Author: Guede Mazaka
Backstreet alley. There are filthier, more pathetic places, Paul knows, but this is pretty fucking close. Right up Greenly's bouncing ass, which Paul would bet is a lot more familiar with these streets than the poor dumb fuck suspects. Men's dreams will go wandering down weird ways, and their fantasies do love to wallow in the dirt.
"Christ, I sound like a cornerstone goth." The lighter is shaking so much it takes Paul three passes to finally get it within range of his cigarette. He nearly burns himself, tries not to curse too much because he's slurring, and then takes a long, sweet drag. So much alcohol has gone down the hatch in the past few hours that he can smell the stuff coming out in his sweat, so this is probably a bad idea.
Then again, in some cultures self-immolation is enough to grant a guy a one-way ticket to heaven. Hell, that'd been the whole point of the Inquisition: burning poor innocent bastards pure.
"Not really. Way I hear, it was more towards the matters of politics and riches than anything else." Murphy's face emerges from the aureole of the lighter flame, which Paul has forgotten to snap off. He does now, and the Irish boyo's head is ringed in smoke instead. Brings back fond memories of their first meeting, maybe. Paul is just a little too drunk to tell.
"You might be right, but nobody aside from the history books is going to believe you. It's all about the common perception-always was, always will be. The groundlings believe what the actors fucking tell them to believe." Half the cigarette's already gone when it takes a flying leap from Paul's fingers, like it's too good for him or something. Stuck-up son of a bitch.
Head tilted, shoulders swayed back like that, Murphy looks like he's either sizing up Paul for a fight or an invitation to dance. It's quite possibly the same thing with the twins. "What the hell are you doing here, man? You always get plastered like this?"
"No." And Paul can say that with the ringing useless conviction of the absolute truth. "You're Irish and you're slum boys; what the fuck else would I be doing down here except 'crawling? And no, usually I let the other dumb fucks do the drinking, except when the goddamn news gets a little much. You two got seven straight minutes on the evening news tonight, you know?"
Murphy shakes his head, wavering expression having something of the quality of thoughtfulness about it. "You're gone, Smecker."
"Aren't we getting familiar?" Paul purrs, accusations all through his lurching voice. He has no idea what he's precisely insinuating, and he should know better than to indict without proper proof. But he is…very, very falling-down-drunk. Emphasis on the fall, only with no capitalization because he is not, thank you, taking this that seriously.
His nose is about three inches from the pavement when Murphy catches him. The man does it like he's got a lot of practice at this, like he's used to peeling hands back to where they should go and hauling a confused body down the backend of Boston. "Where's Connor?"
"Out with Da. Fuck, man. Ma's never going to forgive me for helping a cop."
By now they're passing a half-effaced chalk outline that's vaguely familiar, and so Paul's starting to recognize the territory. He throws up in the next pile of trash they pass and, lucky him, manages to miss his shoes. Murphy, twisty bastard that he is, has already pivoted out of the way.
"You aren't helping a cop. You're helping a Federal Agent, and if you confuse me with those shits in the blue one more fucking time-" Pride is a sin, isn't it? There used to be a ranking system, but damned if Paul can remember it. "My car's around here somewhere. Get me inside and leave me alone."
"Doesn't look as if you can drive." Like an urbanized fey thing, Murphy whisks Paul into the passenger seat and commandeers the wheel with a twitch of his tight blue jeans.
Oh, fuck. And Paul had thought that the loss of stupid lust was the one advantage of age. "Like you care. Honestly, you don't give a shit about me aside from whatever help I can give, and even that doesn't matter too much. You were doing just fine when I got into the game."
The other man's silent as he pulls out into the road. Fluorescence and darkness alternate on his skin and turn him into a one-dimensional reflection of Boston in all her misunderstood, wary glory.
"This is probably because me drunk equals the possibility of vehic--" goddamn hiccups "-vehicular manslaughter, and then you'd have to kill me. Right?"
"You like Connor better, don't you? Because he'd argue this shit with you." One-handed, Murphy gets himself a cigarette and starts stabbing smoke rings at the windshield. "In the morning, this'll all be fine. It'll make sense without me having to fill you up with your own bullshit."
Paul lets his head fall back and laughs himself sick. Murphy is nice enough to slow down and hold onto his jacket while Paul leans out the door and spews on someone's sidewalk. "If it made sense, would I be getting shit-faced in your side of the city?"
"Yeah." And then Murphy's quiet for the rest of the way home. It's obviously killing him, what with the way he chain-smokes not like usual and fidgets with his fingers and mouth and cigarette, but all he has to do is look over to see Paul just waiting for an opening. Fucking Irish-so much for their love of the fight. Such a fucking disappointment.
Such a saint. Christ. It really is impossible to get away from this, but Paul already knew that.
When the car rolls into the garage, he pours himself out the door and staggers to the elevator. A shining silver arc follows him through the doors-keys, pitched in by Murphy-and then the elevator's rising, slow ascension toward the steel ceiling through which Paul can hear the muffled strains of heaven but can't even see any of it. He's got no certain knowledge of God, and no glimpses of the divine will except by secondhand. It must be nice to have a place on golden Main Street and be able to actually fucking testify to the reality.
In the morning, the first cup of coffee brings the question: what was Murphy doing wandering around by himself?
Thou shalt not draw false analyses, one of Paul's old professors had always said. Well, Paul is standing in a squalid little side-alley just like the one from last night, and the bloody clues are right there, waiting for his brilliant insights to draw them together, and he's thinking of those goddamned twins.
It does make sense. Suddenly Paul wishes he were the DOA in the dumpster, but that's a stupid thought and he exorcises it. Cranks up the classical and gets to work.