That's his name, isn't it? It sounds familiar. He's heard it before but his mind is blank and everything he's ever experienced seems to be erased. There isn't any holidays he can remember, let alone family attached to them. There isn't any celebrations he's remembered attending to. He doesn't remember siblings or parents or even how it feels to walk on the beach just before the sun sets. He doesn't remember the taste of food he's eaten or how warm the sun is on a Sunday afternoon, he doesn't remember names or people or places. Just titles and words that don't make sense.
What day is it? He asks himself, and he's trying to recall it, but he can't think with the girl hovering over him saying a name over and over again. Dmitri. His name, not a name. Who was she? She has light hair and bright blue eyes and pale skin, he's reaching a hand up to stroke her cheek and he realizes that they're very similar in colour. His hand is just a few shades lighter than hers. His matches snow, hers matches the colour of the sand on a beach. A beach, one he's been to as a child once...where was it?
He can see the smile spread across her face and it seems familiar, and he wishes she would keep smiling like that because he can feel it on the tip of his tongue why it's so familiar but she's composing her features again and helping him sit up right. He hadn't realized he'd been laying down, he should be paying attention to his surroundings more than just a girl. She asks him if he's alright and he nods and she walks away, over to a horse where a tall brunette woman is standing. She has a black cloak on, and the hood drops down to her shoulders and the two are talking quietly to each other, they're leaning close to each other and there isn't any space between the two.
He feels as if he's intruding in on something, and turns away from them and takes in his surroundings. They're out in the woods and it's winter time, snow covering every inch possible and the leaves missing from the bare branches above them. He's sitting in the snow still, and his chest hurts but he doesn't appear to be bleeding at all. It's still the middle of day, and the sun is just barely starting to set. It reminds him of something he knows, something he shouldn't. Something to be kept secret and not to tell anyone in the world about, but he can't quite remember it.
"Where are we?" He asks, forcing himself to stand up from the ground. His legs are sore and he's tripping over his own feet and has to lean up against one of the trees nearby. The two girls break their quiet conversation and look over at him, the dark haired girl's eyebrows are raised, not in confusion, but in worry.
"You don't remember?" The blonde asks, taking a small, tentative step forward. He looks from her to the ground and shakes his head. He can see out of the corner of her eyes that her shoulders slump as if she feels defeated. The brunette joins her side, and he can see enough from where he's looking that she's reaching to her, trying to pull her closer but doesn't. The brunette speaks this time, her voice low as if she might give away their location. "You really shouldn't have, Dmitri."
"Shouldn't have what?" He questions. Is Dmitri really his name? It doesn't seem like his name, it doesn't seem to fit him. It feels...off.
"Stepped in front of me." The blonde says quietly. He raises his head to look at them and curiosity crosses his face. He remembers something, something hitting him square in the chest. Hard, like he was being forced back a great distance. It's hardly flashes, though, just someone pushing him, a hard, sharp hit to his head when he landed finally and then...
"We were attacked, weren't we?" He asks. The blonde nods and a small hopeful expression crosses her face but quickly vanishes when the brunette looks down at her. "Who attacked us? Why?"
"It was the prince." The blonde says.
He knows the face, hardly. He knows the word better, the person as a whole. He's gone from Kingdom to Kingdom, village to village to find a wife suitable for him but no one seems to fit, or they refuse him immediately. It's almost upsetting, to think someone cared so greatly just to be loved, but he feels something hit him in the gut at the thought. The prince doesn't care if he's loved. He just wants a wife so that he can have proper power over the kingdom.
"He wants to marry you?" It's, really, the only conclusion that makes sense. The two don't show any sign of change though and he doesn't really care. "Why are you two running from him?"
"Because he wishes to make Mary his wife." The dark haired girl says, and the girl beside her, Mary, he supposes, flinches a little bit at the sudden volume. "And she doesn't love him."
"Love never really has anything to do with marriage for the royalty."
"Which is why we are running." Mary says quietly. "Juliette, she said that we'd be safe with you, that you'd protect us, was she wrong?"
"Who's Juliette?" The name is familiar, as everything else is, but this time he gets a sharp feeling of sadness wash over him and he feels as if he has to pull himself out of it before he starts to drown
"Your sister." The brunette said, she has the same worried expression again and Dmitri remembers her. He's trying to attach bits of floating, nonsense memory to her, but he can't quite think of one. She has dirty blonde hair, like himself, and pale skin that matches his. She doesn't smile very much, and he hardly remembers anything besides for her finding him in the middle of the night, crying and begging him to help two lost girls. Were the two lost girls these two?
"Juliette." He says quietly to himself more than to the girls.
"You remember?" Mary asks, he nods slightly, but it's a lie. He remembers her face just barely. He remembers her personality, but only parts. He doesn't remember anything about the two of them, their relationship or their birthdays or her suitors. He remembers leaving her though, and he remembers her crying in his arms and asking him for help countless times, he remembers and old book she kept hidden in her floor boards but he doesn't remember the contents but he remembers a fight between the two of them that ended with him getting drunk at a tavern.
"We can carry on without you, Dmitri, you've done enough." The brunette says, and she doesn't wait for him to reply, she simply turns towards Mary and pulls her hood up to cover her face and helps her onto one of the horses beside them. He stands quietly, leaning against the tree and watching the snow slip through the bare branches and fall to the ground slowly. He only looks up when a horse stops in front of him and the brunette is looking down at him, her hair is tied up in a more proper way, pulled back away from her face and she has a stern expression on.
He remembers it, the expression mostly.
He remembers when they first started to leave and he wasn't quite sure he wanted to get himself into this mess, whatever it may be, he had sat down on a bench beside the stables and watched as she got her gear ready and her clothes packed. She didn't try to convince him, she didn't guilt trip him, she was just angry without a reason. He doesn't know why or how, but he remembers that meaningless anger. She wore it all the time. And something about that meaningless anger and the innocent expression on Mary's face had gotten him off the bench and tying his luggage down.
"Alys?" He questions, his voice is quiet and wavering like he isn't sure if it is quite correct. Her face softens a little bit and she nods. "Why is she so important to you?"
"What do you mean?"
"It seems as if, somehow, she is the most important thing to you. You'd become a traitor to the kingdom and the prince and risk being executed just to be with her and keep her safe. Why?"
Alys is quiet for a moment. She doesn't look directly at him, but instead forward to Mary on her horse, leaning forward and whispering quietly, probably to herself, but to the horse just to feel less alone in the cold forest. She doesn't speak until she's chosen her words carefully, hand picked them as if they were the last thing she'd ever say. "She is my princess, Dmitri."
He's aware, painfully aware, that Mary is an actual princess. But there's more behind Alys's words. She hadn't said them as a maid or a servant. She said them as if she was the princess talking about her husband or if she was a prince heading off into the forest to save someone despite her father telling her not to. Mary wasn't just a princess or someone that gave Alys work. She was much more than that.
"Is that why you feel the need to protect her?" He asks, and he wonders if Alys will ever outright say what Mary means to her or if it will take years. He wonders if he'll remember on his own what they mean to each other, and he wonders if he'll ever mean that way to someone or if someone will ever mean that way to him.
Alys laughs quietly and looks towards him. He had expected her to be still smiling, the happiness lingering over her features, but she's not. She's frowning and she's close to tears. She doesn't say anything, but he can tell that she wants to. Perhaps there is just too many things to say? There isn't one thing to pick out, one thing to describe why Alys is risking her life when she could just be an innocent servant staying in the castle, waiting for Mary to be found in the forest and be brought back and forced into a marriage with the prince.
"I'll go with you." He says abruptly, and Alys raises her eyebrows and watches him, watches him look at Mary. He can't explain why he wants to go with these two, if he feels protective of the two of them or just protective of what they have together. Maybe he's just jealous and wants to help them to find what they have with someone else? Maybe it's just his curiosity? Perhaps it might even be because Dmitri has nowhere else to go, and couldn't hope to find somewhere to go.
"Why?" She replies, and suspicion is crossing her features. It's sneaky, though, and if he hadn't been watching her, if something deep inside of him hadn't been watching out for the subtle changes, he wouldn't have noticed.
More importantly, he doesn't know why the question shocks him so much. Maybe before all this they each hated each other and he was only there for his sister's purpose. But if that was the case, why hadn't his sister stepped in instead? Maybe there was a reason why he was here instead of her. Maybe, in the end, he was only here because Juliette couldn't be.
Or, perhaps, the three had loved each other. Maybe he cared for them and they were considered more than acquaintances, maybe even friends or allies. Maybe, in the end, they all were doing this for the other. Or maybe he was just a stranger to them, like they were to him now. So, why, why would Dmitri ever want to go with these two girls running from a prince and could possibly get him killed?
"Because I have to protect royalty." He says finally. A small smile spreads across Alys's face and something about it reminds him that it's fake, scratched on the surface and only put up for show. But he can't tell, because it reaches her eyes and she looks away to Mary who's still leaning forward, but the small whispers have stopped.
"Get on your horse, Dmitri. When we stop to make camp I might tell you something about the three of us."
And so he does. He walks to the dark brown horse standing beside one of the trees and hauls himself up, looking over at the two who seem worried but happy at the same time. He doesn't realize it, not at first, because he's in the front of the line that they've made, but when he glances behind him every so often, he can see Alys watching Mary, and sometimes he see's Mary watching Alys with the same smile.
It's the type of smile that reminds him of love. Unbreakable love. Love shared between two people who are used to keeping it hidden and locked up. He knows, more than anything else, when he looks back and see's their hands closing the gap between the two horses and they're barely holding onto each other, like they're falling away from one another, that whatever they are running from, for whatever reason, he knows that they won't leave each other.