Tangible Schizophrenia



Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Smecker gen, implied Connor/Murphy
Feedback: Good lines, typos, etc.
Disclaimer: Does not belong to me.
Summary: Subway rendezvous.


It’s an ideal place for furtive meetings. A platform in a subway station is a testament to transition, an artificial point smacked down in the endless ebb and flow of humanity. Most people look down at their feet walking over the graffiti and trash and battered concrete, while the few who do look up all have the same dazed, unseeing gaze—they’re blinded by the harsh lighting and ponderous walls and ever-present creep of claustrophobia. It’s the modern age.

There are benches on the platforms, but Paul figures if he’s going to do this he’d better go all the fucking way. Getting off in the middle of the ride without knowing where to go afterward is stupid, is asking to get shoved off the edge while everyone’s eyes briefly turn in the other direction. The only sure things are the end and the beginning.

He’s just putting forth intellectual bullshit again. He’s sitting in one of the middle cars pretending to read his newspaper, only not really because the headliners are a hurricane and a double murder downtown—double tap echoes the wheels running over the track joints—and he’s got nothing better to do. He’s one of a million people ping-ponging back and forth on what actually is a loop squeezed so narrow that it appears to be a line segment, only not fucking really because he gets bullets knocking him off trajectory. They’ve just intersected his path, one of them smiling nicely at the old woman that’s the only other passenger on the train and the other so-casually watching the other way.

The lady gets off and Murphy slides into the seat beside Paul, mouth twisting a little.

“How’s the side?” Paul asks. “Think you can finish out the season, kid?”

He twitches the newspaper straight so its rustling covers up Connor’s laugh. Connor stands, and holds his left arm a little too carefully. “Smecker, man, we always miss your particular brand of tough love. How’s the office?”

“Just fucking grand. I slotted away some cold cases, asskicked the BPD like usual, and have another inch of clippings to add to your files.” The business section is sufficiently distracting for Paul to sound genuinely sarcastic instead of bitter faking it. White-collar crime isn’t something the Irish trio understand all that well, so they stay out of it.

Well, Connor and Murphy do, since they’re still the ones whose bloody footprints occasionally pause on the edge of the scene to look back, as if wondering. Somebody once commented to Paul that they could just use Il Duce’s footprints to plot bullet angles and never mind ballistics, that guy was so single-minded. His noble moniker notwithstanding, he’d probably go after everyone if the twins didn’t talk him down. At least, Paul hopes that that’s what happens when they’re all walking around outside of the train station.

“You need us to feed you someone?” Murphy asks. The dark shadow under his right eye is too deep to be just exhaustion. He keeps rubbing it, and every time he does, Connor has to look away so his anger won’t be too obvious. The skin of Murphy’s face is stretched too thin over his bones, like he’s being eaten away from inside.

“It couldn’t hurt.” After all, it doesn’t really fucking matter except for making the history look better. Once the number of premeditated murders move into the tens, a death sentence is guaranteed. The law doesn’t give a shit now about the difference between fifty-three and fifty-four. “You have anyone ready?”

Connor leans his head against the pole, and for a moment he looks as if he’s going to collapse right there. Murphy slides out his foot to touch Connor’s and they both seem to revive, some spark powering them for a little longer. “Give us a bit, yeah? We can get one.”

But it’s a fucking closed circuit. Conservation of energy, something about entropy…it’s been so long and the rules are so faded in Paul’s head, like the men standing/sitting around him. He remembers the first meeting with the smirking babble of tongues, like an everyday Pentecost miracle complete with flickering lighter flames, and when he compares it to now he can’t help but mourn. He’s starting early, but then, he’s never wanted anybody to be able to say Paul Smecker was caught flatflooted.

He’s bullshitting again. He’s run out of innocuous newsprint to read. “You know what would help more? A break. It’s a fucking media circus out there—and even if your daddy’s happy about that, maybe you should remind him about the copycat phenomenon. And how your groupies don’t always do their research before they shoot.”

“They don’t have you, poor bastards.” Murphy’s leaned back and closed his eyes. The train jolts hard and he winces; Connor pivots to lean over him, running one hand down the side of Murphy’s face and Paul dives into his newspaper. He doesn’t need to hear the soft murmuring of these men trying to hold each other’s pieces together, the quiet way they turn towards each other. “But you know we can’t.”

“Of course you fucking can. You can do it if you end up with another gut wound because you’re just that little bit too worn down, and goddamn it, I am not a hospital. I am not a wonder-worker, I am not a—” Paul exhales. He might as well waste the rest of that breath.

Connor’s hand claps onto his shoulder, only it’s more of a desperate grab. But Paul can’t give them it. He can’t feed into their circle and he can’t break them out of it. He can watch, and be knocked sideways, but in the end they’re always about running across each other’s tracks and not along or on.

“We can’t,” Murphy repeats. He lifts a hand, waves it helplessly in the air. “It’s not something you can stop before you’ve gone far enough. Just got to hope you’ve got the fortitude for it.”

“Well, you want to know my opinion on the condition of your fortitude?” No, of course they don’t, and Paul doesn’t either but the thought’s savaging his mind. “Get the hell off. My stop’s next. See you when you’ve gotten me somebody.”

He never can stand to watch them go. That’s why he brings the newspaper. That’s why they meet on the subway, where it’s all about coming and going without any meaning attached to it. But someday—and Paul’s knuckles are mashing the edges of the paper—someday they will get off and it will mean cold in his gut, acid in his mouth, nightmares for the rest of his life. Because he’ll know. He’ll know and he’ll watch with his heart in his mouth and maybe even his hands reaching for them, but those doors will slide smoothly, soundlessly shut.

He hates this place. He tells himself it’s training for the day, hardening himself against it, but deep down Paul knows that all he’s doing is trying to pretend he can cut it off before it’s too late. Only that won’t work, because when the doors close he is still in the car, riding the merciless rails, and the doors aren’t going to open for him for a long, long time.