Disclaimer: All things Supernatural belong to Kripke not me (Rinse & Repeat)
A/N: Props to kimonkey7 for the beta, lurking, de-Aussifications and suggestions. Deeply appreciated from the bottom of my spinal infarction. Any remaining errors are my own.
Michael Gallagher had a ghost problem and the kind of wide, open face that matched his wallet. It was a combination that gave Dean wood and made Sam uncomfortable about discussing payment for services rendered. So it was Sam, of course, sitting at the kitchen table with him now, doing exactly that. In typical Dean fashion, he'd waved the shotgun around cowboy style and headed into the bedroom for a preliminary appraisal of the hot zone when the question of invoicing came up.
When things turned audibly pear-shaped behind the closed door, Sam suddenly found it hard to keep a straight face.
'Is he okay in there?' Michael's face twitched towards his bedroom.
Sam raised his eyebrows, flapped a hand in the direction of the closed door. There was a loud crash and then the faint muffled sound of Dean muttering 'Jesus wept.'
'He's fine. So the spirit – sorry, Katie – has been active for how long?'
'Nearly ten years.' Michael Gallagher counted on his fingers. 'Yep. Katie died just before our tenth wedding anniversary and this would have been 20 years. So, ten years.'
Sam cleared his throat, frowning. Ten years?
'I'm sorry, Mr. Gallagher, I'm trying to understand why you haven't contacted anyone before this. I mean, ten years is a long time to put up with a disturbance.'
'Oh, it's no disturbance. Nonono. I don't want you to get rid of her.'
Sam started to say something, stopped, then started again, brow furrowed. A loud thump shook the bedroom door and they both glanced at it. On the other side, Dean's escalating panic rode a stammered 'HeyheyheyheyHEY!'
Sam twisted his involuntary bark of laughter into a polite cough.
Michael pointed hesitantly at the door and gave Sam a questioning look, which he returned with a reassuring smile.
'We do this all the time. I'm sure he's got it under control.' He leaned forward across the table. 'I'm not exactly clear why you've called us.'
'Look, my wife and I had a fantastic ten years together. We had our ups and downs, but she was the love of my life. About a month after she died, things started happening. And yeah, I was a little freaked at first, but after a while, it was kind of comforting, you know? And it wasn't a problem. A book out on the coffee table here, a light flickering there. Sometimes I'd smell cinnamon coffee in the kitchen. She loved cinnamon coffee. But you know, I missed her. If she didn't want to go, then I wasn't going to argue. First rule of marriage, son. You don't argue. And….my wife, well….she was always very….there's other stuff too.'
'Other stuff?' Sam shook his head, seeking clarification.
Michael's face toggled, willing Sam to get there without an explanation.
'Yes,' he said directly. 'Other stuff. Of a...personal nature.'
'Oh,' Sam sat bolt upright, his face a mix of embarrassment and pure delight. He glanced at the bedroom door, then back at Michael. 'Oh.'
Oh, this is priceless. Dean's getting groped by a ghost.
He blinked long as something shattered in the bedroom.
'Holy crap!' Dean's incredulous yelp was muffled.
Sam shook his head, tried to concentrate on what Michael was saying.
'So, what's changed?'
'I don't know. But this last week – she's angry. I have no idea why.'
Sam nodded, thinking. Okay. So, more marriage counseling than exorcising. Dean was gonna be pissed. He pushed his chair back, motioned vaguely at Michael.
'Look, just excuse me for a second here, before my brother rock salts your wife back to 1997.' He crossed to the bedroom door and knuckled it.
The knock on the door silenced a loud scraping on the other side. Sam waited out the pause, eyes narrowed. He was about to repeat himself when Dean answered, his voice loose and a little unhinged.
'Sam, this is a…. there's a…oh my God.' His voice took on a high pitched keening. 'I think I'm done in here.'
The handle rattled urgently and then the door flew open and a disheveled Dean flattened himself against the wall beside it. An arctic blast of air buffeted them both and he reached a hesitant arm back into the room and pulled the door shut.
Sam raised an eyebrow at his brother's tousled hair, the shirt hanging off his shoulder. He hadn't missed the protective hand still hovering over the crotch of his jeans either, top button askew.
Dean shot Michael Gallagher a wild, awe-filled look.
'Was your wife a little…' He pursed his lips, bobbed his chin in search of the right word.
Gallagher coughed uncomfortably. 'Um, forward?'
Dean gave him a tight, frantic nod. 'Well, that's definitely her then, and she is pissed.'
He straightened his shirt, shivered visibly.
'Did she say why?' Michael was distraught.
Dean huffed off a shaken laugh. 'Ah, no. But she's looking for something in there and man, she is not being gentle.'
He adjusted himself and Sam cringed, shook his head. Classy. Paid gig, Dean. Leave yourself alone for five minutes.
'Tell me, does she ever…?' Dean pointed downwards and scrunched his nose, gave Gallagher an urgent nod.
Michael returned it, eyes wide. 'Oh, yeah.'
Gallagher's nod and eyes grew larger. Dean shook his head wordlessly, wiped his hand across his mouth.
'Yeah,' Michael agreed. 'Holy crap.'
'Any idea what she could be looking for? Any changes to the environment? You get a girlfriend or somethin'?'
Dean tucked his shirt in, slapped at Sam's hand when he pointed to the top button of his jeans. Gave him a facial dose of the Do you mind?'s.
'I did a spring clean last weekend. Maybe I threw something out. She didn't say anything?'
'No, but that drawing on the wall? The You're beautiful, signed Katie one? She's going apeshit on its ass, man. Not happy.'
Michael slapped a hand to his temple.
'Oh, shit. She gave that to me for our first wedding anniversary. The original was on a little piece of pad paper. She had it enlarged.' He looked frantically through the bills on the end of the kitchen counter. 'I took it out of the dresser in there when I was cleaning up. Oh my god, it was here somewhere.'
Sam turned his attention back to Dean.
'You drop something, sport?'
'What?' Dean gave him a blank, distracted look, fingers working the buttons of his jeans.
'The shotgun? Where is it?'
Dean appraised the door fearfully, shoulders sagging. 'Ahhh, fuck. No way. You go get it.'
'You left it in there.'
Dean's fist gripped the denim at the crotch of his jeans. His brow furrowed earnestly as he leant towards Sam.
'Dude,' he whispered, 'that dead chick has really cold hands. I'm not takin' my boys back in there.'
'Ah, guys?' Michael was rubbing his forehead. 'I think I threw the original out. I haven't moved that bit of paper in ten whole years. Oh man. No wonder she's pissed. '
Sam sighed. 'Okay, when's your trash collection?'
'So remind me again why I'm looking through the dumpster in the dark?'
Dean's flashlight beam bounced off the walls of the container, sliced the mist gathering in the alleyway.
'Because you're painfully predictable.'
'I am not.'
There was righteous indignation in that growled response, and Sam shook his head, sitting against the base of the dumpster.
'Dude, you're Edward Scissorhands. It's like the other two options don't even exist.'
A trash bag sailed over the lip of the bin, landed wetly in front of Sam's outstretched feet.
'Just give me a hand here, will ya?'
'No way, man. I rocked your scissors fair and square. You're on your own.'
Something limp and dark arced over Sam's head into his lap and he scrambled up, the banana peel flopping off his knee onto the pavement.
'Oh, I'm sorry – did that decomposing food matter hit you?'
Sam shined his flashlight down the alley, looked up to where the rooftops were framing the night sky.
'You know, if you were looking instead of tossing shit at me, you'd be outta there a whole lot quicker.'
Inside the dumpster, Dean shook out another bag and nosed the tip of his boot through the contents.
'You know what, Sammy – I think it's possible I've reached that point in the dumpster where time has lost all meaning. Oh my god, is that…? Jesus Christ.'
Sam chuckled, flipped open his phone and held it blindly over the lip of the dumpster.
Dean's flashlight slapped against the top of the container, and a second later he was peering animatedly over the top of it.
'Oh, I got plenty a cheese in here for ya, Sam. You want it down your throat or up your ass?'
Sam took the picture and Dean pointed at him. 'Click away, Sergeant Snaphappy. Just remember to lock the bathroom door next time you're jerking off to your Carmelite Nun's Monthly Digest.'
Dean angled his flashlight into Sam's eyes. 'Quiet and frigid, Sam. Just the way you like 'em. And tell me, why isn't Katie's husband in the dumpster looking for this drawing?'
'Because he's the client, Dean. He's paying us, remember?'
'Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first job we've ever had where someone pays us NOT to get rid of the ghost, right?' Dean disappeared back beneath the edge of the dumpster.
Sam cocked his head. 'You know what? I think it is.'
He flipped his flashlight a few times, whistled. It was kind of novel, to be lurking in an alleyway with none of the usual need for stealth.
'Wait, I think I got it.'
'Really?' Sam stepped towards the bin, faltered when Dean corrected himself: 'Aaaah, no.'
'Believe me, whatever I just touched? It wasn't paper. All the disgusting stuff in here? It's got gross growing on top of it. Why's this bitch got her panties in a twist over a freakin' drawing?'
'Sentimental value, Dean. She drew it for the guy.'
'Oh, God. Cry me a fuckin' river. Please tell me you and Jessica never did anything lame like this?'
'Are you serious?'
'Yeah. Like, poetry and stuff. She wrote a bit. She was pretty good, actually. This is pretty full-on though. I mean, this woman's been dead for ten years and her husband's still pining after her? It doesn't exactly sound healthy.'
Dean's head snapped up over the side of the dumpster, eyebrow cocked.
'Dude, he's got the house to himself and he's gettin' blown three times a week by an invisible chick. Throw in a pizza and some beer? God, I could blow my load just thinkin' about it.'
Sam gave him a repulsed sideways glance. 'You're disgusting, you know that?'
'Oh come on, this guy is totally leading with his dick, man. Love of his life, my ass.'
'You got a really fucked up view of the world, you know that?'
'Are you talkin' to me?'
'No, I'm talkin' to the dumpster – of course you. You just can't believe that anyone might possibly have a relationship that transcends this life.'
'Dude, did you just use the word transcend?'
'You can't use words like that.'
'Because asshats use words like that.'
Sam blinked. 'Okay, so what would you like me to say instead?'
'What am I – your fuckin' thesaurus? Just…pick another word, College Boy.'
'You're just trying to change the subject.'
'Oh, my God.' Dean held an imaginary gun to his temple. Pulled the trigger. 'Subject? What subject?'
'You don't believe in true love.'
'That is so not true. I frequently believe in true love.'
'That's exactly what I mean, Dean. You never see any of these girls again. Would it kill you to have someone punch their card twice, do a full day at the mill?'
'Yes. Yes, it would kill me.'
'You know what I think?'
'Uh, busting my balls is a bang-up idea?' Dean clucked his cheek. 'Cause you're wrong.'
'No. I think you're scared.'
'Yeah. That's it, Genius. I'm scared of all the sex I'm having. It's truly terrifying.'
'You can't stand the thought of having something like Mom and Dad had and then losing it.'
'That is such bullshit.'
'What Mom and Dad had? What exactly did they have, Sammy? You know, based on all those home videos and photo albums and – oh, hang on, that's right. We don't have any of those things. They burned. For all we know, Mom and Dad fought like cats and dogs, Sam.'
'Dad adored her.'
'No question. I'm not arguing. But, Sam? Dad was an ass. I mean, you of all people – you two butted heads like a goddamn pair a bulls. You think he didn't drive Mom crazy?'
'That's different. That was after.'
'Yeah, well – he was still a friggin' Marine, Sam. That temper didn't come outta nowhere. You got this idealized notion that life's gotta be happy ever after, Sam. You're gonna meet some chick and plant some little Winchesters. But it doesn't have to be like that for me. And that's okay, man. I'm not scared. I'm not runnin' away from anything. I'm just okay with it. Okay?'
'You really don't ever see yourself settling down with someone? Ever?'
'Dude, I never say never. You know that. But that would have to be some fine woman. I mean…she would have to be a knockout. All across the board. My socks would have to be flying right off.'
He threw a demonstrative hand up over his head and a slither of shredded paper came off his sleeve. Sam watched it flicker to the ground and disappear into a puddle beside the dumpster. He thought about the type of woman Dean was describing.
'And you would have to be in possession of Rohypnol.'
'Okay, so assuming a woman of that caliber would touch you with a ten foot pole. And also assuming you weren't so intimidated by this woman that you crapped your pants and ran a country mile, then you'd consider it?'
'Consider what? We talkin' marriage or kids or both?'
'Either. Hell, not even. For you, let's just say you stay in the same zip code long enough that it might be mistaken for you sharing your life with someone.'
'This life? I'm ass deep in trash bags, Sam. Who am I gonna share this with? Besides, what're you? Chopped liver?'
'So we're what? Bert and Ernie?'
'Yeah, Sam,' Dean deadpanned. 'You're my all-weather bitch.'
Sam spun with his flashlight, illuminated a hesitant Michael at the end of the laneway, shielding his eyes against the beam.
'Hey, Michael, what's up.'
'I've been calling you for half an hour. I found it. It was in my jacket pocket. Funniest thing. I never threw it away.'
He came down the alley, the drawing outstretched in his hand. Sam took it, his free hand groping in his own jacket for his phone.
'Sam?' Dean said, forearms crossed and flattened against the edge of the dumpster. 'The man says he's been tryin' to call us for half an hour there.'
'Oh.' Sam handed the drawing back to Michael and stared at his cell, studiously avoiding eye contact with his brother. 'Huh. My cell's off.'
Dean nodded slowly. 'Your cell's off.' He sounded as though the knowledge were coming to him from a distance.
Michael clapped his hands together. 'Well, really guys, this is above and beyond. Thank you, so much. Why don't you head back upstairs and you can get cleaned up. I'll write a check.'
Sam shrugged. 'Sure. That sounds great. We'll be up in a minute.'
He watched Michael's retreating back disappear out of the alley and turned to face Dean.
'In his pocket the whole time.' He laughed nervously. 'How 'bout that?'
Dean pushed back from the lip of the dumpster, looked down around at his feet.
'Perfect,' he muttered as he bent to pick something up.
Dean vaulted over the edge of the dumpster with the spry, athletic purpose of a cougar and Sam didn't wait around to find out what was in his hand. He took off down the alley at a sprint.
It was going to taste bad. That was all he needed to know.
Thanks for reading :-) Pdragon76