Fate is an Engineer, Part I: On the Edge

Fate is an Engineer, Part I: On the Edge
A Miracles/Supernatural Cross-over Fanfic
by Laurel (Sailorhathor)


Chapters: 1 of 5
Rating: Adult17+
Word Count: 40,864 total; 9,199 this chapter
Dates: Written February-March 2006
Summary: After being hypnotized and finding out he was attacked by a supernatural being, Paul Callan is balancing on the edge. A twist of fate crosses his path with Dean Winchester, who is looking for his missing brother, Sam. But as they will soon find out, that twist of fate was engineered for reasons they could never imagine. Dean Winchester/Paul Callan.
Timeline: This story was finished at least a month before the Supernatural season one finale; the small parallels between it and the finale are a coincidence. (No spoilers, just a couple of small things.) Happens after the Supernatural episode "The Benders" and before "Shadow," which moves the Miracles timeline up to 2006. That means Paul has been with SQ for over three years now. (I didn't want to move Miracles up so much, but it was unavoidable. I'll probably go back and fill in those years with more Miracles stories later.)
Warning: Contains spoilers for all of Miracles and Supernatural up to "The Benders." Graphic sex between two men. Adult language.
Beta Thanks: Special thanks to KaijaWest and Meredevachon for the wonderful, thorough beta treatment they gave this story.
Author's Notes: This story continues from "You Can't Help Who You Are." Reading that story before this one would sure be helpful, but if you'd rather not, the "Previously on Miracles..." section should catch you up sufficiently.
"Fate is an Engineer" uses an idea thought up by KaijaWest and alluded to in her story, "Working Vacation." The idea is used with permission. I'll detail exactly what idea I used at the end of the story to prevent spoilage.
Additional thanks goes out to my friend Kaye for brainstorming on this story with me, which yielded the idea that Dean use Joe Elliott as an alias and one other thing that will be in the notes at the end of the story to prevent spoilage. She also helped me brainstorm on what sort of music Paul might like and who would be some of his favorite bands.
This story also references a nickname that my friend Deejay started using for Alva's car, "the hooptie mobile." We ("Miracles" fanbase friends) all picked up on it. It also references an idea she is allowing me to use that I cannot detail because it's a big spoiler for my fanfic series. Just wanted to note that it is referenced heavily here.
There are a few jokes in this story. Some will be obvious, some will not. Such as the fact that Bryan Ulrich is Skeet's real name. And there are a couple of Bon Jovi jokes. One is obvious, the other you have to hunt for. ;)

Previously on Laurel's version of "Miracles"...

        A ghost appears in Paul's apartment. "I'm Audrey. Will you promise me that you'll save Kellen?" she asks.
        Paul is horrified to see a teenage boy with lots of shaggy dark blonde hair hanging in his eyes emerge from the hall, carrying a shotgun. He aims it at Audrey.
        "You should have gone to the prom with me, bitch," the boy tells her, and pulls the trigger.

The ghost of Diane McNeal: "So you really are Paul Callan, and you're working with Alva? My God, that's amazing. This happened recently?"
Paul: "Within the last year."
Diane: "Wow... why didn't Alva call us?"
Paul: "I don't know... why would Keel call you to tell you that?"
Diane: She squints at him. "Why do you call him Keel?"
Paul: "I don't know, it's just... what I call him." He smiles awkwardly.
Diane looks at him for a long time in silence. "You don't know, do you?"

Diane's husband, Lassiter: "Diane's psychic abilities were very projective. She could show you the things she saw by just touching you with her hands."

        Diane raises one of her hands to Paul. "You're an amazing psychic, Paul. But abilities like mine shouldn't be put to waste in the grave." She touches a finger to the space between his eyes. "I pass it on to you."

Officer Marie McCann, talking to Alva: "While you were in Mountaineer, and we were investigating this creature that the citizens of my town were seeing, this Mothman, my partner and I picked up a young man wandering the streets in a daze. It was him, Paul Callan. Mr. Callan's blood was full of barbiturates. The lab technician who did the testing said it was almost like sodium pentothal. It's a barbiturate and an anesthetic."
Alva: "It's also thought it can be used as a mind control drug."
Marie: "He eventually threw up and came out of his stupor."

Paul: "I can't pretend it didn't happen anymore. I really want to know."
Alva: "Then we should find someone to hypnotize you."
        "We can get it done today," Evie interjects. "Alva, you're forgetting, I have a shrink in the family."

Evie: "Paul, this is my sister, Dr. Julietta Santos. She's a professional psychiatrist and she hypnotizes people all the time."

Julietta: "What's your favorite color, Paul?"
Paul: "White."

        Paul describes what happened the night he drove to Mountaineer, Vermont: "Something landed on the balcony. I think it flew in, because it has wings."

        "I'm not even sure it has a head. It's at least six feet tall, with huge wings - a ten-foot wingspan, at least. It's got these red glowing eyes in the middle of its chest. I... I have no idea what it is, but it's massive compared to me."

        "I tried to scream, and the thing rushed at me and grabbed my arms, pinning me to the wall. This tube came out of its mouth... I guess it was its mouth... and..." He swallows hard. "...it shoved the tube down my throat. I could hardly breathe... couldn't talk at all. Couldn't scream."
        "Why did it insert the tube in your throat?" Julietta queries.
        "It put a pod in there. Attached to my vocal cords," says Paul.
Julietta: "Why?"
Paul: "To take control of me and speak through me."

        Paul speaks in a deeper, slower, mechanical voice while explaining how the pod worked: "It secreted controlled doses of a drug that the Mothman produces naturally, but when introduced into the human system, acts as an anesthetic and mind-control agent."
Julietta: "How do you know all this, Paul?"
Paul's Forces: "Paul does not know how the pod worked."
Julietta: "Then who does know?"
Paul's Forces: "The forces within Paul."

Julietta: "Past life regression is a good way to see how a person views himself. Let's take a look at Paul's past lives, shall we? One life, he's a rebel fighter of the Civil War with a colorful name like Jack Bull Chiles."

        Standing before Paul's door, Alva is obviously reluctant to leave him. "You shouldn't be alone after finding out something like this. The thing attacked you."
Paul: "Please, just leave me alone. I'll be alright!" Paul opens the door, enters quickly, and locks it behind him, not letting Alva follow. Shutting him out.

        The coffee table. What did he need with a coffee table anyway? Letting out a growling cry, Paul begins to beat it with his fists, not even realizing that he is snarling and yelling as he tries to destroy the piece of furniture.
Paul yells at the Mothman: "What right did you have to do that to me?! I just want a normal life! I have a right to a normal life!"

        Paul examines his injured hands. One has a strange pattern of bruising on it, as he had done the punching with his mother's rosary still wrapped around it.

        Upset and crying, Paul slowly becomes aware that he is no longer lying on the floor, but now had his head resting in a woman's lap. Her delicate hands stroke his hair soothingly.

        Paul looks at her dark blonde hair, the crystal blue eyes, and listens to the unmistakable Scottish accent. Vivian Keel. Alva's mother.

        "You can't help who you are," she says. Her eyes take on a far-off look, and she starts petting Paul's hair a little too hard. "You can't help who you are."


Part 1: On the Edge

        Over a cup of tea in her study, Julietta Santos poured over the books she'd checked out from the library. She pulled one out of the stack that looked helpful: Bushwhackers and the Civil War by Bryan Ulrich. Paul had said while under hypnosis that in one of his past lives, he had been a Bushwhacker named Jack Bull Chiles, killed in the Civil War. Julietta flipped through the book, glancing at the old grainy photographs and reading some of the names, until one caught her eye. It was a short paragraph entitled, "Black John and His Band of Rebels." Apparently, the group had been too secretive to yield much historical information, but there were several known names. One of them was Jack Bull Chiles.

        "A-ha, Paul. So you read this book too?" Very clever, picking a real name out of a book to make it seem more authentic. It amazed her how much detail Paul had put into his fantasy life. The fantasies were so elaborate; why didn't he just put this much effort into his reality? But if everyone did that, she would be out of work as a psychiatrist, wouldn't she? "Can't have that," Julietta mumbled. "I'm on to you, Paul Callan." Would she find the other names he had mentioned in one of the other b-

        Julietta had turned the page. There, was a grainy, yellowed photo of someone named Jake Roedell... and Jack Bull Chiles.

        Save for a longer mane and a lot more facial hair, he could have been Paul's identical twin.

        Julietta fell silent, folding her hands under her chin and staring at the photograph. This currently threw a monkey wrench into her theories, at least until she could rationalize it out, or just selectively erase it from her memory. Why not, her patients did it all the time. Just eliminate the details that placed too much blame on you.

        Except, she was too smart for such behavior. This was very peculiar indeed. It didn't fit in with anything Julietta believed. She did the only thing she currently could - lashed out at Paul. "Whose favorite color is white anyway? That's not even a color."

*****

        Keel's dead mother had left a few hours ago, just popped out when Paul wasn't looking. Did all ghosts move through the world that way? He didn't know, and at this moment, didn't care. There was no angry spirit here, no cheating iceman dancing with his mistress to "You Are My Sunshine," but he still felt the same way he had that weekend with Rebecca. Wanted to slam someone down a flight of stairs, especially when he looked at his hands.

        Paul got up from where he'd draped himself across the couch. He had just been staring at the ceiling and watching the light from the window turn purple and disappear. Now, he wanted a drink. Paul looked down at his broken coffee table while he put on his coat. One corner was splintered, caved in, covered with his bloody knuckle prints. Paul took the time to examine his injured hands. The knuckles were obscured by dried blood and a network of forming bruises. Curious, he looked closer at the marks and found a pattern in it. His mother's rosary, which he'd unthinkingly left wrapped around his hand while he'd performed the fix-it job on the table. Paul laughed bitterly when he even found the outline of the crucifix on the pad under his thumb. Man, he'd been out of control.

        Picking it up carefully, Paul put the rosary over his head and wore it out. The fact that this was a sacrilegious act didn't matter to him at the time. He needed a drink.

*****

        Boston. Is that where he'd wound up tonight? Dean Winchester had been up for almost 22 hours straight, so he wasn't sure where he was anymore. Couldn't sleep. Not yet.

        Sammy was missing again. Christ, when would he find him? Dean had to find him... alive. He eased himself up on the barstool and ordered a beer. He needed a little time to unwind before he took up the search anew.

        Two nights ago, they'd been sleeping at the Motel Cascade in upstate New York. Dean had awakened in the morning to find himself alone. No Sam. Absolutely none of Sam's things were gone. Wherever he was, Sammy was dressed in what he'd gone to bed in - pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. No shoes. That scared Dean more than anything else he'd found. It was like Sam was just silently snatched out of his bed.

        The Impala was still in the parking lot. So what had happened to Sam?

        The first thing Dean considered was a kidnapping. A vendetta from someone on the side of evil. Lord knows they had pissed off enough evil bastards over the years with their good guy meddling. But how did they get Sam out of the hotel room without waking Dean? There's no way Sam would have gone quietly. Did they lure him outside and then take him? Even then, Sammy would have raised a four-alarm ruckus.

        Unless he was already dead.

        Dean pushed that thought down hard. He was not dead, Sam was not dead!

        The only thing he understood with clarity was that his brother had disappeared into thin air in the middle of the night, and had not planned it.

        Panicked so hard he could barely think, Dean had waited to see if Sam would come back on his own. He'd waited a whole day. No Sam.

        That had been one of the hardest spent days he'd ever been through. There had been days full of more pain, more anguish, and definitely more danger, but few had been harder to get through minute by minute. Dean was not good at waiting. What else could he do? Sam had left behind his cell phone, so they couldn't call each other. If Dean left, Sam might come back. If he stayed, he might be wasting time he could be using looking for his brother. Dean rarely felt this conflicted, this pulled apart and indecisive. It was torture.

        This was one of those times Dean wished he smoked, just so he'd have something to do while pacing the room, practically wearing a track in the carpet. How many times had he gone outside to scan the area around the hotel, only to run back into the room to see if Sam had returned? Every few minutes, Dean found himself at the window, peering through the mini-blinds, until he finally thought to just raise them. What he hoped to see was Sam, walking toward the hotel, preferably unhurt, though at this point he'd almost settle on just finding his brother in one piece. But the surrounding area was always empty of the only person Dean needed to see. Every moment Sam didn't show up was another moment he wasn't safe. Dean thought he might explode every time he peered through those blinds and saw only cars in a parking lot.

        To deal with his anxiety, Dean finally went out to sit in the Impala, where he could still see the hotel room, but also could listen to a little music. After only a few of his own songs, he put in one of Sam's tapes, he just had to. Dean had nagged his brother into making these tapes before they left Stanford, and all of Sam's stuff had gone into storage. "You need music to listen to, Sammy. Stuff that you like. I'm not doing all the driving," Dean had said. How he had almost regretted those words when Sam was on hour four of his turn to drive and Dean thought he couldn't stand another out of tune note of the Violent Femmes or another wacky song by the Dead Milkmen. R.E.M. he could stand, though, much longer than some of the others. That was the tape Dean listened to now, the R.E.M. tape, so he could slide down in the seat and brood to himself about how scared he was that Sam was never coming back, that clothes and memories and tapes of old college rock would be all he had left to remind him of his baby brother.

        It was that song that did it. That "Everybody Hurts" song. It was just kind of sad. It was also the song that had made Sam cry for the first time since Jessica died. Dean had been expecting tears at some point, but it still took him by surprise when they were in the middle of that sappy song and he suddenly heard sobbing coming from the driver's seat. Sam, with his hand to his forehead, just sobbing and biting his lower lip like a child. Up until that time, Sam had been holding it in like a ticking time bomb. Dean had made him pull to the side of the road so he could take over the driving, and when the crying hadn't stopped, had put an arm around Sam's shoulder and pulled him across the seat so he could comfort him while they drove.

        "It'll be alright, man," he'd said.

        "I'm sorry," Sam replied between sobs. "It's just... everybody hurts."

        At the time, Dean couldn't help but smile to himself at how corny that sounded, but he understood what Sam meant then and he understood it more now. Sometimes, you just lived in the pain, even when you couldn't say why out loud. Sometimes it hurt too much to say it out loud. Instead, they'd continued on down the road with Dean holding his little brother with one arm, stroking his shoulder absently, and finished that damn sad song.

        The song did it again. It set off the only crying jag Dean would allow himself that day, one that lasted maybe two minutes at the most, which ended at about the same time the song did. He punched the seat of the Impala several times and just wailed over the thought that had crept in as the day was almost over. Though Dean had no desire to believe this, it was a distinct possibility that Sam had disappeared on purpose. Perhaps this was his way of getting his normal life. Goddamn, that thought hurt. If Sammy wanted to walk away, he'd just walk away, like he did before. He wouldn't go to such lengths.

        Unless Sam felt so trapped within his own family that he'd do anything to escape it. It made sense that he might do it if he thought Dean wouldn't let him go. But, how could he ever think that after all the times Dean had let him go? Could it be Dad Sammy was trying to escape? No, he would never scare the hell out of his brother and father like that, by disappearing without a trace.

        Would he?

        Wouldn't that be the perfect way to start a new life?

        Dean, as morbid and selfish a thought as it was, almost hoped that Sam had been taken by something so he could just kill it and get his beloved brother back. He allowed himself that one self-serving thought as he sniffled over the fading notes of the R.E.M. song.

        Eventually, a strange man had called with the claim that he'd run into Sammy while hitchhiking, that Sam had given him Dean's number, telling him to call his brother and relate the message that Dean should meet him in Boston. When he'd asked where in Boston, the man had hung up. A vague lead was better than no lead. So here he was. Dean was amazed he'd been able to sleep at all in the last 48 hours. Something weird was going on here, and if it turned out the stranger was right, Dean was going to kill his little brother when he saw him again for worrying him like this, and for doing a fool thing like hitchhiking in his pajamas. What could be so important as to make Sam run off in such a hurry?

        It's all a put-on.

        Yes, maybe it was. Maybe he was the biggest fucking idiot Bean Town had ever seen.

        This time, there was no way Sam was coming out of this alive. They were just tempting fate too hard. No! Push that damn pessimistic thought down deep, you bitch.

        Dean needed this lead. He needed hope.

        After his beer, he planned to canvas all the places Sam might go, places he -

        Someone sat down next to Dean with a loud thump, bumping his arm pretty hard. The guy didn't say excuse me, so Dean turned toward him to give him a piece of his mind, but he stopped as he immediately saw that the guy's knuckles were bloody as hell. Dean took a better look at him. He looked like he was about one minute from going on a mass murder spree. Something had fucked the guy up royally, and he was a danger to himself by the look of his hands. Dean knew all about punching walls when you were angry. (Somehow, he doubted this guy had been in a fist fight. Beyond his current visage, he didn't appear to be much of a roughneck.) Dean thought that behind the disturbed, lost look, the dark haired guy was actually quite attractive, with a friendly face. What were the odds that this dude's problems could be solved by a demon hunter? Probably pretty slim. Still, he felt compelled to talk to him.

        "Hey man, what'd you do to your hands?"

        Paul noticed Dean was there for the first time. The blond looked fairly exhausted, but the half-lidded, sleepy-eyed look he wore wasn't unkind to him. In fact, Dean's looks were quite striking. Paul didn't normally obsess over the appearances of other men - he preferred women, usually. But he had grown up in an orphanage. The boys and girls were separated for many things, including sleeping, and young people whose sexuality was budding had to find an outlet somewhere. The boys were there. They were close, and they were always available. Consequently, Paul had experimented with the boys until he was old enough to get sneaky and go off to secret hiding places with the girls. To this day, when things got really bad, Paul found the most security and familiarity with guys. They provided the best comfort sex. It was not a constant thing at all anymore, but sometimes... every few years...

        As Paul gazed at Dean's cropped blond hair and chiseled features, he instantly wanted the man's comfort and the distraction he would provide, distraction from the memories.

        The way the dark-haired guy was looking at him... Christ, what had happened? "You okay, man?" Dean asked.

        Paul tried to regain his composure, but Dean's eyes were captivating, hypnotizing. The way they caught the light, and sparkled... he'd never seen hazel green eyes that did that before. "Uhhh. Me?"

        Dean laughed lightly. "Is there anyone else here?"

        Trying to swallow around a dry throat, Paul replied, "Um..." He looked around for ghosts. "...no."

        Dean looked around for whatever Paul had been looking around for. "Okay then. So what happened to your hands?"

        The bartender took Paul's drink order. He tried to concentrate on that and stop thinking of how nice it would be to take Dean home for cheap, anonymous sex that would have him in confession faster than one could say one-night stand. What was he thinking? The pangs of pain, the sense of violation... Paul grabbed up the drink as soon as it was brought and took a long gulp. "I got into a fight with a coffee table," he finally said to Dean in answer.

        "Why?" Dean nursed his beer. "Did the table start it?"

        Taken by surprise by the joke, Paul glanced at him and chuckled. Dean was happy to make him laugh. Anything to get that schizo look off his face. "No..."

        "Then why?"

        In some ways, Paul minded the prying, and in other ways, he welcomed it. Still, his response was truthful, but sarcastic. "I was mad 'cause I got molested by a giant moth."

        "Who, the Mothman?"

        Paul coughed, sputtered, and choked on his drink. Had he really just said that? Who the hell was this guy? Paul looked at Dean and said, still coughing, "Who are you?!"

        His smile faltering slightly, Dean replied, "Joe. Joe Elliott. Nice to meet you."

        His name is Dean Winchester.

        Paul was still a bit inexperienced with giving stealthy reactions to his gifts. Maybe he always would be. He actually looked around for the source of the voice, but it was in his head. Dean's eyes darted about as he wondered, again, who or what Paul was looking for.

        Why did Paul recognize that youthful voice? It sounded like... "Tommy?"

        Dean's amiable smile ticked at the corners. Had he told Paul that his name was Tommy? He could have sworn he'd used Joe Elliott this time. And he'd stopped using Tommy Lee years ago; the guy was too mainstream famous now. It was then that Dean realized Paul wasn't even looking at him. He was looking at the stool on the other side of Dean.

        Tommy sat on that stool. "I know you're not used to this now, Paul, so we'll talk this way for a while. But later, we can just talk in your head. Okay?"

        "Oh... kay. Tommy, are you alright?"

        Dean slowly turned his head to look at the stool. He saw no one.

        What he did see was a depression in the leather seat, as if someone was sitting on it.

        Just at that moment, a man ambled over to sit on that very stool. He swung his leg over and suddenly shuddered all over, hard, like he'd been dropped in a tub of ice water. The man backed off the stool with a startled look.

        "What's wrong with that one?" his friend asked him.

        "Cold draft," the man answered, and headed for a table instead.

        Dean looked from the stool to Paul, who still focused so hard on whomever he was talking to that he appeared to no longer notice Dean. Dean's expression showed his amazement with the revelations now running through his mind. The guy was talking to a ghost. He knew all the signs. Was he a true medium, or just being haunted? Who was Tommy?

        Blinking in stunned silence, Paul finally let out a small laugh at what had just happened. "That's gotta be odd, having people almost sit on you."

        Tommy watched the man walk away, then rolled his eyes. "It gets so annoying."

        Paul took in Tommy's appearance. He looked healthy. Good. A little older. Paul remembered Keel talking about how kids often grew up on the other side, sometimes becoming adults, because they were able to move on. Those who were not were frozen at a certain age. "You're okay?"

        "Me? Yeah. But the Darkness is still out there, Paul. You need help dealing with it."

        "I let you go... and you look better, Tommy. But you've come back. Why?" Paul asked.

        "Because you need my help," Tommy repeated. "I can get you information that you need. Like his name." The boy nodded at Dean. "He uses fake names to protect himself and his brother. You need to know the truth, though. Dean should stick with you tonight. His brother is in danger."

        Paul glanced at Dean. "He probably thinks I'm crazy, talking to an empty stool," he thought.

        Tommy shook his head. "No he doesn't."

        Dean realized that Paul was seeing him again. Had the ghost just said something about him? Why would Tommy be talking about him? Dean suddenly went white as a sheet. "The ghost you're talking to... his name is Tommy? Not Sammy? You're sure of that?" Dean asked desperately.

        "Tell him his brother is alive," Tommy instructed.

        Paul swallowed hard. "Your brother is alive."

        Dean sucked in a loud breath, almost bursting into tears of relief right there. "He is?" His face suddenly became angry, and he grabbed Paul by the front of his shirt. "What do you know about Sam?"

        "Tell him there's no reason to deck you. Explain that you're getting stuff from the ghost, that the ghost knows things."

        Paul repeated what Tommy told him to, and it worked - Dean relaxed, letting him go. "Where's Sam?" Dean demanded to know.

        Tommy fed Paul information from the other side, which he dutifully reiterated for Dean. "All Tommy knows is that your brother was taken, but he's alive. A misguided being snatched him. But it will reveal its purposes soon."

        Dean collected his things. "Then I'll hunt it down. No one just takes my Sammy off into the night like that. I'll misguide this being's head right up its ass."

        "No!" Paul cried, grabbing his arm. "You've got to stay here. We're going to receive word from this being."

        "Tommy says so?" Dean sounded skeptical of listening to some spectre he didn't know on the subject of finding his brother.

        "Yes. Please trust us, Dean," pleaded Paul. "You should stick around here. We'll find your brother."

        Dean barely flinched. "Tommy told you my name," he stated.

        "Yeah. Dean Winchester."

        Closing his eyes briefly, he nodded and replied, "Yeah. Okay... I'll give you and Tommy a day. It's the only lead I've got right now." Unless the stranger who had told him to come to Boston called again with more concrete information. "So where are we going?"

        Tommy leaned forward so Paul could see him beyond Dean. "You asked how I was doing." He looked at him with concern. "How are you, Paul? 'Cause you don't look okay at all."

*****

        Paul was never comfortable talking about himself when it came to the psychic abilities. Dean pressed him hard on the drive back to Paul's apartment. He started before they even got into Dean's baby, his 1967 Chevy Impala. "Are you a psychic, a medium, or something else?"

        "Uh... yes to both. Or so everyone tells me."

        Dean unlocked the passenger side door, opened it for Paul, and watched him slide in. They came very close as Paul passed him on his way into the Impala. Did he smell cologne behind the scent of the alcohol on the guy's breath? Dean had always kind of liked cologne on a man. He grinned briefly to himself at the thoughts that passed through his mind. Even in the face of Sam's disappearance, he still had time for sexual fantasies. That was just Dean. "You're not comfortable with it?"

        Paul watched Dean walk around the front of the car and slip in behind the wheel. "If you had to live with it, you wouldn't be either." He looked at his hands.

        That made him think of Sam again, who seemed more concerned with Dean's reaction to his abilities than the effects on his own life. "Is that why you had a shit fit and busted up your hands?"

        Sighing, Paul shook his head. "I told you why."

        "You were attacked by the Mothman."

        Paul looked Dean full in the face, challenging him to disbelieve. "Yeah."

        Dean did not even blink. "My brother and I can help you with that kind of problem."

        "Judging from what Tommy said, your brother needs the help." He hadn't meant that to sound as bad as it did, but it came out that way.

        Dean grew solemn and quiet. The comment hurt his pride. It was like Paul was saying he'd failed at the job he cared most about - taking care of his baby brother. Dean didn't give a fuck what anybody thought, so why did he care what Paul thought?

        Sheepishly, Paul said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean - "

        "Don't worry about it," Dean mumbled, and started the car.

        Paul heard the deep rumble of the engine and the tape in the stereo as it came on; Dean hadn't turned it off before he got out of the car. "Sleep all day, out all night. I know where you're going. I don't think that's actin' right, you don't think it's showing..."

        "Hey, The James Gang. I love Joe Walsh," Paul said.

        "You do, huh?" Dean drove the car out of the parking spot.

        "Yeah. The Eagles is one of my favorite bands ever. Joe Walsh is such a distinctive guitarist; I always recognize his playing."

        "He is very distinctive. Where's your place?" Dean asked.

        "Take a left out of the parking lot."

        Dean did. "You don't have a car?"

        "Nuh uh. It got hit by a train." Paul had told the story so many times, it just came out of his mouth nonchalantly now.

        "No kidding?" He followed Paul's continued directions. "Can I ask you some questions?"

        Paul, flinching a little, answered, "Well, okay."

        "You haven't told me your name."

        A wicked smile twitched at the corners of Paul's mouth. "Steven Tyler."

        Dean snorted. "I deserved that."

        "No, seriously, my name's Paul Callan."

        "What do you do for a living, Paul?"

        With a shrug, he said, "I investigate the paranormal with a group of people."

        "There a lot of money in that?" Dean asked with a sarcastic grin.

        "No way," laughed Paul. "What about you? Why do you know so much about psychics and mediums and ghosts?"

        "Hey, I'm asking the questions here. You wait your turn," Dean said, dodging the fact that he did not reply. "Who's Tommy?"

        "You get answers when I get answers." Paul folded his arms across his chest.

        Dean rolled his eyes. "Oh please." The ghost Paul had been talking to knew things about Sam's disappearance. He had to play nice, stay on this guy's good side. "Alright," Dean said in an annoyed tone. "My family hunts demons and other dangerous entities."

        "They can be hunted?"

        "Shit yeah."

        Paul wasn't sure how that worked, if he even wanted to know, or if he even fully believed it. Somehow he knew Dean spoke the truth, but a part of him was too scared to pursue it further. If he thought the Darkness was bad...

        "So who's Tommy?" Dean repeated.

        Silent for a few seconds, lost in thought, Paul finally replied, "He was a child I investigated back when I worked for the church."

        Dean gazed over at him in astonishment. "You worked for the church?!"

        "Yeah. The Catholic church of Boston."

        That explained the rosary he wore. "Whoa."

        "Tommy could heal people, but he was really sick. Every time he healed someone, he got sicker and sicker." Paul swallowed down a lump of emotion. "The boy died, and the church brushed it off. They said there was no proof of a true miracle. So I quit."

        "Oh." This reminded Dean of the faith healer who'd saved his sorry life. Except, a little boy died healing other people. That was almost too sad to deal with. "I'm sorry he died."

        "Me too." Paul tried to change the subject. "It was after that that I started seeing Tommy's ghost."

        Dean looked in the rearview mirror. "Is he here now?"

        Checking the back seat, Paul shook his head. "Turn in here. This is my apartment building."

        As they were getting out of the car, Paul commented, "Um, there's something you should know before we go upstairs. You've already seen me talking to one, so it's probably not going to be a big surprise, but I tend to get visited by ghosts a lot. And I talk to them out loud, though you won't be able to see them unless they want you to. It kind of, ah, makes me look crazy, I guess. I try not to do it in public. Tommy's return, though... that's a big deal. I couldn't help it that time. Anyway, there are certain ghosts who come back repeatedly. I guess you could say my apartment is haunted."

        "Oh, really?" Dean smiled amiably and shrugged. "No biggee." Before he closed the door, Dean grabbed his larger duffel bag, the one that had his first-aid kit, guns, and knives in it. Most importantly, this bag held the sawed-off shotgun, filled with rounds of rock salt. Haunted apartment, huh? Dean could take care of that, at least for the night.

        On the way inside, as they were nearing Paul's front door, he suddenly gasped as if someone had startled him, but Dean saw no one else in the corridor. "Tommy, don't do that."

        "I'm sorry, Paul. But you have to know something before you go in." Tommy stood near the door.

        Dean, of course, couldn't see the boy, but he knew Paul could, so he waited patiently.

        Tommy continued, "Be wary of Mrs. Keel."

        "Why?"

        "She's not very stable. Especially concerning you."

        Paul blinked in confusion. "Huh? Why would she have a problem with me?" He remembered how when Keel's mother had been comforting him, stroking his head, she had at times been a little rough. "Tom - "

        When Paul looked for him again, Tommy was gone.

        Dean noticed his reaction. "Did Tommy go away again?"

        "Yes." He sounded frustrated.

        "We should probably go inside."

        After what Tommy had said, suddenly his own home was an ominous place, with the spectre of Mrs. Keel hanging over his head. "Honey, I'm home," Paul joked sarcastically.

        Dean took in the appearance of the apartment. "Someone else here?"

        Closing the door, Paul shot back, "My boss's dead mother." There was an edge to his voice. He stared at Dean, gauging his reaction.

        Dean realized he was being tested. Would he stay, or freak and run? Paul didn't know who he was dealing with. But that was okay. Dean could stand the test. "Does she at least help out around the house? Wash windows, do laundry?"

        Paul barked out a laugh. "No, so far all she's done is comfort me while I cried."

        Boy, this guy was really drama queening it up. Dean gave him the benefit of the doubt because he'd seen many people in his life who had every right to be dramatic about their problems. He made a mental note of things that seemed significant, and not so significant... crucifix on the wall, splintered coffee table, ironing board (this guy did his own ironing?), small dining room table with chairs that didn't match, and the smell of women's perfume. The scent was very light, like the smell of a phantom, and it didn't belong here. Dean didn't like the atmosphere. He'd felt it before, in haunted houses. "What'd Tommy have to say?"

        "He told me to watch out for Mrs. Keel, the mother. Said she was unstable." Paul stalked the living room a bit, too wound up to sit.

        "I believe it. I don't like the atmosphere in here." Dean glanced around. "Your place feels haunted." Even so, he was staying for a while, so he removed his jacket. When he did, Dean carefully palmed the Glock he'd had tucked in the back of his waistband and hid it inside the jacket, which he laid over his bag on the floor.

        Noises behind Dean caught Paul's attention, distracting him. He leaned a bit to the right to see around the buff blond.

        A teenage girl sobbed in the corner by the bookshelf. She looked at him, then went back to her crying. The girl had Mrs. Keel's hair and eyes. Vivian Keel at a young age? No, he didn't think so. Some other relative?

        The girl said to Paul, "You have no idea who you are," and went on sobbing.

        Paul was still in a dark mood. He didn't want to help anyone right now, except maybe Dean. Or help himself to Dean. Paul just wanted the girl to go away. This was his home, not an open forum for the dead. "All the ghosts love to hang around my place. Paul's apartment, our home sweet home," Paul said, spreading out his arms. "You want to feel a real honest-to-goodness ghostly cold spot? Put your hand right there."

        Dean looked at the spot to which Paul had pointed. He'd known something was there from Paul's reaction. "I've felt ghosts before lots of times." But, to make Paul happy, he dutifully stuck his hand right into the teenage girl, not really knowing who he was touching. The ghost recoiled. Dean shuddered a little at how cold the spot felt; it was many degrees cooler than the air around it. She looked at Paul as if he'd betrayed her, before dissolving from view.

        Shivering again, Dean mused, "Nothing feels like the cold of a spectre, huh?"

        "Got that right." Standing over the remains of his coffee table, Paul frowned. "Really was a nice table."

        "You wanna tell me about it?" Dean stepped around the table and sat on the couch. He looked up at Paul expectantly.

        With a deep sigh, Paul blurted it all out. "Years ago, the Mothman attacked me, putting a pod in my throat that took control of my body and mind. He made me go to this town in Vermont and make phone calls. The creature cannot speak for itself, so I spoke for it."

        "And the Mothman predicted an avalanche that killed 36 people. Yeah, I've read all about it. You were involved in that?" Dean asked. "That is a famous supernatural case. They seem to have left out some of the little details, though."

        "Like me." Pacing the living room, Paul laughed in a hysterical tone. "I just found out today. I'd blocked it out all these years, but I was hypnotized this morning, and it all came back." He wrapped his arms around his head in an effort to block out the world. "Why do these bizarre things happen to me? Why can't I have a normal life? Oh God, will I ever have a normal life?"

        "Hey, hey..." Dean got up and put his hands on Paul's shoulders, intending to calm him.

        His hands felt so strong and grounding. Paul turned to him, looking into Dean's eyes. He ached for Dean to hold him, kiss him, take him away from all this, to a place where he had only to think of comfort and pleasure, like all those nights in his adolescence that were about nothing but sexual discovery and gratification. Paul wanted nothing but to feel good.

        Dean knew that look. He didn't like labels. But when one looked at his sexual partners from the past, the term "bisexual" probably applied. Dean preferred the term "opportunist." When you traveled as much as he did, you couldn't have a relationship. Not really. When he met someone he found attractive, he took it where he could get it. And Paul wanted it.

        The crucifix on the wall, the fact that Paul had once worked for the church... this guy was a bit pious, wasn't he? Dean couldn't help it; he enjoyed corrupting people like that in the bedroom. It was a nice challenge. Get them so riled up and frenzied they'd beg to be fucked like a wild animal. Everyone had a side like that, they just needed a wicked mother like Dean Winchester to bring it out of them.

        Dean started on that right away. He leaned in, hands coming up to cup Paul's jaw, and kissed him passionately. WHAM, and Paul instantly started to get hard. "Yes, yes, give me what I want!" Paul thought. Delicious shivers ran up and down his back and legs. His breathing quickened into Dean's mouth, his hands sliding up the other man's arms... wow, Dean had nice, buff arms. The kiss was leisurely and exciting, but over much too soon. When their warm lips parted, it made a long, slow sucking sound.

        "You're really hurting," Dean stated quietly.

        Paul nodded with desperation. "Take the pain away," he whispered.

        Mm. Was it really possible that someone could sound that sexy when they whispered? Dean's body began to respond, but he felt he should take care of Paul's full physical state first. "I will, I promise. But first, I want to take care of your hands. Let me clean and dress them before I undress you."

        As reluctant as Paul was to stop, he had to admit that his hands did still hurt pretty bad, and the pain was distracting. "Okay. Let's go in the bedroom. I can sit on the bed." Hey, at least when his hands were taken care of, they could just continue where they left off. He hoped. That comment about undressing him was very encouraging, but it was always possible the guy was stringing him along. Oh God, please, don't let Dean be teasing.

        Paul sat on the edge of his full-size bed and offered his hands to Dean, who sat on his knees on the floor with the first-aid kit. He used special gauze pads presoaked in alcohol to clean the dried blood off Paul's knuckles. "Wiggle your fingers for me."

        Paul did, wincing a bit. "That hurts."

        "In a sore way, or a bone-grating-on-bone way?"

        Paul just about winced again at Dean's description of the pain. "Sore way."

        "You probably didn't break anything, then, but you might want to get your hands x-rayed if they still hurt that much in a couple days." Dean examined the pattern of bruises on Paul's right hand. It confused him. "What made these bruises like this?"

        For some reason, Paul became sheepish at the explanation. "I had this rosary wrapped around my hand while I was, uh, punching the table." He shrugged.

        "Oh." Dean lingered over the bruises. "You can see the outline of the beads... and is this the crucifix?"

        Paul nodded. "Yeah. I forgot the necklace was there."

        Dean swallowed hard, still looking at Paul's hand. There was something poetic about the way the rosary had marked him. "Is it special to you?"

        "Yes." Paul fingered the necklace with his free hand. "It was my mother's."

        Was his mother's... Dean changed the subject, out of a desire not to upset Paul with other sad memories. He had no idea he was walking into one with his next line of questioning. "Why do you think Tommy has come back to deliver all these messages to you? Did you two bond somehow?"

        There was a long pause. "You know how I said that my car got hit by a train?"

        "Yeah."

        "I was in it at the time."

        "What? Then how..." Dean looked shocked. "Tommy healed you."

        "Yes." Paul got that uncomfortable look he always wore when talking about the sacrifice that Tommy made for him. That guilty look that said he was never going to feel right about it.

        "He got sicker?"

        "No... that was the healing that killed him."

        Dean, eyes wide, stopped moving for several moments before slowly continuing the cleaning of Paul's hands. He needed something else to look at besides Paul's pain-filled eyes. "That's rough, man. Really, really rough." It took him a minute to be able to continue. "Though it's not as bad as that, I had a similar experience. I kinda know how you feel."

        Surprised, Paul asked, "What happened?"

        "Sam and I were taking care of this demon, and I got a little too close when I electrocuted it. I was sitting right there in a puddle of water... stupid. It was stupid of me. The current passed right into my body."

        Paul cringed.

        "It thrashed my heart. I had a heart attack and everything. Doctors were all hey, nothing we can do, we won't touch 'im, he's a goner." Dean kept his eyes on the knuckles he was tending to; a part of him was afraid if he looked up into Paul's face, he'd see disapproval there. "I was ready - um... I mean, Sam wanted to try anything he could to save my sorry life. He took me to a faith healer, if you can believe it. The guy healed my heart, good as new. Amazing, huh? But not if you know that it was at the cost of the reaper taking another life. There was an exchange." He finally looked tentatively into Paul's expectant eyes. "There aren't many other things I've done in my life that I felt that horrible and guilty about. I never wanted to go on living that way. But in your case, it was a child who passed on. That's just... I mean..." Dean shook his head. "I'm sorry, but I can't find the words to express how sucky fate can be, to do something like that to you. It's too much. I wish I could change it for you."

        "Yeah, well." Paul wasn't sure what to say, either. "I've prayed many nights for the outcome of that healing to be different, but those prayers are never answered. I guess we have something else in common besides a little music."

        "I'd say it's a pretty profound something." Dean took out a roll of gauze and started wrapping Paul's hands.

        Watching him, Paul smiled just a little. "Thanks for caring."

        Dean didn't say anything, just grinned back. The light caught his eyes again. God, they were beautiful when they twinkled.

        Seeing Paul looking at him like that, Dean grinned wider, pretty much smirking, and took a good nosy look around Paul's room while still working the roll of gauze around the man's hand. Paul's closet was open, and in it, he could see many dress shirts, slacks, sport coats, more casual clothes, and even some ties. Did Dean own a single tie that he didn't have simply because sometimes, in his various charades, he had to pretend to be respectable? The guy definitely had more dressy clothes than he did casual. Jeez, Paul seemed to have enough Dockers to clothe an entire office full of men. Dean brought his eyes back around to Paul, who was looking down at him curiously, wondering what Dean was looking at. He liked the fact that Paul was sort of pretty, but not girly, with fairly nice upper arms and a chest that filled out the white ribbed shirt he wore attractively. Paul's lips looked soft (and had felt the same), and so did his hair; what'd the guy use, conditioner? Dean found that to be too much of a bother, but he didn't have as much hair anyway. They both had the long, delicate eyelashes, true mark of the pretty boy, although Dean didn't like the label, and had worked out, fought, and shot his way across the United States to prove his looks were not the measure of his strength. Dean Winchester was no creampuff. He didn't think Paul was either, but he certainly wasn't used to getting his fingernails dirty like Dean did on almost every job. Paul definitely wasn't a mental creampuff if he could watch a child die to save him and still be standing. The guy was, inside and out, hot property. Very different from anyone Dean had ever known. That intrigued him.

        Paul smirked, and did a fake cough. Hm, boy, but did Dean like that wicked little smirk. It promised a secret side to come. "Um, Dean?" He took his hand away and lifted it to show Dean that he'd wrapped the gauze around Paul's hand so many times that he couldn't bend his fingers.

        They shared a snicker. "Sorry, I was distracted," Dean said, a little embarrassed.

        Paul gestured toward his closet. "Should I do a fashion show?"

        Dean explained, "I was just curious... about how you live. It's so different from how Sam and I live. I mean, your clothes, and you smell really good... is that cologne?"

        This whole display had grown flattering. "Yeah. You like it?"

        "Uh huh. I can't even wear deodorant half the time. The prey can smell it." Dean removed the excess gauze from Paul's hand, moving faster than he had before. He was getting really restless to do this guy, playing that hot, slow kiss over and over in his mind. "But you... I know under all this blood and pain, you're stunning."

        Paul's face flushed with embarrassment and flattery. "Wow..."

        Dean just smiled at his reaction. He didn't hide his feelings when he really wanted someone to know how he felt. "You're pretty vain, though. But it seems to be worth it."

        Shaking his head, Paul replied, "I guess so." He wasn't sure if that should offend him or not, being called vain. It was just how he was raised to dress and take care of himself.

        "I think you're what Sam would call metrosexual."

        Paul burst out laughing, putting his free hand over his eyes. "You are too much, Dean Winchester."

        Dean simply grinned in his smooth way. "That's what they tell me." He went to wrap the other hand. "Do you think you can get blood out of this nice white shirt? 'Cause I don't know if you've noticed, but you got flecks of it all over the shirt, especially the cuffs."

        Paul shrugged. "I've become an expert at getting blood out of my clothing, trust me."

        "You get hurt a lot?"

        "Yeah, sorta."

        "Yeah, me too. A part of you starts to thrive on the pain after it happens enough," Dean said, making what was for him small talk while he finished up Paul's hand.

        Why did that comment disturb Paul so? Because there was a grain of truth in it for him too? Hadn't it felt good to destroy the table not only because it released his anger, but because he was starting to like the pain a little? And he thought he understood that. Head injuries, fights, his own suicide and "resurrection," and more emotional pain than one man should have to take, and you had someone who needed an outlet to process the pain in a way he could handle. How exactly that would flesh itself out, time would tell.

        Dean finished wrapping Paul's other hand, and smirked up at him. "Done. You know, you shouldn't abuse hands like these. They're kinda sexy, what with the long fingers and thumbs." He took both of Paul's hands in his own, leaned down, and kissed the back of one hand. Paul smirked sideways at that one; the guy was smooth as silk. "I like these hands. I want them on me."

On to Part II: These Hands


Fate is an Engineer is (c) 2006 Demented Stuff/The Pleasure of the People
Miracles is (c) 2003 Spyglass Entertainment and Touchstone Television
Supernatural is (c) 2005+ Kripke Enterprises, Wonderland, & Warner Brothers/The CW Television.

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