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On the Edge

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Michael was with Harry when she arrived at his room, but Harry wasn’t awake to know it. At the least, it seemed to be because he was still sleeping peacefully. Michael, in turn, looked up when he heard Murphy enter. He still looked tired. Murphy couldn’t blame him. It had been a long night all around, maybe moreso for someone who had to go home and explain where he’d been all night.

“He’s been awake, on and off,” he said, getting up to offer her the room’s only chair. “Just drifted off again. I didn’t have the heart to wake him.”

“Good call,” said Murphy, sinking down into the chair with a grateful sigh. “I’ll keep an eye on him for a while. Don’t worry, I brought a book. Go home and get some sleep.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant. But, please, keep me informed. And don’t hesitate to call me if something goes wrong again.”

“Don’t worry about that. Just go.”

She wouldn’t hesitate to call him, if only because, besides Harry himself, he seemed the best informed about the various supernatural horrors at work here. Murphy tried not to feel jealous, or at least not obviously jealous. One day soon, she would demand answers from Harry Dresden. But that day was not today. She was not heartless, even if the events of the last few months had left her temper short.

So she just settled down to read, keeping half an eye on Harry and both ears trained for any signs of movement, from the bed or from her surroundings.  

Nothing else came to hurt him. Probably at least in part because, for the moment, Harry was still primed to hurt himself. The nightmare stealing over him left small, subtle signs – a twitch, a furrowing of his brow, a whimpered exhale of breath. But it was enough to get Murphy’s attention.

“Hey,” she said softly, abandoning her book and sliding out of her chair to kneel beside his bed. Like this, they were actually on a level with one another. It was a strange feeling that she wasn’t in much of a position to appreciate. “Dresden, hey. Wake up.”

He tried to flinch away from her. She didn’t let him, just as she hadn’t let him push her away on the roof. She was here, damn it, and she needed him to know that. Murphy seized one of his bandaged hands, holding it tightly.

Unbidden, a memory came to the front of her mind. It wasn’t a good memory, and it was hazy, because it was a half-remembered dream that she didn’t particularly want to remember. But in the face of all of Kravos’ supernatural torture, there had been one good thing, one bit of relief, a sign of the torture ending before she’d apparently passed under the protection of Harry’s sleep spell. 

Murphy tried to offer him the same protection in turn, there and then. She didn’t have any magic to back it up. But she was here, and wished she did.

“Dormius, dorme,” she whispered, feeling like an idiot but saying the words anyway. She reached out and brushed some sweat-slicked hair back from his forehead. “Harry, dormius.”

Maybe it was magic, maybe it was the universe taking pity, maybe it was coincidence. She still recognized the signs of waking before he properly woke up. He drew in a sharp breath, and then eyes opened, briefly seeing nothing but slowly growing more focused, taking in his surroundings. She saw his mind trying to catch up, and Murphy smiled in relief, feeling like a weight that had been on her shoulders since last night had suddenly lifted.

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty,” she said. “About time you…”

Her attempts at a jibe were cut off when Harry hugged her, turning in bed enough to wrap his arms around her shoulders and pull her in close. Murphy was surprised enough that she let him. It certainly wasn’t as though they avoided physical contact with one another. As far as partners went, they were probably considered downright affectionate. But they were also, in their own way, incredibly distant people. Murphy knew and accepted this. There was a punch to the arm, and then there was this, the way he was hugging her and breathing like he was only just remembering how to, obviously trying not to break down and sob like he had before.

And then she realized that the ESU officers on the ground last night had been right. If you reached out to someone, eventually, they would reach back.

So she didn’t pull away. She hugged him in return, rubbing a hand lightly over his back and feeling the muscles there humming with tension. Slowly, as the seconds ticked by, he relaxed once more so that she could believe he wasn’t about to break on her again.

“Karrin…” he said, still sounding a little dazed. “Murphy, I…”

“Shut up, Dresden,” she said quietly. “You’re okay now.”

She wouldn’t let him be any other way. No matter what all the monsters and freaks running rampant in Chicago had to say about it, if Harry Dresden reached out to her, Karrin Murphy knew she would always be there to catch him.