Hallo! Wow a lot has changed. I started this fic before I even saw the first chapter of the game and now I've finished it and half spoiled myself through the DLC. What a stunning game I'm in love. Side note, I changed Martain's name to Martin, since that's what I meant in the first place. Ugh. I'll fix the previous chapters later maybe. Sorry about that.
Jacob stood stock still, staring ahead. His back was tense and his hands were balled into fists. His hidden blade was intact but he refused to activate it. His chest rose and fell in unsteady breaths, and when Evie circled around behind him he closed his jaw tight and swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing as his eyes fluttered shut.
Evie looked down at the curved metal of the eagle's beak in her hand, and she smoothed her fingers over the bronzed point, pulling it free. She dropped the rest of the cane and took one step forward, staring at the back of her brother's head. She lay her hand on his shoulder and felt the muscle there twitch and harden. His warmth suffused the fibers of the thin shirt he was wearing, and she wondered vaguely what had happened to his coat. His hat was gone as well, and she reached up a hand to touch the feather-soft strands of hair curling at the nape of his neck. He bowed his head and shivered, and when her fingers came away they were damp with a cold sweat. He wouldn't look at her, but he wouldn't run from her either.
She turned the dagger from the cane sword in her hand, adjusting her grip with a methodical turn of her wrist. Her hand slowly ran down his left arm, pausing at his elbow to press into the flesh exposed by his rolled up sleeve. His pulse was pounding hard and scared, but still he wouldn't look at her. She touched the back of his knuckles, lacing their fingers momentarily and running her thumb over the polished silver that housed his hidden blade. She tugged on his hand, urging him to kneel. Slowly, his movements halting, he did, and she knelt behind him.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, leaning her head on his shoulder, pressing her temple into the side of his neck. She felt him draw a last breath against her, and she positioned the dagger just under his ribs, to the left of his spine. Nothing stood between her blade and his fluttering heart. She braced her hand against his shoulder to keep him from jerking away, and with one swift stroke upwards she buried the sword to its hilt. He gave a strangled cry and arched his back, but the wound was sound and fatal.
Evie knew her trade well, and Jacob fell limp into her arms as she withdrew the blade. The blood ran down her fingers and began to chill her skin, even though it was still warm. She dropped her blade from numbing fingers and wrapped her arms around Jacob's chest, pulling him tight against her. His eyes were still open as his head fell back against her shoulder, and she looked into them as the light died.
"Evie," a voice pleaded, strain and even fear depriving it of strength. "Evie, please."
Evie blinked rapidly, forcing the tears that were obscuring her vision to fall and soak into the tunic of the man she was pinning to the harsh ground. It took her several long moments to realize that the man below her wasn't her brother, but her partner.
"Henry?" she rasped, realizing only then that he was staring up at her in fear. Her right hand was clenched in his tunic, her left splayed back, the blade pressing harshly into Henry's throat. Her eyes went wide and she jerked the blade back, retracting it with a rasp. She clapped her hand to Henry's throat, terrified that the blood she'd seen trickling was far more than a mere scratch. She held tight to him, unable to pull her hand away and see the real damage.
"Evie, Evie it's only a scratch," Henry said, and she realized he'd been trying to talk to her for a long time. He had to have been—only desperation and intense worry would drive him to talk to her so informally. It was always Miss Frye. What had she looked like, what did she look like now to garner an "Evie?"
His hand was gripping her upper arm and he was laying very still, his worried eyes boring up into her. Flashes of her fevered hallucination came back to her and she trembled, pulling her hand slowly away. Henry nodded, encouraging her as she locked her blade and curled forward, burying her face in his shoulder. She was straddling him and he was flat on his back on the night chilled surface of a tin roof. She didn't remember getting there, didn't remember passing out—she didn't know if her nightmare vision had been a nightmare or a hallucination or—
She tensed hard and Henry's hand squeezed her shoulder, his other arm wrapping strong around her waist. Buried against his chest she could feel his heart pounding hard against her own, and she knew then that she'd very nearly killed him. He'd been frightened. Of her. She felt sick.
"Jacob's alive," he assured, as though knowing in part what she was thinking. "He—he told me everything," he added quietly, and when Evie finally had the strength to pull away and get off of him he didn't look upset or any of the other negative things she'd expected. He looked sympathetic and deeply worried for her. She turned away. She'd attacked Henry. She'd nearly killed him. She'd lost every scrap of cool and almost destroyed their best ally in the process. She'd nearly destroyed her best ally. Despite her father's warnings she could feel herself growing more and more attached to the other assassin, and the unbridled horror she felt at the thought that she might have killed him forced her to face it. It was more than the natural revulsion at taking a life.
"Evie, I know you're not alright, so I won't ask, but will you talk to me?" Henry said gently, and she could sense him coming slowly up behind her right before his warm hand settled on her shoulder. She sniffed and turned red eyes on him, nodding wordlessly. She turned around, but avoided locking their gazes for too long.
"Come back to Martin. We need to include Jacob in this discussion."
Evie felt everything inside her recoil at that statement and she shook her head, backing away. "No, he's delirious he can't make decisions."
"And I won't let him," Henry said firmly. "Of course we aren't going to sacrifice him for this. His life is far too important. Miss Frye, I don't agree with him and will not dare to lay a finger, but I do think his plan has merit. Please," he said, placing his hand on his chest. "Hear me out. That is all I ask."
Slowly, she nodded, tightening her gauntlet and straightening her robes, suddenly flustered by her disjointed, unpresentable state. Henry caught her fluttering hands gently between his own and then locked their gazes.
"Evie," he said softly, and she'd never heard such tenderness in her life. "You needn't patch yourself together. This is your brother. You share his blood, and even though you fight like sparrows at times his breath may as well be your own. Just because you are an assassin does not mean you must perpetually guard your heart."
Evie didn't have the strength to fight anymore, and with that admission of permission something inside her broke. This time it wasn't her angry defense, or her panicked running. This time it was just release, a final breaking down of her assassin's training that she'd had up since the explosion first happened. For a moment she allowed herself to really grieve for her twin. She hugged Henry tight and cried without restraint, the foggy sunrise touching their shoulders as she hid her face from everything in his warm shoulder.
Henry held her back and waited until she'd cried herself out.
They made it back to the practice an hour later, and Evie realized with a flush how far Henry had had to go to find her after her outburst. He made no mention however, and on their way back he purchased a fresh roll and block of cheese from a baker, pressing them into her hands before she could say anything at all. He kept patient pace with her as she ate and walked, and for once she didn't care that doing so was less that civilized. She used to scold Jacob for not taking the time to sit down and take a meal properly.
Martin's didn't look quite so grim in the daylight, but Evie's stomach still knotted up when they approached and she regretted eating. Henry touched her forearm gently and she gave him a weak smile.
"We will work this out. There are options."
Like what? Went through her head, but she only nodded and went inside.
Jacob was dozing when she got to his room but he started awake at the sound of her footfalls. She recognized that kind of sleep—he'd been on alert. She hadn't thought he'd ever quite managed to master the technique, but apparently against all her eye rolling and her father's frustration he had.
His expression hurt her, the way his dark eyes fixed on her and his brows drew together. "Evie," he rasped, and she shook her head to silence him. She took the time to pour him a glass of water and compose herself. When she turned back to him her expression was determined. She handed him the water and sat on the edge of his bed, watching him drink it gingerly down. He didn't manage much.
"We are going to work this out," she said evenly. "And we will not use your life to do it." Jacob ducked his head and grimaced, setting the glass to the side and pressing a hand against his injury.
"That is final," Evie continued. "So what options do we have?"
"Poison." Henry had his arms folded and he was leaning against the door frame.
"Poison," Evie repeated, deadpan. She'd heard of poisons that created a state of mimicked death, but they were incredibly dangerous and in Jacob's condition they would kill him. "I don't follow."
"Jacob's condition, if we spin it correctly, could be attributed to poison. We know from the investigations Jacob has been conducting that the Blighters have been smuggling crates of illegal chemicals and drugs into the city. At least a few shipments were poison, correct?" he asked, gesturing to Jacob. Jacob nodded.
"Several were," he confirmed.
Henry was getting excited then, his explanation picking up as he pushed away from the wall and began using his hands to talk. "From what I've observed of the gang's behavior they have a set of codes. Rather than just sabotaging the opposing leader of a certain district, the leaders send each other challenges and settle things out in the open hand to hand, on the streets. I've witnessed Jacob's correspondence while filing in the train library," he admitted, looking a little sheepish. Evie shot Jacob a disapproving look but he shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows.
"It's the way the game works, Evie."
"And there is our advantage," Henry continued, pointing to Jacob triumphantly. "We take Jacob out, let a few people see him. Plant a rumor that a young Blighter managed to poison the leader of the Rooks. I'll wager that several headstrong recruits who want to prove themselves will claim credit for the attack without thinking of the implications. Such an underhanded blow against us will be seen as a violation of gang honor and incite the Rooks against them. It won't matter if the Blighters deny it, once the rumor is planted it will work the same way Jacob's death would have, only the Rooks will have Jacob behind them at the same time."
Jacob's eyebrows went up and he sat up a little straighter, understanding giving him temporary vigor. "Surviving a poisoning won't just make the Blighters look bad, it'll make me look invincible," he said. "They managed to poison me, but couldn't kill me, even cheating. Evie," he said, and the relief in his voice made her want to cry all over again. "This could work!"
Henry nodded, stepping forward in his excitement. "We execute this correctly and Jacob will not only increase his reputation as the Rook's head, but he will attract more followers and be able to command them while recovering. He'll have the time and the room to gain his strength back properly."
Evie nodded, processing slowly. "What are the chances that this could backfire, make them instead think that Jacob isn't quite as untouchable as he seems? What if this changes the rules?"
"It won't," Jacob asserted. "Gang wars are all about displays of power. Underhanded work, fighting in the shadows, that's all the coward's way. There's no real show of power in that. If someone wanted to be a hero they would have challenged me personally and killed me that way. On the other side of things, which is more impressive, never having been wounded or the scar that proves something fatal wasn't?"
She pressed her lips together and glanced between the two men. "We will have to be sure there is a guard ready in the shadows. Not enough for Jacob to look like he needs protecting, but enough that he has protection."
Henry ducked his head. "Of course."
"Tell Thomas," Jacob said, his expression calculating. "We can trust him with the real plan, and he can in turn pick a few Rooks we can trust to act as an invisible guard."
"I can also be nearby," Henry volunteered, and Evie felt her heart swell for him. "Should something go wrong I can help Jacob make a quick escape."
"And I will be at his side. I've been there for several of the territory claims," Evie said. "Once you're strong enough to make this stand, we will perform it and then get you to the train. You'll recover better in your own bed where we can keep your location mobile."
"I'll take the time to draw up extra plans and contact Thomas," Henry volunteered. "I knew his sister, if he's half the strategist she was he will be a valuable asset."
"He is, thank you Henry," Jacob said, a genuine smile crossing his lips as the Indian assassin nodded back and then slipped out.
Jacob rest back against his pillows, the relief painfully evident in his posture. He looked like he was actually resting this time. Evie's heart panged and she got up, stroking her thumb across his cheek. "Get some sleep, try to take some more water," she said, moving to pull away and follow Henry out for the planning process. Now that they had a plan, she felt an urge to go through with it. The sooner this was over the sooner Jacob could really focus on healing. He caught her hand, giving her pause.
"I'm sorry. I couldn't think of anything else," he said, his eyes pleading. "I couldn't stand the thought that I might die and it would come to nothing, that all we've done, all the Rooks and assassins that have died would come to nothing."
She pressed her lips together and turned her hand to clasp his. A million things went through her head but she didn't say any of them. Instead, she leaned in and pressed a lingering kiss to his forehead. He leaned into her touch, his fingers tightening on her hand. "Father may not have understood you as he should, but I am proud of you," she said softly. When she pulled away he had his head bowed and his eyes squeezed shut. He tried to turn his head and dash away a tear, but she saw it anyway. She gave his hand another supportive squeeze and moved to go.
"You need sleep as well," he said, not quite letting go yet. "Please Evie, we have a plan now. Isn't that what you wanted?" She met his eyes and smiled a little, knowing he was right. "Stay and rest."
Slowly, she nodded. She went around to the other side of the bed and took her boots and then coat off, laying gingerly down next to her brother. It took her a moment of consideration, but eventually she slipped her gauntlet off as well, setting the lethal blade on the table nearby. Because of his broken ribs she couldn't cuddle into him like they had when they were small, but she got close anyway, resting her head next to his and wrapping her hand gently around the crook of his arm. She let him use her free arm as a pillow and curled in on her side. Her fingers pressed lightly into the soft flesh inside his elbow and she sighed shakily when his pulse beat back. Her eyes were closed so she didn't see him move, but just before she fell asleep she felt the scratch of his stubble as he bent his head and kissed her cheek.