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Now That You're Gone

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Theodore,

No, it doesn't seem right. I shouldn't be calling you “Theodore” anymore, after all. You're gone with this name. Erased. Now, there are two “Hershels”... not that you would ever learn the truth. You’re too young.

I blame myself for what happened, sometimes. I know I shouldn't: the Azran are the only ones that brought all this misery upon us, after all. That accursed civilization! Why did Father have to find out about them? We should have spent our lives together, as a family. We were meant to be a family, forever. Now, there's nothing left of us. I spend my nights thinking about our loss, and my days working hard to take my revenge on them someday.

You see, I want to become an archeologist so I can discover the truth behind the Azran. Then, I will be able to seek the truth that Father was after, and maybe even meet him again.

I want to believe that he is still alive. I know our mother passed away recently – I don't think you will ever learn this terrible news. After all, you're just a child: it would be foolish to tell you about something so horrible. Every day, I pray that the Laytons are taking good care of you. I trust them: they couldn't harm you.

In the end, I don't believe you will ever realize what happened to you when we split up. Eventually, you'll just grow up and leave a normal life... that is everything I can hope for, Theodore.

For now, I will just go back to working on the Azran. I am still thinking about you, and I am sure we will get the chance to reunite.

Hershel

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Theodore,

I am unable to forgive myself for what I have done to you. I am torn apart between my duty, to protect my dear brother, and how much I miss you. It feels like someone is tearing my heart off my chest. I can feel the pain of losing you ever since: at day, while I’m gathering information about the civilization which did that to us, and at night, in my nightmares.

I should have expressed my feelings to you before. Had I known you would be leaving me one day, I would have taken better care of you. Being harassed by life is unbecoming of me, for I am not one who expresses his feelings easily. Also, I was born strong – like Father. But now I am forced to understand. I understand the pain of losing loved ones.

Isn’t it ridiculous, though? I am the one who deliberately chose to let you go in my stead. Knowing this, I can’t help but regret what is happening to us. I am sure, deep down, that I made the right decision. After all, you could not live by yourself – you're only five! I just wish I could make up for what I have done, but I can’t just show up in London to check on you. That’s so far away from our house that I doubt you will ever remember the tiny village you once lived in. Either way, I would just break my promise.

I’m stuck, Theodore. I’m all alone here. If it wasn’t for the neighbors, coming at the house sometimes to see me, nobody would even know that I am still here. In truth, no one knows how I am feeling inside. They can talk to me as much as they want, it will never be enough – they know nothing. I smile, but it’s only a façade. I am merely a naive young boy hoping that writing down my thoughts about our loss will help me getting better. Will that ever happen? Only time will tell, I guess.

I pray for your safety. We shall meet again one day.

Your brother, Hershel


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My dear brother,

I didn’t feel like writing these last few months. It has been tough: I’m still working on the Azran. More importantly, I’m trying to build a plan for our future, so we can finally live together in peace. It may take some time, but I promise you that one day, I’ll be coming to get you in London, and everything will finally be over.

When I’m done writing this letter, I will send a package to the Laytons. I want to make sure that you’re doing well, and I have found something that belongs to you. I need to take a decision: should I let your parents know that I am the sender, or must I keep this a secret from you? If not, I am afraid to make you suffer. It’s only been eight months, after all: your wound can’t be healed yet.
I wish Mother were still here… she would have known what it is I must do. Sometimes, Theodore, being alone is a hard burden to bear. I’m turning ten next month, I’m still a child. Just like you. And children should never be left alone. I will do anything in my power to protect my own if I ever get the chance to have some.

On the other hand, I have decided to go back to school. I couldn’t stand staying all day alone at the house, so I’m progressively reconnecting with my old life. I did some progress on my researches on the Azran and on Targent: I now have a clearer grasp of who they are, and what they seek. However, grey areas are surrounding Father’s whereabouts: I’m desperate to know where he is, but I can’t get any answers. I’m starting to believe that he may be dead as well as Mother. I don’t ever want to accept this truth, but what if Targent killed him when they realized he was of no use to them? Then my dreams of a reunited family would be shattered. Therefore, I must fight: he has to be alive. He couldn’t abandon us. Soon, he will return, I am sure of it. He could even be already looking for you.

Sometimes, friends are asking me about you. I’m forced to lie to them – it is too hard to tell the truth when I’m not even fully aware of it myself. While answering, I’m trying to convince myself that you’re happy, living away with one of our nonexistent aunts, so you don’t suffer too much because of Mother’s death. Sometimes, Father and I come to visit you, and you will be back soon. I’m sure you would understand why I’m doing this: people at school can’t ever learn about the truth that is our family. That is also why I shall do everything I can to get you back, or my lies will eventually come back to haunt me. Meanwhile, please take care of yourself.

Hershel

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Theodore,

It’s been two years already. Two years since we were separated, and I’m starting to convince myself that it will always be this way. Maybe it’s for the best, don’t you think? In fact, I have given up – or at least, I’m trying to.

 

Do you still remember the nightmares I had back when we were living on our own? One night, I couldn’t help but scream, and I woke you up. You came rushing towards me, with that look on your face… I saw the sadness in your eyes, Theodore. I never had the courage to tell you that I will do anything I can to see you smile. I’m writing it now, almost three years later, even though I know this letter will never reach you. Either way, I failed you. I need to move on now, because I’m the only one still thinking about it.

 

Anyway. The nightmares. I had to tell you, even if I didn’t want to admit it. I was the oldest, I had to protect you. I had to show you the way! I couldn’t be weak in front of you; yet, this one time, I did. I will never forget what you said to me.

“Hersh, are you okay? Did you see our parents?” You asked with that concerned little voice of yours. I was shocked – I had never mentioned these dreams to you, but you were able to understand what was happening to me. Straight away, you understood. I nodded, and then I asked you to sit on my bed.

 

We talked a lot during that night. We talked about our lost parents, about us, about our lost future. You were so young, yet so sharp. Any other boy of four would not have grasped what was happening to us, but you were able to understand it, and you were being so calm. You almost never cried – I think you may have cried less than I have. Your strength will be your greatest asset in life.

 

That night, when I told you I wanted to go back to sleep, you put your hand on my arm.

“Can I stay with you, Hersh?”

I couldn’t say no, so we shared my bed during the rest of the night. Feeling your warm body against mine calmed me down. This way, I knew you’d stay unharmed, and I could look after you. You fell asleep fast. I was afraid to dream again, but it didn’t happen.

 

In truth, I still have these nightmares, but they happen less often. Ever since that night, whenever I wake up screaming and covered in a cold sweat, there’s nobody here to ask me if I’m fine. So I just end up thinking about you, and I’m trying to imagine your body next to mine, in my bed. I’m glad these horrible dreams are finally beginning to disappear. I hope you’re okay as well.

I must say that I’m slowly getting away from these painful memories – it is only logical to assume that the nightmares are calming down. More than one year ago, I went back to school. I’ll be in year eight soon: everything is going to get difficult. I must work a lot if I want to follow in Father’s footsteps. I mustn’t give up now, and most of all, I must focus. I can’t lose sight of my objectives. I’m the oldest one: responsibility fells on me. “What responsibility, Hersh?” would you ask me.

Revenge.

I can’t move on – I can’t let that down. I want to avenge you, avenge our family. There’s no way I’m going to fail: I will become an archaeologist, that’s for sure. Then I will get what Targent seeks before them, and Father will be freed.

But for now, I need to forget about the rest. I hope that, one day, you will forgive me for trying to erase your existence.

 

Your brother, Hershel

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Theodore,

 

Sometimes, I can’t help but loathe the Laytons. Why did they have to adopt only one child? Why couldn’t they take us both? What would it have changed? I could have taken care of myself! They were so selfish. At the time, my sole concern was your future – I didn’t even think about this other possibility. Now, my heart’s filled with regrets. Not that it’s an unusual feeling.

They never gave us any explanation. Why you? Why me? Why Hershel and not Theodore – why not the two brothers together? It didn’t occur to them that we would suffer both the same pain. Do they even know what it’s like to suffer? They have a perfect life, and now, they have the perfect child to match. I will never forget the day when I let go of your hand. They didn’t bat an eyelid while tears were forming in my eyes as I watched you leave. They should have known better. Parents are supposed to care for their children, they are supposed to support them. Ours were always by our side when we needed them. The Laytons don’t have the right to call themselves ‘parents’!

In the end, they are the ones who tore us apart a second time. Loneliness gets the better of me, I know it – I’m starting to hate them as I hate Targent for what they did to us. I know the Laytons are not half as much responsible as them, but I cannot stop myself from letting this hate in. This is the only thing that keeps me going, along with my studies.

It seems my plan is working anyway. Everything's fading away – the joy, the smiles, the laughs, the times we’d spend together. The only things that matters is hate. I know it’s not normal for a 12-year-old boy to be subjected to this atrocious feeling, but have our lives ever been normal?

One day I’ll get a grip on myself, I promise you. And this one day I shall contact the Laytons again – to finally understand, and to keep an eye on you, as I know I should.

 

Hershel

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Theo,

 

Time keeps on passing by. In a few months, it will be four years since we parted – can you believe it? Would you believe it, if I only gave you the chance to remember it? I feel guilty about not writing anymore. The truth is I got tired of repeatedly recounting our life story, so I just gave up, you might say. However, now, everything’s changed for me, and I need to “tell you”.

 

Last month, a family visited the village. They wished to adopt one child, but their attempts all failed. Of course, they’d heard about me being left all alone. They couldn’t believe I had been almost living on my own for three years: it was the perfect opportunity for them!

Soon, they came to our home, and I immediately felt safe in their company. The Sycamores are so kind, they truly are gentle souls. They remind me of our real parents as well as yours. Even if I still blame the Laytons, one must assume they couldn’t harm anyone. I’m sure you would feel the same as me if you saw them.

We talked a lot the day I met the Sycamores – they were impressed by my intelligence at such a young age.

I immediately told them about everything that had happened to us: how we were happy during the first nine years of my life, how much Father loved archaeology, how this passion of his caused his fall and the end of our peace. I couldn’t help but cry when I mentioned every little detail of our parents’ kidnapping. There were soft tears, but tears none the less. It’s been so long since I last cried – I felt better when it was over. Lighter. Maybe even freer? I knew I would leave this fateful house and finally spend time with new people, people who would look after me no matter what. People who would never disappear. It was time for me to let it all go and move on – I had been suffering enough here.

 

For two weeks now I’ve been living at the Sycamores’ house. I still have to adjust to this new life, but I feel better. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so well. I’m not far from London – I could come and visit you one day. Maybe I will, but let’s not hasten anything.

By the way, I changed my mind. Moving out helped me see things differently: I now know that I will send a letter to the Laytons. A real letter. Then, time will tell whether I can arrange a meeting with you or not.

Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to the days to come. Even the air seems lighter; the sun, brighter. No more two-years breaks between my letters, I swear to you. I’ll write down everything I can so I’ll be prepared to show you all of this when we’ll meet again.

 

Hershel

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Theodore,

 

There’s something that’s been bothering me in my letters. All the time, I speak about remembrance, but did you really forget me? My pride prevents me from asking the Laytons. I’m too scared to send them a letter – too scared of what they might say. Too scared to learn that you’re suffering an immense pain. I can’t begin to imagine the helplessness you’d be feeling if my fears were justified. I couldn’t bear to know you all alone out there in London: I would leave everything behind to get you back. I’m sure the Sycamores would understand my decision.

And what if they were to admit that you don’t remember anything about me? What would I do then? Either way, it would hurt so much! I cannot fathom why I’d be the only one to suffer, but I’m way too selfless: if forgetting me is the key to allow you to live a magnificent life, then so be it.

 

I’m pathetic, wouldn’t you say? I keep on changing my mind. Three months ago, I told you I would write to your parents for sure, and now, I’m too scared to do so. I must take a decision, for better or for worse. I can’t go on this way, or I’ll be torturing myself again. This mustn’t happen. The memories of our childhood together are still fading away, and though I miss you, I’m accepting our new lives. I couldn’t stay in denial all my life. I don’t want to be faced with the horrible pain I’ve been through four years ago anymore – not again!

Four years ago”… These words are difficult to write, despite everything I’m saying. They show a reality I don’t want to acknowledge. I doubt your mind would allow you to remember it, but we’re in January: today, it’s been exactly four years since our parents left us. Four years since they’ve been taken away from us – or us, taken away from them. I cannot say.

 

I believe now is the time for me to enjoy my new life with the Sycamores. We’re still getting to know each other but talking with them seems decisive in easing my pain. They can see it in my eyes every time I mention your name – the eyes cannot lie. They have something in mind for me, something that should be able to help me for good. I wonder what it will be. This time, maybe, I’ll be able to move on once and for all.

In the meantime, I’m going to go out and discover the village for the first time, with them. “You mustn’t stay locked inside your room, studying all day”, Mrs. Sycamore said. I believe she may be right, after all.

 

Your brother, Hershel

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Theodore,

 

I’m officially starting a new life, and I can already feel that everything’s changing. This time, I’m finally breaking free from the chains of my past – our past. I’m sorry to let you down this way, but there’s nothing else I could do. I have reminisced enough, now I will keep on moving on.

 

In my last letter, I told you that the Sycamores had something in mind for me, and I couldn’t imagine what it was. Well, I can’t say I could have expected it – it was so sudden, so unpredictable.

One evening, Mrs. Sycamore showed up in my room, and suddenly told me, with a worried look written all over her face: “I have something really important to ask you about, Hershel.”

Impatient and curious, I nodded silently.

A moment later, the words she said hit me with such violence, I don’t think I could ever forget them.

 

“We talked a lot about this with my husband, and we think it’s high time for you to let everything behind you. This awful life, the pain, the loneliness, everything. All of this is related to your family, to your history with the people who disappeared all those years ago. Hershel, you need to take on a new name.”

 

When she was finally done talking, I was torn between two distinct feelings – anger, and relief.

Anger, because her words felt so cold, it seemed that she didn’t have the least concern for what I had been through. Whatever could I reply to that? Did she even expect me to say something, other than “yes, I will”? I was at a loss for words.

I also felt relief, as she acknowledged that all the pain I was feeling was related to my accursed past. Just then, I saw it: her eyes were sparkling with something I hadn’t seen before. It was hope, but also sadness. Deep down, she knew that this decision was mine alone to take and wasn’t to be taken lightly. Although she tried to hide it, I noticed her hands shaking – she was afraid I could refuse, and maybe leave them behind.

 

I kept silent for a long time, staring at my bed in confusion. I couldn’t find the courage to look up. It was then that, in a faint voice, she added something – something decisive.

“We know this is nothing but a name, and it doesn’t remove all you’ve been through, but maybe starting out a new life will finally allow you to be happy. I can let you choose this new name, if you want to.”

I suddenly realized everything. There was no other way out for me: I had to start over, no matter the consequences. With this proposition, the Sycamores showed yet again their true nature: they were such gentle, caring souls, and they would do everything in their power to make me smile.

I suddenly remembered a name I’d always loved, an Irish name – a rare and unique one, which fitted perfectly my life.

 

There was so much I wanted to say to Mrs. Sycamore, but I could only reply one thing while firmly looking at her.

“From now on, I will be called Desmond Sycamore.”

 

That night, I relived everything – I couldn’t wipe off this sensation of déjà-vu I was feeling.

I remembered that moment clear as day: you were being taken away from me, while the Laytons were already calling you ‘Hershel’ as if this was your true name.

I remembered your silence – you were conceding, as if you wanted to keep the promise you’d made to me.

In the end, I believe that the possibility of taking on the name of your older brother didn’t bother you at all, because somehow, it would make you believe I was still here with you. Yes… that may be the truth, after all.

 

There aren’t two ‘Hershels’ anymore. There’s just you, the fake Hershel, and me, the new Hershel – Desmond Sycamore. It’s almost been one month, now, and I must say that I’m proud of the choice I made that day. 

 

Your brother, Desmond