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Snakes By the Roadside

Chapter Text

"W-we gotta get our story straight," Husky stammered. He licked his salty lips.

"What are we gonna say?" Bo whined.

"We saw the body but we did not touch it. It just got up all on its own self. We did not try to do the secret thing."

Bo's quivering brow furrowed. "Neck...necro..."

"You can't even spell it."

"Sure can't."

"Now walk away slowly."

Bo sniffled helplessly. "He's never gonna believe us. We're gonna be in trouble!"

"Walk away, Bo," Husky demanded again.

Bo nodded and backed away. His big brother grimly faced him and followed.

The body laying half on the dead grass, half in the murky swamp jerked and sat up. It rotated a full one hundred eighty degrees to face the retreating boys, severing the spine with a sharp pop.

Bo 's legs went limp and he slipped in the mud. "Hu-H-H-Hi-Hus--"

Husky scooped him up and sprinted. "RUN!"

~~~

Mike took a sip of coffee from his oversized mug and set it down. His rocking chair creaked as he settled in, opening his newspaper to the stocks report.

The wind was still. Weird. It was supposed to storm today, but that would hardly be the first time that two-bit hack of a meteorologist was wrong.

From deep within the jungle that was the backyard, he heard a series of broken off high pitched yelps, then,

"DADDY!"

in his oldest's voice. He expected that from his youngest, who was prone to hiding behind his legs when he finally pissed his brother off. But coming from Husky nearly gave him a heart attack and he bounded off the porch. Something was deeply wrong.

"Boys?"

Husky tore a path out from the trees, hauling his sobbing brother on his back. They sprinted past him into the house screaming their heads off.

"What the hell?" He came to a stop and scratched the back of his neck. Soon, he heard the strangled moans of whatever was chasing his kids.

He turned around and saw the pale, stiffening body running like an awkward giraffe.

"Oh hell no!" he yelled. "Bo, get my shotgun!"

"Where is it!" the tiny voice cried inside.

Mike charged the reanimated body and threw himself like a spear at it. He tackled the body and gained the upper hand easily, hooking his hands under the thing's arm pits and bringing it over his head in a suplex.

"In the closet!"

Under him, the zombie muttered, "Ow. Ow. Ow."

Mike paid it no mind. His youngest child skittered out with a too-big rifle--wrong one, but whatever.

"Sh-should I shoot?"

"No, please don't," the body said. "I'm just looking for my car!"

Mike looked down. "You know who you are, son?"

"Uh...yeah. Think m'name's...Dean? Yeah."

Mike unwrapped himself from around the young lad. "Stand down, Bo. Go get your brother out here. I done told him about this damn voodoo business too many times."

Bo hid a mischievous grin. "Ooh, he's in trooou-ble!"

Chapter Text

Mike crossed his arms and tapped his foot, peering down angrily at his oldest son.

"What have I told you about necromancy?"

Husky sighed and sank further into the couch. "Not to."

"And what did you do?"

"I necromancied."

"Now I have a zombie in my kitchen. Your brother is scared half to death! And don't bring him back if he dies!" Mike pinched the bridge of his nose. "God, I gotta clean all this up before your mother gets home. Again."

"Wh-what are we gonna do with Dean?" Bo asked.

"Well, he said he's looking for his car. Where'd you find him?"

"Out near the main road," Husky said. "Car crash. Threw him out in the woods."

"We'd better go find it. Send him on his way, I guess." Mike tried to rub away the migraine that was forming. "Lord."

"But his back is broken," Bo said.

"Not our problem."

Bo frowned and went into the kitchen where the strange man--zombie didn't really fit--sat crooked and hunched over in a chair.

"Dean?"

The man tried to sit up and turn around.

"Yeah?"

"Do you remember where you were going?"

"Um..." Dean scratched his head more out of some forgotten habit. "Nope."

"Do you have anywhere you wanna go?"

"Uh, yep. My car."

Bo sighed in exasperation. "Then what?"

"I dunno. Look, kid, why do you care?"

Bo scrunched his nose up at being called kid even though this guy looked barely older than him. Like, what, seventeen?

"I want you to get back to whatever you were doing before you...um, passed."

"Passed? Passed what?"

"Do you not know you're dead?" Bo said in shock.

"Dead? How the hell am I dead?" Dean got up in a huff, head still rotated around too far. Bo winced.

Chapter Text

The rickety red pick up truck stopped at the point where the main road turned off into a dirt road. There was a tire and some scrap metal, and just a bit beyond an orange convertible was smashed into an ancient willow tree like the two had tried to merge.

The door of the car hung open uselessly. There were marks in the grass and dirt, footprints at first, then the outline of a body. Past the outline, signs of dragging.

Mike glared at his oldest. "You drug him out?"

Husky silently stared at the window. Bo, tired of waiting for the impending spanking, sighed.

"Yes, daddy."

"Lord."

Dean hopped out of the car while it was still running and dashed to the wreckage heap. Mike parked the truck a few feet away.

"Fuck," Dean whispered. "I am dead, aren't I?"

"That you are. And no real way to get you to where you were going." Mike stood behind Dean, rubbing his chin. "Or any idea where you were going."

Bo turned to Husky, who was leaning against the hood of the car.

"If he just gets in the car, will he go away like a ghost?"

"Uh...nope."

"So...what do we do with him?"

Dean was quite tired of the little family talking to him like he was--oh, well, yeah he was dead. But he was still there, damnit, and he could hear them.

"You don't have to do a damn thing with me. I'll make my own way."

"Now, hold on a minute son. I want to make this right, since it is our fault. Well, theirs." Mike glared at his kids.

Dean spat and glowered from under his bloodied bangs. "I ain't gonna be a morality lesson for your kids. I'm gettin' outta here."

"Dean, where you gonna go?"

Dean was already walking away. He threw up both his arms, flipping them all off twice as hard for a response.

Mike shrugged. "Well, that's one less problem before dinner." He noticed Bo staring after the man, concern etched on his face. Bo, the sensitive one of the duo, but no less reckless.

"Don't go after him," he warned.

"He won't make it past the night," Husky said, attempting to be reassuring. Bo huffed and huffed, tears welling up in his eyes and his lips pulled tight but he didn't say anything else. Mike hitched down to the car and started rummaging through it.

"Well," he said. "Let's see if we can find anything else about our friend."

Chapter Text

Bo stayed in his room most of the day, drawing and coloring pictures of bodies in pools of neon-colored blood.

He shouldn't have let Husky pull him outside. They were bored. It's summer! What's the worse that could happen? The two of them often joked about poking dead bodies until it became a reality.

There had been a terrible wreck off the main road. They'd heard it, charged into it to help. The car was smoking but not on fire, but jammed into the old willow tree they used to play on so badly they didn't dare hope for survivors.

"We gotta call someone!" Bo called, breathlessly as he ran after his big brother. Despite his girth and assumptions about it as such, Husky took off like a shot and ran like a damn track star. Bo, on the other hand, lacked such stamina unless he'd had about four Pixi Stix. 

They stopped just short of the smoldering wreckage. The tree was safe, which was a weird comfort. But the car...an expensive, custom paint job orange convertible. White wall tires. Doors trimmed in something unrecognizable.

There was a body inside, slumped over the steering wheel. Arms dangling at his side, useless. Head dripping blood. Husky shook his head.

"Poor son of a bitch," he said in a spot-on imitation of his father's voice that would have been hilarious if not for the circumstance.

"Gosh..." Bo sighed. He looked over at his brother and caught him smirking deviously. "O-oh no, what you gonna do?"

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could bring the fella back?"

Bo's heart sank. After a few experimental squirrels, dad declared Husky's experimental wizardy quite against nature and forbade it. And not even death could escape dad's punishments. Bo was in no mood and no hurry to be under that hand again, so when Husky gleefully tried to drag him over to the car he dug his heels in the dirt. 

"NO!"

"Come on! Don't you want to save him?"

"He's already dead, Husky! Quit it!" 

"Come on, you wuss. You wanna be a wuss for the rest of your life?"

Bo stopped, hesitant. He didn't want to be a wuss. It was bad enough everyone saw him as a baby and treated him as such. He yanked his arm out of his brother's grasp and ran up to the car, yanked the driver side door open before his brain could catch up.

The body flopped out. Bo retched at the smell of metal and blood. Eyes white like oleander petals stared up at him; the guy, not that old, was probably handsome in life. But now he was blood-stained with a horrific gash across his forehead.

There were other things, too, but Bo was too busy puking. Why did he do this? Husky snapped some branches off the willow tree, claiming they were full of energy. He pulled the heavy body out the car and on to the ground.

"Let's just go home," Bo muttered.

"Wuss wuss wuss!"

Bo sighed. He found himself helping his brother drag the body to a near by pond that was mostly algae and animal droppings to say the least.

Husky say under a tree and Bo joined him, soon curling up and closing his eyes. Husky was weaving the branches together into a wand, sprinkling dust on top and muttering whatever it was he said. Bo, having sufficiently proven he was no wuss, was over it.

Husky went back to the body and started drawing the weird circles. Bo turned his attention to the heron standing solemnly in the opposite end of the pond. The ritual was long and boring, so he felt his eyelids growing heavy and his breathing slowed.

"Asmodeus, we beseech you."

"Ain't no 'we'," Bo said under his breath.

He didn't know he'd fallen asleep until Husky's quivering hand grabbed his wrist.

"W-we gotta get our story straight..."

Bo peered behind him and saw the previously deceased driver sitting up and staring at them. His big eyes went even wider.

"Oh, my god..."

~~~

Bo finished another picture and stuck it on his closet door. Well, his and Husky's as they shared a room. Two beds. Husky was out digging a new road or something, shoveling in the heat until dad was satisfied.

Mom poked her head in the room. "Honey? How are you feeling?"

Bo shrugged. "What'd dad say?"

Mom stood in the door way, hands on her hips. "Dad can't tell me how you feel."

"He tell you what happen?"

"He said y'all saw a dead body. I know that can't have been..." Her eyes strayed and caught the montage of morbid drawings on the closet door. "...pleasant."

"I'm aight."

Chapter Text

Husky came in just before supper, sporting a bright red farmer's tan and a scowl. Dad was right behind him. In fact, the whole dinner party was rather dour this evening.

"Sooo, guess who I saw today."

No reaction. Mom sighed and dropped her fork.

"Garth Brooks, guys. Garth Brooks bought a hat from me."

"Don't he have enough?" Dad said.

"He's Garth Brooks. He's gotta have the whole country thing."

Husky and Bo continued to poke their food. Bo suddenly stood up.

"May I be excused?"

Dad looked at him over his black, thick rimmed glasses.

"To...?"

"I'm...I'm not hungry."

Mom opened her mouth to balk but Dad held a hand up before she could get a word out.

"You may."

Bo nodded and shuffled back to his room. Husky looked up.

"Me too?"

"No," his parents chorused.

Upstairs, Bo sat on the edge of his bed pulling his sandals on. He threw a hoodie on, too, just in case.

Their house wasn't very tall, but jumping out the window with no safety net was daunting. Usually Husky was there to catch him, but all he saw now was a sea of teal. He closed his eyes, threw one leg out the window, and rolled out.

He hit the ground with a thud and a sharp pain in his ribs. Of course he fell wrong. But he could bear it. He huffed and wheezed as quietly as he could out the backyard and to the dirt road.

By the time he reached the crime scene, it was nearly dark. The car was still there and probably would be forever. The tree, allegedly brimming with energy, did have a slight blue glow courtesy of the sunset.

He got closer to the car, not sure what he was hoping to see. But it made him tingle from his head to his naked toes. He peeked in the car and saw a body resting inside, imitating breathing even though it no longer had to.

He tapped. "Dean?"

Dean opened one eye. "You keep coming back."

"I thought you left..."

Dean reached over and nudged the door open. "Get in."

Bo swung the door open and got in the car. He tried to pull the door closed but it got stuck about halfway. Bo looked over; Dean didn't seem to mind. He was playing with a lighter he found.

"I smoked," he said. "Not just cause I have a lighter, but I can feel it in my lungs."

"Do you remember what you smoked?" Bo asked quietly.

"Something filterless. Goddamn, I was unhealthy. Look at this gut."

Bo laughed. He drew his knees up to his chest. It was a strange feeling, being in this car with a boy. A dead boy. But that persistent tingling wasn't from being in the presence of a corpse.

"So, I didn't get very far before I learned undead people aren't very welcome. A dog bit my leg and a man shot at me. Think he got me? Anyway, I got nowhere to go. So I wandered back down here." Dean settled into the seat. "What's your name, anyway?"

"Bo."

"No what?"

"Bo!"

"Oh." Dean blinked. "Bo. Sounds like a hick name."

"And you sound like a dumb yankee."

"Hey! I remember enough to know that's an insult!"

Bo chuckled and rested his head on his knees.

"Um...Bo. Thank you for coming back to me. And...bringing me back, I guess."

"That was my brother. But you're welcome, I guess. Sorry you got no memory."

"I'll get it back eventually. I ain't got no synapses firing up there but clearly I can think. In fact, I already remember where I was going."

Bo perked up. "Where you going?"

Dean laughed, short and ragged. "Cin-ci-natti!"

"What you gonna do there?"

"Not sure but I think it was big. I was going back, not away, so I must be from there. See? This ain't so hard. I'll just sit here in this car until I remember everything."

"Okay. I'll wait."

Dean turned his milky-white gaze to his passenger, concerned.

"Nope, you gotta go home. I'll still be here, promise."

Bo shook his head. "I wanna help."

"You just feel bad. You said it was your brother, any way."

Bo blushed in the darkness. "I feel bad! B-but it's just the right thing to do. Why can't I help?"

"I hate people feeling sorry for me. Especially little kids named Bo that live in the boonies!"

Bo growled and latched onto Dean's shoulder with his teeth. Dean's sensitivity had greatly decreased but the little creature's teeth still managed to hurt and he screamed and tried to shake him off in the car.

Bo's head hit the dashboard and knocked him loopy for a minute, but soon he was slapping away at Dean's face and chest, much as he could in the small space.

"I'm trying to help you, you idiot!" he shrieked. "I want to help you move on! I don't feel bad for you! I feel bad that my brother is a dick!"

"Okay, Okay, Christ! Get off me! You fight like a wet weasel in a paper bag!" Dean grabbed Bo in a bear hug. Bo held his head down to hide his flushed face.

After the two of them settled down, Bo spoke first.

"Sorry."

"Me too."

"I--"

Bo was cut off by a flash of bright headlights turning onto the dirt path. He and Dean froze in place as the truck pulled up and dad and Husky got out.

Mike took a long look at the undead man hugging his child and Bo couldn't tell if he was unimpressed or amused.

"No sense sleeping there. Come on, Bo, and bring your friend."

Chapter Text

After Bo went to his room, the oldest boy and his wife stared at Mike with dumbfounded looks.

"Me too?" Husky asked.

"No."

"What was that all about? Do you think he needs a therapist?"

Mike smirked. "Not yet."

"You...you know something I don't, don't you."

Mike doffed an invisible cap and got up from the table. After the dishes were washed and put away--all by Husky, of course--he sat on the living room couch and waited.

Bo falling from the window sounded a little worrying, but Mike let it take its course. Husky pestered him about video games a few times until Mike threatened to knock him out with the controller. Husky shrank away with his occult book from the library.

He couldn't wait for school to be back in.

Instead of his usual evening paper, Mike dug out the wallet and papers he'd found in the crashed car. Just as he suspected, the kid was a bit confused and not at all what he seemed.

He didn't know the specifics of being brought back from the dead, didn't want to, but he was pretty sure this Dean had just given himself a new identity. All the documentation read Jon Moxley, but not a Dean anything anywhere.

Mike paused. What if...what if he was possessed? By a demon named Dean? Or an angel?

"Uh...Husky, can you come over here."

The bedroom door opened a crack. "Bo's gone."

"I know. Say, how do we know that kid is dead and not possessed?"

Husky rolled his eyes. "Because I did the dead ritual, not possession."

"Is there a chance it went wrong...?"

"Nope. Demons only come when you get something good for em. They wouldn't break a whole different seal just for--"

"Okay, I got it." He looked up at the clock. "Hmm. Better go get the boy. Tell mom we'll be back."

Husky pestered his mom in her Lady Cave and followed his dad out to the truck. Mike started the engine and they rolled out to the dirt road.

"He's at the car?"

"Of course."

"What's with him? I'd like to think the novelty has worn off."

Mike snorted under his breath. "You never liked someone?"

"I mean, yeah, but..." Husky's breath caught in his throat. "You don't mean. You ain't suggestin."

"Oh, come on."

"Dad, you dont know Bo like I do. His heart's in the right place but he ain't that bright."

Mike snorted again, because he did understand Bo, quite a bit, because they were exactly alike.

But he nearly went back on his word when they pulled up to the wreckage and he saw what appeared to be a spindly-armed son of a bitch strangling his child. But upon further inspection, they were hugging. He thinks. Bo looked like he might cry and Dean didn't know what the hell was going on, even as he subconsciously drew the boy in closer.

"There ya go," Mike said. "Always thought you'd be the one grave robbing."

Husky covered his face. "Ugh, dad. No."

"That was funny!"

"This is too much."

The two of them got out of the car and Mike bit down on the inside of his cheeks to keep from laughing.

"No sense sleeping out here. C'mon, Bo, and bring your friend."

Dean and Bo climbed into the flatbed. The truck took off again, a bit slower now, back to the house.

Bo inched up to the back window. "Um...dad? Can Dean stay? He's got nowhere to go in addition to being dead."

"He sure can, soon as he starts telling the truth."

Dean threw his hands up. "I barely know anything about myself and now I'm lying!"

"I believe you," Bo said.

"At least someone's with me."

The truck pulled up in front of the house and everyone piled out and back inside.

"Honey, Bo brought a friend back." Mike looked over and saw Husky panicking. "What?"

"Oh, is he hungry?" Mom poked her head out and gasped. In her living room was an alabaster young man with goopy eyes, bones that looked stuffed in his skin, his forehead decorated with a lovely ruby gash like a headband.

"Nah. He's dead. One of Husky's little...experiments."

"Oh, my god."

Dean shied away. "Hey. Name's Dean. That I do know."

"Oh, you poor thing! You must have been in that car wreck. Do you...feel pain?"

"Your son bit me."

"Bo!" Mom yanked Bo's ear.

"Oww."

"Nah, I deserved it." Dean sniffed. "I don't wanna be a bother or nothin."

Mike tapped the paperwork on the glass coffee table that he'd had fixed three times now. "Moxley ring any bells?"

"Oh, Mike, cut the child a break. He's beat up and, ah...well, I think he could use a rest."

They all ignored Husky muttering "a dirt rest". But with all the attention focused on him, Dean suddenly felt trapped.

"Let's stitch up those wounds so they don't look as bad."

Mom and Bo escorted Dean into the bathroom and shut the door. Mike beamed, proud of himself for once again restoring unity to his family.

In the bathroom, mom pulled out some sewing needles and black thread. Bo pulled out a spool of yellow thread.

"Can I do it, mom?"

"Well..."

Mom grazed her hand across Dean's forehead and he flinched; she nodded to her son.

"Go ahead."

Dean sat under Bo's ministrations, unflinchingly, and let the kid sew his head up with yellow. Bo pushed down Dean's tattered coat to reveal human bite marks. He winced in shame.

"Oh! I know!"

He dug under the sink for a box of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bandages. He took the last Leonardo out and proudly stamped it on Dean's shoulder.

"I feel like I'm too old for this," Dean said, trying not to grin at the sticker.

"Nuh-uh."

"Was one of them named... Dawn? Don?"

"Donatello!"

"Oh yeah. I remember this. Definitely too old."

Mom snickered from the bath tub.

"Where did you get shot?"

Dean shrugged off his coat. The T-shirt underneath was stained with oil and blood. "Think it grazed me."

Bo held his own sore ribs in sympathy. He pushed the shirt up--carefully eyeing mom--and was relieved to see the wound was, indeed, a graze that was nothing to speak of.

"And the dog?"

"Gonna need a Raphael sticker."

Bo laughed and fished one out, pressed it against the punctures on his ankle.

"Done!"

"Thanks for humoring him," mom said. "I bet you were a great big brother."

Dean shrugged and smiled. "Who is humoring? I am grateful."

Bo raised up, grimacing and rubbing his side. Mom seemed to have missed it but Dean furrowed his brow.

"Where will he sleep?"

"Oh, I guess he can have the lady cave for now. It's not too frilly."

Mom escorted Dean to her alcove, which was decorated with softly glowing paper lanterns and Christmas lights. The furniture was very brocade heavy, and there was a bookcase and small television.

Mom went over to the couch and fluffed the pillows a bit.

"Can you sleep on that?"

"I can sleep on anything." Dean crashed on the couch and folded his arms behind his head. "This is really nice."

"We'll leave you to your...well, just relax."

Mom pulled Bo out of the room. Mike and Husky quickly rejoined them to argue the merits of vegetarian brain and blood substitutes. Having had quite enough for the day, Bo wandered back into his room and fell face first on to his bed.

He was awoken several hours later by a gentle jostling.

"Hey. Hey. Bo."

"Is it morning?" Bo slurred. In the darkness, he saw Dean on the edge of his bed with the TMNT bandages.

"Which one you like?"

"Um...I'm not hurt."

"Your ribs."

"Oh." Bo rubbed his side again. "They're alright. I just fell wrong coming to get you."

Dean sighed. He slowly pushed up Bo's shirt; Bo gasped from the shock of Dean's icy fingers on his skin. Dean tickled around for his ribs. When he found a swollen patch, he pressed a Michaelangelo bandage on the area. He gently patted and let his hand linger.

"Thanks for today..."

Chapter Text

Dean didn't seem to be decaying but he wasn't getting better either, so his makeshift stitches had to be changed every few weeks. Otherwise, as they found out, things slipped out.

Bo snipped the rainbow thread he'd created. "All done."

"Thank you. Let's hit the sticks."

"I gotta do homework."

"What? That shit's never gonna get you anywhere in life."

"I'd like to freaking graduate on time," Bo muttered.

Bo didn't get very far into his algebra before Dean tackled him. For someone who couldn't heal, Dean sure didn't act or feel fragile. He liked to wrestle and he liked it way too much for Bo's tastes. And he liked to tickle. Apparently, he just generally liked touching Bo in ways that made him uncomfortable. This was an ongoing development, actually, that stemmed from innocent hand holding and brotherly hair ruffling. But Dean had been getting increasingly bold and rough, to the point where Bo often wondered if he needed someone to guard his virtue.

Case in point, he'd already managed to position himself between Bo's legs twice in clumsy pin attempts. If that wasn't suggestive he didn't know what was.

Dean jumped off the bed, cross body, and landed on Bo sideways. He transitioned into an armbar that Bo was pretty sure was unnecessarily snug and probably about to pull his arm out the socket.

"Okay, uncle, god!"

"No DQ."

"That's not what that means!"

"Kiss me and I'll let you go."

Bo sighed, barely concealing a small grin. He knew that was coming or something similar. He nodded and Dean let his arm slip free.

It wasn't that he didn't want to kiss Dean, as a matter of fact he really did. It was just that, well, what if it didn't stop there? He wasn't too sure how his family felt about him losing his virginity to a corpse right in their house.

Dean crawled across to him, eyes wide. He wasted no time with romance and went straight for the kill.

He was stopped at a frustratingly quick peck by the door cracking open. A smoky quartz crystal ball rolled in, reflecting not it's surroundings but what looked like the living room.

"Dad told me to keep an eye on y'all," Husky muttered, sounding like this was the absolute last task he wanted in the world, and shut the door again. The crystal ball showed him in the living room blowing off homework for video games.

Bo couldn't say he was totally disappointed. Dean, however, swore loudly.

Chapter Text

Even if he didn't remember what feelings of lust were, Dean was pretty sure he was overcome with them.

It started with school. Before the first day, Bo got his long dark locks snipped off to a more manageable curly mop of something. Dean wanted so badly to say it looked stupid, but it actually framed his face in a fetching way. Bo has big, clear eyes that look friendly when he's smiling and haunting the rare times he isn't.

As it turned out, Bo was taking the bus for his junior year because he changed schools. Why? Bo, normally chatty, was surprisingly mum about the issue.

Dean would never admit he was worried, just curious. He snuck around looking for snippets of information. From what he could piece together, there had been a series of fights. Dean grinned a bit to himself, remembering the bite on his shoulder from two months ago. A little tidbit from Husky suggested Bo was starting the fights.

He liked that even more.

Bo seemed like he preferred the do no harm approach but he certainly took no shit. It wasn't long into the first month that he'd gotten suspended.

Mom sighed in the kitchen. "Are you going to have to change schools again?"

Dean leaned in to the door way. He saw Bo shake his head.

"Promise."

"You fighting bullies? I'll beat em up."

Mom and Bo glared at him.

"I don't get bullied," Bo hissed.

Dean nodded and tried to walk the shock off. That was definitely familiar. Atta boy.

Later that night, Dean was on his way to his lady cave when he saw a light on under the door. He knew Husky was still out for a bizarrely long football practice, so he cracked the door open.

"You okay Bo?"

"Yeah. Just mad."

Dean crossed over to his bed and rested a hand in his bare arm. He shivered. Despite all his time here, he never really touched Bo before. He'd felt his hands clinically stitching him back up, sure, but not really a friendly touch or hug. Dean felt nostalgia for a sensation he barely remembered. But still, Bo felt...familiar in a warm way.

"Let go of my arm."

Dean realized he'd started squeezing. Bo really did look pissed, with his eyes ringed red like he'd been crying or yelling. Dean probably should have left it alone.

Probably.

He wrapped Bo in a bear hug before the kid could protest. Sure, that would make him feel better. Never mind that Bo was kicking and pushing away.

"What are you doing!"

"Hugging. Don't you like me still?"

"I mean, I guess. But...but..."

"I...like you." Dean blinked and nodded. "You've been nice and cool to me this whole time."

Bo went quiet, but stopped fighting, leaning into the hug.

Dean could still feel, to an extent. He could feel texture. He loved texture. Bo felt soft and gooey in his hands and he wanted to feel his insides.

That was really bad. Good thing he couldn't pop a boner.

(He was insulted that Bo wasn't)

"What...do you wanna do?"

Dean was pretty sure he'd done this before but he didn't recall it being so easy. Bo laid back and placed Dean's hand over his stomach.

"You can't even get it up."

"Yeah, but I've got these hands. I'm gonna make you feel real good."

Bo scoffed, but turned his face into his pillow to hide his blush. Dean ran his hands across his ribs and hips. He could take his time exploring and remembering--

That is, until Husky popped in through the window smelling like alcohol. Bo shot up and collided with Dean so hard they both fell off the bed.

Husky looked around and frowned. "I won't tell if you won't."

"Deal."

From that wicked little taste thereafter, Dean made it his afterlife's mission to get laid. He had it all planned out: mom went to work until late, dad was going to be back on the road soon, and Husky was too busy talking to Satan or hanging with the buddies. Bo was practically all his, and didn't seem too hesitant about anything Dean wanted to do.

But ol' Mike Rotunda was sharper than a goddamn steel eagle; even if no one told him, he sussed it out eventually. He started subtly keeping them apart. He magically appeared whenever they were alone for five minutes. Dean even tried sneaking outside; for that, he'd been evicted from the lady cave to a shed outside. With locks. And a camera.

Dean was losing his mind; he took to hugging Bo way too hard and wrestling him like every match was a hardcore title defense just to blow off steam. Just brotherly stuff. Right?

"You're pretty good," Mike said into one of Husky's security crystal balls. "Why don't you bring that into the ring instead of molesting my son?"

Dean hated and loved that Bo had a family that cared about him that much, because he knew innately he never had that. Even if it was a huge boner kill.

Chapter Text

Vince McMahon knew one of Mike's kids was into...interesting stuff, to put it kindly. But he did not expect to see Mike himself hunched over a table, staring into a pink crystal ball.

Vince leaned into the office and tried to figure out how to ask. He put a knuckle to his lips in thought. The man looked so damn intent and focused that he hated to break his concentration. But he had to know.

"Um..."

Mike jerked a bit. "Hey."

"You, uh..." Vince gestured. "That whole business."

"Oh, this? I'm just keeping an eye on the kids while I'm on the road. We've got an exchange student in the house. They're...handsy."

"Oh!" Vince laughed. "Oh, brother. That's how they raise em in other countries, you know."

"They're from Ohio."

"Eh...well. Is that the oldest? Is he still into the wiccan stuff?"

"I think, at this point, he's offensive to wiccans."

Vince inched closer until he was standing behind Mike's shoulder. Through the fog, he saw what he assumed was Mike's living room. On the couch sat his youngest and the alleged exchange student, who was glaring a hole right through Mike's soul and mashing buttons way too hard in a video game controller. Vince knew that look all too well.

"How long is he there?"

"A while."

Vince laughed again. "Say, that thing get cable?"

Chapter Text

Halloween was still a few days out, but Bo and Husky had already enlisted Dean to help them string up ghosts and goblins. Plus, it gave Husky a reason to dress like a druid and not look out of place.

Dean remembered Halloween, but didn't recall if he'd ever dressed up or, if he did, as what. In fact, most of his past memories seemed tinged with a red haze of pain.

Everyone thought he was slacking off, but Dean was slowly but surely recovering his latent memories. He remembered generalities, no specifics yet, but he was getting there. Sometimes he just needed a trigger, like the smell of roasting chicken or seeing a bluejay in the yard. The problem was, he never knew what the trigger would be or what ghosts it would conjure up.

The sounds of Tim Burton movie soundtracks filled the air. He pinned another cartoon ghost over the couch, bumping into one of Husky's security balls. He had them set to float around like sentinels now, after Dean had managed to crack a couple. He cursed and waved the offending thing off. He had to agree with mom, though--the ambiance they brought to the house was nice.

Dean dropped down from the ladder. "Done," he said. He leaned over to peek into the kitchen, where Bo was sneaking candy out of a jar on top of the spice rack. He smiled; his memories of Bo, and to some extent the rest of his family, were tinged with pastel blue. He took that as a good sign.

"Done," he said again, louder.

"'Kay!" Dean could tell Bo had a mouth full of candy. "Let's watch a movie!"

Dean plopped onto the couch and folded his arms behind his head. "Cool. What we watchin?"

"Something scary."

Bo took a moment to turn off the stereo then joined Dean on the couch, remote control already in hand. Dean helpfully thumbed off a smidge of chocolate from around his lips.

"There's a whole mess of marathons on right now," Bo muttered. He intently scanned the channels for something he recognized. He settled on a black and white movie that had barely gotten past the credits. He bounced on the couch excitedly.

"Ooh! You know what this is?"

Dean squinted. "Night...of the Living Dead."

"It's a zombie movie!"

Dean lost all the wind in his sails. "Are you fucking kidding me? You think just cause I'm dead I want to watch other undead people? I'm fucking offended!"

"God, Dean, chill out. It's got a good message and stuff."

Any more of Dean's protests, sarcastic or serious, were quickly silenced when Bo snuggled up to him and rested his head on his shoulder. That was pretty alright. They sat in comfortable silence as the movie officially started, Bo squeezing Dean's hand periodically.

Apparently, this old movie with its overwrought acting made him very happy. Explained their whole relationship.

The brother and sister pair slowly drove through a cemetery. The woman looked a bit loopy to Dean, but her nebbish brother was an asshole so they canceled out.

"This is my favorite part," Bo said. He stretched his arms out, crooked his fingers, synced himself up with the nebbish brother as he taunted his sister. "They're coming to get you, Baabraaa!"

Dean wanted to laugh, but the noise stuck in his throat. His whole world turned red. His lungs that didn't work urged him to gasp for air, blood that had ceased to flow through his veins chilled.

Images kept flashing through his mind: a bloodied face, a man in white, a man with an eye patch. Black hair flying. Gunshots. Bird wings flapping.

"We're comin' for ya, Moxley..."

Bo shook his shoulders. "Dean? Dean, talk to me. I'm sorry if I scared you!"

"Y-you didn't scare me," Dean stammered. "I'm okay. I'm just...I had a bad memory."

"A memory? You didn't tell me you were remembering stuff now! Oh, oh I'm sorry. We don't have to watch this." Bo quickly turned the channel to something with brightly colored witches. "I didn't think about you."

"Yes you did. You thought I would like it."

"Yeah, cause I liked it so I wanted you to." Bo sighed and pouted. "What did you remember?"

"Just...a guy. A guy with an eye patch. And...and another one with long hair. Two guys with long hair. One of us got shot. I think the dudes with long hair were with me." He groaned. "Screaming. They called me Moxley."

Bo rubbed Dean's back in broad, comforting circles. "So your real name is Jon, then?"

"No. I'm sure of that. Moxley was my street name."

"Ohh, so you're a gangbanger!" Bo laughed, but Dean didn't see the humor. His chortles died in his chest; he'd never seen Dean so shaken. It frightened him more than all the Halloween movies he'd ever seen combined.

But if he was scared, Dean must be terrified. He gripped the man's cold hands and pressed them to his lips. "I'm sorry."

"You're not wrong, I don't think. I think you're very right."

"Hey...hey. I know dad told you you had to remember who you are so you can leave, but you don't gotta. You don't have to remember anything you don't want to, if it's painful. I don't want you to hurt for our sakes."

Dean wicked away the tears forming at the corners of Bo's eyes. He really had no words for the compassion pouring out of that boy's mouth. He couldn't scoff or push it away because he desperately wanted that pity. Without thinking of the consequences, he cupped Bo's face and pulled him in for a kiss.

Kissing Dean wasn't wholly pleasant; naturally, his mouth was quite dry. And since he didn't truly need to eat, he tended to fill himself up with sugary sweets so he tasted syrupy and cold. Bo thought he might pull away and back down, but when Dean dropped his arms to his hips and pulled him onto his lap he felt his restraint breaking.

The mood was thoroughly broken by an enthusiastic "woooo" from upstairs. Bo slid off Dean's lap and banged on the wall.

"He's having a nervous breakdown, you dick!" he yelled.

"Nervous breakdown for that ass," Husky answered.

"He's not wrong."

"You're all horrible people." Bo rubbed his temples. "But I meant what I said. You don't have to force yourself to remember just because we said so. You can start a new life."

Dean stared at the moving images on the television screen. "Yeah. I think that's what I was about to do. But I also feel like if I don't remember anymore soon, something bad's gonna happen."

Chapter Text

A trio of bicycles squeaked their way down the highway. One of them had a bell that the rider insisted on ringing every few minutes, until one of them tried to kick him off his bike.

They were the kind of friends that could only be forged by dangerous trials and millions of dollars resting in three baskets.

At some point the road turned to dust and they were in the desert. Someone had ripped off that goddamn bell and now he was sad. Who was it? He shouldn't focus on minor details like that, but it was important to him.

"Moxleeeey Moooox..."

The next memory was a small church. His ears were ringing so bad that the gunshots next to his head sounded like thuds. A mass of black hair that wasn't his; his foot connected with a body and knocked it out of the way. Laughter. He sat up and rolled over, still holding his friend's hands. The two of them looked at each other; the other one was screaming. These dudes were fucking armed.

In the doorway, a man. He spread his arms open like wings and a dove flew past him, softly. Where was--

~~~

Dean shuddered and sighed. He was getting closer. He was sinking under a wave of memories and as he fell further, their combined weight was crushing him.

He flicked his lighter and lit his cigarette. Yeah, he couldn't breathe but smoking comforted him. Just the smell of nicotine brought him back to the surface.

Three heavy knocks on his shed door. He tilted his head.

"Come on."

The steel door opened. Dean had never been more disappointed in his fairly new afterlife to see the silhouette of Husky.

"Lunch is on."

"I don't eat."

"Ohh, yeah, that's right. Is that why I saw you cramming ya mouth full of cookies."

"Fuck off, Bray."

Husky grimaced at his formal name. Even though it was a balmy sixty degrees out in the dead if winter, he had on a heavy long sleeved robe. That usually meant he was about to pop on over to the graveyard to hang out with spirits.

But Husky was still there and staring him right in the eye.

"What ya thinking bout? Your mind looks heavy."

Dean sat up on his makeshift bed. "Lotta things."

His cigarette popped out of his mouth and floated over to the sorcerer. Husky inhaled and exhaled a plume of pure white smoke shaped like a horse.

"You don't breathe either, so you wasting that cigarette." He inhaled again and exhaled flaming red smoke through his nose. "If you really want to get into your own head, though, give me a holler."

"No thanks. I think you've done enough what with...you know."

Husky shrugged. "If I could right my wrongs..."

There was a storm of hacking and coughing from behind them. Bo waved away at the multicolored smoke and rubbed his eyes.

"The hell are you guys doing in here? I thought Husky quit weed."

"We're having a séance," Dean said.

"Husky, you know what dad said about séances."

Husky hung his head. "I know. Actually, I was just going to pop some herbs in his mouth to help him remember his past."

Bo sighed. "That again. I told you that you don't have to do that."

Dean clenched his fists. "You don't understand. I need to know who these people are so I can--" He let out a frustrated grunt. "I've been...remembering things. I think people are looking for me. I don't know who, yet, but I think I'm gonna have to go soon. To protect you. I can't let you down like everyone else."

Husky's belly laugh startled him. "Looking for you? Is that all? Man, all of us a' pretty quick with the shotgun, they're gonna have to get through us to get to you."

Dean's jaw went slack. Why was this family so damn nice to him? He was a stranger, a dead one to boot. Some part of him kept whispering not to trust it, that it was a trap. That trusting people never turned out good. But if it was a trap, then he was a mark because he was going to walk headlong into its warm embrace.

Bo chuckled as well. "Yeah. Yeah. Me an' Husky set up booby traps all over the place all the time." The laughter died down and his face grew serious. "Are you really gonna do this? If it means you have to leave?"

"I..." Dean sighed and ran his hands through his hair. "I don't know. I just..."

Husky started inching his way out. "I'll give y'all a minute." He blew a cloud of smoke up at the security camera. "Make it quick."

"We're not going to do anything!"

"Sure you're not."

Bo glared at his brother, but was quickly distracted by Dean pulling him close and resting his head against his stomach.

"I'm gonna do whatever it takes to keep you safe."

A quick memory flashed behind his eyes. A dark haired kid in the desert, smiling, incessantly ringing that damn bell. His own voice saying,

"Yeah, yeah. Nobody has to get hurt. Eyes on the prize, boys."

Chapter Text

Bo woke up the day after New Year's to a heavy weight sinking down on his bed.

"You're not getting any this year, either," he slurred.

"That's not what I want. Hey."

Bo yawned and sat up. "Whyyy?" he whined.

"I came to say bye."

"Oh goddamnit, Dean, I knew you were gonna do this."

To show how prepared for this day he was, Bo reached under his bed and pulled out a bright orange overnight bag. It sagged with the weight of clothes and shoes he replaced periodically.

"N-no!" Dean stuttered. "You can't go, you have to stay here!"

"Whatever, dude." Bo was already pulling off his pajamas, the early morning dark apparently making him immune to shyness. "If you didn't want me to come, why'd you tell me?"

Dean went mute. He watched Bo pull on a thermal shirt and a hoodie, some scuffed tennis shoes, and pulled his neck-length hair back.

"What's the game plan?"

"Do I look like someone that plans?"

Bo rubbed his chin. "You did crash into a tree and break your back twice, so...no. Let's go out the back."

Bo gripped Dean's hand tightly and pulled him to the back of the house, out the screen door because dad didn't put much stock in finishing his DIY projects.

A moment of hesitation gripped him; dad was probably going to beat the hell out of him twice, once for running away and again for scaring mom.

He gripped Dean's hand and pulled him onward. He might as well go whole hog at this point.

"Where, exactly, am I dragging you?" he asked as they hit the dirt path.

"Back to the crime scene," Dean said. "I need a car."

"That one's been totalled for months now!"

"Yeah, but there's something else in it I need."

For the rest of the twenty minute trip to the car, they walked in silence. When the car was in sight, Dean snatched his hand away and dashed to it, Bo calling behind him.

Dean kicked the rusted passenger door open. The car was being slowly stripped by passers-by and other scavengers, and assorted nature was reclaiming the rest. Last he checked, there was a family of turtles in the trunk.

"What are you doing?" Bo demanded.

"Watch." Dean took a jagged shard of metal and ripped the seat open. In the tears, there were specks of green. More and more until it was flowing out onto the dew-wet grass. "Dad didn't find everything. Got room in that bag for a grip?"

"Uh..." Bo knelt down and unzipped the bag. "Uh. Maybe. But how are you getting a car? We can't take dad's. I'm already going to get beat, I don't want to die."

"Being dead ain't that bad. I promise."

The two of them stuffed as much money as they could into Bo's bag, and the left they left to the turtles and robins. They continued their trek up the path and onto the main road, past the point where Bo waited for the school bus and closer to civilization. The sun coasted up over the horizon, tinting the world hazy pink and blue.

Bo yawned. "So...we gonna get into why exactly you need to leave?"

"I gotta find a kid. Named Seth. He was my partner before the crash. I gotta make sure he's okay, and he's gotta fill in the rest of my memories."

"And he's in Cinci?"

"Eh...maybe. After that heist, we all agreed to split up. Me, him, and Roman. 'Cept the heist didn't go so well."

The Rotunda family's nearest neighbor was about a mile and a few cows away, but in the city the houses seemed even more disperse. There were mostly shops out this way, bagel places, and certain chain restaurants. Dean sighed.

"You want breakfast, babe?"

Bo covered his cheeks. "Did you just call me babe? Are we in a real relationship?"

"Don't push it. Sugarfoot."

Dean tilted his head towards a bagel shop with about a handful of patrons. They went into the shop and Dean nudged Bo towards a booth. He leaned down and whispered,

"Tell the lady we're here with a friend and get two bagels, an Americano, and lox."

Bo shrank under the sudden cloud of danger hanging over them. "O-okay..."

"And...smile!"

Dean went into the men's restroom just as Bo got up to put in their order. An elderly couple openly gawked at him but kept their mouths shut. He checked back to make sure Bo was wearing his most winning smile.

The men's restroom was just two stalls, befitting a mom and pop shop. He spied a pair of loafers under the door and waited, picking his nails with the piece of scrap metal he'd saved from the car wreck.

The man eventually flushed and came out of the stall to wash his hands.

"Shit, sorry man. Didn't hear you come in."

"That's okay," Dean said. He sized up his target.

The man was several inches shorter than Dean, bald with sleek thin rimmed glasses. He appeared to have on two polo shirts that were both tucked into his oversized cargo shorts. And...loafers.

"What's your name?"

The man dried his hands. "Why?"

"Me and my friend got some breakfast for you."

The man looked and quickly realized that there was a six foot plus man between him and the door, no matter how sickly that man looked.

"Look, I don't have any money."

"Got my own money, friend. You own the deuce and a quarter outside?"

"Maybe."

"Just need you to drive us somewhere."

The man took a deep breath. Before he could yell, Dean was at his throat with the metal shard. He drew a bead of blood that mingled with the man's sweat.

"Look, dude, I'd rather just feed you and pay you than kill you. You like lox?"

"Y-yeah!"

"You want some coffee?"

"I already had two cups!"

"Get another cup. Just drive us where I tell you, okay?"

"O-okay. I got it...um, my name's Jason."

Dean and Jason left the restroom smiling and laughing. Bo looked up from his steaming hot coffee, perplexed. Dean motions for him to keep his head down.

"Uh, hey friend..."

Jason grabbed his keys you of his pocket. "Ready to go?"

"Uh, yeah."

Bo stuffed everything back in the paper sack and left a tip. The three of them went out into the morning fog and got into the strange man's Buick.

"Drive." Dean patted the man's collar and left him a hundred  bill.

Bo climbed into the back seat and nestled his head into his bag. Maybe if he didn't look they wouldn't be committing any crimes.

He nearly nodded off. A few minutes later he looked up--why were they headed back? The man turned off the road and back onto the dirt path.

"Stop here," Dean said as they approached the car wreck.

"Christ, what happened there?" Jason asked.

"A man died. Pretty ugly. Looked a lot like...you."

A quick jab to the shoulder and a spurt of blood hit the ceiling. Bo stared in shock as Dean threw the man out of the car and took his spot in the driver's seat, sped off for the main road again.

The shock took a long time to wear off before Bo could work his jaw again. Dean looked at him grimly from the rearview mirror.

"I was kidding, unless he's stupid he's gonna be fine."

"But...why, Dean?"

Dean sighed and shook his head. "Kidnapping. If I do all the bad stuff, you won't get in trouble. Right?"

Bo snickered. "I mean, that's sweet but it's kind of stupid. We're gonna be on Dateline no matter what."

Dean pouted, making Bo laugh even harder.

"Don't worry about that guy. He'll be okay. But are you ever going to tell me what this is all about?"

"Yeah." Dean gripped the steering wheel. "Next gas station, promise."

Chapter Text

Husky rolled out of bed on a cool morning. He yawned, scratched his incoming peach fuzz and arm pits, and waddled towards the bathroom. The harsh glare of the bathroom light made his face look sunken, eyes bloodshot from a night of drinking with the fellas. His hair was a bit greasier than normal, too. But, no matter, he had a conjuring date.

He brushed his teeth and ran a rudimentary comb through his hair, then went back to his room to get dressed. He gazed over at Bo's bed and saw his brother's lumpy body. He grinned. Good ol' goody-two shoes--not really, but mom and dad didn't know that, so whatever. All wrapped up tight and sleep before the sunset, usually up before the sun rose.

But the sun was up and Bo was sleeping in. That in and of itself wasn't off; after all he'd had a rough round of finals, desperately trying to keep from switching schools again. But the shape of his body was a bit unnatural. As Husky's eyes adjusted to the darkness, it didn't take long to realize he was looking at a swirl of empty blankets and pajamas.

A sudden moan outside. Husky's first instinct to check it out, but the initial sound made him think he'd better leave the lovebirds alone. He, personally, wasn't against his brother and the corpse's attempted couplings and hated acting like dad's personal interloper. In fact, he'd been meaning to tell Dean for weeks that it was less about him being an abomination and male, and more about him trying way too damn hard.

The moan floated up through the window again, and Husky was used to the sound of tortured souls in agony so he ran to the window to check it out. Outside was a man crawling along the grass, clutching his shoulder. There were splashes of red on his polos--two polos, who in the world did this guy think he was? But he was crawling along and begging for help.

Husky cursed and went out through the door-less back door, rounded the corner to meet the man before he got too far.

"What happened to you, man?"

The man looked up at him. He'd clearly been traumatized.

"Ah-A man stabbed me, and took my car..."

Husky squatted down. "I'm gonna help you. What did the man look like?"

"He was...pale as a sheet, with a huge gash on his forehead with...green string in it? He had a little kid with him. I think he's a kidnapper. Please..."

"Fuck hell damn!" Husky tapped the man's head with the back of his hand. "Oblitus." He swore his way back into the house.

Goddamnit. Oh god. Dad was going to kill him twice, and probably again because this was all his fault completely. Anxiety raced up his arms and turned him to lead. Well, this was a simple fix. He just had to find the boy before anyone woke up.

Except mom was up and already staring at him, yawning into her coffee.

"Why, Husky, you look like you've seen a ghost."

"It's really early," Husky blurted out randomly.

"Yeah. Well. It's my off day. Maybe I'd like to walk around with my hair in curlers and this robe I got three Christmases ago."

Normally, Husky would have laughed at that, but right now he was too busy running to and fro looking for his bag of crushed minerals. Mom sat on the couch and watched him intently. When he finally found his bag, he filled the kitchen sink up with water and dumped all the contents in. Then, he ran upstairs and came back with the comically huge hair brush Bo only allowed himself to use. She took a sip of coffee.

"Isn't it a little too early for Satan?"

Husky threw a few strands of hair in the water. He muttered some backwards Latin and clasped his hands as if in inverted prayer. "Mommy..." he started.

Stephanie sat up at attention. "Something's wrong, isn't it?"

"What if I told you...Dean and Bo ran away."

"What! I told Mike to leave it alone. Are they eloping? Can they elope?"

"Umm, I don't know about all that but I do know they're on the road."

Stephanie got up and dashed to the house phone. "We've got to bring them back. I bet they don't even have food or clothes!" She thrust the phone in Husky's face. "YOU call your father, and tell him what happened."

Husky sighed. Well, he did have detailed notes if he needed to be brought back to life.

~~~

Mike opted not to carry those three pound hunks of colored plastic called cell phones, so getting a hold of him was often an exercise in phone hockey. In this instance, he just so happened to be walking by when a crew member passed him a phone without saying a word.

"Really? Oh, hello."

"Uhh, Daddy..."

Mike leaned up against the wall. "Oh, god, Husky, what is it now?"

"Your son's missing and Dean took him. In a stolen car. There's also a man out here with a paper cut on his shoulder and he thinks he's dying. He doesn't know who or where he is."

Mike heard his wife screaming in the background, because evidently Husky had left a few details out the first time. Mike hung up and spent a few minutes cycling between laughing, crying, crying and laughing, laughing and crying.

DiBiase found him like that a little while later. He raised his eyebrows and cautiously went over to see what the hell was going on.

"Uh...Mike? Mike, look at me."

Mike took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Oh, hey Ted."

"Whyyyy are you sobbing hysterically?"

"Oh, it's nothing. I just realized raising kids is really hard. They're little hard headed sons of guns and you can't really protect them from every dumb thing they do to themselves."

"Uh-oh. Was it Mr Handsy?"

"Yeah. Um. Can you tell the boys I gotta go find my kids before they cross too many state lines? I'll be back."

"Yeah, think we can handle that. Good luck ol' friend."

"Yeah." Mike heaved a watery sigh and stared down the hallway like it was a thousand yards long. "Yeah. Thanks."

Chapter Text

In retrospect, Dean regretted buying Bo that second slushie. Little did he know that sugar was a good as liquor to that kid.

Bo was having a very hard time not opening the door and rolling out onto the highway, so he settled for reclining against Dean and sticking both his legs out the window. Dean had tried to scold him, as he really didn't feel like being tagged by the police, but he was met with screeches of "You're not my dad" amongst other gibberish.

But he'd bought the damn thing and now he had to live with his lack of impulse control.

"I have to tell you something important, okay?" he tried again, balancing the map against the steering wheel.

"Ooh, is it the thing you were gonna tell me three gas stations ago?"

"You won't behave. And I gotta...gotta figure out how to put it."

"You can do it Dean!" Bo slurped loudly from his cup. "I bo-lieve in you."

Dean grimaced, but no matter how awful that pun was it did comfort him a bit.

He looked down to see the kid sitting still so hard he was on danger of vibrating out of existence.

"Yeah, right. Okay. So I was a bad kid back at home, as you can probably tell. Worked with a guy named Jimmy Jacobs, he was a medium-time dealer that moved a lot of money. He trusted me with his biggest move to date...but he couldn't send me alone."

~~~

Jimmy swung into the basement with that red fur coat that Jon could never take seriously.

Jimmy had a hair-trigger temper, as evidenced by the rapid gunfire and groaning upstairs. There was a traitor in their midst, leaking information about their operations. And Jimmy was going to gun every one down just to find the bastard.

Everyone except Jon Moxley, of course.

He went right past Jon and sat down at his makeshift office table. He snapped his fingers and out of the darkness came two girls with pigtails and heavy eyeliner. Unprompted, they proceeded to rub his head and back.

"Oh Moxley," he groaned. "It's so hard keeping good help."

Jon picked under his finger nails. "What we got today, boss?"

Jimmy snapped his fingers again and the girls disappeared.

"I've got a big shipment that's gotta go out today. I need you in on this. You in?"

"Just tell me where I'm going and pay me."

Jimmy grinned. "Vegas."

If Jon was perturbed he didn't show it. "Tonight, you said?"

"Yeah. There's three million in it for you."

That made Jon choke on his bad guy toothpick. "Woo, shit."

"There's a catch. I'm sending you with some muscle."

Jimmy snapped his fingers. A soft thudding that increased in intensity and loudness until the beast hit the bottom of the stairs. From the inky black spilled a mountain of a man, still a little shorter than Jon but a colossus with dark, long hair.

"Sup."

"This is Roman," Jimmy said, twirling the man's hair. "Beautiful. Dangerous. Paid in crab cakes."

Jon nodded. He held his hand out for a shake. "Call me Moxley. Or Mox, I don't care."

"Yeah, I know about your crazy ass." Roman grinned.

"Bring the wheelbarrow!"

Jimmy double clapped, and next the room was filled with metallic clanks and shouting as two men struggled with a red wheelbarrow down the stairs. One of them had slicked back dark hair with a blonde streak, and the other had a gravity-defying mop that was either stained or had been red at some point.

Jon stood up to get a good look inside the wheelbarrow. He shouldn't have been surprised that it was full of Hello Kitty plushes.

"Mox, Seth and Sami. Seth looks like a nerd but he's like, like a fucking stealth assassin."

Seth pushed his glasses up and muttered a greeting.

"And this here is Sami, he's a bona fide hacker."

"What exactly do we need a hacker for?" Roman asked. In a split second he had a gun trained on his chest. "Shit, whoa, whoa!"

"Did I hear a question? Did I?"

"N-no!"

Seth put his arms down and chucked the gun onto the desk. Roman sighed and quiet carried the wheelbarrow back upstairs.

"Pull this off and we're all gonna be rich, boys. I mean, richer. I'm already rich, but I'd like more money." Jimmy smirked again and followed Roman upstairs, his lackeys trailing behind him.

Topside, a lifeless body still crumpled in a heap in a corner. Jimmy grimaced.

"Pretty sure I told someone to clean that up."

Everyone passed over the body casually on their way to the door. Roman was waiting outside, already wilting in the unforgiving sun. A limo was parked just a ways behind the building, back door cracked open slightly.

"So what we riding in?" Jon clapped his hands together. Jimmy had a penchant for flashy cars.

"I needed you guys to get there quickly, but low-key and untraceable. And...I didn't have time to get you fake licenses...and Seth can't even drive...so..."

Jon's eyes were already drifting over to the stack of bicycles laid up against the building, all affixed with baskets. Two of them were in bad shape, and one looked like it was salvaged from a little girl's birthday party, streamers and all. He swore loudly to the sky.

"We're gonna look even more suspicious toting around dolls on bikes!"

Roman threw up an X with his hands, really to save Jon from himself, but Jimmy seemed to be taking his counsel into consideration.

"Well...make it work. I've got a charity function to get to." Jimmy departed for his limo, leaving his misfit crew to work out his demands.

As the limousine drove away, Jon rubbed the back of his neck. Sami, who's previous responses included glaring and grunted, looked up at Jon.

"You're the boss now. So?"

Jon sighed and picked up the mountain bike in decent condition. "Start loading up."

They divvied up the plushes between the bikes and headed for the main road.

"Heeey! Mine has a bell!" Roman gave the bell a few tentative rings. "Ding ding da-ding~"

Seth tried to pedal faster. "Goddamnit, Roman. Be serious!"

"Dude, I have a bicycle full of dope-stuffed dolls. You be serious."

"Guys, guys!" Jon tried to adjust his map across his bicycle. "We all look stupid as hell!

Seth and Roman settled down, Seth muttering to get the last swipe but Roman didn't reply. Sami rode up next to Jon and leaned in.

"But seriously, though. We're gonna get caught like this."

"Not if no one's looking for us. Unless you know something I don't." Jon glared at Sami; Sami quickly averted his gaze. "Yeah, whatever. Nobody has to get hurt. Just keep your eyes on the prize."

~~~

"So...you guys seriously rode all the way to Vegas on bikes. With Hello Kitty dolls."

Dean bypassed Bo's skepticism. "The weird thing is, I remember almost every detail right down to the street names. I remember Roman's favorite gas station donuts and Seth's contact prescription. But I don't remember what happened to that Sami dude at all."

"He was the traitor!" Bo yelled.

"Probably. Something that. I gotta think more."

Bo shrugged and cozied up in his seat again with his empty cup. "I wonder if dad's looking for us. We're gonna have to stop somewhere at night."

"That's exactly why we can't stop! You can sleep in the car."

"I don't like sleeping in the car!" Bo whined.

"You--" Dean paused for a moment. Sure, he was in danger of Daddy Rotunda beating his ass back to death if they stopped. But on the other hand, he was all alone on the open road with his semi-boo with no family for now to interfere. He looked over at Bo's peaceful resting face and gripped the wheel.

"Dean, don't speed. We're gonna get caught!"

He licked his lips reflexively. "Sorry. Pick a hotel, we'll get a room." He muttered to himself, "Finally."

Chapter Text

The car was unbearably quiet without Bo incessantly flipping the radio looking for gangsta rap or sparkly top 40 pop.

Husky sat in the back, his witchy bowl of water sloshing gently. He didn't feel comfortable divining where exactly these crazy kids were going and why, just their general movements. He dared not tell that tidbit to dad, who was having the quietest meltdown he'd ever seen.

Mom seemed to be holding up a lot better. Once they'd decided on a plan of action, she'd bypassed the strange amnesiac man in her house and got into the truck. She brought a nail file along to fiddle with in case she lost her cool. But other than gently gripping her husband's hand from time to time, she seemed at ease with the whole situation.

It was all really unfair.

"Sooo," Husky began with a dry throat, "I just want to say I feel really bad about bringing a zombie into our house and getting my little brother kidnapped. If anyone wants to cuss me out or..."

"Cussin' ya out won't get us there any faster," dad said. "And nobody's mad right now, just concerned."

"Besides," mom said, "I highly doubt Dean forced him to go anywhere. You know how Bo gets when he wants to be helpful."

"Dean's just doing whatever his screwed up lil noggin thinks is right. So's Bo. You, on the other hand..."

Mike smirked fiendishly as he trailed off, letting his oldest sweat out his misery in the back.

Chapter Text

A respectable hotel might ask the two kids for ID, so Bo and Dean opted for seedier options to save money and time.

The middle-aged man didn't blink twice at the kid with the poorly-stitched head wound and the kid in the hoodie, simply took their money and gave them the key.

Inside their modest single bed room, Bo dumped his overnight bag onto the floor and hunted around.

"You hungry?" Dean asked from the bathroom. He habitually checked behind the shower curtains.

"Yes. But stay there. I gotta fix your stitch."

He found the mini sewing kit and blocked Dean in the bathroom. Dean obliged him by sitting down and tilting his head up.

Bo cut away at the old stitching.

"Oh...oh, how pleasant."

"Hmm?"

"Something has been living in here for a bit." Bo plucked out the offending insect and tossed it in the sink.

"I like it when you stitch me up."

"I bet you do, weirdo."

"Why do you care so much?"

"Does it matter, weirdy?"

Dean winced. "How come you being so mean alla sudden? You off your meds?"

Bo shrugged but didn't answer. His demeanor reminded Dean of those hushed conversations in the kitchen with mom, glaring at him when he walked in.

"Ohh, I get it."

"Get what?"

"You got some kinda problem. Like me. Is that what you keep getting put out of school for?"

Bo's face darkened a bit and he sat on the edge of the tub. "I gotta take stuff sometimes to keep me calm, otherwise I get real bad headaches. I'm okay now."

Dean sat for a moment, contemplative. "I...think I used to hear stuff when no one was around. Weird stuff. I don't anymore, really, but I used to take the bad kinda drugs to get over it. S'how I met Jimmy. I owed him."

"So how long until you guys got to Vegas?"

"Nah, not yet. I gotta take care of you first."

Bo tried to protest, but Dean hooked one arm under his legs and cradled him with the other to carry him out bridal-style. He gently placed Bo on the bed and grabbed the take-out menu.

"You want pizza? Let's do it. Extra grease."

That wasn't the best decision and neither was the giant Mountain Dew, but forty-five minutes later there they were. Bo smiled at him with grease on his face and Dean was content.

Bo caught him sneaking a half-bitten slice. "Where does your...what happens to food in you?"

Dean stared at him. "You don't want to know."

Bo nodded and laid on the bed, hands resting on his face. "So, Vegas."

"Yeah. About that."

~~~

"'What do we need a hacker for' ," Sami said, mocking Roman's voice.

Jon didn't know what voodoo that kid was working, but this was the third fancy-schmancy hotel they'd gotten into with backpacks of Hello Kitty dolls. He was coming in handy, periodically, but there was still an air of reptile hanging around him and Jon didn't like it a bit.

He, Seth, and Roman waited in the lobby while Sami signed the paper work.

Seth leaned in close to whisper. "What'cha gonna do with all that money?"

"Save it like hell," Roman muttered. He'd gotten a sharp hair cut in Illinois and the new lack of length was still bothering him.

"Between you and me," Jon said, "I'm probably gonna just stay in Vegas. Make my own way. I'm tired of Cincy."

"You can't!" Seth cried out.

"I don't see why not. Just act like you didn't hear me say it. You guys don't work full-time for Jacobs anyway, right?"

Seth muttered something about getting his foot in the door and Roman gave a noncommittal shrug.

"Trust me, there's nothing in this biz but long nights and looking behind your back. I'll fax Jacobs my resignation letter."

"I, for one, am saving up for school. That should cover my bachelor's and post-grad."

"Nerd," Roman and Jon said in unison.

Sami was coming over. "Okay, guys, let's--"

He was interrupted by the sound of the glass doors being kicked open. The hotel staff ducked as two white doves flew in and landed on the desk.

Everyone still standing turned to look at the entrance. Through the beveled glass, three men slowly walked in. One tall and pale with thick wild hair, the other short and brown, wearing a fur coat that reminded Jon of Jimmy. The shorter man also happened to be boasting an eye patch covered in yellow diamonds.

The last guy looked out of place, wearing a ripped muscle shirt and Converse shoes. Jon assumed that was the muscle, even though he wasn't much bigger than a toothpick.

The men took their time coming up to the front desk. The taller man cut a quick eye to Jon and his crew and smirked.

"Three rooms, please."

"Sir, we're just about booked up--"

The shorter man pulled out a pistol and shot up at the ceiling. Plaster rained on the poor hotel clerk as she gaped in shock. The muscle snickered.

"L...looks like one just opened up, at least."

"Hey!" Jon yelled. "Hey! Be discrete at least, Christ."

The three men turned in one synchronised movement to face Jon.

Roman, panicking, tackled Jon to the floor.

"He's dehydrated. He's saying silly shit. Don't shoot us, please."

The shorter man practically glided over to them. Using his boot, he tipped Jon's head up.

"What did you say to me?"

"Ain't a good look shootin up the joint with your face on camera."

The man kicked Jon, laughing. "Do you not know who I am? Bitch, I own the police. Roppongi Vice runs these streets from Canada to Cali! Don't believe me?" Another punt to the face. "AXE about us!"

"Rocky, you want a jacuzzi?"

"Hell yeah I do. Aight, see you lil dorks later."

The other man retrieved his doves and followed the one called Rocky and the muscle to the elevators.

"Who the hell was that?"

Roman got off Jon and pulled him up.

"Assholes," Seth said.

"Why'n't ya shoot em?"

"I was gonna! But shootin up the joint with your face on camera ain't a good look!"

"Fine," Jon said. "We just gotta watch the stash tonight. Don't think they assume anything."

They hauled their gear upstairs for the rest of the day, only coming out for food. As the evening wore on, Jon grew anxious. It was the familiar feeling of being watched by someone with X-Ray eyes.

Sami was in the shower. Jon gathered up Roman and Seth in front of the TV.

"I don't get why Callihan gets the shower first so he can clog it with all that damn hair gel," Seth groaned.

"Get him outta the way. Question: since you came with him, what ya know about him?"

"He was in my computer class in high school, we kinda got close but you can't...tell him everything. He's one of those dudes that goes to the highest bidder."

"So why'd you bring him on?" Roman asked.

"I didn't. He brought me on. Jimmy made the call and Sami got me for back up. I kinda owe the guy."

"I like your loyalty, even if it's misplaced," Jon said. Seth blushed in response. "Well, yeah. I guess we gotta deal with him until this is over. Kinda interesting how Pogo Stick Vice or whoever just magically showed up here, though."

The water in the bathroom shut off. There was an ominous silence before a series of slow, deliberate knocks on the door. Jon gestured to Seth and he rolled under the bed.

Roman pulled the door open slowly. He barely missed being hit in the face by a dove. The dove flew to the windowsill and was followed by its owner, the muscle, and Rocky.

Jon addressed them. "Well, we got Rocky Shortcake, Frankenugly, and Chuck Taylors."

"How'd you know my name?" the muscle asked. Tall man snickered at his moniker.

"That's Trent," Rocky said.

Trent called his doves back. "And this is Charlie and Lucy."

"Now that you know us, let me guess who you are. Sexy Chuck!"

Chuck yanked one of the backpacks off the bed and dumped it out. Rocky grabbed one of the dolls and cut it open with a blade from his pocket.

"Yeah...pure grade." He watched the white powder spill on the floor. Using the blade, he tipped his eye patch up to reveal that his eye was quite fine. "Jacobs, right? Hell, you ain't even gotta tell me. This has that flashy two bit punk written all over it."

"Okay, first off why do you have an eye patch? And second, don't matter who we're with!" Roman bellowed.

"Actually," Trent cut in, "matters a lot because we can't have that loser cutting in on our territory. So we'll just confiscate these. Thanks."

Trent and Chuck set about politely collecting the remaining dolls. Rocky knocked on the bathroom door and Sami came out, wearing a neon speedo and holding a gun.

"Highest bidder, just like you said, Moxley Mox."

"Goddamnit, Sami. You could have proved us wrong!"

"Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Seth, come on out from the closet or wherever the fuck you are."

"Hey, hey man, not cool. Don't just out people," Chuck admonished Sami. Sami rolled his eyes.

"You can't be that dense."

"Oh, I know what you meant. I just thought the entendre was obvious since he's under the bed." To prove his point, Chuck unholstered his gun, pressed it to the bed, and pulled the trigger. The noise and following silence shocked Jon and Roman and froze them in place.

Trent picked up the last backpack and hoisted it onto his shoulder. "Looks like we're done here. You guys have a cool night, take care."

Roppongi Vice left the room. A few minutes later, Jon quickly rolled under the bed to check on Seth.

"I'm okay, he just got my band tee." Seth pouted as he shoved his gun back into his waistband. "They took our stuff?"

"Yep. Every last damn bit of it." Jon pulled Seth from under the bed. "This is really fucked up."

"You know what we gotta do, right?" Roman said.

"Yeah."

The three of them checked out of the room an hour later, unhitched their bikes, and followed tire tracks that swerved like snakes on the roadside under a dark night full of stars.

~~~

"Aw, I knew it. Fuck that guy."

"Well, we all gotta eat. Even if that means backstabbing strangers," Dean mused.

The two of them were wrapped up together in the stiff blankets on the bed, illuminated only by the dim bedside light.

"But you were friends."

"I kinda liked Sami, but if he's dead now I'm not gonna be sad. Hopefully Seth or Roman know what happened to him, if I find them."

"So..." Bo started hesitantly, "what if you don't find em?"

Dean ruminated on this. "I think I've dragged you into enough. If I don't find nobody I'll take you home, and let dad and Husky beat my ass."

Bo snickered, then frowned. "Dean..."

"Yep?"

"Where were your parents this whole time you were running around with drugs and killing people?"

Dean's face grew blank. "Dunno where dad was. Mom was at home."

"What! I just assumed you were an orphan or something! What the fuck!"

"Some parents dont care about their kids. That's why you gotta stay with yours. They love you a whole lot. I bet their losing their shit right now."

"Yeah, but only because both of us are missing," Bo muttered into Dean's neck. "They like you too, y'know. They wouldn't just let you stay there almost a year if they didn't."

Dean shrugged and sank further into the bed. Feeling wanted was such a weird thing. Shame he had to experience it now, but maybe being dead was the only thing allowing him to appreciate it.

He nearly jumped when Bo bit his shoulder. Not in the mean way that meant he was pissed, but a...slow, sexy way? He strained his eyes to look down and see Bo staring up at him, his face pink.

"Sorry. Um...you wanna...?"

"Do I wanna...?"

Dean paused at the look in Bo's eyes. If his heart hadn't already stopped, it definitely would have skipped a few times. He moved in for a kiss, his dry and flat tongue swirling in Bo's moist, warm mouth. Where the hell did this kid learn to kiss so good?

He pulled away after a moment, breathless. "Yeah. I do. I really need you right now."

"Need me..." Bo dipped his head under Dean's neck and squealed. "Really?"

"Yeah."

Bo put a little space between them and guided Dean's hands across his sides and chest, because Bo was stupidly good at seducing him.

"What do you wanna do?" His voice caught in his throat when Dean took his hands back and used one to tease his nipples, the other diving into his waist band."

"Whatever makes you scream loud enough to wake the neighbors."

Chapter Text

Roman thought he was going to have a heart attack. Seth had thick thighs--yeah, he'd noticed--like he biked a lot, and yeah Moxley was struggling a bit. But Roman pumped iron at least five times a week and he could barely keep up with the two of them on his 14-speed.

He jingled the bell for his own comfort. He was so happy those dickheads didn't steal the one with streamers.

"We're never going to catch them. This is stupid," he bellowed, out of breath.

"That's not very optimistic," Jon grunted. Seth looked like he was miles and miles ahead of them.

"Seriously, look at it logistically. They're in cars. We are not."

"But we have the sneak advantage, Ro. All about the sneak."

They had followed the vague tire marks until they'd run out on the main highway, and now they were more or less in a straight line to who the hell knew where. Jon insisted they go west, always west, as that's where they were going anyway. But these states were very large haystacks and they were looking for four needles that could be scattered anywhere.

Jon liked feeling insignificant under the big, cloudless skies. Every time he looked up, the big, blazing ball of sun was there to remind him that they were on a rather small, sometimes disappointing, spinning ball of dirt and salty water. If he thought about it too long, he would slowly float out of his own body until he lost control of the handlebars and swerved too far out.

True, they had no idea where they were going. They were running on blind luck and following the shadows of trees, where the moss grew. The fact was, if Vice was out of Kansas already this mission would be hopelessly futile.

Jon swerved abruptly towards the hotel near the interstate exit. "Seth! This way!"

Seth perked up on his seat and screeched to a halt. "We don't have time for this!"

"ET phone home. I gotta call Jacobs."

Seth huffed but rejoined Roman and Jon. Roman's face was flushed and he looked ready to keel over. The Holiday Inn was a smidge fancier than your average one, maybe too fancy to let a few vagabonds use the phone real quick.

Jon peeped in through the revolving doors. A lady was at the desk; he grinned.

"Roman, go in and charm her."

"I-I don't feel very charming," Roman panted. "I shoulda...stopped at that store...got...wigs..."

Seth scrunched his nose. "I'll distract her."

"No, I need you to help me get my story straight. And, uh, you're like...a niche beauty. Like...a twink in a gay porno."

Seth wasn't sure whether to be flattered or livid, so he settled for a vacant stare and tried to pretend he hadn't heard that. Jon dragged the two of them inside and planted Roman in direct sight of the receptionist.

"And...smile!"

It didn't take long for her to notice the bewildered, exhausted looking man walking towards her. When he arrived, he leaned on the desk.

"So...sure gets hot here in the spring."

"Indeed, it does..."

Jon siddled up to the phone attached to the desk and dialed out. Seth was behind him a few seconds later, alternating between glaring at Roman making goo-goo eyes at the young lady and Jon fidgeting.

Jimmy answered after a few rings. "Mmmyes?"

"Jimmy, kick her or him out of bed, I got some bad news."

There were high-pitched sounds of protest and groaning over the phone. Jon could imagine Jimmy rubbing his temples.

"You know how I feel about bad news, Mox..."

"I figured you'd better hear it from me, instead of, oh, say, Roppongi Vice."

"Fuck! They found you?"

Jon covered the phone with his hand. "He knew they were on us."

"We didn't go over that in the recruitment meeting," Seth muttered.

Jon got back on the phone. "Yeah, they did, you asshole. Why didn't you warn us?"

"That's why I sent you with muscle and the bikes!"

"You forgot to NOT send a snitch with us!"

"Snitch? Was it Roman? I knew I couldn't trust his pretty, big, brown eyes and glorious hair!"

"No, nah it wasn't him. It was that living Cabbage Patch Kid, Callihan."

Jimmy went quiet for a few minutes. When he spoke again, it was in flat tones. "Oh. Go figure. Never trust a hacker, I guess."

"So they took the stuff and split, what do we do? We're either going to fall way behind schedule trying to find their asses, or show up in Vegas empty handed."

"Okay, okay, let me think. Where are you?"

"Somewhere in Kansas, right? Yeah, right."

"Shit, you guys are riding like the Tour de fucking France. They like Japanese import beer. And wine. If there's a liquor store nearby or a Japanese steak house, they're probably at it. And...by chance, is there a dude with a floppy hair cut with them?"

"Yeah, what's his name...Chuck? Chuckie?" Seth nodded at both of these names. "Yeah. Wears the Chuck Taylors."

"So, yeah, he likes explodey-type things and he's a total pyro so...don't fuck with him, mmkay? You know what, just get the stuff back and try not to die at all. If you need anything else, try not to call me in the middle of a blowjob, okay cupcake?"

The line went dead before Jon could reply. He sighed in frustration and hung up. When he turned around, Roman was neck deep in pretty young things pinching at his biceps. He signaled for him to get away and join him and Seth in the lobby. The receptionist was clearly pissed at him for using the phone, but it was too late.

"So, what we got?" Seth sank down into a floral pattern couch. Roman finally joined, a few lipstick marks on his knuckles but none too worse for wear.

Jon covered his face with his hands. "He says we probably need to find a Japanese steakhouse around here. And he said Skinny Muscles likes to blow things up."

"A Japanese steakhouse. Out here! Are you fucking kidding me?" Seth threw his hands up.

"I'll ask around," Roman said.

~~~

Bo groaned softly and nestled into Dean's shoulder. Dean knew he was practically talking to himself at this point, and he was fine with that. It really was a weird part in the story, and he didn't feel like explaining how many prostitutes they'd talked to to find this alleged after-hours steakhouse or why it was after-hours AND a steakhouse.

Dean tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. They'd chosen to leave early to make some decent headway into their trip. According to the map they were using, they could conceivably be there by the end of the day if they didn't stop for snacks, too many bathroom trips, and so on. And...then what?

Dean was hoping for some kind of revelation the closer they got, but coming out of Georgia he'd recognized nothing. His mind was still rolling over details from last year. What if he really was a ghost, like dad had suggested once, and once he found the answers he was looking for his soul simply ceased? That thought made him want to swerve and turn around immediately. What did it matter what he did in his past life? Like Bo had tried to tell him, he had a chance to start over now.

No, no. He couldn't start over clean until he fully washed himself of his past. And if that meant he had to literally rest in peace again, he would have to be okay with that.

Bo cracked one eye open and yawned. "And then what happened...?"

"Oh. Uh, we got a grenade thrown at us."

Bo sat up stiff. "Where did the grenade come from!"

"Chuck."

"When did you find him? What did I miss?"

"I think you fell asleep on that part. Long story short, we found them at a food place that happened to be a brothel."

~~~

Jon surmised that Roppongi Vice must be true to their word about running the streets, or they simply didn't give a fuck to have their limousine painted with their logo and brand name stationed outside a lavish building.

The party was in full swing inside, judging by the flickering colored lights and throbbing music. Only one guard was stationed outside, and Roman took the poor creep down easily from behind. From there, it was up to Jon to pick the doors open while Roman stood watch, Seth at his side aiming for the door.

"Almost...got it. Got it. There."

The door swung open. Jon crawled inside and searched around for their missing backpacks. Three were resting on the floor amidst bottles of champagne, the fourth one appeared to be lodged under the seat.

Jon tossed the three backpacks he could manage out, and started working on the fourth.

"What's the hold up?" Roman hissed.

"One of 'em's stuck."

"We might have to forget it. Only three of us anyhow."

Seth turned around. "Seriously? It's a backpack, Mox, come on."

"Leave him alone, he's trying!" Roman protested.

Jon silently thanked Roman for sticking up on his behalf. The backpack was lodged fairly tight, tighter than it had any right to be, and it felt light. Oddly light. Something was not quite right. Almost as if it was a--

With one more firm tug, a piercing, wailing siren sounded. Jon clutched his ears and quickly wiggled out of the car.

"Fuuuck, it was a trap!"

The siren barely rose above the heavy bass music, but a few other guards staggered out from the door in no real condition for a fight. Sami, wearing some kind of leather and harness ensemble, propped himself up against the door.

"Hey...heyyy. Youse guys." He hiccuped. "How'd you get here?"

"Bikes, Sami. Remember?"

"Damn. You got here fast. We didn't...didn't thin' you'd catch up. Hey, that's our stuff."

"Nuh-uh, you stole it." Seth stuck his tongue out. "It's ours!"

"It's not YOURRRSSSS either, dweeb, if you wan' get all technical abo--why I am arguin' with you, I'm too drunk for this. Chuuuuck!"

Sami roared into the club, and a few moments later the demolitions expert stepped out. Chuck still managed to look out of place in his heavy jacket and Converse shoes.

He watched the trio run for their bikes and quickly ride off. "Oh, boy. The geek squad is here. They took the stuff back, didn't they."

"Yeeep."

"I ain't got time for these games. Get in the car."

"Why do I gotta go?" Sami asked, pouting.

Chuck was already dragging him to the passenger side. "Because I need someone to witness me kill these fools."

"Kill 'em? But why? Can' we just...get the stuff back and go home?"

Chuck slammed the door. He started the limo up and it gave a menacing roar, like the rumble of a jaguar on the hunt. "We make examples outta pipsqueaks who can't stay in their lane."

Roman turned around to see how much of a head start they had.

"Limo at six o'clock."

Jon twisted his head around as well. "More like...seven. But yeah, he's gaining on us. We're fucked."

Despite the odds against them, they road hard even as the speeding limo quickly ate up the distance between them until it was racing along side them.

"Hey, losers. Catch."

Sami ducked, and Chuck lobbed something small and dark from the driver's side. Roman held his hand out and caught it.

"What the hell...?"

Roman's eyes widened. "He's got grenades!"

Roman, Seth, and Jon hit their brakes hard as the limo squealed ahead of them, peels of Chuck's wildman laughter rolling from the windows.

"Throwitthrowit!" Seth yelled, snatching the grenade from Roman's hands.

"No, I got it!"

"We don't have time for fucking hot potato!"

Seth aimed for the limo and fired. The limo's tires screeched as it fishtailed, leaving long black marks on the street. Roman cocked his arm back and threw the grenade as hard as he could as the three of them kicked the road to move their bikes backwards. The grenade flew up in a near perfect arch and exploded, not enough to blow it to smithereens like Jon had hoped, but close enough to set it on fire and that was good enough for him.

"Did...did we just kill them?" Seth asked, breathless.

"God, I hope so," Jon muttered. They drove past the flaming wreckage and back onto the main highway.

~~~

Dean looked over at Bo to see him staring back up at him dumbfounded.

"I-I didn't mean it! I was just tired of them at that point, we didn't kill em."

Bo looked down, unsure of what to say. He'd been listening to this story for hours already and expected some violence, but grenades in limousines was starting to push his limits.

"You ever see that movie with the two brothers, one's in a gang and the other's a cop, and they just go around shooting stuff and fighting each other and it's really sad?"

Dean raised his eyebrow. "No...? Or, if I did I don't remember."

"That's what your life was like. Just like that."

"I don't...have any siblings to fight..."

"I'm trying to relate." Bo rubbed his temples; he was starting to get a headache, hopefully simple aspirin would take care of it. "Like, this is blowing my mind."

"I'm sorry. Do you want me to stop? I can stop. The rest is just--"

"No, I'm--"

They were cut off by the blaring of a car horn. Bo's eyes widened: he knew that sound all too well, from late nights at friends' houses and football camp and just generally getting peeved with his kids.

Dean looked over and quickly wished he'd been arrested instead. From the passenger side of the red pick up truck, he thought Husky was giving him the Seminoles chop but he realized he was signaling for them to pull over.

"Okay, Bo. Would it be easier to stop or just gun it?"

Bo wanted badly to say "Gun it for god's sake", but it would be easier on all of them if he just pulled over.

"We better stop."

The car slowed to a halt on the side of the road and the truck parked behind them. Bo and Dean crawled out the passenger side to avoid the cars whizzing past them.

Dean watched as Mike strode up to him, face blank and fists clenched.

"Heeey, dad. I can explain this." He was answered by a fist to his face, not hard enough to knock his jaw out, but enough to actually feel sore. A feat in and of itself. "I deserved that."

Stephanie checked over her baby boy to make sure he was okay and not in any pain, then took her turn glaring at Dean.

"First, you're going to get your stuff and get in the truck. Then, we're going to wherever the hell you're going and you're going to tell us what this is all about. March!"

Dean would much rather deal with mom than dad, so he quickly did as he was told and squeezed in with Husky in the back. Bo stayed outside to take the brunt of mom and dad's questioning, Mike periodically reaching for his belt.

"Is he seriously gonna...? Aren't you guys a little old for that?"

"Dad doesn't give a shit, you know that."

"Shit. I think I'd rather get punched again."

Husky suddenly grinned and nudged Dean with his elbow. "Y'all been out here by yourselves the whole time, you finally make it official?"

If he had any blood left in him, Dean was pretty sure he'd be blushing by now. "We...ah, maybe. Yeah."

"Woo-hoo! Congratulations. Dad's gonna make you put a ring on it, but I got ya back."

Dean nodded along. Being married didn't sound so bad. It wasn't legal for two guys, but maybe he could skirt the law being undead and what not. Wasn't he above the law?

The car doors slammed and rattled as mom and dad got back in, and Bo squeezed next to Dean, forcing his arm up around his shoulders. Mike adjusted his rearview mirror to stare at Dean hard enough to burn a hole in his shirt.

"You wanna explain this whole past life business now or when we get there?"

"Please let him finish," Bo groaned. "He's been telling me forever."

"Well what's the recap?" Mom asked as the car pulled back onto the road.

"And where are we going?"

"Ohio. And...um, apparently I was a drug runner and I got caught by the wrong people."

"They threw a grenade at him."

Husky's eyes widened. "What the hell?"

"Don't swear, Husky. And you guys know there's a much shorter way to get there, right?"

Bo figured dad knew all the shortcuts due to his traveling. This trip had been long and was about to get mercifully shorter.

"Imagine that. You better finish up, then."

"Yeah. So, um, we got away with the backpacks and got back on the road. I guess Rocky and Trent found Sami and Chuck, and they were not happy to say the least."

Chapter Text

They were officially in the desert, and Jon didn't think there was going to be much else until they hit the glitz and glam of the big city.

They all agreed that fancy things like sleeping in a bed and showering regularly were a liability right now, even though it had been several days and Roppongi Vice had yet to show their faces. 

Jon had pulled over to a pay phone in front of a long-abandoned had station to call Jimmy. Roman and Seth stood on either side of him.

Roman tugged at his shirt. The air out here was stifling, and if he still had his usual long locks he'd be complaining about humidity cramping his style. It was trying to grow back in weird, and it was itchy a lot, but he had to admit in the long run the buzzcut had served its purpose.

The air here felt heavy. He didn't have senses sharpened by years of paranoia like Jon, but he could sense when something was up. It wasn't just the creepy vibe of being close to a potential haunted house, either. While Seth surveyed the landscape for something to take pot shots at, Roman kept turning his attention back to the gas station.

"Yeah. Yeah, we're a few days out if we only stop for snacks once. Roman gets hungry a lot." Jon twirled the phone cord. "Nope, ain't seen the goon squad. We're like ants to them right now, don't think they'll catch up. Yes, I'm well aware we're on bicycles." 

"I get hungry like a regular person..." Roman protested quietly. Seth finally noticed him staring intently at the gas station.

"There's no ghosts in there, promise."

"Not ghosts...doves."

Seth wanted to laugh, but when the wind died down he thought he did hear a soft coo. The only birds out this way were the kind that fed on carcasses but--he shook his head. Couldn't be. Paranoia was going to be the end of them, but he really wanted Jon to finish up his call.

"Alright. Aight. If I don't call you by next week just assume we're dead." Jon hung up; Roman and Seth shuddered in unison. "What? You guys scared?"

"No, just...don't say that."

"I told you on day one no one has to get hurt."

"We probably killed two guys a few nights ago!" Seth yelled. Jon sighed.

"You think I've never killed or maimed anyone? Think again. I knew you guys were new, but not stupid." Jon rubbed the back of his neck and headed for his bicycle. "If you're going to be in this life, get used to it. I said nobody has to get hurt, not that they wouldn't."

Roman picked up his own bike out of the dust, growing increasingly uncomfortable with the truth in Jon's words. He wasn't exactly new, but this was his first big project. And it was spiraling out of control, but Jon wanted him to believe everything was going according to plan.

Jon, who was still rambling. "I'll admit, I've never had a grenade thrown at me. I've put up with a lot of Jimmy's eccentric shit, but never Hello Kitty dolls. Never seen a dude wear an eye patch for no reason. Uh...where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, get used to it. S'long as you work."

Seth rolled his eyes. "Uh-Oh, Roman, you hear that? It's serious time. Time to get serious." He yanked Roman's bike by the streamers and violently yanked the bell off. The look in Roman's eyes immediately made him awfully sorry.

He swung a leg over the seat and hesitated. "Then...maybe I'll quit after this."

Jon barked a laugh. "Think you can? Your hands are dirty, too. They're never going to stop looking for you. At least you weren't stupid enough to use your real name." 

Roman scoffed. "Hell no." 

Seth went oddly quiet.The two of them turned to see his face red under his hair. Jon slapped his head.

"Aw, hell. Really?"

"You mean you're not really Jon?"

"Hell no. I wish. I'm--" Jon caught himself. "Ambrose. Let's just leave it at that." 

Seth nodded and held out his hand. "Nice to meet you. Didn't shake before."

Jon looked at the offered hand for a few moments, before sighing and shaking. "Damnit, I hate Jimmy sometimes. I gotta take care of you two. From here on out, I'll just take care of anything. Just don't die on the way there, okay?"

"Deal." 

The trio finally hitched there bikes and prepared to set off as far as they could before sunset.

The beating of wings stopped them. Roman immediately turned to look at the gas station. From the brown, dusty shadows, a small fleet of doves sprang out, followed by laughter.

"Moxley Moooox..." 

Jon shuddered; he never wanted to hear that voice ever again, and yet here it was.

"Well, well, well, boys. Look who we have here."

Roppongi Vice emerged from the shadows. Rocky was still wearing his unseasonable and unreasonable fur coat, Trent opting for lighter work out gear, and--much to Jon's disappointment--Sami and Chuck very much alive.

Sami looked more or less unscathed, save for a chunk of his hair missing that made him look more fashionable. Chuck was a bit more banged up judging by the cast on his left arm. He also wore a heavy jacket with no shirt, which Jon assumed meant he was hiding his skin from the sun, hiding more extensive injuries, or hiding more damned grenades.

"So, you two are newbies, eh," Trent said, grinning wickedly. "Let this be your first lesson: when the bad guys say give us your shit, you give us your shit. All of it."

"Second rule is," Rocky chimed in, "when you run off with our shit, we will chase you."

"Third," Trent continued, "we're going to catch you, and when we do, we're going to beat that shit off you plus interest."

Jon did not intend on staying around to see if there was a rule number four, instead ordering Roman and Seth to pedal for their lives.

Rocky grabbed one of the last standing wooden posts and swung around it. "We're comin' to GET ya, Moxley..." 

The car engine revving made Jon's already racing heart pump faster, like it might explode out of his chest. He looked and saw Seth reaching for his gun--where the hell did that kid keep it? He aimed without turning his head, and fired.

From behind them, distantly, he heard what sounded like Rocky screaming, "My eye!"

Seth shot again and hit one of the windows. The car swerved, but the driver hit the gas. Pebbles bounced of Jon's wheels and ankles as he lagged behind, even behind Roman whom was previously struggling to catch up. 

There was a white building in front of them that looked like a church. The limo was recklessly pushing them towards it, probably going to run them right into it.

"Hey. We can maneuver better than them, right?"

Seth's eyes were bloodshot. "S-s-so what?"

"Turn left when you see the door handle, and not a second before!"

The limousine churned through the dirt and debris like a land shark, wailing like an angry behemoth behind them. Jon closed his eyes and banked for a hard left. The next sounds he heard was a loud crash and the drone of church bells ringing wildly.

~~~

"Hold on a minute," Mike protested. "How did you barely escape getting run over?"

"Uhh, we didn't. I remember we got knocked off."

"So you got away?"

"Nah, we went back to kill 'em. Like, seriously kill them this time."

Stephanie swatted at Mike. "Let him finish, I'm sure he's getting to it!" She looked back at Dean. "You didn't really kill them, did you?"

"Eh...one. Sometimes you just get tired of people's shit."

~~~

The impact of the collision sent Roman and Jon off their bikes, sprawling at Seth's feet. Seth was hunched over his handlebars, panting heavily and sweat forming a small pool in the dirt. 

Jon groaned and clutched his back. "Shit. I'm gonna feel that for days." 

"C-c-come on guys, let's go while w-we have the chance."

Jon looked over at Roman; Roman nodded back. "Nope," he said. "They're clearly not going to leave us alone."

"Pretty sure they didn't make that."

"I'm gonna make damn sure, and you need to come with."

Seth hesitated, but ultimately laid his bike down and followed his companions inside the demolished church.

The front of the limo was about three wooden pews in. At the front was a badly eroded marble statue of an unidentified saint, some fresh flowers, and a baptism chamber full of molded water. The brass bells ringing were well on their way to giving Jon a migraine, and he could barely hear anything else over the din.

The front door of the limo popped open. Before anyone could so much as tense up, a cackling shadow launched itself and landed on Seth. Jon immediately grabbed Seth's arms and tried to drag him away.

Sami, deranged, tried to force a grenade down Seth's throat.

"You fucking losers!" he screamed. "You couldn't just go down easy!"

Roman leaped onto Sami and punched him in the head, pulling him away from Seth long enough for Jon to snatch the grenade and throw it. It exploded near a wall, blowing a chunk of it and the ceiling off. White dust rained down on them.

Jon looked over and saw Roman kicking Sami until he was no longer laughing. They caught each other's eyes and Jon noticed for the first time how gaunt and exhausted and young he was.

But he had no time to ruminate in this, as the rest of Roppongi Vice was pulling themselves out of the heap.

"F-fuck," Trent stuttered. "All this for a couple kilos."

Rocky had blood pouring from his head and he was clutching his eye. He quickly moved his eye patch to the other side.

"Guess you put that eye patch to work," Seth muttered. He trained two guns on Rocky and Trent. Chuck sprang up from behind.

"Put em down, kid, you're out gunned." Chuck opened his coat to reveal two rows of grenades on a vest. Jon swallowed.

"Just give us the dope back! God! This is fucking stupid!" Trent yelled. "I've never hated someone more than you guys in my life!"

"Why are you so worried about us if we're so small time!" Jon yelled back, face red.

"Because! We were asked to do this," Rocky interjected, "as a favor. But now it's just the principle of the damn thing."

"Come on, guys, you know how you are when you get emotional." Chuck patted Trent and Rocky's shoulders. "Let's just kill em and go home."

Trent and Rocky nodded. Chuck took a grenade off his vest and launched it.

Roman jumped up with perfect form and intercepted the grenade, kept running with it to the destroyed exit.

"Roman, the fuck are you doing!"

Jon and Seth were screaming even as Roman gave them a thumbs up. He disappeared behind the last standing walls of the church, and a few minutes later there was an explosion.

Seth fell to one knee in shock. Even Trent looked mildly concerned. Sami finally woke up, clutching his head as he sat up.

Chuck, however, shrugged. "Not the brightest crayon, is he?"

Jon had only experienced a true blackout rage once before, and that was to deal with one of his mom's shitty boyfriends. Like then, he wasn't entirely sure what he did, but when he came to Trent and Rocky were pleading with him as he tried to take off one of the grenades and shove it in an unconscious Chuck's mouth.

"Don't hurt Chuck! He's my favorite!"

"Kill Sami! If it wasn't for him we wouldn't even be here!"

Sami looked at Rocky in shock. "You...you sold me out? But..."

"Do you think we care about you, asshole? You got us all into this shit. I could be in a jacuzzi with five dimes right now and I'd have two fuckin' eyes still!"

"This isn't even my fault either!"

Sami's protests were silenced by a bullet. Trent fell back, clutching his shoulder. Another shot, and Rocky yelled, holding onto his leg.

"I don't care whose fault it is!" Seth yelled. He took aim at Sami's head. "I just want this to be over!"

Sami held his hands up. "Okay, okay, you can go! Just don't shoot!"

"You're lying. Right, Mox?"

Jon didn't recall Seth's hands ever being that shaky this whole time. He punted Chuck in the head one more time and staggered to Seth's side.

"He's not lying, but he doesn't make the decisions." He stole a glare at Trent and Rocky. He took the gun out of Seth's hands. "Go check on Roman."

Seth nodded and ran outside. Jon backed up but kept the gun in Sami.

"Doing it as a favor, yeah? For who?"

~~~

"That's..." Dean rubbed his forehead. "That's where it gets foggy again. They told me. I took a potshot at Sami. We went around back and Roman was okay, but hurt real bad. We dropped him off at a hospital and left him..."

Mike sighed. "That's a lot to take in. But you can stop there if you want."

Stephanie fiddled with her nail file. "But why did the young man run out with the bomb?"

Dean watched the scenery roll by in the window. "He said he didn't want anyone else to get hurt."

They were in Ohio now, had been for a while. Husky nudged Bo in order to indirectly nudge Dean.

"But y'all ever make it to Vegas?"

"Yeah. We had to meet up with some dude, don't remember his name. After that, I told Seth to get as far away from me as possible."

"Well...here goes nothing. Husky, you are allowed to use some pre-approved witchcraft to help us out."

Husky sucked his cheeks in, wanting to mention that what he did was decidedly not witchcraft, but he let it go for the moment.

"Just point out any specific locations you remember and we'll get ta lookin'."

Chapter Text

Unlike her husband and sons, Stephanie didn't particularly enjoy traveling. She hated sitting still for long hours, and although she liked the locales she wasn't the touristy type. Traveling a lot when they were younger, her and Mike, it ruined the experience a bit.

Mike pulled over for gas. The tank was dangerously low and the car was starting to sputter in protest. Husky opened the door to dump out his bowl of cursed water, then headed for the store muttering about snacks. Mike seemed to agree and followed him in for food, and to pay for the gas.

Stephanie was left all alone with a sleeping kid and his zombie.

Come to think of it, she was tired too. For putting up with all this nonsense, she deserved a power nap. Her eyes drifted closed as she propped her head against her hand, eyebrows still furrowed in agitation.

Just as she bounced into stage four sleep, a shock of noise filtered through her ears.

"Psst, Bo. You up?"

Dean sounded horrible when he whispered. It was a raspy noise like an ancient tree trying to whistle.

"Hmm?"

There was some muttered sleepy talking she couldn't hear well. Wait, when had she started spying? She was supposed to be sleeping!

"...on a date."

"Me?"

"Duh."

"Why?"

"I dunno...seems right. Someone should take you out for putting up with me."

Ohh, baby, we like you, Stephanie idly commented, faint grin on her lips.

Bo giggled in response. She'd never heard that giggle before, but she supposed it wasn't for her.

"Okay."

"You like zoos?"

Honey, no. The last time Bo went to a zoo he got so angry that he couldn't pet the giraffes that he caught a migraine.

"Hmm...maybe we'll go eat."

"'Kay." Dean sounded mildly disappointed. "Then what?"

"Then...umm..."

The two of them went quiet for a spell. Stephanie strained her ears to hear, and realized they weren't saying anything. There was only ambient car noise. Apparently Bo couldn't think of anything else. She relaxed again and tried to get back into her nap.

The sound of fabric shifting against skin and the seat cracking woke her up again. They were sliding around back there. Someone's breathing had increased--clearly Bo's, for obvious reasons. Then there was a soft, squeaky moan and a familiar wet, smacking sound.

Stephanie's nerves bade her to get up and break that necking part right up, partly because she wasn't ready to know her son's sex life and partly to save them. But then she'd have to admit she was spying. And then she'd have to turn around and actually catch them.

"Come on, we can't do that in here."

"Mom's asleep."

"Yeah but the people around us aren't. Silly."

Dean huffed but from the sound of it he complied. There was the sound of settling and ambient noise again.

Stephanie thought Mike was a bit overbearing at times, but while she was paralyzed with indecision for once she truly understood what he was constantly wringing his hands about. Her son, out in the wild, fully capable of making very adult decisions without her. She was proud of him, yeah, but why was it so damned scary?

The doors opening and slamming broke her illusion of sleep again. She sighed and frowned.

"What's wrong, babe?" Mike asked as they pulled off. Stephanie fiddled with her nail file. "You can sleep now."

"No, no I can't," she muttered. "Where's the zoo again?"

Chapter Text

In the span of a day, Mike Rotunda's life had gone from backstage road agent, to hunting possibly imaginary big-time drug smugglers, to trying to manage parking at the Cincinnati Zoo.

He'd pleaded with his wife, asked why over and over, tried to put his foot down literally and figuratively--but she just shushed him and smuggled some money to the zombified teen in the backseat.

"You two deserve a real first date," she said, winking. Dean stared back, flabbergasted.

"A d-date?"

"Yeah. Alone time. Take advantage of it." Husky gently nudged Dean and smirked.

"But not too alone," Stephanie interjected.

"There's gonna be...people. I haven't been around that many people yet. And...I've never had a date. I don't think."

Mike quickly intervened. "See? He doesn't wanna do it."

"I do want to! Just tell me what to do!"

Stephanie hummed and pursed her lips. "Mike, what did we do? Hold his hand a lot."

"Rub his back?" Husky suggested.

"What does that even do?"

"I don't know, I just like doing it."

His wife and oldest son bickering melted into background noise; Mike rubbed his temples, shifting his glasses across the bridge of his nose and up to his forehead. Once he set them back down in their proper place, he adjusted the rearview mirror to catch his youngest son in the back seat, sinking into it as if he might drop down to China, face beet red. He smiled.

"Hey. I said hey! Stop. Shouldn't we ask Bo what he wants to do? It's his first date too, I assume."

Everyone quieted down and turned to face Bo.

"Well?"

Bo sniffled and pulled himself out of the seat a bit.

"...phants..."

"What? What'd he say?" Dean asked frantically. "Did he say no?"

"No, I said elephants. I like elephants?" Bo shrugged.

"I can do elephants, let's go find some elephants."

Dean practically barreled out of the truck, taking Bo with him. Bo cast a single, alarmed glance at his mother as she waved him off, then he was amongst the crowds of families pooling in the parking lot.

She turned around in her seat to see Mike staring out the windshield.

"Aww," she said softly. She tugged on his sleeve. "Come on. 'Awww!'"

"Aww."

"Awwww!"

"Aww, okay, damn. It was cute."

"Should I go in and spy on them?" Husky asked.

"No, I trust them."

"So what are we going to do about these Vice Squad people?"

Mike removed his glasses and rested one of the legs against his lower lip. "The dudes he was messing with, best leave them alone. They haven't found him so far and we don't need to go looking for trouble. But we do need to find the other two friends he was talking about. Bet they got scared and went back to normal life. We know one of 'em went by his real name."

"Let me at a computer and a phone book and I can do this."

Mom raised her eyebrow. "Oh? No haunted water and Satan runes?"

"I'm getting tired," Husky said, pouting. "I don't cast too good when I'm tired."

Mike snickered and muttered, "laaa-zyyy" under his breath in a sing-song voice as he started the truck back up.

Chapter Text

The lady at the ticket booth sized the two kids up. One was abnormally tall and lanky, and kind of grey like one of those new-fangled drug addicts she'd seen on the news; the other was shaking but smiling sweetly. Should she call the police?

She took the cash the tall one handed her. He was blank eyed. She printed their tickets out and it felt like the little slips of paper dangled from the register for an eternity.

Finally, she sighed and snatched the tickets, handed them to the kids.

"Have f--"

"Itsourfirstdate," the tall one blurted.

"I'm...excuse me?"

"First date. Where are the elephants."

The woman felt her heart slow down in relief. That at least explained the one with the bad case of nerves and serene blush spreading across his face.

"Well isn't that sweet! You don't have to go straight to the elephants--"

"Yes I do--"

"Here's a map you two can explore and enjoy your time together."

Dean sighed and took the map. Bo tugged him through the entrance.

"We don't really have to find the elephants first, I just didn't know what the say because y'all were staring at me."

"Your family has no sense of personal space."

"Sure don't. It was...nice being away from them for a while." Bo tugged his sleeves and looked up at the afternoon sky. "It's nice not being stuck to a pill schedule every day."

Dean unfolded the map and his face fell. "Fuck, we're gonna be here forever."

"It's not that...huh. Well, the elephants are right over there. Let's get that out of the way."

Dean and Bo spent the better part of an hour wandering from exhibit to exhibit, Dean snatching the occasional snack from distracted vendors and Bo going back and paying. When his hands weren't wandering, Dean maintained an iron grip on Bo's arm to ensure neither of them would get lost. Also, maybe he just liked the warmth even though he wasn't cold. Bo was so warm. It was enough to ignore the stares of the people around them.

At some point, everything around them turned from zookeepers to greenery and Dean was dimly aware they were in a garden of some sort. People were walking around sniffing flowers, dodging bees. Others were leaning on rails and reading plaques.

"Well, this got romantic," Bo muttered and snickered.

As the couple passed, a man leaning against a plaque perked his head up. He looked over to his friend who was immersed in a pamphlet, nudged his leg for attention.

"You hear that? Someone said 'rrromantic'," he said, dramatically rolling his R.

His friend looked up and shrugged. "'Kay?"

"Special romantic moments need special romantic songs, right?"

His friend's face fell to dread. "No. No, Aiden, don't, we're gonna get kicked out."

But Aiden was already wandering towards the couple, trying his best to be visible but discreet at the same time. When the couple paused near an interesting flower, he cleared his throat.

Dean turned around just in time for the man in loafers behind them to belt the few notes of "That's Amore" in his face, spittle and all. Dean pushed Bo a little behind him and grabbed the man's shoulders, shaking him slightly.

"What. What are you doing."

"Enhancing your romance!" The man sneered and snatched Dean's hands off him.

Dean looked behind him to see Bo shrugging, shoving his hands in his pockets.

"I didn't mind," he said. "People do that in the fancy restaurants."

"See! Someone appreciates a little art." Aiden plucked a dried flower out of his breast pocket and presented it with a flourish. "For you. You are?"

"Bo!"

Dean's face twitched as the strange man pressed the flower into Bo's hands. Behind him, two men wearing denim jackets and wool scarves bounded up, looking equal parts embarrassed and enraged.

"Damnit, Aiden!" the long haired one sighed. "I told you, you can't go around singing to strangers! We're gonna get kicked out again!"

"I told him that," said the shorter one with an upturned mustache.

Aiden sighed and allowed his friends to drag him back. "When I get my record deal, these impromptu performances will be but precious memories."

"Whatever, that's what you said about your alleged novel too."

"That's pending."

"Shut up."

Dean focused on the long haired one. Even with the thick rimmed glasses, the features were so familiar. If he mentally added a bit more muscle mass and a band tee it almost looked like

The man--kid, really--was staring right back at him with the same wide-eyed, unbelieving expression.

"It can't be!"

"Seth? Holy shit, is that you? Where's the metal tees and the blonde thing? What're those, loafers? Dude--"

The kid bolted, dropping Aiden and leaving his friends in the dust. Aiden picked himself up and adjusted his coat.

"You know Tyler?"

"Tyler? Oh--oh, yeah, I know Tyler. Haven't seen him in forever, probably why he ran. Think he owes me money." Dean laughed uncomfortably and pulled Bo along in the general direction Seth/Tyler had run away in. "Thanks for the song, we'll be moving along now."

Aiden looked to Simon. "Should we follow them?"

After a moment, Simon chuckled. "Nah, Tyler probably deserves whatever shit he's in."

Chapter Text

Mike sighed in frustration. Husky was certainly not kidding when he said he didn't do too well on no sleep.

So far, in an hour he'd received very vague visions, spoken in tongues, and had a low blood sugar fit. Mike placated him with an overpriced sandwich but now Husky claimed he was having a hard time concentrating on weird information.

"I dunno, man, I see two different people. One like Dean described, the other the same but different. Typically that would mean he's possessed or has a split personality."

Stephanie frowned. "Okay, so...how do we find The Tale of Two Punks?"

"That's not nice, honey."

Stephanie shrugged. "I'm hungry too, Mike."

"We're all tired and hungry, but I'm not the one that sent two kids into a zoo by themselves."

Husky watched his parents bicker over petty nonsense as his finger swirled around in his seeing water. He stretched his information further. Surely the young man didn't really have a split identity. All he'd done was trim his hair a bit and dye it black--all of this was gleamed from a few scraps of Dean's decaying DNA, so he wasn't getting the full explanation.

"I got it," Husky said as he finished his meal. "Kid changed names."

Stephanie broke away from the vicious argument cycle. "Changed his name? Can you see to what?"

"Don't got my ouija board."

Mike groaned. "Why do you need so much to channel Satan!"

"Demons are sensitive and complicated. They like their things."

Mike made an incomprehensible noise of annoyance and leaned against the car. He ran his hands through gel-slicked hair and took a few deep breaths. It's okay that they're in the middle of nowhere looking for a needle in a haystack, it really is.

~~~

Dean and Bo gave chase to the Seth/Tyler hybrid, but quickly lost him in the formidable crowd. Dean sighed and stopped for Bo to catch his breath.

"D-damnit," Bo grunted. "Sorry I slowed you down."

"You didn't. He's just fast as hell. Damn, I wonder what happened to him? He looks like the suits."

Bo looked up curiously. "The...suits? Like the man? That's what dad says."

"It's weird that dad would refer to 'the man', but yeah. Eesh. All that college fucked him up."

"Dean, 'nother question. When did my dad become your dad?"

Dean froze. That was a little odd. "Wh...when we got pretend married, of course."

Bo's eyes widened. "We got pretend married?"

"Yeah. When we, uh...you know."

"What!"

"That's why I kept saying I love you!"

"Omigosh." Bo covered his red face with his hands. "Omigosh!"

Dean smothered Bo into his coat. Well, he wasn't lying at least. They were kind of fake married. Why was he calling Mike dad, though? Just saying his name internally felt wrong now. He didn't recall having a dad and Mike just felt like more of one than he would have otherwise.

Before he got too maudlin again, Dean let Bo have some space.

"We gotta find Seth. Surely Husky can hex him by now."

"Hex is a curse."

"Whatever. This whole thing is a curse, except seeing you look all happy."

Bo covered his face again and Dean pulled him along.

~~~

Husky looked around the car just in time to see Dean pulling Bo along.

"Lovebirds are back."

"We got some good news and bad news," Dean announced. "First, we found a piece of my past. Good. Bad, it got away. I had to tell you in that order."

"That's interesting, because we too found a piece of your past. Husky says he changed names. Witness protection?"

"I can imagine. His new name is Tyler something. He looks like the man now."

"Black. Tyler Black."

The party jumped a few feet in shock. Dean and Bo whipped around only to be greeted by Tyler's two weirdo new friends on top of a sports car he was sure they didn't own.

"Ohh, we met you guys," Dean sneered. "Following us?"

"Simon just wanted to know how you knew Tyler. Sounds kind of..." The taller of the two covered his face with an invisible cape. "Mysterious!"

Mike stared at the kids a few moments before speaking. "Look, son, we're dealing with forces you don't understand--hell, I don't understand 'em--and we're trying to keep this hush. Now, this boy is not in trouble but we would like to find him."

In Mike's presence, the tall one reverted to something a little less awkward and much more normal. "Well, we weren't actually following you. We kinda got kicked out."

"For shenanigans," the short one added.

"And on our way out we heard these two talking about Tyler. We were gonna look for him too, but it sounded like something bad was happening!"

"Is he in a gang? He's a gangbanger, isn't he! I knew he was too clean and moody!"

"Calm down, folks. He is not...well, he was shady in the past but it seems he has changed. We just need to reunite him with his equally reformed friend here."

Dean watched Mike negotiate in awe. "He's so...so reasonable."

"Now, who are you two? Come on."

The two weirdos looked at each other with brief hesitation. Finally, the tall one pointed at himself. "Aiden. That's Simon."

"Okay. Aiden, Simon, we are obviously not from here. Can you give us a general sense on a map of where this young man lives?"

Simon volunteered to mark on the map in the car. Mom nodded her approval and looked at Husky.

"See, hun? The only witchcraft you ever need is a nice soothing baritone."

"Hmm. Well."

She then turned to Bo and Dean, smiling. "So how was your day out?"

"Good," Dean blurted. "Wanna do it again forever."

Mom's laugh was a short burst that shook her whole body with happiness. "I like that, don't ever lose it!"

Bo leaned in closer to Dean. Mike clapped Simon's shoulder and ushered everyone back into the car.

"Thanks, boys. Good luck with the singing and wrestling. Look us up in a few years."

The truck rumbled off out of the parking lot. A look of bliss settled on Simon's face.

"Dude, wrestling and singing?" Aiden said, frowning.

"What? We can do both. No one says we can't. Should we...?"

"Waste quarters telling Tyler someone's after him? Nah, like you said, he probably deserves it."

Chapter Text

Somewhere, there was an alternate reality where Dean was taking Bo on yet another outing. If he closed his eyes he drifted off to it, and when he awoke he was desperately trying to get back to it.

His family's conversation sounded like dinner noise. Dad mulled over the address they had been given--a place called Mount Adams. Husky remarked that it sounded awfully "bougie", which led to dad asking where he had learned that word and what it meant. While Husky was explaining the socio-cultural dynamics of slang, mom mused that she remembered this place from a trip long ago, prompting Bo, who wasn't really listening to begin with, to jump in with, "when?" The next few minutes were filled with Mom and Dad debating on whether it was March of 87 or June of 92 that they last visited Ohio.

The landscape quickly morphed into that of endless diners and other questionable looking joints. There were young people in knit caps and overalls and floral print everything. Husky hissed softly.

"College town," he whispered ominously.

"Indeed," dad muttered in agreeance.

If he wasn't dead, Dean was sure his heart would have skipped a beat. Anxiety washed over him as he sat up and pressed against the window; anxiety mingled with delight. A real college town. Of course! They were definitely going the right way, then. The strange kids hadn't steered them wrong. He scanned the sidewalks for a wide-eyed, dark haired lad trying to hide amongst normal people. An eternal watcher and gazer looking back at him, for him.

A road took them near the giant educational institute and past it, and Dean was so happy he'd started this adventure and so ashamed. Smaller campuses dotted around like moons according to the map. And, again according to the map, unless he was wrong, they weren't much farther now.

His stomach definitely flipped.

Bo, leaning over and spilling into mom's seat, turned back and smiled at him.

"Ready to put all this behind you?"

"Um, maybe I should let Husky ready my cards first." He leaned over into Husky's space and whispered, "Seriously."

Husky sighed and felt around his pockets in a way that Dean felt was sarcastic.

"Darn, fresh out of my stack."

Now he knew Husky was being sarcastic. He nudged him hard with his elbow and sulked.

The landscape changed again into that of scattered apartments and tiny brick houses, laundry hanging on the fences outside. Trucks similar to dad's lined the roads until they hit the interstate for a brief stretch, and then were deposited into the suburbs.

Dean had heard Mike mumble about the white picket fences and women with bouffant hairdos of his youth, and he knew somewhere in his distant memory he also held a dim view of these homogenized townhouses and SUVs. His inner proletariat was trying to claw its way out of him.

The chatter in the car died down as they approached the house. Mike braced his arm against the back of mom's seat and parallel parked under a walnut tree.

"You want us to...y'know, go with you?" Husky asked. "Like a unified front or somethin'."

Dean looked at his adopted family and then back to the greige brick townhouse with the gold address plaque and white door surrounded by two fake gas lamps.

"I..." He struggled. Hell yes he needed all hands on deck. But. "Can't ask y'all to do more for me than you already have. I gotta do this by myself."

Mike smiled and ruffled his hair. "Go get 'em tiger."

Dean took a deep breath and crawled over Husky to get out of the car. He reached back under Husky's legs and tugged at his long-discarded bag, fetched a wad of bills out. He slammed the door closed and poked the money in through mom's window.

Her eyes widened. "Where...?"

"Don't be scared, it's hardly blood money anymore. I don't think." Dean stood back and rubbed the back of his neck. "For the zoo. And I believe there's enough left to be" he hooked his fingers for air quotes "'bougie' on."

Mike leaned across his wife to grab Dean's arm. "Be careful. We'll be around, so just yell if it gets out of hand."

Dean couldn't stop himself from smiling. "Sure."

He counted the steps to the porch—twelve, nice even number and just enough to feel intimidating. He stood with both feet planted on the welcome mat. It was rubber and the faded white print said "Beware of Cat" with a distorted Cheshire Cat underneath. He couldn't imagine whose idea that was.

The family truck pulled off behind him and he did not look back. He squared his shoulders up, took another deep breath, and rang the doorbell.

Chapter Text

The Westminster chimes echoed throughout the Black household, sending the cat jingling off Tyler's lap. That was his only signal that they were expecting company, otherwise nothing had penetrated The End of Heartache over his headphones. Guitars so loud they splashed against his brain, whisking away everything from the past two hours of his day.

"Where ya goin, Buddy?" he asked softly, cut off by the cat hissing at him. Damn it but he hated felines. The doorbell rang again, this time followed by an insistent knocking. He scowled. That had better be Aiden and or Simon with an explanation for today.

"Hang on, damn."

He stepped out of the den and crossed the two foot stretch to the door. He swung it open, very prepared to give the Nerd Force another verbal beating for embarrassing him again.

What he saw made his words dissolve into one loud sob.

"Hey there Seth."

Tyler leaned against the door for support. He wiped at his face with his hoodie sleeve. There were noises coming out of his mouth but he wasn't sure if they were laughs or more sobs. The man before him was pale, so pale, with white eyes that might have been blue or green at some point, and a gash around his head like a crown. His body looked like God had forgotten the formula for humanity and freestyled something on the fly that looked vaguely person-ish but still off.

This was not Moxley, but surely one of the demons that his mother warned would come after him sooner or later.

"Mox, I...have to admit I'm relieved to see you." Tyler sniffed. "I was honestly getting tired of wondering when you were coming back to kill me."

Chapter Text

"Kill Sami! If it wasn't for him we wouldn't even be here!"

Sami looked at Rocky in shock. "You...you sold me out? But..."

"Do you think we care about you, asshole? You got us all into this shit. I could be in a jacuzzi with five dimes right now and I'd have two fuckin' eyes still!" Rocky winced and clutched his eye again. Trent patted his back and glared at Sami silently.

Jon sighed and shot into the air. White dust and ancient chemicals fell down on the bickering trio.

"Believe me when I say I'm going to kill every single one of you in short order. Starting with you, rat." He took aim at Sami. Sami fell back as if he'd already been shot.

"This isn't even my fault!"

Sami's protests were silenced by a bullet. Jon whipped his head around and saw Seth approaching slowly. Trent fell back, clutching his shoulder. Seth fired off another shot that ripped Jon's shirt and left a red welt. Rocky yelled, holding onto his leg.

"I don't care whose fault it is!" Seth yelled. He took aim at Sami's head. "I just want this shit to be over."

Sami held his hands up. "Okay, okay, you can go! Just don't shoot!"

"Quite frankly Callihan, I don't want to leave."

Jon didn't recall Seth's eyes ever being this cold before. Years of wide eyed innocence fell away like the strands of brown and blonde hair blowing in the gentle breeze. He'd fallen for the facade of a trained killer.

He punted Chuck in the head one more time and went to Seth's side, steering well clear of his aim. He stole a glare at Trent and Rocky then regarded Seth cautiously. "Go check on Roman," he said, tilting his head up.

Seth nodded and ran outside. Jon backed up but kept the gun in Sami.

"Doing it as a favor, yeah? For who?"

~~~

The spectre of Moxley pushed Tyler back into the house; he just barely avoided landing on the cat.

"Oof!"

Tyler didn't even have time to blink before Dean's foot was on his chest. It was much heavier than it should have been. He was pinned to the floor looking up at the wan face of his destroyer. He laughed and spit on the ratty leather boot.

"Do it already."

"Not until I get some answers. Someone's been lying to me for a long time, and before you die I want the truth."

"What the fuck are you talking about? You already know the truth, you were there! You said if you ever saw me again you'd kill me, so I want to know why you're back. Did you get bored?"

Dean took his foot off Seth's chest and swooped down to help him up.

"Okay, no more fake tough guy shit. I lost my memory, I have no idea what's going on right now."

Tyler cocked his head and looked Dean over again. Shit, he looked like a wreck. "This is a joke, right? You joined a black metal band or something?"

"I literally don't know what you mean."

"Like...what happened to you? Did you really lose your memory?"

Dean sighed. "I've worked really hard to recover my last year of life because I'm. Well. I'm kinda dead. I mean not kind of dead, I mean really dead."

Tyler laughed, hard, out of pure astonishment. He laughed so hard he stumbled into the den to lie down and continue laughing until tears ran down his face and onto the throw pillow. Dean followed him, mouth set in a firm line of displeasure.

"Really, Seth. Oh excuse me, Tyler."

Tyler's laughs died down into moans and the occasional hiccup. "So you--ran into Aiden and Simon, huh."

"Your new crew?"

"No, they're gonna be my...my roommates. Well, they were."

"Tyler or Seth, whatever, I'm not here to kill you. I don't think." Dean scratched his head out of habit, careful not to press too hard on the delicate skin. "Whatever it was is water under the bridge."

"Yeah, since you faked your death." Tyler snickered. "So you're dead and gone."

Dean knelt down in front of the couch. He snatched Tyler's hand and pushed it under his shirt, pressed the slim fingers against his chest. The two of them went quiet, the color slowly draining from Tyler's face. He expected the feel the usual rumblings of the human body but there was only his own blood pumping through his veins. The flesh under his fingertips was cold and dry, even for winter, like it had never known perspiration and never would again. And it was so gummy and slack on his bones, but even beyond that, there was no activity under there and if this was a joke Dean's been holding his breath for a long damned time and

"Nothing. There's nothing. No heartbeat. No pulse...nothing! How are you doing this? There's nothing!"

Tyler jerked his hand back angrily. Dean sighed and stood up.

"I'm not kidding. I don't think I was even going to fake my own death, it just kind of happened. I don't think I meant it. Hey. Look at me!"

Dean raised his shirt up to reveal unhealed gashes and scars held together by thread and surgical tape to keep anything from coming out. A network of pink and white shallow scars covered his hips like canals before disappearing into his jeans. Tyler's eyes widened and he gagged. He rolled off the couch and ran into the kitchen, nearly tripping on his own feet on his way to the sink.

Dean rolled his eyes at the dramatic retching from the kitchen. He tucked his shirt back in and gave Tyler some time to get it all out of his system. By the time he joined the kid at the sink, Tyler was on the floor whimpering in broken Spanish. Dean sighed. The Rotundas had been very accepting; it had been a long time indeed since he'd considered the outside world's feelings on his undead status.

"Drove into Florida and hit a tree." He shrugged. "I didn't make it." He held out a hand for Tyler to pull himself off, but Tyler waved it off, shaking his head.

"Fuck, I just saw you. It hasn't been that long." Tyler's voice was small, barely above a whisper. "I just saw you. You can't be dead!"

"Why do you care? That seems to have been the goal."

"No! I wasn't going to kill anyone else. You were the one that wanted to kill me! That's what you said then you left. But...if you're dead, then...oh god, how are you here right now?"

Dean smiled. "A very nice family necromancied me back. They've done a lot of good things for me. Now, I just need you to jog my memory so we can all go home."

"You...you're dead," Tyler whimpered. "What does it matter anymore?"

"Sounded like you needed this way more than me. This is probably your last chance to confess." Dean squatted down as far as his knees would allow him. "Get it off your chest, kid. And tell me the truth. I think you want to."

Tyler pulled himself together. He propped himself up against the sink cabinet and drew his knees up to his chest. His vision was still blurry from tears and it looked like the world was melting around him.

"Jimmy decided that you shouldn't make it to Vegas, but apparently along the way he decided no one should. He was so fuckin' paranoid. If Roppongi Vice hadn't jumped us when they did, the Continental's crew definitely would have. We weren't supposed to live."

~~~

Blood. The smell of blood and dust particles mingled in Seth's throat, his hair, made his eyes water and his throat itch. He was crying. No, he was laughing so hard in disbelief that tears were running into his stubble.

"Come on, man. I got enough goin' on." Roman sat up and pushed back his shirt a little. There was a bit blood coming from his mouth and nose from the grenade, which he'd successfully thrown away from his face at least, and his Kevlar vest absorbed the rest. He sniffed and his whole mouth tasted like copper. Judging by that and his wheeze, he hadn't been lucky enough to miss some internal damage.

Seth sank to his knees beside him. "None of this is going according to plan," he muttered.

"Killing Mox was never going to be easy."

"I don't think Jimmy was expecting these anime clowns and Sami going rogue. Unless." Seth gripped a fistful of sand. "Unless he was."

"Would you be surprised? Christ." Roman coughed painfully and slowly reclined backwards. "This really was going to be my last job, then I was supposed to retire. Not fuckin' die."

"You're not going to die. No one else has to get hurt."

Roman gazed at Seth silently for a few moments before his blood stained lips curled into a smirk. "You know it has to happen, kid. Even if it's not him. If It's me. If it's you. Hell, all of us. Jimmy's going to get everything he wants out of this deal, no matter what."

Seth turned his head to look at the dilapidated church. No doubt Sami was in there singing for his supper by now but it didn't matter. He took Roman's arm and gently slung it around his shoulders, and slowly dragged him out of the stark desert sunlight and into some shade. Roman groaned and gurgled unintelligibly.

"I'll be back."

"Finish the job wuss," Roman gurgled out.

"No."

Seth ran alongside the back of the church and into the front. When he kicked through the damaged wooden doors, RPG Vice were scattered at various points around the car. Jon was still hovering over Sami at the very back.

Rocky popped up, bracing against the limo for support. The door was off the hinges. He reached inside and tossed out the battered containers of narcotics.

"There's the fucking dope alright, jeez. I need a vacation after all this shit."

Trent was hoisting a concussed, stumbling Chuck, whispering in his ear. He saw Seth and sighed.

"Yeah, we're out of here. You guys need a ride after you kill Sami?"

Seth's face scrounged up in disbelief. "What? No! Not after all the shi—well." He paused, scratched his gun against his head. RPG Vice jumped. "No, no, I'm not gonna shoot you guys. Just pick up our buddy and take him to a hospital."

"How do we know he ain't gonna jump us in the car?" Rocky asked, peering at Seth skeptically with his good eye.

"You blew him up with a fucking grenade. I doubt he's going to make the ride, so..." Seth sighed in resignation. "Please."

Rocky looked at Trent, who nodded. Trent slid Chuck into the back seat and went to the driver's side. All the doors slammed simultaneously and it took a few tried for the wrecked vehicle to turn on, but when it did, it slowly pulled out of the destroyed front of the church. The passenger side opened and Seth saw Rocky hop out, grumbling, and walk around to the other side of the building. Satisfied that they were men of their words, Seth turned his attention back to the scene before him.

"Don't tell me you think you can trust him" Sami jerked his thumb at Seth "more than me. If you think I'm dirty he's just as bad."

"Come on, Jon, we've got the gear. Roman's going to a hospital.

Jon spoke to Seth without taking his eyes or gun off Sami. "You really let them drive off with your partner? Do you trust them?"

"I don't know who to trust right now, man."

"Not even yourself? Because there's more than one bullet in this chamber."

Sami cackled on the ground. "Go ahead. Shoot each other. I'll take the shit to Vegas and get shot, too. That was Jimmy's plan all along, you idiot."

Jon finally looked up at Seth. "Is he telling the truth?"

Seth's fingers rested on the trigger for a long moment, almost reflexively squeezed. Finally he met Jon's eyes and nodded.

"I called in Vice for protection, Seth. I was trying to get us out of there, I swear."

"Now that I don't believe," Seth said.

"Well, that settles it. There's only one loose end now, eh?"

Sami's eyes widened. "N-no. No! Moxley, we can work something out, don't!"

~~~

If Dean still had blood in his veins, he was sure it would have chilled and made him shudder.

"Who shot?"

"We both did. One a piece." Tyler's head rolled back against the edge of the sink. "We took the gear and rode to the nearest Greyhound and took a one way bus to Vegas. Like we probably should have to begin with."

"And Roman?"

"Is in Florida somewhere."

The front door knob rattled; faintly, someone cursed outside and Tyler thought he heard bags rattling. He clutched his chest and pulled himself up using the edge of the sink.

"Oh shit, that's my mom! T-take your coat off!"

"Why? Is it less suspect if we look shifty as hell?"

Tyler was already pulling out a dinged tea kettle from one of the overhead cabinets. "Just do it!" he hissed. "And sit down."

The door swung open and Tyler's mom was indeed cursing and holding paper bags. Tyler quickly filled up the kettle with tea and set it on the gas stove.

"SETH! I'M BACK!"

"I'm here, mom," Tyler muttered. "You don't have to yell."

Dean leaned across the table and whispered. "Seth? Tyler? Who the hell are you, man?"

Mom brought her three bags into the kitchen and dropped them on the floor. Dean winced. He hoped there was nothing valuable inside.

"I thought you still had your headphones on. What's going on in here?" She looked at Dean with a disapproving frown.

"This is an old friend, he's over for ramen, mommy."

"You know how I feel about 'old friends'," mom said, twitching her fingers for air quotes.

"Old as in, like...from...tenth grade."

"Hm. Never seen him."

"You've never seen any of my friends, mommy."

Mom held two fingers to her eyes then pointed them at Dean. Dean jolted a bit in his seat.

"I'm watching you and your little friend." She picked the bags up again and worked on arranging the various vegetables and fruits to her satisfaction in the fridge.

Dean leaned over the table again and whispered. "What's a ramen?"

"Noodle soup."

"I don't eat."

Tyler blanched again and stuttered. "Well...pretend!"

Dean reached out and grabbed Tyler's sleeve. "Me Dean." He thumped his chest. "You?"

"She's sending me to family up north, I can't go by my real name anymore."

"Dean smiled. "So you were dumb enough to use your real name after all."

Tyler twisted his arm away and frowned. "I told you, I didn't expect to live for anyone to care."

The kettle wail made everyone in the kitchen jump. Dean chuckled until mom's icy glare made him stop. He was struck by how much mother and son looked alike.

"Mmm," Dean moaned, making a show of patting his stomach. "Dean sure loves that noodle soup ramiken. When's it ready, Tyler?"

Tyler poured the hot water into the styrofoam cups. "Just a minute."

"I don't know why you kids are so obsessed with that junk," mom muttered. "It's all salt and carbs. Did you know they're actually opening a ramen kitchen downtown? It's just water and powder!"

Tyler felt himself about to launch into the history of his beloved soup, but thought better of it. He handed Dean his own cup and pointed his thumb up.

"We'll take these in my room. Dean's gonna help me finish packing and say good bye."

Mom gestured with her fingers again at Dean. "Fine. But I've got eyes and ears everywhere."

Tyler muttered, "She really does," then out loud, "Come on, best friend Dean" and led him up the long flight to the second level of the house.

Chapter Text

Dean took one look at the stringy-haired kid in front of him and decided he could never be a Tyler. That was much too innocent of a name for the lad slurping from a plastic cup of salty noodles across from him, on his bed with his legs crossed, bare feet neatly tucked under his athletic thighs.

To some extent, he guessed, he was always going to be Moxley if he insisted on going this way. The identity of "Dean" that he was cultivating now, stripped away by a few bedtime stories. The veracity of which he could barely cosign on. Just gunshots and dust and death, as told over blankets and ramen.

The bedroom was mostly packed up. There were some posters that needed to be stuck in cardboard tubes, and a milk crate stuffed to the limit with vinyl records. The bare walls were slowly but surely receiving new coats of that New House Alabaster to cover up every last trace of teenage angst. A few spots even had scratchy logos etched out in black crayon. That was the Seth that Dean supposed he knew at some point.

"After that," Seth said around a mouthful of noodles and steaming broth, "you held a gun to my head all the way to Vegas until we met up with the Continental and his Asian henchmen. But he didn't use the word 'Asian'."

Dean stirred around in his own Styrofoam cup. "Hm? What did he say?"

"I-I'm not saying it out loud!" Seth balked.

Dean kept idly stirring his soup as if he were scrying. "I didn't hold a gun to your head all the way. I took a break when we finally took the bus."

Seth set his soup cup on his windowsill and drew his knees up to his chest. "Yep…the Greyhound. At last. And then…"

~~~

The grand, heavy doors in the basement of the casino opened up to reveal a sprawling red carpet decorated with golden rose petals. They were crushed all the same under Seth's heavy moto boots that were stained beyond all saving with red desert dust. They were nudged forward by the blonde haired Japanese gentleman and his dark haired cohort.

Seth and Mox walked slowly, so slowly, towards the end of the room where an expensive desk lined with more gold awaited them. And at the desk sat a tall man with an impeccably shiny bald head, exquisitely trimmed dark scruff and elegant Old World features that screamed money and danger like nothing else in the room could. To drive his point of opulence home, he was cleaning under his fingernails with a mother-of-pearl blade.

When Seth and Jon stopped at his desk finally, he didn't move his heavy brow to look at them.

"Gentlemen," he said evenly. "Weren't there, ah, three of you?"

~~~

Dean abruptly sat up, taking his lukewarm soup with him. He shoved a few noodles in his mouth and gagged--Seth's mom was right, this soup was salty as hell.

"Seth."

Seth looked up with mournful eyes. Dean caught his gaze and suddenly remembered the very last piece of this sprawling puzzle, the very last absolute thing missing.

"Stop talking about it."

"Stop? I haven't even started! I didn't even get to the epic sword fight you had with that Shinsuke dude."

Dean swirled his soup around in his cup contemplatively. "My…uh…new friend. No, my life partner." He smiled. "My new life partner told me I don't have to hurt myself with this if I don't wanna. So I'm not gonna. I'm done hunting down this weird ass past…did you say I had a sword fight?"

"You lost me at life partner."

"See? The present is so much more interesting! I have a life partner, I'm dead, you….you're alive! And…" Dean paused. "You've got weird friends! Normal, weird friends! You eat ramikens!"

"Ramen--no--" Seth shook his head. "Please, Mox. Let me get it out. Talking about it is how I will move on! You haven't had to worry about it because you're safe now! I've killed people!"

Seth's face was a portrait of agony. Dean was taken aback by the raw emotion and that's what he needed this whole time. The understanding, the commiserating, the human experience that was so distant from him now in this state. The remorse of a lifetime wasted, but now

"Then what?"

Seth scrubbed his face with his sleeve. "What?"

"When we talk…then what? There's nothing we can do to atone for this." His brow furrowed; his brain was firing up, conjuring words from a long time ago spoken by a smoky voice from a hazy, vaguely feminine shape. The phantom of his mother. "The only thing you can do is say 'sorry' and keep it moving."

"Keep it moving?" Seth laughed cynically. "Are you kidding me? That's what I tried to do. All it did was make me miserable and now I can't even live in my own house. So I might as well talk to you. You asked."

"You're right. I did ask, and I've been asking without giving a damn about how it was affecting everyone around me. They were okay with it because they cared about me, and I thought I needed this but I don't. I just need him."

"Your life partner is a he! Who is it! Oh lord, please don't tell me it was that hillbilly in that truck."

Dean's head snapped up. "You saw us?"

"I peeped out the window. We rarely get loud ass pick-up trucks rolling through here."

"Well, it wasn't."

"The dude with the glasses?"

"No, the little one."

Seth's eyes widened. "Oh, god. Oh god, Mox--I mean Dean. That kid was ten."

Dean could already hear Bo getting offended in his head. "He's just little and chubby faced. And I love him! I told myself I was doing this for him, but I've been doing it for me. Then I was just being stupid. All the epic ninja sword fights in the world won't change how dumb this was!"

Dean was huffing and puffing more with the effort of keeping up with his flailing limbs and not from the need to breathe. He did feel the innate need for a cigarette, though, and a couple of cookies. He lightly scratched the side of his head, careful not to knock anything lose or askew up there. He looked down at Seth on his bed, crying freely again and looking back up at him.

"So you don't want to hear it either, then."

"No. You need to hear this." Dean crouched down at the end of the bed. He smirked a little. "You always took everything to heart, man. We didn't kill Troll Man, remember? We shot around him, he screamed like a bitch, and ran. Why did you tell me different?"

Seth blinked away the tears stinging his eyes. "I thought you didn't remember?"

"I remember everything. I know I told you to say we both shot him so you wouldn't shoulder the blame alone. You scared me so bad that day. I thought you were really gonna do it because you looked so hard. But you were shaking."

Seth shook his head with a lifetime of denial. "I did not shake. I was not a wuss!"

"Who called you a wuss?"

When Dean forced Seth's head up to look at him, he could tell by the other kid's unfocused glance that he was in another world. Reliving countless memories, his lips moving but no words coming out.

"I was just some computer nerd. I liked games. People picked on me because I was weak and nerdy, and I was gonna show them. Everyone thought I was a wuss. Even Roman. I wasn't strong at all, but I learned, and I showed them all..."

"Christ, Seth, come back to me. You are not a wuss. You were strong enough to walk away and deal with all this shit on your own."

"I cried a lot."

"You should have cried! Don't you get it? I pointed a gun at you because you needed a villain, not to think of yourself as one. If I had known you would drive yourself crazy with guilt anyway I wouldn't have even said it. But you were right. We weren't supposed to make it out of there."

"We almost didn't," Seth whispered.

"But we got out of there together. And you were angry because I pointed a gun at you."

"I thought you wanted me dead, too."

"I wanted you to get away from this shit. All of it. Guns don't make you hard, dealing with your business like a grown ass man does!" Dean stopped a moment, expecting an invisible camera to be shoved in his face at any time. But he looked down at Seth's wet face again and knew he was reaching him, somewhere. "I don't know what you did in the past, but Tyler hasn't done all that. Tyler can go to college wherever he wants. And Mox…well, Moxley is dead. And so is Dean. Kind of."

The newly-christened Tyler smoothed some stubborn strands of hair back. Under the natural, earthy darkness, Dean saw a few resilient if bleach-damaged specks of blonde.

"I can't believe you're dead. Er, undead. And you get a life partner. I'm still single!"

"Don't worry, Tyler. You'll find your Bonnie and or Clyde one of these days. Hell, it might be one of your weirdo friends!"

Dean chuckled but quickly stopped when he saw Tyler glaring up at him.

"Maybe not. So, bucko, guess this is the last time we'll see each other. I better violate your personal space one more time."

Dean crouched down in front of the orange milk crate and started sorting through the vinyl. Tyler finally untucked his legs and wiggled his toes until the numbness went away.

"I still don't understand though. What happened to you?"

"I was heading for the lawless country of Florida because it seemed far away enough," Dean muttered. His hands rested on a particular album. Something about it made his hands tingle. "I took all my documents out and I was gonna burn. I was going to be metaphorically dead. But I stole a car. A really sweet car. I was…going to return it. I lost control, then I was real life dead."

"And your…new people brought you back."

"Sho nuff."

Dean finally pulled the album up out of the crate to stare at it. The album art was a stylized photograph of two men, one tall and one short, standing in the middle of a busy street as cars rushed past in both directions. Both men were stood in braggadocio posture, with the shorter of the two boasting a diamond-encrusted eye patch and a fur coat that Dean would believe in a heartbeat was real. The taller man had on a simple headband that kept his dark mane back, gaudy embroidered pants, and little else.

The top of the cover said in hot pink very committed-to-80s-aesthetic "RPG Vice: A True Story".

"This…" Dean's palms itched, a phantom sensation. He dropped the album with a soft, harmless thud. "That's…them!"

Tyler looked at where the record had fallen. "Yeah, that's them. Our tormentors for several days."

"What is that?"

"Technically it's an EP. Apparently after meeting with us and Jimmy, they did a one eighty and handed over their criminal empire to some thugs called Bullet Club. Then they started releasing mixtapes about their lives on the skreets."

"I'm sorry, skeets?"

"No, skreets. Streets with a K, that's how you say it when you really mean it." Tyler muttered the word under his breath one more time for good measure. "Skreets."

"So…they're off the skre--I mean, streets?"

"Yeah. They do charity work and release uplifting music." Tyler picked the record off the floor and held it on his lap. "I bought it because I guess I just wanted to hear things from their perspective, you know? It's like they're talking to me…look."

Tyler slipped a finger under the opening of the album cover and retrieved a thin lyric sheet. The lyrics were stylized to look handwritten by busy hands. Dean let his eyes roam over the words, co-written by Rocky and Trent--or Trenty as he went by now--together. There were cryptic titles such as "Japanese Disco" and "Rest in Gentleman" followed by miniature poems contrasting the glamour of having a ton of money to play around with and losing vital limbs to maintain those riches. Dean felt like he stared at the lyrics forever, emblazoning them in his admittedly short memory.

Bang bang,

I lost my sight in the sand

Bang bang,

I tried to take the life of another man's friend

Bang bang,

Would I ever do this again?

How could I ever do this again...

He ran a finger down the side of the sheet. "This…is how you will move on."

"It helps."

"You write too. Get your story out there. Learn to play a keytar. And just know that I'm listening, too."

Dean handed Tyler the lyric sheet back and he gingerly pushed it back into the sleeve. He stood up, legs fully circulated now, and loosely wrapped his arm around Dean's torso.

"I actually have something I've been working on," he whispered into the cold flesh.

"Ah, I'm sure you do, but I have a feeling my family is brunching somewhere and I gotta find them."

Tyler pulled back and smirked sardonically. "Oh, right. Of course. Let's go find your life partner. Ooh-la-la~"

Dean stood in silence for a few moments, frowning. "I bet you'd love Husky, but I don't want y'all to ever meet. I'll walk."

Chapter Text

Unfortunately for Dean, Tyler's mom insisted on lending her son the family car so Tyler could take his "little friend" home. Tyler didn't mention that he had no idea where home was for Dean or where the rest of his family was. And they were in no small area. Still, she tossed Tyler the keys and waved Dean off. She tried to kiss the young boy's cheek but recoiled at the waxy coldness of his flesh.

"Eheheh. Bye."

Dean got into the Pontiac Grand Prix and buckled in. Tyler pulled himself up a little to view over the headrest and planted his palm firmly against the back of the seat. He darted out of the driveway so fast that Dean jerked forward and his seatbelt got stuck.

The ride out of the neighborhood and back into town was much smoother, but Dean still found himself holding onto the door handle. He glanced at Tyler, who looked as terrified as he felt right now.

"Don't make that face in the car, man."

"I don't have a permit."

"I can tell, and if I can tell that’s how the cops are going to catch us!"

"Why did she give me the car?"

"That's what moms do. That's what I was told." Dean sighed and thought about the time mom mistakenly granted Husky driving privileges to the store and back. What ensued was a long day's journey into night involving a destroyed crate of tomatoes and a local farmer's sheep going missing.

"So what do they like to do? Your partner's family."

"Hmm. Well, Husky's into Satan and nobody else is…I know this time of day they'd be having brunch maybe. Is there a good brunch place around?"

"There's a couple downtown. Why'd they go all the way out there?"

"You tell me, man. I still don’t really get quiche." Dean propped his head up against the window and took a quick glance around the car. Lipstick tubes, bits of lint in the carpet, the tell-tale signs of heel wear in the driver's seat. A CD jutting out of the player. "Can we play a little music?"

"Oh, sure. There's no good radio stations but I think this has some good stuff on it." Tyler pushed the CD in and let it click and whirr. "It's a mixtape my mom's ex-boyfriend gave her. Think it's got some eighties stuff. Uhh, Dean?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you even listen to music? Can you…can you hear?"

Dean would have slapped his head if he was certain it wouldn't knock something askew up there. "Yes, Tyler. I can hear. But," he pressed a finger to his lips, "I don't remember what music I liked if any."

They were interrupted with the dulcet sounds of a melancholy violin and piano melody followed by what sounded like windchimes. Knowing what Seth/Tyler usually preferred, the genteelness made Dean want to laugh. But when he looked at Tyler for corroboration of the joke, he found a lad struggling very hard not to sing along.

"Tyler? You okay man?"

"Yeah, this is…this is just my jam."

"Do I need to--dude, you look ready to blow--"

Tyler sat back and dropped his foot down on the gas like his foot was made of lead. The car jerked and sped up, overtaking three cars with a couple of reckless turns. Tyler opened up his lungs and heart, and sang with all his might,

"I WILL NEVER FIND ANOTHER LOVER MORE SWEETER THAN YOU, MORE SWEETER THAN YOU~"

Dean struggled to pull forward but his seat was sucking him in like quicksand. "Se…Tyler…!"

The car swerved with every crescendo and Dean though the madman behind the wheel might be trying to get the cars around him to honk in time to the song. He barely recognized their surroundings, just dots and blurs that might have been trees.

"Cuh-lose to me you're like my mother, close to me you're like my father--"

"Tyler, I love speed but please slow down!"

Tyler held an invisible microphone to Dean's lips. "Come on! This is fun!"

"I don't know this song!"

Tyler frowned and paused the song. He slowed up considerably on the avenue they were on before they slammed into any pedestrians. He turned his invisible mic off and threw it on the floor.

"Well…you do the little back ground 'oohs'. You'll hear 'em. I'll start over."

Dean doesn't pray nor does he have anything to pray to or about. Most of Bo's prayers started with, "Please sweet lord Jesus" in the deep Florida twang he only gets when he's scared or mad. So now Dean clenched his fist and held it to his mouth and whispered, "Please sweet lord Jesus."

Tyler did not speed up like before, but he did roll his window down and turned the music up past acceptable levels. To Dean's chagrin, some of the people outside encouraged Tyler by singing or swaying along. He wished he could lean out the window and call them all fools.

~~~

There were at least six plates between the Rotundas, at least three belonging to Husky. Bo was picking futilely at what was left of his and trying to get his dollar's worth out of his unsweetened tea. Mom and dad had chosen the place because the ambiance reminded them of diners from when they were young. But how much time was too much? That's surely what their waiter was asking.

Dad had disparagingly referred to the waiter as a "mark", which Bo knew meant anything from over eager fan to drunken bar patrons (any lower than that and said person became a jabroni). This mark in particular referred to dad as "Mr. IRS" until dad's eyes nearly rolled clean out of his head. Bo wanted to tell the man that he was talking himself right out of a tip.

Mom was enjoying herself, at least. She declared this week her cheat week due to all the stress, and ordered not one but two handmade milkshakes. She hadn't got sick off that, nor the reuben, nor the spaghetti she'd just packed away. Looking at her slim frame, Bo only prayed that he could pack food in unseen corners of his body like that.

"So…when are we getting 'em?" Husky asked.

"I don't know, an hour and a half seems like a while. I hope he didn't get kicked out and isn't looking for us!"

Bo sighed, partly from frustration and partly from exhaustion. Their idyllic conversation was broken up by the rumble and boom of a stereo. Bo hasn't heard that noise since they left Florida. It didn't seem to disturb the other patrons, but the Rotunda family perked up like meerkats.

"I just…have a bad feeling…or a good feeling, I guess," dad muttered. "Maybe I'm wrong."

"That sounds like…K-Ci and JoJo? Good lord, I haven't heard this song since junior high prom."

Bo listened in. "Oh, I know this."

The instrumental break in the song ended and the music dipped a little. On top of the choir and dramatic strings, a mostly in tune voice rose above and finally shattered the other diners out of their complacency.

"SAID I PROMISE TO NEVER FALL IN LOVE WITH A STRAAAN-GERR!"

Before dad could stop him, Husky had hopped out of the booth and was jogging outside.

"Husky! Where are you going! You don't even know these people!"

"I don't know who it is, but them's my people!"

Dad stood up but Husky was already out the door to greet the Pontiac speeding down the street, still singing. Bo hid his face in his hands.

"His part's coming up."

"What's that, honey?"

"It's everyone's part in the song."

Dad watched as his son and a stringy haired stranger wailed at each other in the street. He looked down at Bo, who was blushing from his face to the tops of his shoulders.

"God. This is why you hate him, isn't it?"

"I don’t hate 'im, just…sometimes…"

The passenger door of the Pontiac popped open, almost taking Husky with it. Dean shambled out and ran to the restaurant, pressed his face against the window.

"Dean!" Bo cried out.

"He's played this song five times!" Dean wailed. "Kill me!"

"You're already dead!"

"Let me die!"

Dean slowly slid down the glass into a heap on the sidewalk. Bo turned around and saw an angry man holding a red towel that he assumed was the owner. He left it to dad to smooth over and ran outside, collecting Dean off the concrete.

Dean's friend and Husky were approaching, screaming the song over one another with Dean dead in their sights. Bo covered Dean with his own body against the assault of overly dramatic singing. The Pontiac had brought traffic to a halt, still running in the middle of the road.

"HUSKY! Stop it! Sweet lord Jesus!"

Husky stopped singing as the music trailed off into a New Wave number. Dean's friend dashed back to the car to turn the sound down and park on the side of the road. The scene slowly went back to normal, with people continuing on their way through town and dad using his full height to get in the restaurant owner's face.

Dean unfolded himself under Bo. He blinked and looked up at Bo's face surrounded by a halo of light, like one of those Renaissance portraits of cherubs.

"You…saved me?"

"Sure, I g-guess."

"I was supposed to save you…and you saved me." Dean sighed and rested comfortably in Bo's arms. "This relationship is gonna be great."

Chapter Text

"You don't have anything to worry about anymore," Tyler said. The Rotundas were taking their leave back for Florida and he was crouched next to Dean, still slumped against the back of the truck. "Jimmy, Roppongi...all that shit is behind you. You gotta live clean with your new family."

Dean sighed and nodded in response. Tyler looked across the street and pointed. "Hey, the trees are blooming early."

A lone dogwood with low-hanging branches boasted a handful of defiant white blossoms amongst the red fruits and pale buds of the blooms to be. Dean gnawed on his restaurant toothpick thoughtfully.

"Ain't they gonna die?"

Tyler sighed, exasperated. "No! They'll be fine!"

Dean muttered again about the blossoms dying as everyone piled into the truck. He got up just before the exhaust fumes took up the air around him. He slid into the backseat to sandwich Bo between himself and Husky.

Tyler tapped on the window. When Dean tried to roll it down, he waved him off and gave a thumbs up instead.

"The blossoms mean everything is new again!" he yelled.

"Nope, means as long as my family's alright then I'm alright."

"No, I like mine better!"

Dean sighed and gave his own thumbs up as the truck pulled off.

Dean knew spring couldn't last forever, but he didn't think the end would suck this bad.

He rubbed his palm across the top of the package he'd just received from Mr. Amazon. The lady cave, now officially his bedroom, was decorated with many such boxes in various sizes. Most of his packages were cheap paperbacks, some were college books he'd scored for Bo's continuing education. This particular box was a mixture of music and video games.

Bo had been content to let him win at Mario Kart up until school started. Then Dean found increasingly swept up in the Lightning Cup by Bo's new outcast pals and pushed aside for study group time. Bo had never really invited school friends over before so Dean naturally assumed he had none. That was only half of the truth. Bo had no friends at his old school. His new and final school, however, was full of competition.

Bo had three new friends -- a hyperactive ginger, a socially awkward jock that Dean called Meatball and he had no idea why, and some emo kid -- and as the oldest of them all (technically), Dean found himself taking on various new roles: medic for underage drunken brawls, lifeguard for swing jumping at the pool, counselor for when Bo's medication didn't keep him quite even. Ironically, as he gained roles, he slowly slinked away into various corners of the house to let his love live.

Life. What a weird word coming from his thoughts. Thoughts that were interrupted by his former nemesis and now occasional sympathizer and spy Husky. Husky had finally moved out two months ago and now made guest appearances on the weekends to keep Dean from languishing.

Husky held the missing GameCube controller in his hand. "You ready for this?"

"I don't wanna play."

"Sure you do. What you got there?"

Dean looked down at the box again. "Some CDs, an Atari manual."

"You're gonna be one of those hoarders, man."

Husky had toned down some of the more blatantly evil aspects of his high school days and settled on wearing a trilby every now and then and normal band shirts. He had a fledgling beard and some tattoos. He was so disappointingly normal now that he could be mistaken for a regular snake oil salesman, not the vessel of Satan.

He burned the tape around the edges of the box with his finger tips and rummaged through the contents. He pulled out the CD and smiled at the cover of pink cherry blossoms and a man clad in skin-tight black leathers and holding a keytar.

"Hey, this is your guy right? Tyler?"

"Tyler Night," Dean said. "That's the new one."

"Hear It From Me. I do declare that he looks more like Janet Jackson than Janet these days."

"Yeah, androgyny is his thing. It'll be big in the future." Dean sighed. "How's he doing?"

"Bo? Come on man, don't be like that. Once he's graduated and you all move in together and start settin' up house it'll be juuust right."

Dean, unwilling to be comforted by good thoughts, still grumbled. "I feel like I see you and Dad more than him."

"Well, I'm not ya boyfriend. Why don't you tell him how you feel?"

"No, he's busy trying to gradu-ma-ate."

"He's not too busy for him some Deee-eeeean," Husky teased, drawing Dean's name to two syllables. Dean threw a pillow in response. Some things, fortunately, never change.

Chapter Text

Bo cocked his head at his brother. "Say what?"

"He wasn't going to tell you himself so I knocked him out with a sleeping spell." Husky sighed. "Your man is feeling mighty neglected is what I'm trying to say."

"Why?"

"Because he sees you out here rolling around with your little friends and he feels a way about it. Get it?"

"They're his friends too!" Bo sat down at the dinner table, pouting. "He can roll around with us!"

Husky pulled up a chair with a scuff that set Bo's teeth on edge. "Little brother." He flipped the chair backwards and sat down. "I do believe you are taking Dean for granted after all the reckless and stupid shit he has done in your name. Now, he really doesn't have anywhere to go and no reason to go if he did. Unlike the amnesiac gentleman I accidentally bound to the house back up in the year."

"That was bad."

"That was bad, yes. But just because Dean is cold and dead on the outside doesn't mean he's dead on the inside. Dig?"

Bo squinted and leaned forward to rest his arms on the table. "Was that a pun?"

Husky thought for a moment and laughed. "No. No it was not. But do you see what I'm saying? Just pet his head every now and then or something, don't leave him hanging in Twilight Princess."

Bo nodded, frowning. He tugged at the edges of his hoodie. "We don't really go out that much anymore. Man, adult relationships is hard."

"Don't. I fuckin'. Know it," Husky grumbled. "And neither one of y'all is technically an adult yet. But I think you can work it out. Anything else, I will hex. Deal?"

Bo grinned and shook his big brother's hand. "Deal!"

Chapter Text

Curtis shed his custom bomber jacket as soon as he popped into the house. Band practice had gone a little long, but he was in charge of making the flash cards for Heath this go around so, despite his exhaustion and mild delirium, he absolutely had to show up.

He hung the coat carefully on the closet door. Bo's mom waddled out of the kitchen when she heard the screen door close.

"Well hello to you too, Curt."

"Hi Mrs. Rotunda." He waggled his fingers at her protruding belly. "Hi li'l baby bro or sis!"

She snickered and pointed upstairs. "Everyone's already up there. I might have gotten domestic and made bagels."

Curtis's brows knitted together with concern. "Ma'am, you ought not -- maybe you ought not be in front of a hot stove in your condition."

Mom rolled her eyes on her way to the couch. "I wasn't in front of the stove the whole time. And it's not that hot. I won't melt the baby like one of those weird pregnancy dolls."

Curtis shuddered at the morbid imagery. "C-can I do anything for you, ma'am?"

"You can eat the bagels and make my sacrifice worth it."

"'Kay. Bye, Mrs. Rotunda. Bye baby."

He ran upstairs. A plastic case full of index cards was stuffed into the back pocket of his cargo shorts. He nudged the door to Bo's room open and was hit with the scent of bagels and loud cream cheese.

"Finally, Curt, we thought you got lost," said Adam around a mouthful of bagel. He'd started chewing on a lock of his hair as well, but if he noticed he didn't care. He was wearing a little less eyeliner today and a denim vest with band patches.

Heath, meanwhile, was a bit paler than normal for some reason. His freckles were popping on his ruddy skin and it reminded Curtis of an octopus. He was experimenting with his hair, too, but still looked like Raggedy Andy, which no one would say out loud.

Bo, Curtis's fellow normie, was enjoying his new space. With his brother gone, he'd converted the other bed into a futon cum gaming station or chill pad. Controllers and plastic plates lay at his bare feet. Sure looks like a bachelor pad in here, Curtis thought to himself. He slipped the plastic case out of his pocket.

"Okay, Heath. Here we go, man. We gotta get this right today. Start with the hard stuff."

"Shut the door," Bo said.

Curtis bumped the door with his heel and sat down. He shuffled the cards intensely. Heath moved closer like a wounded animal.

"It's just math," Adam said, exasperated.

"Hey, not everyone is good at math," Bo countered. "Curt is the best we got, hell that's why I'm passing."

Heath's lip quivered. "I'm good at math, just not this math!"

"I mean, it's hard." Curtis frowned at an answer written on the back of a card then flipped it around to read. "Rational zero is…?"

Heath froze. "It's…the…uh…"

Bo nudged him with his elbow and whispered, "The theorem thingie."

Adam peeked at the answer and likewise frowned. "He's not gonna get that."

"Like. Give me two words. Close enough."

"It…uh…"

The room filled with sweat and silence for several minutes. Bo sighed and started cleaning up around his friends. Heath's face turned lobster shell red as he ran his own mind over the coals for an answer.

"It…makes…"

The door slammed open dramatically. Dean, holding a delicate China tea cup with his pinky extended straight to the sky, ambled in with an exaggerated posh accent. "The rational zero theorem states is used to find all roots of a pooolynoomial." He looked pointedly at Bo. "Polynomial."

Bo's nose crinkled to hide the faint blush spreading across his cheeks. Heath hooted and jumped up from where he sat on the floor.

"Rational zeros make the function equal zero! Glory!" He threw his hands up and ran a quick victory lap around the room, still hooting and hollering. Bo and Adam cheered along with him. Curtis simply looked confounded and mildly annoyed. They could celebrate when they'd finished all the cards.

He looked over at Dean sipping from his tea cup. He couldn't imagine what was in it, Dean didn't seem the high tea type. Damn, but Dean was so cool. He could afford the most ravaged, futuristic couture of any season but still lived in modest means with Bo and his family. His deathly pale skin, lean, coke-skinny body, and weird white eyes and old unhealed gashes gave him a rugged, slightly dangerous sense of mystery. He was so classically punk that he was sure Adam was crying himself to sleep at night and shaking his fist at the heavens. And he had to admit, dude was pretty funny.

At first, he had no idea what to think of him and Bo together. They just looked like two Tetris pieces that the player forced into formation. Bo, from what Curtis has seen of him in old pictures, has hulked up with healthy biceps and a more athletic frame. Dean could have a beefy frame too if he ate a little more protein. Thanks to his family, Curtis knows a lot about nutrition and he slips pamphlets to Dean sometimes. He's seen them in the trash, but he keeps trying. But looking at them now, smiling and giggling at each other and Adam gagging himself unseen behind them, he can't help but shake his head and grin back.

There's not a lot that Curtis doesn't like about Bo's family. From dad re-enacting old matches during Twister to Husky's eccentric but harmless antics, he can hardly wait to pop in weekly for his fix.

Speaking of which, he asked, "How's your timing so good?"

Dean knocked over a little stack of towels behind Curtis and pulled up a clear quartz sphere. The sphere reflected the room upside down and a little foggy. "One of Husky's sentinels. Me and ma are laughing our asses off downstairs."

Curtis took the orb out of Dean's hands and marveled at it. He's seen these "sentinels" before, little weird round security TVs that Husky occasionally rolls or strings up in Bo's room. He doesn't really get it, but they add ambiance to the room if nothing else. The whole family and Heath had tried to convince Curtis that Husky was a witch, but no sir he did not believe it and argued on the man's behalf. Witches exist to scare little kids to do chores, and Curtis was no child.

Curtis gently set the orb down and rolled it back to Dean. Dean caught it and sat on the makeshift couch. He split the last bagel and brandished one half around the room. When no one took up his offer, he stuffed both halves into his mouth. Curtis frowned.

"That's gonna turn to fat," he warned.

"I told you, man. I don't put on weight. I'm dead."

"Don't say that about yourself, you'll get there eventually."

That was another thing. Dean had this whole thing about being "dead". Bo had gently broke it to him one evening after they'd been friends for a while. Bo knew his secrets were safe and being gay in high school was more than risky if not straight suicide, but Curtis did not know why he felt like he had to go so far as to hide the relationship with something so morbid. Heath seemed to be slowly buying into it, Adam said he'd seen something that made him a believer. But Curtis continued to shield Dean's ego and argue valiantly in his honor. Whoever saw a corpse above ground?

Sometimes, when Dean rolled his eyes, the noise was quite audible as a soft scratch like the sound of feline nails on tweed. Curtis continued cycling through flash cards for Heath as his friends encouraged him on. But he kept Dean in the corner of his eye. The other man must have known because he periodically turned milky white, directionless eyes at him as well. But they held no malice. In fact, they held nothing. A slight shiver ran up Curtis's spine but he ignored it. Probably just a little allergies coming on, he rationalized.

Chapter Text

Mike patted the family down sans Bo one more time. He felt up jackets, checked the folds of his wife's soft, stretchy maternity shirt, and stuck his hand in the vortex of Husky's druid cloak. An otherworldly shriek erupted from the dark portal but Mike's hand didn't bring anything back with it.

"Okay, family. No screaming and yelling, right? Only polite clapping."

"Right," his family chorused.

"And no air horns."

"Right."

"And certainly no magic bullshit just today!" Mike pointed at Husky. "Right?"

"R-right!" Husky stammered.

Mike's hard gaze turned to a soft grin. "Okay. Now let's go celebrate our baby boy's big day."

The school was big enough to move their graduation ceremonies to a spacious college basketball gym decorated with streamers and tarp on the ground. Twenty rows of students were patiently waiting for their diplomas and therefore license to run out of the building screaming into the night. The families were loaded up in the stands, disposable cameras at the ready. The Rotundas sat with a few out of town cousins and aunts and uncles that shied away from Husky and, after a while, Dean as well.

Bo was closer to the end and Heath a few rows ahead for the honor roll. Dean had to golf clap for the kid's accomplishment, he personally watched the kid bust his ass for those grades. According to Bo, Adam had ditched the graduation ceremony altogether declaring it mainstream, and Curt's father was making him do double duty on stage with his clarinet. When Heath took his stride across the stage he looked like enough to float on his robes. There was a short but loud pop from his mother and they pumped their fists at each other.

Husky's graduation was a hard-won accomplishment in Mike's life and Bo was no different. After multiple schools, counseling, medication adjustments, fights, and revenant living in his house, seeing his youngest making progress socially and educationally made him gleam proudly as Bo stood to take his turn on stage.

"Taylor Rot--"

"That's my baby!"

His family leaped from their seats, hooting and hollering. Mike wasn't sure which one of them threw confetti but he suspected it was from Husky's dark hands. And despite his best attempts, Dean slipped an air horn from his bomber jacket. Mike swore internally and slumped backwards, hand massaging his eyelids. He was so ashamed. Laughing, but ashamed.

Chapter Text

It was late in the evening but still slivers of daylight left on the ground. The rest of the campus was illuminated with street lights and lightning bugs. Groups of friends had sectioned off from the mass that spilled out of the gym and into the amphitheater out front. To Dean's surprise and mild horror, Bo actually had more than three friends. Around the social butterfly now were six people: Curtis and Heath, a dark-skinned kid who was already more bicep than body, a young kid that looked more hobbit than human, a young man more tanning lotion and frosted tips than flesh, and his girl, who was more make up that anything.

Husky nudged him. "Go on, introduce yourself."

"Who the hell are these guys?" Dean asked, trying to whisper but coming off much louder than he'd intended. Tanning Lotion Boy turned to fix him with a perplexed look. Dean read his lips and he said something to the effect of, "Is that your dude?"

Bo turned around and noticed the distance between the two of them. He pouted and signaled Dean over. Caught and slightly embarrassed, Dean ambled over.

"Guys, this is Dean. Dean, that is Adrian--" he pointed to the small kid who looked ready to stroke out at a leaf's drop-- "Ettore, but we just call him E--" Biceps Kid managed to flex while grinning -- "and this is Mike 'n Maryse. They're like a package."

"Dean, my man! I feel like we're friends already!" Mike eagerly shot his hand out for a shake, frowned at Dean's lukewarm reception.

"I talk about you a lot," Bo concurred, grinning.

Adrian opened his mouth to speak a greeting in his surely Elven language, but Mike cut him off.

"So, Dean, we were all trying to head out and celebrate tonight. Maybe get some fake IDs, last little bit of trouble y'know?" He winked. The rest of the group looked uneasy.

"Umm, my degree says 'honors' and that means Mama Slater didn't raise no fools," Heath said. "I'm out. I'll see you in a bit, Bo."

He retreated from the group in search of his mother. Curtis hefted up his instrument case and left with no explanation, muttering a short farewell. That left E, Adrian, and Mike and Maryse. If Mike was disappointed at his party plans slowly combusting, he didn't show it.

"How 'bout it, Adrian? E?"

"Hmm…" E stroked an invisible beard. "I'm always down to clown for some trouble."

Adrian looked between Bo, E, and Mike, then sighed. "Ah guess ah'm in, too."

Dean was a little taken aback at the kid's accent. Dean wasn't good at registering accents but this reminded him of Adam's with more grit and he liked it. "Yew ain't from 'round here, are ya?"

"Ne."

Dean smiled. "Me neither, man."

That seemed to hearten Adrian a bit, although there was still a bit of the hidden horror in his eyes at accepting what was surely the Devil's invitation. Mike turned his attention to Dean once again.

"Dean, my man?"

"Ummm…I'm gonna do whatever Bo wants."

"Don't you remember? It's our night tonight."

"Ohh, date night, I get it!" To Dean's surprise, Mike immediately backed off. "Where ya going?"

"The new diner downtown."

The group was hushed with awe.

"Ooh, the bougie one that just opened? Well, get it, Dean!" E's grip was strong on Dean's shoulder. "'Cause I know Bo isn't paying for that."

Bo's face was serene but his left eye was twitching. He was annoyed. Dean had no idea about these secret plans, but everything about Bo's demeanor indicated it was no bluff.

"Yeah, so that means we better get a move on."

"Have fun, you two!" Mike drew in his makeshift crew for the night by their shoulders. "And now, my entourage…we shall congregate!"

As soon as they moved far away enough from the circle, Dean whispered, "Are you okay?"

The smile never left Bo's face. "I really, really fucking hate Miz."

"I can tell. Who was that guy? I don't remember seeing him or his girl called up."

"He graduated last year."

"And he's still hanging around high school? Good grief, even I know they arrest people like that. What about E and Adrian?"

"E is cool but he lives pretty far out and does a lot of amateur wrestling. Adrian…ain't quite right in the head."

"Oh? Is it his accent?"

"No, I mean he ain't right."

Dean thought about this information for a moment. "You know what, say no more. Tell me about this swanky diner."

Chapter Text

Dean tilted Bo's head up to help him adjust his bow tie. Graduation notwithstanding, the last time he'd truly been out of the house was a potential kidnapping, but the time before that he was bitten by a dog and shot at. He didn't have a fond opinion of the outside world in life and death just seemed to cement everything he suspected about the whole business.

But Bo had tugged at him, pleaded with him, they needed to go to the new diner in town. It was four floors of culinary opulence, he'd said. Each floor was different. His friends were counting on him to tell them what it was like on the inside.

Dean sighed and relented. Mike held his newspaper up higher in front of his face when his wife muttered something about him never treating her that fancy.

The occasion was quite sudden, but mom was nothing if not extremely prepared. She brushed a little pallor back onto Dean's flesh and presented to him a pair of contacts. They couldn't decide what his true eye color was, so she decided on a vivid green. With a little practice and tons of contact solution, Dean successfully slid the thin lenses in without slicing any organs. But observing himself in the mirror, with very faint pupils he still felt a bit…off.

"I like, I like!" Mom crowed.

"Ehhh. Eheheh."

"I can get purple stage ones."

"It's not that, I just…feel like a monkey? In a suit?"

"No, you're my Pygmalion." She gently pinched his cheek. Dean recognized that reference from one of the many mythology texts he was currently hoarding underneath all his maritime warfare guides, but didn't really get where ma was going with this.

Dean sighed and looked at himself in the mirror again. His visible skin was people-colored complete with drawn on veins, most of his obvious wounds were cleared up with the magic in a bottle that mom called concealer. He looked as grossly normal as Husky now. It's been a long time since Dean has really observed himself or really thought about what he looked like in life. He probably would have lost his paunch and grown a few more inches. It was embarrassing because he was starting to look like Bo's underage friend, not the other way around. Stuck in perpetual teenagerdom. His hair was a weird mix of squirrel brown and gray that mom referred to in her professional opinion as greige. It was brown at some point, but the sun over the years washed it out. Had his nails ever been stained with nicotine? Did he have freckles like Heath?

Approximation or no, Dean was taking Bo out to the mysterious diner known as The Turnabout and that was final.

Dad decided he would drop them off, if only to be nosy.

"Also, I heard there's something at the top if you eat off every floor," Bo announced. Dean groaned.

"Like a lollipop?"

"Gosh, I hope so. I'm so excited!" Bo latched on to Dean's arm in the backseat.

Mike caught Dean's gaze in the rear view mirror and placed his forefinger on his tongue and gagged. Bo groaned.

"Don't mind him. It's good we're spending more time together, right?"

Dean finally relented and sank into the embrace. "Yeah. Yeah, it is."

Bo latched onto his arm and closed his eyes. "I wasn't ignoring you. I'm not used to having friends around like this. And you…"

"Wait a minute, did Husky tell you that? That's not what I meant!"

Their conversation cut off when Mike pulled up on the curb away from the valet kids. He whistled as he looked up.

"Gad dum. Hope you're ready to drop some cash."

"I don't think it's going to be that much."

The so-called diner made up the top four floors of a high-rise complex. The whole affair looked to Dean like a rich fever dream of something "modest". The lights were tastefully dim up there and he was sure it had a great view of the skyline, but the people going in and out certainly didn't look like greasy spoon patrons. He was glad he bothered with the bow tie and pants without holes.

Bo and Dean got out of the car and headed for the revolving doors. One of the valet drivers cut them a look but for once it wasn't in horrified confusion. He grinned and gave them a thumbs up.

Dean pushed the glass in front of him, confounded when it kept spinning. He followed it, determined to make the door stop so he could hold it open.

"Dean? Dean!" Bo grabbed a panel. "What are you doing?"

"What is this fucking door doing!"

"You're going to hit someone!" Bo rotated the door and pulled Dean away into the lobby. Dean staggered away, still cursing the panes of glass and golden rods that supported them. Bo brought them to the elevators. They watched the red letters on the digital screen up top count down each floor until it reached the first with a genteel ding.

"Hey…" Dean mumbled. "When we get to the restaurant thing can we talk?"

Bo held his head down and blushed. "Is it about what I said? Husky wasn't trying to rat you out or anything."

The elevator doors opened and let off two handsomely dressed couples. They gazed at Dean and Bo, but only for a second. The floor of the elevator was plush velvet carpet with golden paisley designs. Bo looked down and sighed dreamily.

"It's so opulent!"

Dean pressed the close door button before anyone else can board. "Nah. I'm rattin' myself out. We gotta treat this serious, 'cause we're serious…right?"

"Right."

"Eh? Aren't you going to argue with me?"

Bo used his thumb to press the faded, dimly lit '10'. "I have never been more certain than anything in my young life."

Dean leaned back against the elevator wall and sighed contentedly. "This relationship is gonna be great."

Bo smiled and pressed his face into Dean's shoulder. The elevator finally stopped and they got off as a group of five were getting on. They went down the long hallway decorated with green wallpaper and swirly art deco vines that rose to the ceiling. A man at the end of the hallway greeted them and opened the door.

"First floor is coffee and pastries," he said. Bo's eyes lit up.

"Sugar!"

"Oh boy." Dean paused, listening to the faint siren. The only sounds from the outside world that could filter through up here. "Firetruck?"

"Ambulance, perhaps," the man theorized. "It is graduation night, I hate to say."

Chapter Text

Mike, preferably known as Miz, would be lying to himself if he said he wasn't disappointed that the man they called Dean wasn't in his Buick Enclave right now.

Miz had actually graduated a couple of years before, but still had a few ears to the ground at his old stomping grounds. Where everyone and their mother was in some fashion related to a wrestling personality. Except him, of course. And boy didn't he know it. Maryse often told him not to be so self-conscious, but she was already in training so what did she know?

Dean was no son of anyone he knew, but he'd become more myth than man all the same. There were rumors that something wasn't quite right with him. First off, he allegedly lived in the attic of the Rotunda home. There was speculation that he was "touched". Some said the family treated him like a feral manservant and plaything for the children. Others claimed he was on the run from the Sicilian Mob and had bleached his fingerprints. There were even weirder rumors of him being some kind of impostor for a dead man. Seeing him up close, Miz was apt to believe he was a goddamn ghost and that was the least of his worries. But he wanted to shake his hand for being the best story this town's had to offer in many years.

Sadly, none of that would happen this day. But looking at his new friends for the night, they could still have a good time. Yeah, he could help them make memories for this, their graduation eve. A few hours ago his buddy Johnny Fandango had scanned him off a few fake IDs for the night.

"But why do you need one?" he'd asked over the payphone.

"Because I'm not twenty-one yet!"

What's a year's difference? Not to mention Maryse wasn't quite there yet either, but they'd never had too much trouble getting in anywhere as a couple. Adrian was short but that was no crime. And E looked like he could muscle his way into any club.

As it turns out, all of Miz's planning was for naught. The first club they tried with the shortest line let himself, Maryse, and E in without much of a hitch, but the big bouncer dropped the rope at Adrian.

"He's with us," Miz protested but the bouncer shook his head.

"You three I buy, but not Mighty Mouse over here."

Even from this distance, Miz could see Adrian's eye twitching so violently the left side of his face jerked.

"'Mighty Mouse', is it?" he sighed deeply and waved his friends off. "Gan without me friends, looks like ah'm not getting in tonight."

Maryse, to Miz's surprise, pouted. "He was so excited to come with us."

E nodded. "Don't worry Adrian, we'll have twice the fun for you buddy!"

Adrian lowered his head and held his fist up high. Miz returned the gesture, then guided his group into the club.

Okay, so they were one down. No worries. They grabbed the cleanest table and waited while E and Maryse studied the drinks menu. As the DD, he wasn't having anything much stronger than a rum and coke.

"I like rye," E noted. "A Manhattan sounds good."

"Those are soooo good," Miz encouraged.

"This is like an adult tea party!" E squealed. A hassled looking young woman in a tight fitting top and pants set to disintegrate brought them some ice waters and took their drink orders in quick succession. Miz looked around. The club boasted a video dance space that was mostly dead so far, but they could liven that up in no time. People loved watching Maryse dance and he was certain E could pull off some moves as well. He smiled as he sipped his water. The night was early, people would pour in soon enough.

As if on cue, in time with their drinks arriving a fresh line of people made their way in. Miz squinted and realized Adrian in his two-tone yellow and blue outfit was among them. Adrian held up his arms and hooted; Maryse and E held up their arms and responded.

"Adrian! Buddy!" Miz exclaimed as Adrian sat down. His shirt was a little ruffled but he looked none the worse for wear. In fact, he was hyped and ready go to. Miz could probably hold off on his party uppers for a while. He ordered a moonshine shot for Adrian, strongest the club had. Time to see what the kid could do.

"I just gotta know, though. What happened?"

"Oh, he changed 'is mind is all," Adrian said and shrugged. The waitress brought his moonshine shot out. "That for me?"

"Yeah, it's all yours! Let's get out here and start dancing!"

Adrian, grinning, quickly slammed his shot back. The alcohol burned his throat and stomach but only fueled his hype. He chopped E's chest and E retaliated in good fun. Maryse scooted her chair back and wiggled her way to the dance floor.

"Ay, you don't mind the lads lookin' yer girl up?" Adrian asked, already slurring.

"Nah, it's part of the fun! Go on, get out there! Let's see what you do!"

E hoisted Adrian up and they disappeared into the growing crowd in search of Maryse. She lured them in with dainty, long fingers and whispers swallowed up by the loud bass and drum. Miz tapped his foot in time to the music, pondering if he could stand another drink.

The beat of the music was punctuated by off key screams. Miz looked around. Was this that new aggrotech shit he'd heard about? A woman stumbled in from the smoking lounge. She was screaming and crying, mascara running clear down her face. One of the bartenders leaped into action. Miz shrugged, someone couldn't handle their liquor or drugs.

More screaming. The party came to a halt as the dancers began to notice as well. Miz thought he heard someone screeching about a dead body. Since when was someone passing out in the bathroom a reason to stop the party? Someone ran to the front door and Miz saw an angry crowd standing up front.

"Rick's gone, he's gone!" the person called out.

"…he's in the back!"

Several phones lit up, pressing those three little numbers of safety. Miz went to the floor and gathered up his crew, including Adrian now missing half his shirt.

"What's going on, boss?" E asked.

"We gotta move, sounds like someone got iced out back."

"Eh? So wot? Probably someone disrespectful," Adrian spat.

"My thoughts exactly, pal. But party's over here. We'll try another club, night's young after all."

The nightclub was being officially evacuated, but Miz and his entourage were already in the Enclave and on their way to the next club. They were making fond memories already. Everyone was all smiles in the car. Especially his new buddy Adrian in the back, cheesing so hard while gabbing with E and Maryse that his teeth shone like glints of light off a knife, Miz thought.

Chapter Text

"I's just told the teacher, I was like, has anyone ever actually seen another planet?"

Dean shoved the last chunk of Bo's steak around on the plate a few turns before picking it up with his fork and making airplane noises. Bo immediately stopped talking and frowned.

"Seriously."

"I just wanted to make you laugh, babe. You seemed stressed about this whole flat Earth thing."

"I don't think the Earth is flat," Bo snipped. "I'm just saying you don't have accept everything they tell you just because they told you."

"Who is 'they'? I'm gonna make the airplane noises again."

Bo's face suddenly turned red. "A-authoritarian figures!"

Dean sat back a little. "Wow, you've thought about this a lot."

"Yeah, me and Heath talk about it all the time. We're on a newsgroup for it."

Bo allowed Dean to slip the last bite of sauce and seasoning soaked meat into his mouth and he chewed. Dean grinned and laced his fingers together for his chin to rest on.

"It's good that you're on an internet group, you deserve to have like-minded people to talk to."

"Uh, thanks. And…thanks for not judging me hardcore."

Dean shrugged. "I don't have anything to judge you on. Do you like the newsgroup thing?"

"I did back in the day, but it's a mess of flaming and newbs now."

Dean nodded as if he understood either of the new terms -- well, he'd heard the term "flaming" before, but he had a distinct feeling that the way Bo was using it and the way he'd last heard it were two different things.

"I'm gonna start a newsgroup for dead people. Your brother can join."

Bo snickered. "I think he already has a private group…I think that's how he met this girlfriend to be honest."

"Over and under she makes it a year."

"Hm." Bo cast his gaze downward in thought. "Ten months and he puts her on a wheel, twelve months he starts talking about bringing the vessel of Satan into our world again and she freaks out."

"See, the last one liked that."

"This one looks a little fragile."

"That's why Husky's gonna leave her first, he don't like delicate women."

"Yeah. He like 'em a little hossy as dad would say. Not to be confused with hussy. Though I think he likes hussies too."

Dean patted his belly and hummed. "I'm full watching you plow through five donuts, Lipton iced tea, and a steak 'n lobster dinner. I can't wait to tell all your little friends and your newsgroup what a good dude I am."

Bo laughed. "You're my dude! I'm sleepy but kinda…at the same time."

Dean propped his elbows on the table. "Eh? Did your mic cut off?"

"No…"

"You're what at the same time?"

"You know…"

"I do not know. That is why I asked."

Bo grumbled and took Dean's hand in his. Careful not to smudge the illusion of normal skin, he pressed his lips to Dean's fingers and gently sucked. Make up and flesh mingled together on his lips and in his mouth. Dean sat up a little straighter with urgency and looked around for their waiter.

"What was his name, Narc? Marc? Ehh, one of them has a check."

Bo sighed in frustration, still cradling Dean's hand to his face. "I can't wait until we move out so we don't have to pretend to do laundry. Or wipe anyone's memory."

"Don't worry, we'll find something in this damn state that we like eventually."

"We'd probably have moved out by now if you weren't addicted to Amazon and eBay," Bo grumbled.

"Hey. Hey. No. I like my things. Don't you shop at Urban Outfitters and Gap?"

"Oh, come on! I like clothes! You like my clothes!"

"I'm just saying, you come for me I come for you."

Bo made a fist in front of his face and clenched, unclenched a few times like his therapist suggested and took some deep breaths. Their waiter Thomas quietly snaked his hand in, setting the check on the table between the couple and flitted off again, muttering his thanks and good night.

"Okay. Okay." Bo squinted. "Let's start budgeting. You stop burning through your stolen millions, I stop buying shorts on sale."

"I like your shorts."

"I do too, but I don't need ten pairs of them." Bo muttered to himself, "Or fifteen, whatever."

"And maybe I don’t need every Tom Clancy novel."

"Ri--wait, do you seriously read Tom Clancy?"

Dean shrugged helplessly. "I stay wanting to know what happened to Jack Ryan."

Bo couldn't really comment on Dean's taste in literature as he wasn't a big reader himself and often preferred movies and games, but he made a mental note to himself to introduce Dean to something else, anything else come Christmas time.

Dean sighed heavily through his nose, a forced and airy noise not unlike a reed pipe. "Alas, there goes our childhood."

"Hm?" Bo was about to inquire further but his thoughts were pierced by the sound of a siren in the distance. "Um, ambulance."

"That is the third damn one," Dean muttered. "We better get on out of here. This city is hot tonight."

"You said it, brother," Bo said in his best Hulk Hogan voice, and he'd had a while to practice. Dean counted out exact change and laid it on the table plus tip, then ran behind Bo to pull out his chair and escort him to the door. Before they got too far, however, one of the servers manning the door shook his head.

"Did you go to all the floors?" he asked.

"Nah, we're good my man," Dean said. The man shook his head again.

"You gotta go to all the floors to get out."

Dean and Bo paused for a moment, utterly perplexed.

"Fucking excuse me?" Bo said.

"Them's the rules. Once you get past the second floor, you gotta keep going."

Dean clapped Bo's shoulder and shouted, "Bo! Use Rock Smash!" Bo grunted and shoved past the man to put his hand on the door knob. He turned once, twice, three times, grunting in confusion and frustration again.

"It's fucking locked!"

Dean let out a brief scream. "What kind of joint is this?"

"Um, it's the Turnabout Challenge, that's what it is," the server said, a little mystified himself at the guests. Did they not read the door?

"This is stupid, we'll just take the elevator back down."

"All the doors are locked, champ."

"What did you do, lock the whole damn hotel? How is that even legal?"

"Do you want to get out or not? I said go through all the floors, I didn't say you had to order anything else! I saw you pay that hundred dollar tip, Moneybags, fuck out of here!"

Dean and Bo fell back in the face of the man who had clearly run out of patience at 10:12 PM. Dean looked at the ceiling then looked at Bo.

"You said next floor was like a sports bar type deal, right? Cocktails?"

Bo shrugged and patted his pockets down. "Guess we'll start budgeting next week."

Dean looked back over his shoulder. "Think the stairs are that way. Come on, before we cause too much more of a fuss."

The two of them sighed and trudged towards the staircase located at the end of the vast room, navigating around waiters carrying food and empty plates back and forth to the kitchen blocked off by doors that never seemed to stop swinging. There was a short hallway which revealed the staircase but also an elevator. Bo and Dean briefly bickered about which one to take before being cut off by the ding of the elevator dropping to their floor. They shrugged and waited for the party to clear out and slid in. Dean slammed the "close door" button despite the hallway being empty.

"Concept hotels," Dean muttered. "They're going to ruin this city."

"Yeah, well, if the gentrification don't get us first," Bo said.

"What? What's that? I was just bullshitting, I heard dad say that one time."

"Oh, that's the--you know what, never mind, just join my personal newsgroup."

The elevator doors opened up to a fragrant mixture of nicotine, tobacco, and alcohol that had Bo coughing and waving his hand in front of his face, swiping away at his eyes. Dean snatched a napkin off a table and dabbed at Bo's face.

"Thanks." Bo rolled his eyes up and around, willing his contacts to settle down a bit. He glanced at the bar, then did a double take at the two identical young ladies perched on their stools, talking to each other over red and pink drinks.

"Oh, shit," he whispered.

"Eh?"

Bo covered his mouth with the napkin and leaned in so Dean could hear him over the sound of the various sports games going on. "I think I get this place now and why the doors are all locked."

"Oh, I know mafia shenanigans when I see them, who is it?"

Bo jerked his thumb at the bar as subtly as he could. "Them two."

"The girls? Jesus. I guess women's lib finally did it."

"It's not really them, it's their dad. He's uh…" Bo laughed nervously. "Well, now I guess I have some criminal gossip for you. Let's just sit."

They found two empty stools just far away enough for the twins for the televisions to drown out their conversation, but close enough to keep them insight. Dean ordered a water and casually sipped and discretely spat on the floor, keeping the girls in the corner of his eye.

"So their dad is the kingpin?"

"I don’t know what he does besides be very rich. If they're here I bet he owns the joint." Bo slid Dean's water glass away from him and drained it, leaving nothing but ice. Dean frowned.

"Come on."

"You don't drink."

"Come on! But what about the two girls that made you swear?"

"Oh. They're nice, I mean, but…eh, they're like our version of the guys you messed with."

Dean froze. "Vice?"

"Yeeeah."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Your guys were way more interesting, these two just rob department stores and get off because their dad is rich. And Brie, that one--" Bo nodded towards the one in the hat-- "She's the muscle because she dates guys that ain't all there. She used to fu--I mean be with Adrian. That's why I said he ain't right. And…he's not right."

"So what's shawty's damage then?"

"He's short, cute, and full of anger. Brie cut him loose after a few months. I wonder who she's with now…"

As if to answer Bo's question, a kid Dean didn't estimate to be any older than twelve rounded the corner from the back, still clutching a balled up damp paper towel. The peach fuzz should have been enough to signal that he was a little older than he appeared, but the Richie Cunningham haircut and polo shirt that fit him like a tunic were doing him no favors. He sat on a stool next to the twin Bo had identified as Brie and the smile they shared between them was infectious.

"Awww."

"No. Not 'awww'."

"D'awww."

Bo grumphed and chewed on a piece of ice. "Are you listening to me?"

"Love is love, babe. Besides, that little vanilla midget doesn't look too thrown off."

"You'd be surprised." Bo cracked another ice cube between his teeth. "We said the same thing about Neville."

Chapter Text

Maryse was getting sleepy. They had just left their third club for the night and pickings were running slim in terms of night spots that didn't come with a body count. First a bouncer dead, then a valet thrown through a car shield. The group was shaken. Miz had taken to driving country roads to soothe his nerves.

Maryse had declared that she needed a pick me up. E decided to chime in too.

"Have you ever had an upper?" Miz had asked. E shook his head. "It's like a fucking Fizzy Lifting drink on steroids, man."

E had already proven himself impervious to danger. With wide eyes he asked, "Who sells uppers?"

"You know all the people, don'ya?" Adrian remarked. "Where we goin' ta next?"

"Since we're all a little down, we'll hit up my buddy Johnny Fandango's house."

That's where they set out, that's where they still were now, and nothing in that sequence of events explained why Miz's connection and fair-weather friend Johnny Fandango was slumped in a bowl of soup in his own kitchen with a knife in his back.

It was such a short visit. Miz told Johnny what he wanted. Johnny would provide. Johnny was a little weird and eccentric and was wearing his pajamas and a hoodie when he answered the door. Johnny kept his house a cost effective sixty-five degrees year round so yeah, it was cold in there. Why he was eating soup no one was sure, but he courteously invited the group in. With nowhere to go just yet, they at least accepted his offer to crash on the couch.

While Maryse brought herself back up, Johnny tried to strike up a conversation with Big E and Adrian. He kept his collection of stimulants in orange tubes, the prescription information blacked out and replaced with girls' names scrawled in white. Molly, Sally, Annie, and Elly all lined his living room mantle in a brazen display. Johnny passed Big E a sample on the house, but E just shoved them in his pocket. Miz assumed for later. God, he wished he'd saved some for later.

But that was it. Why would he have thought of it then? The last thing he remembered hearing in the conversation was Johnny admonishing Adrian for trying to slip a tablet.

"I don't peddle to kids, come on."

"Yes you do," Miz muttered. He had collapsed onto the couch, hand over his eyes. He wasn't even buzzed and he felt hung over.

There was a little more banter then Johnny went back to his soup in the kitchen. E went into the bathroom. Adrian was…somewhere. Maryse was up and ready to party again. While discussing poppin' places to go in town, Miz had called out to Johnny for his opinion. Johnny never answered. Clearly, he never will.

Miz stumbled out of the kitchen. He needed to tell someone, talk to someone, god! He ran past Maryse and into the bathroom to throw up. He scarcely had time to notice E singing to a mop in the closet. When he looked up at the world, newly blurry from his tears and sweat, he saw Adrian peering down at him.

"What's the problem, bucko?" the kid said coolly.

Miz choked. "Johnny…Johnny's dead, man…"

"Aye, and why's that? Is it because he shouldn't run his mouth? Or maybe it's just karma!"

"Karma doesn't kill people," Miz spat. His head was hurting and he was dizzy, he wasn't sure why. They needed to get out of there, and he needed to get some air.

Adrian smiled at him, his teeth glinting even in the dim light. "You look like you don't feel too good."

Miz blinked away his tears and some of his confusion. "You're right…I-I don't…"

"I hate to see my friends in pain, don't you? Should we go? Should we go party?"

Distantly, maybe, Miz had a strong suspicion he was either never going to leave this house or he was never going to leave this city. He wasn't sure which option he disliked more; but yes, the more he thought about it on the tile floor, watching Adrian Neville buff his face with a towel already stained with blood, yes, he knew he was never leaving one way or another because they were all going to be trapped inside an eternal teenage party forever.

Chapter Text

Bo pushed away at his salad plate in disgust.

"I can't eat a damn thing more." He said. He had passed cranky one floor ago and crossed over into mad. Each door was guarded by increasingly absurd demands as they made their way up the Turnabout challenge. The sirens outside were driving him mad; he was fairly sure by the end of the night he would have PTSD.

Dean was beginning to suffer from glamour failure. The stage make-up mom had carefully applied was starting to wear off in a most unappealing way. Dean was beginning to look more cartoonishly dead than he really was. The eyes on him were so heavy and despite his decreased need for sleep he was tired.

They glanced at the door again. They had already been told they couldn't leave without at least one drink, so Dean took the hit for the team with a dark Manhattan. He swirled the drink around and downed the last drops.

"Now I just gotta make it on principle," he said, slamming the shot glass down.

"Go without me, love."

"No, together."

Bo sighed. He let his glance rove around the room full of people much richer and with much more prestige than him. He wondered when his father would retire. His childhood was one full of absence. Often, mom and Husky would tell small fibs to explain dad's periodic absences. Not because the truth was painful for him, he thought it was quite cool. But the truth was painful to them. The empty chairs at holidays, the fretting about bills and money. Husky came up resentful but Bo admired his father for pursuing his dream to all corners of the earth. What would retirement even look like for him? The thought of dad collecting royalties and working a nine-to-five made Bo's chest hurt.

He thought things would be hectic with a third child on the way but the house was oddly still and serene. But the last thing he wanted was to be in the house with a baby. It was time to start his own life.

The door behind them opened. The so-called bouncer stepped aside to let the beautiful twins and their manservant inside. The three of them headed straight for an empty booth with two gaudy chairs blocking the walking area. They were clearly expecting extra people. Brie and her sister talked excitedly to each other while Daniel smiled a small smile that should have been cute.

Dean snapped his fingers under Bo's nose. "Earth to babe."

"I'd really appreciate it if they weren't following us."

"They're just having a good time. Come on, if they decide to hold us all up I'm not scared."

"I'm not either, something just doesn't feel right whenever they're here."

"We're ready for the last floor anyway. Oysters?"

Bo stood up and stretched, yawned. "Oysters," he echoed.

The door opened again for more guests. Bo, feeling nosy and voyeurish, craned his neck around Dean to see. Another set of twins, this time male, with golden brown skin and hair in top knots. One twin had a fledgling beard and the other had a small mustache and goatee combo. The more Bo stared, the less they looked alike, but they were dressed in similar colors with one twin wearing the inverse. Like the Bellas, their gear was very lowkey yet radiating status and privilege. And also like the Bellas, they had an extra person. But this gentleman didn't look like anyone's date. He looked like their hired muscle.

Bo caught Dean's gaze in time to see him go down. His brow furrowed, his eyes darted back to the sets of twins now beside him. They were hugging and fawning over each other, their respective third wheels looking around and trying to play off their awkwardness. The new gentleman, not as tan but more what Bo imagined his mother calling "sun kissed", remained standing and leaned against the table. His gaze drifted over, passing Bo and landing squarely on Dean.

Bo watched as the two of them blanched at the same time. When Brie tapped the gent to bid him sit down, he switched his chair with a loud scoot so that his back was facing Dean. Dean quickly did the same.

"Oh-oh. Who is it?" Bo whispered. Dean got up again and pulled Bo towards the door.

"I'll e-e-e-explain upstairs," he stammered. This night, already long in the tooth, just added a few years to its sentence.

Chapter Text

"This twin party is gimmicky," Brie said in a mocking sing-song voice to her sister, Nikki. "Look at me, I'm Nikki and I hate fun."

"I don't hate fun," Nikki grumbled. "And this is still such a gimmick." Her glance swerved around to Brie, her new boyfriend Daniel, and their male counterparts leaning against the bar. "But I guess this is fun."

The nights out that Nikki and Brie had together not involving petty theft and vandalism were few; and with school being out -- forever, for them as seniors with no plans of college just yet -- they were about to be fewer still. And truth be told, it wasn't that Nikki thought the idea of a Twins' Night Out was stupid in and of itself. Just when it involved a non-twin.

She sneered a little at Bryan.

Nikki put up with Brie using various men as her muscle. It came in clutch sometimes. If she were dating now, she wouldn't do that, but. It was Brie's life. She was uneasy about Adrian. She was okay when they were fighting over John. Daniel should have been a fine medium in that he was a short-stop, quiet, but with a sadistic streak and yet...

She sighed. She wasn't sure which part of her moon sign was jumping out to express that emotion. Jealousy? Bitterness? Resentment? General hate? It didn't matter. They were a team. And Brie had won the coin toss.

And after all, Jimmy and Jey had brought a non-twin as well. To be fair, their cousin looked like he could have been a distant, fraternal triplet. He had very similar hair and even bone structure, he was just a bit lighter-complected. His leanness made him appear much taller than his cousins, but it was a trick of the light. Between the three of them, Jimmy and Jey were only distinguishable by their own gimmick of wearing inverse colors and one was struggling with facial hair. The inverse color thing was a tribute to Two-Face, Jey had said. Nikki rolled her eyes. Their cousin's hair was stuck in that growing out phase, puffed out with wavy layers that would flatter him eventually. It was nape length but scrapped together in a bun for the occasion.

He looked fantastic, was all Nikki really thought. He was tough, too. Had apparently taken a grenade from an RPG Vice goon straight to the chest and lived to tell the tale. She internally begged Brie to take him so they could share.

The cousin-body guard looked a bit distracted, however.

"Y'all ready to go again?" Jey asked. He patted his engorged belly for show. "'Cause I am."

"You always hungry," Jimmy said, then louder, "Always!"

Jey shrugged and fished a toothpick out of his martini to pick at something non-existent in his teeth. Truthfully, he was thinking too. But unlike cousin Joe, he was thinking about how great the genetic lottery was. See, God had blessed himself and Jimmy with looks, skills, and brains but also steered them in the direction of working brains and family connections to build a small empire. Being friends and co-conspirators with the two Bella girls was a payoff of networking. God had blessed big cuz with looks, brains, and brute strength. In fact, Joe was so strong and smart and good looking that the Almighty had also cursed him with sensitivity. It wasn't too hard to tug at his heart strings or appeal to his baser angels. Officially, he was retired, but a sob story or a little family pressure would drag him back in. And if you got him real mad? No one was safe. Not even a grenade could hold his body down, faulty as it was.

Amen, so say we all.

Jey was glad to have Joe in his corner. But when he regarded him with a comment about being hungry, he noticed Joe staring at... something. Jey turned on his stool and tried to follow Joe's line of sight. All he saw was a sea of white patrons dotted with a couple of very patient, quiet children and a few other brown faces. He looked harder and followed the imaginary beeline of Joe's steely gaze to a couple sitting at a table. At least, he assumed it was a couple. Two dudes – nothing wrong with that. But one looked like a teenager and one looked like a grown man, which meant that their roles should be reversed. And the younger looking one was pale and sallow as hell. He knew some people didn't age well, but puberty hadn't been kind to this kid. His partner, on the other hand, was what the old books would call "sable" or "swarthy".

Jey tried to think of something clever to say, but only blurted out, "Jealous?"

"No," Joe whispered. The Bellas and Daniel turned their gaze too.

"What? I think one of them goes to our high school," Nikki commented. She taped her finger to her lip then her eyes widened. "Ohh, I think that's one of the Rotundas. Then... if that's not his brother, that means..."

"The other kid is their Pet Semetery thing," Brie finished.

"Eh?" Was Daniel's contribution.

Brie leaned in. "The Rotundas, they have some kind of guest in their house that's like. Well. It's something weird going on. They keep him up in the attic like the scary woman in Pet Semetery, so we call him Pet Semetery." Brie swiveled around to look at the high profile couple again. "He does look sick, though."

"Leukemia?" Daniel offered. Everyone groaned.

"No," Joe breathed. "He's dead."

Jimmy's chuckle turned into a laugh. "Oh, you. Clearly he is not dead, Joe. Uh, not yet anyway."

"He's dead," Joe insisted, grinding his teeth. "That's fucking Jon Moxley."

The group went quiet for a moment. Then, Jimmy hoisted a foot on his stool and cupped his mouth to yell, "THAT'S THE D--"

Jey quickly grabbed his brother's leg and clamped a hand over his mouth. "Call attention to us, why not," he muttered, then looked at Joe. "Now, you said Jon IS dead, right?"

"Yes. And that's him."

"Okay. Let's walk back how crazy that sounds... come with me, uce. Come off the ledge."

Joe shook his head. "I don't understand it either, but that's him. I would know that face anywhere."

"Guys, you call yourselves mobsters?" Daniel said, laughing. "The clear answer is he faked his death. Look how hard he's committing, he looks like his skin is about to fall off."

"Yeah, tha-that's right," Jimmy stuttered. "And anyway, who told you he was dead? You only heard he was from a dude that was clearly throwed off. The proof is right in front of you!"

Jey shook his head and clucked his tongue. Poor, sensitive Joe went and spooked himself. But as he glanced around at his family and friends, an uncomfortable silence fell over them. Truthfully, they had all gotten the news that Mox was dead. And not from the same person. The news, previously a rumor, grew and spread like wildfire across their respective inner circles even if no one had outright confirmed it as science fact. The one dude that got close gave Joe a scary story to tell in the dark. But Bryan was right. Clearly Mox had faked his death for privacy, making the rumors true to an extent. For them, all that meant was that they should let the man to his business.

Right?

Each time the former Jon Moxley ate a bite of food that noticeably got stuck in his throat and didn't go anywhere, Jey felt queasy.

Good God. Zombies did not exist. They just did not. He didn't know what the hell he was looking at, but that was not it.

Right?

The couple were on the move, and one by one the group drifted after them. He pulled up the rear after Joe.

"Just... try to act natural, okay?"

"Sure," everyone muttered in unison. He sighed, the noise drowned out by yet another siren. Damn, the city was live tonight.

Chapter Text

The final floor of The Turnabout, as it turned out, was the roof. There were hanging lights that floated on the humid Florida winds like jellyfish bobbing along waiting for prey. There was a raised alcove for the elevator back down, and a maître d'hôtel stood sentinel at it. He nodded to Dean and Bo and motioned to the open air oyster bar. The oysters were covered, but Bo gagged.

"That cannot be sanitary. It can't. There's cocktails..." He shook his head and looked at Dean. "Now, what's going on?"

"I saw a fuckin' ghost," Dean said. "Those were Roman's cousins, the Fatus. And that... was Roman."

Bo thought back to a few minutes ago. His pulse throbbed, but not in fear; no, excitement. So it was real after all. Seeing Tyler/Seth a while ago was significant, but a fluke. That was Dean finishing his story. The end of Bo's was there, tall dark and handsome in the flesh. A jagged scar across his chest from gang violence. His mouth watered at the fear in Dean's eyes. This was it.

"We need to go. Now."

"Just one second," Bo said. "Also, didn't you all leave as friends?"

"I mean, yeah. But I can't imagine he's too thrilled that I almost got him killed. I don't know what he thinks."

"There's only one way to find out." Bo glanced at the door.

"Are... are you stalling?"

"Oh, come on Dean. We drove across several states to find the other one that probably would have killed you. Things are seldom as they appear."

Dean wanted to be proud of such a profound statement, he really did. But he was so jittery. He wasn't sure why, but he was. Just when he thought his nerves didn't respond to anxiety anymore, a surge of it came over him. Ebb, flow. He didn't need any more of his past surfacing to threaten his future after he'd agreed to put it behind him. Why, oh why now? Why was the damned world so small? Why were these police cars all on the road flashing red, blue, red, blue like Morse code?

The handle of the door turned and popped open. Several sets of eyes glowed in the grey darkness illuminated by the on/off lights of police cars and fire trucks before it opened fully to reveal a startled bunch of teenagers. First, the girls ambled out. Then the young boy. Then the other twins. And then, finally, after a wait to put a bridal procession to shame, the man he knew as Roman.

Dean took it all in. Roman had grown in ways he no longer could. His dark hair had managed to escape the mullet phase and looked almost beachy. His eyes were even more doe-like in his sliml ine face, with angles he didn't remember being there before. Dean was sure he looked like the next deer in headlights hiding coyly behind Roman now, maybe less handsome. Definitely less handsome. He glanced over at Bo nervously and saw that his partner's face was a perfect slate of neutrality.

Jimmy, sensing the tension, clapped his hands together. Everyone started at the sharp noise that managed to rise over the sirens.

"Sssooo! Moxley. Man, I'm gonna get to the point. No joke, we kinda heard you was dead."

Dean nodded stiffly. "Go on."

"I mean... that's it. We really thought you were in a body bag, cuz! Clearly you not. So we can all go home!"

No one made a move. Roman's lower jaw visibly trembled.

"First, we can't go home until we get an oyster," Bo answered, projecting his voice over the noise of the city. "Second. Well. Dean?"

"Dean?" the gang group said. Jey whispered to his brother and cousin, "Oh shit, that's his government name."

"Moxley."

"Oh."

"Who told you I was dead?" Dean demanded. Several names spilled out of everyone's mouths. Some Dean didn't recognize -- Alicia? Joey? Who? -- some he did -- Tyler, Kevin, Jimmy's boisterous insistence on "that dude". The names or non-names didn't matter. What did matter is entirely too many people knew a half-truth. Should he even bother to correct it? After all Jon Moxley has been dead for a long time, for all things considered.

He let out a harsh, forced sigh and rubbed the back of his neck. Roman deserved to know, even if these other strangers didn't. He shrugged.

"That's not entirely untrue. But not true either."

"Hey, isn't your name Bo?" Brie, the baby crime queen who has ignored him since sophomore year, called out. "You wanna come to our house, Bo?"

Bo didn't really want to go over their house, but his fingers ached and his ears were sore from the noise. The Bellas lived on the outskirts of town where the wails of sirens and screeching tires couldn’t reach them. And it didn't seem like he had much of a choice right now.

"But first, oyster shucks," the sentinel at the elevator called out.

"We'll let big Joe handle that." Jey patted Roman (Joe? Really? Dean asked himself) on the back and urged him forward. Joe frowned.

"I actually don't like oysters like that."

Jey whispered low, "We need to get off this damn roof, uce."

Joe swallowed back nausea. "I… okay." He walked over to the open bar and paid for an oyster shooter. He swirled the chunk of pale seafood inside its Bloody Mary swimming pool. He pinched his nose and threw back. God, but the taste of celery and chili powder was going to be with him for days. He threw a thumbs up back to his gang and came back over looking a bit green in the face.

"We good, doorman?" Jimmy called out.

The guardian nodded and allowed them to step pass. Bo, feeling encouraged by Brie even knowing his name, leaned in and whispered to her.

"Couldn't you guys just pay them off?"

"Yeah," she said, "but we wanted to challenge ourselves to do something the right way for once."

"Aww."

"No, not aww."

Chapter Text

The Bella estate was everything Bo had imagined and more. If The Turnabout was decadence born of pettiness and the desire to see people live well beyond their means, then this was austere yet meticulous, quietly fanatical design straight from The Upper Crust. The grand palace was tucked away with its other McMansions behind a thicket of deciduous trees showing off their late spring colors before summer proper made them leafy and bright green. The chauffeured car rolled up a winding drive way that got borderline comical in its ascent.

In fact, maybe it was a bit modest. Four floors and only three bedrooms was a bit droll to Bo, who had seen his father's benefactor's living quarters. That was excess, and not the smart kind. This was responsible money. Maybe not old, but reliable. Money with something and nothing to hide. Taxes hidden away under the bedsheets money. Knives under pillows, guns in closets, gold bars stashed in the pantry money. A none too loud sigh escaped him like the moonlight kissing his cheeks. The moon up high, waiting to trade off with the sun.

The night had been long on all of them and the silvery gibbous moon washed them all out. Jimmy and Jey, as he'd learned they were called, were completely washed out and their ruddy undertones were gray. They looked deader than Dean, who was New House Old Paint Job white and picking at lint on his dark clothes. The glamour mom cast on him earlier in the evening had completely failed, and save for the contacts all semblance of life had faded. No one else in the car wanted to face what they were contending with right now -- that thing being the truth, of course -- so they were looking out tinted windows for something interesting, chatting with the driver, staring at Bo. Anything else.

Dean seemed pleased that they had stopped bugging him with questions. He'd really meant it when he said he was done with his old life. Bo felt a wash of shame for his selfishness, but that very same selfishness pushed back in rebellion. Why not? It asked. Why not. Whynotwhynotwhynotwhynot--

Those were the intrusive thoughts creeping in as they did sometimes. He was lucky they weren't telling him to set his hand on fire or bust his own teeth out. Again.

He dealt with that. He dealt with that and watched the property sprawl before him. He'd never get this opportunity again, wouldn't have gotten it otherwise. Yes, that was selfish. Yes, that was the hole of Materialism that Husky warned about sometimes. Yes, yes, yes.

The car finally stopped. Daniel, eager to escape the cooling air between all of them, decided to be a gentleman and open both passenger doors for everyone to spread out. Dean and Bo were the last to climb out despite being nearest to the door on either side of the stretch limo. The gang idly waited around while their guests of honor figured out how to wake up their sleeping legs. When everyone was out, the limo shot off back into the darkness. Jey pulled out a scarf and coughed and, for some reason, led them all inside. Bo wondered casually how often he's done this.

"Parents not home?" Dean asked.

"Nah, they're out on business." Nikki snickered at her own joke. "Just kidding, they're never home. And even if they were…"

She trailed off. Dean tried to keep images of teenage debauchery at bay.

Chapter Text

Against her better judgment and against her wishes, Nikki finally had to turn on a light source. She pressed a switch and the foyer lights appeared overhead, as well as the fan. She cursed. Hated when that happened. They could use some air, but the fans in the house usually only served to kick up dust. Which they did now, causing everyone to sneeze at once.

"Sorry."

"Why is it so dusty?" Dean asked.

"House is purely electric."

"Like, okay, but why?"

Nikki and Brie looked at each other and shrugged. Did it matter? The eternal static wasn't to blame, probably. Years of dog fur and women with long hair combing their locks at inopportune times didn't help. And... well, dust.

There were three large couches occupying the living room they all moved into, Nikki hitting another ceiling light and fan combo. She caught this one before it got too far into creating a dust tornado and bid everyone to sit down.

"Well, I'd ask for appetizers, but I'm okay," Jey said. He reclined fully on the couch, his legs taking up the space his brother was trying to occupy. Jimmy frowned and sat crosslegged on the floor. Joe's shadow blanketed them both as he stood in the small gap of space behind the couch, facing the wall.

The whole scene was so fucking weird.

Nikki and Brie took the other couch, leaving Daniel, Bo, and Dean hanging around awkwardly. Daniel excused himself to the kitchen for tea.

"So," Jimmy started, frustrated at the abject silence. "Does anyone want to actually talk about this or are we just going to act like this man isn't really dead?"

"'Act like' nothing. Dude, I've never seen a... what are you, exactly?"

Dean pursed his lips. "Undead. We don't really like trying to pin it."

"I guess that dude was right after all." Jimmy wished he could bask in the glory of having his profoundest paranoia confirmed, but not like this.

Joe echoed. "Yeah. I guess so."

"That's really unfortunate, Dean."

"Yeah, well, everything is working out so far."

"So how much of the money is left?"

Dean and Bo both jolted. "What?"

Jey, hard faced and deathly serious, repeated himself as he hated to do. "How. Much. Is left?"

"I don't exactly count my ill-gotten millions, but it's enough."

"Enough to live on? Comfortably?"

"Minus a few house repairs here and there." Dean rolled his head around on his neck. A few things were still kind of broken in there, didn't bother him, but what was left cracked all the same. It was the effect, not the intent. "What's that about?"

Jey's grin was easy and dark. "That's unfortunate, too. I mean, if you feel good about it. But if you don't, I wouldn't mind having a foot soldier that can't die or feel pain. Even better if he's as good as you."

A muscle in Joe's back flexed and he carefully turned around. Had to see Mox's reaction to that. The new Moxley, anyway. This new guy was a little different. He might have even taken offense to the offer. Old guy wouldn't have done that. After all they've been through, Joe wasn't sure he could work on the same team. He wanted nothing more than a reliable partner so maybe his cousin's wouldn't rely on him so much, but not this one.

Rather than outrage, Dean gave the appearance of thinking. Bo looked up at him, wide-eyed.

"How long do I have to think about it?"

"Tonight. Sun rises, deal is up. Stay close."

Chapter Text

"You can't be serious. After everything?"

Bo and Dean had been put up for the next five hours in the guest room in the basement. Bo had misjudged the number of rooms and floors for that matter. So rare to see a house with an actual basement, even rarer to have an underground garage.

"Pssh, are you kidding me? I just wanted to stay in the house for a while. Nobody cares about those fools."

Dean fell back on the plush bed, taking Bo with him against his chest. Downy pillows, he heard, were supposed to be a rural luxury. But he could feel the geese taking revenge on him with their pointed feathers stabbing his nape.

Bo laid against Dean's chest for a quiet moment. Then, "Back to what we were talking about. How much of it is left?"

"Enough?" Dean was confident at first but now suddenly unsure. He really hadn't counted, hadn't really counted to begin with. They were supposed to be budgeting, of course, and he was pretty sure Bo was intending to work but what about himself? Was he content to be a house-husband until whatever they had ran out? Suddenly, he really regretted his Tom Clancy collection.

It was absurd to worry about future finances in a house where clearly cash didn't matter. The magenta walls screamed impulse. If single and left to his own devices, Dean thought he might do the same thing. Maybe even a nice black with barbed wire decoration or scratchy red. Flesh tones and bruise accents. He liked the sound of that. Bo, he was certain, did not, even on his worst days.

The two of them lay in silence for a while, staring up at the ceiling until their vision went hazy. Whatever psychic conversation they were having or were about to have was interrupted by one soft moan. Then a louder one. Then a series of grunts. They groaned together.

"I knew that was going to happen eventually," Bo said. "Just had to."

"But did you think it was going to come from the kitchen?"

"Oh, no. But I'm not terribly shocked."

"Me neither."

Dean sat up and pulled his undershirt back on. He hopped off the bed before Bo could grab the hem of his pants.

"And where are you going!"

"To the kitchen."

"Really now!"

"Come on, man. A couple good looking kids getting it on next to the bananas? Like you don't wanna. Oh, and maybe I'll run into the Uces while I'm there."

Bo frowned at Dean's pass at practicality, but the man was already gone before he could protest further.

Chapter Text

In death, as in life, Dean didn't really care about whatever hushed pre-sex conversation Brie and her boyfriend were having. He felt bad for his assumptions earlier; the height differences between them weren't really that severe. Apparently Daniel just slouched. And to his credit, Dean was kind of tall himself. So was everyone else sans maybe Nikki. It's hard to be a tall dude in a room full of taller dudes.

What he did care about, however, was Brie propping herself up on the counter and slipping her own pants off for Daniel to kneel between her legs. Ah, he hadn't missed the good stuff. To be honest, he was bluffing about them being in the kitchen. It was just the sauciest thing he could think of. He had assumed they were behind the privacy of a locked door. He was glad that the two clearly didn't give a damn and were adventurous to boot. Brie owned the damn thing, anyway. As it stood, sure Dean couldn't get aroused per se. But damn if he didn't like to watch, as Bo had found out on a few occasions.

(Husky has not.)

To his surprise, Daniel took off his own belt and wrapped Brie's wrists behind her back. Dean was pretty sure that was uncomfortable but Brie was too lost in it to notice. Certainly in the daylight, but not now. Even from a distance, Daniel's ministrations seemed harsh, but restrained; quick, but not at all hurried. In the moon light sliding in through the window over the sink they looked like negative versions of themselves with grainy flesh.

A soft "oh, shit" floated in the air, like a spider web dropping to the ground heavy with dew.

Everything stopped. Dean knew he hadn't said anything to himself. Daniel and Brie looked confused as well.

"Who the hell?" Brie yelled, jumping down and untying herself. She snatched the pantry door open with laser-focus in the blue darkness and two figures tumbled out.

"Hold on, I didn't even want to be here," said one deep voice. Dean almost howled. Nikki picked herself up from under where Roman had fallen on her.

"We were just watching," she explained simply. "I thought it would help."

For a split second, Dean was eternally grateful that Bo wasn't peering in from just beyond the kitchen entrance with him. He ducked to laugh and saw white socks walking towards him. Oh, no.

He looked up to see Bo shuffling along, head down, shame-faced and clutching at himself.

"I figured 'why not? Let's see what straight people do.'" Bo pitched his voice up in that way Dean hated, because it sounded so much like mom. So much. Sometimes Husky would get in on it and sound like dad. Dear god. Dean shushed him and shivered.

"Dude, the sisters is in there."

Bo's face was quickly engulfed with flames. "What!"

Dean peered back into the kitchen where an argument was breaking out. "Not to do anything. Well, not to do anything to each other. I don't think. Nothing wrong with that."

"Everything is wrong with that."

"Now, hang on."

Dean honed back in on the argument that Roman — Joe — was having no part of. Joe, standing at the sink and casually washing dishes to drown out the sisters arguing about who gets what, who touches what, and who does who. Daniel was rummaging through the fridge, fully dressed once again. Dean could think of no better time to save the two men.

He faked a yawn and straggled in. "Hey guys, what's up?"

Brie and Nikki paused. "N-nothing!" they chorused.

"Aw, okay. Well, I'm just in here for a banana..." He muttered under his breath, "And a little yum-yum, I guess."

Nikki and Brie, speechless, left Dean to his early snack and Joe to his dishes. He heard them yelp at Bo on their way out. Daniel wandered out after them, an odd look of disdain on his face aimed at no one in particular.

Joe, alone for the most part with Dean, stared at the being across from him.

"Y-y'all in here too, huh?"

"Like I'm not going to."

"I... um." Joe rubbed his arm nervously. "I don't know how to tell Nikki that I don't like her like that without sounding gay."

Dean propped himself up on the dining table. "Just tell her that. Are you gay?"

"No. Nikki is really pretty and kind of pushy but I'm with someone else."

"She's gotta find out eventually. So she dragged you in here to get you in the mood?"

Joe sighed heavily and sat down. "Man. I guess."

"I like kinky."

"I'm glad someone does." Joe suddenly felt horribly boring in that all of this was creeping him out rather than tantalizing him like he was sure it was meant to. The whole scene was fucking weird. Twins peeping on each other, his cousins discussing which genitals taste best and when, his own girl harrumphing at him on when he was ever going to be "ready". It all made his skin crawl a bit. It was to the point where the zombie-on-human thing sounded relatable, highly desirable.

Dean slid into a chair across from him. "So... your real name is Joe?"

"Actually, nawl. But we don't throw our family names out there like that."

Dean nodded, understanding the we.

"I can still use Roman if you want."

"No, no. Joe's cool. Dean cool?"

"Yes, please."

"Okay." Joe blew another heavy sigh through his nose. "Man. So you're actually dead. What's it like?"

Dean blinked and it made a scratchy noise. "You don't realize all the things you feel regularly until you don't feel them anymore."

"Damn. Like actual feelings?" Joe sounded hopeful.

"No. My feelings are really real. Just sensations. Like touch. I know I'm only imagining touch. I can feel pressure but not warmth or cold. I kind of feel pain. My skin don't heal if something happens to it. I'm all Band-Aids and string, man."

"Can you see?" Joe swore at himself, almost biting his tongue. "I mean, I know that's a stupid question now, but. I was wondering earlier."

"For some reason, yes." Dean finally took out the contacts that were in danger of either slicing something in there or growing into his eyeballs. Joe gasped at the milky white orbs, the original iris color long since faded like a picture left in strong sun too long. The pupils reminded him of coffee that was heavy on the cream side, cloudy but still dark and wide. No reflexive shrinking or expanding. One time, dad had told him that was the absolute sign of death. Joe had heard about things like this all his life. Witches and their familiars, ghosts seeking unfinished business.

But other than the ultimatum, Dean seemed quite content in his afterlife. He had a lot of good things going on. What would a dead man need with money?

Dean blinked again and rubbed his eyes. Joe winced at how weird it sounded. Like a hungry hand rustling through popcorn. He shuddered.

"I feel like I should tell you..." Joe trailed off, choosing his words. "Like I should tell you I don't think Jimmy and Jey are entirely sincere. Like, you and I go way back. I don't know you that well, but I know you."

"Same here."

"Your dude doesn't need this."

"Not for all the money in the world. I do believe I told you to go home and take a nap."

Joe laughed. "Something like that. Well, I did. I woke up and came back but I'm ready to sleep again. Being here is. It's pissing me off, to be honest. I'm a little pissed that they even offered you."

"They just want the money and a name." Joe nodded quietly. Dean continued, "And if I say no?"

"I don't think they'll do too much besides be mad. The stakes are much lower here."

"For me, yeah. And you? They're still taking care of you, aren't they?"

"Yeah, but really. I don't mind. I don't think anything's going to happen to me, they might pimp me out to the Bellas at the very worst." Joe laughed darkly at Dean's shock. "I'm kidding. I think Nikki is playing herself about being straight."

"I get that feeling too." Dean stroked an invisible beard wondering how much kinkier this household could get, given some time. But it was getting late. He needed to get Bo home and far away from this place and anything associated with it.

"You've got a beautiful unlife, man. I'm proud of you. Wish I knew you were out this way, we could have been friends the whole time."

"Nah, man. I don't know about 'friends' between thieves. I'm proud of you too."

"I haven't done anything."

"You lived," Dean stressed. "You're home free. You can do whatever you want. Your person doesn't need this shit either."

"For real. So, we getting out?"

"We're gone. Tell the uces I hot wired the car, put a little ketchup on your lip and tell 'em we brought the ruckus."

Joe stood up and headed for the fridge. "You always had the stupidest plans." He found a half-empty bottle of ketchup and smeared a little on his lower lip.

Dean stood in one fluid motion. "Hey," he whispered. "Can I... can I see it?"

Joe whipped around, flushed. "S-see what?"

"The scar. If there is one."

Joe let out a sigh of relief. This night has been too much for him. He lifted his shirt up and held it with his teeth. Across his chest, a mottled reddish map with a center that looked like a ladder leading up his neck. Dean was pissed that Joe's scars made him look dignified and bad ass. His own just made him look deranged and kinda chewed up.

Noting that Dean was satisfied with the sight, Joe turned back around to work on making himself look a little roughed up. Without turning back, he said, "Oh. If we speak again. Leakee."

Dean didn't say the name out loud but let it roll around in his mouth a little, fill it with reverence.

He left the kitchen without another word. Outside, he saw Bo and Daniel crouched down in the hallway near the door. Daniel was snarling like a feral animal and Bo was looking at him in kind, perhaps wondering if it was worth risking a pet.

"I'm telling you man, the rich have no fucking sense of personal space," Daniel growled. He looked up at Dean and smiled. "You out?"

"We're out." Dean nodded to Bo and nudged him with his knee. "You ready to end this graduation party?"

"I think that goes without saying," Bo responded dryly.

Daniel smiled at the odd couple and waved. He then stood, braced his hands up against the wall, and banged his head a few times, crying out and stomping his feet. That sent footsteps trampling from all directions of the house; he went into the kitchen to continue roughing himself up with the help of some potentially expired condiments.