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Like They All Do

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What happened was, he'd thought about killing the marid, but she said herself he couldn't. So he didn't. Not that he'd expect anyone to understand that, least of all Dean Winchester, but that's really how it went.

He'd known the second Dean showed up that all this was probably going to go south. Which is weird, because that thought hadn't occurred to him when he was killing her. You know, that girl. The one he'd bled, then stuffed into the trunk of her own car, not even wrapped--no nothing. It really hadn't. When he realizes that, he realizes that now he's probably going to have to kill Dean, too.

Lee sighs.

He'd always meant to get out of this monster business.

 

--

 

Lee is soft on border control, though not for the reasons his Bice-voting neighbors think, the reasons they hate him for. It's not like he went out and canvassed for crooked Hillary; he's not crazy. He just doesn't want them building that damn wall. Because what won't people will chalk up to chupacabras, or gangs, or desert-variety heatstroke, or all that trafficking shit, you know? Lee knows Matamoros like the back of his hand. He also knew the next bar over wasn't near far enough, but ICE had to go and make things complicated.

Dreams are always built on blood, sweat, and tears. Show Lee where it's written that they have to be yours.

His marid was hungry, and Lee is a provider.

"On the house," Lee says when Dean pulls out his wallet, having already discerned Swayze's Bar as a cash-up-front kinda place.

It's true what they say--that you never grow out of that look. (Even though, Lee saw, Dean's got plastic now.) Lee knows that look like he knows his own face. Dean does not insist on paying his own tab.

It's hard to imagine Dean's spent the last fifteen years circling the drain on missing persons and catching the odd ghost or ghost sickness or whatever the hell he's talking about, but here he is. Still hunting monsters, acting a fool with a gun and a machete. He makes everything sound funny--classic, even. He tells the story of his life the way every guy Lee's ever known tells hunting stories, or stories about having been drunk off their ass, or both. That's how you have to tell them. Otherwise it's some dark shit, and no one wants to hear that.

Lee can hear himself doing it, too, pulling some yarn about John Winchester out of the deepest recesses of his mind. The way he tells it is mostly the way he remembers it, hitching a ride in that black fucking car (he slaps Dean on the shoulder when the fucker says she's parked out front right now) and anyway, getting in that car and kind of wondering if they were gonna steal his shit then cut his balls off and throw them into the cholla. Dean laughs.

They'd had good times, the three of them, and it's exactly the kind of shit you lay on the table when you're drinking with old friends, the kind of stuff that makes you proud you'd lived long enough to turn it into a story. But there's part of him that might remember it a little different.

The day that black car ran up on him, Lee was pushing thirty, and not pleased about it. He was scraping through his life as a dirtbag wanderer, as he calls it now. No longer having fun, but too defiant and probably too much of a fuck-up to have it any other way. He'd tried the college thing but all he'd ended up with was debt and jail. (And the jail, only half because of the debt. Ricky should have made good on his half of the deal, and then probably none of that would have even happened.) That's really the only way you land in John Winchster's phone book and agree to stay there, as far as Lee can imagine. Then he'd stuck around far too long, the way he always seems to. Lee can't ever seem to get out of things in time; he's always there for last call, closing time, the sad, sticky part of the night where the beer's just sheen on the floor and the only girl's the hostess, crying on account of her hips hurting so bad, on account of standing all night, every night. Stay around John Winchester and his kid too long, and you see the ragged edges. You see the edge is really just a seam, split open.

Lee remembers wondering if that Dean kid was really going to make it. At the time Dean had been--what, the young side of twenty-something? And Dean was twenty-something stupid, which had made Lee felt wise; but they'd still been close enough in age to make Lee wary, always worried he was about to be surpassed. When you're a nearly-thirty-dirtbag-wanderer--or at least, one of the unhappy ones--you ain't never want anyone doing that. You'll do whatever it takes to keep anyone from doing that. Especially someone like Dean.

At the time, Dean had had kind of an alcohol problem. He'd been working on it, because his father had so ordered. Sort of ironic, coming from John Winchester, but that wasn't Lee's business. Anyway, there was something about a "brother being no excuse," and while Lee wasn't sure where the brother was or what might have happened to him, Lee also had a rule about staying out of other people's family shit.

Tonight, in Lee's bar, the bar he raised with his own two goddamn hands, with his name on the deed, his signature on tap at city hall, his success apparent in every drunken face around them, Lorna brings them yet another another round. Unsurprisingly, Dean still has an alcohol problem.

"Fuck me," he says.

Lee raises an eyebrow. "Listen," he says. "House rules are, y'all puke outside. I'm not here to buy a new mop every week, and Lorna's got better things to do, right?"

Dean laughs, like they all do. He mumbles something about having, at some point, resolved to drink less, having promised someone; but it's drowned out by the music and the talk and it's like if Lee don't hear it, and Dean don't, then it's not buried and festering but it also doesn't matter anymore.

"I mean, don't let me be the one to pull you off that wagon, brother," Lee says.

Dean shakes his head and drinks. Special occasion, he says, the way they all do. Birthday, anniversary, night out at the bar. Meeting a stranger again. They're all occasions. Dean drinks like someone who'd never really been on that wagon in the first place.

Lee wonders if he'd have felt guilty. You know, if that hadn't been the case.

Lee remembers moving the seat back so he could drive that girl's car into the salvage yard. He'd kept ghost-pressing a third pedal that wasn't there, right hand at a loss for things to do. He'd got her hair caught in the fucking trunk latch, the first time he'd laid her in.

Drove all the way there with her hair sticking out the back like that.

 

--

 

You will never throw these in the lake, the marid makes him promise of the bodies. For those are sacred waters.

The consequences? Who knows. Retribution, she'd said. The end of wealth. The unfolding of curses he cannot begin to fathom. All stuff she'd trotted out any time he'd thought about just killing her, making a go of it on his own. Leaving it all behind--really, this time. But he'd always believed her, and fuck, after that recession shit and then having to deal with Obama, and then, just when the country was under new management and things were maybe looking up, the hurricane. Which, screw sacred waters. Harvey made it clear there's plenty of fucking water to go around. Lee's not in touch with his family much, but they're all down there and he'd had a cousin he liked and she'd just had a baby and when their house and all their shit go under, he's not the kind of man who'd leave his cousin out like that. The circumstances being what they were, you don't kill a monster fronting you gold, you know? And you surely do not cross her.

But when Dean shows up, Lee knows instantly: He should have chucked that girl's fucking body in the lake.

 

--

 

He'd sat on a trash bag, put one down for his boots. He's smart enough to leave no evidence. Knows he can't wash it down or nothing; it's a shitbox in a salvage yard. It's gotta look like it's been in there a decade. Even so, the careful way he treats the dead girl's shitbox--all the plastic and stuff--reminds him of the job he'd been working moving cars for Cesar's down in the RGV.

It's the job he'd been working when he'd first met John and Dean. They'd come into the shop looking to replace a cracked wheel, saying they'd hit an armadillo doing 90. By that point, Lee'd been hunting long enough to know they hadn't hit a fucking armadillo. And he'd been old enough to know Cesar's wasn't what he wanted out of life.

 

--

 

He'd been so fucking sad. That's what Lee remembers about Dean Winchester. Like, mostly Lee remembers those months like a grand fucking adventure, he really does. He remembers the part before the lights went out, last calls turned to echoes. But he can't deny there was some weird shit going on with that family, and sometimes it'd just come out. Dean is a fun guy. Was then, is now. But fuck, man. Lee's never met anyone that fucking sad before. He doesn't know how to describe it.

Now, Lee pulls him up on stage and Dean sings like a drunk, like that thing Lee's uncle always said about whiskey taking away your key so it reminds your pals to take away your keys. The crowd still goes wild, because they're drunk, too, and Lee's the boss and Dean's his friend, and for about a minute thirty, Lee is drunk on power the way he loves to be. He is proud. Self-made. Unstoppable. Everyone and anyone sounds good when you're riding a high like that. When it's your bar and your mic and your crowd like that.

Then Dean's talking lakes and salvage yards and murders and it's fucking sad.

It's just one stupid murder, and Dean can't let it go.

 

--

 

You can't kill me, she'd said. The marid. You've got too much on the line.

And see, he'd thought she'd meant the money.