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Spoilers through S4, "Cuts Like A Knife." Title from Leviathan by George Oppen.

We have become the present

by natlet

It feels like he's been down on the floor holding Tim's guts in forever but eventually - finally - help comes. They load Tim onto a stretcher and there's a lot of raised voices, rapid-fire questions that go right over his head. He sticks with Tim as they carry him down from the control tower, through the crowd of inmates that parts like a sea as they pass, all the way to the gates of Em City where Glynn meets him, puts a hand on his arm.

He freezes, just for a second, trying to figure out what he's supposed to do next; but by the time he gets it together enough to say I'm going with him, it's too late. The little cloud of people is halfway down the hall and he can't see Tim any more and Glynn's saying things like you did a good job and you probably saved his life and do you think you can finish your shift.

Murphy blinks at him. Glynn looks different, somehow, than he did this morning at the staff meeting; like the lines of his face are coming together at different angles, like there's someone else looking out through his eyes. "Yeah," Sean says. "I'm fine."

Glynn claps him on the shoulder like he's said something extraordinary. "Take a break, Officer Murphy," he says, his voice warm, kind. "Get yourself cleaned up."

He looks down as Glynn walks away, and fuck, he's covered in blood. Tim's blood. Jesus.

There's a staff bathroom just outside the gates. Murphy peers under the doors of the stalls, making sure the place is empty before he faces himself in the mirror. He thinks maybe he looks different, too. His stomach flips over. I'm fine. His hands leave blotchy red smears where he grips the basin, on the gleaming silvery knobs.

Murphy ducks his head, and throws up in the sink.


Lights out.

It's only been a couple hours but Murphy showers again, long and hot, steaming up the nearly-deserted locker room. He feels raw when he gets out, scoured, skin red and sensitive; even his worn shirt and jeans are too much, rough, overwhelming. Murphy shrugs on his jacket, hefts his duffel over his shoulder, beats it for the exit.

Outside, it's so cold even the air seems brittle, fragile, ready to crack. His scalp prickles and he digs in his bag until he finds his hat, pulls it down over his ears. It's snowing, but with no real energy, no dedication. A few snowflakes drift aimlessly under the lights, toward the ground only to get caught in a stray gust of air, leap back upward, take another shot at the perfect descent.

For a second, before he shakes his head and stomps to his truck, Murphy hopes a couple of them get it right this time.

He's so tired it takes him a couple tries to get the key into the ignition but when he's got the truck running and warmed up he heads out toward the hospital anyway. It's a long drive through the mountains, on curving schizophrenic roads; he's been here so many times he knows the route by heart but he almost misses a turn anyway, jerks on the wheel and sends the truck into a skidding arc that's got his heart beating hard and his stomach in his throat before he evens it out. Stupid; he's lived here how long, he knows how winters go, and he's still driving through the hills by himself at night. Serve me right if I ended up in there with him, Murphy thinks.

The hospital's down in a valley and when he sees it - a carpet of twinkling orange lights spread out against the trees, hazy through the snow - he pulls his truck into a snowplow turnaround, sits there for a couple long minutes before he goes back the other way. It's late, and visiting hours are probably over anyway.


Father Mukada looks up, and his eyes track Murphy as he moves across the back of the cafeteria; to his credit there's not so much as a hitch in the sermon. Murphy plants his feet and folds his arms across his chest and does his best to look like he's just keeping an eye on things, but when the Father says, "Let us pray," he bows his head and closes his eyes right along with all the other dinks.

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