Title: For Shepherds They Shall Be
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: The pub's façade was as plain and worn as McGinty's back in South Boston; it was an island of familiarity in a strange place. 2300 words.
Spoilers: Boondock Saints (1999); Dresden Files roughly "White Night" era
Notes: For faithburke, who requested BS/DF ages and ages ago, for the prompt "There's a sword in Dresden's apartment that's waiting for a wielder." NOT COMPLIANT with "All Saints Day".
Murphy sighed, hands thrust deep in the pockets of his coat as he and Connor walked the nighttime streets of Chicago. He cut a sideways glance across the street at the mob flunkies casually keeping pace with them and shook his head, still baffled by what they'd discovered in this town.
Da still remembered a lot of his connections from the years he'd spent helping the Yakavettas and other old mob families police themselves. Murphy and Connor had been born toward the end of that period, on one of Il Duce's vacations back home; but most of the time their old man had roamed America, too rootless to stay in one place for long and too prudent to linger where he'd made enemies. His luck had finally run out after twenty years, and he'd spent the twenty-five after that behind bars; but the Families were the Families, and most of them were still in power. Rather than remain in Boston to risk their own arrests after taking down Papa Joe, his sons had taken those old threads up to give themselves continued purpose.
The Vargassis, as Da recalled them, would have been well worth the killing. But Connor and Murphy had arrived to find that someone else had done so before them- and built his own, more efficient organization on the old one's bones. A quick call to Agent Smecker had filled in part of the story; then a ginger giant had shown up at their motel to escort them to the man himself.
There was no question John Marcone was as corrupt as any who'd come before him. The problem was, he was also a principled man- if one could believe what he said, and what was said of him.
"D'you really think he means it?" he asked his brother, thinking about that unexpected meeting.
"He knew enough to see us coming, didn't he?" Connor shrugged philosophically. "I believe him when he says he knows everything that happens in his city."
"And do you believe him when he says he'd kill his own men for selling drugs to the little ones or slaving kids off the streets?" On one hand, Murphy had never met a criminal at Gentleman Johnnie's level who wasn't obsessed with the bottom line, and he'd met a lot of criminals even before getting into the business of ending them. But on the other-
"Don't know about that," Connor said. "But I do know I didn't feel like he needed killing."
Murphy sighed. They'd started down this path almost by accident, no thought given to degrees of evil beyond their loyalty to old man McGinty. But they'd woken the morning after saving themselves from Ivan Chekov and his thugs with a shared vision and a conviction; and though the path had grown more difficult since their baptism in that holding cell in Boston all those years ago, that sense of purpose had never left them. When the guns came out, when dangerous men were at hand, the world narrowed down and they simply knew. There'd been no such 'knowing' in Marcone's office.
Well; perhaps for one or two of his men, but not the fit, green-eyed man at the center, who wielded his sharp mind and cool competence like any other weapons. Marcone had known who they were and what he'd say to them before they'd ever set foot in his city. It had left Murphy wondering why he'd let them live as much as the other way around.
He made a face. "Aye," he admitted, grudgingly. "He felt a lot like Da to me, to be honest." Like a predator: but one with blackened wings, not cloven feet.
Connor snorted. "Makes me wonder what might have happened if Roc had lived. We could've left in him in charge of the Yakavettas, let him clean up Boston the way Gentleman Johnnie's done here."
Murphy wasn't too sure about that. Lord knew he'd loved the man, but Rocco'd had his share of shortcomings. He hadn't really shared their calling; and he'd paid the dearest cost when they'd let him set the agenda. Only Da's intervention had spared Murphy and Connor the same fate.
He shook his head and dismissed the subject. "Let's grab a beer and then update Smecker." If they didn't want the local FBI coming down on them, they'd have to let the agent know they'd survived their meeting with Marcone and that they might be staying awhile longer. Murphy wanted to make sure Marcone really did keep his people reigned short of that line- and Connor had wondered what other forces might have evolved in Chicago to make the mafiosos want to play nice.
"It's as good a plan as any," Connor said, then headed for a door down the street, flanked by a small sign that read 'McAnally's'. The pub's façade was as plain and worn as McGinty's back in South Boston; it was an island of familiarity in a strange place, and even better, Marcone's enforcers had already passed it by.
Murphy nodded and followed after his brother.
The door was level with the sidewalk, but the floor inside wasn't; Connor nearly stumbled on the first step, distracting Murphy as he followed him down. As a result, he didn't even notice the sudden pervasive feeling of calm that stole over him until he'd taken several steps in, standing among the scattered tables and pillars cluttering the main space. It was definitely a pub, but not like one he'd ever seen before.
He took a few deep breaths, just staring around at the ornately-carved pillars and the sparse, strange-looking patrons; some wore cloaks, or carried staves, and one even had what looked like a sword-cane back in the corner across from the door. Murphy blinked, then shook his head and followed Connor to the bar, where a solidly built man of undetermined age was drawing a pint for another customer. The bartender wore a spotless white apron over dark, solid-colored clothes, and behind him a real wood-burning grill simmered with the scents of cooking meat.
He frowned slightly as the boys approached, glancing first toward the door behind them and then toward the guy in the corner, but didn't bother asking them any questions. He just grunted and started drawing two more pints at Connor's order. Murphy frowned, idly curious whose turf they were trespassing on, but didn't put much energy into worrying about it, especially after he took his first sip of the properly warm, dark beer. It tasted nearly as good as some of their uncle's brew back in Ireland, and half the day's tension seeped out of him as he savored it.
He and Connor each ordered another when those went dry, and two steak sandwiches to go with them; it had been a long time since lunch, and the smells of the place were delicious. By the time they'd finished those, they were more relaxed than they'd been since their last trip home to see Ma, when they'd dropped Da off to catch up with her. Almost relaxed enough not to notice the grey-cloaked man who sat down beside him as he pushed his plate away- and just enough not to reach for a weapon when he recognized the patron from the corner.
"Nice sword," he said casually, eyeing the cane held loosely in the stranger's hand. The man was tall- even taller than the thug who'd escorted them to Marcone- but whip thin, and the way his presence immediately grabbed Murphy's attention he was reminded even more strongly of their meeting with the mob boss. He gave off those exact same 'dangerous but not evil' vibes to Murphy's senses, though he didn't look like he was part of Marcone's organization.
Connor seemed to feel it, too, for he slid off his stool and planted himself next to Murphy, appraising the stranger with a wary eye.
The stranger appraised them right back. He had dark hair, a little on the shaggy side; a lean, strong-featured face; and cheap but durable clothes under his cloak, a lot like what Murphy and Connor were wearing with a few extra inches at wrist and ankle. He didn't look either of them in the eye, but he did thrust out a hand in greeting, the dim light of the pub glinting off several silver bands around his fingers. "Nice... coats," he replied. "I'm Harry Dresden. You new in town?"
Dresden said his name as though they should recognize it; Murphy shrugged as he shook the man's hand, and let his brother answer.
"Connor," he said, casually, "and this is my brother, Murphy. We're just passing through. D'you have a problem with us drinking here while we're in Chicago?"
Dresden had frowned for some reason at Murphy's handshake, and the crease in his forehead had grown deeper when he shook Connor's hand, but whatever had been bothering him lifted when Connor gave their names. "Murphy, huh?" he said, brows arched high. "No- no problem. Just wondering if you'd noticed the sign when you came in the door."
Murphy shared a glance with Connor, then looked back; he didn't remember a sign. But there surely was one there, stating 'ACCORDED NEUTRAL GROUND' in big block letters.
"Are turf wars that much of a problem here, then?" he asked, taken aback. That was just about the last thing he'd expected, after the events earlier that day.
Dresden cleared his throat, looking uncomfortable. "Ah, it's a long story. How did you know to come here?"
Connor frowned, warily. "It just looked like a good place to grab a beer."
Dresden seemed even more perplexed at that; he shifted his grip on the sword-cane and frowned back. "Have you heard of the Knights of the Cross?"
"The Ordo Militaris Crucigerorum cum Rubea Stella?" Murphy replied, feeling at least as taken aback as Dresden looked. He and his brother had gone to Mass regularly all their lives, but this was the first time a random stranger had asked him questions about church history. "What does a Bohemian religious order have to do with anything? I didn't think they had any parishes here."
"The Ordo what?" Dresden turned back to him, then shook his head. "Not unless they're also known as the Knights of the Sword? I think we're talking at cross-purposes here."
"There's something special about the sword, then?" Murphy deduced.
Dresden met his eyes for a fraction of a second, dark gaze measuring; Murphy felt an odd pull, as though he were toppling over the edge of a cliff, before he looked away again. "You could say that," Dresden replied, then slowly unsheathed the blade, balancing it on his palm with the hilt toward Murphy. It was a single-edged sword, chisel-pointed, and obviously well-cared for; Murphy's palm itched as he looked at it. He didn't know much about swords in general, but that one called to him somehow.
"It has a way of going unnoticed unless it's needed, and I felt like I should bring it today. You're the first one that's paid it any attention all evening, so I thought... but I might have been mistaken."
Murphy wasn't sure what to make of that, and Connor seemed equally puzzled. But Murphy wasn't one to let a mystery slide, no matter how odd it sounded, and as old McGinty would say, people who lived in glass houses shouldn't sink ships. They carried out God's will; who was to say God didn't meddle in other men's lives, as well? If the sword was really some kind of Catholic relic, it wasn't that far-fetched an idea.
He reached out and cautiously curled his fingers around it, wondering if God would grant them another sign.
The hilt fit snugly into his palm; it felt strangely light, even when Dresden let the other end go and left him holding the sword alone. But nothing else seemed special about it; he felt no strange sensations, no sudden convictions. He frowned at Dresden, unaccountably disappointed.
And that was when Connor reached over and wrapped his own hand around Murphy's.
Instantly, the edge of the sword lit with a flare of brilliant white light, casting sharp shadows throughout the pub. Connor swore, and they stood frozen a long moment, just staring; Murphy couldn't even think as he gazed into the light, hearing a low sound like a softly sung hymn in the back of his mind. Then Connor let go again, and it dimmed to a low silver glow, flickering in Murphy's hand.
"What the fuck?" Connor hissed at Dresden.
The other man let out a slow breath, then nodded. "That was a job offer," he said. "I think. Not the Murphy I'd thought it would be, but- well. There's a man in town I think you should meet."
"What sort of job?" Murphy asked cautiously, taking the cane from Dresden. He sheathed the sword slowly; it stung a little, watching the light go out as the blade slid home. He already knew he didn't want to give it back again.
"Michael can explain it better, but- basically, the swords serve the righteous for a just cause," Dresden explained. "I don't know what your beliefs are, but somehow I doubt it would have reacted like that if you weren't the type. How does Sanya put it? Those who protect those who cannot protect themselves, and pit themselves against the forces of violence and death when they arise."
Murphy caught his breath, hilt still warm in his hand, and glanced at his brother. Other forces, Connor had wondered; well, they'd found themselves one.
It was like the morning after in the holding cell again, world remade anew around them. Connor nodded slowly, evenly meeting Murphy's gaze. "I reckon we could stay in Chicago awhile," he said.