Murphy found his brother passed out in Ma's rocking chair in the corner of the living room. A photo album lay on top of Connor's feet. The room looked like it had been completely tossed. Every photo album was pulled from every shelf, the books in stacks bracketing the chair. Every framed photo was pulled from all the walls and every last flat surface Murphy could see. They all sat around Connor, quiet sentries keeping watch over his sleeping form.
Two boxes that were most likely older than the two brothers sat upended, their contents scattered about the room. It looked as if a whirlwind had hit the room, leaving chaos in its wake.
"Whut t'feck?" Murphy muttered as he walked to his brother, careful to not step on anything that might be of value. "Conn," he called. When his brother didn't even flinch, he reached out and grabbed his arm, giving him a shake.
Connor startled awake, his eyes opening wide and taking more than a few seconds to focus on his brother's face. "Murph?" he whispered, his eyes searching his brother's face as if he was a figment of his drunken imagination.
"C'mon ye drunkard," Murphy teased, kicking an empty bottle of whiskey against his brother's foot. "Guess dat's one way to get yer sleep."
Wincing, Connor rubbed his hand over his face mournfully. Studying his brother's face, Murphy frowned. The emotions spun past so quickly Murphy was certain he missed more than a few. What the hell had happened last night?
"Conn'r," Noah's gravel voice came from beyond Murphy's shoulders.
Pressing his hands to the arms of the chair, Conn rose suddenly, pushing Murphy to the side, his bitter blue eyes flashing at his father, eyes full of anguish and outrage. Emotions that were past anything he had ever dredged up to do any of their jobs. Tears pooled in the young man's eyes, threatening to add more streaks down his cheeks.
Noah took a step back into the dining room as his son moved swiftly, if staggeredly, toward him. "Connor, son," Noah started, startled by the younger man. Anger rolled off of him in waves. Not just anger, but pain... Pain that Murphy could feel in his bones, in the marrow. This went beyond the death of his mother. This went somewhere entirely different.
And he braced himself to find out where exactly his brother was.
"Dont ye feckin 'son' me," Connor cursed.
Noah looked stunned, hurt and confused. Murphy moved quickly to stand between the two men. He was not sure what was going on, but he needed to keep Connor from doing anything stupid.
The lighter haired brother swept a photo album off of the end table near where they stood. He opened it to a random page.
"I looked all night, Da. Where are t'pictures, Da? Of Ma 'n us in t' hospital after she had us?" Connor shoved the open book into his father's chest, making the older man step backward and grab at the book haphazardly. "Dere are only pictures of us lil ones at home."
"Conn'r, son," Noah repeated in a calm rational voice.
The growl came from deep in Connor. He thumped his hand on the book, pushing Noah backwards suddenly and abruptly. The album flew from Noah's hands as he stumbled to regain his footing.
"Why do ye call me that? 'S no' true," Connor yelled at him, moving in a menacing manner.
Jumping at his back, Murphy grabbed his brother, keeping Connor from attacking their father again. Over the years, he had seen Connor at what he thought was all levels of pissed off. But this anger was a whole new degree that exceeded the rest by leaps and bounds. Connor's whole face was deep red, the vein on his forehead looked ready to explode at any second. His words were clear, though they made little sense to Murphy.
Once he saw that Murphy had a hold of Connor, Noah bent to pick up the photo album. "Course et es," he insisted, setting the book on the dining room table, resting his hand on the cover.
Connor struggled against Murphy's grasp. "Ye're feckin liar."
Their father stepped forward, his gaze trained on Connor's eyes, Annabelle's eyes. "Ye know 'm not. What has gotten into ye?"
"I found out da feckin trut'," Connor growled.
Noah sighed, and rubbed his hand over his face. He stood there for a moment before stepping around the struggling boys. He walked into the living room.
"What are ye going on about?" Murphy interjected, completely confused about what was transpiring between Da and his brother. . "Conn, yer not makin' any sorta sense."
"Aye, but he is," Noah admitted, from behind them.
Connor stopped struggling in Murphy's grasp. "So it's true?" he gasped out, his voice small, trying to angle his head over Murphy's shoulder to look at Noah. Murphy felt his brother's heart beat increase under his palm. He could sense the wheels turning in Connor's mind "Why didn't ye tell me?"
Noah sighed, as he walked around the boys. He nodded at Murphy to let Connor go. "There is nothin' to tell ye," Noah insisted, emphasizing the ye. His eyes were hard and unyielding as he looked at Connor.
Murphy stood motionless behind his brother, watching as the two men shared a silent conversation that for once did not register in his own mind. He glanced at the piece of paper in his father's hand. What in all of God creation were the two of them going on about? One tiny piece of paper? What could it possibly say that would cause Connor to drink himself into a stupor, and foster such a fight?
Connor visibly struggled with what Noah said, trying to down shift from pissed off to thinking stright. "Why would dere be not'in' t'tell me if 'm t'one who is-" Suddenly Connor's shoulders slumped forward and he glanced back at Murphy with a sad expression, as if his heart was breaking. Murphy looked at him, his brow puckered, trying to get a read across that twin communication line that never failed them in the past, but right now all Murphy got was a busy signal.
Stepping forward, Noah laid a comforting hand on Connor's shoulder. "C'mon," he mumbled. "Let's get some coffee in ye boff, and we can talk."
The kitchen was oddly quiet, an unease settling over the three of them as they watched the coffee brew. Noah sat at the small table in the kitchen, a piece of paper sitting in front of him, face down. Connor sat across from him, holding his head between his palms, his eyes trained on the paper, tears dancing in his eyes. His eyes flicked to Murphy who stood against the sink, watching the two men at the table. Meeting Connor's gaze, Murph continued chewing on the side of his thumb, nervous and uncomfortable. He had no idea what was going on, but based on Connor's face, he knew he wasn't going to like the outcome.
Noah refused to say a word until the three were settled at the table, coffee in their hands. "Ye weren't supposed ta find dis out," he admitted, staring at his cup. "At leas' not like dis."
"Why?" Connor begged, his voice oddly quiet after the screaming and yelling he did earlier. "Why keep dis from us?"
Murphy looked on, still silent, his bottom lip tucked under his teeth, watching the verbal tennis match between his father and brother.
Quietly searching the boys' faces, Noah flipped the paper over and slid it to Murphy.
"Da-" Connor warned, panic at the edge of his voice as Murphy turned the paper over.
The grey haired man shook his head, his eyes downcast. "Let 'im see."
Connor hung his head, unable to watch Murphy though once he started to read, Murph didn't see either man. The lines on the page spun in his head, making it and his heart ache as he played back their conversation that passed between Connor and Da. Murphy slowly pieced it all together.
"'m adopted?" he asked softly, not looking up from the document in his hands, a heavy feeling of dread filling his stomach. He felt as though he was going to be sick.
Noah took a sip of his coffee before nodding. "Aye," he confirmed.
Murphy swallowed hard. "'N ye didn't tell me?"
"I wasn't around," Noah reminded him.
At the inclination that the fault fell at Annabelle's feet, both boys sat in quiet contemplation. His ma had been gone only a few weeks, but it felt like an eternity to Murphy already. He also knew Ma would not have done this without a good reason.
He let out a deep breath. "Tell me."
Noah took another sip before continuing. "Yer mudder, Inna, was from a small fishing village along the Baltic Sea."
The dark haired man stared at the paper in front of him like it was his lifeline. "How did I wind up here den?"
"It's a bit o a story," Noah said standing to grab the coffee pot and refilling his own cup before looking to see neither of the boys had touched theirs yet. "A man was swep' into t'harbor of her town during a violent storm. He took refuge a't'local convent; they of'n looked af'r sailors. He's only der fer t'one night. She wouldn't or couldn't tell us his name even."
"Ye knew her?" Murphy asked, disbelievingly, his eyes now trained on Noah's face.
The bearded man nodded. "Aye. She lived here wit me and yer mudder for 6 months before returning home."
The silence that filled the room was deafening. No one knew what to say. Murphy tried to wrap his head around this new piece of information. His birth mom had lived with the folks he called Da and Ma for half a year before going back to where she came from, leaving her baby boy behind. Why would any mother do that? What was so wrong with him that he had to be left behind to be cared for by another family who barely had two pennies to rub together?
Murphy shoved the adoption paper across toward Noah abruptly, fire burning in his eyes. "Just up and left me here? Why?"
Murphy slammed his hand on the table and stood. "Don't call me dat!"
"But ye are my son," Noah reassured, his voice the same as when he was caring for frightened lambs. "Boff o ye are me boys."
The dark haired brother stood in the middle of the kitchen, his back to the table. He pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes.
Connor stood. "Murph," he said softly stepping away from the table.
One of Murphy's arms flew out to the side, signalling him to stay put. He barely had his shit together right now. If Connor so much as breathed on him, Murph knew he would fall apart and let his brother pick up the pieces for him as he often did. But he couldn't do that right now, he needed to hear the rest of this and then he could fall apart if he wanted to. "'M 'right. Jus gimme a second." His hand came back to the front of his face, wiping at it. "Did ye happen t'leave any whiskey in t'house, Conn?" he half teased, his voice threatening to crack.
'Both Noah and Connor scoffed, the suffocating tension in the room lessening just a hair, just enough for everyone to take a deep breath
"Knowin' me girl, she'd have a bottle o' two tucked about here somewhere," Noah insisted, turning in his chair to open cupboards. After about five minutes of searching, they had located three partial bottles of whiskey, an unopened bottle of vodka and three cans of Guinness tucked in the back of the fridge. Murphy slurped two-thirds of his coffee and refilled it with whiskey while Connor cracked open a Guinness.
Once the three resettled at the table, Noah continued with the story. "Inna left here when ye boys were about tree months old. It was not an easy thing for her t'do, I assure ye."
Taking a drink from his mug, Murphy reached for the document on the table, refreshing his head. "Why did she sign me o'r t'ye but stick around fer so long if she wasn't gonna keep me?" His long finger landed on the date by her signature, sliding the paper back towards Noah.
"She knew she had to get back to the convent."
"Me mudder was a nun?" Murphy sounded beyond disbelieving.
His Da nodded. "She was juss a candidate when she met your father. Not a nun yet. "
What kind of nun slept with some random stranger one night? In a convent of all places? "Wasn't very pious den, was she?"
"Inna was human, same as t'rest o'us." Noah paused, refilling his now empty coffee cup with whiskey. "Inna Marie was a girl of barely 19 when the Lord sent her to me and Annabelle. She had met yer fadder t'way I said, and he was t'only man she ever knew biblically. It juss happened, juss one of dos tings," Noah paused enough to take a sip out of his mug. "Juss b'fer she knew she was wit child, she started hearing voices-"
Murphy scoffed. "Dis jus' gets bett' an' bett'. Me mudder was a header."
"Son," Noah corrected harshly, even though the young man was 34 years old. "I'll tolerate a lot from ye boys but disrespecting yer own mudder, especially when ye do not know the full story, will not happen."
Murphy's dropped his eyes to the table in front of him. "Sorry, Da," he said remorsefully.
"Ye have had voices call ye to the Lord's work. Dis's no different," Noah insisted. "Like tellin' ye boys to clear evil from t'earth, dese voices told Imma dat her babe was in danger. Wit t'help of t'church, she was able t'leave Russia. She was told by t'voices she would find t'help she needed, and she would know it when she found it. She found it 6 mont's later in the market down town when she ran into me and yer Ma."
Connor finally spoke up. "How did she know ye were t'ones t'help 'er?"
Clearing his throat, Noah shifted in his chair. "Me voice," he admited. "Said it was me voice she heard in 'er head all those mont's"
Murphy looked up at Connor and their twin telepathy was back. They realized, suddenly, after all these years it was their Da's voice that they heard in that Boston jail cell, calling them to do what they had to. What else did the Lord have in store for them and their father?
Noah didn't question, he just waited patiently until their attention came back to him. "Yer mudder 'n I took t'girl in. Twas t'only ting t'do once we heard t'whole story. She stayed here, in t'house and stayed off everyone's radar. She had ye within a week of Annabelle havin' Conn'r. Boff women gave birt' here in the back bedroom, t'one ye boys shared."
Turning in his chair, and looking back down the hall as if he could see the room he grew up in, Murphy tried to picture a young girl in there, giving birth. He didn't know what birth looked like, but it floored him that his mother did that without going to any hospital, all done with faith and hope she was keeping her babe safe.
"T'adoption was done in short order, n' no one but me 'n yer mudders knew that Murphy wasn't ours."
Emotions long held at bay suddenly hit Murphy full force in the chest. Tears filled his eyes, an ache filled his heart, and thoughts overwhelmed his head. "Not yers," he whispered, before standing, and stalking from the room.
Murphy headed for the room he had lived in for almost 20 years of his life. He slammed the door behind him, and slid with his back tight to the door jam. His world was crumbling around him. He didn't know what way was up, and his head was swimming with everything that had been revealed to him in the past hour.
He wasn't a MacManus. He was the bastard of some would-be Russian nun and a fisherman. Being warned by the voice of the Lord, his ma so feared for his life that she fled her home to find shelter for him. Giving him to the only parents he ever knew, she left him.
With elbows on knees, Murph slumped forward, settling his head into his crossed arms and let the tears and thoughts flow. Too much, this was all too much. He had lost his Ma, the woman who loved him unconditionally though he and Connor surely did not let her have an easy time of it. Now he lost the woman who gave him life, the one he never knew.
But had he really lost her? Maybe she just needed to be found!
That thought cleared his eyes, and made his heart pound instead of ache. Maybe he needed to find his mother, maybe that's the reason this all came out now. Rocco's voice resounded in his head- The Lord works in mysterious ways.
Wiping his face on the sleeves of his shirt, Murphy stood. He took a deep breath and yanked open the door, only to come face to face with Connor's fist, raised to knock. With only a small smile for his brother, Murphy walked toward the kitchen, and took his seat next to Noah again.
"Where is she?" he asked. He had to find his mother, had to complete the circle. He could show her he was fine, and learn from her what else the voice told her about him.
Noah wrapped his hands around his mug and sighed. "Gone," he said simply.
Murphy nodded. "Aye, but where is she now?"
"She passed away when ye were five," Noah admitted, regret coloring his voice.
What fragile amount of rebuilding his mind and heart had done in the time it took for him to wander down the hall and talk to his Da was lost. "So dat's it den?" Murphy whispered. "Lost boff me mudder 'n me ma. Why didn't ye tell me sooner?"
"What was the point, son?" he asked. "Yer here and yer safe."
"Not so safe, though Da," Connor reminded him coming into the kitchen. "If I'd'a known dat she did all dat to keep Muph safe, woulda never have let happen what happened in Boston."
Noah shook his head. "Dat is where ye are wrong, Conn'r. If we'd told ye boys what was said, why she did what she did, what were t'chances ye never would have done anything wit yer lives?"
Murphy and Connor looked at each other as Noah continued.
"Ye would have never have gone to Boston. Never would have gotten inta t'bar fight. Never would have found the Lord's callin', wouldya?"
"But if its not safe for Murph-" he insisted.
"It wasn't safe for Murphy in Russia, Conn'r," Noah admitted. "Or maybe because of the Russians you met in Boston. But Murph's mudder knew she had to find his protector. And his protector was you."
Murphy sat on the back stoop of his father's house, staring out over the rolling topography of the land around him, lit by the full moon above. The night was quiet, the breeze was cool. He heard general rattlings and foot falls in the house of Connor and Noah cleaning up supper. An owl hooted off in the far distance, over the soft bleating of the sheep as they settled in for their evening nap.
Taking a final drag from the cigarette between his lips, Murphy tossed it to the side, and grabbed for the whiskey at his knee. Blowing smoke toward the sky, he took a long drink straight from the narrow mouth, letting the liquor settle in his belly, warming him from the inside out.
Today had definitely not gone the way he thought it would. He had planned on simply sorting through kitchenware and dishes. Maybe moving onto the sheets and blankets in the hall closet. When he got up this morning, discovering he was adopted was not on any list he had made for himself.
He took another drink, and let his mind continue to wander about. He knew he was wallowing, it was what he did. Connor was the planner, he was the worrier. The ying to his yang, the up to his down. They were meant for each other, two halves that didn't know how to exist without the other, couldn't exist without the other. The news that one of them was adopted didn't change any of that.
Murphy jumped as Connor's leg appeared in his perifery view. "Didn't hear ye come," he mumbled, tugging the cuffs of his shirt over his hands and wiping again across his face.
Connor wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulder, tucking him in close. "Ye alright?"
The (now officially) younger brother nodded his head, as he settled his shoulder under Connor's arm and tucked his head into the other man's neck. "Will be I tink. A lot to take in, aye?"
Connor nodded. "Aye. Did it meself last night. Alone." He kissed the forehead in front of him. "But yer not alone, Murph. Not den, not now."
The tears were back, as Murphy burrowing further into Connor's embrace, slipping an arm around his waist. The two hung onto each other, their bond not broken by this news but rather strengthened by their love for each other. They had been together for 34 years; this wasn't going to change anything. Connor was his brother, same as Da was his father and Ma was his knew his time with Rocco proved that family went beyond blood.
Family was family.
Header- Irish slang for crazy person.
AN: Thank you to Sillypants324 who held helped me work alot of the kinks out of this chapter, and listened to me whine about all facets of this tale. She is currently in the middle of a rewrite of one of her stories but was kind enough to come and help me out when I needed her. Go check her work out! She is a great writer.
Please leave me a note in the comment box and let me know what you think of this tale. This one was a doozy to write and i really would love some feedback- good, bad, indifferent- Id want to hear what you think.