I'm asleep, enjoying the first dreamless sleep I've had in about a year when the force of emotion rips me from my comfort and into the shit-fest someone else's life has just become. I hate it when things more powerful than I am mess with my head, and I hate it even more when they do it by linking me into another person's thoughts, emotions, sensations.
A door flies open in front of me/him and I know the fierce adrenaline rush of someone kicking his way into enemy turf. There's a presence to his left, the center of his world. Connor--the name means safety to Murphy, love and brotherhood and so many other things I have never known.
Together they move with purpose, dividing the room, guns firing as they aim on instinct. A ritual circle is drawn with chalk on the cement floor. The men standing at the cardinal points are too wrapped up in the ceremony. Weapons are drawn too late. They fall and bleed and die as the brothers shoot. A figure straightens in the center. Inhumanly tall and slender and beautiful, the demon half-breed tosses aside the limp corpse of a small child and turns on the intruders. I feel Murphy's surprise. They weren’t expecting to face something so dark--they thought they were interrupting a drug deal, maybe a mob meeting. Instead, they're a minute too late to stop a human sacrifice.
The half-demon is clothed throat to boot-heels in slick black vinyl. Her skin is pale, her hair the color of arterial spray. As one they point their guns and pull the triggers. Ragged holes open in her body suit but she doesn’t seem to feel it. A gesture of her hand and the brothers fly backwards. It feels like falling out of a building, complete with that sudden stop at the end.
I'm pulled unconscious with him, this "Murphy" that I'm trapped inside. I wake up to the taste of his blood in my mouth and the feel of her gloved fingers sliding along the waistband of my/his jeans.
"Fuck you..." Murphy groans, and she laughs. I can feel his panic as he realizes that his body is refusing the orders his mind is giving it. His hands won't form fists. His booted foot will not kick her. I form a counter-spell but find I have no power here, no influence. I wonder if this is the present, the future or the past.
It ceases to matter as she presses her thumb into a wound in his shoulder and squeezes. The world dissolves into the sensation of pain and the sound of his scream. He reaches out in his agony, searching for a source of comfort that I can't give him. His eyes find the crumpled form behind the half-breed, and without seeing the face he knows it's Connor. Through the certainty of their twin-bond, he knows Connor is not dead.
Coal-black eyes follow his gaze and she laughs again. "Ah. So fragile. Delicate creatures should know not to interrupt their betters."
She grins at the terror on his face. "Ah, do not worry. You will be joining him soon." Slim fingers tangle in his hair and pull his head backwards. Her scarlet tongue flicks over the edge of her white teeth.
"Go to hell." He gasps out, and spits the last of his defiance at her face. It's more blood than saliva, glittering red against her pale cheek. She grins at him, but then the corner of her mouth twitches. I try again to disengage from whatever the hell this is.
There's a noise like water on a red-hot skillet, more a whistle than a sizzle. Pain and rage twist the bitch's beautiful features. The drops of spit become pits--deeper and deeper, boring through flesh and bone. The creature falls back, twisting like a dying snake on the cement floor. A keening noise that no human could make fills the air and Murphy shivers as his body comes under his command again.
"Fuck," he groans as he lurches forward to crawl past the still-twitching body towards Connor. He almost weeps with relief at the feel of his brother's pulse under his bloody fingers.
The vision's hold weakens and I groan and claw my way back to consciousness. The dream fights back, holding me there with the boy's pain and fear and love for his brother. With a force of will, I cut the connection, pushing the events I can not control out of my mind. For long seconds I just lay here between my dingy sheets, listening to traffic outside, adjusting to the fit of my own body again. I can still taste the blood in his mouth. I sit up and fumble for a cigarette. My shoulder aches and my fingers don’t feel like my own yet.
The first bitter drag soothes me a little, and I become more myself. I hate this shit. That was no dream or vision. That was a damn message, and a telegram would have been a lot less painful and a hell of a lot less cryptic.
I need to talk to some people, and to some other sorts of beings. I know what the brothers in the message are. Nothing would eat through a half-demon's skull like that except for the blood of a saint. What I don’t know is what the hell this all has to do with me.
A shower, three cigarettes and four phone calls later, I'm on my way out. I open the door and there they are, standing like they were about to knock. I recognize Connor. I know Murphy. Must have been a week past, I think, because their bruises are more yellow than purple, and they're leaning against each other for support, but on their feet.
Connor's eyes meet mine, a weary smile on his lips. "Constantine?" I don’t need this shit. I close the door in their faces, or try to.
Murphy's foot slides in between the door and frame, keeping it from catching. His smile never falters. I can't remember the last time I saw eyes so unguarded. It's eerie as hell.
"The good father sent these for you," he says and passes me a bakery box. Before I can reject it, I've accepted it. It takes effort to look away from those blue eyes and down at the warm box in my hand. The sugary sweet smell of it reminds my stomach that it's been a full day since I've eaten.
Connor passes me a bottle of cheap Irish whiskey. "This, we picked out on our own." He gives me a wink and a grin. "It wouldn’t do, showing up empty-handed then, would it?"
I take the bottle and shake my head. I leave the door open as I walk over to my table. They follow me in, limping and helping each other. I pour a drink and sit down, never mind that the sun's only been up for an hour. "So what do you want from me?"
They sit. Connor ticks the things they need off on his fingers. "A place to hide out while we heal up a wee bit, your help if something finds us before we're ready and whatever information you can give us about the evil shite we're fighting now."
"That's worth a hell of a lot more than a bottle of alcohol and religious-themed baked goods." They have no idea the amount of heat their being in my loft will bring down on me.
Murphy reaches into his pocket and drops a brick of fifties on the table. His eyebrow arches up.
"In the circles you're traveling in now, that's not worth much more."
Connor sets a tiny red-filled vial down in front of them. "Trade goods then, John?"
My heartbeat quickens. The mystical equivalent of dollar signs fills my mind. I maintain my composure and shrug.
"And we owe you a favor," Murphy adds in.
We negotiate back and forth for a while over the nature of the favor (no innocents, no women, no children), then I head out to hear what rumors are circulating about these Saints.
"This floor is warded, just don’t open the door for anyone or anything," I tell them as I'm leaving.
"Yes, Da," they tell me in sing-song unison.
"We can take care of ourselves," Connor brags, showing me the gun under his coat. I snort.
"If something makes it through my wards, it'll do you more good to bleed on it."
They laugh and shoo me out of my own home.
What I find out in the next few hours doesn’t make me happy. I had expected the forces of darkness to want them. I hadn’t counted on so much interest from the neutrals and the "good" guys. It seems quite a few are convinced that they would be better in command of this power than the twins are. The MacManus brothers haven’t even been acquired yet and the bidding war has already started. They're worth a fortune /in relics, components and favors. A little quick math and I figure out there's such a lucrative market for reliquaries that it would be more profitable to parts them out than sell them whole.
I figure I'll be closer to getting the one thing I really want by helping them instead.
I go back to the loft to tell the boys the not-so-good news. The place is quiet. They've smoked a pack of my cigarettes and drank half the bottle of whiskey they brought. There's a gun on my table; a neat double row of bullets stand on end next to it. The tip of each has a neat X scored into it, a dark stain caught in the scratch. They're not stupid, I'll give them that.
I find them in the bathtub, asleep in a tangle of lean limbs. Bruises and scrapes mar most of their pale skin. Connor looks to have taken the worst of the half-breed's attack. He's purple and green from armpit to hip on one side. His head is tipped back over the end of the tub, showing off the long line of his throat. Another time, another place... I muse, but then kill that line of thought. They are in the middle of a war; I refuse to get involved enough to hurt when they die.
Murphy is the one tucked under the faucet, and a second firearm rests on the floor under his tattooed hand. I have no doubt its bullets are blood-tipped by now too. I take the gun and nudge his shoulder with my other hand. Blue-grey eyes open in sudden wakefulness.
"Get up," I tell him. "We need to talk, and the water's gone cold."
For good Catholic boys they take to magic fairly well. They have a knack for languages, and an acceptance of ceremonial acts. They're uneducated but smart; I never have to repeat myself.
They sleep on my couch, have quiet sex and noisy fist-fights.
Easter comes and the brothers have their own little celebration of rebirth and renewal. Afterwards, they talk Chaz into bringing them corned beef and cabbage. It takes days to get the damn stink out of the loft.
They never do give up the name of whoever sent them to me.
Eight days after I first meet them, they say their goodbyes and leave my life as abruptly as they entered it. They don’t tell me where they're going. We all know it's better for everyone that way.
For months, I feel that I've accomplished nothing but the making of more impressive martyrs.
A year passes, and I try not to think about them, but rumors circulate. I can't help but smirk every time I hear that they took down a soul-broker in Vegas or sent a major demon back to Hell with its tail between its legs.
It's good to think they're still alive.
Besides, they owe me a favor.