Tangible Schizophrenia


Stand Witness

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R
Pairing: Dean/Paul Smecker, implied Smecker/Greenly
Feedback: Good lines, typos, etc.
Disclaimer: These characters are not my original creations and I don’t make any monetary profits off them.
Notes: Boondock Saints/Supernatural crossover. Post-movie for BDS and AU (from before the pilot) for SPN; references mainly “Faith,” but say vague spoilers for all of Season One. I’m using ‘Edward’ for Greenly’s first name. Sequel to And The Holy Ghost.
Summary: Paul Smecker’s a haunted man. This falls right in line with Dean’s interests, as it turns out—though not without a lot of protest from him.


“Fraud investigation. I got a tip-off that Sue Ann was pulling the same scam as she and Roy did out in Nebraska, and I went to interview her when she went nuts and attacked me. Long story short, she died of ‘natural causes,’” Dean said, lifting his fingers and flicking them around the imaginary quote. Then he sighed and pulled his tie over his head. “Case closed, I get a reprimand for going in instead of passing it to the right division, and for not informing my partner where I was going—”

“Smecker let them hit you for that?” Sam had to speak up over the onion he was chopping. He finished and flipped the knife sideways in the same motion to slide the blade beneath the little translucent squares. After tossing them into the saucepan, he started on bell peppers.

Dean put his hands on the wall, above his head, and pushed back against his feet in an attempt to stretch out his shoulder muscles. They hurt after a whole day crouched in telephone company logs, scanning thousands and thousands of calls for the three goddamn numbers some other FBI team wanted. That was their idea of punishment: loaning him out to do somebody’s dirty work. Painful, yeah, but nothing after they’d hooked him up with Smecker. “Man, Smecker was a nasty son of a bitch. You should’ve seen him: smelling like whiskey and vomit and looking like shit, and nobody having the balls to buck him.”

The peppers flew in a bright orange and red arc, kind of a vegetable echo of the way Sam’s eyebrow was raised. “No offense, Dean, but your partner’s a lunatic.”

“Definitely. But he’s a lunatic with skills. Seriously, he almost had me believing his version by the time we finally got out of there.” Bones popped and tendons strained, but when Dean put his arms back down, the ache had only marginally improved. He briefly considered taking something for it, but pushed that thought out of his mind with a shudder. Watching Smecker go through aspirin was enough to…well, it probably wasn’t going to put him off aspirin forever, but he’d have to be suffering a lot more to bother with that now.

Sam snorted, and beneath that, squeezed in something about birds of a feather and Dean liking anybody who was rude. Well, college-boy could talk since he didn’t have to put up with all the posturing at work. Seriously, some people didn’t even deserve to look at a handgun.

“So Layla’s not in there at all, and neither am I?” Sam asked.

“Nope. Layla wasn’t even in the same city for all they know, and I know you were home, busy studying for your classes.” Dean wiggled out of his shoulder harness. He dropped that and his tie on an open space on the kitchen counter, then swiveled around Sam to get to the fridge, where he dug out a couple of beers and a package of ground beef. “Right?”

Eyes rolling, Sam purposefully came within an inch of pouring a can of beans on Dean’s head before he jerked it into the pot at the last moment. He shoved Dean over with his hip and set that down next to the saucepan, where the rest of the fajita fillings were cooking up.

He always overcooked the damn onions. A good fajita should still have some crunch in it, and not just be a wrapped-up gooey ooze, in Dean’s opinion. Dean shook the saucepan a little, gauging limpness, then dumped those out and dumped the beef in. “How is Layla, by the way?” he asked more quietly.

Sam shrugged. “She seemed okay. Her mom was still pissed off, though, but Layla didn’t take it personally.” Sharp look. “She said to pass on a thank you for the ice cream…Dean?”

“So how’s school?” It’d better be at least okay, seeing as that was the only reason why Dean had a twenty-minute drive to work every morning. The rent around campus was ridiculous, even for a major city.

“School’s good. They transferred basically all the important credits, so I don’t have much catching up to do,” Sam said, flipping the cap off his beer. He did the same for Dean’s, then handed it over. Something about the beer caught his eye and he gazed at it for a second before letting go. “No, but really, Smecker was drunk. Your partner’s an alcoholic.”

Dean tipped back a good pull into his mouth, and while he was at it, grabbed a spatula from the big pickle jar o’ long-handled things. He stirred around the meat. “He’s not.”

The way Sam silently pulled spices from the cabinet and sprinkled them over the beef spoke volumes. Mostly not flattering towards Dean’s judgment.

“Yeah, he was drunk then, but that’s the first time I’ve seen him like that. He racks up way too many cases. And even drunk, he managed to save our asses. That’s not his problem,” Dean said. And they should know, after all, even if Dad had been only borderline. “He just—you should see him do a scene sometime. He just goes in there and he breaks them down in no time. It’s like he was right there when it happened. It’s…it’s kind of scary, actually. You think he’s just another big-talking asshole, but he can actually back up all the crap that comes out of his mouth.”

“You think?” Sam flicked the cabinet door shut, then turned to lean against the counter. He picked at his knuckles around the bottleneck. “’cause, you know, some of the stuff he was screaming at Sue Ann…”

Yeah. Some of that hadn’t sounded good. Of course, Smecker had been falling-down-drunk and raving mad at that point…and if they were going to talk about weird, they’d better bring up why it’d sounded a little like Smecker had been seeing the Reaper before it even turned on him. “But he actually believes that I’m not making this ghost and monster shit up.”

“There’s that,” Sam admitted. He slouched down and moodily looked at Dean for a couple seconds. “Do they make fun of you here, too?”

“Not so much. Well, I’m pretty sure they talk all they want behind our backs, but I swear to God, the whole place has the fear of Smecker in them. I think they were expecting him to bounce me out on my ass the first day, and since I’m still there…they’re kind of confused.” For that matter, Dean was kind of confused. Sometimes he thought there was nothing for it and he’d just have to walk in there and punch the bastard, even if he was old and crippled and obviously covering up a depression. And then sometimes he thought they were almost getting along, and that it’d be so fucking cool to get an idea of how a guy like Smecker managed to get even the branch directors talking about him in lowered voices. “I was trying to look into his background, but the whole Sue Ann thing ended up coming first.”

“Well, want any help now?” Sam asked. He went back out in the living room, then returned a few moments later with two bowls into which he layered tortillas and the veggies. Eventually Dean was going to have to make time to go down and scare the lazy-ass building manager into fixing their dishwasher, but for now they were just letting things pile up in the sink.

Okay, they could handwash them too, but then they’d need like, a drying rack, and the place was already getting crowded. “Later, maybe. I’m gonna see what I can get through the FBI first. Wouldn’t want to put your scholarship in jeopardy now.”

“Whatever. You just want to pretend you’re in Mission: Impossible and sneak around after hours with a flashlight.” Sam scooped up some of the meat, nibbled, and apparently decided it was good because he then tipped the rest into his bowl. After a moment, he started to hum the theme song and that was when Dean was forced to threaten the smart-aleck with the spatula.

* * *

Smecker was slumped face-down over his desk and hadn’t moved in the last twenty seconds. Dean stood there and thought, and then tried waving around the coffee to get the smell in the air. Still nothing. “Uh…Smecker? We’ve got two detainees up on the North End…”

After a moment, Smecker lifted his head. It wasn’t pretty and Dean didn’t feel bad at all about flinching away.

“What time is it?” Smecker abruptly asked.

“Nine-thirty.” After a moment, Dean took a deep breath and turned back around to face the monster. He edged into the room and held out the coffee, keeping as much space between himself and Smecker as possible. Usually the other man kept to verbal attacks, but once in a while the cane got into it, too. For somebody who claimed physical things weren’t his strong point, he could hold up his end pretty well.

Of course, that was when he felt like it, and for some reason, Smecker generally seemed to feel like dressing in expensive suits and then working till he looked like a streetcorner crazy from the financial district. He took the coffee without offering any thanks and drained half of it. Then he stood up and drank the rest, and then he got on his coat and cane. He never seemed to carry a gun, which passed from weird to just plain stupid once somebody checked out the stats on the neighborhoods he regularly worked.

Smecker started around the desk, then paused to dig out a thin file from the chaos that was his desk—some day, Dean needed to sneak Sam in just to prove that there were worse messes than the trunk of Dean’s car—and flip it over. He walked out while Dean was picking it up, which forced Dean to scramble after the cranky limping bastard.

“What’s this?” he asked once he had. He tried to peek inside, but too many people were in the hallway to make that possible. At least, not without throwing around a couple elbows, and getting into a fight in FBI headquarters wasn’t exactly smiled upon.

“Anomaly.” Everyone cleared out of Smecker’s way, though he actually didn’t seem to notice that. He had a weird kind of ego, where about some things he’d mock himself so viciously you started to look for wounds and about others he insisted he and only he was the best authority. And he loved puncturing other people’s egos, or at least what he thought were their egos—couldn’t just be a sense of self, could it?—which he proved with the jeering look he shot towards Dean. “Weird case, in one-syllable words. Sounds like your hobby. I don’t think you speak Russian, so I figured I’d give you something to read in the car while I’m working.”

Dean felt his temper rise, let it go a little and then pushed it back down. He was starting to get used to that kind of shit from Smecker; the man never was polite, but he usually wasn’t completely pulling it out of his ass, either. “Thanks.”

Smecker wasn’t paying attention to him anymore. To be honest, that was what got on Dean’s nerves the most—not the profane put-downs, not the piss-contest shit like the deal about the coffee, but how Smecker could look him in the eye and say something so meaningful Dean was still going over it days later, but in the next second it’d be like Dean didn’t even exist.

It wasn’t like Dean was an attention-whore or anything. He just would have liked a little mutual recognition, a nod to the fact that he was still walking next to Smecker instead of doing an about-face and going postal from putting up with the mean bastard.

“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance,” Smecker muttered. He shook his head and laughed beneath his breath, bitter and sharp. “Talk about spoiling me for later.”

“What?” Dean said.

Smecker jerked, then glanced at him—yeah, he was here, thanks. “Quote from the Bible. Origin of Pentecost, when—”

“Tongues of flame descended and the apostles suddenly were John Travolta in Phenomenon.” See, Dean wasn’t a complete hick.

For a moment, Smecker actually looked impressed. “Well, well, somebody went to Sunday school.”

“Wasn’t Sunday school. My family wasn’t exactly what you’d call religious.” Dean pushed through the door, held it for Smecker, and then turned on his heel to fall in at the other man’s side again. “Dad just thought it was a good idea to learn the Bible. You know, for reference purposes.”

“Reference like making sure you can survive Western civilization, or reference like spotting signs of the apocalypse, tabloid-style?” Smecker asked. It was a sunny day and he looked sour about it, squinting at the light. When he got in the car, he pulled down the shade-blocker before he put on his seat-belt.

“Like learning about demons and how to get rid of them.” Try that one on, Dean thought.

Predictably enough, Smecker didn’t even bat an eye. He grunted, so Dean knew the other man had heard him, but otherwise seemed to sink into torpor. Of course, reaching over to push at Smecker would get Dean’s hand taken off, so he just got in and turned on the damn engine.

* * *

Dean got himself a seat in the precinct lounge while Paul did his thing down in the holding cell. It was more like a room with a couch that had about as many scars as your average Vietnam vet and a seventies-era coffeemaker, but it had air-con and a water-cooler. Good enough for Dean, who opened up the file Paul had given him and quickly got engrossed in reading. There wasn’t much, but what was there was all useful and relevant: definitely not like the sprawling messes of half-ass work or the pitiful skeleton files he’d been used to getting out in Kansas.

He got up and walked down to check on Smecker at the twenty-minute mark, only to be told that his partner had already finished with the interrogations, but had wanted to see something in the evidence locker. For a moment, Dean thought about bitching because Jesus, Smecker never told him what was going on with their cases, but then he thought about his idea that the latest weird deaths were a variation on the White Lady phenomenon. And about the computer in the corner of the lounge.

It probably made him a bad agent, but he went back and he got online, and in fifteen minutes, he had the whole thing put together. He was just scribbling the last of his notes to himself when Smecker strolled in. “Have a nice read?”

“Fantastic, thanks,” Dean muttered. He shoved everything back into the folder and hopped up. “And how’s our case?”

Smecker flicked his gaze over Dean. Then he slowly turned and hobbled out of the room. He was leaning more heavily on his cane than when he’d gotten out of the car. “Small-time dealing just got upgraded to the Columbian cartel team. God, I need a fucking cigarette.”

“There’s a bottle in the glove compartment,” Dean said, and then he saw the beat cop avidly listening in. “Aspirin. Gelcaps—they were out of the tablets. So what, does this mean we have to pass it up now?”

It was funny how Smecker could wince in a thousand different ways, and each time he made sure people knew whether he was doing it because he was in pain, or because he was frustrated, or because he just thought they were damn stupid. “Someday you’re gonna learn to clarify your damn pronouns, as God is my goddamn witness. C’mon.”

“Hell, you always know what I mean anyway.” Dean tossed some kind of polite comment the cop’s way to make up for whatever strips Smecker had torn out of him, then hurried after the other man. “You know, I did actually take care of a more than a couple tough cases out West. The East Coast doesn’t have a monopoly on complicated crimes.”

“You know, most people would be absolutely thrilled at being handed a chance to play hooky and go fuck around with their own shit,” Smecker shot back. He didn’t sound nearly as nasty as he could have, and his grip on the cane-head was turning white-knuckled. But just when Dean was starting to think about offering the guy a hand, Smecker swerved around and looked at Dean like dirt impressed him more. “You’ve seen how I work, haven’t you? You want in on that? What kind of brain-dead moron raised you?”

Not that it ever made any difference, because every single damn time Dean ended up blindsided anyway, but he was developing a minor terror of the way Smecker could flip on a dime and kick out exactly where it’d hurt the most. If they hadn’t been standing right at the front door, with some mom walking her kids and dog down the street past them, Dean would’ve taken a swing at him.

Something happened in Smecker’s eyes. His pupils dilated and he got a weird grayish cast to his face the way Sam sometimes did, when one of those fits was happening. Then he was shaking his head and sneering again, pushing the door open with his cane. “Dean, you’re an adult and you’re in the fucking FBI. I can tell you to fuck off, but don’t blame me for obeying.”

“Well, that’s nice of you to finally clear that up,” Dean finally said. He threw in a smarmy smile for good measure.

Smecker just kept on walking down the stairs, the sight of his back making Dean feel about five inches tall and ready to tackle the bastard’s ankle anyway. Instead, Dean went outside and got out the car keys.

* * *

Sam stopped and sat down on the roadside barrier, grimacing and flipping at his hands so water went all over the place. Including on Dean, who wasn’t exactly bone-dry himself. “So I got bored the other day and did a little news-surfing. You remember the Saints?”

“Uh…yeah. Those Irish guys who were going around shooting mobsters here for a while. Then they moved onto to New York City and got killed in this big-ass shootout.” Since they were stopping, Dean figured he might as well see what that weird squishing in his shoe was. He lifted his foot and started to pull it off, but started to lose his balance so he had to sit down.

“Guess who was the point man in the Boston end of the manhunt—Smecker. And I’m not sure, but after the thing went national, I think he was helping with that in some way,” Sam said, sounding oh-so-proud of himself. He reached over and stuck his hand under Dean’s arm to help balance out that side. “Dude, you okay? Hit your head while we were shoving the car out or something? Swallow too much water?”

Dean jerked his arm away and irritably shook his shoe up and down till…till this wriggling thing fell out. He made a face and yanked off his other shoe just to make sure there weren’t more of them. Man, if he’d known that bitch’s trailer had been tipped over into the shallows…

The car repair bills were going to totally kill the budget for the next two months. Damn.

“There’s loads of articles on it, but Smecker only really shows up on the Boston ones. Is that normal?” Sam poked at the flopping thing with his toe. Then he shrugged and went back to wringing out his clothes.

“Yeah, since he’s based here. When they go national, they usually hand off the case to a completely different lead agent, so what’s weird would be if he really stuck around for more than like, a week, and had much of a say in what they did. Then again, calling him a control freak doesn’t even begin to cover it.” Out of pure what-the-hell spirit, Dean pulled his cell phone from his pocket and flipped it open. Somebody could’ve smacked him over with a feather when the damn thing actually lighted up and did the ring-tone and everything. That whole waterproofing thing hadn’t just been an advertising ploy, then. “But okay, he was on that case. He’s been at this for thirty years—why would this one be a biggie?”

“Because of the stuff he said in Sue Ann’s basement when the Reaper couldn’t touch him. And what you said he said right afterward, about canonization. The Saints,” Sam muttered. He got back up and looked down at himself with a disgusted expression. “God, this is so gross. I think I have pond scum in my underwear.”

Dean really felt for him, with both sympathy and empathy. But sometimes the way Sam could get over little stuff like that, as if they hadn’t dived head-first into worse situations before, just cracked him up. He started laughing and he couldn’t stop even to keep Sam from punching his shoulder, and in the end Sam had to call for the tow-truck.

* * *

Luckily that whole deal had gone down on a Friday, so after shelling out a huge chunk of paycheck, Dean only had to go two days without a car. Not that explaining that to Smecker was any easier. “Man, this is so much harder on me than it is on you. C’mon. I know you hadn’t had a partner in years before they stuck you with me, so how’d you get around then?”

And instead of continuing to rip Dean a new one, Smecker had stiffened up and shut up. He’d sent Dean out with a load of raw reports to sift through, and when Dean had staggered by again late in the afternoon with all that shit done, Smecker was gone. As far as Dean knew, Smecker lived in his fucking office; he did leave every day according to the janitor, but he stayed so late and came back in so early that nobody could believe he actually went home in between.

Dean sagged in the doorway with his arms dying from the weight of the files, and thought that well, at least he fucking knew where they were on all the non-weird cases they had. He knew in fucking triplicate, font size nine, and goddamn it, Smecker had just pulled one on him again. And that was when Dean started thinking about what Sam had said, and when he started looking through the backfiles.

* * *

“Hey. Hey, you’re Winchester, aren’t you? The poor dumb fuck who got Smecker?”

Dean paused, then finished putting his sandwich in his mouth. After the first day, when he’d had to suffer a pair of clowns doing an impression of Mulder and Scully investigating his lunch, he’d stayed away from the cafeteria. But he’d spent the entire morning running up and down tenement stairs trying to find a witness for a shooting, getting a headache from the strain on his bad—but getting better, damn it—Spanish, and his office was just filled with piles and piles of work to be tackled in the afternoon. He’d figured he’d hide in a corner and eat really fast.

“He’s a real piece of work, isn’t it? I had to do a joint investigation with him once and man, my hands didn’t stop shaking for a month afterward,” said idiot number two.

Idiot number one sat down across from Dean with a shit-eating grin. He topped Dean by an inch, but his sleeves were swelled up with something a little less firm than muscle. “And he’s been the top agent for this branch for fucking decades. Unbelievable, isn’t it? A queer bitch like that?”

“Incredible, yeah. Kind of makes you wonder what he’s got that other people don’t, doesn’t it,” Dean dryly said. He really believed that people were worth defending, but at times like these, he completely understood and approved of why Smecker was the way he was.

The idiots completely missed his meaning and looked blank. Then number two shrugged and leaned forward, so here came the dumbass punchline. “You know what’s really insane? What they’ll do to keep him here and working? I’m telling you, he should’ve been farmed out to a psych ward years ago—”

“—especially after that McManus shit went down. Them and the, what was his name, the cop—”

“BPD detective. Good guy. We had a nice talk about basketball while I was waiting to beg Smecker to give up a witness to me once, and you could’ve knocked me over with a feather when I found out they were screwing. Man, he totally didn’t seem like that kind. Shame.”

“But he’s so good,” said idiot one, shaking his head. “He came in trashed after that guy’s funeral and bam, bam, knocked out three cases in three weeks that’d been riding our asses for two years. Smecker’s so good, they’ll do anything to keep him around. Toss him a nice-looking piece of hayseed ass—”

Dean stuffed what was left of his sandwich in his mouth, got up and walked over the trashcan to throw away his junk. By the time he’d walked back, he’d finished chewing. He did the idiots in about a punch and a half each.

* * *

“You’re a fucking imbecile,” Smecker said.

He was the one sitting down, but somehow he made Dean feel like he was the one in the chair, hunched over and kicking his heels. “But they said—”

“And they say it every time I tell the admin guys to fuck off and admin actually does because I am, in fact, too fucking good. You’re straight, Dean. You’ve got a brain in there somewhere, even if it’s getting dusty from lack of use, and you should know that I don’t need my fucking honor defended in the goddamn cafeteria.” Smecker pressed the heels of his hands against his temple and dipped his head a little farther so Dean could see the strain in the man’s neck tendons. Then he sighed and lifted his head, tossing himself back in his chair. “What time is it? Six?”

Dean nodded.

“Okay. Come on.” Finish the coffee, pop a couple aspirin, get the cane and the coat. Then Smecker glanced up at Dean again and frowned. “Workday’s over, Dean. I can actually buy you a drink for pasting those jackasses and I won’t have Jude in here complaining about passing on my bad work habits.”

After a moment, Dean decided it was safe to grin. Smecker just snorted, but he didn’t tell Dean to wipe that stupid smirk off his face before he started thinking he had any fucking idea whatsoever what he was doing, so Dean considered it progress.

* * *

Dean stumbled and ran up against a fence that he swore to God had appeared out of nowhere. He grabbed onto it and hung off the bars for a moment, wondering why his arm kind of hurt. “Oh, man. Buy me a drink, you said. Buy me under the fucking table…”

Smecker sloped up alongside him, looking about as amused and relaxed as Dean had ever seen him. The other man was moving more slowly than usual, but otherwise seemed sober, damn him. “You probably should stop talking till we get there. The crap that you’re saying now, you’re going to get us booked by fucking Vice. They hate everyone. Worse than me.”

“’cause they’re so damn jealous of the people they’re arresting? Never get a chance to go home and get laid themselves, huh.” Honestly, Dean didn’t feel too out of it, aside from his little trouble with walking. He could still make whole sentences that Smecker seemed to understand. “Your fucking liver’s either cast-iron or a complete mess, man.”

Sighing, Smecker reached out and grabbed Dean’s elbow. Between them and the nice fence, Dean managed to get in motion again. His right side kept tilting and that nearly dumped him into more than one collection of trashcans, but Smecker always yanked him back. Guy was stronger than he looked…though he was looking kind of strained. His cane was getting a real workout, which made Dean feel bad.

“Or you don’t live up to advertising,” Smecker muttered. “Christ, Dean, it wasn’t even that good of a whiskey…you puke on me and I’ll make you eat it back up. Lean right—no, right’s the other goddamn way—if you have to.”

“Hey, I’m fine. You’re the mutant.” Dean shook himself free of Smecker and stumbled along a few feet before he sort of got the hang of things. He was still strangely unable to stay on his side of the sidewalk and kept bumping up against Smecker.

The other man snorted and smacked Dean’s hip with his cane, sending Dean reeling into a doorway. He got hold of the side and straightened himself up. When he turned around, Smecker was pulling out a key, so…well, damn. Smecker did have a life outside of the office.

“You’re talking to a guy who’s seen your ten-year background check, remember? Still want to talk about mutations?” Smecker opened the door and went in without holding it for Dean so the damn thing nearly knocked him in the jaw. Then Smecker leaned back out and held out his hand, looking like he was doing Dean such a favor.

Never mind that okay, the hand was useful for getting over the slight step. “Fuck you, man. Just how much do you think you get about a guy from one of those profiles, anyway?”

They took the elevator, thank God, and Smecker lived on a middle floor so Dean didn’t have to suffer the unexpectedly bright lights for too long. “Not a lot. Especially with your brother. He does nice hacking work.”

Dean leaned against the door while Smecker messed around with more keys, blinking hard and trying to concentrate. He really, really fucking hated how…how Smecker always threw something like that when it’d fuck with him the most.

Smecker shot Dean a look, then snorted as he pushed open the door. “Stop gaping, Dean. If I was going to use that against you, I wouldn’t have just told you about it. Anyway, he didn’t touch the GED or Academy scores, and I don’t give a shit about what you did in middle school.”

“Most of that wasn’t my fucking fault, anyway,” Dean muttered. He got himself inside, somehow, and promptly tripped over something. When he tried to get back up, he hit a chair. At that point, he decided it’d be safer to flop over said chair and just not move anymore. “It’s just…when Dad said there was a job, we had to go and do it, you know? Or people would die. Who cares about some stupid-ass algebra test then?”

“Good thing you didn’t end up in the army, then. I’m fucking terrified thinking about what you could’ve done with a tank,” Smecker said. He closed the door, and Dean heard the bolts being shot home. Then he walked off and was doing something on the other side of the room.

Dean rolled over to try and see, but ran out of chair and was forced to push himself onto his back again. He stared at the ceiling. “Almost did go that way, actually. You…did you read the bit where we got taken in by Caleb? Old Army friend of my Dad’s…he did what he could, but he wasn’t exactly rich and he got fucking throat cancer when I was seventeen. He said if Sam wanted to stay in school, then I’d have to get a job. But it wasn’t his fault. Wasn’t.”

“Okay…” Smecker came back over and settled on the couch. He put up his feet on the table, which was a nice table. If Dean wasn’t so drunk, he would’ve been taking notes on exactly what kind of pad crazy-genius Smecker kept. “And somehow you ended up in the FBI instead.”

“Well, Caleb had a friend of a friend in it. And the Army would’ve meant I’d have to leave Sam, and I sure as fuck wasn’t gonna do that. Sam was all I had left, and I fucking promised Dad I’d make things better for him after the whole mess,” Dean said. His throat hurt and his eyes stung a little, but he swallowed and that all went away. Temporarily, anyway; he could still feel the tightness in his chest. “Gonna ask about how my dad died now?”

Things were silent for long enough so that it got to Dean and he twisted around to get a clear view of Smecker. The other man was staring at him in that weird way he sometimes had, not like he wasn’t seeing Dean, but like he was seeing Dean plus something else, something that freaked him, un-fucking-flappable Smecker, out. Then he grimaced and drank whatever it was he had in his glass. More whiskey, probably.

“Demon.” They’d started going that way, so Dean figured he might as well get it out. He had this half-baked idea it’d make his chest loosen up, and maybe, just maybe, it’d make it so Smecker was the rattled one for once. “There was this demon, and it killed our mom, and it wanted to get Sam, and Dad tracked it down and he went in there and told us to watch, and he didn’t come out and it didn’t come out. I went in two days later, with a shotgun and the biggest fucking bottle of holy water…they were dead.”

Fucking sixteen. Sam hadn’t even started to think about girls yet, but he’d been having nightmares for years by then and starting just weeks before, he’d been having them in the daytime, and he was still laid flat from the last one when Dean had gone down. Not the first dead he’d ever seen by then, but they were the ones he always remembered at night.

Smecker stirred. “What was that thing in the basement?”

“’s called a Reaper. It comes for you when you die, but Sue Ann bound it so it came for whoever she wanted dead,” Dean mumbled. His face was pressed into the chair arm so deeply that he really only was seeing Smecker with one eye. “Why the hell couldn’t it get to you? What the hell’s up with you?”

After a long, considering stare, Smecker put his glass down on the table. He got up and went around to squat down in front of the chair, and then he started trying to shove his arms beneath Dean’s. “I’m not one of your fucking weird cases, Dean. Come on. Get up. I’ll call Sam for you.”

“But you are fucking weird.” Dean didn’t want to get up, thank you. He pushed at Smecker, and when that didn’t do it, curled his fingers around Smecker’s arm. “What, you get to pry and I don’t?”

“Yeah. Exactly. Now just shut up and do—”

And to be honest, Dean didn’t ever figure out why right then. He’d walked out of that room, after all, and made it so that demon and all it’d done to their family had stopped right there. Sam was at Harvard, and maybe the FBI had been necessity, but Dean wasn’t crying into his pillow at night over it, and hell, he kind of looked forward to it now. It was interesting, but Smecker was always telling him to shut up just when he thought he was getting somewhere, and Smecker knew, Dean knew he knew by the way he’d gone quiet a moment ago, how it felt to be the one left behind but he never would fucking talk about it and—and Dean pulled down on Smecker’s arm.

It wasn’t much; just a graze before suddenly Smecker was fucking choking him and Dean was thrashing. And then Dean was breathing hard, half-fallen to the floor, and Smecker had walked over to the phone in the corner.

“Ed, you fuck, get out of here,” Smecker snarled, so low the words were barely distinguishable. Then he picked up the phone and dialed. “Sam?”

* * *

“I was really plastered last night,” Dean mumbled, sitting down.

Smecker reached out and grabbed his cup from the cardboard holder without looking, totally preoccupied by whatever was on his computer screen. “Yeah. God, I hope you’re better on beer or I’m never fucking letting you near our Irish informants.”

Dean stared at him. Not a single muscle twitched out of place in Smecker’s face. “Dude? Fuck you.”

“After the first date? I’m old, not cheap. Lucy the labbie just emailed saying the ballistics analysis is back. Go down and flirt or whatever the fuck it is you do to get those nicely organized reports out of her,” Smecker said, still mostly busy with the computer.

Shaking his head, Dean got back up again. “Asshole,” he snorted, totally and utterly relieved.

* * *

“This is so much more interesting than writing a paper on the agricultural policies of the Hoover administration,” Sam said, pawing through the files Dean had just put down. He yelped and looked offended when Dean smacked his hand.

“Dude, watch it. Some of those are originals and I’ve gotta get them back in the archives in perfect order, or else this bug-eyed creep with the biggest fucking paper-cutter I’ve ever seen will start taking fingers.” Dean sat down and passed Sam a beer, then picked up the top file. He flipped it open and immediately had to look away. Then he slowly turned back to it, forcing himself to check off details. “Crime scene photos of the New York firefight.”

Sam started to lean over for a look, then caught a glimpse of Dean’s expression. “Bad?”

Well, he really had to see for himself, so Dean pushed the top one over. For a moment, Sam obviously didn’t know what he was looking at. Then he did, and he went a little greenish. “Damn.”

“That one was Connor, I think.” The coroner’s report turned out to be just underneath; Dean flipped through till he came to the listing of injuries. “Twelve gunshot wounds…from the fight. Two older ones in various stages of healing. Jesus. Hey, hand me that—no, two inches left. I think that’s the composite sequence of events.”

When Sam reached for it, he knocked one of the other folders into sliding down the pile. It would’ve fallen to the floor if Dean didn’t have such great reflexes, and even then, he barely kept the insides in. He pushed it back up, then swore and stuck his finger into his mouth. The sheet that had given him the cut slid half-way out again, a little bit of red gleaming on its edge.

“Fucker.” He took the packet Sam handed him, but temporarily set it aside so he could flip open the one he had. His eyes hit the head-shot clipped to the top first.

Nice face. Nothing special: the kind of guy who’d hang out in the front of the bar, flirt badly with the waitress and leave a big tip to make up for it. Then Dean glanced at the name and froze.

“This one isn’t so torn up. Which one is he?” Sam said, holding up a glossy.

Dean looked at it once without really seeing it. Then he shook himself so the prickles on the back of his neck went down some, and looked again. He flicked his gaze back to the head-shot, then put it up next to the other one. “Edward Greenly, BPD detective.”

“BPD? What was he doing in New York?”

Didn’t look like the type, Dean recalled. He flicked through Greenly’s file to the last few pages. “He was on loan. Let’s see…um. But that’s a bullshit reason…well, okay, he was on the initial investigation into the Saints down here. I don’t—” Dean dropped his head into his hand, then forked his fingers so he could see “—you know, not like it says this anywhere, but I’m really tempted to say it was to drive Smecker around.”

“They knew each other that well?” Sam asked.

* * *

Gum-crack. Tracy slouched back in her chair with one arm out and digging her pen into the counter. She uncrossed and recrossed her legs so Dean got a flash of garter, but for once that seemed to be reflexive. “Smecker and the BPD guy? Yeah, they were fucking.” She shrugged and abruptly pulled herself up, popping another bubble out of the left side of her mouth. “Ed was all right. Kind of a doofus, but sweet, ya know? But he had this weird thing with Smecker, so guess he wasn’t all normal.”

“Thing?” Dean checked out his fingernails. The grease and oil from last night’s cleaning of the guns were still ground beneath them, and there was a new chip in his thumbnail that he didn’t remember getting.

“Just…you know, he was always following Smecker around. Like, it sounded like he couldn’t stand the fucker, but he’d be talking to a girl and then Mr. Fairy-ass would waltz by, and Ed would be right after him with a bunch of questions,” Tracy said. She snapped her current bubble and grinned up at Dean, blinking through her bangs. “Don’t mention him around Smecker. First day Smecker was back after New York, Billy was like, “Saw you on TV at Greenly’s funeral,” and Smecker bashed him over a desk with one of his crutches.”

* * *

Smecker was the only guy in the entire building who had a chair that could go completely horizontal. Or so Dean had heard, but now he was seeing it, and seeing why nobody had cracked any sex jokes about it. Yeah, Smecker was lying down, but he had sheets and sheets of photos and lab analyses draped over his head and he was mumbling with his arms up and waving around, kind of like a zombie conductor.

Dean sat down and reorganized his stuff. After about two minutes of that, he slid out an unusual death in Cape Cod he’d pulled off the online circular.

“The grease-trap,” Smecker suddenly said, yanking himself upright. Papers fluttered everywhere, but the usually neatnik bastard completely ignored them and just grabbed his cane off the wall.

“The…” Jesus, grease-trap? There’d been that pizza place Dean had been dying to sneak into next to the double homicide “…Winter Hill case?”

Smecker looked mildly impressed. “Exactly. Get your ass in gear, Dean. It’s already ten—they’ll have been dumping more shit over any evidence for three hours now.”

The really, really creepy part about this sort of thing was that ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, Smecker was absolutely right. And the point one times he fucked up, it always turned out that there’d been a freak event like an exploded water main that’d messed up his predictions.

This turned out to be in the ninety-nine point nine category, and thank fucking God, because if Dean had had to spend twenty minutes scrubbing himself down in the pizzeria sink because of a no-show, he…he just…he wasn’t going to think about it. He was still peeling grease off of his arms. “How the hell did you know? I mean, usually I can work it out backwards, but I have no fucking idea this time.”

Smecker didn’t answer, and Dean had stupidly hung up his shirt and jacket where it blocked the other man from his view. But the coils of smoke drifting out from behind those gave Dean a little bit of a clue.

“You’re gonna get these guys taken in for a health code violation, and after they were nice enough to let me get a nice oil-soak at their wonderful establishment,” Dean muttered, soaping up again. He scrubbed over his arms, then bent down to get his shoulders under the faucet. “Isn’t this supposed to be a learning experience for me?”

“Sorry, but this shit I can’t teach you,” Smecker finally replied. He was sullen and all that bitterness was going inward instead of being sprayed at everyone in a fifty-mile radius. “Sometimes it just happens.”

Dean finished rinsing himself off and eyed his arms. He swiped his thumb down his right bicep, then rubbed it and his forefinger together. Good enough. “What’s ‘it’? Keep it up and you can’t lecture me about my pronouns anymore.”

There was a towel, but it looked older than the black-crusted, dented-up stove, so Dean just windmilled a few times before he slipped on his shirt. He buttoned up, then turned around and Smecker tossed his gun harness at him. Then the other man went back to working his cigarette. “I get inside people’s heads. Rapists, robbers, drug dealers, pimps, killers. Dregs of the world. And then I fucking turn them inside out, and I know them. I am them for a while. Their eyes—my eyes.”

“Like a waking nightmare, kind of?” Dean slowly asked. He was hearing some close parallels to the way Sam sometimes talked about the visions. “Intuition’s a bitch, huh.”

“Intuition, fuck. If it were just intuition, I’d let them drug me up.” Smecker got up and pushed past Dean to pitch his cigarette into the sink. He flipped on the water for a second, then shut it off. “Five hundred years ago, they would’ve burned me. Now they pay me and throw smartass kids off the Calvin Klein ads at me to keep doing it.”

He turned and looked Dean up and down like a butcher did a side of beef. Dean had just threaded his arm through the harness, so when the back of his neck started to prickle, he shrugged it all the way on; the pressure of the straps snapped him out of it. “That’s not why you keep me around, though.”

Smecker did that thing where he closed his eyes fast and hard and his mouth moved like he was counting. Then he opened them and looked tiredly at Dean. He lifted his hands, then picked the buckle out from where it was swinging beneath Dean’s arm and pushed the strap through it and yanked hard. Dean sucked in his breath, but didn’t move.

“Booze and cigarettes. Thirty years of self-medicating. Not really something I’d suggest for your brother,” Smecker abruptly said. He took his hands off Dean, turning his wrist really fast so he flicked Dean’s gun with his index finger. “Go out and tell the manager we’re done. I’m checking something in the alley, and then I’ll be at the car.”

It was a couple minutes before Dean, rubbing at his temple, did actually go and do that.

* * *

“He said what?” Sam yelped, bolting upright.

Dean rolled over on his belly and skimmed over the summary of the New York firefight again. Saints holed up, Smecker went in to talk to them and Greenly showed up apparently out of nowhere, or at least out of personal instead of professional interests. Looked like things were going to be okay, but then somebody’s nervous hand slipped and Smecker got shot in the leg. Two hundred something bullets later, Il Duce and Connor were dead, Greenly was in a coma he was going to die in about two hours later, and Murphy was burbling his last words out, but only Smecker was close enough to hear and he claimed he didn’t understand them. “He never carries a gun. Well, I guess he must’ve when he was younger, but he never packs now. Weird, isn’t it?”

Sam didn’t answer. When Dean checked, it turned out that was because Sam was giving Dean one of those squinty-eyed what-the-fuck stares.

“Um, dude,” Sam finally said. He wiggled his hands in gestures that made no sense. “Did you get brainwashed or something? Is all that secondhand smoke getting to you?”

“What?” After a moment, it occurred to Dean that maybe Smecker’s insanely accurate guesses might be old news to him, but they would look pretty freaky to the general populace. “Look, I never said a thing to him about that. He came up with it all on his own.”

His brother kept eying him. “Even when you were over at his place and you were so fucking smashed--”

Dean made a face, then grabbed the nearest file and stuck his nose into it. He still felt uncomfortable thinking about that little fuck-up and he hadn’t figured out why, so he didn’t really want to talk about it.

Sam being Sam, he picked up on it anyway. He sighed and desultorily poked at the folders spread around them. “Well, it figures.”

Dean dropped the file. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well…” For about one second, Sam was thinking about being tactful. Then he got over it. “Dean, you’ve always got to have this…this mission, or something. Hunting the demon with Dad. Taking care of Caleb so the cancer got him and not one of the monsters he’d pissed off. Getting Sue Ann…except that really didn’t last long. And Smecker—the way you talk about him, he’s like back-up and a monster job rolled into one.”

“You make it sound like I’ve got a crush on the guy,” Dean snorted. He waited a second, then glared. “He’s over fifty and he isn’t carrying those years real lightly, you know. And he’s a man.”

It looked like Sam was trying to decide between worry and cracking the hell up. He finally settled for shooting Dean a meaningful look. “You know, I wasn’t actually looking at you like that. You brought it up.”

“Ah, fuck.” Dean rolled over on his back. “No. I’m just confused. I’m just—fuck. But look, he is—”

“Really fucked up? The guy’s got issues, man. A couple of times, I’ve been looking at him and I can see this…he’s not evil, but he’s no picnic,” Sam said. “I wouldn’t count on putting him back together into a happy story.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not sure you’d get that if you could put him back together,” Dean muttered. He slapped his hand over his face. “Look, it’s not a…thing for him. I just want to know what’s wrong with him.”

Sam laughed a little beneath his breath, sympathetic and sour. “Dean, it’s the same thing to you. Anyway, you know what’s wrong with him. You just keep backing off from it.”

That…was a good point, damn it. Time to visit them, Dean guessed.

* * *

Dean hadn’t been standing in front of the altar for more than five seconds before someone lightly tapped him on the shoulder. He hastily shoved the EMF reader beneath his coat and turned around to see a stern-looking priest.

“Can I help you?”

“Yeah,” Dean said, slipping out his badge. He smiled nicely as he put it back. “I’m just looking for—”

The priest blinked. “Mr. Smecker hasn’t been in today.”

It was Dean’s turn to get caught off-guard. He coughed to cover it up and nodded till his mind started working again. “Oh, I’m not looking for him. I just wanted to see what’s got him so fascinated about this place—I’m his partner. At work.”

“Well, in that case…” The priest moved forward and lifted aside some of the wall hangings to reveal a bronze plaque set into the wall. “Normally this wouldn’t be covered, but tomorrow is…”

“All Saints’ Day,” Dean blurted out, remembering. Figured.

That seemed to earn him points with the priest, who smiled and wandered away. Dean glanced around, then took out the EMF reader and aimed it at the plaque. The needle wobbled for a couple seconds, then began to lazily tick like a metronome, like…like maybe it was split between two presences. He suddenly smelled beer; at first he thought it was just because he’d been down in bars all morning meeting with CIs, but then the odor strengthened to the point that he could even recognize it as Guinness. When he looked at the meter again, it was going nuts, needle flipping back and forth so fast it was a wonder it didn’t break and fly off.

Dean took a step back and his foot came down on thin air. He teetered for a second before two pushes on either side of him put him back on solid ground.

He whipped around, but nobody was remotely near him. The Guinness smell slowly retreated, and about a minute later, he thought he saw two figures briefly outlined in the sunny doorway. They vanished when he blinked.

* * *

Dean wasn’t at Edward Greenly’s grave for five minutes before a cab pulled up outside and guess who got out of it. He dodged behind a big family marker and squatted there as Smecker crossed the lawn, kicked a couple pebbles from the path, and finally stopped in front of Greenly’s tombstone.

According to Dean’s watch, six minutes and forty seconds went by before Smecker said anything.

“Is this supposed to be some kind of post-mortem revenge on me, you big dumb fuck? You fuck, this isn’t funny. He isn’t funny.”

And then Smecker put his hand up to his face and his shoulders started to hitch. At that point, Dean turned back around; the EMF reader bounced in his pocket and he took it out, just for the hell of it. The needle was moving again. He glanced back and Smecker was walking back to the road, and some kind of smoke column above the grave was just wisping away.

* * *

Smecker slowly, methodically chewed on his aspirin. “Let me get this straight. You want to grind salt into my carpet. My forty-bucks-a-square-yard carpet.”

“Because I think you’re being haunted, yeah,” Dean agreed.

The door slammed in his face. Dean sighed and jiggled his foot for a minute and a half, and then he banged his hand on the wood again. “Smecker?” Nothing. He shuffled around for a little longer before saying fuck it and just letting God decide whether or not tonight was the night he ended up shooting his partner. “Paul?”

It felt weird, saying his first name. Awkward and too much, like the name was so big Dean couldn’t get his mouth properly around it. It did get him the door opening again, though.

“Don’t. Fucking. Call. Me. That,” Smecker—Paul snarled.

Goddammit, Dean was going to get over it and get to the bottom of it, and he couldn’t do that if he kept flinching at the mark. Paul, he repeated in his head. Paul. “Look, can I like, come inside and talk about this? It’s cold out here.”

“So get a thicker skin.” But Sm—Paul turned around and walked off, leaving it up to Dean. “You’re not putting salt in my goddamn carpet.”

“Okay, okay. There’s stuff besides salt—”

Paul made a beeline for his liquor cabinet and poured himself a glass. He didn’t turn around when Dean shut the door, though he did make a pretty dramatic flourish with his hand. “Why is it that you want to fuck around in my life all of a sudden? If I was in actual danger, honey, would I show up to work every morning?”

“You know, it doesn’t have to be like Poltergeist for a ghost to hurt you. Anyway, you might be alive, but I don’t know if I’d call you healthy.” Dean leaned against the door and put his hands in his pockets. He took his right out a moment later to pull off his tie, then stuffed that into his pocket. “I know you weren’t nearly this bad before—the whole Saints case.”

The other man stiffened. Then he laughed viciously and tossed back his drink, and immediately afterward poured himself another one. “Oh, fucking Jesus. You finally got around to that. Well, you’re not bad, but fuck, Dean—it’s not the ghosts in my life that goddamn did this to me. After all, they kept that damn Reaper or whatever the fuck from killing me.”

He downed that glass, and was halfway through pouring himself a third when Dean got over there and yanked the bottle away from him. Paul rocked backward, shrugged, and then drank what he had while looking straight at Dean. His eyes were the same as when he’d been practically daring the Reaper to take him; they snarled at Dean to just try it then, if he fucking knew everything. Just see if he could stop it, could reach out and snap Paul’s fucking neck and show him that he wasn’t the one with all the cards, and hah! that only would prove Paul was in the right, dumbass.

“Do you ever just shut up?” Dean desperately said. His heartbeat was rattling furiously in his ear.

“Did I say anything?” Paul snapped. He slammed the glass down on the top of the cabinet and the impact of it rocked him forward into Dean. “Did I say a fucking word?”

Dean grabbed his arm and pulled him back up on his feet. Paul shoved back, opened his mouth, and then he was going to say something and Dean bent awkwardly and pressed his mouth over it. They pushed back and forth, Paul swearing every time he got a chance; he bit down on Dean’s lip on the closing of ‘bastard’ at one point. His fingers twisted up Dean’s sleeve, making the fabric snap into Dean’s flesh like another bite, and Dean hissed and jerked his head so everything shifted around and was almost like actual kissing for a second. Then the bottle in Dean’s other hand sloshed up and spilled whiskey all over their shoes.

Paul hauled himself back a couple feet, wiped his mouth on his hand, and then fell over the sofa. He laid there for a second, then pushed himself back up and stumbled for the bathroom. Dean heard the door shut, numbly counted to ten, and then heard Paul throwing up.

He kicked at the floor a little, shaking more whiskey onto his pants than he did off of his shoes, and cursed to himself. After another moment, he said to hell with it and sat down with the bottle at the edge of the carpet-stain.

* * *

Maybe twenty minutes later, Dean looked up and Paul was hanging onto the wall across from him, the top of his shirt yanked open and water still dripping from his collar lapels and hands. “You’re not drunk,” Paul said.

“No, that’s what you do.” Dean spotted the top to the bottle on the floor about a foot from him and stretched out to pick it up. He capped the bottle, then put it on the coffee-table. “Well, when you can keep it down.” He drummed his fingers on the floor. “Do you really like being like this? Why do you keep going to work?”

“I like being like this like I’d like a fucking hole in the head. But think about it, Dean—what would I be like outside of it? What good would that be?” Then Paul settled back against the wall. He maybe slipped an inch. It looked like his leg was acting up, judging from the way his mouth was twisted.

After a moment, Dean got up. He put up his hands and looked at them for a moment, then hesitantly wormed them beneath Paul’s arms. The other man grudgingly started to cooperate and between them, Paul got mostly upright. “About as good as me trying to walk past a haunted house without going inside to warn the people living in it.”

“You got thrown out on your fucking ass a lot, I bet,” Paul snorted. “And you think this makes you an expert?”

“Fuck you,” Dean said. He leaned forward, paused, and then leaned the rest of the way.

Paul bit him again, the damn bastard, but it worked this time and Dean pushed forward, holding the other man against the wall with his hips more than his hands. He knew what he was doing above the waist, and Paul at least didn’t seem like he was going to argue over that, but any lower and Dean’s hands started getting shaky. Paul cursed and grabbed his wrist and just shoved it down there, flapping Dean’s hand around till he sort of got it.

The expensive suit was a pain to get out the way, and Dean’s temper had gone ragged anyway so he kept leaving off one part and starting on another. He got to skin eventually and by then, of course, Paul had gotten his hand down and around Dean’s cock and Dean had his forehead glued to the wall and his cheek to Paul’s bony-ass shoulder, breathing hard and fast and short. He dug his fingers into Paul’s arm and the other man bucked hard into them; Dean moved his hand to scratch and twist at Paul’s shirt instead, trying to keep up, but he lost his place over and over and finally he staggered, his breath stuffing up into his nose and coming out in an explosive burst. He slammed up his arm to catch himself on the wall.

Paul bumped at his shoulder, then twisted out so Dean fell on his side against the wall and had to look up to see him. “That needs work, too,” Paul muttered, reaching for the sides of his pants. His hands were trembling too much for him to hook the belt-loops. “Jesus.”

“Bastard. I’m working on it.” Dean shrugged himself up and grabbed Paul’s hand away from that. “Where’s your bedroom?”

After a moment, Paul laughed raggedly and pointed the way. “You’re a persistent little shit.”

“Yeah, one of my better traits,” Dean said, dragging them down the hall.

* * *

“Last one of the day,” Dean said. He sank back behind the wheel with a grateful sigh. After he heard the door on Paul’s side close, he reached out without looking and turned on the heat. Boston got so cold so much faster than Kansas—ocean effect, according to Sam. “Coffee’s topped up, aspirin’s in the glove-box if you need a refill. I got a call from Martinez and he says he might have a lead on Winter Hill for us to look at tomorrow, and I already said yes.”

Long string of curses from Paul, who apparently had once been in a line where Martinez had cut in front and had never ceased trying to pay him back for it ever since. “Since when do you draw up the goddamn schedule, sugar?”

Dean gave Paul the finger, then reluctantly pulled himself up. He yanked up the parking brake as he checked out the back-view. “Whatever. You’re gonna be glad I did that tomorrow.”

Paul waited till Dean was trying to back them out without running into either the pick-up with the jutting tailgate in front or the state senator’s Porsche behind them. Downside of Paul having a congenital bent for self-immolation. “You’re not that good a cocksucker, Winchester.”

Slamming on the brakes just saved them. And they were in the car, so Dean supposed only Paul seeing his face flame like a goddamn cherry-bomb wasn’t too bad. He pressed his hands on the wheel and took a deep breath, and then slowly shifted to ‘reverse’ again. “Yet.” That shut Paul up long enough for them to safely get into the street. “By the way, Sam and I are checking out a new sighting of the Dover Demon. You sure you don’t want to come, see what that kind of case is like?”

“Positive. I wanted to do a case where I’ve got to carry a shotgun, I would’ve joined the CIA,” Paul drawled. He got out a cigarette; Dean sighed and lowered the window a fraction on Paul’s side, since the selfish bastard never was even going to think about it. “Don’t fucking make me come up there and ID you. I hate Dover. Worst fucking case of food poisoning I ever had.”

“Love you too,” Dean snorted. Then he paused. He took an experimental whiff of the air.

Maybe they’d just driven by a bar. Except Paul had suddenly jerked to attention for a second, and now he was slouching back with a look of reluctant, bitter amusement. “Go fuck yourself.”

Or was it ‘selves’? Dean glanced towards the other man, but Paul had just opened up a file. He checked the rearview and the backseat was empty, but just in case, mumbled some Latin. They might be benign, but they’d better goddamn stay that way while he was around.

“Don’t get in a pissing contest with the Dover boys, either,” Paul muttered. “I don’t have the time or inclination to smooth over their feathers.

“Stop worrying, Gramps. I’ll come back in one piece so you can kick me around, okay?” And just for good measure, Dean flipped the finger over his shoulder when Paul wasn’t looking. They’d better know he wasn’t planning on leaving any time soon.


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