They start doing school work after a few more days, lazily making their way through dozens of assignments, helping each other as they go along.
Murphy chews on the end of a pencil as he finishes up an Irish essay, his leg resting carefully on Connor's knee as his brother begins the battle of mathematics, "This is fuckin' borin'. Let's go out, or get somethin' ta eat—or somethin'. I'd settle fer even goin' back ta school, at least ye can have a laugh there!"
"School's too far fer ye ta make with yer leg, an' th' bus doesn't come out this far," Connor replies, having anticipated this for hours.
His brother moans loudly, struggling to his feet and heading towards the kitchen, "Yeah, but—"
Connor interrupts Murphy before he can get any further with useless arguments, "We're goin' back ta th' hospital tomorrow, an' then ye can whine all ye want about how ye want ta get back ta school. Until then, will ye please jus' get me another tea?"
There's no reply, just the sounds of the teapot being slammed onto the counter. Connor grins, knowing that it won't take long. "There's no fuckin' teabags!" Murphy explodes a moment later, knocking the empty teabag packet onto the ground, "This house is fallin' apart!"
He laughs, while his brother rages over a mug of tea that wasn't even for him, and Connor has to duck to avoid the crutch that comes flying towards him from the kitchen.
"Ye did tha' on purpose," Murphy accuses, when Connor is forced to get up and give the crutch back to him. Murphy scowls darkly as Connor just winks at him, smiling at the smudge of ink on Murphy's forehead from the pen.
"Yer jus' too easy ta wind up, my dear brother."
They get up early the next morning, for the hospital appointment, and by some miracle, there's a new pack of teabags on the kitchen table.
Murphy just rolls his eyes and chucks them at his brother, while Connor silently thanks the higher power that is their Ma. When they leave, Murphy is on his crutches, stumbling impatiently towards their uncle's waiting car, while Connor pushes the wheelchair out.
It takes a moment to fold it down, because he hasn't done it for so long, and Murphy is already in the car by the time Connor manages to wrestle the thing into the boot. They're bringing the wheelchair back to the hospital, to see if they can return it, because Murphy doesn't need it anymore.
When he pauses to really look at the wheelchair though, Connor's not so sure that they'll take it back.
Almost all of the frame is scuffed and worn, from all the times Murphy had slammed it by mistake into objects, and the tyres had been patched up numerous times due to flat tyres. Add that to the fact that Murphy scribbled on the hand grip with permanent marker one time because he was bored and frustrated, and the wheelchair looked like it had been through the wars.
Connor shrugged, climbing into the car. They weren't bringing the thing home anyway, that was for sure.
Murphy fidgeted the whole way to the hospital, flexing his ankles out and rolling his shoulders back in dramatic movements. Connor mostly left him to it, except to give him a jab to the ribs when his brother overstretched and whacked him in the face.
"Yer not about ta run a marathon, ye eegit—take it easy, Murph."
He responds by sticking out his tongue, "I know, I know. I jus—want ta make sure tha' I'm ready. Not like I got any sleep last night, with all yer snorin'."
With a scoff, Connor just leans his head against the window, and squints out at the landscape, "We both know tha' I don't fuckin' snore. An' yer th' one who keeps me up all night with yer sleep-talkin', so ye have no grounds ta be accusing me fer yer night's sleep."
Connor doesn't take offence, knowing that his brother is just letting off steam, and waits for a moment. Then he says casually, "Ye don't have ta be nervous. Ye've been doin' all yer exercises, and' shit. I'm sure that it'll be good news."
"When can we move back up ta our room again?"
"As soon as I can get th' lads over ta help get th' beds up th' stairs. An'—as soon as th' doctors say tha' ye can handle stairs again."
Murphy hunches down in his seat, and his fingers glide over the steel crutches propped up beside him. One side of his mouth quirks up, a classic Murphy trait, into what's almost a smile, "I'm close, Connor. So fuckin' close."
"I know. I know."
Murphy is so painfully familiar with the rhyme and rhythm of his appointments by this stage, that it's fast becoming a boring ordeal.
The plastic seats outside the doctor's office send sparks of pain up his back, but he doesn't move, knowing that Connor is mirroring his stance to his right. Chin propped up in one hand, and the other dangling off his knees, it's the position of someone who has nothing else to do.
They'd had to almost beg an orderly to take the wheelchair, pushing it in the man's direction with such gusto until he finally took it just to get them to go away. It was quite clear that he was going to dump it the second they turned around, and Murphy was only sad that Connor hadn't let him burn the thing like he'd originally planned.
It still takes a mind-numbing amount of time to get sent to the x-ray department, despite the fact that they both knew that he'd have to go anyway. Murphy curses under his breath, and hauls his protesting body to his feet, waving the small sticker of approval on the card that gets shown to the x-ray tech at the nurse.
When he gets there, Connor slumps down into yet another chair, and Murphy tosses his belt out at his brother, because of the metal pieces in it.
He scrambles up onto the table before anyone can even think to offer him assistance, and settles in for the long minutes of having his legs stretched and forced into uncomfortable positions. The x-rays pass slowly, like they always do, and he yawns as he gathers up his crutches again.
His sneakers squeak slightly on the lino floor, and Connor glances up with the sound, grinning tiredly at him.
They trudge back through the corridors to the same two plastic chairs, and settle in for another long wait. Murphy rolls his eyes when he receives the hint that he's about to be called in; a dozen medical students piling into one of the exam rooms.
Murphy nudges his brother, and jerks his head down the corridor, "Would ye mind goin' ta get me a coffee or somethin'. I'm fuckin' parched," And just as Connor is about to head towards the dispensable machine, he calls out, "None of tha' stuff! From th' cafeteria, th' good kind! Cheers!"
Connor scuffs his way down the halls, and just as he disappears from sight, Murphy's name is called. He grins, perfect timing.
Inside, it's nothing that he hasn't gone through before, except this time he gets to smirk as they marvel over his growing muscle tone. He demonstrates his range of motion with a smile on his face, and doesn't even flinch when one of the doctors grabs almost roughly at his right knee and tries to see how much he can manipulate.
Then they get him to walk around the room, with the crutches, and then without.
When he walks around, taking careful steps so that he's barely limping at all, he knows that all his practising has paid off— all the stolen minutes standing unaided in the bathroom and in the kitchen when Connor was otherwise occupied, and then later when he would get up in the middle of the night and limp around the kitchen in the darkness.
His gait is scrutinised, and all eyes in the room are focused on his legs as he bites his lip, and tries not to burst from happiness.
After more examination, and muscle tests, and more evidence that yes, your legs have improved drastically in the past few weeks, he's allowed to leave. They try to push the crutches into his hands, for him to use when he's tired or when he thinks he needs them, and he lets them.
Because when he crutches into the hallway and sees Connor sitting there, cup of coffee in one hand, his brother smiles and gets to his feet.
But when he lets the crutches fall to the ground, and strides towards his brother properly for the first time in months, Connor's face freezes, and he drops the coffee. Murphy beams at him, still marching towards Connor, and doesn't even know how he feels.
He's still walking down the hallway, and Connor is still standing there with his stunned face starting to crack, and this is what he's been waiting for.
Murphy is walking.
Connor feels this ball of warmth deep in his chest, and it's getting bigger and bigger the longer that he holds his breath, because Murphy is walking. The coffee is forgotten on the ground, like the crutches, and his brother is smiling more than he's ever seen him, and the happiness inside him is so immense that it hurts.
Then Murphy reaches him, and they crash together in a tangle of limbs that turns into a hug. Connor buries his head in his brother's shoulder, and can feel Murphy shaking. He's shaking as well, trembling all over, because this is all that he's been waiting for.
And he flashes back to seeing Murphy crumpled on the roadside, and so close to death in the ICU, and flinging things across the room in a frustrated rage, and screaming at the unfairness of everything. He remembers all of it, and all his anger at the situation melts away.
Because this is all that he needed, all those months ago and leading up to now. If there's one memory that he wants to hold in his mind forever, it's this one.
Murphy pulls back then, and reaches up shakily to ruffle Connor's hair, "Look at me, Con," He whispers, "I'm walking."
And Connor pulls him back into a hug, whispering over and over again, "You're walking, you're walking, you're walking…"
It feels like it's just them, in the hospital corridor that's lined with chair, until someone starts clapping. Then more and more people join in, and suddenly there's over a dozen people, patients and staff, clapping for Murphy, and Connor feels like he might explode with pride. Murphy throws back his head and laughs, letting his joy erupt out of him.
When they walk out of the hospital, arms slung over each other's shoulders, and crutches tucked under Murphy's other arm, the sun shines down on them.
They don't separate, almost like they're stuck together, and their footsteps are perfectly in sync for the first time in months. It feels so right, and both their eyes are shining with tears of happiness in the sunlight. Murphy kicks out at a stone in excitement, and it skitters over the pavement with all the energy that they have.
This story: complete.
Thanks so much to all you guys who reviewed every chapter, one chapter, or no chapters at all. I appreciate everyone who helped me get through this story, some bits which were quite personal, and I hope that you've enjoyed the ride as much as I have. I'm sad to leave this story, but it won't be my last for the brothers.
I'd love to hear any feedback that you have for the last bit of this story, it would really make my day to hear from you guys one last time.
Thanks so much for reading,