(also, note to some of y'all; Maggie is not necessarily. She's a slippery little bugger. Like cockroach.)
Title: Persistent Illusion
Summary: OC-verse. He’s losing them all.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Mr. Butcher with the following exceptions: Maggie and Julia belong to me and Arthur belongs to Dark Puck.
Spoilers: References Grave Peril briefly.
Author's Note: Written for 100moods, prompt #46, Grieving. May be subtitled The Weirdest F’ing 2AM Angst Fic Ever. Intentionally vague on tenses and pronouns.
The last time he saw his daughter, she was walking into the fire. Off on another adventure. Time to save the world again. A bit of warning (be careful sweetheart, i’ll be fine), a bit of banter (it’s my job to worry, worry about someone else), a bit of silliness (maybe i’ll come back pregnant, no maggie you are not allowed to get pregnant).
She’d laughed then, her mother’s laugh, clear and ringing and the more precious for not being easily won. So much like her mother, his little girl, her mother’s smile and her mother’s eyes and her mother’s fierce bright spirit.
She’d laughed, and waved, and said goodbye.
With Murphy it lasted forever, a long slow slide into darkness that he had to stand outside and watch. Sometimes he saw fear in the back of her eyes, a never-voiced worry that he’d look at her and see an old woman where he wanted a young one. Patently ridiculous; he was as old as she was, and anyway he’d always look at her and see Murphy, his Murphy, his knight in shining armor. What the outside looked like didn’t matter, except to wind the wire a little tighter around his heart.
With Maggie it was a few seconds.
Simon blamed himself, but he never could. Just like him, his older girl, always charging straight into danger, staff waving, never thinking what the consequences might be. How could Simon change that about her when he, her father, could not? Besides, he would have done the same. Almost did once, for Murphy, back before he fell in love with her (he thinks; it is still too difficult to pin down the exact date). Why should his Maggie do any different for her best friend?
Julia was more cautious, more subtle, but Maggie wasn’t her sister and he never would have asked her to be. He had two girls, two very different daughters, two children he would not have traded for the world.
He had two girls. Now he had one.
She’d died on a Monday, and he can remember every second of that day, every small motion and the way he felt like he was breathing underwater. The doctor called him at three in the morning; she was struggling to breathe and they were worried; maybe he should come out.
Nothing seemed real on the way there, nothing at all. He even managed to miss the squad car behind him, lights awhirl, until he pulled into the parking lot at the hospital and realized with a dim surprise that he was being followed. The cop was furious, seeing red, white and blue, and nearly dragged him out of the car, shoved his nose in the badge, shook an accusatory finger—he’d tuned out. Ticket, jail time, contempt of court, whatever, been there, done that.
Though in the end Julia managed to talk the cop out of even a ticket. She’d explained, her lower lip trembling, her lashes dewed with tears and all of it real for a change. She’d explained and begged the cop to have a heart and maybe-by-accident dropped her mother’s name. Surprise, the cop backed off. Even dying she was a legend, his Murphy. He’d told her that. It had made her smile.
There was no body to bury. There so rarely was with the Wardens. But Simon, oh, poor Simon, he brought back her necklace. A little silver star, a pentacle without the enclosing circle, Maggie’s focus. The protection charm he’d made for her when she was still inside her mother. She’d worn it all her life, and now it was all he had of her.
In the line of duty. He’d been so afraid he would lose Murphy that way, towards the end. So afraid that a single reflex dulled by time or fingers a hair slower on the trigger would claim her that he’d even started screening calls while she was at work. But the only thing that took her was time, and it was Maggie who’d been just that hair too slow.
She was still fighting to breathe when he got there. Julia and Maggie delayed by the check-in nurse he’d just breezed past, explaining or soothing ruffled feathers. For a moment it was just the two of them, the only moment they needed.
He’d kissed her forehead and took her hand, kept the magic under tight control. She smiled at him, a tired smile, and begged with her eyes and oh God he didn’t want to let go, not of Murphy, not of Maggie. It was too soon, he hadn’t had them long enough, there’d been a clerical error somewhere and any moment now they’d show up on the doorstep, smiling and bantering like it’d never happened. Any moment now someone would figure out they’d made a mistake and he’d get them back.
He’d squeezed her hand, and told her I’m here, it's all right, I love you, I’m here.
She’d squeezed back, and closed her eyes, and stopped fighting.
She died on a Monday.
They buried her on a Tuesday, except there was nothing to bury, except he’d made something. Something to mourn, to say goodbye to, even if it was only a fake, even if it would dissolve in a month or so. A hefty bribe to the coroner ensured no questions were asked.
Julia certainly didn’t ask; she burst into tears instead. His poor baby, his last and littlest even though she could almost look him in the eye in heels. Always his little baby, and now he looked at her and wondered when she would close her eyes, when she would step in front of a fireball to save her best friend. It wasn’t fair; he’d already lost two, did he have to anticipate losing the third? Of course in a way he’d already lost her, given her away when she married. But she was still there. He didn’t want to think about when she was not.
No one really said anything. No one could.
It was nice of Simon to come and tell him in person, even if he could barely hold back his own tears; nicer of him to hobble off to wherever he lived immediately afterwards. Maggie was dead, his daughter was dead. He’d almost lost them all now.
Maybe he should call Julia. She should know her sister was dead.
Maggie was dead.