Pierre didn't realise he was crying.
As he listened to what Max was telling him, memories started filling in on what truly happened that night. He remembered it all, from the fight to the lullaby.
He was the one who sang it.
And that promise.
He had made a promise to his brother – and he had unknowingly broken it.
He hadn't remembered them then, but everything became vivid now.
On the night they left, his mother hadn't meant to abandon him. He remembered how he felt the morning after, waking up only to find his brother gone, his stuffed animal missing and even his blanket. Max never went anywhere without them ever since he was little. He tried to remember what happened the night before, but it was hazy. And then he couldn't find his mother – he searched their room and most of her clothes weren't there either.
Pierre had panicked and ran around the house and garden wondering where his mother and brother were. He thought it was puzzling to find his father sipping the morning coffee like everything was fine.
That was the day his life had been turned around. He tried searching for them, tried asking around but his father had found out and he was grounded. He was told that his mother had to visit a distant relative, but he didn't quite believe it because she never leave without him. A couple of weeks later, he was told his mother had cheated and ran away with Max.
For some reason, he had believed that.
But now, now he knew the truth. His mother had always loved him – and Max didn't mean to disappear on him either. They didn't abandoned him.
He remembered feeling angry and used, feeling like he wasn't worth anyone's love…but those were all misguided. All those anger…those were solely because of his father – because he resented the man who could act as if nothing was amiss, and that he didn't do something to stop them.
It was his father who chased them out.
All these while, he thought he was unwanted. That he should have felt angry at Max and his mother for leaving him, but he couldn't muster the anger anymore.
It wasn't that it meant little to him – the first few years of his life after that had been an unhappy one. But that was because he tried to numb himself, to disentangle himself from such painful emotions and memory.
For the most part, it worked. But the longing and wondering never really went away.
It wasn't mama's and Max's fault.
He looked up at Max, whom was also crying silently. It still pained him till this day. It was painful for them both.
"I'm sorry," Pierre said brokenly, his voice thick with emotion. "I didn't know. I didn't know what happened. He told me something else. That night…it felt like a false memory and I can't believe I didn't remember it all. I shouldn't have believed him."
Max shook his head before he rubbed his face with his sleeve. He cleared his throat.
"Mama told me everything. What she could. I don't know why he only took you but it hadn't been easy for us. Tetya Yelena told us we could live with her but things weren't the same anymore. I missed you, you know." Then he asked, almost accusingly, "Did you ever missed us?"
Pierre took a shuddering breath before he could answer. He was shaken by what he knew – what he could finally remember. It was worse because he had been there that night. But there had been a gap in his memories, because he had been trying to forget what happened afterwards.
"All the time. Everyday." He said when his breath was even. "I was miserable. I didn't know where you and mama were. I tried looking everywhere but he wouldn't tell me. I tried what I could but a couple of days later, we flew to Scotland. I was always invisible to him."
Funny, all these time Max wanted to know if his brother was miserable without them, but now that he knew, he didn't feel the satisfaction he thought he would. He sat on the bench by the tree and sighed.
His face was pale and nose red, he couldn't believe he had broken down in front of his brother.
More shockingly, he didn't think Pierre would cry in front of him either. His brother had always tried to mask everything…but that was then. Maybe he had changed – no, he thought. Pierre did change, and he hated that they were in the same boat. If he did lead a good life, he would have more reason to despise him – but they were really just victims.
"Not always," Max said, looking over the lake distantly. "He favoured you. I thought you were trying to get his attention back then but even if you hadn't, he would have looked at you either way. And the proof is that he chose you in the end."
Pierre looked up at him. His old man would always be his father, but he hadn't felt a strong affection for him. Not for a long time. And though he wanted to rebuke what Max said, that surely their father loved them both equally, after knowing everything, could he even say that with certainty?
He remembered his father listening to him whenever he had something to say back then, and he thought it was the same for Max too. Then, he frowned. He also remembered Max sometimes being ignored when he tried to come along with them whenever they were out.
If he wasn't already ridden with guilt and regret, hearing Max say that with so much hurt and knowing that it happened brought on another wave.
"Max, I don't know what his motives were for leaving you behind. I'm not going to lie and say I do. You say that he favours me… but it feels more like I'm just an heir to succeed him, rather than a son."
Max raised a brow at him, offended. "Are you saying that you have it worst with him?"
Pierre's eyes widened. He shook his head. "No, of course not. I'm not comparing what we went through. I just...maybe he doesn't really care about me at all."
Max didn't seem to believe him and Pierre cursed himself internally. Here they were, trying to confront their past and everything in between, but he felt like he had created a gap between them. They were a width apart yet it feels like they were still an ocean away.
All at once, questions niggled at him. How did they live? What happened afterwards? Did their mother continue to look for him? How was she after all these years? Hearing Parker telling him that she had depression knocked the breath out of him. She wasn't well. Did anyone care for her? Does father even know?
He wanted to know everything.
"Max, please. Tell me…what happened after that night?"
Max took a seat on the bench by the lake. If he were to be honest, he was already drained in just a day – from his thoughts, the call and his phone, and finally meeting his twin alone and revisiting that time.
He also suddenly didn't have the strength to keep hating on Pierre in that moment.
It was waning, and it confused him how he could hold on to such strong emotion all these years, but now that he saw him, it was like everything that he thought of him didn't matter. And was he still blaming Pierre?
Was he really just putting up a false front that he was angry at Pierre, so his brother wouldn't think that he was completely forgiven?
They were kids. He proved to not know anything much when they spoke at the dinner.
He exhaled a breath before glancing at him, saying, "Mama thought she'd see you again, that we'd all be able to spend some time together, but when there was no news from…him, she started to get frantic. She had brought the case to court but like he told her, she didn't stand a chance. I didn't know this back then, but during the times she would talk about the past, she told me that he threatened her about uncle Vasily, and then later she heard that you...you didn't want to see her." Max directed his cold gaze at him, as if telling him that had brought another wave of loathe towards him.
Pierre's heart stop for a beat. He…didn't want to see his mother? What the fuck? He would never!
Did their old man really said that to her? That was sick. Pierre felt anger boiling within him.
Max's expression relaxed a little upon seeing that Pierre was as shocked as he was when he first found out. So their father lied again – he was starting to believe that Pierre really didn't know anything about what went on. For a moment, Max felt sorry for his brother.
Pierre felt dread – the more Max told him, the more his heart ache. His mother…did she really believed that he wouldn't want to see her again?
"I really didn't know all this. I didn't know he told her that. He didn't tell me anything."
"I figured that's not true now. But she believed it…we both did." Then he shook his head, a humourless smile on his face. "But Katya and Parker didn't, said they knew you weren't like that. I probably should have believed them too, but I was hurt."
And then Max's tone took on one that sounded distant, as though he had travelled to that time again. "She…tried to take her own life. I saw her."
It was like being doused in cold water...that inkling of dread when he heard Parker telling them how Max had witnessed something he shouldn't have seen. The thought had crossed his mind and Max had just confirmed what he feared.
Pierre felt lightheaded and he staggered a step back. His mother tried to end her life. Because of him. And his father.
Pierre felt sick. He wanted to beg for her forgiveness, to tell her he was sorry he had been thinking ill or her, that he didn't try hard enough to dig the truth and find her, that he drove her to the edge.
His body wracked in sobs again, although he sought to control it.
How could he live all these time knowing now that his mother had been suffering because of them?
Max's voice was a whisper, his eyes watery and dazed, expression haunted. Pierre felt spooked. Again, there was that sharp pain. He didn't like seeing that on Max, it made him looked ghostly and he wanted to shake him back to the present. To stop hurting in the past.
"I got back home after school one day, and there was no one but her alone." Max's voice trembled. "When I went to check on her, I saw…she…" His voice cracked and ended in a sob and it tore at Pierre's heart. It's so painful. Don't say it anymore.
But Max continued, his expression held by the memories and ghost of the past.
"I was terrified, Pierre. There were so many pills. If I hadn't returned in that moment, I could have lost her."
Pierre couldn't take it anymore. Swiftly, he went forward and pull Max into his arms, hugging him tightly – the brother he had lost all those years but now found again.
The fear that snaked through Pierre grew intense and he cried for everything that had happened to them. He couldn't take away the pain they've gone through, the pain Max had gone through but he thought he could share them. Absorb them so the burden and all that was heavy would lessen from Max. He wanted Max emptied from these painful reminders of their past.
They shouldn't have to go through that. None of these would have happened if they hadn't left back then.
Pierre blamed himself. Yet, he felt an immense amount of anger towards his old man too. Fucking hell. He made them this way, made him this way.
Max was shocked when Pierre brought him into an embrace, but then…it was as if a switch had been pulled and he felt overwhelmed. Everything that he had gone through, pain and raw emotions, they couldn't be contained anymore.
He cried and sobbed in Pierre's arms, not knowing that he had needed this all along. Not realising that a single embrace from him would make him release all of that pent up emotions.
"It's so painful. I was so scared. I was so fucking scared of being alone. She's all I have left."
Pierre stood there with Max, both letting out years of agony out of the system. Somewhere in the distance, lightning flashed and thunders grumbled. He hadn't realised that the weather had turned grey.
Minutes stretched, until Pierre couldn't tell how long they stood there. He didn't care. Max shuddered in his arms, his breath hitched and coming in gasps.
It reminded Pierre that he used to comfort Max like this when they were little. It was so long ago.
When Max seemed calm now, he slowly let go of him and rubbed his tears away. In unintended unison, Max and Pierre both fell back onto the bench; Max leaning against it and letting out a deep breath, shaking. He felt briefly embarrassed– he hadn't wept openly at Pierre in years – but he was emotionally drained and just tired of keeping up appearances.
Pierre took full breaths as he sat on the edge of the seat, before he exhaled. Hands hung on his knees, he turned slightly towards his brother.
"How are you feeling?"
Max could only nod after a moment.
Pierre did the same and then said a beat later, "You have me too." He said almost softly.
Max frowned a little. "What?"
Pierre cleared his throat and repeated a little louder. "You have me too. I'm here now. I know I'm years too late but you're not alone. I'm…sorry I broke our promise but we'll get through this together." He told Max sincerely, and hoping his brother wouldn't push him away this time. "If you'll let me."
Max couldn't say anything in that moment. If anyone had told him that he would hear his brother apologising to him and wanting to reunite again, he wouldn't have believed them.
He felt floored and relieved. All those pent up anger and frustration disappeared when he let them all out. Now, he couldn't even put a name to those feelings – he was truly exhausted and…glad that he didn't have to carry this by himself alone.
He managed a weak smile. "Da, I'm giving you a chance. Don't fuck it up."
In the midst of all that was said, Pierre felt his lips twitched a little. Max had just thrown his words back at him, but he didn't mind. "I won't."
They spoke for a little longer after that. The atmosphere felt a little less tensioned than when they first spoke, and Pierre thought it was a nice change. He didn't feel much animosity towards Max, or Katya, and even Parker anymore. He asked about how it was like there, how their mother was doing now, and if his relatives missed him too. After what almost happened, they got her diagnosed years ago and she was on treatment. Sometimes their mother was fine and they would go on a picnic or Max would help her sell flowers – Pierre learned it was something his mother liked to do. But on some days, she was withdrawn. Max tried his best alongside his relatives to engage with her, to pull her from the dark cloud she was living in. It hadn't been easy but he didn't give up, and neither did his relatives.
Pierre was really grateful knowing that his mother had support and care over there. She wasn't abandoned…and she was still doing okay.
"Did he know? About mama?" Pierre asked. He didn't know what he would if Max told him their father knew but never did a thing.
Max was quiet before he replied, "No, I don't think so."
So the old man didn't know. Did he really not care about their mother? It had always been about work...but this was borderline obsession.
"All these time, are you angry because of our promise, or is there something more? What happened between you and athair?" Pierre asked just as the thought came to mind.
Max took in a breath and exhaled it. "It was both. Well, it is for one of them now." He glanced at Pierre before looking at the sky then out the lake. They should probably leave soon before it rains. "I'm angry at him for what he did to her. To us. And I want to know why he treated me like I didn't exist."
Pierre looked at him. "I want to know why too. We'll get to the bottom of this, Max."
The two brothers stayed quiet for a moment. There were so many things running in their mind but one thing was certain: They had come to a truce and it felt like there was new hope unravelling within them.
Max then chuckled softly. "Do you remember the lullaby you sang? The one about two brother cubs staying together and finding their way back home?"
A warm smile stretched on Pierre's lips and he nodded. "Why?"
Max shook his head. "I just thought that we were like them. We found our way back together."
Pierre was pensive, before he said. "Not quite. Together, yes but…we still have a long way to go home."
After spending some time with Max, they separated ways; Max decided to go home for the day while Pierre needed time to think. Despite all they have said, he didn't want to push Max out of his comfort zone.
And they had just made up – he also didn't know how to act around him yet. Parting again felt awkward and for a moment, they stood in silence before Max said he'll see him around. Pierre couldn't describe the feeling he felt then, and he was certain he had a huge smile on his face.
We're alright now.
He was exhausted with everything that just transpired. He contemplated whether he should crash in the library or go back to his room but then remembered that he had been meaning to hit the arena.
I'm so fucking drained today.
Pierre changed his mind. After what he learned from seeing Katya and Max, he just needed to recoup his mental strength and think through everything; feeling sorry for everything yet relieved that Max and him were trying to get better, wondering what Parker was going to tell him next, and most importantly, how he was going to surprise his old man someday.
Practice could wait.
A/N: What did you think of everything? Please let me know in the reviews. Your feedbacks are greatly appreciated :)ns 126.96.36.199da2