Returning home was the hardest thing Curt had ever done. He was wrecked, soaked with blood, both his own and from the countless men he had been forced to kill escaping that compound. He had been in this position before. Shaking as he was flown home by the evacuation team, as Barb mumbled about the mission and the details that would have to be covered later, as Curt’s torture wounds were tended to. But there was one key difference. His hands rested on the seats either side of him, his eyes were closed tightly. Owen wasn’t beside him. His body hadn’t even been recovered.
Curt knew the dangers of his line of work. He had a licence to kill, and so did the others he encountered. The odds of survival were always against him. And against his partner. Relationships were condemned in their industry, especially those with fellow agents. But Curt hadn’t realised how much of a liability that made him until now. Now that he couldn’t hear his partner’s name without shaking. That he couldn’t think about returning home without crying. He was responsible. He was the reason Owen had fallen. He was the reason there was a sickening sound of Owen’s bones shattering on the concrete below them. He was the reason his partner wasn’t coming home again. He had run away. He had seen Owen hit the ground and had seen the blood spray. The building was coming down around him, yet he still could have dashed back down the stairs. He could have gone to Owen’s side. He could have died with him. But he was a coward.
And now he was alone. He was alone on the plane. Barb and the rest of his team may have been there, but they offered no comfort. They were white noise to him. Nothing they could say would bring his Owen back. He was alone when he got back to his agency. He got occasional sorrowful glances as he numbly made his way down the hall to Cynthia’s office. They felt bad that Curt had lost his partner. But they didn’t know the extent of the partnership. They didn’t know that after that meeting Curt would be disappearing to his mother’s safehouse, the home he and Owen shared. They didn’t know that Curt was going home to his and Owen’s daughters, that he was going to have to tell the two little girls that their father would never be returning home. And that’s just what he did.
Curt stepped through the front doors of the warmly lit safehouse. More commonly used as his regular home. The far too cheery atmosphere felt so wrong at a time like this. A time when Curt just wanted to cry and throw things. But there he stood, in the entryway between the kitchen and dining room, door shut firmly behind him, staring forward in shock. He looked better than he had went he left the compound. He was no longer soaked in blood, but he still had visible cuts and bruises. But right now, the last thing he cared about was appearance. He dropped his bag to the ground, a loud thump sounding through the house. Followed by a mixture of voices.
“Is that them?”
For the first time since the death of his beloved mere hours ago, Curt cried. Hearing their voices, hearing how hopeful all three of them were. They all thought that the couple had walked through the door. It would break Curt to see their faces when they saw him. His mother was the first to enter, cautiously stepping downstairs. She was worried considering Curt hadn’t replied to her calling out. But when she saw him, she smiled, relieved to see her son home safe.
“Curtis, thank goodness, I know it was only a couple days, but you know I’m always worried about you two.” She stopped still when she got close enough to her son to see the tears in his eyes. He wasn’t sobbing, he was acting like he didn’t even notice the tears. He just looked down at the woman, who frowned back up at him. He just appeared complacent. She hadn’t seen him cry since he was much younger. He never cried, not her son. He had too much pride to show any signs of weakness. She went to open her mouth, to say something that might make him feel better, but she was interrupted by two voices as Ellie and Margaret entered.
“Dad? Papa?” Margaret called out, taking the lead over her twin as the two walked in. Both of his daughters looked exhausted, Curt noticed that Ellie was squinting trying to keep her eyes open. It was far past their bedtime, but they couldn’t sleep when they were waiting in anticipation for their fathers to return. The two seven-year-olds stopped where their grandmother did, looking up at Curt and realising he was the only one there. Margaret looked behind him for Owen while Ellie stayed silent, trying to put it together in her own brain. There was a moment of silence in the Carvour-Mega, now just Mega, household. Before Ms Mega turned away from her son to face her granddaughters.
“I think you two should be off to bed. You wanted to get up early to go to the markets so if that’s still your plan I think its bedtime.” She said gently, calmly. She was holding back tears herself, knowing exactly what she was seeing with Curt returning alone. But she managed to disguise her pain with tiredness as she wrapped an arm around Margaret, pulling her away from where she was still looking for her other father. She didn’t need to do the same with Ellie. The young girl, who looked so like Owen, just turned and ran back upstairs. Margaret frowned but followed on her grandmother’s coxing. Leaving just Curt and his mother in the room alone. She turned slowly to face him and wrapped her arms around him, unable to find the words to apologise for her son’s loss. She was devastated for him. And he finally broke down. Curt let out heavy, shaking sobs as his mother held him protectively. It was all washing over him now. The guilt, the anger, the self-loathing. He was shuddering and shaking, his cries of agony echoing around the small home. He was so completely broken and shaken by it. He would have been normally but now seeing his mother and children’s faces when he returned, he knew what he had really done.
He had killed his partner. The man he would have wanted to marry if it was legal. But he had also killed his daughters’ father. He had killed the person they came crying to when they had nightmares. He had killed his mother’s almost son-in-law. She had loved and cared for Owen as much as she did Curt. He’d killed a part of his family. He’d killed Owen. He’d never be able to help Curt’s mother tutor the kids when he and Curt had a break from spy work. He’d never be able to be given a final resting place. He’d never be able to see his daughters, his own flesh and blood grow up.
As he stood there, shaking and sobbing in the kitchen, his mother hugging him tightly, telling him that it was ok, Curt knew he didn’t deserve this. Owen should be here. Owen should be the one to have escaped. He deserves to have a future; he deserves to have his family.
He deserved to live. And Curt did not.