Author: Guede Mazaka
New York City. Black sky, muggy air, glittery lights, beautiful people and tall buildings. The city is a pressure on them where they lie on this tarry rooftop, out of breath and bloody. It beats down on them, closes in on their raw raspy throats and crouches like a nightmare on their upturned bellies. Da went off to draw away the cops, Murphy’s nursing a twisted ankle, and Connor’s been nursing something else for a while now. Something that grows and grows with each life they take, something dark and damp and solitary.
He’s always been the protective one, of course--even now he’s curled himself to break the steaming wind on his back before it hits Murphy. So it makes a sick, coiling sort of sense to Murphy’s gut, that Connor would be the one who saw to the guns. The one that cleaned them, tended them, the one that learned best how to fix them. He knows which shoot straight and which a little sideways, which drag heavy on the wrists and which won’t put a man down if slammed into the temple. They’re what saves him and Murphy, they’re God’s grace made manifest in steel and explosive powder, and he takes that to heart.
Time and again Murphy’s seen Connor hunched over them. Sunrise, sunset, the high noonday light spilling around his brother’s humped shoulders as his fingers stroke and tease the guns. He checks them before a fight, he checks them afterward—right now, seconds after they’ve finally found their safe resting place, his fingers shuck the shot-heated pistols from his sleeves and move frantically over them. He cares for them. He loves them. He sees only them.
“Connor,” Murphy whispers. “Connor.”
Connor grunts, head down and hands folded over the guns. Time was, he’d pray to Murphy. Run his shaking palms over Murphy’s body, let them melt together in the frenzied relief of coming down from the high planes of death and life and justice. His mouth would bless Murphy’s brow, throat, chest and his touch would recreate the man from the vehicle of God. But now he doesn’t look up.
In Murphy’s own sleeves, nestled beneath his arms and at the small of his back are his guns, his tools and his weights and his shackles. His skin crawls from their touch and not because they are blistering his skin, not because they have delivered death to more faces than he can recall, even in this clinging darkness that best brings out the worst to press wetly against him. He would throw them out if he didn’t know that then Connor’s eyes would go to their sharp lines and slick surfaces, if he didn’t know that seeing that would bring the gorge into his throat and the unholy hatred into his belly.
He does hate them. He depends on them. He loves Connor, he needs Connor.
But Connor’s fallen for them. And on this roof, choking to death, Murphy can see in the near future the one way they may all come together again. His teeth sink into his lip—he tastes blood.
Blood isn’t steel. His teeth aren’t the cutting rim of a muzzle. But soon, soon…because if Connor loves them, then how could Murphy feel differently?