Title: By Man or Saints

Disclaimer: Everything is owned by Troy Duffy's great big beautiful self. I am just playing in his very pretty and violent sandbox.

Summary: Murphy tries deal with Rocco's death in his own way. Conner is there when they both fall apart. Blood and bad words abound. No slash, brotherly comfort.

Characters: Conner, Murphy

Setting: during the three month blackout, after Rocco's death to the end

Word Count: 2391

Notes: this is my first BDS fic and I hope I have done the boys justice. I know this story has been done before but I felt compelled to put my thoughts in on it. You will notice that I fudged a little and gave Murphy an extra bump from that night in the basement, while not specifically mentioned in the movie I thought it wasn't completely impossible either. In captions and credits, Conner is spelled with the 'e' so that is how I spelled it here (*edit: I have since gone back and changed all the 'e's to 'o's because that is how everyone spells his name and so it must be right... I hope). Other important mentions include that I am a comma enthusiast and that I could not for the life of me write 'shite' instead of 'shit' so it's 'shit' and I hope that's okay. Feedback is greatly welcomed and appreciated… even flames, because I need something to sit in front of on these mediocre spring nights.


"Whoso sheddeth a man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed…"
Genesis 9:6

It's the middle of the night in the middle of fucking nowhere, somewhere far outside of Boston. Another cheap mattress motel. It's got the full package: basic cable tv, grime in the tile of the shower, dark nameless stains crusted in the orange shag carpet... But it's a roof and a door and four fairly solid walls and that's as close to home as one can get so far from it. They've been at this one a week, living on greasy spoon breakfasts and vending machine dinners. No phone calls, no visitors, just themselves and the tv for company. There hasn't been a maid around in two days, but its better that way, even if the towels are growing musty.

Maybe they won't be here too much longer anyway.

It's the middle of the night and Connor can't sleep so he's watching some black and white foreign film, trying to piece together some semblance of the plot with what little he knows of Japanese. Its not going very well. But the pictures are bright and flashy and the grainy pixels keep his eyes in that unconscious sort of state and his mind lingering just far enough away from any murky territory of thought.

Like why Da hasn't checked in yet.

And then he hears the whimper.

The volume goes down and Connor's heart rate clicks up. His eyes flash to his brother, asleep in the other bed, the covers tight and twisting around his body.

Connor hears it again, this time catching the moan and the movement that precedes it: a white-knuckled clench of bruised fingers, a dip in abdomen and the rise of chest, and then the small cry loosed from beaten lungs…

Three nights in a row now and Connor's almost got it planned out, timed. Its like a sick bout of déjà vu, inescapable, endless, and painful. He hates the sound of his brother's pain.

The soft cries are only a prelude of course. He hopes tonight will be different. Yet, it arrives despite his futile hope, as he knew it would: Murphy shudders in the bed beside him. His body quakes, a violent toss of arms and legs.

The nightmare is full-blown now, catching his brother in the aftershock of fear and panic. He fights against the demons of the dark, shouting out, stumbling in the covers, drowning in the effort. The thrashing is muffled by the deep earth of dirty blankets and Murphy is gasping, suffocating.

Connor is to his brother in the instance of a blink, coming down hard in between elbows and knees, tearing away the sheets. The rusted penny smell of fresh blood hits him hard in the face.

Dammit!

His hands are swift to Murphy's face, gentle, fingertips slipping on the slick skin. His voice is soft, old tones of home, pulling his brother from the nightmare. Murphy's eyes break apart just as Conner sees the stain dotting it's way across his brother's shirt front. The fucker with the eager blade had been repaid in kind for that, red ringed in a sleek line around his thick Italian neck.

"Shit," he says. That was the last of the bandages.

Murphy is awake then, a damp shivering mess, drawing in a ragged breath and trying to make it seem normal, controlled.

He's always been a horrible liar.

Murphy's blinking back the dark dream shadows from his eyes, trying to keep them from his brother. A sideways glance -guilty and rushed- is not quick enough. Connor spots the darkness in those 27-year-familiar blue eyes and Connor knows what he's trying to do, again, just like the past nights. He decides right then and there that this will not be swept under the proverbial rug; the years of shared fallacies and twenty-three dead men under there already haven't room for the silence. This is the third nightmare in so many nights.

Connor mumbles another curse into the palm of his hand and scrubs it over tired eyes and aching skin. It grits in the pores. Murphy tries to get up, sit up, fuck up things worse and Connor puts a heavy hand on his shoulder, stopping him.

"Movin' around is what got this -" he jabs a glare in the direction of the growing blossom of red "- fuckin' ripped all to hell in the first place. Just… stay still, yeah?"

Murph nods, not even trying to meet his brother's eyes. Connor gets up and searches through their bags and then the bathroom, rummaging for something anything to mop up the mess his brother caused. Murphy actually does what his brother says for once and doesn't move, his quiet obedience rubbing against Connor's shredded patience more than his usual willful defiance would have. A string of curses follow him around the room like an abandoned puppy.

When Connor returns, a handful of makeshift medical supplies in his hand, Murph has his shirt halfway off. It's the first time since waking that Murphy looks at him when he tries to help: the look is not kind, it is a warning. Connor waits the extra minutes it takes Murphy's bum wrist to maneuver his shirt the rest of the way off. It is finally discarded on the floor in a burst of Gaelic and ferocity.

"Well?" Murphy turns, provocation lacing the word into a sharp dart. His chest is exposed fully to his brother, seeping gash awaiting ministrations.

Connor tries to keep the agitation from flashing in his eyes but he's sure it's there anyway, clashing against Murphy's poorly masked and clearly flawed deception. Neither boys were ever good at hiding things from each other. It was pointless to even try. Yet here they were, tension crackling between them as though the lightning of the silent storm wasn't going to strike them eventually.

Connor sets to work removing the soiled bandages from his brother's chest. The skin beneath is purple and the ugly cut -looking almost no better than when it had first been dealt- is tied together with a dark thread, hasty and amateur in design and worth. Thankfully, nothing is in need of repairing, as though Connor would have been any good at it anyway; the dream had only pulled apart whatever slight healing had occurred over the last week, causing the spotting between the freshly split skin. A change of dressing was all that could be done. As Connor works, Murphy avoids him completely, silent and still, eyes averted. Halfway through, Connor can't stand it any longer.

"Ya gonna tell me then?" He rips strips from an old shirt, improvising for the clean bindings he wishes they had.

"Tell you what?" Murphy doesn't sound at all like he needs any explaining.

"Ya fuckin' know what."

Murphy remains silent. Pointedly. Stubbornly. It burns in Connor's ears.

"Murph." The name is no more than a growl and Connor's fingers slip at the edges of his frustration. His brother inhales sharply and grips a handful of mattress.

"Fuck!" He exclaims. "Connor! It's just a fuckin' nightmare. No need t' go all fuckin' maternal on me, Christ Almighty!"

Connor bristles. "It's the same nightmare for the last three nights, don't tell me it ain't and don't tell me its nothing. You get it out in the open right the fuck now or this knife bite here won't be the only thing needing bandaging; it'll be yer head too!"

Murphy meets his brother's fierceness, blue eyes snarling, tone incredulous. "Threatening your fuckin' brother? Your injured brother?"

Connor slaps the new bandage in place with an angry palm and slides away, turning his back to Murphy's stifled cry. "I will make good on them threats, mark me words, if ya don't start telling me what the fuck is wrong with ya. Right now!"

He whirls on his brother, fist curling back. Injured or no, he is tired and ready to be rid of this secretive bullshit they've been wading in ever since-

"I killed him, Con."

Connor doesn't move.

Murph is not looking at Connor but down, into his lap, into that disgusting as hell mattress. Into that damn fucking nightmare. His arm is cradled to his chest, his head hung, and in the sallow light of the bedside lamp he looks younger, smaller. Beaten and alone.

Connor's anger goes out like a candle flame. He drops his fist.

He'd known all along. Of course. What kind of brother would he have been if he hadn't known what was haunting his brother. Murphy was blaming himself for Rocco's death. It was obvious. He'd known it the moment that blessed Italian had given his last breath and Murphy had been bent over him, the obviousness, the loss, and the blood painted all over his face, lit up like a fucking neon sign. Connor didn't blame Murphy because Murphy simply wasn't to blame. But Murphy believed he was, believed it so hard, straight to his core. And he'd kept that from Connor. Twenty-seven years and no secrets, no lies. Until this. Only thing to ever come between them.

In a week Connor had watched his brother slip farther away, crawl deeper into his guilt. And he would have followed, would have dug him from that pit seven days ago, if he'd been able. But how could he have followed where his brother refused to let him go? Instead he'd been cut off. The separation had reached into Connor and twisted like a knife. The silence had been worse than death. The silence had snapped them in two.

Connor sits on the edge of the bed, not sure what he should say. Murphy heaps a shuddering breath into the space between them and with it comes the words he's needed to confess.

"I keep seeing it, Con." His voice is soft, breaking. "That bastard walks in and puts that bullet in him… right in his fuckin' chest. I keep seein' it in me fuckin' head. Over and over and over. I try t' stop him, I try. But he keeps dying, Con. Fuck," Murphy sucks in a wet breath, "I can't stop him from dying."

Connor falters but the words seem to come out of their own accord. "Ya didn't kill him Murph."

A defensive wall draws up around Murphy's self-blame and throws an attack. "I brought him along," he argues, his voice tight and strained. "I got him involved. I may not've pulled that trigger but I sure as fuck might as well 'ave. He's dead 'cause of me, Connor."

Connor frowns and tries again, his voice a little harder than before. "That ain't the truth Murph and ya fuckin' know it. "

"Isn't it?"

"No, it isn't! If it wasn't that bullet that killed him it woulda been someone else's. Roc knew what he was getting into. He begged us… He wanted to be a part of it!"

"He didn't want t' die."

Connor shakes his head. "Nah, I don't suspect he did. But how should he have died then, Murph? Some wrong-place, wrong-time forever the fuckin' package boy? Maybe he shoulda been gunned down in some alley by some no-name fuck, huh? Nah. This is the way he would've wanted to go. Blaze of glory and all that shit!"

Murphy looks to his brother, wet eyes shining, a twitch of a smile at the corner of his mouth as he remembers: "Wyatt fuckin' Earp."

"Aye." Connor chuckles softly. "That he was." The humor of the memory lingers for a second before giving way into seriousness again and Connor reaches out to his brother, lightly placing his palm on the battered back of his brother's hand. "Ya didn't kill him," he says again.

Murphy nods once, a curt understanding, acceptance leaking in. The smile leaves his face and with it gone he looks again the gaunt shell of his former self. But the slump of his shoulders has sharpened up a bit and that is a start.

"Aye, I know," he concedes. "But it still sits heavy with me. I feel like there's something… like he's just waitin' for… I dunno, something…" he struggles and then fades off, his sentence hanging incomplete. But Connor knows what his brother is trying to say, just as he's always known. He's felt the same since that night.

"A job unfinished," he ends for the both of them.

There is a hardening in the eyes of the dark-haired twin and a stiffness straightening his hunched form to full height. A solid decision has been made.

"We gotta kill the fucker."

Connor feels something hot and sharp pump into his heart. The thought of a kill, that kill… He wants nothing more in the world. His fingers twitch in anticipation of that blessed trigger, his body a live wire with the brief imagining of the justified death of the man who had murdered their friend. It would be personal, this death, this execution of truth and justice. It would be final.

Blue eyes met blue, steeled and sparking in shared determination.

"Aye, my brother. That we will."

3 months later, they did.

It was a longer wait than either would have liked, this dealing of death, but there is the saying that things long ripened have the sweetest taste…

In that courtroom, bright sunlight streaming in through tall windows, the eyes of the chosen upon them, the brothers and their father stood behind Yakavetta and offered him up to God and the eternity of his fate. With three shots that echoed and burned in the eyes and ears of all who witnessed, a soul was severed from its body.

At times the MacManus brothers would wonder at their lives, their mission from Heaven, and why they of all had been chosen for the undertaking. Sometimes even they would question, as the public did, if they were as the media had dubbed then, the Saints of South Boston, or were they simply killers, justifying their bloody deeds by calling their cause a righteous one.

But on that day, they had no cause for doubt. For this they had been called.

Truth. Justice.

The last debt of death had been paid, the blood for blood shed. A soul was sent to Judgment and with it the came the final peace of rest for their friend.

After that day, Murphy did not dream of Rocco's death again.

fin


A/N: And so, the end. What did all think? As an added thought I would like to say that I see the brothers as being two who have nothing between them and so for me it seems sensible that it would be a whole world tilt if that were to suddenly be different. This is what I offer for Connor's lapse of "hard-love". At any rate I thought it worked out okay. Any and all thoughts would be lovely! MacManus shaped cookies for all! :D