Disclaimer: Oh, how dearly I wish the Boondock Saints DID belong to me.
A/N: No action, no slash (they're brothers, for pete's sake. That is just wrong.) Just a sort of meditative, pointless look at what the Saints might inspire in their old neighborhood. And the irony of naming a cop "Seamus" (pronounced SHAY-mus) is not lost on me. If it is lost on you . . . well, you need to watch "The Big Sleep" and "The Maltese Falcon" a few more times. It's really rather clever. Trust me.
The badly-lettered sign hung crookedly over the sort of cobbled-together stall one would expect in an old-world marketplace – not on the corner of a street in South Boston. Seamus Duncan glanced at the huddled old woman running the stand.
"You honestly expect me t'buy this?" He raised an incredulous eyebrow.
The old woman cocked her good eye – the other was glass, and drifted blindly to the side as if it had better things to be doing – and cackled softly. "Oh, they're always skeptical. But they always buy. If ye've come this far," She held her palm out coaxingly, "Five dollars ain't too much farther t'go."
Seamus examined the object in the old woman's palm. It wasn't much, just a tiny glass vial the size and shape of a medicine capsule with a few strands of dark hair trapped inside. Suspended from a black leather thong, it was meant to be worn around the neck.
Seamus glanced around the all-but-deserted street. Sure, he was way out of his usual bounds – but it would be just his luck for someone he knew to happen along just as he was shelling out five dollars of his meager cop's salary on a phony reliquary.
Seeing nobody, he sighed and dug into his pocket. "Okay. Then you'll tell me where the building is?"
"Of course, love." The glass eye drifted vaguely back his way, like the gaze of an old girlfriend. "Just down that street there . . ."
There was nothing there.
Not that he'd expecting anything else, of course, but . . . Seamus kicked diffidently at an ancient, rusted-out tin can. This was it. The building they'd lived in once, long, long ago. The place it had all started – or at least, as close as he would get.
And there was nothing there except garbage and years upon years' worth of condemned dust. He didn't dare try the stairs. Even the first floor seemed in imminent danger of crumbling away beneath him and dropping him into some deep, unknown purgatory beneath the street level. And whatever traces might once have existed to prove that saints had been here, they were long gone – done away with by rats or treasure-hunters or time. He should have known.
Seamus turned and picked his way carefully back the few paces to the door, shivering a little in the late February cold. He should have known. The real world did not have mystic shrines to mark the paths of saints – if, indeed, it even had saints.
He should have known. He shoved his shoulder against what remained of the front door and stepped out into the cool wind – only to find a dark-clothed man leaning against the stone railing of the front stoop, watching Seamus intently and smoking.
Seamus started and stumbled, nearly tumbling down the steps before catching himself.
"Sorry." The stranger said, "Didn't mean t'startle ye."
Seamus shook his head. "No problem." He smoothed the front of his coat, self-conscious. "Are you the landlord?"
"Nae." The man had tousled hair and a slow, watchful manner, and the soft Irish burr of his words had a working-class pedigree behind it. "Usedta live here, once. Haven't f'r a long time, but I was in th' neighborhood. Stopped by f'r a smoke – f'r old time's sakes."
"Ah." There was a long pause, as Seamus tried to think what he could say to explain his presence. The stranger handled it for him, however.
"Lookin' f'r somethin', were ya?" The man inquired, taking a long drag on his cigarette.
Seamus shrugged and thought of the talisman he'd bought. "Not really. A fairy tale, I guess."
The stranger had noticed the reliquary, and he gestured at it with eyebrow raised. "Or a myth?" He asked, humorously. He shook out another cigarette from his pack and offered it to Seamus.
"Maybe." Seamus accepted the cigarette and lit it. "Thanks." He held out his hand, and the black-coated man clasped it. "Seamus Duncan."
The man in black half-smiled and nodded politely. "Y'can call me Nolan," He said – though the quick way he mumbled the word made it sound more like no-one. "Pleased t'meet ya." He nodded and leaned back against the stone railing. "So. Lookin' f'r myths, were ya?"
Seamus laughed. "I know, it sounds stupid."
"Not as stupid as ye'd think." He nodded at the reliquary again. "This part a' town does a brisk trade in stories and trinkets. People come here from miles away: from other countries, some of 'em. All lookin' f'r that myth. All lookin' f'r the Saints."
Seamus shrugged and looked around at the bleak, stained stones of the slum. "There's no Saints here. Maybe there never were." He stared at the glowing end of his cigarette. "But we come anyway."
"Aye." The man in black looked around, too – but somehow his face made it seem that what he saw wasn't the same thing that Seamus did. "Ye do come. Lookin' for hope, maybe. Or memory."
"Maybe." Seamus stared at the crumbling old building across the street. "Had a poster of Them, y'know." He said suddenly, "On my bedroom wall."
"Did ya now?" The man in black raised an eyebrow in amused astonishment.
"Yup." Seamus grinned. "Mom hated it, of course. Threw it out four times."
The man in black snorted. "Not sure as I blame 'er."
Seamus nodded. "I know it's stupid, now. But for a kid in our neighborhood –" He shrugged. "At the time, you could be a Saint or you could be street."
"Which did ye pick?"
By way of answer, Seamus pulled out the leather case that held his badge and flashed it at the other man.
He nodded and glanced away. "I guess they did ye some good, then." He didn't seem much older than Seamus himself, but there was the weight of a whole age behind that murmured phrase.
"They did." Seamus studied the polished surface of his badge, trying to find words. "It's hard being here. Hard asking myself why I'm here."
"Why are ye?" The man in black lit a new cigarette and tossed the old stub away into the gutter. "Why is it that you came down here, Seamus?"
"Because they did me that good." Seamus tucked the police badge back into his coat. "Because I've made a lot of choices based on that good. Somehow, I wanted there to be something here . . ." He shrugged. "Something to tell me those choices were right."
"D'ye mean their choices?" The dark man asked softly, "Or y'r own?"
Seamus smiled. "Both, really. They're both of them sort of mixed together, y'know?"
"Aye. Things'll get that way, if ye let them." The man in black blew a little smoke into the cold air, staring at the ghostlike patterns it left in the air.
"I've got it figured like this." He said after a moment. "We think there's good men n' bad men in th' world, but we're wrong. There aren't good men or bad men. There's just men who do good or bad things, f'r right or wrong reasons." He paused. "And in th' end I don't think it's the things that matter. I think it's th' reasons. It's not the choices, but th' reason we made the choices."
Seamus thought that over . . . and nodded. "Yeah. That makes sense."
The man in black half-chuckled. "I certainly hope so." A look of sudden, wrenching doubt crossed his face – and was quickly replaced with a grin. "It's a lot of explainin' I'll have to do if I'm wrong."
Seamus chuckled and nodded. "You and me both." Then he dropped the stub of his cigarette and ground it out beneath his heel. He nodded. "Thanks for the smoke. And the answer."
The man in black snorted. "For what it's worth – y'r welcome." Then he nodded cordially. "Good luck to ye, Seamus."
"Thanks." Seamus buried his hands deep in his coat pockets and started down the street – but a shouted "Wait!" made him stop and turn around.
"Wait a moment!" The black-coated man jogged to catch up with him, breath steaming in the air. "Let me see y'r little charm, will ye?"
Seamus slipped the leather thong over his head and held it out, watching the tuft of hair and the little glass vial that contained it turn softly in the light, cold breeze.
His new friend rubbed his hands together briskly and glanced heavenward with a look that Seamus couldn't have defined – half-reverent, half-silly. Then he took the little reliquary gently and held it between his gloved hands.
"Th' Lord bless ye and keep ye," His accent gave the words their own gentle ebb and flow, like a tide, "Th' Lord make 'is face t'shine upon ye and be gracious to ye, th' Lord lift up 'is countenance upon ye and give ye peace. Amen."
"There." He smiled and slipped the reliquary over Seamus' head, hands resting on Seamus' shoulders – for just a fraction of a moment – in a gesture that was unmistakably a benediction. Then he let his hands drop. "P'raps it'll do ye some good, now." He grinned and held out his hand. "Take care of y'self."
Seamus shook the other man's hand. "Yourself also." Then he turned and walked away.
The black-clad figure watched him go until he rounded the corner and disappeared. Then he shook his head, scratched absently at the tattooed Blessed Virgin on his neck, and glanced heavenward.
"It's a bloody fine sense o'humor Ye've got, isn't it?"
He stood still for a moment, poised as if waiting for or receiving a reply. Then he shrugged deeper into his black peacoat, turned into the nearest alleyway, and lost himself in the gathering evening.