When Théo came to him, sobbing into his sleeve, mumbling something about a "terrible thing", Antoine was genuinely shocked. No matter what kind of things have happened between them, Théo was still his brother, and Antoine couldn't shake off the feeling he was supposed to take care of him and protect him from any harm.
Seeing him with reddish bloodshot eyes fixed on the ground scared him; it wasn't the same Théo he's known for years - the Théo who would smile and lick his lips and press him against the wall with a passionate kiss, moaning with lips stubbled on his as if nothing was wrong about it - none of that was present.
Théo was crying in an ugly, child-like way, with tears streaming down his face, pooling at his jawbones, and he was sobbing, smearing some his snot all over his upper lip, unable to control himself as an adult probably should. He was breathing heavily in between the hysterical sobs and Antoine's heart clenched at the sight.
"What's wrong?" He grabbed a fistful of his little brother's hair, that was once again dyed blonde, and made him look up. "Théo - " he pleaded urgently, hoping to get some meaning out of him.
Théo collapsed on the bed behind him, still crying in an awfully loud way that made Antoine paralyzed in fear since he has seen Théo this hysterical like twelve years ago for the last time and never since - he's seen him crying, yes, but in a way any civilized and normal person would, quiet and decent; not like this. Now even Mia, just two weeks old, appeared to be more behaved than him -
"What's the matter with you?"
Something terrible must have happened, Antoine thought - maybe Théo got a call, it could be their grandma, granddad, maybe their neighbors, anyone, really -
"What the fuck is wrong?" he urged louder this time, shaking Théo's shoulders in desperation. If it actually was something within the family -
Antoine didn't even want to think about that. He arrived in Macon just a few hours ago, with Erika and their baby daughter in a soft pink baby carrier seat, and after an enormous exchange of hugs and kisses and a light lunch, his mom decided to take her daughter-in-law and granddaughter for a walk in the city, leaving her husband and two sons at home. Antoine even forced himself to smile as he saw them leaving, waving a cute, goofy goodbye - the three women of his life he loved the most, his mother, his wife, and his daughter.
Then he turned around to face Théo - who seemed to be even taller than he remembered, and now with an awfully bleached messy hair and a kind of a mustache that didn't really suit him.
"We even bought a crib for your old bedroom so you can stay here with Mia more often," their father said proudly, helping Antoine get his suitcases into his old bedroom. "I built it myself."
Antoine had to smile.
Yes, the bedroom stayed practically the same. Of course, all his old stuff was gone, but the room still looked pretty similar to what he remembered from living here. Only the single bed was gone, thank God, and replaced by a modern solid double bed. As his mom said - It would be nice to have you and Erika around here more often, now that you have Mia.
This was supposed to be a good weekend, a few days at home to make his whole family used to both Erika and Mia since now, Antoine felt like his family life was settled.
"It's Lebron - " Théo managed to spit out in between his hysterical sobs. "He had to - - - I almost killed him - "
It took Antoine quite a long time to realize who actually Lebron was; his first thought was one of those friends of Théo who show up completely stoned at two in the morning, dragging Théo, who's in the same state, along - well, at least that's how his parents described these "friends of Théo", who appeared to be changing every month.
"He ate some chocolate - yesterday - "
He couldn't come up with anything more intelligent to say.
It took Théo a few more desperate attempts to inhale before he was able to speak again. "They kept him at the clinic - "
"It's just a dog."
Théo stared at him for a while with his tear-stained eyes. "It's Lebron - "
Antoine started to feel really uncomfortable under Théo's stare, and he quickly found a way to escape his own guilt feeling - "Why did you give him chocolate?"
"I didn't - I left the box with chocolates on the ground and he found it - "
Another terrible sob escaped his mouth, accompanied by a loud groan as he howled, grabbing the bedsheets in his trembling fingers. "I almost killed him - !"
Antoine bit his lip. Why was he always so lost for words with Théo? There always was a heavy pressure present around his heart whenever Théo was near, and the suffocation only grew as years continued. He couldn't really breathe freely around him; that was how it felt.
And his awful sobbing was not helping much; Antoine's face twisted in disgust because it was just so obvious this whole scene was overly dramatic, even for Théo (why was he crying about this now anyway?), it was just like some bad hysterical movie scene, too loud and too annoying, and it needed to stop.
"Shut up, he's gonna be fine."
"He's - he's still there - you haven't even - noticed - he's not here - "
"Jesus Christ, I don't care about your stupid dog! And get the fuck out of my bed, I need to unpack - "
For a few seconds, Théo was just looking at him with a wordless gasp, probably struggling to even breathe, and then he let out the most awful, gagging shriek as he started to cry again.
"Stop that - oh God, just stop this fucking drama - Théo - "
It sounded like Théo was actually gagging by now, and the sound was driving Antoine crazy as well as tearing his heart apart; he wanted to hate him, shout at him or even drag him out of the bed by his feet if necessary - but he couldn't move, he couldn't do a thing - maybe he was too harsh on him, maybe he was the one who hurt him, maybe he should be more emphatic -
God. Théo's face was actually flushed as if he was really struggling to breathe by now.
"For fuck's sake - " He grabbed his shoulders and shook him from side to side. "Calm down!"
A memory, old and long-forgotten one, suddenly came to his mind - what their parents used to do when they, as little kids, were throwing absurd tantrums to the point of just rolling on the floor, screaming and crying -
The cold shower. The memory of their mum, standing over hysterically crying four or five years old Théo, asking "You want a cold shower or what?" in a raised voice that was so not typical for her, just popped in his mind.
"Do you want a cold shower or what?!" he shouted, throwing his hands in the air.
Théo shook his head furiously, gasping for air. His hand was squeezing the bedclothes in a steady rhythm in between the sobs.
"Oh, fuck you, you little fucking shit - " Antoine exhaled as he paced towards the door, and even outside, in the hall, he just repeated the most basic insults and swearwords he could think of, not aiming them towards Théo, not aiming them towards anyone actually - it was just to let out the frustration, the pain, the stress and the suffocating weight he's felt for the past few weeks - with Erika pregnant, with Erika giving birth, with welcoming Mia into their lives, with going to see his parents, with seeing Théo again, with Théo's behavior, with his own response. "Fucking cunt, you - "
In the bathroom, he grabbed one of the towels and tossed it straight into the bathtub and turned the tap on, setting it to the coldest mode possible.
"You fucking bastard - you piece of shit - !" He banged his fist against the tiled wall, spitting the words out through his teeth.
Why him, why him, why was it always him?
He wasn't afraid of dad hearing him swearing and banging on the wall.
He wasn't afraid of dad hearing Théo's tantrum.
He never seemed to hear nor notice anything.
Antoine laughed maniacally as he turned the water off and crouched down by the bathtub, folding his hands on its edge and laying his forehead on them just to collect his thoughts, just to take a deep breath, just to swallow the tears that were rising in his eyes.
Wasn't it typical?
Mom and dad, blissfully unaware - Erika, naive and sweet - and him and Théo - broken.
He got back on his feet, grabbed the towel, now soaked with cold water, and brought it back to his bedroom, not caring about the wet path it was leaving behind him at all.
Théo was still laying on the bed, face buried in the sheets that his fingers hold onto for dear life, and short, breathy cries were the only audible thing in the whole room.
Antoine got on the bed next to his brother's shaking body. "Hey - it's okay - just stop with that - "
With one hand, he pulled Théo's shirt up - his own fingers were trembling at this, and Théo's body went stiff under his touch - and then he simply threw the wet towel over his brother, making sure that his face was free of it so he could finally breathe properly.
Théo gasped and went quiet immediately as Antoine's hands pressed the towel on him and held him through it in place. The voice of his desperate crying disappeared and soon, only his shaky attempts to take some air in his lungs and then exhale was to be heard.
"Stop with that - It's okay. Lebron is gonna be okay."
He still said it, though he felt like it wasn't just Lebron that this whole scene was about.
His fingers actually started caressing Théo through the towel, as much as it was possible, and when Antoine noticed this unintentional movement, he just closed his eyes in disappointment.
He knew it, he knew it so well.
The cold wet towel was not needed at all.
He was needed.
Théo, blinded by his own tears, reached out his hand to touch Antoine, maybe his face, maybe his hand - and he found his forearm which he immediately grasped in such a desperate, needy way that made Antoine squeeze his eyes shut harder and never want to open them again.
"Don't leave me, Grizi."
Antoine had never felt such tormenting pain from one simple word - especially a word that was so often used around him and which even he himself embraced as his nickname.
Théo's grip was surprisingly painful and strong, almost as if he was more focused on that than on calming down and finding the right rhythm of his breathing.
"Grizi - "
He wasn't Grizi for his family. He was just Antoine, Anto maybe, or the sweet and innocent 'toine - but Grizi and Grizou was reserved for other people, for strangers, for people who were not related to him. He just recently realized how Théo always changed the way he called him accordingly to the situation.
Anto was just a regular, brotherly affectionate name.
'toine was almost childish - and Grizou, well, Grizou or Grizi - that seemed to be so out of reality. Nobody from the family would ever call him that. Just Théo, sometimes -
When they had sex for the first time - when Théo got him undressed and held his hands and when he knew that he wouldn't fight him, like, really fight him - when he just -
raped him -
raped him? -
- made him do what he didn't want to -
- Théo called him Grizou back then, the whole time it was happening -
- as if they weren't brothers at all, as if he himself wasn't a Griezmann as well, as if he was someone else - someone different, someone new.
Antoine dug his fingers in the towel.
It happened more than once, after all. It happened once - and then, it didn't really make a difference if it was repeated twice or three times or four.
"I don't have anyone except you - "
"That's not true," Antoine answered furiously. "You have the family - and your friends - and Lebron will be just fine - "
"It's just the name," Théo pleaded, squeezing his arms in his hands. "Just the name."
"It's not about me - I'm nothing - "
"Shut up," Antoine whispered almost lovingly, rubbing his shoulders through the wet cloth. He couldn't deal with anything more than this already, this was too much for him
He wanted to hate him; he actually wanted to hit him, to wring his neck, to hurt him and make him suffer but he couldn't for his dear life - Théo seemed so broken and lost there was no way he could add anything to this pain, so he just rocked his little brother in his arms slowly. The cold towel actually seemed to work, the hysterical state has passed, and all that was left was this human wreck in his arms and the feeling that he was the one responsible for all of this.
Théo's behavior has gotten much worse lately.
He has left the university because it was boring and shit.
He was still living in the parents' basement, running his questionable fashion line online, with a minimum effort and time put into it.
He was getting drunk and stoned with his so-called friends on what seemed to be an everyday basis.
The highs were short and the lows were deep -
"But it's just a phase and he'll grow out of it," their dad always used to say.
Antoine used to think so as well. He always thought this has to end one day -
But the end seemed to be still more and more distant. He had hoped it would end when he himself definitely moves out. It didn't. Then, maybe, that it would end with Théo being eighteen. It didn't. Maybe with him getting engaged to Erika? No. Getting married to Erika? No. Having a baby? No.
Antoine looked over Théo's shoulder, to see the pretty pastel colored crib standing in the corner of the bedroom.
"I just want you to love me," Théo sobbed, trying to snuggle closer to Antoine under the layer of the towel. "Because nobody else will - "
"I do - just - it's just complicated - "
Wasn't Théo just jealous of Mia by now? Could that, by any chance, be the reason of his complete breakdown over Lebron, and his childish behavior - couldn't he, by any chance, wish to be the one getting taken care of with love and tenderness -
Äntoine swallowed hard at the thought.
And wasn't he himself, by any chance, the one to blame?