soaked, and his eyes locked on mine, wide and surprised. I averted my gaze-- I was never too comfortable looking people in the eye. It always felt too personal. "We're closed, sorry."

"I..." The guy started, then licked his lips. "I know. I'm looking for someone. Are you Harry?"

I narrowed my eyes and put an arm around Molly's shoulders, trying to pull her away. She pinched me until I stopped. "Ow, dammit, kid... I might be."

"Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden?"

Not many people knew my full name. It was unwieldly and barely fit on my driver's license, so I rarely used it on any ads or papers. "Yeah?" I narrowed my eyes, the 'who wants to know' unsaid in the air between us.

Apparently he missed it. He was breathing hard, like he'd been running a long time. "Son of Malcolm Dresden and..." he faltered a moment before going on, voice thready. "Margaret Gwendolyn LeFay?"

I nodded, unsure what this was all about.

"Empty night..." Handsome Guy rubbed his mouth, his eyes shining. "Th-that pentacle, that was your mother's, right?"

"Yeah, how'd..." With his hand up, his arm was caught in the light from the nearest steetlamp. I could see that around his wrist was a length of chain, a bracelet that was snug to his skin and dull from regular wear. From that bracelet hung a single charm-- a silver pentacle, a twin to mine.

The taxi outside honked, impatient. It startled me, and I tore my gaze from the pentacle. "Uh. Mols, your cab."

"But--"

"It's fine, Molly. I'll see you tomorrow. Remember we have the church crowd to handle."

She looked between Handsome Guy and me. Handsome Guy paid her absolutely no mind, staring at me in wonder. Molly sighed. "All the hot ones are married or..." In a huff, she brushed past me, out the door, jogging over through the rain to the taxi. I had the presence of mind to watch her, making sure she got there fine before my view was obstructed by Handsome Guy throwing his arms around me and kissing each of my cheeks in that weird European way. I yelped and tried to get away but the guy had latched onto me with an iron grip. I relented and started patting his back awkwardly. "Uh. Have we met?"

"No," the guy mumbled into my neck. "But I'm pretty sure you're my brother."



Half-brother, actually.

I had a half-brother named Thomas Raith. He was my mother's son from a previous relationship, apparently a very unhappy one, with the head of Raith Enterprises, some big-time corporation that dominated in the entertainment industry. They'd split, or rather my mother ran for it, around the time Thomas was seven. The Raiths were big on legacy, so Thomas had been raised pretty well, albeit in a loveless home, by aloof older sisters. He never saw his father outside holidays and learned to be self-sufficient quickly. When he'd turned eighteen, he studied abroad, striking out on his own, and never looked back.

"Got out of the country, explored the world a bit. Germany, France, Portugal," he elaborated as we sat at one of the tables. I'd grabbed two beers and made some leftover roast beef into sandwiches for him. He took a large bite, hungry. "Oh. Oh my god, what is in this?"

"Homemade bread is the trick," I said, smiling. That and the aioli I'd concocted paired with peppers sauteed in garlic oil.

"You made this?" he asked through a mouthful before swallowing. "If you gave me a loaf of this stuff and some butter, I could just eat that for a meal. It's incredible."

Not to stroke my own ego, but I got that a lot and I had other things on my mind. I brushed the compliment aside, returning to the matter at hand. "Why now? How did you find me?"

Thomas put his sandwich down with more than a little reluctance and reached into his jacket. He pulled out a rolled up notebook and set it on the table, carefully flattening it out. "I live in Los Angeles, and there's this woman who comes into my salon. She's a regular and we talked a bit. Became friends." Once the notebook was bent back into shape enough for him, he slid it over to me. "It was like destiny. She had to walk into my salon so I could get to know her so I could see this in her cafe."

I picked up the notebook and looked at it. For a moment, the details didn't come together cohesively in my mind. Just little pieces. The cover made of laminated construction paper. The fraying binds that held it all together. The words written in a familiar, loopy cursive on the cover. Elaine and Harry's Recipe Book, with the 'c' in recipe drawn in darkly over an accidental 's'.

Inside, the first pages were dominated by simple concoctions. Chocolate chip cookies. Cheese quesadillas. A really easy caramel fudge. Microwave bacon.

As it went on, the handwriting got neater. Instead of the recipes being labeled 'by Elaine Mallory', they were increasingly 'by Harry B. C. Dresden'. Cherry turnovers. Challah cinnamon raisin bread. Raspberry tarts. Brie and rhubarb pie. A breakfast quiche that had ingredients and quantities scribbled out and rewritten in until the taste and consistency were perfect.

Kids needed hobbies, and even in Justin DuMorne's household, and we'd found our own. It was one of the few things Justin had allowed us. After all, as I got better and better and devoured all the cookbooks I could and honed my craft, Justin got to eat the fruits of my labor. It'd started as just a pasttime, but when Elaine's interest had waned, mine had picked up. I discovered I had an intuition about baking and cooking, a real talent. I could tell what things would go together and how to tweak and improve the recipes in the books I read. It seemed like the only thing I was good at. Still did, sometimes.

I'd collected my best ones in this book. I hadn't seen it since Elaine skipped town one night and never came back. I had been so crushed by what happened, suddenly so alone, I hadn't realized she took it. Was it a keepsake or did she use it to remake my creations?

Either way, I didn't mind. And now it was back. With a long-lost family member attached.

Thomas reached out and put his hand over mine. He seemed like a touchy-feely guy. At least there was no more kissing. "Hey. You're, uh. You're crying. A bit. Are you okay?"

I rubbed at my face. "Fine. I'm fine. Just old memories. Thank you, for this." I patted the old memento, feeling the cool laminate under my palm. It crinkled, the plastic peeling at the corners. "Look, tell me about yourself. Who are you?"

My half-brother smiled like a Colgate commercial, bright and unfairly handsome. "Where should I start?"

"Where all good stories start."

"The beginning."

"No. Around the middle, with flashbacks to the earlier stuff."

Thomas threw his head back and laughed. At least we both had the same stupid sense of humor.




The night baking ran long with my new guest. I let him follow me into the kitchen as he talked. Between him telling me about his fiendish older sister Lara inheriting the family's business and gushing about Justine, the light of his life, I baked him one of the old recipes I'd created in my childhood, the notebook open on the counter.

Then he made the mistake of asking me about my life and... well, that was never a happy story.

"Tell me that son of a bitch is dead," Thomas growled.

"Better. Prison." I handed him some maple butter for the croissant I'd made him. "Going to be there a long time."

Thomas dipped his finger in the maple butter and tasted it. "Empty night, is there anything you can't make? I'm not sure my jeans are going to fit after this."

I sucked in my gut. Not that I was... I'd always had a metabolism Murphy referred to as "completely ridiculous and unfair," but I tasted everything I baked. That adds up. Thomas saw, and laughed. "Sorry, didn't mean to throw doubt on your girlish figure there."

"Shut up, eat your croissant. I have to finish the crumble." My eyes were getting that itchy, rough feeling that came from being awake for nineteen hours. "And I need to sleep. Tomorrow will cover the week's overheads if I'm lucky."

"Damn, really?"

"Church crowd. Pretty much everyone at St. Mary of the Angels comes by once--" My jaw cracked in a yawn. "Once Mass is over."

"You sound wiped. I'm sorry I came by so late. I just got off the plane a few hours ago and I've been trying to find this place since."

I waved a hand at him, then considered that. "Where you staying?"

Thomas gave me a blank look. "Oh. Crap, I knew I forgot something."

So, my half-brother: Shorter than me, but much better looking. Older, well-groomed, lightly tanned in a way that spoke to a much sunnier home than mine. Nice, tactile in a way that I wasn't used to, and a little scatteredbrained in a way I was. Familiar, but new.

"I have a sofabed."

There was a hopeful gleam in his eyes even as he said, "I couldn't, not after how I--"

"Oh, shut up. Do you know anything about Chicago? Where you'd even find a decent hotel? Come on, I don't have much, but I can share." Besides, that's what brothers were supposed to do, right? In theory, anyway. It wasn't like I actually knew. But I could learn.

Thomas looked so touched and grateful, I had to look away. "Sure. I. Thank you." He laughed quietly. "You're amazing. You bake, you're tall like Mom, you just met me and you're feeding me and putting me up."

Mom. He knew Mom. It'd been so long since I could think about her or look at her old picture on my dresser without that ache of wanting in my chest. Not since I lost Dad and his wistful, happy stories about her. Hell's bells, the idea of family always dredged up dark thoughts from the far corners of my mind. The days with Justin when I'd been so angry at Dad for dying and leaving me in that monster's care, when I'd put my hate of that monster onto my Dad because his memory couldn't save me. How I never had my mother to teach me baking, even though that was what mothers were for. Or so I assumed. No personal experience, obviously.

"Hey." Thomas put a hand on my shoulder. "You're getting that look again."

"You can stay," I said, tone rough, throat tight. "But I have to ask a favor and you're going to think I'm an asshole."

"No, I won't."

"You haven't heard it yet."

"Yeah, but I won't."

I took a shaky breath. "You can't tell anyone you're my brother. Not yet."

I had to give him credit. He didn't even blink, though his mouth bent down in a frown. "Okay. Can I ask why?"

"Everyone here knows me. A lot know I was an orphan. Not many know about Justin, just that... I had it rough for a while." I couldn't look at him. "But if I suddenly happen to have a half-brother no one has ever heard of before...."

"They'll ask questions. And you," he waved a hand at me. "Don't deal with talking about it too well."

I barked a coarse laugh. "To put it lightly."

Thomas nodded slowly. "Okay. I'm just an old friend visiting then. I can do that."

"Yeah?"

"I'm not going to waltz in and screw up your life, Harry. Especially with your trauma."

The word twinged something in me, and I found myself snapping before I could calm myself. "I do not have trauma!"

"Okay," he replied easily. "But I get it. I can do that."

A vise of pressure released in my chest. It was an issue I was still learning to deal with, being so unable to really talk about it. Not yet. Not often. Not to just anyone. It was part of why I ignored Bob's quiet suggestions that I talk to a shrink about it. That, and after a shrink spends years trying to break your mind into tiny desperate pieces, it's hard to go visit one voluntarily. Believe me.

Anyway, I talked to Bob and I'd managed to tell Thomas. One person at a time I could handle. But all the eyes that filled the room during the Sunday rush, all of them wondering about me, if my eccentricity came from that dark place, the unwanted pity I'd see in their faces... Just the idea of it made my hands shake.

Thomas squeezed my shoulders. "You done here?"

I looked down at the muffins I'd topped with crumble, hands mindlessly working as I talked. They looked perfect, even if my mind had been a million miles away while I made them. This was what I was good at, and no memories of my fucked-up past could take that away from me.

"Yeah. Come on, it's late."



Between wrapping things up for the morning, getting Thomas settled in for the night, and getting to bed myself, I only ended up sleeping for about four hours before needing to get up and open the store. I wasn't actually going to face the whole day on a half night's rest, since I could take a nap later after the morning rush was over. But that was later and I felt dead on my feet as I shuffled around my home, getting ready.

Thomas was sprawled across the sofa bed, twisted in the blankets at a weird, bent angle that had his feet hanging off the edge. Every minute or so, his feet rubbed together in a jerky up-down motion. After watching for a bit, I realized he was trying to get his feet under the comforter.

I sighed and went over to him, shaking his shoulder. "Hey. Hey, uh, Thomas."

"Mmmfff."

"Thomas."

"Jetlag. Go 'way."

I snorted and shook his shoulder a little harder. "Or, you can wake up for five minutes and go climb into my bed and get some real sleep."

A grey eye opened, squinted at me. "Who're you? You're not Justine."

"I'm Harry, your brother. You're in Chicago. I'm sure it'll all come back to you later, but right now I have to go open the shop. If you want my bed, it's open. I'll see you later."

"It's... It's like... fuckin' early, what time is it?"

I laughed, finding myself charmed by the fact that my older brother was not a morning person. "Crack of dawn. I've got work to do. Come down to the shop if you get hungry, okay?"

"'Kay," Thomas said, and sat up. Even after a restless night, his hair just looked more artfully tousled. Unfair, so unfair. "Where bed?"

I pointed to my little bedroom. "Bed's in there. Help yourself."

"Thanks."

"No problem." I patted his shoulder, smiling, before grabbing a shirt and heading downstairs.

What I really needed to get me going was one of Bob's coffee things. I don't know what he puts in the pick-me-up drinks, but it works better than Red Bull and is probably slightly less likely to give me a heart attack. Luckily, when I got down to the shop, Bob was just letting himself in with the key. "Morning, my esteemed paycheck signer. Might I say you're looking exceptional today?"

"Couldn't find my comb," I groused and tried to finger-comb my hair into submission. "I had a weird night, so go easy."

"You look like you need one of Hrothbert Bainbridge's wake-up potions."

"I need about five of them."

"I'll get the espresso machine woken up."

"Good man."



Molly went with her family to church on Sundays, so for the first half of the morning, it was just Bob and me. We were used to being slammed and had adapted. It wasn't much worse than the weekday morning rushes. Bob and I shared the register, bouncing between ringing people up and getting them their food and coffee. It was why Sundays required so much prior baking-- I didn't have time in the morning to get into the kitchen for even a moment.

It was better after Molly strolled in. She grabbed a bite with her family, then washed up and pulled on her apron, taking over the register. From that point on, we got orders out efficiently and quickly, like a well-oiled machine. The line may have been to the door, but no one was actually waiting in it for long. There was no spare seating, though, but the bakery hadn't been set up with so many people in mind.

We ran out of muffins at eleven. It was always something. "Mols, I got a tray of muffins in the back and crumble in the fridge. Go put 'em together and toss them in the oven to warm."

She gave a quick salute and bounded away dutifully to do my bidding. Sunday mornings were pretty much the only time I didn't get sass from my employees. Too busy. They made up for it during the rest of the week.

Things picked up as the crowd of people who had weekends off and didn't want to cook breakfast meandered in. Hendricks was one of them, looking a little wild around the eyes. Must've been rough waters in grad student land. In line in front of him was a tall blonde in a white shirt, suspenders, and gunmetal grey vest and pants. She must've been one of the lawyers at Vadderung, Marcone, & Associates because she was voluntarily standing next to Marcone, who was similarly dressed up for the day, pinstripes and cufflinks galore.

I was just steeling myself for having to deal with Marcone when Thomas wandered down the stairs that lead to my apartment. He was casual in jeans and a black tank, eyes wide as he took in just how many people were in the shop. Once he spotted me, he made a beeline over. "You. Now I remember. Sorry about last night, it was a little wild." Not one for personal space, he crowded into me and slung an arm over my shoulder.

I was fishing a pastry out of the case when he leaned on me, body still sleep-warm. Me, I was still only awake thanks to Bob's espresso potion, and the sudden weight made me stumble. "How'd you sleep?"

Thomas nodded. "Good. But we need to get you a bigger bed."

Over at the coffee machine, Bob made a strangled sound as he bungled up the milk steamer.

I frowned at him, but gave Thomas my attention again, ringing up a customer's soy latte and turnover one handed. "Five-seventy-two. What's wrong with mine? You slept fine."

"Yeeeeah, but..." Thomas cast me a guilty look under his lashes. "It's small. You can't, say, share with someone."

Bob started coughing. At the counter, Murphy's spoon hit her yogurt so hard, I worried the bowl would crack.

So my brother didn't want the sofa bed. I could understand that. It wasn't great to sleep on if you were even an inch over five feet. "We'll figure something out tonight. Hungry?"

Thomas grinned. "If it means you feeding me, hell yes."

I shrugged his hand off my shoulder and nodded to the pastry case. "Help yourself to something. If you want something special, I'll make it after the rush."

Thomas went and fawned over the pastries and cakes. "You, Harry, are a marvel. I mean, between my good looks and your magic hands, we could take over the world."

Bob sputtered, the milk steamer screaming when he let the mug he was frothing drop too low. "Who are you?"

My brother straightened, and finally seemed to notice there was someone else behind the counter. "Thomas. Thomas Raith. You are?"

"I meant in the abstract. Your name's not important yet."

"I'm Harry's..." Thomas hesitated, blinking somewhat glazed eyes. "Friend."

Bob turned to me, eyes wide. I yawned at him. "Sure. Of course." He cast another baffled look at Thomas before getting back to his coffee.

With whatever that was defused, and I turned back to the counter and stiffened. Marcone and his blonde companion were next up. Marcone had this strange, opaque look in his eyes, staring at me. "Harry."

"Hey, Marcone," I said, then covered my mouth to swallow a yawn. "Sorry. Who's your friend?"

"Associate," the blonde corrected instantly. "Sigrun Gard. I'm a junior partner at the firm."

Stars, Marcone was still staring at me. "Oh, great, another soulless corporate lawyer." Gard arched a blonde eyebrow at me and I instantly felt like a tremendous dick. "I-I mean, sorry, that was uncalled for, Ms. Gard. I'm kinda sleep-deprived and it's making me more tactless than usual."

Gard's mouth twitched. "I can see why he likes you." That twitch turned into a small smile. "And the moniker isn't unwarranted. I'm presently assigned to a Fortune 500 that doesn't want to give its factory workers full benefits."

Marcone's expression soured. "I said I would take it--"

"I am capable," she shot back. "May I have a long macchiato with soy and the fruit crepe?"

Marcone seemed to be coming out of his daze slowly. If only I was so lucky. "And... my usual, if you would, Harry." I nodded and rang up the dirty chai and margherita panini.

"Thomas, grab the panini and the crepe while you're there," I said, taking Marcone's card and swiping it.

"Ordering me around already?" he asked with a good-natured grin that lessened the blow of his words. He picked out the right plates and handed them over.

"Remind me again: whose bed did you sleep in?"

"Mr. Dresden," Marcone's voice cut through our brotherly banter. I frowned at him in annoyance. It wasn't like I got to have brotherly banter before. I was overdue by several decades, and it was hard not to be greedy now. For the longest time, the closest I got to family was living vicariously through the Carpenters-- when I even had time to do that. "We'll take it all to go, please. We have a meeting to attend."

Gard's head snapped to the side, her piercing eyes boring into the side of his head. "The meeting doesn't start until--"

"We can walk to the office. It's a nice day, and walking's good for digestion." He turned away, and just... disengaged. His word had that finality I'd only heard him break out every once in a while, usually when he was ordering junior partners around on his phone as I talked to Ivy. He turned on the charm so often in my shop that when I saw him, I forgot he could speak with authority like that.

I bagged the food and handed it all over with their drinks. Gard nodded her thanks and followed John out the door, the scumbag's shoulders a weary slope. That wasn't right. People came in to the bakery looking like that, not leaving it.

"Never thought I'd see the good gentleman broken-hearted."

I jerked out of my musing and saw Bob watching Marcone leave, a pitying curl to his words. "What?"

Bob glanced up at me and seemed to get even more morose. "Nothing, boss. Forget I said anything about him."

I did, for a little while. Life was just easier when I wasn't thinking about Marcone.



By two o'clock, I was just done. I'd had two more of Bob's espresso potions to keep me going, but by the time the lunch crowd was milling out, the caffeinated upper was running out and I was crashing hard.

I took a moment to lean on the counter, letting my head drop forward wearily. I only meant to shut my eyes for a second, but next I knew I was blinking up at the ceiling lights and Bob was frowning down at me. "--rry, Harry. Earth to Harry."

"Nnngh," I said.

Thomas leaned into my view as well. "Is he usually that pale?"

"No." Bob sighed. "I'll have Molly watch counter so I can take him upstairs."

"I can do it," Thomas said.

"Do you know how to work a register? Or what half the things we sell are called?" Bob looked Thomas up and down, an oddly disapproving set to his face. "You don't look like the type to eat baked goods."

The two of them stared each other down. "I mean I'd take him upstairs."

"I think that's what got Harry into this mess in the first place."

I had no idea what they were talking about. I started to reach for Bob's shoulder, then decided that took too much energy and let my arm flump back down. Oh, I was lying on the ground, wasn't I? "I'm confused..."

"You say that like it's news," Bob muttered at me.

"Are you always such an asshole, or did we catch you on a bad day?" Thomas snapped. He bent down, grabbed me and started to get me upright. Bob, with an air of annoyed resignation, helped him until I was on my feet, hanging between the two of them.

"Molly! Mind the front for five minutes!" Bob called to the kitchen.

"I said I could take him."

"So can I. Why're you so eager to get him alone when he's half-asleep?"

"I... Oh, fuck," Thomas swore, blanching. "You think... Oh, crap." His arm slackened and I nearly fell back to the ground.

Bob frowned deeply at Thomas. "Okay. Not to belabor the question but, who are you?"

Thomas shook his head. "Upstairs. Not here."

The two of them hauled my dozing ass to my apartment, Bob using his spare key to open the door. I was more than happy to nap while they did the legwork. Both of them were warm and short enough to lean on comfortably. "I should add 'pillow' to your job description," I told Bob.

"Right after barista, assistant baker, and metaphorical bomb defuser, I assume?" He let Thomas help until we were safely in my home. Then Bob took me over to the bed and dumped me on it. The bedclothes were mussed, the top sheet on the floor in a twisted mess Bob fought to unfurl. I helped by nudging off my shoes and then not a lot else. I was so tired, I could just sleep in my work clothes.

Thomas, ever tactile, pushed me onto my stomach and plucked at the knot of my apron. "Harry. You said you trust this guy, right?"

"Yeah. 'S Bob."

"Okay, then maybe you can talk to him because right now he thinks I'm trying to steal your virtue."

I let Thomas take off my apron, then blinked at him. "Huh?"

Bob was watching us with an eyebrow raised. "A strange, handsome man shows up, is practically attached to Harry's hip, spent the night in his bed--"

It all clicked together in my head. I fought to sit up, surprised. "Wait. Hold on. I must be dreaming or something because I think you just implied I'm.... you knowing Thomas."

Thomas started laughing. "You knowing? What are we, in eighth grade?"

Bob, on the other hand, looked pissed. I don't think he was used to not knowing what was going on with my life all the time. That kind of happened when you basically lived in each others' pockets for years. I couldn't remember the last time Bob was out of the loop about anything. "Clearly I'm mistaken. Enlighten me, boss."

"Thomas is my half-brother," I said bluntly. Lying back down again, I went on, "Can I go to sleep now?"

Bob's eyes widened comically in his shock. Or at least I thought he looked funny and started snickering into my pillow. "Since when do you have a brother?"

"Last night."

Thomas begged to differ. "Well, technically since he was born. I'm the eldest, hard as that is to believe."

"I think you just insulted me," I mumbled.

In a much needed gesture of good will, Thomas offered his hand to Bob. "Thomas Raith. I flew up from LA last night. I've been looking for Harry off and on for years."

Bob frowned, not taking the hand. Instead, he crossed his arms, his body language closed off and unfriendly. That was weird to see. Bob always seemed amiable and friendly, except right now when it would have really counted. "There was no record of Harry having a sibling."

That offhand statement stilled me to the core. There was the trouble of Bob being all stand-offish and protective of me. Now we were treading into territory I wanted to pretend didn't exist on good days and got the shakes just thinking about on bad ones. "Bob."

"Record?" Thomas asked.

"Justin DuMorne kept--"

"Bob!" I snapped, my voice like the crack of a whip. Bob and Thomas both jumped and stared at me. "Enough. I'm grateful that you worry about me like this, but drop it."

Bob stared at me for a long moment, eyes flicking over my features like he was cataloging. I tried not to shift subconsciously under his gaze. I knew Bob had this guilt thing he was dealing with all the time, how he'd helped Justin hurt Elaine and me. I didn't hold what happened against him, not anymore. But the reminder... was not appreciated.

I made a show of pulling off my shirt and shoes. "I'm going to take a nap. If I don't get up on my own, wake me for closing. Bob, get Molly a cab back home at three."

"Boss."

"Later," I said and laid down, facing away from them. The two of them lingered a while, but I shut my eyes and resolutely (and maybe a little childishly) pretended to be asleep until I heard them leave.

Alone in the darkness, the curtains pulled tight over the windows to block out the sun, I laid on the bed, tense and sure I wasn't going to be able to sleep. My mind was full of Justin's cold smile, of his house in Des Moines, the one that had never been a home, and of waking up to a silent apartment, the space Elaine once filled empty and deafening.

But not even those memories, curdled and sour like old buttercream, could keep me from falling into a deep sleep.


Act Three


OH OH AND I ALMOST FORGOT. Alex Whitewell has made more beautiful arts!

Sketch of Harry from the Bakery AU, leaning on the counter. He's wearing an apron, his pentacle, a funky bracelet, short sleeves, and a very grumpy expression. He's saying 'STFU' sourly to John, who is on the other side of the counter, a coffee cup in his hand and an amused smile on his lips. There is a tiny heart over his head.


okay, next up: MoC chapter. :nods, gets to work:

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 05:38 pm (UTC)
binz: harry and bob, 'the dresden files' tv show, harry face-on staring at side-view bob, who has his eyes closed. ([ dresden ] never let it find you)
From: [personal profile] binz
Oh Stars & Scones crew, you heartbreakers. <3

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 07:10 pm (UTC)
gwaihiril: "Gwaihiril, Lady of the Wind", photo of an eagle (Default)
From: [personal profile] gwaihiril
Oh, geez, Thomas. I really like the conversation where Thomas and Harry met each other. The next morning, where everyone was assuming things about Thomas (totally reasonable things from the way they acted), was very amusing, though poor Marcone. I can't wait to read the next part!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 07:37 pm (UTC)
innocentsmith: a lion, a lamppost, and a winged man in a conservative coat stand on a bridge under an orange sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] innocentsmith
Gosh, Harry, how could anyone get the wrong idea about you and Thomas? *facepalm* Poor Marcone. Poor everyone choking on their baked goods.

This is lovely, and omg poor woobie Harry. And the Harry-Bob relationship here is fascinating. Love it.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 08:19 pm (UTC)
samjohnsson: River says goodbye to the unawesome. (Random Kiss)
From: [personal profile] samjohnsson
For what it's worth? I'm okay with a delay on MoC if it gets us the next chapter(s) of this sooner. (You think Harry's going to capitulate in two chapters - you're adorable!)

I've said it before, but I love how you've integrated the canon characterizations without all the trappings of canon. Love Sigrun and adore Thomas!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 09:55 pm (UTC)
samjohnsson: It's what I learned in a PR degree (- Random Subtle)
From: [personal profile] samjohnsson
Shut up! One more chapter is all I need!

Oh, you silly thing. It's as if you've never written Harry and His Neuroses cool band name, that before.

Either way, I'll be excited to see it!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-15 10:28 pm (UTC)
brownbetty: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brownbetty
Aahahah, Harry and Thomas' “Hi, we are boyfriends” performance was masterfully executed, and the best part of the trick was Thomas having no clue. I mean, Thomas!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-16 02:24 am (UTC)
akelios: kitten with a pen (Default)
From: [personal profile] akelios
I love this fic more and more.

Harry and Thomas' meeting and the scene in the bakery the next morning!

Harry being as much at Charity's mercy as her other kids! *squees* And then Marcone getting his heart crushed, everyone in the bakery going 'bwuh?'

Harry's pain and that cookbook! I don't know why, but that cookbook is just...adorable and painful. Sad.

And I really love Bob in this fic.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-16 08:40 am (UTC)
everbright: Eclipse of Saturn (Default)
From: [personal profile] everbright
Oh, jeez. This reads JUST LIKE the books, even the cliffhangers. The way you took the Thomas/Harry joke is HILARIOUS. One touchy-feely brother plus one Zombie! Harry = a whole cafe full of people who get the Wrong Idea, including Marcone. *laughing* Awesome!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-17 06:25 pm (UTC)
chalcopyrite: Two little folded-paper boats in the rain (Default)
From: [personal profile] chalcopyrite
Marcone's jealous snit is possibly the best thing I have read today. *g* But who can blame him? Baker Harry is pretty endearing, in an angry-hedgehog sort of way.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-21 12:27 am (UTC)
killerkaleidoscope: close-up centered on a violet daisy on diagonally-cracked gray pavement (Default)
From: [personal profile] killerkaleidoscope
It was stupid to compare myself to this guy, but he looked so good, it was like a beacon of 'you are a boy among men and here is a list of all your physical failings and by the way when was the last time you shaved?' shining in the rainy Chicago night.

The absolute perfection of this description just has to be commended. And then there was this, which is brilliant and sharp in a completely different way:

The word twinged something in me, and I found myself snapping before I could calm myself. "I do not have trauma!"

Oh, Harry. You poor guy. If you're sure about that, then have this neat tower in Paris I'd like to sell you, too.

Of course, the beautiful (and totally, totally deliberate) faux-subtext with Thomas and Harry is just too awesome for words.

"I'm Harry's..." Thomas hesitated, blinking somewhat glazed eyes. "Friend."

If there was ever a scene I would pay money to see Matt Bomer act the shit out of, it would be EXACTLY THIS. Complete with the poorly-suppressed silent conniptions of everyone around his clueless and sleep-deprived half-brother.

Harry's reasons for keeping the true nature of their relationship quiet are totally reasonable and understandable, from Harry's point of view, and Thomas taking advantage of Harry's complete obliviousness makes total sense for his character, too. I do wonder how Thomas will handle Bob's former role in Harry's abuse--he and Harry have obviously come to an understanding (which I get, really, even though it's skewed and weird and probably very hard to explain) but Thomas would be totally within his right to flip tables over Bob's complicity and continued role in Harry's life.

On a completely different note, I really like how Ms. Gard dresses. It's tragic how boring the standard depictions of 'beautiful professional women in nice clothes' have become; the vest/suspenders/slacks combo needs to happen more often.

In conclusion: this is excellent. Best romantic-comedy AU setup ever. Thanks for sharing!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-08-21 12:35 pm (UTC)
schneefink: River walking among trees, from "Safe" (Default)
From: [personal profile] schneefink
Awww! This is great, Thomas was great, and so was everyone being protective of Harry (or jealous, in Marcone´s case. Heh.)

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