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Where They Deserve to Go

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Murphy was vomiting from pain and shock, but Conner managed to make it outside to drop Rocco into a cab. He had an apartment, or there had to be, somewhere, anywhere, a woman who would gasp at the bruises and blood and take him into her house and her arms for the night. Rocco grunted an address to the driver, signalling that he was conscious, and Conner struggled back upstairs.

Murphy was collapsed on the bathroom floor, head sunk in his hands; there probably wasn't anything left in him to throw up. Conner knelt down next to him. "Can you stand?"

A nod. Conner stood and held out his hands and his brother stood precariously, still shaking. Conner held him up and Murphy washed his face and rinsed out his mouth, using multiple mouthfuls of Listerine to get rid of the taste of blood and vomit. He seemed a little steadier, and Conner let go. A shower was what he wanted, but the burns were too new; tomorrow, maybe, when scabs had formed. He took off his bloody t-shirt and threw it into a corner of the room; Murphy followed suit. Tomorrow Conner would burn them.

The descent to the mattress seemed interminable, like he was falling from a great height. His arm screamed at the impact and Conner didn't quite succeed in biting back a moan. The wound and the burn, it was the worst pain he'd felt in his life, and maybe he could sleep and forget about it and when he woke up it wouldn't be as bad.

Murphy lowered himself slowly, trying to maneuver around the wound in his leg, but gasping—just a gasp, then biting off the rest—at the inevitable jounce. He hadn't climbed in bed with Conner for a long time, not since the night their mother had died—really it was reserved for times when the horror of the world seemed too much to bear. Tonight was such a night, if any were. Conner would have put his arms around him—they were twins and neither was noticeably older, but Conner seemed to have assumed the role of protector just the same—but tonight he couldn't, not both of them, not without screaming. Murphy curled around him and he curled around Murphy and it was what they'd always done, back before they'd learned it was taboo and comfort wasn't so easily had.

Murphy's breathing slowly lost its raggedness, and Conner listened to them both breathe, the sound he'd fallen asleep to since the day of their birth. But he didn't sleep: his body hurt and his mind whirled and he lay there and traced his fingers through Murphy's hair which, though filthy, retained the same texture he'd always known.

"We're doing the right thing?" Murphy said, and in the dark his voice could have come from a great distance, or from inches away. Maybe it was no accident that Conner had come out of the womb first: to ascertain that the world was safe before Murphy ventured into it. As boys, they'd learned the preciousness of it: they came into the world as a unit of two, and the loss of one would mean the loss of half the organism, enough loss that what remained would probably not survive.

"Sure we're doing the right thing. We're taking fucking evil bastards and dispatching them to whatever hell they believe in."

"And then when we die, what then?"

"I dunno. We get to heaven and God says, 'About fucking time,' and lets us in. Or He says, 'Fuck off,' and sends us to hell."

"But d'you think we'll go to hell for doing what we're doing?"

Conner paused. "If we do it'll have been worth it, won't it? To have sent those evil fuckers where they deserve to go?"

"Fucking right," Murphy said. "Where they deserve to go."

Conner found Murphy's right hand and traced the back and forefinger. In the light, his fingers would have skimmed over black letters that would not have been out of place on a medieval manuscript. "Aequitas. Isn't that what it's about?"

Murphy found the matching letters on his brother's hand. "Aye. And truth." Murphy's lips pressed briefly on Conner's. "Truth and justice. That's what we fucking fight for."

Conner kissed him back, gently, a brief taste before pulling away again. "Amen," he said.

They slept well into the next afternoon.