"Ya look like ya hardly slept."
I blinked blearily at Connor as I stepped back from my front door, and rubbed my temples. "Thanks, Connor, that's what every woman wants to hear when she wakes up." My brain whirled. I had seen Murphy out the same door barely two hours ago, and my lips still tingled with the kiss he'd given me. I could still smell him on my skin.
Connor shrugged out of his jacket and hung it on the hook where Murphy had hung my bound wrists a mere six hours earlier. I quickly looked away and moved towards the kitchen. "You want coffee?"
"Tea, if ya have it."
In the kitchen, my hand wrapped around my mug from last night, the cold and drowned tea bag still stuck to the bottom of it. "Sure," I answered flatly.
"Ya having bad dreams then, lass?"
I jumped, startled at how close Connor's voice was, and turned quickly to find myself pinned between my counter and him. My stomach churned thickly at the familiar position, and a watery smile wavered on my lips. "Ah…just restless," I shrugged. "Too much caffeine during the day, maybe."
Connor cocked his head at me and was silent for a moment as he looked into my eyes. "Ya ready fer church, lass?" He asked.
I looked down at my oversized t shirt I had pulled on to answer the door. I'd been wearing Murphy's when I'd walked him to the door, and he'd peeled it off of me, leaving me standing naked when he left. "I'll need to change," I murmured. Pushing past Connor, I filled the kettle and set it on the burner to heat. "Can I trust you not to burn the kitchen down if I leave you in here while I get dressed?"
Connor shrugged. "Don't know. Sometimes things get outta hand, even when ya have tha best intentions."
I paused in the doorway, my fingers curling into the frame. "Connor," I started, turning to face him. "There's something we need to talk about."
He nodded, looking over his shoulder from where he rummaged through my cupboards searching for tea. "Go get dressed. We'll go to mass, an' then ta breakfast, like I promised. We can talk then, if ya like."
I wasn't so sure I could sit through an hour long mass with this looming over my head. The way he was looking at me, the way he said things so casually, and calmly – too calm, for Connor – only served to twist my anxiety to almost unbearable levels.
"Connor," I tried again.
"Hurry up, yeah? We hafta go an' pick up Murph on tha way." His blue eyes snared mine, and his gaze was dark and brooked no argument.
"Right," I nodded, turning towards the bedroom. I was numb as I closed the door behind me.
What did one wear to tell her boyfriend she'd been sleeping with his twin brother?
"Jesus, Mary, n'Joseph, he's been in there fer a spell. Wonder what wicked things me brudder has been up to lately."
I looked up from where I was staring into the open hymnal laying in my lap, and glanced at Connor, who was scoping out the confessional. I didn't have any answer for him, so I remained silent, and looked back down to the words that held little meaning for me.
The walk over to the church from the twins' flat had proved to be awkward. Connor noted that Murphy looked like he hadn't slept, either, but the tension between the two was palpable. They'd fought recently, I could tell the way Murphy's eyes cut to his brother, and the way Connor's shoulders bunched, but I couldn't be certain what they'd fought about.
When Murphy returned, Connor stood from the pew. "Finally," he groused. "Pam?"
I looked up at him in question. He held his hand out to me.
Connor nodded towards the confessional, and I looked towards the small booth. I'd never liked the confessional. My dislike was based on more on the small quarters than what actually went on inside. When I was younger, I figured that if I sinned and God was everywhere, wouldn't he know? I didn't have to tell anyone about it. But, my grandmother had always told me that sometimes it was just better to talk. I looked back to Connor and Murphy. Talking to Murphy had resulted in us getting naked. Talking to Connor would no doubt be explosive, especially if I didn't know what to say. I sighed and stood up. "Fine," I groused. I shoved past the brothers and marched towards the booth.
"You were in there a long time," Connor muttered as Murphy sank into the pew next to him.
"Aye, so?" Murphy pulled his rosary over his head and wrapped it around his wrist, and kicked the kneeler down before settling on his knees.
Connor sank down beside his brother. "How many Hail Mary's, then, eh?" He stared at Murphy's profile, watching his twin's jaw tick.
He didn't answer Connor, and instead bent his head, rolling his thumb over the first bead. As he began reciting the Lord's Prayer, he could feel his brother's eyes on him, but he refused to meet his gaze. Connor had been strangely…calm when he and Pam had come to collect him. For her part, Pam had avoided most of his glances, and made it a point to not walk between the brothers like she usually did. And when Murphy would pull his concerned look from Pam, he'd find Connor staring at him almost expectantly, his blue eyes sharp and observant.
Murphy had lost count already, but he'd been praying half-heartedly. He sighed inwardly, and added it to the new list of things he'd need to confess next week. He stole another glance at Connor, finding his brother on the kneeler beside him, his head bent, and his lips moving silently. Murphy continued to stare, as if willing Connor's thoughts to spill into his own.
"What is it, brudder?" Connor murmured, not even opening his eyes or looking up. The rosary slid through is fingers until he touched the cross.
Murphy swung his gaze back to his own rosary, but it didn't stay there long. The creak of the confessional booth opening drew his attention, and Connor's head lifted, too, and they watched as Pam slowly emerged, blinking at the light and rotating her shoulders, as if she'd been cramped in the space.
Connor's hand tightened on the cross in his hand and he hissed as the corners bit into his palm. Swearing softly, he opened his hand and held it out to Murphy. "Fer such a little ting, it sure does leave a mark, aye?"
Murphy swallowed thickly, hearing the calculation in his brother's voice. He looked up to Connor.
Connor shuffled on the kneeler and pressed right against Murphy as they watched Pam move to the candles and light one. "Strangest thing, this," Connor said conversationally, holding his palm out between them. "Ya roughed me up good yesterday, Murph. Ya left a mark on me back." He nodded to Murphy's rosary.
"Aye," Murphy hissed, feeling the jaws of a trap he hadn't know was set slowly begin to close around him.
"An," Connor continued in his too-light tone, "stranger still: Pam has a mark just like it."
Murphy's empty hand clutched the pew in front of him.
Connor moved then, like a viper, and snared Murphy's neck with one arm, the crook of his elbow pressed right against him. He tugged Murphy hard, wrenching his brother's neck, and held him against his chest as his lips pressed to his ear. "She's mine, little brudder, an' ya'd do well ta remember it," Connor growled. He could hear Murphy's heart pounding. He waited a spell and then let Murphy go, roughly shoving him away. "It's a sin ta lie, Murphy," Connor reminded as his brother opened his mouth.
"Search your heart. What does it tell you?"
I chuckled humorlessly in the confessional. "It tells me that they're more trouble than they're worth."
An answering snort came from the other side of the screen.
I sat a bit straighter. "Father…you know who I'm talking about, don't you?" It wasn't a question.
He paused for a moment and then replied, "I do not presume to know what is in the hearts of men or women. That is for God to know and to understand."
I sighed again and sank back. Of course he knew who I was talking about. I hadn't given him all the details, but I'd given him enough for him to draw his conclusions and come up with the MacManus brothers as the main source of my distress.
"Let me ask you this: do you love them both?"
"Yes," I replied slowly.
"But you love each man differently?"
"Maybe?" I rolled my eyes and groaned softly. "I'm friends with both of them, first and foremost. I don't want to lose them, and I don't want to break their hearts, but if I have to, I will."
"Would it come to that?" the priest asked.
"I hope not. I would hope that they would be able to see past this…whatever this is, and it would make them stronger. Forgive me for being blunt, but I doubt this is the first time they've slept with the same woman. And they've always remained brotherly."
"A friend loves always, and a brother is born for adversity."
I rubbed my temples, wishing I'd paid more attention in Sunday school. "Father?"
"My dear, you must be truthful in all relationships in order for them to succeed. I'm not saying there will not be hurt feelings when this comes to light. If there isn't, then there was no love to begin with. There will be heartache, of that I am certain. And there may be a time of silence, of reflection, and of guilt, above all else. I have seen these two face adversity before, of the darkest kind, and yet they remain whole in two separate parts. I have no doubt in my heart that these two love you very much, and each other and that is a rare thing in this world, to love so fully and unfettered.
"I know. I know that, Father, and I know that I need to tell him. It's the actual telling that I'm hesitant about. I can't imagine the look on his face."
"Is it not better to know that look than to live with lies, child?"
I smiled to myself, despite my heartache. "Aye, Father."
"Three Hail Mary's, one for each of you," the priest decided. On his next breath, he added, "it's good to see you in the church, again. Do not feel like you cannot find solace here, child."
"Thank you, Father," I whispered.
He bade me go in peace.
I said my Hail Mary's as I lit candles, one for each of us. I know they were more for the remembrance of those who had passed, but I felt like these next few hours would burn away what we'd been before. I hoped that we would move on from this, in the best way possible. I turned back to the pew, and to the twins, and approached them.
"Breakfast is on me, boys," I stated, watching as they shuffled up from the kneeler and replaced their rosaries. Both of them were flushed, and Connor's shoulders were tight as Murphy's jaw ticked. I looked from one to the other. "We need to talk."