Buffy waited until they were all safely in the designated getaway car-- with Dawn behind the wheel, Buffy riding shotgun beside her, and the boys in the back seat-- before shaking the glowing orb off of her hand to dismiss the concealment spell Willow had provided them with. Tomorrow, the cameras in the police station would only show the cops succumbing to a sudden drowsiness and dropping where they stood; the investigators would probably suspect some kind of foul play, especially since the brothers' cell would be empty, but there'd be no evidence for them to trace. Dawn had erased the pertinent data from the computers, and Buffy had collected the boys' gear; hopefully, their rumored contact in the FBI would be able to take care of anything the girls might have missed.
Buffy closed her eyes for a brief moment, allowing herself to feel relieved that they'd gotten to the jail before Il Duce had; from everything they'd found out about him since the boys were arrested, he was one seriously scary guy when put his mind to it. Then she took a deep breath and looked over her shoulder at Murphy and Connor.
The MacManus twins had been grimly silent since the moment they'd emerged from their cell. Normally, they'd have been cursing and joking and jostling each other in the midst of whatever they were up to, but tonight was anything but normal. Buffy took in the intent frown on the face of her sister's boyfriend, then braced herself and turned to Murphy, fearful of what she might find in his gaze.
His eyes, normally a warm, laughing blue that embraced her, his brother, and the whole world with wry, rough-edged good humor, had iced over; he was looking at her warily, head slightly cocked to one side, as though he'd never seen her before. As though she were a fascinating, and potentially dangerous, stranger. She'd seen that same look before, calculating and focused, in another pair of blue eyes belonging to another cigarette-smoking, hard-drinking, duster-wearing pain in her ass; Buffy's breath hitched in her chest as she recognized the expression, and for the first time since the whole nightmare began she found herself truly believing that her loving boyfriend could be one of the bloody-handed Saints of urban legend.
I sure know how to pick 'em, she thought, as tears welled up unbidden in her eyes.
Murphy's expression softened a little as he watched her, and he lifted one callused hand to cup the left side of her face, stroking the droplets of salty liquid away with his thumb. "No more secrets, then, yeah?" he said softly, watching her intently for her answer.
"No more secrets," she agreed quietly, trying desperately to cling to a hope that their relationship would survive the collision with reality better than any of her previous ones had. She was sick of death, disaster, and loss; she was heart-weary with guilt and sacrifice. She was starting to fear that the universe really did have it in for her, or at least the Powers in charge of it all; was this her payment for so thoroughly upsetting their millennia-long effort to maintain the status quo?
"It's about time," Dawn muttered, shooting a worried glance over at Buffy, then another at the rear-view mirror. "You guys got a safe place somewhere on this side of town, where we can talk?"
Murphy glanced at his brother; Connor glanced back, then nodded once. The lighter-haired brother set his left hand on Dawn's shoulder, rubbing the back of her neck with his thumb, and quoted a street number. "It's only a few blocks from here," he continued, somberly. "It's a rough part of town, but no one'll look for us there, and anyone that sees us won't tell."
"Good," Buffy said, and smiled crookedly at Connor. Murphy's opinion was the one that mattered most to her, but Connor was the one that tended to be the leader between the brothers; he'd be the one she'd have to put the most effort into convincing. And she might as well start with the openness, now.
"When we lived in Sunnydale," she continued, "I knew the rough side of town like the back of my hand-- the docks, the warehouses, the bars, and the graveyards-- but I don't know Boston all that well. I was kind of trying to retire."
"Retire?" Murphy said, surprise strengthening the Irish lilt in his voice. "Retire from what? Ye're only twenty-five." His caressing hand smoothed down the side of her face and throat to rest in the hollow between neck and shoulder, where the "Aequitas" tattoo across the back of his hand was just visible at the bottom edge of her vision.
Connor snorted. "From our kind of business, yeah?" he prompted his brother, shaking his head.
"No," Dawn spoke up sharply at that, as she took the next turn a little faster than recommended.
Buffy drew in another deep breath and spoke up quickly, eager to head off the We don't kill people she knew was hovering on her sister's tongue. It was easy to forget sometimes that Dawn was just barely out of her teen years; Buffy wasn't so far removed from them herself. But she'd finally learned, through hard experience, that reacting sharply out of your own hurt only made interpersonal problems worse.
"And yes," she said, firmly. "I spent seven years risking my life, almost every day, to fight evil in my home town. The cops thought I was in a gang; for several years, my mom thought I was a delinquent; and hardly anyone ever said thank you. I gave and gave and gave until I broke, and I buried-- way too many friends along the way. And then I had a chance to step back, and I said enough."
"Seven years," Murphy said, in a wondering tone, and glanced at Connor again.
"Seven years of destroying all that which is evil," Connor replied thoughtfully.
"So that which is good may flourish," Murphy replied, with a nod, as though reciting the second half of a familiar, worn phrase. Then he turned back to Buffy, and the difference in his eyes from the moment they'd first got in the car was like the first hint of sunrise after a long, black night of Slaying. There was something there that had been missing since the cops had dragged them away-- and if Buffy had to put a name to that something, she'd call it hope.
They just might survive the revelation of their secrets without destroying each other, after all.