So much had happened in the past six months. Connor and Murphy's lives had been uprooted. They had embraced their mission. It had given them a sense of true purpose. It had also taken away their old lives and selves. It had taken away their best friend. But it had also reunited them with their father.
And now it was all over. It was all so fresh yet seemed like it could have been a lifetime ago. It had left Connor and his brother wondering their place now. They couldn't go back to the men they were before, because they weren't those men anymore. They were but ghosts of the past.
They had relocated, back to Ireland. That was another adjustment in itself. It had been their home for better than twenty years before moving to Boston, but it wasn't the same as they had remembered. It wasn't just from living in the States for the past seven years. It was because too much had changed. They had changed. Nothing they once held close offered them much comfort now-a-days, except for maybe each other. Each brother had been altered, but they had been through it together. They were always able to know what the other was feeling and that was still no different.
Murphy had taken the recent events more to heart than his twin. He was the more impulsive, sensitive, and rowdy of the two, whereas Connor was more level-headed and stoic. They balanced each other that way. But it also meant that Murphy didn't adjust to things as well as Connor. He had been more than ready to accept their calling and to let Rocco in on it. And he had taken it harder when it ended and when Rocco was killed.
Connor felt for his brother, but he also knew that Murphy needed to accept that there are consequences, that sometimes he needed to be more reluctant and less impulsive.
Murphy would become abnormally quiet when something was bothering him. Then, usually without much warning, he would lash out, getting into brawls after getting too liquored up or doing something rash. Connor hated it, hated that Murphy suffered like that and put himself in harm's way, but he also knew that was just his brother. And that was his way of dealing with things.
Connor knew better than to try to coax Murphy into coping before he was ready. It almost never worked and typically ended with a fist or two flying at him. He knew Murphy would come to terms with things in his own time. Until then, he would just wait him out and be there for him when it happened. As he always had.
Connor paced the living area of the small cottage. He stoked the fire in the fireplace. He glanced out the window. Nightfall had come. He had expected his brother back a couple of hours ago.
Murphy had gone out, for a walk, he said, but Connor had had a nagging feeling for the past half an hour, one that suggested things weren't very alright with his brother or that maybe things were finally starting to come to a head. If that were the case, he knew where he could find him.
"Shit," he sighs.
Not willing to wait any longer he pulls on his coat and heads out into the night, making his way the mile across the countryside and into town.
Connor reaches the local pub, O'Mally's and walks in. A handful of patrons sit at the tables, a couple at the bar, but it's fairly empty.
As Connor enters he immediately locates his brother sitting at the bar, shot glass in hand and a bottle on the counter next to him. He doesn't need to see him up close to know he's had more than his fill of alcohol. And while Murphy's posture looks almost defeated, Connor knows better.
He walks over and takes a seat next to Murphy, calling casually to the bar tender for a glass of his own. Murphy doesn't look over at him, but Connor knows his presence is acknowledged. Murphy tenses a little.
A glass is placed in front of Connor and he reaches over, taking the bottle and pouring a fair amount for himself.
"What the fuck are ya doin'?" Murphy asks almost accusingly, barely glancing over.
"Havin' a drink. What the fuck'sit look like?" Connor retorts. He takes a gulp of the liquid and sets the glass back down, both hands wrapped around it.
"Don't," Murphy says a low tone.
"Don't know what yer talkin' about, Murph," Connor says coolly.
"I fuckin' mean it, Connor," Murphy says still not looking at his brother. It's a warning.
"So do I."
Murphy looks over at his brother and glares. His blue eyes are bright. There's a dangerous flicker behind them and Connor knows what it means – that his brother is ready for a fight, but more than that, in want and need of one. He's reached breaking point. And Connor does the one thing he can; he pushes him.
"Yeah well, I'm not leavin,'" Connor states looking into Murphy's eyes, challenging him.
"Fine," Murphy grits out. He looks away and suddenly a right hook is flying at Connor, connecting with his jaw. He stumbles back out of the bar stool and looks at his brother, unwavering.
Murphy is standing now, stance defensive, shoulders squared, a hint of dark satisfaction in his eyes.
Connor straightens, fists curling at his sides. He glares back at his brother. If this is what Murphy needs then this is what he'll give him. Besides, he's never been one to back out of a fight.
He steps forward, thrusting out a fist of his own, catching Murphy's mouth, smashing lips against teeth. Murphy looks up, a hand wiping away the dribble of blood, and rushes Connor, tackling him to the floor with an unforgiving thud. His fists fly catching Connor's face and splitting the skin just above his left eyebrow.
"Fuck," he hisses as he feels the warm trickle of blood slide down his temple and plants a knee into Murphy's stomach, rolling him to the side a bit. It's all Connor needs to slide out from under him. He grabs the back of Murphy's shirt and throws him against the wall. Murphy recovers quickly and comes at his brother again, landing a punch to Connor's gut. He doubles over and a knee slams into his head. A little stunned, Connor blindly reaches up, catching hold of his brother's shirt, pulling himself upright just as Murphy strikes out at his face. Connor ducks away and throws several wild but home-hitting punches to Murphy's face and a couple to his stomach. Murphy rights himself and lunges for Connor once again, grabbing him and taking him to the ground as they mutter a chain of low grunted curses.
They're a tangled mess of arms and legs, of fists cracking on flesh. Murphy is feral, but his drunken and emotional state work against him and Connor quickly turns the tables, flipping his brother and throwing himself on top of him. He straddles Murphy, hands locking around his wrists and holding his arms above his head.
They're panting heavily, each bleeding from several places on their faces. Their knuckles are split, each man's blood mixing and meshing with one another's. Murphy's eyes are furious and he bucks crazily but unsuccessfully against the weight of his brother on top of him, against the arms pinning his down.
"Get the fuck off," he seethes through clenched teeth, straining, but Connor does not relent. Not yet.
Eventually, reluctantly Murphy submits. His body relaxes somewhat but his eyes are still full of anger and emotion. Connor slowly releases his grip on his wrists and eases off of him. Murphy quickly pushes himself to his feet, glaring at his brother as he wipes a fresh trail of blood from his nose. With one last glance at Connor, he storms out of the bar.
Connor waits a moment then steals a glance around the bar at the somewhat shocked patrons and bar keep as he tries to catch his breath. He gives them a curt nod before walking out after his brother.
It doesn't take Connor long to locate Murphy. He can hear his brother's distant grunts and curses, and the sound of something hard being hit repeatedly and relentlessly. He follows the noise out behind the bar and behind an abandoned shop.
He stops behind the corner of the old building and watches as Murphy lets loose his frustration, sorrow, and grief mercilessly on anything he can. He kicks the wall and punches it, and Connor winces at the sound of already busted knuckles smacking against brick. He grabs rocks and random debris from the ground and chucks it.
It's not until Connor watches as his brother throws a punch and puts his hand through a window, glass shattering, that he starts to move. Murphy curls in on himself, cradling his right hand.
Enough is enough.
Connor crosses the distance between them with determination. He approaches Murphy and reaches for his hand that he has tucked into his mid-section. Murphy jerks away.
"Fuckin' stubborn bastard," Connor mutters and reaches for the arm again. Murphy shoves him away with his uninjured arm.
"Fuck off!" he growls.
Connor grabs a hold of Murphy's upper arm and he tries to twist away but Connor steps behind him and wraps both arms around his chest.
"Fuckin' let me go ya mother-"
"Calm the fuck down!"
Murphy struggles against him before his energy and his anger deplete him and he begins to sag. Connor keeps his hold around him, not so much for restraint anymore as support, and lowers them both to the ground.
After a moment Connor, still holding up his brother, slides around in front of him. His hands grip Murphy's shoulders, grounding him. Murphy's head is hung, defeated and exhausted. He doesn't meet his brother's concerned eyes.
Connor takes either side of Murphy's face in his hands and lifts his head. Murphy's previously vibrant eyes are clouded with pain, sorrow, and welling with tears.
"Christ, Murph," Connor breathes.
He slides a hand to the back of Murphy's neck. Murphy allows his head to fall forward against Connor's shoulder and Connor places his other hand across his back.
Connor looks down at Murphy's limply hung arms, catching sight of a fair amount of darkness on the right that's trekking its way from his forearm to his fingertips and shimmering in the moonlight.
He gives the back of Murphy's neck a firm squeeze before hauling them both up. He wraps an arm around his back and throws his good arm over his shoulder. And they begin the slow, stumbling walk home, both aching in more ways than one.
Once home, Connor sets his brother at the kitchen table. He grabs a clean dish towel and hands it to him. Murphy accepts it and wraps it around his arm while Connor goes to their small bathroom. There he washes the blood from his face and places a bandage on the still slowly oozing cut above his eyebrow. He washes off his hands and gets some medical supplies; tweezers, anti-biotic ointment, and sterile gauze and bandages.
He returns to his brother and gently lifts his cut arm up on the table as he sits across from him. He unwraps the towel, keeping it underneath the arm, and proceeds to clean the cuts. Murphy doesn't protest, but he doesn't meet his brother's eyes and no words are exchanged.
For the amount of blood that was on his arm, the cuts aren't too bad and there wasn't a lot of glass still stuck in the flesh. Even the worst of the cuts don't appear to be in real need of stitching, so Connor cleans them as best as he can, places gauze on them, and wraps the arm. Then he wipes away the dried blood on his brother's face and dabs his knuckles.
Connor looks at Murphy for a moment, then stands, lightly grasping Murphy under his armpit. Murphy complies, standing and allowing Connor to lead him to the bedroom that they share.
Connor helps his twin lay down in his bed. He removes his shoes for him and covers him with his blanket as Murphy rolls on his side. Connor kneels down in front of Murphy, eyes searching his, and places a hand on his shoulder. He gives it a squeeze and goes to stand to climb into his own bed but a light pressure around his wrist stops him. He turns and looks down at Murphy who is looking up at him with bleary eyes, hand gently wrapped around his wrist.
It's a gesture that says, "I'm sorry" and "Thank you."
Connor smiles lightly and motions for Murphy to scoot over, gently nudging him. He curls up on his side facing him. Connor puts his arm around Murphy and cups the back of his neck once again and pulls him into him. Murphy presses his forehead into his brother's chest and Connor rubs the back of his neck.
It's a gesture that says, "It's okay"and "Always."