Hey guys, thanks for all the reviews from the last chapter. I hope you enjoy this one.
Connor flinches for the third time, as Murphy lets out another moan.
His brother is propped up on several pillows, eyes shifting slightly under closed lids, and his face is pale. Murphy was always a restless sleeper, having nightmares every month or so, but Connor has never seen his twin so… distressed in sleep.
He reaches a hand out, hesitating for a moment, before gently pressing his palm against Murphy's forehead. Just as he'd feared, Murphy feels like he's burning up, and he lets out a whine and shifts his head so it presses into Connor's cool hand more.
"It's okay, Murph," He says softly, and chews on his bottom lip, a habit picked up from his brother, "Jus' try ta sleep."
Connor doesn't get a reply, not that he was expecting one, and he doesn't move for a minute or two, just stays still with his hand pressed to Murphy's forehead. Then he reluctantly breaks the contact, and stands up with only a hint of pain.
Standing in the doorway of Murphy's room, unwilling to let his brother out of his sight, Connor manages to flag down a nurse, and wave her over, "M'brother, Murph, he feels like he's got a fever, an' he's not sleeping properly, an' I dunno if he's in pain or not, an'—can ye jus' take a look at him, please?"
The nurse takes pity on him, even slipping a gentle smile onto her face, and makes her way quietly over to his brother's bedside. She takes Murphy's temperature without him even waking up fully, pauses to look at the numbers on some of the monitors, and manoeuvres the blood pressure cuff onto his bicep silently. Connor comes over at that point, to hover beside her, unsure of what to do if Murphy were to wake up, and freak at the unexpected pressure.
When she was finished, ending with a slender hand pressed to Murphy's forehead, she makes a few notes in his chart, and then turns to Connor.
"Murphy has got a slightly post op fever. It's nothing really to be concerned about yet, it's quite common, and your brother has been through a substantial amount of trauma. But we'll monitor it closely, and if it doesn't start to go down, we'll deal with it then, okay?"
He nodded carefully, eyes flickering over to Murphy's still form, "So he's okay? I mean, like, it'll be fine once the fever starts ta go away?"
"His fever isn't too high at the moment, so nothing is major just yet. I'll get his doctor to look in on him in an hour or so, just to be sure. Now, is there anything that you need, Connor?"
Connor's surprised that she knows his name, never having seen her before, but then he realises that it probably as shocking as he thinks. It's probably not every week that a set of twins check into the orthopaedic ICU, one injured, and the other refusing to leave.
"Nah, I'm fine. Thanks, though." He replies, already moving towards his chair so he can be closer to his brother again. The nurse gives the brothers one last pitying look, and then leaves, having to deal with other patients and do rounds.
It's just Connor and Murphy in the room again, and somehow Murphy senses this, turning his face towards his brother again in sleep.
Picking up the book with one hand, Connor gently settles his casted hand beside Murphy's face, so that his fingers brush against Murphy's cheek, and his wrist is elevated at the same time. He then balances the book on his knees, staring down at the brightly coloured pictures, and tries to give his sleeping brother a strained smile.
"Okay, Murph, ye want ta hear about New York again? The Big Apple, across the Pond, yeah? Ye jus' relax there, ye big eegit, agus eist liom." And listen to me. Connor wonders briefly if he should translate the page into Gaeilge, Murphy's favourite language, but he decides against it, and settles for just reading the glossy pages aloud for the second time.
He slips into a gentle rhythm of reading and focusing on the page, and listening to Murphy just breathe.
And it's almost okay.
Murphy wakes up to the cold, and tremors wracking his body.
He's freezing, and just as he's about to call out for Connor to give him back the blanket, he comes back to himself, and tears well up in his eyes. This isn't home, and his brother hasn't just nicked his blanket in the middle of the night.
Light is streaming into the room, the hospital room, and there's a cast on his chest, and it feels like the time when the hot water immersion broke, and Murphy had to take a cold showers for three weeks.
All Murphy wants to do is curl up in a small ball, and close his eyes until things can get better, but he can feel two heavy immobilisers on his legs. They're pinning him to the bed, and he'll never get out, no no. Too much too much too—
"Murphy. Murph, calm down. Ye've got a fever, but yer fine. C'mon, breathe properly, none of this wheezing shite. Y'hear? Murph!"
Suddenly, Connor's voice breaks through to him, and Murphy opens his eyes against the harsh light to see his brother standing over him, one hand gripping his shoulder. He feels his face fall, a pathetic look on his face, and he shakes his head.
"T-too cold, Conn, too cold, I—I can't move—too cold."
His brother shakes his head, and keeps his hand on Murphy's shoulder, half holding him in place and half keeping him focused, "Yer fever is too high, Murph, that's why yer cold. Th' nurse said it should be getting better," Connor nods when Murphy shakes his head, and lets out a tired chuckle, "It is, Murph, it is. An' course ye can move, jus' not as much at th' moment. Remember ye had tha' surgery this mornin'? Yer gonna be stiff an' sore, so maybe leave th' movin' fer tomorrow, yeah?"
"N-no, I'm too cold, Connor, please get me a blanket, please, I'm too cold, no no no no…" Murphy reaches out for his brother, who clasps his hands and looks heartbroken.
"Yer not cold, yer warm, Murphy. I can't give ye more blankets, yer supposed ta be getting' yer fever down. Don't look at me like tha', ye know I can't. Jus' calm down, an' we'll sort somethin' out, okay? I can't do anythin' till ye stop acting up like tha'."
It takes him a few minutes, but Murphy eventually manages to calm his muted pleas, and slow his breathing.
When that happens, Connor gives him a genuine smile, the worry for him shining through in his brother's eyes, and seems to relax a bit. Murphy is still trembling though, and after a few seconds, it's clear that just Connor holding onto his shaking hands isn't going to cut it.
"Connor." He pulls back the duvet weakly with one of his hands, and makes a face at his brother, "Connor, please."
After a moment of hesitation, during which Connor tries not to let his eyes stray down to the bulky cast and brace, he climbs carefully onto the bed with Murphy, "I don't want ta hurt ye," He mutters, as Murphy buries his face into Connor's shoulder.
"Ye wont," Comes the muffled reply, "Ye won't, ye won't. I jus' need ye ta be beside me… I don't like this bed."
"I know ye don't."
Murphy lets out a choked sob, and then says, "I don't like this hospital."
"I know ye don't. I don't either."
"Don't leave me here, Connor."
"I won't. I never will. I go home, when ye go home."
There are a few moments of silence, during which Murphy listens to the beeping sounds of the heart monitor, and wishes that he could change everything. Connor's shoulder is sturdy and warm, and he just needs the contact, no matter how childish he must seem.
"Am I gonna get home?"
"Course ye are, Murph. That's a stupid question, ye'll be outta this place in no time."
"If you say so."
"I do. I do fuckin' say so."
Connor runs his uninjured hand through Murphy's slightly sweaty hair, and sighs shakily. The room smells like antiseptic and pain, and it's too bright, but Connor smells like dirt and their washing detergent and he smells like Murphy and it almost makes it okay. Then Connor turns his head slightly, neither meeting each other's eyes, and lets his voice drop to a whisper.
"Do you hate me 'cause it was my fault?"
"It wasn't yer fault. It was tha' car's fault. Stupid bastard."
"I was fightin' with ye though. An' then the car came out of nowhere, an' it was comin' fer me, and ye—an' then I was yellin' fer ye, and ye didn't answer me."
"I'm sorry. About the blackberries, an' about not answerin' ye."
He receives a gentle nudge from his brother, and Murphy lets out a smile. He can almost feel Connor rolling his eyes. The room is almost quiet, and they're both perfectly content with staring ahead at the white wall in front of them, not needing to make eye contact to convey their emotions.
"Well, it obviously wasn't yer fault, Murph, so ye don't need ta apologise."
"If it wasn't my fault, then it wasn't yer fault."
"I wish it had been me though."
Murphy tenses up, and feels a surge of what feels like anger coarse through him. He struggles into a more upright position, and reaches out a hand to grab Connor's chin to force him to look at him. There are tears in Connor's eyes, and then Murphy realises that there are tears in his too.
"I don't. I don't wish it was ye. I would do it all over again, exactly the same, if it meant that ye weren't broken like me."
"Don't say that. Yer not broken."
"I'm a little broken, Connor. Jus' fer now. An' ye are a bit too. But—I couldn't jus' stand an' watch ye get knocked down."
"Ye were unconscious for ages. In th' ambulance here. Ye were too still."
"I said that yer not allowed ta be sorry, ye eegit."
He grins at Connor, feeling the cuts on his face stretch and protest, but loving the familiar exasperated look on his brother's face. Murphy settles back against Connor's shoulder, feeling exhaustion hit him again, despite the fact that he'd only just woken up.
But it was okay.
Connor can feel the exact moment when Murphy falls asleep again, only moments after their conversation had lapsed into comfortable silence. He just smiles, his brother's head a welcome weight against his shoulder, and reaches out gently to put his hand on Murphy's forehead.
It's cooler than it had been an hour ago, and that makes Connor smile.
His eyes start to feel heavy, even though it's only four in the afternoon, and Connor tells himself that he can't move off the bed because Murphy is asleep. So it only makes sense that he should close his eyes for a few minutes.
Only a few though, because Murphy might wake up and need him, and he needs to be on top of his game. So he's only going to close his eyes for ten minutes, and then he'll do something useful.
Connor ends up breathing softly alongside his brother, their heads pressed together.
And in those moments, when it's only them, sleeping beside each other like they always did, everything is more than okay.
That evening they read comics together.
Murphy is overjoyed to see the worn comics, and Connor is overjoyed to see his brother so happy. It's a small piece of normality, and they'll take as much as they can get. Murphy is declared in the clear from the fever, and Connor is bullied into taking more painkillers.
They swear at each other in French, Italian, Latin, and Gaeilge. Connor buys a few bags of Tayto's and a box of chocolates at the shop, and Murphy eats all the nice chocolates (and licks the rest). Connor eats them anyway, and Murphy laughs.
They call Ma together, and she sounds sad. Murphy asks her if she can hear him smiling, and Connor tells her that he's being a great older brother.
Connor gets a smack in the head, and Murphy informs Ma that he's being a better older brother. They both decide that Boston is their favourite city, from the book, and Murphy makes Connor translate a whole page into German, just to see if he can.
They fall asleep early, and they both try to pretend that the next day isn't going to be so hard.
I would love to hear some feedback from you guys on this chapter. I'll have the next one up as soon as I can! In the meantime, I hope you all have a great week ahead :)
Thanks for reading,