luciazephyr: ice figs, one sliced in half to expose it's center of sky blue stain over white fruit flesh, extremely pretty ([Misc] food porn is the best porn)
[personal profile] luciazephyr
Title: The Stars and Scones Bakery and Coffee Shop (6/6)
Pairings: Harry Dresden/John Marcone
Warnings/Content: Explicit sex, food porn, past child abuse, oblique reference to self-harm, serious portrayal of a character dealing with past trauma, realistic depiction of a panic attack, and abandonment issues, but now, finally, some romantic fluff. ♥
Summary: In which Harry is the best baker in Chicago, but still ends up starting a few fires along the way.
Word Count: This chapter: 10,840 Overall: 42,710. Not too shabby.

Act Five: after the savoy truffle


That evening, I called Thomas for the first time since he left and caught him up with the soap opera that my life was becoming. I'd been avoiding him in the same way I avoid everything that made my hands shake with jittery fear. But I was in such a good mood, I doubted Thomas could put a damper on it.

"Baby brother," he exhaled over the line. "I figured something was going to happen after Marcone called me and filled me in, but that was not what I was expecting."

I threw myself down on my bed, the phone tucked between the comforter and my ear. My legs hung off the side of the bed and I bobbed them up and down, feeling light and cheerful without reservation. A novel sensation for me, really. "Neither was I. But it's... nice."

"You really went to his firm?"

"Uh huh. Nice place. Met Donar Vadderung. He's..." Big.

"Nice?"

That too. "Mmhm."

"Harry, you are freaking me out a bit."

I laughed. "Why?"

"You just sound... You know."

"Like a teenage girl talking about her crush?" Because I could see that. I just needed some pigtails and a phone cord to twine around my finger as I simpered.

"No... Happy."

I loved my brother, but he was as new to this whole family thing as I was. Neither of us were great at it. This time, at least, I anticipated it. The lonely, stir-crazy voice that lived in the back of my mind started to wake. Niggling doubts tried to surge up. Yeah, you're happy now, but what about when that stops? Going back to normal is only going to hurt more now.

I ignored them. "I am, yeah. Problem?"

"It's... Marcone. He's kind of an asshole."

He was, true. "I think he's working on that. He'll get better." Like me, I hoped.

"How do you know?"

"That man's been coming into my bakery for over a year. I've got a decent handle on him by now."

Thomas snickered. "You're going to have one hell of a handle on him now, I bet."

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves."

"With proper hold and pressure, he'll do whatever you want." I could practically hear Thomas waggling his eyebrows at me.

"Stop torturing that metaphor. What'd it ever do to you?"

"More of an euphemism than a metaphor. If we're talking metaphors, you know you have to break in a stallion before it--"

I slapped my hand against my face, as if that'd wake me up from this nightmare of my brother making really inappropriate jokes about Marcone. It didn't. "I am going to hang up on you if you don't stop."

"Dude, I have years of fraternal teasing to catch-up on here."

"Hey, my birthday's coming up. Do you have years of presents to catch up on too?"

Thomas subsided. "I could lay off a bit."

"You do that."

"Call me if Marcone pulls any more dickish moves. What's the tradition in Chicago, breaking kneecaps? I could do that."

I smiled against the handset. "Goodnight, Thomas."

"If it's cement shoes, I can do that too!"

I hung up on him and rolled over to flick out the light next to my bed. Darkness fell, like a thick blanket, and I slept soundly.




Deep down, I had hoped John would be visiting soon to fulfill his end of the bargain. Soon as in the same day. I knew that wasn't fair to him. The trouble was that I didn't let myself want things often, but when I did, I was really greedy about it, fixated and impatient. He didn't show up the first day, which was understandable. He didn't show up the second, which... okay, I could deal with that.

By the fifth, my sunny mood had dimmed. Opening hours seemed to drag on and on, sluggish and only seeming to get longer and longer every time I glanced at the door, waiting for John to walk in to charm the pants off me. So to speak.

Life continued on around me.

Business was slow, even for a Saturday. Most of my customers were shoppers who popped in for a pick-me-up and left immediately after. Only Hendricks was ensconced in the corner; his crush wasn't around, so he'd defaulted back to his old seat, nearly out of sight. I wouldn't have noticed he was loitering around if it wasn't for Bob, who was oddly solicitous. He hovered by Hendricks' table, talking in soft tones, and once even patted the guy's arm consolingly.

"Am I missing something?" I asked after the fourth time Bob went to bother Hendricks.

"Story for another time," Bob replied, aloof.

I was definitely missing something. An hour later, Gard came in, spotted Hendricks, and stalked over to him. Her heels on the floor sounded like a large cat's claws. I had the sudden urge to dive in and save Hendricks, though that was a bit extreme. Right?

Except maybe not. Gard stared down at Hendricks, eyes like ice. Hendricks was not an emotive kid, but even he looked intimidated.

I took a step towards them. Bob grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back, shaking his head.

From where I stood, I could eavesdrop on the ensuing conversation between the scary Nordic lawyer and my favorite taciturn philosophy student. So I did, because deep down I am a nosy individual.

"They were from you, the postcards, were they not?"

Hendricks nodded slowly.

"You acquired my name, my work address, and have spent two months bombarding me with postcards. Is that right?"

Hendricks nodded again.

I mouthed, what the hell to Bob, who responded, another time.

"Do I look like the sort of woman who enjoys poetry? Like I have time for antiquated rituals?"

Hendricks started to nod again, out of habit, then corrected himself frantically with a headshake.

"Some were at least readable, but perhaps you should do the world a favor and contribute no more original work. 'Shall I compare thee to a Chi-town day'? Honestly?"

Bob winced. "That one was mine. I thought it was funny," he whispered to me.

"You're part of this?"

"Yeah, well. I figured the guy needed all the help he could get, and I'm something of an old hand at bagging the babes."

I resisted the urge to put my face in my hands. "Stop talking."

Across the room, Gard went on. "And I have no idea where you got some of your translations from. Many were completely foreign to me."

Hendricks spoke up at last. "I did 'em." Gard stopped, narrowing her eyes. "The translations. Not all of them, but... Sometimes the translators just didn't convey the original imagery and nuance right, so I did it myself."

Gard peered hard at him, like she was taking in his very soul. It was uncomfortable to witness; I couldn't imagine how it felt. "Did you now..."

Hendricks shrugged, looking away. "Sorry, I'll stop. Didn't mean any harm. You were inspiring." The big lug looked down at his hands, like he'd never looked at them before now.

Gard continued to stare at him, evaluating: then she reached into her pocket and drew out a business card. She tossed it onto the table next to Hendricks' hand and said, "Take down this number." She waited until Hendricks grabbed a pen before rattling off ten digits. "Do not call before six o'clock. Do not leave any voicemails. I will get back to you when I can."

Then she turned on heel and left just as abruptly as she'd arrived, leaving Hendricks to marvel in her wake.

He looked at the card in his hand, then mutely held it up for Bob to see.

Bob began to applaud, grinning. "See? Poetry! What did I tell you, Nate?"

A lot of things I didn't understand had just occurred, but that one took the cake. My jaw dropped. "You have a first name?!"




Hendricks stumbled out with his heavy bag loaded with books, the last of the stragglers in my shop. With the bakery cleared out, I spent a little time sitting beside my usual window, watching the cityscape as it began to rain. I was in a mood as sour as overcooked lemon tarts and bemoaning the fact I looked terrible in orange.

Because clearly I was going to have to give up on ever having a relationship and become a monk or something. At least I could live in a remote place. And I could carry a robe pretty well. Maybe they'd allow me a better color scheme than the usual. Green was a good color on me.

I was so deep in my own head, I practically jumped out of my skin when someone hopped into the seat across from me. "Gah!"

Ivy put a hand over her mouth and giggled. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Dresden. I didn't mean to startle you."

My racing pulse took a few seconds to settle. "It's... it's fine. I wasn't paying attention."

"Do you like the rain?"

That seemed like a non sequitur to me. "Hm?"

She leaned her elbows on the table, propping her chin on her hands. "You're always sitting over here when it rains. I thought you might like rain."

I looked out, watching the water snake down the glass pane, catching the light of the street and the passing cars. "It's complicated."

"We're getting a lot of rain this year. Chicago usually gets approximately thirty-five inches. That's about six storms a year." There was fog on the lower part of the window, and Ivy reached out, drawing a happy face, a heart, then a pentacle. She glanced at my pendant as she did the last one, like she needed the visual reference to do it right. "You seem sad. Maybe you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, but with weather."

My lips twitched up. I think that was Ivy's way of asking after me. It was sweet, if strange. "It's not the rain, Ivy. Want a cupcake, kid?"

She bit her lip, trying to suppress a grin as she nodded. I grabbed myself a bottle of Coke, poured a glass of milk, and grabbed a small plate of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing. Simple, but good stuff.

Ivy didn't seem to mind the lack of variety. She busied herself with a few dutiful sips of milk before taking the cupcakes apart, sticky fingers peeling the paper away before she took a monster bite.

I drank my Coke and returned her bright smile best I could. "What brings you here tonight? Meeting Kincaid?"

She shook her head. "Nope! Father's picking me up. First time all week."

"That so?" I tried to keep my voice light, even as my heart began to pound. Play it cool, Dresden. The Marcones' lives were none of my business, not really. The less I knew, the better, I figured.

"Yes. He's been stuck in the office with a merger disagreement. The clients are very high profile and insist they have..." She scrunched up her nose, thinking. "Unreconcilable differences?"

I took a drag of my soda before correcting her gently. "Irreconcilable."

"Yes, that." She sighed. "Once I get past six syllables, I have some trouble remembering."

"Forgetting words, that's a sign of old age."

She gave me an utterly guileless look. "Really? Well, then you would be an expert."

I choked on my drink, chuckling. "Cold, Ivy. Cold." She beamed, proud and pleased, and plowed her way through another cupcake, getting icing all over her hands. I excused myself again to go grab some napkins for her. "So, Dad's been busy?"

She stilled, suddenly staring hard at me. "Yes."

I made a non-committal noise and looked out the window.

"He's been very busy. Ensuring his client gets what they want out of the deal requires him to sit through very long meetings. Necessary evils of his job."

"You sound like a Harvard grad."

"Father talks about his work often. I don't understand it all yet," she said, like the fact she wasn't an adult with five degrees under her belt was some sort of personal failing on her part. "But I listen."

"Mmhm."

"He's had a lot to do this week."

"Right."

"But he's done now," Ivy said slowly, as if I were particularly dense and needed to be spoken to like a small child. Weird, coming from a girl with a My Little Pony purse.

"Good?"

"Yes."

"Okay." I had no idea what she was saying, and she could tell. Her face went slightly pink. It was really adorable.

She sighed again, in that way she always did when the adults in her life disappointed her. I'd heard it more than a few times. I bet it drove her teachers crazy.

Ivy stayed at my table, talking about the new words Merriam-Webster had added to their dictionary this year, her latest violin recital, and the new Pixar movie she was dying to go see. She could be a chatterbox, but I didn't mind. It was nice to let her youth enthusiasm and cheer wash over me. Too soon, a car idled outside the shop, and Ivy got out her little coin purse.

I held up a hand. "On the house, kid. Go see your dad."

She got up and walked around the table to hug me. It took her standing up on her toes to her full height and me leaning helpfully over for her to manage it, but it was nice. "Goodnight, Harry."

"Goodnight, Ivy."

I got a quick peck on my cheek and another bright grin before Ivy dashed out of the shop, heedless of the rain, and jumped into the car. I craned my head as the Lexus' door opened, trying to see in. I had no luck, and too soon it was pulling away from the curb.

I cleared the table and went to lock up. It was just as well. Tomorrow was Sunday, with its later opening time but its huge church crowd. I had a lot of prep to do.

Molly stuck around and helped with some of it before I reminded her that she'd be part of that church crowd and shooed her home. Her dedication would've been sweet, but I couldn't be sure it wasn't just Bob having her keep an eye on me when he wasn't around.

You have one hysterical meltdown in front of everyone and they never let you live it down, seriously.

It'd been a rough week, and work never quite stopped for me. I gave my bakery everything I had, and in return she kept me safe. I made the mistake of getting my hopes up, of venturing out, and what had it gotten me?

It didn't matter anymore. There was a lot of prep to do. There was the usual, plus Mac was having some kind of beer tasting tomorrow, a new microbrew to debut. He wanted a few dozen loaves of fresh bread. We'd sent each other plenty of business over the years, so I couldn't say no. And it wasn't a real hassle; kneading the dough and getting everything set to rise and bake took me to a calmer, zenned-out place, which I really needed.

The breads went in, and I had everything else ready to go for the morning. I could have watched some TV in the break room or something but... I'd even left the radio off so far, just listening to the rain and the distant rumble of thunder. But the noises outside were putting me on edge, and I needed more of the peace that came from working.

I made a very basic drop cookie dough, figuring I could at least screw around and experiment with some flavor combinations while I waited on the bread. That also meant I'd have to stay up longer to finish the cookies as well, but that didn't really occur to me at the time. Too much on my mind.

I looked at the tin Bob stored his tea blend in. It was still a chai rooibos, and that gave me an idea: a chai spice cookie would be overwhelming, but if I married it with something sweet and uncomplicated...

Busy contemplating some kind of fruit cookie, I nearly missed the knocking. It was faint, coming from the front door. It was late enough that even Chicago was lulling itself to sleep. No one should have been out there. I had no deliveries and my few friends tended to call ahead of time. The last time someone unexpected showed up, it was Thomas, and I doubted I had another long lost brother about to fall out of the sky.

So I ignored it. I needed to make some dinner, anyway. Half a red velvet cupcake was not enough to sustain me. I was skinny, but not from skipping meals; I burned a lot of energy, and nothing made me grumpier than being hungry while I worked. I checked the fridge, taking stock of what I had. There were a few things that would make a good meal, and also fresh fruit I could use for my cookies. I raided my spice rack, chopping up a few ingredients before tossing them into the food processor.

As loud as the processor was, it didn't drown out a second set of knocks. With a groan, I washed my hands and headed to the front, drying off with the threadbare cloth of my apron as I went. The curtains on all the windows were drawn for the night, and silhouettes stretched over them as the streetlights cast shadows. There was definitely someone at my door.

I pulled the curtain aside and froze when I saw John standing on the other side. The rain was getting heavier, and his hair was damp, coming out of its perfectly groomed comb-back to fan over his forehead. He was looking right at me, leaning close to the glass, and I could even seen a water drop clinging to his eyelashes that I... really wanted to brush away.

John tapped meaningfully on the glass, snapping me out of my daze. I jumped, nearly dove for the alarm to disable it, unlocked the door and yanked it open. "Uh. Hey."

He stepped in just enough to get out from under the leaking awning above my storefront. "Harry. I wasn't sure if you'd still be awake at this hour, but I saw the light..."

"Yeah, Mac put in a big order for bread, I'm working on it."

John looked past me to the kitchen, frowning. "By yourself?"

"I do all the night prep. It's not a big deal." I took one shuffled step away, looking at the ground. "It's almost fun. I was just trying some new cookie flavors, that sort of thing, you know?" I was babbling, and shut my mouth with a click.

Something dark gleamed in Marcone's eyes, more than just the shadows on his face. "New?"

"Yeah. I like throwing random stuff in a mixing bowl and seeing what happens."

"That does sound exciting."

I gave him a weak glare. "Yeah, yeah, it's not as fun as making five or six figures playing corporate marriage counselor for a week, but I got to get my kicks somewhere."

Marcone shook his head. "I wasn't being sarcastic, Harry. Given how good your products are, I imagine your experimental work would be a revelation." He paused in the doorway, like he wasn't sure if he should step inside or back away. "May I come in?" he finally asked, voice hushed.

"Why?"

"I'd like to see what you're working on."

I shot him a dubious look. "You want to watch me bake."

"I want to know why exactly you seem to smell like cinnamon. I'd also like to... talk to you. Perhaps explain, if you're still interested in listening." He was still hovering on the threshold of the shop, waiting on my word. It must've been cold, with his shirt wet from the rain and the autumn chill in the air.

"I'm making chai spice cookies," I said, focusing on the first part of what he'd said, and if you think I was ignoring the rest, well. That just your opinion, man. "You can smell that?"

"You always smell like baked goods. It's rather charming."

I reddened, because John thought I smelled good, and noticed on a regular basis. I had no idea what to do with that. John, sensing my indecision like the predatory lawyer type he was, leaned in, inhaling deeply.

My brain must've gone offline at that, because I stood back to let him in. I watched as he dripped on my floor, and relocked the door and keyed on the alarm by rote. "Uh. You're wet. I-I should have a towel."

John nodded. "Thank you."

I left him, I jogging upstairs to duck in just long enough to raid the linen closet in my apartment. Out of habit, I locked up after myself before heading back down. John had wandered behind the counter and was standing near the doorway off the kitchen with his eyes shut. He was taking deep breaths, looking peaceful. I could understand that; the air was thick with cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger. They were all strong aromatics, and I loved them: how they were at once exotic, but familiar in my kitchen. John hummed appreciatively.

"Erm. Towel?" My brain was going really stupid with John standing there, lounging against the wall and enjoying being in my home, as it was when the shop was closed. I stuck out the towel, offering it to him.

He took it and began to dry off; I really wanted to watch, but the oven dinged at the precisely worst time, and I hustled away to take the breads out. At least I remembered the oven mitt this time.

The list of people who had been in my kitchen was incredibly short. Bob, obviously. Molly, Thomas. The plumber when Molly had tried to put something down the sink she shouldn't have. The delivery woman when I needed help getting boxes inside. That was about it.

And John put himself on that list, stepping slowly inside. He was still damp, but no longer leaving small puddles on the floor. "Do you have a mop?"

"Yeah. I'll get it, give me a sec." I took the breads out of their pans and set them on a cooling rack. The mop was hung on the wall and I grabbed it, made for the front.

John caught the mop in his hand lightly as I tried to walk past him. "Let me?"

"I can do it."

"I know. But let me anyway?"

A roll of thunder echoed through the shop, rattling the teacups and saucers stacked behind the counter. I froze, feeling that prickly hot sensation of adrenaline hitting me. John's eyes widened, and he stepped into my space, folded his hand over mine on the mop. "Harry..."

Deep breaths, Dresden. "Have you eaten?"

"Hm?"

"Dinner. I was about to make some. It's not going to be anything fancy but..."

John smiled, slow and warm. "If you'd have me, I'd be honored."

"Okay. Great. Uh." I looked at his hand clasped over mine, keeping me there.

John let go quickly, taking the mop from me. "Right. Sorry. Excuse me a moment." He inclined his head to me, oddly formal, and left.

I busied myself with making soup before I did something foolish. Like grabbing him and shaking him until answers fell out. Or asking if he wanted to get out those wet clothes. Both would send the wrong message. Maybe. I wasn't really sure what the right message was, had no idea how I felt about John at the moment.

I got out parsnips, turnips, carrots, and every other root vegetable I had at the bottom of the fridge. Peeling was eternally a time-consuming task, even with the fancy ergonomic peeler I'd sprung for months ago. Still, about half the vegetables were peeled when John came back in, returning the mop to its place and coming to stand at my elbow.

"It's soup. Or, uh, it's going to be soup. It doesn't take too long and it's dead easy. Unless you want something else, I could defrost something," I babbled, keeping my gaze on my hands. Now was not the time to cut myself, even if this was the perfect situation for it to happen. Stormy knights and knives tended to be bad for me. One day I will learn the secret to not being a scatterbrained klutz. There had to be a knack to it.

"I didn't say anything, Harry. Soup sounds fine." I could hear his amused smile. "Can I help?"

"Yeah... yeah, there are pots hanging on the far wall. Grab me the blue one." He obeyed instantly, fetching the pot I needed. "Put the burner on medium heat and pour the vegetable stock in there."

He was a good assistant, doing as I said without complaint as I finished up the knifework. I tumbled the squared-up root vegetables into the pot and tossed in some savory spices. "Okay. This goes for thirty or forty minutes, then we emulsify it." John gave me a blank look. "Immersion blender?" A blink. "Boat motor?"

"I have no idea what you are referring to."

"Wow, really?"

"Really. I'm afraid my culinary knowledge is lacking."

"It's not like it's some trade secret. Watch cooking shows for a day, you'll see one."

"I'm afraid I don't watch much television. Ivy isn't fond of it, except for some Discovery and PBS shows." His gaze slid sideways across the work area to the mass of cookie dough I'd been toying with.

I smirked and went to wash my hands. "Come here." I beckoned him over, grabbing two stools for us to sit on. I had a bowl of chai spices waiting to be integrated into the dough and got to that. A small sprinkling on top, and I kneaded the hell out of it until it was worked through, the dough darkening as I did; next, I sectioned off several rolls to toy with.

John watched for a while, gaze traveling between my hands and my face, silent, just as wrapped up with my work as I was. Into one batch of dough, I tossed in cranberries and some extra cinnamon. Another got chips of dried apple and candied orange rind. Macadamia nut and raspberry went in the third. For the last, I dug out some dates and coarsely chopped them before kneading the chucks in. My fingers came away stained, and I sucked the juice off them.

John was definitely looking at my hands then. "Health code violation," he murmured.

"They're not for sale. Worried my brand of crazy is contagious?" I said lightly, pinching off the dough and rolling clumps of it into vaguely spherical shapes for baking.

"I'm a fan of your brand of crazy."

"Even when I truck a box full of baked shit into your firm and force it on you?"

John leaned forward, his arms on the table. I was bent similarly, and it was hard not to meet his eyes. "For one, referring to that manna from heaven as baked shit is inaccurate to the extreme. I had half the firm making up excuses to visit my office in hopes of getting a sample, and I came close to physically fighting them off." The image was so ridiculous I started laughing helplessly. John smirked. "For two, I don't believe I've apologized."

"For what?"

"For leaving you with the impression that I would come by to see you, then didn't do so."

"It's fine, Marcone. You were busy." So what if I'd spent most of the week moping around and being generally unpleasant to everyone?

"A moment ago you called me John. Clearly this is something that bothers you." I blinked at him, surprised that he'd even noticed. "I am a very observant person, Harry. And I should have called or sent word with Ivy about my delay. Or perhaps just fenced the case out to Gard or another junior partner."

"That's... no, that's stupid. It was fine."

John opened his mouth to go on, but stopped, shaking his head. "I'm sorry. I keep saying I don't want to be a person who hurts you. Especially when it's clear you've had too many of those in the past."

I shuddered. "John, can you... not? Please?"

"All right. My apologies." Wisely changing the subject, he nodded to the pot on the stove. "It's been a half hour, I believe."

Glad for the distraction, I went to check on dinner. The vegetables were soft to a knife poke, so I turned down the burner and retrieved a long, metal tool with a blade at the bottom. It was like the bastard offspring of a plunger and a food processor. I held it up for John to see. "Boat motor."

"Immersion blender. I assume it blends things it's immersed in," he replied, because he's kind of a dick.

I nodded to one of the cabinets. "Truffle oil."

He went to fetch it for me. "Black or white?"

"Black." I plugged in the boat motor and worked it into the soup. It took less than a minute to turn the mixture of broth and root vegetables into an earthy mush. "Come over here, drizzle some in."

"All right." John sidled up to my shoulder, uncapping the little bottle and tipping it in.

I blended. Soup was easier to make with someone to help, I had to admit. "Little more... that's it. Too much and it overpowers everything." I grabbed some of the day's leftover bread and poured the soup into two giant mugs. "Well, there we go. Nothing fancy, but you know." I sat on the stool by the cookies, blowing over the top of my mug.

John put the oil away and tucked in beside me. "It smells amazing."

I shrugged. It did, but I didn't want to agree outright and seem big-headed. "I'm a baker, not a chef."

John sipped gingerly at his hot mug and made a pleased sound in the back of his throat. "Christ, Harry. It's vegetables and broth. How could it taste this good?"

"Magic," I teased, giving the bread I was dipping into my mug all my attention.

"I'd believe it. No other possible explanation."

We worked our way slowly through the mugs, then I got seconds not so much because I was still hungry but because John looked like he wanted more and thought it would be impolite to ask outright. I left my second mug half-finished and went to put the cookies on trays and into the oven. John finished my soup off eagerly.

"Does anyone else feed you?" I asked him. "You're not secretly starving or something?"

"Homemade food, and comfort food like this in particular, is something of a luxury," John said.

"I could write down the recipe."

His smile faded. "Regretfully, I don't have the skill or the spare time to cook."

Right. Ivy. Between running his law firm and raising his daughter, I could see that. "I'm not... should you be home right now?" Even asking that made me feel selfish. "I'm not keeping you, am I?"

"From Ivy?" Ever-perceptive was John Marcone. Except for his massive blind spots, anyway. "Seeing how I am here on her instruction, that's doubtful."

"Seriously?"

John spread his hands and shrugged. "You are someone she cares for, and I did something to hurt you. She was unhappy with me and demanded I immediately try to make amends."

"I mean this in the best possible way, but sometimes Ivy terrifies me."

"Try being her father," John countered, voice laden with affection and love. If it was any hardship, I don't think John minded.

The timer dinged, and I opened the oven to three trays of golden brown cookies. I took them out and transferred them to my cooling racks, the smell of masala spice and fruit in the air again. "Okay. Dishes, then cookies."

"I don't suppose I could convince you to reverse that order?"

I laughed and pushed John away from the cookies. "Too hot to eat. They won't even hold together right now."

"If you insist..." he relented, letting me direct him to the sink.

If you were to describe washing dishes in five words, I bet 'cozy' would not be one of them. It's not one of the words that comes to mind when I think about it, given how many dishes a bustling bakery dirties. But filling the sink with warm soapy water and having John next to me, a clean towel in his hand, was... yeah. Cozy. I washed, and John dried, then took the dishes away. He wandered around the kitchen, trying to figure out where things went. I left him to it, letting him learn the set-up himself. It was slower that way, but I wasn't in a rush to get to bed for once. I ignored the sudden urge to glance at the clock, not wanting to know how late it was. I probably could have sent John home and turned in. But... the storm outside was getting heavier. And John wanted some cookies. And I was really greedy and didn't want him to go yet.

Yeah, yeah.

The cookies were set by the time we finished tidying up. I grabbed two glasses of milk, because cookies were always good with milk, and handed one to John. "Okay."

"Yes?"

"Yes."

John smiled and dragged our stools over. "Excellent."

I portioned the cookies out, slid two of each kind in front of John. "Enjoy."

"I am certain I will," he murmured, picking up the macadamia-raspberry one first. I leaned my chin in my palm, watching raptly for his reaction.

That one was a win, with John popping the second into his mouth in one big bite. It was so uncultured and not-lawyerly, I ducked my head, laughing softly. The dried apple cookie got a little less enthusiasm, but that was apple for you. He tried the cranberry-cinnamon and...

I snorted at the pinched look on his face. "No good, huh?"

He shook his head and swallowed. "No, no, it's..."

I waved a hand. "You can spare my feelings, John. This is the downside to being my test subject. Too much cinnamon, right?" He frowned, saying nothing. "You're allowed to not like something I've baked, you know. These are experimental. Sometimes experiments don't work out. I don't sell everything I make."

John thought about that, then pushed the spare cookie aside. "The illusion is shattered. I have long since believed you to be the King Midas of pastry."

"Hey, before you lose all faith in my abilities, you have one more to test," I said, picking up one of the spice cookie with the chopped dates inside. John held out his hand for it, but that wasn't quite the thing... I leaned in and gently pressed the cookie to his mouth. "Open."

His eyes flitted between my face and my hand, utterly still for a moment. My thumb was touching his lower lip just barely, and the whole thing was a lot more intimate than I'd intended. Not bad though.

John took the cookie from my fingers and for a moment seemed too distracted to taste it. Then he did, his eyes popping in shock. "Mmfle."

"Is that good or bad?"

He chewed slowly, eyes going half-lidded. Normally, cookies weren't something to savor, but John really took his time with that one. "That. Was perfect."

I smiled. "Aw. You say the sweetest things."

"I would buy dozens of those. They're... spicy, but not too much, with the dates. It all just works." He refocused on my face. "You just made that by throwing a bunch of ingredients together."

I waggled my fingers at him. "Magic." The flattery was good for me, really. It wouldn't get John everywhere, but it'd get him somewhere nice. I got up, fetched a bag and piled the cookies inside. "You can keep them."

"Harry--" His tone was instantly argumentative.

"I can't sell them. Health code violation, remember?" I pushed the bag at him. "Keep them."

Solemnly, he nodded, and put the bag in his coat pocket. "Thank you." He caught my hand, grip loose enough that I could pull away. I didn't, and was rewarded with another one of those chaste, annoyingly sweet kisses against my knuckles.

I stepped away, out of his range. "What is with you?" John tilted his head, eyes hot as they swept over me. "That's so weird: I'm not some kind of damsel." His gaze was awfully intent... "You're not thinking about that pink apron, are you?"

His smile was fast and bright like quicksilver. "Well, I wasn't before."

I rubbed my face. "Oh god. You are too ridiculous to deal with at this hour. I'm done." Brushing by him, I went to the coat tree just inside the kitchen.

It was late, and as much as I hated to admit it, I was starting to wind down. Having John over was... It was good. Warm, and comfy. That wasn't a common feeling for me. Dating Susan had been awkward at first, though we'd gotten through that eventually. With John...

It was a date. Oh god, I made him dinner and everything. There wasn't another word for it. My first date in years, hell's bells.

Huh. At least it'd gone fairly well.

Thank goodness I had my back to John. The goofy look on my face couldn't have been attractive. I couldn't help it though. A nice night in with good company was... kind of a revelation. Sure as hell better than an evening alone trying to drown out a storm with crappy TV.

I was trying to pluck the knot out of my apron strings. The bow I tied had slid through, and undoing the tangle behind my back wasn't easy.

There was a sound behind me, and John was suddenly very close. I froze, and felt him put his hand over mine. "May I?" He was so near, his words warm against me. I tensed to fight down a shiver.

"Sure. Thanks."

The apron pulled as John worked at it. The cord was looped several times around my waist and he slowly, gradually unwrapped me until I was free. His hands caught the hems and slid up the apron, past my chest and to my neck. Wordless, I bowed my head and let him draw the band of cloth over it and take the apron from me. His arms remained circled around me, and I turned to look at him. We stared at each other, waiting.

I blinked first, and John dropped the apron, his hands catching in my shirt. I backed up, and John pushed me against the wall, my feet clumsy. There was a second where I thought I'd fall, but John gripped me tighter and braced me up. We cinched together, everything still even as I tried to keep my feet under me, mindful of the weight I was putting on John's arms. A knee between my legs helped keep me from spilling to the ground, and was also a firm pressure in such a nice place, waking me right up.

John went for the kiss too suddenly. My nose knocked against his, and it ended up being a mash of lips, too wet and off target. I huffed a laugh against John's face. "False start?"

"I was preoccupied." His knee shifted and I sucked in a breath.

"Sorry. I'm really clumsy."

"I'm prepared to forgive you, just--" He tipped my head back and I scrambled to grab his shoulders, because falling before we got this right would really suck. I didn't have to wait longer; his mouth met mine dead on this time. I'd wondered for a long time, longer than I'd ever admit, what it'd be like to kiss him. Now I knew: a cool smell from the rain his skin, the chai spice of the cookies lingering around the corners of his mouth, and the weariness and warmth of his tongue pushing against mine.

We settled against each other, testing and trying each other out. I'd spent months learning his habits, subtle ticks, and how to drive him to distraction with a snide remark or an unexpected moment of kindness. Now it felt like I was filling in the gaps, discovering just how pushy John was and when he'd yield. And just the feeling of his mouth and hands.

John turned his head away briefly to breathe and murmur against my cheek. "If I am being too forward--"

"Hell's bells, John, are you serious?" I griped, not wanting to hear it. "I haven't kissed anyone in fifteen months."

His eyes narrowed. "Was it Kincaid?"

"... What?"

"Never mind," John growled and distracted me with another kiss. I fell gladly into it. It was like riding a bike, except if riding a bike felt this good, I'd drive my car into the Lake and never use anything but a bike ever again. It settled something in me, felt so good, new but familiar. I cupped John's head and yanked him in harder, earning an amused, surprised, "Mmph," from him.

It was easy and unrushed for a long time, until John shifted and grabbed my thigh. He coaxed my leg up, hooked around his. I was about to tell him I wasn't someone he could just manhandle as he pleased when his hips moved. We shifted into a rough grind that sent sparks up my spine. It was amazing, like the first rain after months of nothing but snow. Cracking open the oven and getting a blast of delicious-smelling air. Drinking a cup of tea on a cold day and feeling the heat slowly spread through your chest. All those things combined. I groped at him, uncoordinated but wanting, unsure how to make it better.

I opened my eyes, watching us wind from one kiss to the next. John's face was frighteningly intent, a little line creasing his brow. It was almost funny and definitely endearing to have all that focus on me; I'd never seen him grant that much attention to anything but his legal work. His hand kept dragging up and down my thigh, edging closer and closer to curling around my ass, but always backing down.

Turning my head, I took a breath and said, "If you treat me like glass..."

John blinked slowly, his brain catching up. "Treat you... no, I didn't mean to--" He cut himself off, tucking his face into my neck and grazing his teeth against my skin. His hands finally got friendly, fingers squeezing, as if my skinny ass had anything to squeeze. My hips stuttered against him, and he huffed a laugh. "Better?"

"Nngh." My head thumped back against the wall. He licked up my neck, against the grain of my end-of-the-day stubble. He bit me just hard enough under my chin and I whined. "Fuck, John."

"Harry... Harry, let me," he straightened up and worked his hand between us, sliding hotly under my shirt, nails scrapping my skin. That hit an itch I didn't know I had, as though he was scratching off an old patina, a thick layer I'd let build up and spread over me finally coming off. I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him in tight, trying to trap that hand where it was.

"Mother of Christ," John groaned and redirected, his fingers hooking in the band of my jeans and pulling, suggestive.

I caught his wrist. "John."

He reeled back instantly, and I got a proper look at his face: flushed, eyes bright, his pupils blown wide, his irises thin green circles. "Sorry, I didn't--"

"No, that's not a no, that's a not here," I said quickly. "I am not doing this in my kitchen; that's just wrong! I make food for people here!"

He relaxed, tension unspooling out from his body. "All right. Do you have an alternative?"

"Uh. Upstairs?"

He smiled. "If you'll have me."

"Yeah." I'd definitely have him.

I couldn't just run upstairs, unfortunately. I had to double check the ovens were off, make sure the doors were locked and the alarm armed, flip off all the lights... John waited for me at the foot of the stairs, projecting an air of patience that I knew was bullshit, no matter how earnest it seemed.

I flicked off the last light, sending us into darkness. The storm outside was making a racket, but for once the pounding on the roof and the monstrous rumbling wasn't keying me up painfully. I was too busy grabbing John's sleeve and pulling him up the stairs. He turned his arm, tangling our fingers together, and pulled me to stop.

"I was serious. If this is too much for you, I'm in no rush," he whispered.

That was sweet. Really, it was, a consideration no one had ever given me before. And there had been a few. But, "John, how about you let me decide when it's too much, okay?" He nodded, lifted my hand. "Oh, enough of that." I shook him off and grabbed his collar, reeling him in for something less chaste.

I kept getting sidetracked. Trying to kiss him and get us both upstairs turned out to be quite the task; when I took a step, I suddenly was out of reach, towering over him. I could have just, you know. Stopped kissing him for ten seconds. Or I could yank him up and send him along first and keep ravaging his mouth. That worked better.

The door was locked, because I'm paranoid and keep it locked as often as I can. Digging out my keys took more coordination than I had to spare, and any I had vanished when John tucked his hands into my back pockets and started mapping out my clavicle with his tongue.

I got my keys and fumbled with the door, trying to get it open. Thinking in a straight line was getting harder and harder, along with other things. It was almost inevitable that I dropped the keys when John ground our hips together, the metal clattering against the wooden floor. "Oh, fuck, mm!"

He turned us, pinning me to the wall at the top of the landing. And then I didn't care about getting inside my apartment anymore; we were out of the kitchen, and that was what mattered

With John busy massaging my ass and murmuring appreciatively against my neck, I took over the task of getting pants loosened. I couldn't get a key in a lock, but I could unbutton and unzip and get John's belt loose. Getting him to take a step back was a challenge. "John, some help? Come on."

He managed to stop groping me long enough to get my jeans shoved down, my boxers with them. The broken noise I made when he fisted my cock was embarrassing, but I didn't care. He exhaled against my lips. "Legs. Just a little wider and I can--"

"Oh, stars." I had to make an effort to understand what he said. "I can't, jeans are in the way, that's good, just..." I whined, "Don't stop, don't."

"I've got you. I've got you," he started to say over and over. And he really did. I wanted to get his slacks out of the way, and it was difficult with his hand working at me. It'd been so damn long. My eyes kept lidding and I sagged back against the wall, sinking deep into the molasses-thick arousal. "Just like that, Harry."

"But... you, too."

"I'll keep."

"John."

He chuckled and stopped, pulling away. I almost grabbed his hand and put it right back where it'd been. He just pushed his slacks and my jeans down before plastering against me, getting my leg up around his hip like earlier, and wow, that grinding felt even better without so many clothes in the way.

He was panting against my shoulder, palms planted on the wall for leverage, rockin our hips together. Maybe it was because it had been so long, but that alone was doing all sorts of good things for me. I curled around him, gasping raggedly into his ear and let him take care of it. I could remember the last time I'd had sex; I couldn't remember the last time I'd just let go.

So if it was over pretty fast, blame that. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

John's hips stuttered and he was coming too. I think he'd been fighting it for a while. He was too short for me to lean forward and rest my head on his shoulder, but I bent down to do it anyway. Which was nice, especially when John cupped my neck, rubbing his thumb in soothing circles. That, along with the way all my tension had been stripped out of me, made me more than ready to curl up and sleep for a week.

Stars, that would be a dream come true, but I had to get up in a few hours time and I wasn't even in bed yet.

Reluctantly, I lifted my head off John and bent down to get my keys. Doing so separated us, and made it obvious how sticky and gross we both were. Not unexpected, and I was just happy it wasn't in my kitchen. Between the rain and other, uh, fluids, John's nice slacks were wrecked pretty badly. But I probably had some sweat pants that wouldn't be too long on him...

I opened my door and glanced back at John over my shoulder. He had taken a step away, and I felt something cold and hard knot up in my gut.

Screw polite distance, I thought angrily and pulled John over, kissing him. This time, it was slow, unhurried and heavy with afterglow, and John's mouth took mine greedily, completely lacking that eager-to-please sweetness from before. I didn't mind.

I drew back and breathed against his cheek. "Look, I may snore."

John smirked. "I'm a very sound sleeper," he murmured.

I pulled him into my apartment, kicked the door shut behind us, and flailed out one hand to lock it. "And I have space issues. A lot of them."

"I'll keep that in mind." His gaze wandered curiously around my apartment. It was too dark to see anything properly and I wasn't about to give him the walking tour. Maybe some other time.

The storm thundered over us, reminding me. "I'm bad with loud noises too. Storms scare the hell out of me."

"I'll help. I'll stay with you when one hits."

Like tonight. I bit my lip, so stupidly pleased and thrilled, it was hard to focus. I thumped into the doorframe to the bedroom, cursing under my breath when my heel knocked into the wall. John's lips pressed together and he tried not to smile. I let go of him, made it into my room without any more embarrassment. and flumped onto my bed. Sleeping with my clothes on wasn't unusual for me-- I ended up in the shower every morning anyway. "And you should know that I'm a massive mess, John."

He looked down at me and frowned, eyes flicking over my rumbled state. He didn't seem to find it a turn-on, either. That was fine, I could be obliging. I sat up and pulled my shirt off, throwing it aside, then propped one of my feet on John's knee. It took me waving at my shoe before he caught on and plucked at my shoelaces. He got that one off, then did the same with the other. "Even if that were true, and I'm certain it's not," he said as my shoes thumped to the ground, "I happen to think you're worth the effort."

That was good. I could deal with that, even if it was a little ridiculous. Back when we first met, John was the last person I expected to care about anyone but himself. Even now, I wasn't clear how much this was him caring about me or him wanting this to work out of sheer stubbornness and inability to accept defeat."Come on. Are you always going to say the right thing?"

John shook his head. "No. I think we've already proven just how cavalier I can be. But," he turned one of my hands and kissed the flesh under my thumb. I was starting to think he had a thing for my hands. Something to remember. "I endeavor to never repeat mistakes, and to learn from them."

The bedside lamp was bright enough I could see his eyes, their laser focus on mine. Thing was, he looked dead serious, like he wasn't kidding with the cheesy reassurances. "I, uh..." His mouth was still against my hand, and I rubbed his cheek lightly, thinking. "I don't do this. Let people in. It doesn't end well, ever."

John's fingers tightened. "I won't hurt you. And I'll destroy anyone who does."

Ah. Huh. I blinked.

He frowned. "What? Wrong thing to say?"

"I don't know. Uh. I can't decide if that's creepy or really sweet."

John's brow knit together. "Are those mutually exclusive?"

Come to think of it, I wasn't sure. And for the moment, I didn't care. I was riding a warm, hazy feeling and it made me more agreeable than I usually was. John took advantage, stripping us and tossing our clothes in a heap on the floor. He made a displeased face at them, and I snickered. "Nothing dry cleaning can't fix?"

"I'd rather not test the limits of my launderer's discretion. I'll buy a new suit."

Tired, I dragged down the bed covers and sprawled under them. They were still cold, and I ran my feet to and fro, trying to warm them quickly. "Guess I'm pretty expensive then."

John looked at me, at my wiggling, and smiled. "I promise I don't mind."

Throwing a hand over my face, I groaned. "Enough with the mushy crap, you've made your point. Now get over here and make yourself useful."

It was much more comfortable with the two of us tucked into each other. John tried to get away from my cold feet, but the bed wasn't big enough, so he settled and begrudgingly let me hook my ankles around his legs. In return, his arm wound across my chest, holding snugly. There were only two pillows, but when you were bunched up on a bed that wasn't meant for two people, sharing was easy.

John palmed my hip, thumb rubbing against my skin. I smiled, closing my eyes.

"Harry."

"Hm?"

"While we're trying to... drive each other off by providing a bit of informed consent..."

I tucked my head against the pillow. "Are you breaking out the legalese? Seriously?"

"It's important." His voice had lost most of its humor, low and somber.

I looked at him, trying to pay attention even though I was warm and comfy and sleep, man, sleep would be good. "Okay."

He sucked in a breath. "I... am often a workaholic. I can be distant without realizing it. I have shown already that I react... poorly to jealousy. And everyone from Donar to my daughter has pointed out I can be rather arrogant."

I frowned. "Huh?"

"I simply mean that you were never wrong about me. There is a lot of... baggage to me. And I know you are still sorting out your own, and I wouldn't want to--"

"Are you..." I jawed at him for a second. "Are you warning me off?"

"I was reciprocating." He shrugged one shoulder. "Turnabout. Fair play. Et cetera. Und so weiter."

"Shut up. Just... stop talking. You should never talk, come to think of it." When he opened his mouth again, I put my hand over it. "I get it; we're both screwed up. Don't care, at least not right now. Can't we..." I dropped my hand, sagging back against the bed bonelessly. "Can we figure this out later? That's a thing adults do, right?"

John smiled. "Yes, I think they do."

"Great, 'cause I am dog ti--" There was a flash so bright, I could see it through the curtains. The bedside lamp flickered, and I stared at it, breath catching in my chest.

John reached out, turned it off, and pulled me in so my forehead was against his. His face filled my vision, blocking out everything else. "Right then. As I recall, you have an early morning tomorrow, as I do. Let's try to sleep."

I did more than try. Any other night with a storm like this, and it would have been beyond me. But that night, I was wrapped up in winter sheets, body heat, and happy endorphins. And John. I was out before I knew it.






It's not like I was expecting anything in particular when I woke up in the morning, but I wasn't expecting to find John on his way out.

The bed dipped, and I squinted my eyes open to watch John wearing a pair of sweatpants that were made for my legs, not his. He was rolling up the bottom cuff so the hem didn't hang down past his feet. He finished with one leg and stopped, his Lawyer Sense tingling or something, and looked over his shoulder to me, seeing I was awake.

"Leavin'?" I mumbled, turning my face into my pillow.

"Mr. Kincaid is a very good sitter, even on short notice, but I don't want to leave Ivy in his care for much longer. He teaches her terrible life skills." He brushed my hair from my forehead and kissed my temple. "Things she doesn't need to know unless she decides to become a Navy SEAL."

I grunted, and shut my eyes again, resigned.

"Believe me, Harry, if I didn't have to go see to Ivy, I would not be awake at this ungodly hour."

Shit, that reminded me..."Time?"

"Seven-thirty."

The numbers didn't mean anything to me. What was that in bakery time? "How long 'til open?"

"Oh. Three hours."

I flung out an arm and pawed at the nightstand. "Set alarm?"

"Set your alarm?"

"Yup."

John laughed quietly. "All right. An hour before open?"

I nodded and relaxed again, listening to the click of buttons as John set things up for me. "Thanks." I reached until I caught his arm and held on for a moment. Mm, biceps. I didn't expect those lurking under his fancy suits. "You need a ride? You can take my car. The keys are..." Actually, I had no idea. I didn't drive often. "Somewhere."

"I have a taxi coming. Besides, you might need it."

"Nah. I don't... go out a lot?" That sounded a lot worse out loud than it had in my head. "Kind of pathetic. I didn't tell you, 'cause pathetic guys aren't attractive."

"Then clearly you aren't pathetic."

I forced my eyes open so I could roll them at him. "That was terrible."

"Well, yes." John smiled. "Perhaps you could go out more often. Say, next weekend? There's this band Ivy likes playing a show, a rock adaptation of the Táin Bó Cúalnge."

Whoa. Those were not the sort of words people were supposed to use after only a few hours of sleep. "Huh?"

"I thought you'd be interested. You seem to enjoy a certain amount of esotericism."

I blinked at him. "I am not awake enough for this. Uh. Ask me later?"

"Later. Absolutely." His grin widened as he bent down to kiss me, close-mouthed but warm and comfortable. He had some stubble starting to spread over his jaw, which was an weird texture. But not bad-weird. I tended to like that, to tell the truth.

I didn't give that much more thought, dozing off again as John let himself out.

A few more hours of sleep and Bob's pep potion got me up and moving enough to get the shop open, even if I probably could've used more rest. I needed to just cave in and take a nap, and I had the feeling Bob knew it too; he kept smirking at me knowingly, like he had some kind of sex radar that kept him in the loop. I avoided him for a while, always keeping myself busy with something so he couldn't ask any probing questions.

I just wanted to enjoy it, without Bob's exuberant, unneeded approval. If only for a little while.

Thankfully, Hendricks wandered in and Bob made a nuisance of himself, suggesting "foolproof tactics" and dispensing dubious romantic advice. Though, to be fair, Bob had suggested poetry to Hendricks, and that had gotten him a date. Maybe Bob knew what he was talking about.

Or, as they say, a broken clock is still right twice a day.

The storm from last night was little more than a vague memory, seeing how I'd had other things on my mind at the time. But it had raged, and seemed to knock every leaf from every tree in Chicago, then helpfully blown them right to my store. While Bob was watching the counter, I fetched a broom and swept all the tracked-in leaves back out, then tried to brush the mulchy mess away. A few minutes of work, and the leaves were picked up by one of the winds of the urban canyon, chasing them away to haunt another shop's door.

A tug at my apron called my attention down to Ivy. She was bundled up for the cold, looking toasty in her puffy coat and cherry red boots. "Mr. Dresden, it's colder than average today. Where are your winter clothes?"

I peered past her to John bundled up in his own great coat. His hands were tucked deep in his pockets and he hung back, watching us with a fond smile.

Ivy used her grip on my apron to pull me down. I bent obediently and was rewarded with her fuzzy purple scarf looped around my neck. She tucked it into a knot and stepped back. "There. Better."

The scarf was obscenely soft and I tangled my fingers in the loose woolen knit. "Thank you," I said sincerely.

John joined us and put a gloved hand on his daughter's shoulder. "Head in and take your coat off. I'll join you in a moment," he said softly.

Ivy looked at the two of us, namely the conspicuous lack of space between us, and practically skipped away. At least we had Ivy Marcone's approval. Woe betide anyone who didn't.

The moment the door shut behind her, John leaned up and kissed me soundly. I nearly dropped my broom in surprise. "Um!"

John laughed, full and open with his head tipped back. "Sorry. Much like your baking, you're somewhat difficult to resist."

"You... never struck me as a PDA kind of guy." Because he really hadn't. Big stupid romantic gestures, sure. Standing on your tiptoes to kiss someone in the middle of the street? Didn't seem like John at all. Obviously I was wrong there.

John's lips titled down. "I could just as easily not, if it makes you uncomfortable," he said seriously.

He thought... I shook my head. "No. I was just surprised." And, barring last night, I hadn't kissed someone in such a long time, it was mortifying. Part of that was my fault, yeah, because being on my own was just easier all around. For years, I tried to wall myself up to make it harder for anyone to get in and hurt me. But then Thomas happened, and that all crashed down, leaving me sitting confused on the ground surrounded by mortar and loose bricks. It didn't seem worth it anymore. Not with what I was missing out on. I thought it was good enough, but not anymore. Not with the prospect of John so nearby. Not with the fact I had a brother now. Not after learning my best friend had been dating Luccio and I'd had no idea.

To hell with it, all the distance.

"No," I murmured. "I'm fine. Not even. I'm good." I smiled, and took a page from his book and stole a kiss, but longer, slower, savoring.

It wasn't perfect. But it had potential. For the first time in years, things were getting better.

The bell on the door rang and Ivy stuck her head out. "Father."

John was still looking at me, a bit dazed, but smiling. "Yes, Ivy?"

"Cupcakes. Kitty-cat cupcakes."

I snorted. "Come on. I think Ivy needs your magic money card."

He raised an eyebrow. "What, I don't eat for free now? My plan has fallen to pieces, it seems."

Ivy sighed. "Father." Nothing got between her and the tiramisu cat-cakes, not even her dad.

I nudged John to the door. "Come on. I'll make you a panini," I murmured, herding everyone into my shop, out of the cold.








Author's Note:
Oh my god, did this go off the rails or what? This wasn't originally meant to be a meta-criticism of Butcher's treatment of Harry's trauma, but it kind of turned into that. It was also my fumbling through writing a character dealing with big hairy issues in what I hope was a realistic manner. A lot of this was drawn from my own experiences and those of an old friend of mine. I hope I handled it tactfully. Or as tactfully as writing Harry Dresden allows. GDI, boy, your issues.

Thanks to [personal profile] polarisnorth for fueling the entire concept, [personal profile] grenegome for continuing to be the Wonder Beta and providing so much hilarious headcanon for this AU. Donar is forever the greatest thanks to you, dear. [personal profile] binz, thanks for letting me pester you so fucking much. I figured prolonged contact with you would allow me to absorb some of your awesome like osmosis. True story. And [personal profile] samjohnsson, you continue to make me want to write the best shit I can just for your lovely remarks. Thanks for giving me far more credit than I'm worth. [personal profile] lightgetsin, thanks for pointing out places for improvement. This chapter in particular is much better thanks to you.

One thing I can announce now: there is an... IDK, 75% chance this universe will be getting more fic [personal profile] grenegome may write a remix of this story from Marcone's POV, filling in all the extra details this fic hinted at. What's with Gard's postcards? Just how much of a faildad is John? What terrible things is Kincaid teaching Ivy? You all may find out! It will be hilarious, trust me. Grene is amazing.


And I do believe I promised a music mix for this fic, did I not?

fanmix cover with a tasty red torte cake and the text The Stars And Scones Bakery And Coffee Shop

Mediafire Download Link

1. "Ghosts" - Laura Marling
said he went crazy at nineteen
said he lost all his self-esteem
couldn't understand why he was crying
he would stare at empty chairs, think of the ghosts that once were there
the ghosts that broke his heart
"oh, the ghosts that broke my heart before I met you"



2. "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger" - Of Montreal
I spent the winter with my nose buried in a book
while trying to restructure my character
because it had become vile to its creator
and through many dreadful nights, I lay praying to a saint that nobody has heard of
and waiting for some high times to come again



3. "Darkness Descends" - Laura Marling
and suddenly we're all alone in silence
so I take a step away
I look up to the falling snow as it makes its home upon my face
I wouldn't want to ruin something I couldn't save
the gap will keep us safe, the gap will keep us safe

oh hell, I'm not well again and once more darkness it descends



4. "Skinny Love" - Bon Iver
and I told you to be patient
and I told you to be kind
and I told you to be balanced
and I told you to be kind
and if all your love is wasted
then who the hell was I?



5. "Be Calm" - Fun.
[ALL THE LYRICS] oh, be calm! be calm! I know you feel like you are breaking down
oh, I know that it gets so hard sometimes, but be calm
take it from me, I've been there a thousand times
you hate your pulse because it thinks you're still alive
and everything's wrong
it just gets to hard sometimes, but be calm!



6. "The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts" - Sufjan Stevens
only a steel/real man can be a lover
if he has hands to tremble all over


7. "Blue Light" - Bloc Party
just tell me that it's tearing you apart
just tell me you cannot sleep

and you didn't even notice when the sky turned blue
and you couldn't tell the difference between me and you
and I nearly didn't notice the gentlest feeling
you are the bluest light


8. "70 Million" - Hold Your Horses!
and it hardly looked like a novel at all and I hardly looked like a hero at all
and I'm sorry you couldn't publish it
you were white as snow, I was white as a sheet
and so it hardly looked like a novel at all
if the city treats me, it treats me to you
and a cup of coffee for you
I could learn its language and speak it to you


9. "Savoy Truffle" - The Beatles
[see: all the chapter titles]



That's all from me, folks! The AO3 copy of this fic will go up as soon as I finish my massive revisions of the first chapter, because it needs it, TBH. The Marcone POV remix will go up when Grene puts it up-- don't pester her, she's worth the wait. I hope you've enjoyed the ride as much as I have. Back to The Matter of Chicago now for me. MoC will be coming back with the new year.

I leave you with this awesome cover from [personal profile] objectivelypink.



[Image description: Lee Pace, of ‘Pushing Daisies’ fame, as Harry Dresden is wearing a white apron and scratching his head in an abashed fashion. His brown hair is messy, and he has several bracelets as well as a pentagram necklace. Jim Caviezel, from ‘Person of Interest,’ is in the background, wearing a snappy, dark, pinstripe three-piece suit. He has graying hair and a serious, contemplative look on his face. The background has a brown, woven texture and scattered stars. A frilly pink apron and the impossible baklava are behind the text. The text on it reads: “The Stars and Scones Bakery and Coffee Shop. Luciazephyr. In which Harry is the best baker in Chicago, but still ends up lighting a few fires along the way.]

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-21 07:48 pm (UTC)
killerkaleidoscope: close-up centered on a violet daisy on diagonally-cracked gray pavement (Default)
From: [personal profile] killerkaleidoscope
It is totally unfair that you are so good at describing the process of things as well as the execution. For one thing, most of these chapters leave me starving for foods that don't actually exist. The box of former flours was killer.

For another, all of these peoples' thought processes make perfect sense in the best way. They fuck up, make assumptions, have issues, misinterpret some signals and misfire others, each in their own messed-up personal manner, and it all works. And when they finally get resolved...! The payoff, you're doing it right.

(I'm still kicking myself that I couldn't figure out the Neruda postcards. Of course Hendricks would send Neruda. Of course the fact that he personally translated them would be the thing to pique Gard's interest. And of course this Bob got too involved and nearly blew it all to hell. And I'm still mad at myself for thinking handsy affectionate Thomas was deliberately giving Marcone the wrong impression--book-Thomas maybe, but this fic-Thomas, to his brother on a sleepy morning, not so much.)

I mostly don't like magicless AUs. This was an enthusiastic exception from the word go. I admit, I laughed when I saw that you were really, truly sure it was gonna be a mere three parts long. C'mon, this is you. Dresden and Marcone both are always due a little more time through the wringer... but also--and this is why you're my favorite--a little time putting themselves back together. Properly, without gloss and sidestepping the massive stacks of issues involved. They actually DEAL with things, and have responsibilities involving other people.

Dad!Marcone with Ivy is the best and sweetest thing ever and I love how it was executed here, and Dresden tentatively connecting with his flashy hairdresser brother was just excellent. Also, nice work on the music mix! And props to [personal profile] objectivelypink for her fantastic cover, right down to the legendary apron. High-fives all around.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-22 01:58 am (UTC)
killerkaleidoscope: close-up centered on a violet daisy on diagonally-cracked gray pavement (Default)
From: [personal profile] killerkaleidoscope
That recipe looks awesome. Thank you kindly! My grandparents don't really believe in foods that don't involve meat, but that recipe's going in the 'someday I will move out and cook for myself' folder. More recipes should involve parsnips, dammit. And any excuse for good crusty bread.

Well, you and Binz and LGI succeeded. Now we just need to get Hollywood on releasing a no-copyrights-were-harmed version for mainstream audiences. You've even provided the start of a soundtrack! (Wanna lay bets on ten years, or twenty? /bitter)

You're a wicked genius. Rest assured that if you do feel like writing it, that'd be a thing I would dearly love to see. I almost feel sorry for Marcone if Kincaid's been messing with him. Almost. Getting knocked off-kilter is good for him. I'm sure Ivy would agree. (Oh, dear. Marcone and his adventures in faildaddery. Poor Ivy has probably had to put so much work into training her parent.)

Yes, clearly naught but scurrilous lies. Remind me, how many tens of thousands of words did you pour into the beginnings of Moc (on the kinkmeme, if I remember right) before you admitted you'd possibly underestimated the sheer volume of verbiage you had on your hands? Because the current mental image I have is some kind of freakish Strega Nona situation, only involving words instead of noodles.

(I love your fics and I love long fics. Never stop. :P )

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-21 08:02 pm (UTC)
objectivelypink: "You caught them by surprise from the rear." (from the rear)
From: [personal profile] objectivelypink
EEEeeeeeeeeee!!! /squealing and incoherent noises

I can't believe you were worried about this chapter disappointing! It's AMAZING. I WANT TO MARRY THIS FIC. I will hug it and squeeze it and love it forever and name it George.

I think you did an awesome job of handling Harry's issues. You handled it with a surprising amount of delicacy and care, considering the subject matter and Harry's opinion's of himself and his own problems.

Anyhoo, I greatly enjoyed this story, if you couldn't tell. And the idea of a Marcone POV remix sounds delightful~

In short:
Photobucket
Photobucket

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-22 12:21 am (UTC)
objectivelypink: Canon Error: Apply Fanfic Yes/No? (Default)
From: [personal profile] objectivelypink
Oh noes, my tumblr addiction is showing! XD I have a photobucket account specifically for gifs so I will never be without them so long as I have internet access. <3

But yeah. Harry and his mangst. It's rare to find a writer who deals with that shit well and is still able to make the story funny! Because that's my favorite thing about well-written Dresden (canon or fic); it's the humor mixed with mangst.

Also! I forgot to mention before, I LOVE how you describe food in this story. I want to make everything Harry makes. I also want to eat everything Harry makes.

I don't know if you've ever heard of this Japanese comic book called Antique Bakery. You know how some stories get interrupted by sexy fanservice shots? Antique Bakery takes a moment every chapter to tell you all about amaaaaazing pastries and visually renders them so beautifully! The food parts in your story remind me of that.

I mean that as a compliment, even if I'm comparing your story to a manga. Not sure if that's clear. XD

And Ivy is so adorable! I can't wait to see Marcone's fail!dad attempts. It sounds adorable and amazing. I don't even care if Grene isn't able to write a remix of the whole story's events; I'd be satisfied with snippets. True fact.

What's your mental image of Ivy? Because I totally want to make a picture of her with a pixar t-shirt. Like Finding Nemo or something. Maybe Toy Story.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-21 08:16 pm (UTC)
jamethiel: Three yellow quinces on top of a bed of red cherries/plums (Quince)
From: [personal profile] jamethiel
Oh, this is fabulous! Thank you so much!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-21 11:40 pm (UTC)
verity: buffy embraces the mid 90s shades (Default)
From: [personal profile] verity
This fic was already unbearably amazing, and then this chapter! OMG OMG OMG HEARTS IN MY EYES. I want to bake everything in this fic! Harry and Marcone are so adorable together. This story spools out at just the right place - time to really get to know Harry and get invested in cheering him on as he works stuff out both with himself and with Marcone. And I love how you gave all of the amazing cast of this series screen time. I wish I could single out a few favorite moments, but honestly, when it comes to favorites it's ALL of them. I'm excited by the prospect of more! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-22 01:42 am (UTC)
existence: ursala vernon (bunny jump~)
From: [personal profile] existence
Coherence isn't with me today, but oh, this ending, and this fic. ♥

Thank you so much for continuing to share your writing with us.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-22 04:28 am (UTC)
greyeyes: (Default)
From: [personal profile] greyeyes
I want to read this SO BAD, but I'm going to start at the beginning and I have to be up for work in 4.5 hrs. Sadness. Something to look forward to tomorrow!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-22 08:36 pm (UTC)
feanna: The cover of an old German children's book I inherited from my mother (Default)
From: [personal profile] feanna
My personal (semi-)canon for Harry (that my or may not work with how exactly Harry comes across in the books, I haven't reread while keeping it in mind) is that his healing powers extend tohis mental health in some basic ways. Because at least some aspects of mental health are physically rooted in the physical brain. (and spirits are snapshots of a momentary state that may degraade over time) Embodied in synapses and nerotransmitter levels and other stuff. For me, it basically works like the way the rest of his body heals. If it doesn't kill him, it's going to improve slowly but steadily.
I don't see it resetting him to some sort of default stage, he IS changed by what happens (and it's not like his body's reset either, he does age for example) but basic functionality is retained much better than it would be in a non-magical person.
Because you're absolutely right in pointing out that if we look at all that Harry's actually lived through, then that's some massive heaps of bad shit.

This au is totally great. And I agree with all those who have said that all that baking is making me hungry! (And also wishing I had more time until christmas, because around here cookies are a chrismas thing and I haven't had time to do any christmas cookis this year.)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-23 10:07 am (UTC)
everbright: Eclipse of Saturn (Default)
From: [personal profile] everbright
Hehe, nice metaphor with the T-storm here. Harry's just walking out into his new, clean day! This is really amazing Luc; the fic balances warm and domestic feelings with cold, old traumas just right. Thanks for powering through and finishing this even through it mutated under your hands, I would have hated to miss it!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-24 03:53 pm (UTC)
sarkastic: (figure skating - ot4)
From: [personal profile] sarkastic
I just read the entire thing and I enjoyed it immensely. Thanks so much for sharing! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-25 10:50 am (UTC)
schneefink: River walking among trees, from "Safe" (Default)
From: [personal profile] schneefink
I love bakery AUs so much, and this fic is a perfect example why. Pastries! Characters working through emotional problems by baking! Cake as a sign of affection! The characters are very well translated into the AU, too, Harry and Thomas and awww, Marcone and Ivy, Hendricks and Gard and even Bob. I enjoyed this very much :)

(no subject)

Date: 2011-12-29 10:17 am (UTC)
crimsonquills: (GeekOut)
From: [personal profile] crimsonquills
Oh my God, this whole AU is adorable and a bit heartwrenching and adorable all over again. Thank you so much for sharing it!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-01-28 02:44 am (UTC)
sophia_sol: drawing of Combeferre, smiling and holding up a finger like he's about to explain something (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophia_sol
Ugh so I have been meaning to leave you a comment on this forever, because this is just an absolutely fantastic fic. I loved SO MANY things about it! <3 I am so glad you wrote it and shared it.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-19 04:40 am (UTC)
evalangui: (Default)
From: [personal profile] evalangui
A soundtrack? I want the _recipe book_. I didn't even know half those thins existed, I mean, I hope they exist and can be baked (except the impossible baklava, which I feel sufficiently warned about) because the frustration might kill me otherwise.

I have to go raid my cupboards for sweet things now, but thanks for the story.

Also, this Marcone is SO what I had in mind when I read DF fic, the one in the show is way too young!

(no subject)

Date: 2013-07-27 08:40 pm (UTC)
ext_435713: eat sheep (eat sheep)
From: [identity profile] windfallswest.livejournal.com
I just wanted to let you know, this fic has quickly become one of my favourite re-reads. I'm not sure whether it's because I was programmed by Redwall as a kid or I just enjoy watching Harry freak out. But anyway: full of awesomeness.

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