-Dedicated to the lovely N.H Moonshadow.
Disclaimer: I do not own Assassin's Creed.
Well...this isn't what Desmond had imagined his Saturday to be like.
Desmond gripped the door panel, using it as leverage to leap over the stairway banister and land on the connecting stone floor. He grunted at the rough landing before ducking down behind a pillar, steadying his heart and straining his ears for any following footsteps. Silences answered him for a good moment, making the former bartender sag slowly but not relax completely.
From what he saw, two guards were stationed right outside the castle gate's main doors, which was a clear, 'let's-not-go-through-there' in his book. Luckily, they weren't his only option for escape. If anything, the various windows were his ticket out of the place. With their sills stable for heavy weight and being so high up on the mountain, that route eliminated both fear of being sighted and potential confrontation. All he needed to do was reach the other side of the room and he was home clear (in a manner of speaking.) Desmond lowered himself closer to the floor, huddling against the balustrade as a robed man scurried down the stairs and past him with an armful of scrolls.
Okay... the coast was probably clea-
Desmond jumped back with a yelp as a knife embedded itself cleanly in the wall by his head. A streak of white-'Oh, come on! When did he have time to put on something and find me at the same time?!'-flashed from his right before Desmond cursed and made to dash through the hall; just narrowly escaping another projectile that joined the first in his path. The narrow halls of Masyaf were the last places he wanted to run through, but there was no way in hell he was going to run across open area with a pissed off assassin on his heels.
He knocked down a wooden chair right as he passed a corner, mouth quirking up briefly when he heard the sound of splintered wood as well as grunts and curses from his pursuer.
Hey, it felt good to know that he could 1-up Altair Ibn'La Ahad just a little.
If Desmond were to pinpoint the exact moment where his series of (un)fortunate events began, it would probably be the moment Rebecca asked for a drink.
And being caught up in their moment of merry, Desmond hadn't hesitated to oblige (despite the three that she had consumed quite a few just earlier.)
"Comin' right up!"
Such a thing wasn't an uncommon occurrence of course. With Templars to worry about and the whole saving-the-world deal, enjoying some down time (which, consisted of getting drunk and conversation) was played with in valued moderation. Though Shaun, Rebecca, and Lucy didn't drink much, they liked the concoctions that Desmond managed to mix on the spot with their sparse selection of booze. ("Like magic!" Rebecca had cheered with Shaun raising his glass in agreement.) As such, they didn't hesitate to ask their own private bartender for a glass (or five) in their makeshift bar. (Not that Desmond minded of course. Practicing the motions of his life Before-Abstergo was a welcome calm upon his mind.)
As such, the 'morning after' phase of the modern assassins' ritual was an expected and norm occurrence for a night of excessive drinking. Someone would be found in another person's bed (most likely with said passed out owner of the room), another would probably be out cold on the couch, or unconscious on the Animus 2.0 (for whatever reason.) If by some chance that they were conscious and up and about, the said party would usually be found heaving in the nearest bathroom of the immediate area.
So when Desmond woke up the following morning, he wasn't too surprised to wake up in an unfamiliar setting. He barely paid any mind to it, blinking the crust out of his eyes and instead focusing on his misery of having the all-too-familiar pounding of a hangover in his head. Instinctively, he reached his arm to his left, feeling for the bottle of Tylenol usually on his bedside table, but groaning in displeasure when he felt nothing and remembered that he was most likely in someone else's room and they probably didn't keep painkillers nearby like he did.
'Whose is it this time? I really, really hope it isn't Shaun's…' The last time he'd drunkenly made his way to Shaun's personal quarters (and passed out in the Brit's closet) he'd woken to… less than PG-rated content. At the thought, Desmond inwardly cringed; trying to scrub (and failing) the memory from his mind.
He really…didn't need to know how, ah… 'affectionate' Rebecca was with her on and off again significant other's personal quarters.
Or that she was feisty in the morning.
'Doesn't seem like Shaun's room though.' Desmond thought gratefully, blearily rubbing his eyes. When he attempted to lift his head to see whose room he was in, he stifled a groan when all that came of it was another sharp jab of pain into his already addled head. Well, it was still too dark to identify whatever room he was in anyways, Desmond reasoned, letting his head fall back on the pillow. From what he could see, there were just the barest hints of sunlight peeking from the curtains of the window, which Desmond was immensely grateful for. He yawned tiredly and stretched out, twitching in slight surprise when something squeezed around his torso-something warm and long that tightened its grip on him when he gave an experimental wiggle.
'Ah... Probably Lucy.' Desmond thought absentmindedly, adjusting himself to better accommodate her body. He must be in Lucy's room then. In the corner of his mind, he did realize that he was in a rather intimate position with her and that he should have been embarrassed by their position, but that was defeated by the knowledge that the modern assassins had more than once already been victims of such closeness; whether it be by drunken mistake or careless exhaustion when they'd just drop by the nearest body wanting rest and the comfort of knowing that someone was there.
At first, Desmond had not been used to it. As a youth, the only touches of affection he received at The Farm was from his mother and even then, those times were few and far in between. The first time Rebecca had plopped down and leaned against him, Desmond had been immensely uncomfortable-stiffening instantly and unsure of what to do as she did so. Even a clasp to the arm from Shaun or even a nudge from Lucy had him inexplicably tensing. However, that phase had only lasted so long and the next thing he knew, he found himself looking forward to them; greedily savoring the contact.
If the others had noticed the eagerness in the gestures of their newest member, they did not make a word of it.
They were all in it together, after all.
'Weird that she's with me though...' Desmond thought distractedly, blowing on a strand of hair from the weight-'Lucy's head'-on his chest. Her head was partially covered by the course blanket ('Jeez, she's gotta get this thing washed or something. Smells really off…' Desmond wrinkled his nose.) allowing just some of her hair to just barely brush his face. Memory of Lucy and a certain raven haired woman laughing and play-fighting on the couch came to mind. 'Didn't she pass out with Rebecca...?'
A disgruntled grunt was awarded to him for his continued shifting and Desmond blinked when he felt something prod at his thigh. 'Her cellphone?' Huh, it must've been uncomfortable for Lucy to sleep with it pressed against her like that. Desmond shifted again to get the pressure of the cell phone off of him when Lucy grunted again, which made Desmond freeze suddenly when he realized something very, very off.
Since when did Lucy sound so…manly?
Feeling instantly more awake and alert, Desmond surveyed the area around him frantically. He was starting to doubt that it was Lucy on him. He was so sure that this wasn't Shaun's room and really, it couldn't be as he took in the stone countenance and solid decorations gracing the wa-
Desmond's eyes widened. 'Wait, STONE?' The Hideout was all wood and cements— not stone bricks like these. A shift on his chest made Desmond's breath hitch as he stared at the snoozing unknown person.
If it wasn't Lucy curled around him...then who...?
With a hand shaking towards the blanket and a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach, Desmond grasped the edge, and pulled.
'Oh my shit.'
Desmond knew that he should have been cautious-terrified, more like it- when he saw a both familiar and familiar face instead of Lucy. His first instinct was to find an exit and just get the fuck outta dodge ('I'll jump out the goddamn window if I have to!') before his 'guest' could respond. However, after overcoming the mortification of coming face to face with a groggy (and progressively waking Syrian master assassin in the man's own bed, the only thing really flying through Desmond's head was the hope that whatever was poking him in the thigh was not what he thought it was.
(Idly, Desmond realized that this was honestly as close as waking up hitched in Vegas that Desmond was ever going to get, but at least there wasn't an ugly ass ring on his finger.)
'Oh, ok.' Desmond thought, when those amber eyes widened suddenly and the body that had been previously curled around him sprung to a more hostile stance above him with the said pointy thing moved to his throat. 'Not what I think it is.' The former bartender swallowed nervously, his Adam's apple bobbing and just grazing the dagger's pointed tip. 'I can work with that.'
And what happened next was just pure instinct (or pure idiocy.)
Before Altair could even get a word in, (most likely to demand what the hell this look-alike was doing in his bed) Desmond hand had already reach up-the heel of his hand striking Altair's nose with enough force to make the man recoil back with a shout but not without making the knife draw a shallow line just below Desmond's Adams apple. Flight instinct acting along with the adrenaline coursing through his veins, Desmond moved to roll away from Altair and make for the door-
-only to have his knee accidentally slam Altair 'below the belt' in his haste.
Desmond just had about enough time to snag a robe off the ground in his retreat, cringing all the while at the sound of Altair's strangled choke.
And that was how he landed in his current predicament; running through a fortress with a pissed off assassin on his heels.
Meanwhile, Malik was confused.
Very rarely was he ever confused and in the times that he were, it was either because he was under extreme duress and couldn't think straight or when things were spun so widely out of control that he could barely keep up with it all. As a result, the terms, 'confusion' and 'stress' were basically synonymous with each other in Malik's mind. Those times of sheer confusion/stress, however, were few and far in between-a thing which Malik was extremely grateful for lest he risk balding far earlier than he biologically should.
But then again, this was something that he couldn't really ever escape from (the stress that is, not the balding.) After all, his best friend and brother in everything but blood was Altair and if there was anything Malik knew as fact in the world (from just sheer pattern) was that anything that had to do with Altair absolutely led to stress on his behalf. Suffice to say, 'Altair' and 'stress' went hand in hand just as 'confusion' and 'stress' did.
So, when Malik saw Altair the following morning, he was...confused; but not stressed.
He was confused in the purest sense of the word; confused in the 'what-the-hell-are-you-doing-you-look-ridiculous' sort of way.
And that was a first.
But then again, seeing Altair running down the halls of Masyaf's living quarters half naked just moments before sunrise was also a first.
Desmond froze, body going stiff at the voice from behind. This was not happening. Of all the people to be up at this hour, why did it have to be the one person that knew Altair like the back of his hand?!
"You... are up far earlier than usual."
Indeed, Malik was standing by the doorway, clothed formally in his usual black and white robes of a bureau leader. One arm was grasping the edge of the doorframe while the other was pulled up towards his face, rubbing the lingering sleep from his eyes. It was odd seeing Malik with both arms still intact and Desmond ignored the sour taste in his mouth when he realized just where in the timeline of Altair's life he was in. He didn't realize that he was staring until Malik made to yawn; one hand coming up to cup his mouth. His voice was somewhat slurred and Desmond relaxed just slightly in relief when he realized that in his sleepy haze and the slight shadows that still plagued the waking morning, Malik didn't seem notice the differences between him and Altair-yet.
Well, Desmond had never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth (anymore, at least.)
"A-Ah," Desmond coughed, wracking his brain frantically to figure out the most buyable Altair-like response that would fool Malik and let him get away ASAP without raising too much suspicion. He doubted that Altair would find him before long. "Uh...Al...Mualim requested my presence immediately."
Malik raised an eyebrow, detecting the hesitance in the reply but ignoring it in favor of giving 'Altair' a half-laughing-half-incredulous onceover. From the sloppy way that 'Altair's' white assassins' uniform was thrown on haphazardly and the fact that he was barefoot, verified that 'Altair' had just woken up, but it was almost out of character for 'Altair' to choose to rush out at in that state just to see their leader. "In such a state of undress?"
Desmond feigned disinterest. Well, at this time, Altair was an asshole...
Doing his best 'better-than-though' expression despite Malik not being able to see it, Desmond sneered, striking his body in an uncaring and deliberate posture. "He requested haste-and what I do is of my own business, Malik. Now if you'll excuse me," Something crashed a floor above making Malik startle and signaling that Desmond's was running out. "I have more important things to do than play 20 questions."
At Malik's surprised expression, Desmond took it has a good sign to leave and quickly dashed away. In his haste, he missed Malik puzzled murmur of, "20 questions?"
After many minutes of thinking and mulling over every possibility of how this whole thing even happened in the first place, the only thing that Desmond could logically conclude was that frankly, he had gone crazy.
Either that, or his bed was the entrance to some sort of time-traveling portal-but for the sake of his sanity (or lack of thereof) he was honestly leaning towards the former. Assuming, however, that he couldn't find a cure for insanity to get him back to his timeline, the only option really was to test his second hypothesis-which, basically meant going back to the scene of the crime.
Which…had been the 'exit' point of his...time traveling portal bed... theory thing.
Oh god, it sounded stupid even in his head.
'I'm not gonna make it out alive, am I?' The only thing keeping him from banging his head against the wall repeatedly was the risk of discovery from any of his dismayed groans.
Either way, he was stuck between a wall and a hard place. While earlier he had been keen on escaping Masyaf's castle, further musing had only made Desmond realize that perhaps it wasn't the best idea. If he did make it outside Masyaf, what could he do? Blend in with the crowd? Blend in with current society? Both were impossible considering that he didn't have anything of monetary value to barter with to survive and even if he did have means to survive, what then?
And what if...somehow being in the Altair's time messed with stuff-like create some of those paradoxes that Shaun had gone off on a tangent about that one time?
"Theoretically speaking…" Shaun's voice rang in his ears, "in regards to time travel and paradoxes, remember the Number One rule, Desmond; don't do anything. Don't even touch anything. You start messing with the past, and bad things happen." Shaun had spared Desmond a serious look before letting up and waving his hand dismissively. "Given, things like time travel will never happen in the first place, but if you're really so interested in it, just know that Butterfly Effects do tend to happen."
Assuming he hadn't caused any severe timeline altering effects already, he needed to get back to his time, now.
'So much easier said than done.' Desmond grimaced. His best bet was to return to the scene of the crime and investigate for any lingering evidence of what had occurred. Maybe there had been something left behind that was the reason for his sudden appearance. At the very least, whatever he could (hopefully) find would point him in the right direction.
Desmond kept his head down and pulled the hood of the stolen robe down further to hide his face as he navigated the floor. (Luckily, he had managed to snag more articles of clothing from empty rooms so he didn't look like an idiot walking around half dressed.) Already, Masyaf was waking, and that would only make getting around unnoticed even harder. 'But so long as I don't run into Malik or anyone else that Altair knows, I should be sa-'
'Speak of the devil.'
Sighing, Desmond turned around to address the person, a refute on the tip of his tongue-when he promptly faltered.
Indeed, the bright eyed initiate was before him, grinning and gazing reverently at his 'role model.' He was the near splitting image of Malik now that his face was clearly displayed without the Assassin's customary hood. The only difference that Desmond could see was that where there were traces of stress lines on Malik's face, the younger Al-Sayf sibling had laugh lines and an overall more relaxed expression than his elder brother usually wore.
"Altair! You are still assisting in today's training, yes?" Kardar asked hopefully, oblivious to the almost stricken look he was receiving. "We overheard of your argument with Al Mualim yesterday and know that you declined but I hope that you will reconsider taking over today's training? It would be an honor to learn under your teachings since our usual instructor has been sent on a mission!"
Desmond blinked. He wanted to decline-no, he needed to decline but Kadar was looking at him so earnestly and-
Altair/Desmond turned at the new voice and saw Malik standing unsteadily clutching at his ruined arm. The master assassin noticed that his eyes looked red rimmed and just the way he stood-legs shaking and his frame lopsided; wavering-made him look so terribly, terribly, alone.
Desmond opened his mouth, paused, before snapping his mouth shut with a resigned sigh.
"I'm not going to train you in the middle of the castle. Get to the training grounds."
Altair was running around Masyaf castle looking for him. Surely, the man would never think of finding him in the training grounds surrounded by other assassins! It was like hiding in plain sight!
And… a half hour of appeasing Kadar wouldn't hurt, right?
Altair activated his Eagle Vision again, frowning over the heads of the dining area from the balcony above. There was no sign of the intruder in this area either… With an annoyed sigh, Altair swiftly left the balcony to head to the lesser mess areas.
Down below, the few novices that had noticed Altair wondered and murmured to each other why their Leader's favored assassin carried such a severe demeanor today. (Well, more than usual.)
"Maybe a failed mission?" One whispered to the other. In response, some other initiates snorted-voicing their disagreement.
"Failed a mission? Preposterous!"
"I would never believe it!"
"Perhaps scorn from Al Mualim?" Another suggested to her comrades conspiratorially. "There was rumor of an upset between them…"
"Kadar!" One novice greeted when she saw the Al-Sayf sibling approach them with an ecstatic expression on his face. "Good morning! What has you in such good spirits?"
"Altair has agreed to take over for Alim today!" Kadar replied excitedly, surprising the other assassins before trotting away while calling over his shoulder, "He said to gather in the training grounds!"
"He actually agreed?" One murmured in surprise. A second of wonderment passed through the group of initiates before there was a an excitement of motion as they all sprung to follow Kadar. While true they did fear the master assassin, they were not about to give up the chance to learn from him.
While Altair knew it was best to alert Al Mualim of an intruder in the castle, the Syrian was reluctant to. He blamed it on his pride. The fact that the imposter had been able to get near him like that in the first place was already concerning to him and he didn't need the added humiliation of having inferior awareness. Altair had never been a heavy sleeper. How in the world the man had materialized in his bed was beyond him. (Altair's face burned at the mere thought.)
Either way, Altair was losing hope in finding the intruder. If he were smart, he would be long gone by now. Still, he made a note to investigate the matter.
As it turned out, a lot could happen in half an hour.
At first it wasn't so bad. Thanks to the Animus, it hadn't been hard to train the eager men and women loitering around the training corral. His body knew what to do before his brain could register and Desmond relied on the reservoirs of memory of those past lives. Most of his time was spent circling his 'pupil' like he had done in the animus with Altair's 'trainer' and demonstrating blocks, lunges, and a personal favorite that he had learned as Ezio; throwing sand as a stun. ( A jerk move, sure, but the surprised sputtering of his student's face when he did just that was simply hilarious.)
Kadar, Desmond noticed, seemed to be immensely enjoying training. Desmond caught the younger man more than once leaning into the ring, eyes keenly watching the sparring matches and nodding his head to himself as he observed. In Altair's memories, Desmond had never seen Kadar fight, but in their sparring, the former bartender had to admit, Malik's younger brother was surprisingly forceful which did not belie his eagerness to learn.
The cycle continued like that with his students taking turns in the ring once each had successfully demonstrated the said techniques. If Desmond had to admit it, training them was actually...kind of fun. (He absently wondered that if-when-he got back home, Lucy, Shaun, or Rebecca would be willing to spar.)
One moment Desmond was thrown back by his student's block, and the next, there was a shout that made heads turn to see an ecstatic man running through the training grounds, making a beeline to one assassin waiting for his turn by the corral.
The man, Desmond later learned, was Na'im (1)-a scholar according to the white with red markings of his djellaba.
"His wife who lives in Damascus was full with his child until yesterday." Kadar explained solemnly to those curious, frowning as he struggled to follow along with the near incoherent quick fire of words from Na'im. "He had arrived here yesterday evening to say that she had miscarried but…"
"But he lives!" Na'im interrupted, the wide smile on his face despite the tears running down his face. He clutched the sleeve of his elder brother-Qadir- for support. (3) "As the sun rose, my son drew breath! My Jauhar! (4)
And Na'im, who had caught the entire ground's attention, laughed joyously.
"We must celebrate, brother!" Quadir exclaimed amongst the cheering and congratulations of their comrades. He caught himself when he noticed 'Altair's' gaze on him and sobered immediately. "Apologies for interrupting the training session, master, but..." The initiate looked to his brother still clutching onto his arm.
Desmond blinked before waving his hands quickly. This was the perfect time to leave, anyways. "No, it is fine. In fact, I, uh, have important matters to attend to." He nodded once at the happy brothers and took his leave, only pausing to give congratulation over his shoulder.
'Now...back to business… '
This was how life should be, Malik thought peacefully. He leaned against the table, sighing contently as he inhaled a cup of warm liquid. Today was to be a calm day, it seemed. Nary had he heard of any major events happening in the lands that they watched over. It was odd like that-as if it were some sort of calm before a storm, but Malik consciously refrained from dwelling on such thoughts. 'Bad luck, and such.'
Perhaps later he would train with Kadar. The boy had gotten quite serious in his training since Malik had introduced him to Altair.
'Not to say that he hasn't been worshipping Altair before that.' Malik didn't mean the thought to be so sour, but he couldn't help but be mildly annoyed by the whole thing. Kadar's eyes had always lit up when Malik mentioned Altair in casual conversation, but it wasn't until Kadar had enlisted into their ways and met the other Syrian did his younger brother begin to-Malik cringed- hero worship Altair.
Malik was not by any means jealous of the attention that Kadar showed to Altair (well, not a lot,) but that was not to say that he was not concerned over said attention. Kadar was different from him. His younger brother was wide-eyed; much too trusting and open hearted. Kadar was not hardened from the world like he was. Having Altair has a role model with such a personality… Malik felt rightfully concerned. After all, Altair… had changed from the man he once knew. 'And not for the better.' Malik grimaced.
As skilful as the man was, he was getting sloppy-underestimating others and worse; violating the tenets of their creed.
If his current streak continued, Malik feared the repercussions.
'And speak of the devil.' Malik cracked an eye open and waved at the quickly passing figure.
"Altair." Malik greeted with a nod of his head.
The figure stopped at his name and after seeing who it was that had greeted him, nodded curtly once.
"Malik." Altair greeted tersely.
"So, I assume that Al Mualim did not give you a mission then if you are still here." Malik hummed, unaware that Altair had already started walking away. "I suppose it truly is a slow day, today."
Altair stopped at that and backtracked until he was at the threshold of the door. "Al Mualim? Had he requested my presence?"
Malik raised an eyebrow quizzically, setting his cup down on the table. "You said so this morning."
Altair frowned. "I never said-"
"Malik!" A familiar voice called from down the halls along with the sound of running footsteps.
The two higher ranked assassins looked up as the person rammed into the open doorway with an excited smile on his face.
"You wouldn't believe it!" Kadar interrupted his brother, grinning widely. "Remember what happened to Na'im yesterday?"
At the mention, Malik's mood shifted to mournful. Yes...the miscarriage. He was quite fond of the scholar that cared for the Masyaf castle libraries and it had hurt to see the normally lighthearted and easy going man so devastated at the news of losing his child so cruelly.
"His son is alive!" Kadar exclaimed, breaking Malik out of his short lived gloom. "Na'im said he breathed again this dawn!"
A short beat of shocked silence passed before Malik smiled. "That is fantastic!. Where is he now?"
"Na'im and Quadir are in the dining hall now celebrating with the others." In that moment, Kadar blinked in surprise when he seemed to finally notice that Altair was in the room, watching from the sidelines curiously-and bowed his head respectfully.
"Thank you again Altair for taking time to take over for our absent instructor."
"Rais, right? I have heard that he would return from Damascus tomorrow morning." Malik mumbled before looking at Altair with a mixture of surprise and amusement. "After your little disagreement with Al Mualim, I would not have expected you to fulfill that order!" The words were meant to be teasing but there was a hint of relief in Malik's tone.
"But...I did not." Altair's brows knit together. Given, he had been more absorbed in tracking the intruder but he had fully intended to skip filling in Rais' post knowing full well that Imad-Rais' unofficial pupil-had eagerly wanted to fill the man's shoes and Altair had already arranged for the man to lead. "I have not even visited the training ring today."
Kadar made a sound of confusion. "But you were there just earlier."
Altair frowned, becoming increasingly perplexed before he remembered what Malik had said minutes ago. Quickly, he spun to face Malik with an urgency that made the other man startle. "Malik! Earlier you said that I had told you that Al Mualim asked for me?"
Malik nodded, mouth pulling back in amusement. "Looking entirely out of your mind, as you did so."
"Malik, I never saw you this morning until now. Nor have I even remotely been near the training grounds."
The other frowned. "Impossible! I just saw you before-"
"And it was not me!" Altair interrupted quickly.
Altair could just see the comprehension dawning in Malik's rapidly widening eyes. "Wait, if you didn't... then who…?" An intruder in the heart of Masyaf was unheard of. it was just simply not possible due to their geographical location and the sheer amount of security of the castle. How an intruder could have made it past all that was nothing short of amazing...and worrying.
'A foreign assassin, perhaps?' Their entire organization had enemies. Malik's gaze flickered to Altair's livid form. 'And considering the choices he has already made, Altair more so.'
Al Mualim would have to be alerted immediately. Wait… did Altair…?
Malik turned to Altair with a growl. "Altair, were you already aware-?!"
"Kadar!" Altair's sudden bark made the younger man snap to attention. "The man who was teaching you-where did he go?!"
"You-he?- went back into the castle." Kadar answered hesitantly, jerking when Altair sprinted away. He regarded Malik questioningly. "Brother, what is going on?"
Malik's eyes narrowed at Altair's retreating back. "I...am not too sure."
"Is there an intruder in the castle? I will alert Al Mualim and-" Kadar stopped at his brother's quick reply.
"Not yet." Against his better judgment, the words just slipped out of his mouth and he quickly reiterated, keeping his voice low. "Let the guards know that there may or may not suspicious activity on the grounds and in the castle. Al Mualim is not to hear of this until we have evidence."
Ironically enough, Al Mualim did hear of it-sort of. Rather, the leader had heard of 'Altair's' surprising willingness to train the less experienced assassins, which the man was usually reluctant to do. The small act did not subvert Al Mualim's ire against the master assassin's borderline insubordinate behavior the last few days, but it was a start. That did not mean Al Mualim was quite done with Altair though.
That is why the moment he caught sight of the said man, he presented 'Altair' with a mission. It was a simple mission that was not unusual for assassins, but it was highly rare for a high ranking assassin to receive an information gathering assignment when it should have been given to a novice. In words, it was a subtle admonishment and snubbing of skill that Al Mualim was sure Altair would catch.
However, the lack of protest made Al Mualim raise an eyebrow. Instead, the boy seemed resigned and left with a respectful nod of his head. Perhaps, Al Mualim thought, Altair was finally learning humility.
'Altair would have been so pissed off.' Desmond thought as he grudgingly walked beside a group of people entering the city of Acre. The meaning of the mission had not been lost on him and Desmond could already imagine the scowl on the Syrian's face had he been the one to actually receive the assignment.
Though Desmond knew that the time he was in was obviously before the incident of Solomon's Temple, it was hard to discern how far off he was from that event. Whenever he was at though, it didn't matter at the moment. He glanced down at the parchment paper that held a simple name that from the prefix, seemed to be someone of high rank-the Captain of Acre's guards, to be exact.
At least it was a simple eavesdropping mission. The faster he got this done, the faster he could go to a local bureau rafiq to report his findings and go home (hopefully.)
'If it's not one thing, then it's another...' Desmond sighed and sat down on a bench with his head down as a guard got particularly too suspicious of him. "Nothing is going my way today…"
Only when the nearby guard turn away did Desmond move, half-consciously making his way to where the barracks stood and where his target was surely on his lunch break. A quick glance with his Eagle Vision confirmed his thoughts when he saw a glint of gold amongst gray. Two men were posted at the entrance and Desmond knew there was little chance he'd be able to get past them.
Perhaps there was a backdoor? Still keeping his head down and mingling with other citizens, Desmond rounded the corner and nearly grinned when he saw a sort of storage room that seemed to connect to the barrack. Quickly, he slipped in and closed the door tight behind him, only to blink at what he saw occupying the room.
"What...is this…?" Around him were barrels upon barrels stacked up neatly on their sides. It reminded him of a brewery of sorts. He vaguely recognized the wood as oak. (5) Was this an alcohol storage room then? (6)
A cart of darker wooden barrels caught his eye further away. Considering how different the barrel was to the others, it must have been an imported item. Curiously, the former bartender pried off a lid of a barrel that was lying right side up next to the cart and sniffed the volume cautiously. It...smelt like alcohol. Curiosity rising and spotting a wooden bowl sitting atop the cart, the former bartender scooped a little to sample-before promptly gagging.
"This is-!" Really the oddest drink he'd ever had in his entire life. Desmond spat any of the flat and strangely flavored liquid still in his mouth the ground. (7) It was obviously alcohol-not alcohol that he was used to, but there was no mistaking the fermented taste. He half-considered destroying the entire contents of the barrels for the sake of his honor as a bartender, (the Bad Weather had very high standards in their drinks after all) but thought better of it. Alcohol, throughout history, had changed phenomenally. It was understandable that the alcohol in this time was...like this.
It didn't mean he had to like it though.
Desmond gave the well of liquid a dubious look.
It wasn't...that bad, he supposed. From the taste, Desmond could identify the earthy flavor of rye as well as hops (which further proved that the beer was imported (8)) but the liquid was just so off. He looked around, noting the scrawl on each barrel that identified its contents. Maybe it could be better with a little mixing of other spirits...
Assassin or not-Desmond was a bartender at heart and alcohol was (and would always be) his first trade.
"So this is the new shipment that came in?"
"Yes, straight from the port."
"German, is it?"
"Indeed! Some of the boys had a taste though and they were less than impressed." A grimace accompanied the lower ranking soldier in charge of nourishment. "Could be spoiled."
"Oh?" The other frowned at the other barrels. "We could sell it at the bazaar to the peasants. Extra coin never hurt..." He murmured but wanting to see for himself, the higher ranked soldier tasted from a half opened barrel and promptly blinked as the liquid pooled at the bottom of his mouth and elicited a rather interesting taste. "It's good."
"Serve it! The previous drinkers must have no taste!" The soldier consumed another generous mouthful, reveling in the unique taste. "And place another order for this while you are at it!"
'Now that I think about it… I don't think I diluted it enough.' Desmond thought as he bid a farewell to Acre's bureau rafiq. He pushed the thought to the back of his mind with a shrug. It wasn't like people in the High Middle Ages had low alcohol tolerance, right?
"There are reports coming in of...odd happenings in Acre."
Al Mualim looked up from his scrolls. "Odd, you say?"
"Yes, master. The entirety of guards and military officials… they seem to be, ah, intoxicated."
It wasn't until much later that Desmond realized that beers of the past were drunk much more diluted than modern beers were.
"It's true! Sibrand is absolutely furious and sending his knights left and right to gather the drunken guards!" Laughs and barely contained giggles erupted from those listening. "It was hilarious!"
Altair barely heard the words as he stalked down the halls, eyes narrowed and darkened to an almost liquid color in his quick scan of the many rooms and quarters of the castle's floor. Beside him, Malik's mouth was set in a firm line, eyebrows creasing in thought.
"You realize...this doesn't make any sense." Malik said. "A smart man would have fled when detected. Why in the world would our 'guest' remain on the premise...and even teach our recruits!" The last part was said with a half-chuckle but did not fail to elicit an annoyed growl from Altair.
"I will force it out of him, I assure you." Altair murmured. He looked to the sides again, hissing in frustration when he did not see any hide or hair of his look-a-like.
"The stir made it easy to slip in and gather the documents that I needed as well! I have many thanks for our brother." The assassin continued to his friend as Altair and Malik came into earshot "In fact-oh! There he is! Altair!"
At the call of his name, Altair instinctively turned around to regard the caller, but strangely, his comrade was not waving in his direction. In fact, his brother-in-arms was waving in the opposite direction-at…
Altair's hackles rose.
Finally, after many obstacles, Desmond was finally near his ancestor's room. 'Hope it wasn't for nothing.' Desmond thought, keeping his rising anxiety in check. He had to make his investigation quick as there was no telling when he'd be interrupted again (as was the trend all day, it seemed.) 'Please let there be something...'
He had just curled his hand around the handle when the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and the daunting feeling of 'I-am-about-to-get-fucked' crept up his spine.
Which, was then proven a second later.
Desmond jerked, eyes going wide when he saw a very irate, very angry assassin charging at him, hidden blade un-sheathed with all the intent of murder.
"O-Oh SHI-!" Adrenaline shooting up his body, Desmond barely made it halfway through the door before something heavy collided against his front, the momentum carrying them both careening towards the floor. Desmond grunted at the fall, but that turned into a choke when air became a limitation with the hand around his throat.
"Who are you?! What were you doing in my room?!" Desmond clawed at the hand that was quickly tightening around his throat. "Who sent you?!"
Behind Altair, Malik yelled at him to control himself while at the same time trying to usher away the few curious and shocked assassins that had witnessed Altair's anger.
"Best loosen your tongue quickly-" Altair hissed, feeling glee streak through him sadistically when the imposter shuddered. "-for I've no qualm in ending your life." He accentuated his point by tightening his grip around the other's neck, making Desmond choke for breath. It wasn't until Desmond's vision started swimming that Altair was suddenly yanked off him by an angry Malik holding onto his shoulder. Desmond was too busy trying to catch his breath to hear the heated admonishments from the Al-Sayf assassin, but what he was able to hear through his desperate intakes for precious, precious air was the sound of approaching footsteps.
Immediately, without even thinking about it, Desmond was quickly incensed to move, catching Altair's and Malik's attention as he squirreled away to hide behind Altair's bed. The two elder assassins didn't have time to question his action when there was the clearing of a throat at the door.
"Master!" Malik and Altair quickly stood, bowing their heads in respect.
Behind the bed, Desmond sank closer to the ground and struggled to quiet his breathing.
The leader of the Levantine assassins raised an eyebrow at the tense atmosphere, immediately noting how tense the younger assassins were. "Did I interrupt something?"
"We were just discussing some private matters." Malik said quickly. Unnoticed to them, he and Altair unconsciously straightened, moving so that their frames blocked a good portion of the Mentor's field of vision. If Al Mualim noticed their unconscious behaviors, he didn't question it.
"Did you require our presence for something, Master?" Altair asked, going straight to the point.
"Actually, no." The elder said, and the lightness of the tone of his voice caught Altair's and Malik's attention/ "I came to praise you for the results of your mission earlier today."
"When you went to Acre." Al Mualim supplied slowly.
Altair grunted when Malik discreetly elbowed him in the ribs. He shot the younger man a weak glare before giving a tight grin. "Ah, yes… That mission."
And surprisingly, Al Mualim began chuckling, an extremely amused expression gracing his aged face.
"While I admit your methods were...unconventional, you provided a wide window for the others to collect information and documents from their main headquarters in the ongoing chaos and confusion. For that, I am pleased."
Altair and Malik feigned geniality only to quickly trade bewildered looks when Al Mualim was not looking, both thinking along the lines of: WHAT THE HELL DID HE DO?
"Ah...thank you for your praise." Altair said weakly.
Al Mualim just chuckled again, nodding contently at the two assassins. "I shall leave you boys to your business, then." The leader turned to leave but not without shaking his head with a small chortle of never having seen so many drunk Templars before in his life.(At that, Malik promptly choked.)
When their leader was finally a safe distance away, Malik and Altair turned to regard their 'guest'-whose chin was propped on the mattress with a rather sheepish expression on his face.
"So...uh… wassa matta you, Altair?"
"So you are telling me...that you are from a far off future."
"And you hypothesize that you have come to this time due to...a space-time rift...created by your bed-to my bed?"
"...You must understand that I find this incredibly hard to believe."
"Uh, yeah. That has crossed my mind."
Altair rubbed the bridge of his nose. "...What do you think Malik?"
Malik let out an honestly amused laugh. "Honestly? I do not believe a word he says." Desmond paled when Altair grinned in a rather feral way at the implications of that. "However," The Syrian visibly deflated. "I do not believe he is lying either. He knows our Creed. He has the skills. The real issue here isn't why or how your, ah, 'descendent'-" Desmond was mildly affronted that Malik stressed the word with quotation marks. "-came to be here, but rather what we are going to do with him."
"I hope 'being kept alive' goes without saying here." Desmond laughed nervously, and put both hands up in surrender at the less than impressed gazes shot at him. "Just a suggestion!"
Altair ignored him in favor of crossing his arms, frowning deeply as he regarded his 'descendent.' While Altair did not sense that the younger man-this, Desmond Miles was lying-the entire situation was just so impossible. (Possibly a matter of 'witchcraft' some would say, but Altair was above that nonsense.)
"I'm not a threat though." Desmond said suddenly. "Um, I mean I'm sorry for impersonating you and all that, but I swear it was all unintentional! Kadar asked for that training thing and you just can't say 'no' to that face. Also, it's not my fault that alcohol in this time was drunk with low ABV."
"'ABV'?" Altair mouthed confusedly while Malik seemed to go into a coughing fit.
"It's hard to doubt his lineage now." Malik grinned. "Troublesomeness seems to be genetic."
Altair ignored him in favor of glaring at Desmond.
"And uh, sorry for kinda… accidentally hitting you below the belt." Desmond swallowed nervously. "That one's on me."
If possible, Altair's glare intensified. Malik erupted into another coughing fit.
"Assuming that what you say is true…" Malik said when he finally recovered. "From my understanding, there is no telling what you have already changed just by being here, as well."
"I'm hoping for the best case scenario." Desmond grinned weakly.
"Whilst how you are here is beyond me…" Altair brought up. "Do you know how you are going back to-wherever you came from?"
"That's, uh, kind of the problem." Desmond quickly explained his thinking about finding clues in the elder Syrian's room. "It was the only thing that I could go off on. Hell, I'm not even entirely sure how I got here in the first place to go backwards from there. For all I know, I'm dreaming-and this whole thing," His arms gestured to his surroundings. "is some elaborate thing my mind made due to the Bleeding Effect."
"I can assure you that what you see here is real." Altair said stonily, but he seemed to almost soften at frustrated and somewhat lost expression that crossed the younger man's face.
"Hopefully a solution can be found." Malik muttered. "If not…"
Desmond stiffened when the assassin's eyes narrowed darkly.
"For now, you will stay put while we search for any information regarding similar occurrences." Altair cut in. "I would rather you not be going around, giving my name more infamy that it already has."
And that was that.
As it turned out, there was no need to find a way to get Desmond back to his own timeline. One moment, Desmond was lying on the spare straw mattress (provided by a starry-eyed Kadar who, after officially meeting Desmond not under the guise of Altair was more than happy to lend) and the next, he was waking to hushed whispers above him and something insistently shaking his shoulder.
Thinking it be Altair (because that guy was an early riser in his memories), Desmond grunted and jerked away from the contact irritably. "G'way. I don' do mornings…." He yawned, sighing into his pillow. Huh, it smelt better now than it had last night… 'Wonder why…"
"What the...is he speaking Arabic?"
Immediately, Desmond froze-eyes snapping open and his body jerked upright with a loud and painful crack!
The cause of such a sound was made apparent by the blooming pain on his forehead and the startled yelp of a certain bespectacled historian.
"Desmond, what in the hell is your problem?!" An accented voice hissed with a pained groan to his left, making Desmond jerk his head towards the direction in disbelief because there, in all his hangover glory, was Shaun-one eye clenched shut in pain as he held his bleeding nose with a hand. "Really, did you have to headbutt me?!"
"Jeez, ya got him good." Desmond jumped at Rebecca's light voice to his right. She was sitting cross-legged on his bed, hands on her knees and peering at him with a mix of concern and amusement on her face. "You alright there, Des? I know we had a lot to drink last night, but remind me to never wake you up the morning after!"
"Here, Shaun." Lucy came into view, a box of Kleenex in hand which Shaun gratefully accepted only after shooting Desmond a withering look.
Desmond could care less at Shaun's open hostility or the pain from his forehead. He could kiss the man if he could, because-as he listened to Shaun and Rebecca bicker about the abolishment of Alcohol Saturdays (maybe to move it to Mondays because fuck Mondays)- all of that had been a dream. Desmond grinned stupidly and laughed just a tad anxiously in relief. Just a silly dream from having too much alcohol...
"Oh yeah, uh, Desmond?" Desmond hummed obligingly at Rebecca's inquiry. "I gotta ask but... why are you dressed like that? This isn't some sort of fetish, is it?"
Desmond's smile slipped.
"Goddammit, Shaun. It isn't a fetish."
"Oh yes. Sure-because your bed being some sort of 'time travel portal' is much more plausible." Shaun huffed with a roll of his eyes.
"Ya think he cracked, Luc'?" Rebecca whispered with just the slightest of tilts of her head to the brunet. "I mean, the consequence of Bleeding Effect does vary from person to person, but…"
"I don't know, 'Becca." Lucy murmured back. "Perhaps we should keep Desmond away from the Animus for today."
"Desmond, do you even realize what you are even saying?" Shaun continued, skeptically. "Just listen to yourself!"
"I know it sounds crazy, but believe me, it happened!" Desmond pressed. "Really!"
"Look, we all sat on your bed, but it didn't send us to the 12th century!" The Brit pointed out.
"But the robe I was wearing!" Desmond refuted insistently, pointing at the aforementioned cloth draped over a nearby chair. "I haven't been out on any shopping excursions for the past week! How could you explain how I woke up with that?!"
Lucy made a noncommittal noise in the back of her throat and frowned in thought. "Desmond...does have a point."
"Oh, don't tell me you believe all this." Shaun asked exasperatedly.
"Well, stranger things have happened." Rebecca offered weakly.
"Yes, but this one takes the cake." Shaun responded dryly before he turned to Desmond pointedly. "Alright, Desmond. Say that we do believe what you are saying. What do you want us to do if your...bed… is basically a time machine?" It seemed like saying such a thing took great physical effort from Shaun if the grimace at the end was anything to go by.
Desmond was quick to answer. "Do we have any gasoline on hand?"
An hour later and several miles safely away from the Hideout, Desmond watched serenely as his mattress and bed frame went up in a tower of flames and smoke.
Behind him, Shaun looked meaningfully at Lucy. "He's not rooming with me."
And like a charm, the solution worked! He slept in 2014 and woke up in 2014...for a while.
Three days later, Desmond woke up to the unpleasant feeling of being kicked off a warm mattress to the cold floor. A familiar, deep grunt answered his surprised yelp and Desmond barely had time to catch his bearings when something soft and blanket-y landed on his face. He sat on the ground, sighing miserably before he paid a quiet 'thanks' to Altair and succumbed to the heaviness of his eyelids.
Desmond decided that he'd freak out tomorrow.
"Good morning, Desmond! I see yer up and…" Lucy trailed off, expression turning sympathetic when she took notice of his disheveled state. "You did the thing, didn't you?"
"How'd ya guess?" Desmond yawned, making a lazy beeline to the bathroom for a shower. He blearily patted his pocket and pulled out something to set on her desk as he passed. "Got ya a scone-ish pastry. Malik says it goes great with jam."
Admittedly, the fact that he could bring home souvenirs was pretty sweet.
The whole thing eventually became routine. It took a while to get used to considering the sporadic nature of Desmond's 'time traveling tendencies'. (Rebecca had later coined it as, 'The Three T's.') All attempts to find a plausible explanation for the phenomena ended in dead ends and as a result, Lucy, Shaun, and Rebecca, just let it be and categorized it as something that just happened (though now and again, Shaun could be seen browsing the old conspiracy websites the he used to frequent).
The matter of the result of his presence being in the past and how it affected the future had been brought up a few times-all of which had been disregarded when it turned out that nothing did change to really alter the course of history.
"Even when I intoxicated half of Acre?"
"You did what?!"
After some discussion and thought, Lucy had finally pegged it as Novikov's self-consistency principle in action.
"Meaning, whatever you did in the past wouldn't really affect how history played out because the universe basically corrected itself in some obscure way."
"So...I didn't and can't change anything?"
"Oh." It was both a relieved and unconsciously disappointed sigh.
Altair and Malik decidedly took his procedural appearance and disappearance quite well all things considered. They still weren't quite sure how and why this even happened in the first place, but like all things, they took it in stride-with the assurance that Desmond stayed put and out of sight.
'Staying put' meant staying inside Malik's Bureau in the day where the elder Al-Sayf kept an eye on him. (Kadar dropped by more than often enough to offer Desmond some conversation, which greatly alleviated the restlessness that pervaded.)
On the plus side, he also got to know Altair a bit more.
It wasn't to say that they were buddy-buddy, but after the fourth or fifth 'visit' Altair didn't seem to look like that he wanted to murder him at any given moment. In fact, Altair seemed to tolerate him to a degree and now and again, Desmond would catch just the briefest of twitches in the corner of the Altair's mouth when Desmond made a humorous offhand comment about something or when his mouth got ahead of him and told a particularly amusing story from his life before his Assassin-hood.
("Malik says it means he likes you!" Kadar had chirped in such a way that Desmond just couldn't take him seriously.)
And eventually, the Masyaf assassins did fall into a routine too. Given, Desmond would have appreciated not having increasing sets of bruises from being booted off on arrival by Altair and he was always dreading to witness the day when THAT particular mission was given to Altair, Malik, and Kadar, but in the meanwhile, he couldn't complain.
'C'est la vie.' Desmond thought, letting out an, "oof!" when he felt a body under him. Great, he landed on Altair. The rookie assassin instinctively tensed and waited to be kicked off the mattress but realized in confusion that Altair seemed unusually stiff under him-
-looking rather mortified.
Desmond slowly realized something was poking at his stomach.
Altair usually kept a blade by his side but…
"...That's... not a blade, is it?"
(1) Na'im means: comfort, ease, tranquility.
(2) Traditional woolen robe
(3) Quadir means: capable, competent.
(4) Jauhar means: Jewel
(5) Oak has always been traditionally used for storing and flavoring alcohol.
(6) This is a disclaimer: I do not have any experience with alcohol brewing. What information is said here is from sources on the internet and not by personal experience. I do not claim to be correct with anything, but I tried my best with the information I was able to aquire. Thank you.
(7) Medieval beers were flat because they were not carbonated. Carbonation came from CO2 being during the fermentation process. At that time, beers were put into barrels after they were fermentation, wherein the CO2 would evaporate out of the wood.
(8) Hops were a technological advancement for the preservation of beer. This allowed beer to be shipped long distances without spoiling. [Snedegar, Keith. "Brewing." Medieval Science Technology and Medicine: An Encyclopedia. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2005. 102. Print.]
A/N: I can't believe I wrote 23 pages. I'm still reeling. Nonetheless, I hope you've all enjoyed this piece that I have been working on that a couple people have asked me to continue—and I hope that you (you know who you are) are satisfied with my end of the bargain!
(Now to work on Binary Duality…)
Thank you all for continuing to supporting me during my odd hiatus-like unexpected break. I really appreciate it!
Until next time!