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This will come as a surprise to some people, but I sometimes do catch up with old friends even when nothing is trying to kill either of us. Or in this case, young friends. I was at Mac's, finishing off my beer after Ramirez left, when in walked Kincaid, and after he did a visual sweep and turned back to nod, Ivy. She had grown again, the way kids always seem to the second you stop paying attention, and although she couldn't be more than fourteen yet, she was starting to look pubescent; no real hips yet, but I thought I detected the first signs of breasts under her loose shirt. And unless I missed my guess, she wasn't too comfortable with the whole thing; often she wore neat pinafores and modest skirts, but today she was wearing a shirt and pair of jeans that wouldn't have looked out of place in my wardrobe, if you'd frayed the jeans cuffs a bit. (Thomas calls my style 'hobo chick.' I call it 'hobo chic', but then he makes fun of my accent.)

Anyway, Ivy's gaze flicked around Mac's, as much as you can get a good look at the place around his purposefully inconvenient pillars, and leaned in to say something to Kincaid. Stars, she had gotten taller! I mean, not even 'tall for a girl' or anything, not tall like me, but I remember when she was barely hip-high. Molly used to do this to me all the time, before she leveled off. I guess I sort of expect people to stay where I put them, instead of changing.

Kincaid-- well, from here I couldn't tell if he said anything or just grunted, not without Listening, which was definitely bad manners, but Ivy nodded, and headed over to me.

"Miss Dresden," she said politely. "May I share your table while Mr. Kincaid conducts his business?"

I grinned at her. I really couldn't help it. "Sure, Ivy. Can you tell me what you're doing here?" I knew she could probably crook her little finger and render me into itty bits, but even at the age when most kids start getting sullen and awkward, she was still so damn cute. Part of it was her serious way of talking and her neat appearance. At her age, most of my clothes were singed. Of course, Kincaid was probably a lot better at keeping Ivy out of trouble than Justin had ever been or cared to be.

Ivy slid into the seat opposite, and smiled back, looking pleased. Looked like she was still damned easy to please. "It's Mr. Kincaid's business," she answered.

"Sounds less likely to mean work for me," I said easily, to let her know I didn't mind. She took her job seriously, and wouldn't have told me anyway, but the kid has few enough adults in her world, and I think I really might be the only woman who's ever hugged her. I don't like to make her think I'm unhappy with her.

Ivy drummed her heels against the bench seats for a second. "May I ask how Mister and Mouse are?"

"They're fine. I thought for a while Mister had a girlfriend, but it turned out Mrs. Malone was feeding him fish-heads on the sly. She accused me of trying to starve him." I didn't tell her that Mouse had actually been frighteningly skinny for a couple of weeks, due to a fae kidnapping he had resolved himself while I ran around Chicago like a madwoman looking for the damned cat. Marcone, the bastard, had sent me a Congratulations On Your Happy Event card when Mister turned up, (being ridden by Toot like a knight's charger). Possibly busting into his office and demanding to know if he had my cat had been a miscalculation.

She turned her head to check on Kincaid, who was on the far side of the room, and her braid thumped briefly across her shoulder, and then behind her back again when she looked at me.

I suppressed a snicker. "Did Kincaid braid your hair for you?" I asked, trying to imagine the scene.

She cocked her head. "Yes. How did you know?"

"He used a holster tie-down to bind it off," I said.

She reached behind herself to verify manually. "He should have told me I need to buy more elastics," she said, frowning, which was the closest thing to criticism of Kincaid I had ever heard from her. I wasn't sure what it meant.

"Hey," I realized, "If you want to come by my place, I have some elastics I could give you. And if you'd let me, I'd like to french-braid your hair." There was nothing wrong with her braid, but I bet I could do it nicer.

She frowned. "You can french-braid? But your hair is short."

"Yeah, but all my girl-friends have had long hair, and they let me play with it. And--"

I didn't usually talk about this, but it was a teeny, stupid thing, and there was no reason not to, Ivy already knew my record with CPS. "I used to have long hair when I was a kid." I cut it off when I left Justin's and never let it grow long enough to grab again, but Ivy didn't need to know that part.

Ivy beamed. "I didn't know that!" she said, which I guess was a big deal, for her. I tried to think of something else that I could give her.

"Elaine and I used to brush each others' hair, even before we were, uh--" I blushed, and couldn't finish that part. Stars, I don't know why it suddenly seemed like something too old for Ivy.

"Allogrooming is sometimes part of a sororal relationship," Ivy said.

I blinked.

"Sisters sometimes brush each others' hair," she translated for me.

"I guess? I wouldn't know," I said, without quite thinking, then realized Ivy wouldn't know either, which was why she sounded like she was quoting from a paper on primates. The Archive was always an only child.

"Mr. Kincaid," said Ivy, and I banged my knee on the table, hard, when I realized he was standing behind me, sneaky freaking bastard. Then I bit my tongue to keep from cursing. Even knowing that Ivy knew curse words that would make me blush, I couldn't do it.

"I'm going to visit the lady's room," Ivy told him, and slipped out to do that. I turned to look at Kincaid, who was scowling as he watched her go.

"What?" I asked. "I didn't do anything!"

Kincaid, still scowling, stalked past me to take the seat Ivy had vacated. His scowl was aimed at a point in the middle of the table, though, so I decided not to take it personally.

"Hey, I asked Ivy if she wanted to drop by, visit the animals, but she didn't say either way. Just so you know." Security talk was pretty much small talk with Kincaid.

Kincaid finally stopped scowling at the table and looked at me, looking away just before he started risking a soul-gaze. He looked uncomfortable. "Dresden-- you're a girl," he said, finally.

I boggled at him, for a second, then grabbed my shirt and made a production of looking down its neck. "Holy shit, is that what these are? I thought I was incubating nixie eggs!" Kincaid usually treated me like one of the guys, which I honestly preferred, unless he was trying to piss Murphy off. (Then he started asking if she wanted to give him a threesome with her 'hot wizard friend.' I had told him that Murph didn't even know Ramirez, but I guess calling me hot was part of the whole pissing-Murphy-off thing. I didn't ask and preferred not to think about their ... thing.)

Kincaid ignored me, which is a shame, because I am hilarious. "She's... " he trailed off. "You could maybe-- you know. Girl-talk."

I boggled at him some more. "You do know that I am the least girly 'girl' on the planet, right?"

Kincaid raised an eyebrow. "What, I should ask the Winter Queen to take Ivy bra shopping?"

"She needs to go bra-shopping?" I said, trying to find some solid ground in this conversation.

Kincaid honest-to-fucking God blushed. "I don't know!" he protested. "She's-- " He cut himself off again, and stared at me in what I thought might be his version of manly angst.

"You do know that no one needs to give her The Talk, right? She knows where babies come from."

"Jesus, Dresden, you'd probably tell her babies come when you love someone very, very much. You don't need to-- never mind."

Kincaid wasn't awkward talking about sex, he was awkward talking about... "No, hey. You think she might like to do girl stuff, I am, in fact, a girl." I pointed to myself to illustrate my girl-ness. "I can do girl-stuff. I am a fan of girl-stuff."

"On other women," Kincaid pointed out.

I shrugged. "Yeah, but I got all the equipment and most of the skills. I can call in the big guns if I need someone to who knows how to, I dunno, walk in high heels."

"Karrin," Kincaid interpreted.

"Yup," I confirmed. I maintain she has an unfair advantage in the high heels department, and also, no one really wants me in heels anyway, since I would be two feet higher than everyone. She maintains that if I don't at least wear some lipgloss, I could please stop wearing those damn sneakers everywhere.

"I'll drop her off at three tomorrow," said Kincaid. Then he stood up and started walking toward the ladies' before the door had cracked half an inch, gathering up Ivy in his orbit without deviating from his course or slowing his pace.

I looked at my beer and tried to figure out what I was doing.

 

The next morning I started making a list. I had nothing in my ice-box a kid would want to eat, some old hair-elastics Susan had left behind and presumably wouldn't want back, two half-dry bottles of nail-polish confiscated from Molly when she was painting her nails when she was supposed to be meditating, and a bottle of bath stuff Murphy had given me for Christmas last year. But I'm a private investigator, so I set out to investigate. An hour later, my list was made, and I called up Kincaid. "Is it okay if I take Ivy out shopping?"

Kincaid thought about it. "Take the big dog with you. And I'll arrange a subcontractor. Don't try to throw your tail, they'll be private security."

I frowned. "How am I supposed to know they're private security, and not Black Court goons who've eaten your private security?"

"You'll recognize 'em," he said, and hung up.

When Ivy showed up, I could tell things were a little awkward between her and Kincaid again. "I should have this wrapped up by seven," he said to Ivy, and then hesitated.

"Yes," said Ivy, unnecessarily, and then they were both awkwardly silent.

"...right," I said, and who knows what would have happened with my helpful intervention, except then Mister showed up, with his infallible instinct for when someone is around to admire him. Ivy's eyes brightened, and she knelt down right on my entryway, looking just like the kid she'd been when I met her. Mister threw himself at her lap like he was going to do a barrel-roll, and that took care of Ivy for a good five minutes. I looked up at Kincaid. "Right. Vamoose. I got this."

He gave me his customary "I will kill you if you fuck this up" look, and stalked off. I thought about telling him he should invest in a long coat. Good for dramatic exits like that.

Maybe next time.

I closed the door behind him, and started in on my plan.

The first part went pretty well. Ivy had come to the door with her hair loose, just pushed back behind her ears, and she let me brush it out and french-braid it, fastening it off with one of Susan's elastics. She spelled a bowl of water into a mirror for herself and agreed that it did look very nice.

"Thanks for letting me practice. I'm sorry mine's not much good for playing with," I apologized.

"We could do Mouse?" she asked, so we did. His fur is easily long enough to braid up french-style, but Ivy's braids were still pretty loose, so they kinda flopped out of his fur quickly, which he seemed relieved by. He'd probably let Ivy stick his ears in pig-tails, if she wanted to, but he'd definitely be giving me looks as she did. I gave him a carcass chunk I'd been keeping in the icebox as a reward for his suffering. (Not that kind; Charity had cooked up half a cow to feed her brood, and Michael rescued the big bones for Mouse, because he is just that helpful.)

"I haven't really got anything around here to eat," I said, "but if you like we could go out and find something, maybe look at the shops." (I was pretty proud of this one.)

Ivy looked at me. "You and Kincaid have conspired together in this," she concluded, after a moment, and sighed. "He worries that I am not being provided with a female influence."

Busted. I twisted my fingers awkwardly through my hair, (the secret technique at the heart of my signature look) and didn't bother to deny it. "I'm the last person to try to insist kids need to have a parent of either gender," I said, honestly. The thing with Ivy is, she really won't take bullshit. "I'd enjoy it, and if you would too, it could be fun. If you don't want to, we can order a pizza and paint Mouse's toenails. Or hell, do anything you like."

Ivy looked pensive, and Mouse looked slightly panicked. Finally she smiled. "Let's go shopping." Mouse stood up and shook the last remnants of Ivy's practice braids out of his fur, and we went.

It was a little awkward that she paid for everything, but she's loaded, and I was kind of worried about a check bouncing, so she paid for everything out of her little-girl change-purse. And it let her insist that I go first when I asked if she wanted the make-up counter ladies to do their thing.

I felt ridiculous, but it was a little fun, and a little sexy to have a woman up that close to my face, carefully drawing on pastes and powders. It felt a little like spell work, and a little like making out.

"Not much blush," said the girl at the counter, cheerfully. "You've already got plenty of colour in your cheeks!"

When she gave me a mirror to look in, for a second I thought I was looking at Thomas. But Thomas has more chin, and thinner mouth, and... I looked away before I accidentally soul-gazed myself. "Wow," I told her, honestly. The woman in the mirror was me, but some illusion had been worked so that she looked almost-- beautiful. She kind of scared me.

"You look pretty, Harry!" said Ivy, and bounced up to the mirror to take her turn. I told myself I was a wizard, and could handle a day of looking pretty.

"Butch up, Dresden," I muttered to myself.

Ivy was definitely having fun; the girl at the counter told her what she was doing at every step, and got her to choose her favourite colours, and seemed like she thought Ivy was cute as a button. About five minutes in, I realized Ivy was playing at being a girl her own age.

I let my gaze wander around the department store. Mouse was sitting obediently against the counter, (the girl at the desk had let him in when I explained that he got scared when he was left outside alone, and Mouse had cowered helpfully. Ivy had let her lip tremble, and we were home free) and around us a couple of the shop girls who didn't have customers were gossipping, and keeping an eye on us. I frowned.

About fifty feet away, two guys were lurking conspicuously in women's footwear. I mean, it wasn't a bad lurk, it's just hard to hide two large guys in women's footwear, although one of them was holding up a pair of heels dubiously and talking on the phone, doing a good impression of a guy shopping under orders from his girlfriend. When the other noticed I was looking, he gave me a surreptitious wave that was half-salute. Definitely Kincaid's subcontractor, but I wondered why he thought I'd recognize them. Then I realized I did. I mean, I'm not sure I recognized them personally, but their air of competence and confidence, and a sort of indefinable something that marked them as locals identified them pretty unmistakably as Outfit men.

I sighed.

"Is something wrong, Harry?" asked Ivy.

"Not really," I told her, "I just recognized, uh, your uh, uncle's, um… friend." I think the girl applying make-up thought I was trying to find a discrete way to say "gay lover."

"They've been there all along," said Ivy, somewhat reproachfully. I wasn't sure if she meant that they'd been following since I left my place, or that they'd been in the store the whole time. Sadly, the first was likelier. I really need to get better at spotting mortal surveillance.

The one on the phone snapped it shut. I thought about what I was going to tell Kincaid next time I talked to him. The thing was, I could see how it made sense from his point of view; Marcone liked Ivy, and would put good men on keeping her safe, and Kincaid probably thought the fact that they were criminals with no compunction about killing people to solve problems was a positive trait in men filling in his place. But dammit, if one of them took a picture of me with their cell-phone, I was going to fry all the electronics in this block and a half.

"Looking pretty good, squirt," I said instead. The girl doing make-up hadn't tried to make her look like an adult, or sexy, just made her eyes brighter, and her mouth a little softer, and done something that made it seem like there was a hint of a smile even when she was using her serious Archive face. Probably not a look she wanted when she was negotiating treaties, but it wouldn't hurt her to know how it was done. Ivy bought one of everything the girl had used, and listened her to explain their purposes, nodding every time the girl asked if she'd remember all that.

"Ice cream next, or lacy stuff?" I asked, when we were clear of the cash register.

I was hoping for ice-cream, but Ivy hesitated for a second, and said, almost as if she was uncertain, "Lacy stuff?" so we went to women's underthings, and yes, I took the Archive bra shopping.

I shared my accumulated wisdom in the secrecy of the change room: "You want one dark, one skin-tone, one that makes you feel pretty," I told her. "Most of mine are just sports bras, I have a couple that make me," and I mimed cleavage. "You know. Sometimes you need that."

Ivy nodded gravely. Then she went to the rack, selected eighteen boxes without reading them, which I guess she didn't need to, and went to try them on. She came out twice to ask my opinion: "Too much?" she asked, the first time, coming out the door, suddenly with a pair of knockers.

"Stars and stones, kid, where did those come from?!" I asked.

"The bra is constructed to simulate the appearance of larger breasts by--" I waved her off.

"Right, right, push-ups. Well, I guess it depends how much attention you want from people. Boys."

Ivy turned around and walked right back into the change-room without any expression on her face.

What was that about? Ivy was about the right age to start-- I started to smack myself in the forehead with my hand, then remembered my makeup and thumped my staff in frustration instead. Ivy didn't get to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend; she was going to have a sperm donor, so she could have a daughter and pass on the Archive. No wonder she felt ambivalent about puberty. I thought I had it bad when I had to go through puberty and realized my best friend made me feel tingly and confused.

The second time she came out, she looked almost a year younger. I guessed she was wearing one of the sports bras that operated on the 'strap everything down' principle. I leaned on my staff. "Kid... it's supposed to make you feel comfortable. Don't worry about the rest." She tightened her mouth, and went back into the stall.

I thought maybe I saw what Kincaid was worried about, a little. At least I never had to worry about this with Molly.

She purchased five bras, in the end, one of which she wore out of the store. Judging by its effects, probably one of those ones that give a little support, but don't do too much shaping.

"Ice cream next," I said decisively, holding the door for her.

"An excellent idea, Miss Dresden," said a man leaning against the wall, just outside.

I was half-way to fuego-ing him before I realized it was John Marcone. Then I thought about doing it anyway. Then I remembered I was wearing makeup, and went for my blasting rod. How dare he--

Except Ivy laughed, and skipped up to him. "Mr. Marcone. I see you are well."

Marcone smiled at her, and watched with one eye while I removed my hand from my coat. "Let me take you to an ice cream shop I happen to know. Unless you have a favourite?"

I didn't, since I could hardly afford to. I'm a fan of the McDonald's ninety-nine cent cones. Ivy said, a little skeptically, "Berry Chill is rated highly in customer reviews?"

Marcone put his hands in his pockets, which in a fair world would make his suit pull into a funny shape, but didn't. "Well, I'm sure it is, but I think my place is better."

"Yours, Marcone?" I asked, but it was pretty much a given we were going there, since Ivy was skipping along beside him. I looked at Mouse. Mouse looked at me.

"It's possible I'm biased, since I am a shareholder," he admitted easily, which probably meant it was one of his legitimate holdings, at least on paper. He kept on looking at me, sideways, like you do to see through some kinds of glamour, and then giving his attention back to Ivy. "Miss Dresden, you look--"

"I can make your dick fall off," I said, before he could finish his sentence.

That's the kind of thing a guy usually responds to, but he only stopped to change what he was saying to:

"Doesn't that come under 'human transformation without permission'?"

Dammit. Ivy turned to look at us both. I let go of the fist of fire I was holding with my will, and breathed for a second. "Where's this place of yours?"

Marcone smiled his 'I win!' smile. "Just around the corner and a block north. But if you've already walked enough today, Mr Hendricks is parking the car now, but could just as easily bring it around." This last was addressed to Ivy, so I let it go.

"We can walk," said Ivy, easily. "Mouse likes walking." She was holding Mouse's camouflage leash, but standing snug against him, with her other hand in his fur. Mouse was leaning back, not with anything like his full weight, obviously, but enough that it felt like support. It's a trick of his that I've never found another dog able to do.

"Mouse," said Marcone. "Of course."

We walked down the sidewalk, Ivy and Mouse between us, probably looking like a regular family out for a walk, if you discounted my eccentric-looking staff, and my shirt, once Susan's, that read "I dig your girlfriend." Okay, they probably looked like a regular family.

Ivy was talking to Marcone about her hairstyling attempts on Mouse. "...because I can't do it behind my back. But Mouse's fur isn't quite long enough."

"Mmm," said Marcone, with that damn look in his eyes, like he was almost laughing but not quite. "Mouse is male?" he asked me, as if we were somehow doing this, talking, "because I hate to imagine this represents the size of the breed's female."

"Mouse is secure enough in his masculinity that he's not threatened by hair-styling," I told him. "Wait, is that a crack about my height?" Mouse huffed at me. Ivy scratched Mouse behind his ear, and he gave her a dopey look.

Marcone looked honestly confused. "Why would I-- No. It is not a crack about your height," he said, as if I was mildly unhinged.

I had plenty of things to say to that, but none of them I wanted Ivy to hear. "Is that it?" I said, nodding at "Leo's Cafe" up ahead, an unassuming shop that had a picture of a cone on its awning.

"Yes. One moment, if you want to go in and look at the selection, I need to make a phone call."

It was possible that he was just looking for distance from my effect on electronics, and besides, he should know about wizardly Listening, so I didn't bother trying to figure out what the phone call was about, and went in with Ivy.

"He looks better," she said to me, glancing over her shoulder, then back at the rainbow of ice-cream. I remembered that the last time she'd seen him, he'd been a demon's chew-toy for over a week. Of course, she'd been pretty badly treated too.

"Is that-- I mean. Maybe he--" Oh, hell. "Maybe you feel like he can understand what you went through?"

She looked at me in that eerie way of hers. "Justin DuMorne kept a journal on some of his experiments," she said, not quite meeting my eyes.

For a second it was like she was speaking some language I'd never heard before, like sound without meaning, and then the meaning caught up with her words, with a sound like the hounds of faerie all baying at once. I couldn't-- She was just a kid, I couldn't--

I staggered back. "Don't-- Please don't" I told her, and my voice sounded like I'd been punched in the gut and couldn't draw a breath properly. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

"I'm sorry, Harry," said Ivy, urgently, and Mouse poked me with his wet nose on my bare arm, hard enough that I wobbled a little. The kid looked terrified, and I knew I needed to say something, but I couldn't think what, I could barely remember how English worked. I sat down, and by pure luck my butt hit a chair. Mouse put a paw on my knee and heaved himself up to lick my ear.

"Gross, Mouse," I told him, automatically, and shoved him off.

"Harry," said Ivy, sounding upset, "I didn't know. I don't know-- Please, I'm sorry."

"I'm fine," I told her, automatically, and realized I did know English after all. "I'm fine, Ivy, don't worry about it."

She didn't really look like she believed it. I shoved everything back down where it belonged, took a deep breath, and dragged up a smile. "I'm fine, don't worry, I just-- I'm fine. Hey, look at all these ice-creams, right?"

She gave me an uncertain smile. "I've never tasted some of them."

Marcone came in the door then, which actually helped me get my head back in the game. Scumbag mafia kingpin at twelve-o'clock, it must be Tuesday. He was smiling that lying, easy smile of his, but came to a sudden stop when he got close.

"Harry, are you all right?" he asked, sounding concerned. He leaned in, as if was going to put a hand on me, and Mouse made a sound, not quite a growl, but a deep breath with a sort of subsonic undertone, and Marcone swayed backward just as quickly. Probably a good thing, because I honestly think I might have set him on fire, without a focus, without a word.

"Don't. Call me that," I said, and then when Mouse leaned on me, managed, "Ivy says she hasn't tasted most of these before. Any recommendations?"

Marcone looked between us. I think me, the dog, and Ivy were all trying to beam "let it go" into his brain: I guess we succeeded, because he did. "I favour the pineapple-banana caramel-pecan."

Suddenly that sounded like the most amazing thing I've ever heard of. "I want that," I said, without even thinking about it.

"I want the chocolate," said Ivy, "but can I try yours too?"

"Sure," I said. "But I thought there were a bunch you hadn't tried before."

Ivy smiled. "Sure. But sometimes you already know what you want, and right now I want chocolate."

"Easy enough to arrange," said Marcone, and went to the counter. I was pretty sure he was paying for my order, or else he was getting everything for free by giving his tiger-smile to the poor pimply kid at the cash, but I couldn't quite care.

"Hey," I said to Ivy. "You can try other things, you know."

Ivy threw her arms around Mouse's neck. "I know," she said to the top of his head. "But right now I want chocolate."

Fair enough. Some days were chocolate days.

Marcone returned with two cones and a paper cup, held neatly in one hand (his left, I noticed). "Would you like to eat them outside?" he offered, as if 'outside' were something he personally could arrange, and not, in fact, what most of the world is made out of. Ivy and I decided we did, though, and went out in to the sunshine.

"What did you get?" I asked, peering at Marcone's paper cup. His looked different. "I thought you liked mine. You can't have it," I added, just in case.

"Gelato." I must have looked blank because he said, "Like ice-cream, but made without milk. It's fat-free," he added. Marcone was on a diet? What's the point of being a scumbag mafia overlord if you can't eat ice-cream?

Banana-pineapple caramel-pecan is fucking amazing, by the way. Ivy and I tried each others' and agreed we had both made excellent choices. Marcone looked pretty jealous, but whenever he caught me looking, he blanked his expression. I ate my ice-cream at him as blatantly as possible, because I am petty. Ivy narrated her day to Marcone, leaving out any mention of bras, and I managed to occasionally say something that didn't contain the word 'scumbag'. Even though Ivy talked way more, I was still working on mine when Ivy had eaten her ice-cream cone almost down to the nub, and then gave Mouse the very tip of her cone. Mouse went into raptures over something so small it could have gotten stuck between his toes without him noticing.

A vehicle pulled up which was instantly recognizable as Marcone's, all understated money and riding about a tonne heavier than it ought to have been, from all the armour. Cujo got out of the driver's side, and then Kincaid got out of the passenger side. Marcone and Ivy raised their eyebrows at him in scarily similar ways.

"Mr. Kincaid was going my way, so I offered him a lift," said Cujo.

"Sorry, kid, change of schedule," said Kincaid.

"I've made all my purchases," said Ivy, so I handed her the bag I'd been toting around for her.

"Thank you Miss Dresden," said Ivy, "Mr. Marcone," formal again.

Kincaid nodded at me, in recognition of our collaboration, I guess, and then at Marcone, which I assumed was in recognition of his bodyguard detail, and not because he'd somehow convinced Chicago's Gentleman Johnny to take the kid out for ice-cream. But what the hell do I know? Maybe Kincaid thought Marcone would make a good godfather. Heh. Godfather.

Then Kincaid and Ivy strode off, she stretching her legs just a little to keep up, and I'm pretty sure he was shortening his stride a little, too.

"Christ, Boss," said Hendricks, looking at Marcone across to the top of the car. "If you've decided you can't get-- a dog, there's no reason to put yourself-- what the hell," he said, and got back in the car. I blinked, and looked at Marcone. He wasn't looking at Mouse; in fact, I'm pretty sure he was looking jealously at my ice-cream. I held it closer, in case he took leave of his senses and tried to get between a wizard and her delicious desert.

Marcone shuttered his gaze. "Miss Dresden, can I offer you a ride back to your car?"

I almost took him up on it, only because once Mouse has been in a car, no Power can make it free of his hair again, but Marcone probably had six more cars just like it, and wouldn't even notice.

"No, thanks," I said sweetly, "I'm not that hard up."

"Of course not," he said, somewhat randomly, and climbed in the passenger side.

Mouse looked at me, and I looked at him. "Mine," I said, and crammed the rest of the cone in my mouth.

 

Ivy sent me a very neat thank-you note, on note-paper with a kitten chasing a butterfly across the bottom. It thanked me very seriously for my help in selecting “ladies' foundation garments.” (I shit you not.) I kind of missed when she'd used crayon, but she'd started dotting her Is with hearts, which made me feel a misplaced swell of something like pride, which didn't make sense even to me.

(Three months later, I was elbow-deep in ghouls, which is why Kincaid showed up wild-eyed on Murphy's doorstep, demanded she explain tampons, and then sat outside on her doorstep drinking from a flask until Murphy assured him it was safe to come in. But that's another story, and besides, Murph tells it better than I do.)