Ten fucking long days they'd had his brother, and Connor had been able to do nothing about it. Not that Connor had been picking his teeth the whole time. He did everything he could think of and more than a few things he didn't want to think of in the course of finding his twin.
"We're making an example of him." Is what one of the damn bastards had said.
Connor watched Murphy roll onto his side, mumbling something incoherent as he opened his eyes. Connor tensed.
Four days ago Connor killed all the bastards responsible, and he hadn't left his twin's side since.
It took some time for Murphy to sit up, he was careful neither to pull any stitches in his side nor to jar his broken ankle, and he kept his eyes on Connor the whole time. "How long'd I sleep?"
"A few hours."
Murphy nodded. "And you?"
Connor shook his head. "Nah, I'm good."
"Don't worry 'bout me so much." He reminded his brother.
Connor nodded. "I know. You're Murphy Fucking MacManus."
"Damn right." Muphy answered.
Connor felt like a fucking liar. How could he sit there are say these things, telling Mur[hy everything was going to be alright, when every time he looked at his brother all Connor could see was the image burned into his brain when he'd rescued him.
Blood and despair and defeat.
Murphy had been chained up in a fucking shower stall, drugged, starved and beaten. All those hours Connor had spent sleeping or chasing false leads, every minute of it was time Murphy shouldn't have been waiting. When Connor looked at Murphy he could only see how badly he failed his brother.
He found Murphy alive. He should be fucking celebrating.
But it fucking hurt to see what they'd done to his twin. Murphy hadn't said anything yet about what happened, but Connor had gotten a firsthand view of it all after shooting the bastards responsible. It fucking hurt to watch Murphy continue to suffer because of it. It fucking hurt to be right there and still not be able to do anything.
He didn't know what to do to make it better.
He did what he could.
Connor had wrapped his unconscious twin up in a fucking sheet and carried him out, brought him to a safe place and cleaned him up.
What he wanted to do most was the one thing that was impossible to do, he couldn't make it not have happened at all.
Murphy did not regain consciousness quickly. The first night of having Murphy back, Connor sat beside his brother with his hand wrapped around his wrist, feeling his pulse and trying to convince himself that he hadn't been too late to save his brother.
"We need to get out of here." Murphy said, looking around, getting kind of twitchy.
Connor looked up. "We're good. No one'll find us."
Murphy nodded. "Not what I mean. You need to get out. I need to get out. I need some fucking real clothes." He said gesturing to his boxers and bathrobe. "And fresh air."
"What about your ankle?" Connor reminded him, as if Murphy needed reminding. He watched as Murphy fidgeted with the straps of the removable cast, watched him twist the bed sheets around his fingers. It looked like he was getting ready to crawl out of his skin. But then Murphy had always been like that. Always moving, always doing something, and never sitting still. Connor felt a little better, in fact, seeing his brother getting some energy back. What worried him now was how he was going to get that energy contained so that Murphy stay put long enough to heal.
Murphy shrugged. "I'll use the stupid crutches."
The stupid crutches were on the floor beside Murphy's mattress.
Connor hadn't even known about there being a problem with Murphy's ankle at first, and to be honest it was one of the lesser injuries he'd been worried about at the time. There'd been so much else to deal with, and the only thing Connor could focus on was keeping Murphy alive because even that hadn't seemed like a sure thing.
At least they had connections now; more than when they'd gotten shot that first time and had to take care of themselves with a fucking iron in the kitchen. They had allies, they knew a doctor who would come and help them out when they needed, and that was who Connor had called.
The Doctor, her name was Sophia, she came with a backpack of medical supplies and sat on the floor next to Murphy. She took his heart rate and blood pressure, she shined a penlight into his eyes. Murphy didn't put up any resistance, he didn't even look at her. His glassy stare was fixed on Connor the entire time.
She applied antibacterial cream on the small circular burns and welts on his chest and back.
She found the bruising and swelling around Murphy's ankle. It wasn't fresh. Connor stared at it, the heel was off center and he sat and held Murphy's hand while she palpated it and decided that it was only dislocated and she could set it right then and there. Murphy turned his head into Connor's leg and whimpered as she made the adjustments. The ankle looked better afterwards, but she warned him an x-ray would be necessary to make sure there wasn't anything more seriously wrong in the joint.
Connor wasn't even sure how much of what she told him he understood or retained. All he knew was that she assured him that Murphy should physically make a full recovery. She also warned Connor that there wasn't much she could do to help other than give Connor a bottle of antibiotics and painkillers. She returned later with a removable cast and crutches.
That was four days ago. Since then, Connor cooked and tried to keep Murphy as comfortable as possible. Connor sat close while Murphy slept, and worried about things he couldn't control. He knew he needed to give Murphy space and time to heal. He knew he needed to be patient. He knew he needed to be strong and step up and take care of his brother, he just wished he had a better clue at what he was fucking doing.
Connor called Doctor Sophia and asked her how he could help his brother recover. She responded by bringing him books about trauma victims, PTSD, and recovering prisoners of war. None of those books did anything more than just scare the fucking crap out of him.
And now Murphy wanted to go for a fucking walk?
"We're not going anywhere, Murph."
"I wasn't asking for your permission. You can't fucking keep me here." Murphy insisted and pushed himself up. He used a chair to stand up, keeping his knee bent and foot off the ground.
"And how the fuck do you plan to get past me?"
"What are you going to do? Chain me up in the fucking shower?" Murphy yelled.
Murphy grabbed the chair he'd been leaning on a violent push across the room before letting himself fall back down onto the mattress. He wrapped his arm around his chest and concentrated on taking shallow breaths. "Where the fucking hell are we?"
Murphy hung his head for a second. "I'm tired of sitting still. All I can fucking do is sit still."
"Are your ribs okay?"
"Can I have a cigarette?" Murphy asked. He laid down on his back and stared up at the ceiling.
Connor nodded. "Course." He dug into the bag in the corner, brought out a pack and handed one to Murphy, he held out the lighter. Murphy took it with shaky hands and lit it. He took a drag and handed it over. Connor inhaled and gave it back.
"I'm sorry, Conn."
Connor shook his head. "Don't be."
"My head's not right." Murphy said. "How long was I there?"
"It felt like a long time." Murphy agreed.
Connor nodded. "Too long."
"I got away from 'em the first day they had me." Murphy told him. "They thought I was out. So my hands were untied and one of them was leaning over me, all I had to do was reach around and grab the gun out of his pants, so fucking easy. Problem was, there were only two bullets. And I was so fucking close to getting out of there. I had the door open and everything. One of 'em fucking tazed me. And I thought, what the fuck are they tazing me for? They should have used a fucking bullet. But they didn't want me dead. They should have killed me."
Connor closed his eyes. "Don't say that, Murph."
"That's what they should have done, not what I'd have preferred. They wanted to make a fucking example of me. Explained the whole fucking plan. Said they were sick and tired of everyone being terrified of the Saints coming for them and they intended to show everyone that we were just as human as anyone else. They thought they could show me off like some kind of broken toy."
"You're not broken Murph."
Murphy nodded. "You killed em all?"
"Course you did." He looked over at his brother. "Make sure you tell me when I'm being stupid, ok?"
"OK." This was the most Murphy had talked in the past four days. He waited, wondering if Murphy was going to keep talking.
"Pass me another cig?" Connor got up and this time lit it for him before handing it over.
Murphy took a drag. "I don't remember most of what happened."
Connor nodded. "We don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."
He reached out and took Connor's hand, pulling him to lie down beside him. They lied on their sides, facing each other.
"Doesn't change that it did happen." Murphy whispered. He passed Connor the cigarette. "Remember that fucking camp Ma sent us to when we were ten?"
"They thought separating us would be good? Thought we were too close and dependent and all that shit?" Murphy watched Connor. "What a fucking disaster. I wanted to kill that camp counsellor for what he did to you."
Connor felt his heart speed up. Murphy had never referenced what happened at that camp; ever since the day it happened they never talked about it.
But Murphy was talking, and Connor wasn't about to tell him to stop.
"I felt like I failed you, and I would have done anything to set it right and I still would." Murphy said it quietly. Connor knew Murphy was studying his face for a reaction. "Do you blame me for not being there?"
"No. I never blamed you, Murphy." Connor whispered.
Murphy grinned and slapped Connor on the head. "So don't fucking blame yourself for this."
"Ow, you fucker." Connor laughed.
"Anyway, it's my own fault for letting them get the drop on me in the first place. That first day was the closest I got to getting out of there. They used a fucking hammer on my ankle, and said they got the idea from some fucking horror novel. Said if caught me escaping again they'd break the other one too."
"Fuck." Connor felt his own ankle tingling just thinking about it.
"If I had another chance I would have taken it. I just figured I should do it right and not get caught the next time." Murphy sat up, back to fidgeting. Connor rolled onto his back and Murphy stared down at him. "I don't want to hurt you, Conn."
"How are you planning on hurting me, Murph?"
"If me telling you aboutthis is hurting you. Tell me to stop."
Connor blinked. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Murphy smiled and shifted his good leg a bit, getting more comfortable. "They knew you'd be coming for me. Fuck they talked a lot. Told me what they intended to do with me, and their plans to kill you. They wanted you to see me broken. Even talked about how they wanted me to be the one to pull the trigger to kill you. They thought it was fucking amusing when I told 'em they were already dead. You fucking should have seen them laughing, Conn."
"I did see em, right before shooting em. They weren't laughing." Conner reminded him.
Murphy thought that was hilarious. "Can't believe I fucking slept through that."
"You were unconscious. There's a difference."
Murphy shrugged. "You should have seen what fucking cowards they were. The fucks were scared to come near me. After the whole escape attempt thing, they stripped me down and cuffed my hands up to the safety bar in the shower."
That image of his brother was still all too fresh in Connor's mind, that was how he'd found him.
Murphy laughed. "What kind of drug dealers install safety bars in their showers? Even after the drugs started, at first they needed two of them to hold me down."
"Hold you down for what, Murph?" And as soon as the words were out of his mouth, Connor regretted them. Dr Sophia had warned him about some of the side effects of trauma. The books she brought talked about depression, and how victims often feel overwhelmed. He should be expecting nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, and anxiety attacks. The books warned about triggers that could remind the victim of the trauma and bring about negative emotional responses.
Murphy chewed at his thumb nail. "To give me more drugs mostly. I don't remember all of it clearly. I'm sure you saw it all when you got me out of there and cleaned me up. Cigarette burns. There was a belt hung it up on a towel hook, they used that a lot. They liked running the water cold. Generally degrading stuff but they weren't too imaginative. One of them usually held my legs so I couldn't kick them."
Murphy frowned. "Which one what?"
"Which one hurt you?"
Murphy frowned. "Fucking all of 'em, Conn. What , you want to know who did what?"
Connor didn't answer. The question didn't sound sarcastic. It sounded like Murphy was pleased Connor had asked, and he was eager to tell him. He didn't remember reading anything like this in those trauma books.
Here was his brother, wearing nothing more than boxers and a thin robe, and fucking excited about telling him how he'd had to be held down before getting tortured. But then, this was Murphy.
Murphy considered it. "I can tell you what I remember." He said. "There was five of em when you got there. Right?"
"Okay. Let me think. A short one with blond hair, two fat ones one of em had a tribal tattoo on his wrist, a tall skinny bald guy, and the one with the unibrow. The unibrow was in charge. He told the others what to do, and he was the one with the fucking hammer. The other two, the ones I shot, one had a beard and the other had thick glasses." Murphy stopped a second and bit his lip.
"You okay with telling me all this?" Connor asked.
Murphy nodded. "You okay with hearing it?"
"So, the two I got. The one with the beard pissed on me, the bastard. That's what he was doing when I grabbed the gun out of his pants. He was a scary fuck, I shot him first. The other one I shot was the one with the thick glasses. He was the one with some of the more inventive idea of what they should do to me, and I knew there only one other bullet in that fucking gun so I wanted to make it count. The short blond one kind of sat off to the side most of the time watching, but he was the one with the tazer. He got me just before I was out the door. And the bald guy was a smoker." Murphy rubbed a hand over his chest where Connor remembered most of the burns were clustered together. "He was a fan of knives too, so I promised him I'd show him my Rambo knife, but I guess he'll miss out on that fun now won't he? The fat guys were the fighters." He thought about it again for a while. "Get me another cigarette?"
"Trying to catch up on the ones you missed?" Connor asked, but he rolled over and got up anyway. He lit it and took a puff before passing it over.
"Thanks." Murphy inhaled deeply and let the smoke out in a long slow breath.
Connor sat on the mattress beside Murphy and waited for him to continue.
"The fat guy with the tribal tattoo, he wasn't so bad."
"You made friends with one of em?"
Murphy laughed. "At least he didn't treat me like an animal the whole fucking time."
"I killed him along with the others."
Murphy made a face. "Course you killed him. He wasn't the worst but he was still a pretty fucking willing participant." He turned serious. "They didn't want me dead, you know, so they had to make sure I didn't starve. You know those meal replacement shakes the grocery stores sell in cans? They wouldn't uncuff my hands, so they came up with the idea of sticking a straw in the can and just holding it there."
Murphy concentrated on smoking for a minute. "The drugs started after I killed a couple of theirs. They figured it would calm me down. I think it worked. Things got kind of hazy. There's some stuff I remember, but it mostly kind of blurry. My arms were pretty fucking sore and my ankle of course. The drugs made it easier to cope with the beatings and stuff, and by the end I was kind of relying on that. It's weird how a routine kind of starts."
He'd stopped talking for a while. Connor got up and grabbed a can of Pepsi and passed it over.
Murphy was giving him that intense look again. "I never used to understand why you weren't mad at me about the camp thing."
Connor frowned. So they were back to that. Fuck. "Wasn't your fault."
"Maybe not. But I didn't stopping it from happening."
"You did what you could when you knew." Connor reminded him.
Murphy nodded. "We were ten. What I could do wasn't much. But we got the hell out of there. I guess that counts"
"Yeah. It counts."
Murphy reached out suddenly and touched the side of Connor's face. "Conn, I know that look cause I've seen it in the mirror more times than I can count. Don't do it to yourself. Shit happens."
"What the fuck are you talking about? What are you comforting me for?"
Murphy shrugged. "Cause if I were in your shoes, I'd be a fucking mess. You're the one got me out of that shit hole, you saved me. You are the one who has to put up with my shitty attitude. You've been taking care of me, and I appreciate that. But you've got to stop acting like I'm made of glass."
Connor rubbed at his eyes tiredly. "What do you fucking want me to do, Murph?"
"I'm a survivor Conn. All I'm asking is you fucking treat me like one."