Sometimes it was like this. Owen had a rare moment to himself while Curt had to go out to get groceries and the girls were sleeping. Ms Mega rarely bothered him as well. Ever since he returned it’d been hard for him to have time to himself.
The twins were desperate to spend time with him now that they had experienced four years without him. Both were still slightly distrusting but he couldn’t blame them. He had faked his death, not intentionally, and sent their other father into a self-destructive, alcoholic spiral. And he knew he’d never make up for that lost time. But he was still trying with them, starting to build back the trust he lost, especially with Ellie. It was funny that each girl seemed to gravitate towards whichever of her fathers she was more similar to. And Owen always was happy to spend time with the girls, almost glad about how clingy they had become. They reminded him how much he had missed being a father.
And even when he got a rare break from his daughters, Curt clung to him as much as they did. Owen guessed he was also trying to make up for the time they’d lost. He always treasured that time. After the girls went to bed, they curled up together on the couch. Not talking to each other. Just laying there, Curt’s head on Owen’s chest, the other man running his hand over the long persisting torture scars that still littered Curt’s arms. Even though Owen hadn’t left them, he’d left many others but not those specifically, he still felt guilty. He was always reminded of the pain he put his partner through. The rare times where Owen broke the silence to apologise were met by Curt shushing him and shaking his head. Curt would respond by carefully examining Owen’s scars. They both had hurt each other more than they cared to admit. But those quiet, soft moments meant everything to Owen. Curt’s presence mattered more than he could ever express. Curt reminded him what it felt like to be cared for.
Even returning home to Ms Mega had been more meaningful than Owen expected. She was the mother of the man he had tormented, mistreated and lied to. She should have hated him, even if Curt had forgiven him, she never should have. But yet, when Curt and his daughters weren’t around. She’d come to sit with him. Often in the dining room, they’d sit, she’d make tea and they’d talk. It wasn’t small talk by any means, but she never mentioned the four years prior to his return. She had a right to bring it up, she had a right to yell at him and kick him out for all he put her son through. But she never did, she just talked to him about the girls, about her worries when Curt left the house, and it was peaceful. Despite how much Owen knew he’d done this woman wrong. She reminded him how lucky he was to be forgiven.
But, this morning, there was none of that. It was a Saturday, Ms Mega didn’t have to tutor the girls so they were all still asleep. So, Owen was alone. He hated being alone. When he was alone, his thoughts raced and all he could see when he looked in the mirror above their chest of drawers was the monster that he knew he was. Without his family, without the people who all reminded him that he was more than a senseless, twisted, killing machine, he was broken, alone and panicked. That’s why Curt had given him the photo album.
It was a small book, Curt’s mother had stitched the cover together herself as a gift to he and Curt when their daughters were born, apart from everything else she’d given them. On the inside of the front cover were the ridiculous, messy scribbles the twins had done when they’d found the book whilst colouring. Both girls had expected their parents to be furious, they were toddlers after all, getting in trouble was their worst fear. But Owen found it endearing, now looking back at the drawings whenever he was alone. They had no distinct shape whatsoever, but it always brought a smile to Owen’s face.
And then there were the photos. Owen hadn’t seen some of them in years, the book had always been in Curt’s possession after all. But they all brought him to distinct memories, showing him how his family had changed and grown in the last eleven years.
The first photo was from the most stressful, horrible and best night of Owen’s life. The twins had been born at home. Two men having kids through surrogacy wasn’t exactly to be a public affair. And they couldn’t attend a hospital anyway considering how dangerous it would be to have their and their kid’s location noted by the hospital. But the issue with what had been an airtight plan was the fact that Curt hadn’t been there. Neither had Owen at first, he had been at the airport, with his fake passport in his hand, ready to go back to his agency for his next assignment. But then he had gotten a call from Curt’s mother that their kids were on the way. And he had rushed home. The twins were two weeks early and Curt had been on a mission in Bulgaria, wrapping up the final details of his assignment. He had 16 hours to get back from another country. Owen was not exactly prepared to deal with the whole situation by himself. But soon, everything came together, and a photo was taken. Curt and Owen, both exhausted, Curt still in his work clothes, holding their twin daughters in their arms. The page decorated and with the caption: “Welcome Ellie and Margaret Carvour-Mega!”
Next page was the girl’s first birthday. At that point, they had become slightly better at managing work and parenthood, so they were both there. But that didn’t mean the day hadn’t had its disasters. Curt and Owen in the photo were smiling but now Owen could see the exhaustion and frustration in their faces. That was probably the worst fight they’d gotten into before the chimera incident. As much as he hated to think of that day, the snide comments and the bickering over who had to do what for the girls, all against the background of another agent from MI6 finding out the location of the pair’s safehouse. It had been brutal, but they had held it together for Margaret and Ellie. And after they had apologised. The difficulties of sorting out every tiny problem that had come up had been forced to the back of their minds because of the girls. Because no matter all the problems they had, their girls came first and Curt and Owen would go through anything, together or apart to see them smile. And that’s why Owen loved the photo. He and Curt, sat in front of the fireplace, Margaret on Curt’s lap and Ellie on Owen’s lap, Ms Mega beside her son.
It became apparent as Owen flicked from page to page, that their family life had never been smooth sailing. The photo from the girl’s second Christmas only contained them, Owen and Ms Mega. Curt had been called back to mainland America to aid Cynthia in an interrogation. He had to leave his family but the smile on the twins faces in the photo only came from them being able to call Curt on Christmas morning. They always found a way. Then the photos that didn’t come from an event. Ms Mega teaching the twins to bake. The twins and Owen cuddling on the couch. Curt teaching the girls to play various sports in the rarely used backyard. Every one of them meant so much to Owen. Then he hit the last memory he was there to make. Ellie and Margaret, holding a ginger and white kitten up on the worn-out couch in the living room, the two six-year-olds delighted. Owen could almost remember his protests to the idea of adopting a pet word for word. Curt had insisted so two weeks later they ended up bringing home Oleg Maximus Carvour-Mega. Owen had pointed out how dumb the name was. Then the random photos continued. Until the year was 1957.
Then the consistent stream of happy family photos and Ellie and Margaret’s annotations down the sides of the page come to a halt. There’s only one photo for that whole year and it’s a week before that damned mission. Curt and Owen are sat there, smiling, holding each other. It makes him want to scream and cry more than he always has. He flips over the page. Only one photo between 1958 and 1959, just of Ellie and Oleg. Two for 1960, both Curt with the girls. That almost makes him smile, seeing how his lover repaired himself. But he dreads the year that comes next. When Curt realised what Owen had become. He flipped the page, dreading it. If there was a photo of Curt smiling at the beginning of the year, he would cry. But there was only one photo, of him. This one very clearly not taken by Ms Mega but by Curt himself, stuck in the book sloppily with messy handwriting reading: “Welcome home, love.”
It was days like these where Owen remembered how lucky he was. When he was alone and afraid to look in the mirror. When Curt gave him a dumb book filled with family photos just to cheer him up. When Curt came home from shopping, much like he had now, and crawled back into bed with Owen. It was days like these that reminded Owen how lucky he was to have his family. How lucky he was to have them back.