Dresden Files (Bookverse) - What is Normal, Anyway?

Title: What is Normal, Anyway?
Characters: Harry & Thomas (Dresden Files, bookverse)
Written For: Kantayra in Yuletide

I still couldn't quite get used to the notion that someone was living with me.

The fact that said person also happened to be a half-brother I had only recently learned I had, well, that was taking some getting used to as well.

I'll admit, there are times when it's nice to have someone to come home to. Someone to ask how my day was and celebrate my victories with or have a beer with after a bad day.

Today was not one of those days.

I was on a routine case that turned nasty when some Red Court vampires showed up and attacked me. I barely managed to escape with my head still attached to my shoulders thanks to my still useless left hand and all I wanted to do when I got home was take a long shower - it was one of the days I wished I had hot water - and crawl into my bed and sleep.

Unfortunately, Thomas had other ideas.

After passing through my intricately designed wards, I entered my apartment to find Thomas on the sofa with two girls. There was a fire roaring and an assortment of board games stacked neatly on the coffee table. Boxes and bags from the local pizza joint explained the heavenly smell that greeted me and I spotted my old-fashioned popcorn maker sitting on the hearth, waiting to be used.

"God, Harry, what happened to you?" Thomas asked. He jumped up from the couch, leaving the two girls staring in horror. Apparently they weren't used to seeing a man come home with rivulets of blood dripping down his cheeks and his clothes slashed to hell and back.

"Had a little... run in... with some of Bianca's... associates," I said, choosing my words carefully. "Who are your friends?"

Thomas winced. Whether it was at learning I'd encountered Bianca's minions, that I'd been injured or my referring to the young women as friends, I wasn't entirely sure. "Harry, this is Leslie and Jane," he said. "I met them in the park and invited them over to spend the evening with us."

I raised an eyebrow at that, wondering about my brother's motives. I knew that he had made a vow not to feed exclusively from another woman after what happened to Justine, but he had never brought a woman back to my apartment.

That I knew of.

"That's... nice," I said after a moment. "Looks like you've got a cozy evening planned," I added, nodding at the games.

"It's so quaint that you don't have a television and video games," one of the girls remarked. "Most guys are, like, surgically attached to their laptops and PDAs these days. It's nice to meet a couple of old fashioned guys."

I nodded, unsure of how exactly to respond to that. Electronics and I never got along well and it was simpler to not have them around. But I couldn't exactly explain that to my unplanned guests. "Well, I'm all about the simple life," I said.

"Really?" the other girl asked, eyes all wide and confused. I wasn't sure which was which and I really didn't care. "But how do you watch it without a TV? And who's your favorite - Paris or Nicole?"

Thomas laughed and slapped my shoulder hard. "Why don't you go shower, Harry? Then you'll be presentable for our guests. We can have dinner and play some games and maybe even talk a little about reality television."

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, but said a silent thank you to Thomas for saving me the embarrassment of admitting I had no idea what what's her name's question meant. "I'll be back in a few minutes," I said.

Stripping my destroyed clothes off, I tossed them immediately in the trash can. They weren't worth salvaging and either way, I'd probably never get the blood out. The Red Court vamps seemed to be able to hone in on me easily enough without me wearing blood stained clothes around to help them. I stepped into the cold shower and wondered again about Thomas and why he had brought girls to the apartment. It was a dingy, one bedroom place, so he wouldn't exactly have privacy if he wanted to feed on one or both of them. Besides which, he knew that given the whole war with the vampires that the White Council was fighting, I could get killed if the wrong person found out who my new roommate was.

The only thing I could do was see where the evening went and question Thomas later, I realized, pulling on a clean pair of jeans and a long sleeve tee-shirt. I re-joined the impromptu party downstairs and ended up having a rather enjoyable evening, all things considered. The girls were amusing, if not a little bit dense, and having the distraction of games, food and company kept me from dwelling on the sore spots that were developing in the aftermath of my fight.

Which isn't to say that the moment Thomas put the girls in a taxi and re-entered the apartment, I didn't lash out.

"What the hell were you thinking, bringing those girls here?" I demanded.

Thomas shrugged. "You've been stressed out, Harry. I wanted us to have a relaxing evening."

I inhaled slowly and let the breath out before responding. "So your definition of relaxing is bringing mortals to my magically protected apartment, past my carefully constructed wards, and letting them enjoy a quaint evening of board games and fireplace popped popcorn?"

"I thought we could be like normal brothers," he admitted.

"Normal brothers?"

He nodded. "Yeah, you know, double dating and hanging out and stuff."

I had obviously never had a brother, so I didn't know what normal brother stuff was. "Well, that's all well and good, but maybe next time you could check with me first?" I suggested. "Or not bring girls back here? Why can't we go out for a beer or something?"

Thomas smiled. "Sure, whatever you say, bro."

I grabbed two beers from the fridge and tossed one to Thomas before popping the lid off my own. "And, Thomas?"

"What, Harry?"

"Next time maybe you could pick girls who are a little... more intelligent?" I suggested with a grin. "Try the library or a museum."

Thomas laughed. "Picky, picky," he teased.

I filled him in on my encounter with the Red Court while we finished our beers and then I headed to bed. Tucked in my bed, I realized that I felt more relaxed than I normally would after something like that. So maybe having Thomas around wasn't going to be such a bad thing after all.