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My Brain: Hey, you know what would be a quick, silly little fic? Bedknobs and Broomsticks inspired ColdWave!
Still My Brain: Also it's going to be over 20K long.

Because this turned out about ten times the length I was expecting, minimal research was done so please ignore anachronistic slang, phrases or the fact I didn't look up what items were rationed during WWII-era England. Title from The Age of Not Believing from the movie.

Title: Something Wonderful in You 1
Fandom: DC TV
Rating: PG
Word Count: 7315
Characters: Mick, Shawna, Mark, Hartley
Summary: Bedknobs and Broomsticks inspired AU. Mick Rory was planning on going on a manhunt for a missing spell. Then he got saddled with three children evacuated from London.



Mick stared down at the three children he had literally just been put in charge of. The oldest two- they were all presumably different ages -stared back, greatly unimpressed, while the youngest looked at him with wide, unreadable eyes. "Well fuck me," Mick said bluntly.

The youngest tugged on the sleeve of the older boy who, without removing his still unimpressed gaze from Mick, bent down so something could be whispered in his ear. The older boy straightened, expression managing to get even flatter as he signed something in response. Mick blinked, uncomprehending, before remembering his knowledge of sign language came from prison which was most likely not where the kid learned. "What?"

"Hartley doesn't know what 'fuck' means," he said dryly. "I told him it's an adult word."

"Okay." Mick looked over the kids' heads toward his packed and waiting car. The three of them were all standing on the stoop where the director of Pepperinge Eye's War Activities Committee had dropped them off. Apparently Mick's mentor had volunteered the extra rooms in her cottage for any evacuated children. Then Miss Price took on a teaching position elsewhere, leaving her in-no-way-capable-of-caring-for-children apprentice to foot her obligations.

Shit, he was going to have to push back his roadtrip now. Though really, leaving three kids on their own couldn't be any worse than leaving them with an arsonist and criminal, right? He could afford to lose a day... "Alright, you give me a list, I'll buy you a week's worth of groceries. I should be back before it's gone." Maybe.

The two oldest blinked owlishly. "Where are you going?" Asked the girl.

"Gotta find a guy squelching on a deal. You can take care of yourselves, right?"

"Sure," the boy said automatically.

"Mark!"

"What?" He puffed his chest out. "I can do it!"

"You're only eleven!"

"So?" Both Mark and Mick asked. The girl whirled on Mick.

"You can't leave us on our own!"

"Why not? You'll have a house." Which was more than Mick had after his hometown had run him out.

"That's child... endangerment," she said the last word slowly, facing scrunched up like she was sounding it out from an imaginary book. "We could get hurt with you gone!"

"And you could get hurt with me here so what's the difference?"

"Let him go, Shawna. He already said he's useless," the boy said imperiously.

Mick rolled his eyes. He didn't know much about kids but apparently he'd been stuck with a know-it-all brat. "You gonna make a list or not? I'm not gonna be here to watch you starve so I won't really care."

"Are you gonna get out of our way so we can put our things down?"

Jaw twitching, Mick grudgingly stepped aside. Just one night and then he was gone in the morning. He could do this.

~*~*~*~

Mick had given them the briefest of tours of the cottage- he stood at the foot of the stairs and pointed out their room, the bathroom and the kitchen -before saying, "I'm leaving to pick up food in half an hour, with or without your list." They'd just gone straight for the kitchen to see what was there- basically nothing since he wasn't going to leave food to waste while he was gone -and got him the list within fifteen minutes.

He'd left almost immediately after and the children put their things away before deciding to explore the house. It wasn't all that big but there were some oddities about- weird looking things pickling in jars, labeled containers of random items like chalk, salt crystals and twine, books filled with words that weren't quite English. As they explored, Shawna asked, "Why are you so eager for Mick to leave?" It was weird calling an adult by his first name but Mick had been very firm on not being 'Mr. Rory'.

"You really think he's going to be good for us? He doesn't want us here!"

"This place smells funny," Hartley added, his voice slightly too loud.

"That's not the real reason." Shawna put her hands on her hips, staring Mark down. "So what is it?"

They glared at each other, a test of wills that Shawna won, just like always. "I'm going back to London," Mark said decisively. "I want to make sure Clyde's okay."

"That's a million miles away!" Shawna exclaimed. "How are you going to get there?"

"We got here by train, I can get back the same way."

"And how are you gonna get on a train without money?"

"I'm looking to see if he's got any stashed around."

"Look!" Hartley said, his voice partially muffled as he was behind a decorative blanket turned wall tapestry. "There's a door!"

Mark gave Shawna a smug smile. "Bet that's where he keeps his money."

"He's not going to have a treasure room!" She followed him to Hartley anyway. The door wasn't that difficult to get through- certainly not if Mick was keeping something like money behind it -but it took some doing for the children to get all the latches undone.

The room was fairly small, like a workshop just slightly larger than a closet but small enough most people wouldn't suspect there was a hidden room. Mark found an electric lamp nearby and turned it on. The room was full of... things. Random things- sticks, a horn, tinted glasses, wooden animal figures, a mirror, a couple of different types of toys. Hartley went straight to the chair set up at the workstation, clamoring up it and looking at the tools laid out- paintbrushes, chisels, the tiniest screwdrivers any of them ever saw. There were some papers pinned up with diagrams, each depicting an item that sat nearby and messily scrawled with the same kind of not-quite-coherent words the books had been.

Shawna picked up a feather, a shimmering green-blue thing that must have come from a magpie's tail. She held it up to the light and admired the colors, thinking about how the colors of Hartley's mother's pearls danced just like that. It reminded her about a news article she heard people talking about- a robbery of the biggest set pearl in the world, having been brought to London for display. She'd studied the photo in the paper for hours, the giant brooch rimmed with intricately laid out pinprick diamonds and further encircled by larger diamond cubes. It didn't have the same colorful shimmer the inside of a shell her father had gotten for her once, but Shawna still thought it was beautiful. She wondered whatever happened to the brooch, picturing it in her head.

Then everything went black.

~*~*~*~

When Mick got back, Mark was tearing around the house screaming Shawna's name and Hartley sat on the couch, wailing loudly. Neither seemed to notice Mick's return as he put his bags in the kitchen before going to the couch and poking Hartley's shoulder. Once the young boy was peering at him with blurry, red-rimmed eyes, Mick said as he signed slowly, "What happened?"

Abruptly Hartley stopped crying. "You know how to sign?" He sniffled.

"A little. Really little." And he wasn't going to explain more than that. "What happened?"

"Shawna..." he hiccuped and sobs started hitching his words again, "Shawna disappeared!"

Well fuck. He hadn't even left yet and already the brats were getting into trouble. Mick turned to track down Mark for a hopefully more coherent story and noticed the door to his workroom was open. Double fuck. When Mark raced by again, Mick grabbed him by the arm, perhaps a little rougher than he intended. "What happened?" He growled.

"Shawna's gone!" The boy blurted out.

"I know that! How?"

"I don't know!" Mark's eyes were beginning to well up as well and Mick did not need two crying children on his hands. "Me and Hartley were looking at the papers in the secret room and I turned to ask her what she thought they said and she was gone and I can hear her calling my name but I can't find her!"

Dropping his hold on Mark, Mick strode into the workroom. He didn't have the best memory but he knew the things he worked on enough to know if anything was moved or missing. Sure enough, the magpie feather with the teleportation spell inscribed onto it was gone. "You said you could hear her?"

"Yeah."

Then she was still in the house. "Shawna!" He bellowed out. "Shawna, answer me!"

"You can hear her better out by the garden!" Mark said, taking Mick's hand and leading the way. Hartley followed after, the two talking too fast for him to read.

When Mick called for Shawna again, he heard a faint but audible "Mick?"

Oh hell, he had a sinking suspicion he knew where she was. These kids just get into everything. "Shawna!"

"Mick, I-I don't know where I am! I'm scared!"

"Hang on, kid, I'm coming!" Mick went over to the shady little area, blocked on one side by the house, another by a thicket of trees growing around the garden and the other two by the brick wall lining the yard. He touched one of the stones bordering the fennel plants. It glowed briefly, a faint flash, and Mick dug his fingers into the ground, pulling up a square of sod and grass attached to a plank of wood. He peered into the hole and Shawna's tear-streaked face was turned up toward him. "C'mon," he said, holding out a hand. "Come on out."

Now that she had light, Shawna could see a ladder built into the side and climbed up until she could reach Mick's hand. He pulled her straight out the rest of the way. Shawna's feet were barely on the ground before Mark and Hartley barreled into her, crying and hugging and talking over each other.

After a few moments they began to settle down, Shawna sitting down with Hartley all but curled up on her lap. Mark stood back, scrubbing at his eyes like he was too old to have emotions. Mick, leaning back on his palms, asked, "You still got the feather?"

"Oh! I... I think I dropped it. Sorry." She hid her face in Hartley's hair. "I didn't know what to do. I panicked."

"Yeah, well. You're young. It happens." Wasn't like he had far to retrieve it and even if was lost it wasn't impossible or even horrendously difficult to make a new one. As Mick went down into the hole, the children peered down, wondering what was in there.

Their eyes went huge. "Wow!" Hartley cried out.

Mick whirled and glared up at them. "Quiet!"

Shawna cupped a hand over Hartley's mouth though neither she nor Mark stopped ogling the treasure hidden down there. "Where did all this come from?" She asked. Something caught her eye and she pointed. "Where did you get that brooch?"

Fishing the feather out from the stacks of items, Mick eyed her suspiciously. "How do you know about that brooch?"

"I heard about it being stolen."

"Did you steal it?" Mark asked, looking more awed than anything else.

He sighed. Guess there wasn't much of a point lying about it. The kids had no one to tell and by the time anyone would be able to come around to check their story, Mick would have ample time to hide the stash somewhere else. "And what if I did?"

That seemed to stump the kids who looked at each other and discussed briefly in sign. Hartley called down, pointing at the feather, "Is that magic? Did you steal all this with magic?"

Mick narrowed his eyes, wondering if he should be more worried about them blabbing about that. "Again- so?"

They still seemed stumped. "Well... that's fantastic."

He snorted. "Yeah, I guess." He started up the ladder when Mark spoke up in that imperious tone of his.

"That's probably not something you want getting out, do you? I suppose we could be persuaded to keep quiet..."

Shawna whipped her head around to look aghast at Mark- Hartley looked back at them confused, having missed what was said. Mick growled- merely a show of anger, he was actually pretty amused by the- rather stupid -attempt at extortion. He hauled himself out of the ground, reminding the boy that Mick was a very large, very strong and very intimidating looking man. "Are you trying to blackmail me?" His voice was like gravel being ground into powder.

Shawna grabbed Hartley protectively, hovering awkwardly by Mark's shoulder in an attempt to be supportive but also not wanting to get into this. Mark's face went pale and his eyes wide. When his hands started shaking, Mick took pity on him. "Fine." He thrust the feather in Shawna's direction. "Never got it to work myself anyway."

She stared at it and Mick had to give the feather a little shake to prompt Shawna to take it numbly. Mark immediately snapped back into brat mode. "Wait- is she the only one getting something?"

By that point, Mick had closed the hole and reset the magic lock. The edges of the panel flared briefly and when it was gone, the lawn was seamless. "You didn't say I needed to give you more than one item. Gotta make your deals specific if you don't wanna get screwed over." He nodded at Shawna. "I'll explain how to use that after dinner and you can practice some. Folks don't usually come out this way so we won't have to worry about getting caught."

She beamed, dark eyes dancing with excitement. "Okay!"

Hartley reached out and tugged on Mick's shirt. Once he had the man's attention, Hartley put on his best sweet angel face. "Can I get something, too?"

Mick stared down at him, eyes slowly drifting towards his ears, an idea forming in his head that was the right amount of challenging to make Mick's hands twitch. "Any of you know how to cook?" They shook their heads. Of course not. "Alright- we'll have to move the lesson and practice to tomorrow before I leave. It's gonna take a while for me to come up with something for you."

Hartley and Shawna gave him twin eager grins while Mark crossed his arms and scowled.

~*~*~*~

Dinner was a simple affair of bangers and mash and a basic salad because you brats need to eat your damn vegetables. The entire time the children kept peppering Mick with questions- When did you get into magic? How did you find out you could do it? Can anyone learn? Why did you start stealing? Why do you live in such a small house when you have all that money? It took Mick all of five minutes to shut down their questions- Miss Price, my mentor, found me wandering some years back and took me in. Always liked fire, then I burned down my family's farm when I was ten. Miss Price said doing magic is part talent, part belief so probably. Because I got kicked out of my hometown. Because I only use my stash so I don't have to actually work and I like it here.

Instead he turned it on them, "What about you three? How do you know each other?"

"Our parents work for Hartley's parents," Shawna said around a big mouthful of potatoes. "His parents are big and important but I don't know what they do. They say they're old money, whatever that is."

"Means someone in their family a long time ago is the one that made their money and made 'em important."

"Oh. Well, our parents work at their house. My mom does their laundry and cleaning and my dad does the garden. Mark's dad drives them places and his mom gives us our lessons and looks after us."

Mick eyed the way Mark occasionally stopped eating to sign what was being said to Hartley. "If they're so rich and important, how come they ain't got him a hearing aid?"

Abruptly the other two children scowled darkly. "They don't like admitting Hartley's deaf," Mark all but spat out. "They won't learn sign language, they brought in special teachers to make him speak properly and learn how to read lips but they don't always look him in the face when they talk to him anyway. They're bastards."

"Mark!" Shawna said, scandalized.

"Mick doesn't care if I call 'em bastards, right?"

He leaned back, tone mild and eyebrows raised. "If they're bastards, they're bastards. You don't think they are?" He asked Shawna neutrally.

"I... they... they're okay, they just..." her mouth cinched shut and her eyes hardened, obviously remembering something enraging. "They're bastards!"

Mick laughed loudly. "I know things are different around respectable people, but I don't have the patience for playing nice. Something pisses you off, feel free to say it." He leaned forward on an elbow towards Hartley as Mark finished translating for him. "What about you?" He enunciated carefully. "How do you feel about your parents?"

Hartley's face set in determination. He ran from the table, up the stairs and into the kids' room. Mick looked at the other two who looked just as confused. It didn't take long for Hartley to run back down, something clutched to his chest and went over to Mick, his cheeks flushed slightly and eyes bright. He held the item out and Mick took it in one hand, holding it up. "A flute?"

Mark and Shawna gasped. "My mother taught me and Shawna music," the boy mumbled. "Hartley'd watch us and she taught him how to play a couple instruments."

"He knows how to play it!" Shawna said excitedly. "He knows all the fingering and how to read music he's just... not really good because he doesn't know how his breathing effects the sound."

Mick grunted. "So his parents hated it and wanted him to stop, right?" He didn't need to look to know the answer. He passed the flute back. "You wanna play, I ain't gonna stop you. But not tonight. I got something to do and you three are going to bed after you clean up the dishes."

They cried out, "We have to clean?"

"I made dinner, you clean. Sounds like a fair deal to me."

They grumbled a little but couldn't argue with that logic.

~*~*~*~

The next morning, Mick woke the kids up for breakfast and, while Shawna and Mark cleaned up afterward, he sat Hartley on a stool and fiddled with something around the boy's head. The other two kept a sidelong eye on the proceedings, recalling that- despite having learned two big secrets about him the previous night -Mick was still very much a stranger. After a good five minutes or so, Mick stepped back, tilting his head from side to side like he was analyzing something. Hartley sat, stock still, back to the kitchen.

"So?" Mick asked quietly. "How is it?"

Hartley slowly lifted his head. He abruptly turned to look at Shawna and Mark and they could see something cupped over his ear, almost like an earmuff. Shawna set the plate she was holding down with a clink so she could sign at him, 'Are you okay?'

His eyes darted to the plate. "I heard that," he said, so quietly it was almost lost under the running water.

Mark shut it off with a twist. "What?"

"I heard that!" His breath was coming faster, starting to bounce in his seat and face breaking into a huge smile. "I heard everything!" They ran over as Hartley began babbling and crying, asking them to say something, wanting to hear their voices so badly. They didn't know what to say other than his name, over and over again and how happy they were for him.

Mick shifted, uncomfortable with all the emotion but the floorboard creaked as he tried to make his escape, catching Hartley's attention. Damn- might've made it a little too sensitive. "Mick!" Tears and snot were streaming down his face but Hartley was still beaming through it. "Thank you!"

"Is this," Mark asked, pointing at the earmuff, "because of magic?"

He shrugged, still uncomfortable with all the emotion and now the absolute gratitude being turned on him. "Miss Price used a spell to talk to deaf people, I just inscribed it on the thing- wasn't actually sure it would work. Enchanting's just about the only magic I'm any good at." Asides from lighting his hands on fire though that came so easily to him sometimes the hard part was to keep it from happening.

And he was never, ever going to recount the utter failure that was his attempts to ride a broom.

Hartley was looking up at him in total awe. "...What?"

"Your voice," he breathed, "it's so... um." He looked at the other two, unable to figure out what word he should use.

"Deep?" Mark asked. He dropped his voice as low as it could go and just sounded comical. "It's all low and gravelly and stuff, right?" Hartley laughed which probably wasn't the reaction Mark was going for.

The younger boy gasped suddenly. "My flute! I can hear my flute now!" He zipped for the stairs.

"I'm gonna go and remind him about breathing technique." Mark said quickly before racing off after.

"And I think that's our cue to go outside and practice." Mick flicked lightly at the feather that Shawna had used a barrette to clip to her hair. Now that she didn't have the Rathaways imposing their ideas of 'presentable' on her, she let her curls fall loose, framing her face instead of being pulled back in a severe ponytail.

Shawna beamed and hooked her hand in his. Mick stared at it for a moment. "Uh, okay." Figuring it best to just let it be, he lead her out.

~*~*~*~

If Mick wasn't so impressed he'd be jealous at the ease in which Shawna took to the feather. Miss Price had told him that teleportation spells required being able to picture a location clearly in his mind which was difficult for Mick given his thought process was abstract and instinct-based. He'd made the feather in hopes having something to hold would be easier than trying to focus on both the destination and spell in his head but even when he was looking directly at the place he wanted to go, he never got it to work. He'd enchanted five feathers before deciding it wasn't a mistake in binding, he just wasn't able to do it.

But Shawna, when Mick had taken her out, explained how it was supposed to work and then pointed at a tree as a test, she'd teleported there almost before he'd finished his instructions. She turned back to him and gave the biggest, proudest smile Mick had ever seen and the next thing he knew, she reappeared next to him and was giving him a hug.

"This is amazing! I'm actually doing magic! What else should I try? The other end of the house? Oh, maybe the garden!" She held the feather in front of her and shut her eyes. Mick grabbed her by the shoulders, mouth opening around the word 'wait' when it felt like everything was wrenched sideways, the world blurring passed Mick's vision like he was moving at superspeed before it stopped with a jolt. Disoriented and knees not knowing what the hell was going on, Mick stumbled into what he belatedly recognized as his herb garden.

Beyond his mind trying to scramble sense together, he heard Shawna clapping. "I did it! I didn't know I could bring people! ...are you okay?"

He gave a pitiful, half-hearted glare to the girl. "You don't feel dizzy using it?"

"No. Maybe because I'm holding the feather?" She looked at the item and Mick could see wheels turning in her head. "I wonder how far it can go."

His hand shot out and latched on to Shawna again, bracing himself for a world of suck.

He'd shut his eyes to the blur but the dizziness swept through him strong enough that, when they came to a stop, Mick actually fell over onto a plush rug and polished floor. Shawna gasped and Mick groaned, trying to get his hands or elbows under him. A hand tugged at his shirt. "We're here!" She said in a hushed voice. "This is Hartley's house!"

Blearily Mick's eyes opened. He was in the hall of an immaculate house, the kind that had pastoral paintings on the walls and tiny stands useful for only holding up fancy vases and flower arrangements. Embroidered curtains went from ceiling to floor, likely covering equally huge windows but they were all drawn to keep the illusion of peace and civility. It was the kind of house Mick would've been tempted to break into before Miss Price took him in and he- quietly -set his sights higher.

"Great. Wonderful." He grabbed Shawna's wrist. "Get us back to my place."

"But... my mom and dad are still here."

"And you think they won't be wondering how and why you're here? Alone? With some strange, suspicious looking man?"

"That's... a good point." Though now that she was here she could get that pretty, floral hat Mrs. Mardon had gotten her for her birthday that Shawna hadn't had a chance to wear yet. It looked like something a young woman would wear instead of the- nice, but childish -printed bonnets she had. Mick must've noticed her contemplative look because his grip tightened, though not enough to hurt, and he opened his mouth-

The rhythmic clicking of heels cut him off and a voice was calling for someone down the hall. The last syllable rose up sharply, almost shrill- the way Hartley's mother's did when she was displeased and Shawna froze. The steps were approaching fast and about half a dozen worst case scenarios whirled through Shawna's mind if they were caught- Mick getting arrested, Mrs. Rathaway throwing out the feather, Mick trying to escape and getting hurt, Mick taking the feather leaving Shawna here on her own. All of them ending with Shawna never seeing Mark or Hartley again.

"Get us out of here!" Mick hissed, crouched low as the clicking sped up, followed closely by the growing voice, "I can hear you, you know! Don't pretend you can't hear me calling for you, Samuel!"

The thought of never being with her best friends again shook Shawna so much that, when she closed her eyes, she couldn't get a clear image of Mick's cottage in her mind, only a vague impression. She tried and tried, the panic building up and desperation to see the boys growing so much all she could do was picture them.

Shawna and Mick crashed to the floor, a noisy, cut off shriek making her cup her ears.

"What in the world- how did you do that?"

That wasn't Mrs. Rathaway's voice- that was Mark's!

"We're back!" Shawna struggled out from under a thick arm so she could pull Mark and Hartley- his flute briefly jabbing her in the ribs before he moved it aside -into a hug. "I thought Mick was going to go to jail!"

"Why would he go to jail?" Mark asked, utterly bewildered.

"Is Mick gonna throw up?" Hartley asked, part fascinated and part worried at the man groaning on the floor. Mick reached out a hand to the bed- they were in the room the kids took over -and pulled down a pillow and the blanket folded on top of the covers. He just pulled the blanket over his head and the pillow disappeared beneath it. Mick groaned so fully they could feel it vibrating the floorboards.

"That was the fucking worst," he whimpered.

~*~*~*~

After an impromptu naptime- Shawna having realized magic takes a lot out of a person when she took a step and her legs turned to jelly, the children piling up together on the bed, Mick snoring half underneath it -Mick had to take a break in making lunch to break up a fight. Shawna and Mark were yelling at each other across the house. Literally, given that Shawna had teleported up onto one of the exposed rafters.

"Do your screaming outside or shut the hell up!" He roared, startling the two into silence. God- Mick was suddenly reminded why he didn't like kids. Shawna at least looked somewhat repentant but Mark was glaring defiantly at the ground. "What's the problem?" Mick growled at him.

"Nothing anyone cares about," the boy snapped before stomping off. He slammed the door on Shawna's plaintive, "That's not fair, Mark!"

There was a beat of silence. Out of the corner of his eye, Mick could see Hartley half cowering, hands over his hearing aid and eyes wide with fright. Mick sighed and looked up at Shawna, "C'mon down, Boo."

"Boo?"

"You know. Turn around, boo- there you are." He waved his hand at her. "Let's go."

In a little more than a blink, Shawna was back on the ground "Heh. I guess I could use it to scare people." She grinned but her heart obviously wasn't into it.

Ugh, how could anyone think he could deal with kids and their problems? Mick could barely take care of his own. "So what's with Mark?" Mick asked, steering Shawna to the kitchen so he could get back to cooking. "Something crawl up his ass or is he always like this?"

"He tried to take my feather. I told him it was mine because you gave it to me but he wouldn't listen."

"He normally try to take your things?" Mick asked, eyebrow raised. Granted, as a thief, disapproving of that was bordering on hypocritical but he never tried taking things from people he generally liked. Which was probably why he didn't generally like people.

"His little brother's still in London. Clyde's real sick and couldn't come with us. He said he just wanted to look at the feather but I know he'd try to go see Clyde without waiting to learn how it worked." She sniffled. "I didn't want something to happen to him."

"Oh. That sucks about his brother."

Shawna nodded, still pouting a little. She liked Clyde. "Yeah."

~*~*~*~

"You bring me out here to kill me?" Mark asked when Mick finally stopped in a man-made clearing not far from the cottage while Hartley and Shawna cleaned up after lunch.

"You're not even a fraction as annoying as some people I've known. Boo told me about your brother." Mark scowled darkly but said nothing. "I don't know what it's like to have a family you actually care about, but I know what it's like to miss someone you don't think you'll see again. 'Least you still have the chance to."

"Do you want me to talk about it?" Mark asked, horrified.

"Hell no. I don't know how to talk about feelings but I know there's more than one way to get them out." Mick nodded toward one of the bigger trees. A thick rope had been wrapped around the trunk though the fibers were fraying and the entire thing was blackened in places. "Now, when I need to let loose," Mick's hands ignited and Mark took a reflexive step away, "I beat on that tree there." He let his fists go, fire snuffing out. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a slender stick, about as long as Mick's forearm. "You're pretty scrawny so that might not be the best solution for you. Try this instead."

Mark's eyes went huge. "Is this a magic wand?"

"It's only got one spelled binding but it's probably gonna work better for you than me." Mick said, trying not to be amused at the reverent way Mark took the wand from him. "When I get angry, I just get angry at everything. It's kinda how all my emotions work. Except for when I'm staring at fire, my emotions are just kinda all-encompassing. This, though, requires focused emotion and I'm not really good at that."

"So," Mark squinted an eye and aimed the wand at the tree, "what do I do?"

"You feel it in your hand? Like static, building up, making your fingers tingle?"

"Yeah."

That was a helluva lot quicker than Mick ever got it to respond to him. He wondered if all children were naturally attuned to magic or if this was some crazy coincidence-fate-whatever thing. "Take that feeling and push it out through the tip of the-"

With an ear splitting crack, lightning shot out from the wand, cracking the tree in two and setting the ones behind it as well as the bush into a smoldering fire. They both stared, speechless.

Carefully, Mick reached over and pushed the tip of the wand down toward the ground. "Maybe a little less feeling next time."

"That was amazing!"

~*~*~*~

Mark all but raced through the door crowing, "I have a wand!" When Shawna and Hartley crowded around to see it, he went on, "It can shoot lightning. Mick said he has a hard time getting it to work but I could barely control it. I think my feelings are too powerful or something. It took a lot of practicing but I think I got it now!"

"Is that why you've got ash on your face and hair?" Shawna asked, pulling away from the scent of burning and ozone that clung to Mark.

"I wanna see!" Hartley cried. "Show me!"

Mark opened his mouth but Mick cut in, "Remember what I told you. That thing even crackles in the house and I'm taking it away."

He pouted but lowered his arm. He gave the youngest a placating grin. "Maybe after dinner, Hart."

Mick huffed but as he passed by, he ruffled Mark's hair. "Good job out there, Wizard." At the nickname, Mark beamed.

"That's not fair!" Hartley cried. "Shawna and Mark have nicknames but I don't have one! Or a magic thing!"

"Yeah, you do." Mick pointed at his ear. "You got that magic hearing thing."

"But it's not the same! I want a magic thing!"

"Kid, you're too young for magic to respond to you. I don't know what to give you."

"What about your flute, Hartley?" Shawna asked him. "That's your favorite thing in the world, right? When you're old enough to use magic, Mick can put a spell on it for you."

The boy looked at Mick with huge, hopeful, shining eyes and Mick just sighed. Intentional or not, Shawna had just boxed him into the agreement. "Yeah, okay. Bring it down and let me see if it could take a binding." If it had as much emotion infused in it as Shawna implied, it might limit his options.

Hartley ran off and back so quickly he could've been lightning. Mick examined the flute closely and, just as he thought, it was fairly soaking in emotion and Mick was trying not to think of what enchantments would respond well to it. He didn't want to subconsciously try to shoehorn Hartley into a spell that wasn't compatible with him and for fuck's sake he was already considering something he'd have to wait years to do! Hartley stood before him, somewhat bashful. "I've been getting better at it but I don't think I sound very good. My parents tried to take it away but Shawna got it back for me. I'd hide it in my room and practice when my parents are away."

Mick handed it back to Hartley, holding it in both hands and treating it like the treasure it was. "Alright. When you're old enough I can tell what magic responds to you, I'll put a spell on it. Until then, I'll call you..." he thought for a brief moment, "Piper."

Hartley broke out in a huge smile and giggled and launched himself at Mick's waist, hugging the man as best his little arms would allow. "Thank you, Mick!"

~*~*~*~

Mark and Shawna took to training with their respective items like, well, like two kids discovering they could use magic for the first time. Mark worked on his aim- lightning wasn't exactly precision-based but he at least managed to keep to the area he was aiming for -but also on activating the wand until he could do so consistently and without relying on overwhelming emotion. He also experimented with intensity which wasn't something Mick had even considered. Teaching himself to conjure sparks instead of a bolt took up a good portion of Mark's time.

Shawna was every bit the natural as Mick had suspected. It didn't take her long to discover she could cart around multiple people so long as they were touching her or items she was holding and that she didn't have to know what a place looked like to teleport. A clear image of a person or item was destination enough to work. She kept the feather clipped to her hair and teleported so often and readily that, if it didn't take so much energy to do it, Mick suspected Shawna would've never walked again. Though a rule had to be instated that she was no longer allowed to teleport into the bathroom after she almost scared Hartley literally off the toilet.

Hartley himself fluttered between the two, always eager to be the wowed audience or to offer encouragement and, in Shawna's case, part of the experimentation process. Otherwise he practiced his flute- he hadn't been too terrible before, especially after Mark's initial coaching, but now he'd gotten to the point where Mick found it to be pleasant background noise when he was in his workshop. For an hour or so after dinner, he also taught Mick sign language at the man's request given that the three children still used it out of habit and it might be useful being able to communicate with them non-verbally.

It was... kind of nice- not that Mick would ever willingly admit it to the children. It made him feel much more productive than running errands, dealing with his garden, experimenting with recipes and trying out new enchantments did. He'd been going out to the wooded area just to light up his hands more and more to deal with the monotony of it. The kids served such a good distraction that Hartley had to remind him, three days later, of his derailed plan.

"Are you ever gonna unpack your car?" He asked as he helped Mick prep breakfast. Mick wrangled all three of them into helping him cook as that was a life skill everyone should learn though Hartley was regulated to the simple tasks like beating eggs or measuring out ingredients.

Mick paused in the middle of cubing some potatoes for the breakfast skillet, "Fuck, I completely forgot."

"What'd you forget?" Shawna asked, yawning. In the time staying with Mick and no longer having to adhere to the strict schedule kept at the Rathaway's, the children's natural sleep patterns had begun to emerge. Shawna and Mark were proving to be night owls while Hartley, like Mick, tended to wake early. Which was part of the reason Hartley was tasked with helping out with breakfast. Mick didn't want anyone falling asleep in a mixing bowl.

"I needed to find something in London," Mick said, looking down at his cutting board, interest in breakfast now gone.

That perked Mark right up. "What something?"

"Someone, actually. After my mentor left, I'd been doing something called Professor Emelius Browne Correspondence College of Witchcraft." He scowled at the vegetables still waiting to be chopped. "The day before you arrived, I got a letter saying the program had to be closed down before I got the last lesson. I was going to go track him down when I got you three."

"We could still go!"

"We're not taking your brother," Mick said bluntly and Mark visibly deflated. "Local doctor's starting to go senile and magic won't help 'cause I don't know any medicinal spells. Best place for him to get better is right where he is." Mark scowled down at the table, looking to get into a good sulk and Mick rolled his eyes. Mainly at himself for turning into such a giant damn sap so quickly. "We can try to swing a visit on the way back. Make sure the docs know where to send him when he's okay to leave." And, just like, Mark was back to beaming.

"But we're going to London, right?" Shawna asked, sticking to the important point.

"It was actually the main reason I was helping you learn to teleport," he told her. "Before I got," he waved a hand vaguely, "distracted."

"Wait," Mark's eyes narrowed suspiciously, "were you going to take only Shawna?"

"I guess so." He hadn't actually thought about it that hard.

"She's not going anywhere without me!" Mark declared, grabbing Shawna's hand.

"Or me!" Hartley scrambled off the chair and tackled her around the waist. The boys glared defiantly at Mick.

He huffed, fonder than he'd like to admit. "I kind of figured. The problem is I don't know what this guy looks like or where exactly he operates from. I got an address but I've never really been to London." Outside of the rare heists, not exactly a lot of time to memorize street names.

"Maybe we can help, we've been to all sorts of places in London because of Hartley's parents!" Shawna said, eager for adventure.

Mick shuffled his weight a bit. He'd bet their knowledge was limited to the fancy, respectable parts of town and Mick would bet good money that this 'college' was anywhere but. Especially having gotten curious and went to the postmaster to look it up on a map. It may have been an outdated map and he may be a poor reader but Mick hadn't been able to find the exact address.

"Breakfast first," Mick eventually said, getting back to chopping, "then we can figure things out."

He'd hoped- even as he knew it was a stupid hope -that the kids would forget about it and maybe he'd drive off in the middle of the night or something. He didn't know, he still wasn't thinking too hard on it. They must've signed a plan while he was cooking, though, because the moment breakfast was done, Mark swept the dishes to the sink for a soak, Shawna teleported to the train station to snag a map and Hartley pestered Mick for an address. Soon enough the four of them- with Hartley having sequestered himself on Mick's lap -were looking down at an abstract view of London.

"Well," Mark said slowly, "we kind of know where it is?"

"We do?" Shawna asked, mystified.

"Yeah. Remember- our parents take us to Portobello Road for the Christmas Market every year."

"Oh, yeah! It will look different without all the decorations but I remember the place we had dinner at last time!"

Hartley looked at him, face scrunched up like he was trying to force a memory. "I don't remember that."

"Well, you don't go." The two shifted a little uncomfortably. "Portobello Road isn't where rich people go. It's all second hand stuff or antiques that aren't fancy enough for auctions."

"It's where poor people go to get knock-offs," Mick said suddenly. He'd been to plenty of places like that, always run by people ready to cheat someone out of the shirt on their back if they had a chance. At Hartley's blank look, he said, "Fakes. Imitations. They're take some random nobody's paintings and try to pass it off as a lost masterpiece."

"They can do that?"

"Poor people aren't gonna get that stuff appraised- checked to make sure it's real."

"It's such a long street, though." Shawna said. "Even when I get us there, this address might be on the other end. How will we get there?"

They sat quietly, contemplatively for a moment. Mick asked suddenly, "Do you think you could teleport a car?"

July 2017

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