Though Desmond had every intention of pulling Lucy aside in the morning, after he and Shaun staggered blearily from his room with only the barest handful of hours of sleep under their belts (though neither of them regretted losing that sleep in the slightest), she stopped him as soon as he stepped into the room, crackling with nervous energy.

"No time, Desmond," she said, speaking over his mumbled good morning. "The Templars are moving in and fast, so we need to get to work now, and get as much done as possible before they get here."

Concern won out over drowsiness. Desmond scrubbed his face with his palms in an attempt to force himself into alertness and asked, "Fast? How fast?"

"They'll probably find us by tomorrow, if not sooner. It's going to be a full day in the Animus, I think."

As soon as Lucy mentioned the Templars, Shaun left Desmond's side to confirm on his computer; sure enough, he had a flurry of messages coming in from the local cells, each of them detailing positions and ETAs, and each just a little more harried the last.

"Lucy's right," Shaun said, and sighed. "It's only a matter of time, now."

Desmond chewed on the inside of his mouth while he thought for a moment. If it was as dire as all that, there probably wouldn't be time now to get into what would no doubt be a lengthy, heated discussion on the subject of his somewhat dubious mental stability. He remembered Lucy's impatience in getting him out of Abstergo and cringed a little, then nodded.

"All right. Plug me in. Let's get this show going."

Desmond felt Ezio's determination on the trip to Rome, felt he hum of energy that coursed through him, the anticipation of long-awaited revenge finally upon him as he slipped past guards and made his way to where he knew Borgia would be, unsuspecting.

He also felt Ezio's shock and anger at being thwarted, the frustration throughout the fight that ensued, and the pain that came with the blade in his side, a sudden blank agony that jerked him out of synchronicity for a moment, gasping from it before being thrown back into Ezio's body.

As Desmond shuddered in the Animus, Shaun swore and stopped packing Desmond's clothes for a moment, eyes narrowing out of worry. "Christ, Lucy, can't we get him out of there? The Templars are nearly here and it looks like Ezio is dying." He placed Desmond's copy of Sherlock Holmes carefully on top, then closed up the box forcefully, muttering, "I can't imagine that being good for Desmond."

"The Animus is locked into the memory. And even if we could get him out, I think it'd be a very bad time for it."

"I'm with Lucy," Rebecca said, though she looked a little worried. You would, Shaun thought snidely. "This is kind of what he's been working toward his whole life, you know? And look, he's getting up, he's fine."

"Fine might be just a bit of an exaggeration. No one is fine after being stabbed."

"Shaun." Though he rolled his eyes at the tone in Lucy's voice, he sighed and kept quiet, watching Desmond with increasing anxiety as he shoved as much as he could into their few boxes.

Really, there was nothing he didn't want to take with them; even one of his books left behind would be too many. Unfortunately, he would have to leave behind quite a bit more than just one text, and Shaun didn't want to think about the Templars getting their hands on them, learning what they'd been up to.

Though he tried to keep an eye on Desmond, part of him not entirely trusting Lucy and Rebecca to get him out if things got even worse, he couldn't afford the distraction. There was still work to be done.

A remote part of himself that remained Desmond observed, rather than experienced, as Ezio showed unexpected mercy, but he shared the emptiness Ezio felt, as he continued to bleed into Desmond's mind.

He also shared Ezio's blank shock and confusion when, inside the vault, Minerva spoke to him, told him that he was their only fucking hope, and he felt outrage, through Ezio and on Ezio's behalf for being used, for being dismissed, and for everything that continued to go so depressingly wrong for him.

He didn't even have time to process what just happened, what Ezio just saw, what he'd just heard before being pulled back into the present amidst a flurry of activity; they avoided his eyes, even as Lucy tossed him a bracer that he donned without thinking, only allowing himself a moment to wonder where it came from and how they got it.

"They're here? Now?"

"To be honest, I'm surprised it took them as long as it did," Shaun said, hauling a box of files and equipment past where Desmond stood, still attempting to shake the last vestiges of memories from his head, even as he briefly examined the bracer Lucy had thrown him, which he had mechanically slipped over his arm before feeling slight discomfort at just how comfortable and natural it felt, and suddenly it felt more strange to think of it not being there. Automatically, he triggered the mechanism and caught Shaun's eye, the pained expression there reflecting his own wariness.

Lucy barked out orders and abruptly left, but Desmond didn't quite catch everything she said through the fog that lingered, part of him still reeling from that fucking atom bomb that lady, Minerva, dropped on him (and how the fuck that was even possible, he desperately wanted to know).

He didn't realize he was meant to go with Lucy until Shaun looked up from dismantling the Animus with Rebecca and snapped, "What are you doing, Desmond? Go help her," his voice taut with anxiety, and Desmond wanted to stay because even though he knew Shaun could more than take care of himself he didn't want to abandon him, but when Shaun glared hard at him he turned and ran after Lucy.

And then they confronted Vidic.

Shaun and Rebecca were nearly finished dismantling the Animus when the first sounds of combat filtered up from the warehouse, and they shared a nervous glance before stowing the last of the parts away.

While they had to be cautious as they stole their way down to the van, Shaun couldn't help but stop and watch a moment, partially hidden by crates, when he heard Desmond grunt after taking a hit. Desmond moved with a precision that Shaun didn't trust, and he narrowed his eyes, trying to discern which ancestor had him this time; he ignored Rebecca's insistent glare and he knew he'd catch hell for it later but right then he could not possibly have cared less. But then Desmond looked up from a swift execution and Shaun knew it was him, could see it in his eyes, and the apprehension that always gripped him when Desmond faded slowly left him, and he finally followed Rebecca to the van.

Rebecca attempted to admonish him, hissing at him under her breath, but he raised his hand to ward off her muttered, angry tirade and stowed his boxes away. It took them another two trips to finish loading up the van, and by that time Desmond and Lucy had made bloody work of the Templars, bodies littering the floor. They heard Desmond shout, and when they caught up he had his arms spread wide in challenge, facing Vidic, evoking the confident air more characteristic of Ezio, but which Desmond seemed to wear now with ease.

They hung back with Lucy a bit, since Desmond appeared to have the situation more or less under control (as much as the situation could be under control, anyway), and after a moment, Shaun said, "Fucking git backed through the wall," which earned him a strange look from Lucy. "What? I'm just saying. Templars must be rubbish drivers."

"Shaun, honestly. You pick the strangest times to have a sense of humor," she said, rolling her eyes.

He huffed irritably, then gestured at the retreating truck. "Oh, look, he's leaving. Wouldn't this be a grand time to carry a gun."

Lucy just ignored him, stepping forward to try to soothe the evident frustration Desmond felt at losing his quarry as they made their way to the vehicle.

In the van, as they drove down some rocky back road, he felt Shaun surreptitiously take his hand while they explained in minute detail every little thing that could possibly go wrong that he was supposed to prevent, somehow, by finding these temples, or whatever Minerva had said. And he had no clue what he could even possibly do to prevent geological catastrophes or the end of the world, and he wasn't sure how continuing to follow Ezio in the Animus would be any kind of useful, but he sighed and agreed.

Desmond didn't trust the ease with which he had executed each person who stood between him and Vidic, and the quiet, churning bloodlust that coursed through his veins was unsettling at best. He'd never even killed anyone before then, but it was almost frightening how he made such short work of the Templars with hardly a second thought, as though he'd been doing it for years.

It felt natural, which was fucked up, and though he didn't feel like he was channeling Ezio or Altair, he couldn't be sure. For all he knew, the bleeding effect was working in far more insidious ways than any of them had expected and when this was all over he'd be some strange, inhuman mix of people entirely unlike himself, and he wouldn't even notice the difference because it would feel right.

Shaun squeezed his hand, rubbing his thumb reassuringly against his skin, and Desmond was grateful for the contact and the implied support, and he let Rebecca stick that damned monitor in his arm once more, feeling perhaps a little apprehensive as he slowly went under again, his vision going dark. He'd do what he had to, though, even if it meant losing his mind, losing everything he knew in order to defeat the Templars.

It wasn't like he had much of a choice, anyway.

A/N: End.

Thanks for sticking with me, guys. I'm looking forward to being able to focus on other things now without this hanging over me. Maybe there will be more from this story if future games provide the material, but that's part of the nebulous future that I can in no way predict (and I kind of doubt it anyway but. Like I said. Nebulous).

I probably left some things unanswered (example: what Desmond said in Arabic to Shaun in Ch. 10), and that's because either I couldn't find a way to work it in without it being awkward/heavy-handed, I couldn't think of what to do with it at all, or I forgot about it entirely. So. Uh. Sorry if that bothers you. I tried to be conscious of continuity within the story, but to err is human, I suppose.

(He either said, "You're really fucking hot," "You're a fucking smartass," "Obviously, I can speak Arabic, smartass/asshole/dickhead/wtfever," or your choice of stupid things he could say to Shaun. Fill-in-the-blank. I prefer things with lots of cusses, myself. Maybe he just let out a string of clever curses, because that's what you do when you learn a new language. You learn to swear.)