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Sleeping With Disaster
Wild Mustang of Freedom
The End That Wasn't
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes.
-Boyce Avenue, "Fix You" cover Originally by Coldplay
Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long.
No matter what I say or do,
I still feel you here 'til the moment I'm gone.
You hold me without touch.
You keep me without chains.
I've never wanted anything so much
than to drown in your love, and not feel your rain.
– Sara Bareilles, "Gravity"
(Ezio's Point of View)
The sun hung heavy in the sky up above the city. Tilting my head back, I gazed up at the clouds that scattered like torn cloth across the sky, and I wondered just how long it would take for them to travel across the blue canvas, to hide behind the mountains and never be seen again. I had once believed that things couldn't simply disappear into thin air, but I had been proven a fool and completely ignorant.
Rome hadn't gotten any smaller. It was still the same giant city that seemed like a stinking shit hole compared to the glittering jewel of Florence or Monteriggioni. The tall buildings held no more appeal to my wondering eye and the brazen women no longer caught my attention. Everything seemed to grow pale in comparison as I tried to shut out my mind, tried to clear my thoughts and start out a new. I needed to forget my memories to start again, for we do not know who we are until we forget who we thought we were. But I have no powers that can release me of such burdens—I'm no Piece of Eden. And it seemed that no matter how hard I searched, I couldn't find one either.
Not that I tried too hard—hadn't she told me not to look for her?
Despite how much I wanted to, I knew she was right about it all. If I were to find her again and draw her to me, I would be putting her in danger. That didn't stop me from seeking more answers, to try and find at least a small hint that she was happy somewhere. The irony of her name meaning "water" made me even more upset about it all. I found nothing over the past three years I had spent here in Rome.
The Borgia's made a point that they were powerful enemies, attacking our home and effectively catching us off guard. Although my mother and sister survived, Uncle Mario...
I shook my head, tilting my head back down, the hood overshadowing my face again. I didn't like to think back on it. That year had been the worst, so many things dear to me ripped out of my grip. I had blamed it all on her at first, thinking that she had somehow knew it was all going to happen. As I searched over the years, I figured out that the Pieces of Eden couldn't predict the future. History did repeat itself, though, and they could infer things pretty accurately.
Anger had been my muse the last years, rage driving me to hunt down my enemy to the city of Rome. But that anger waned with the time, and I found myself alone and actually terrified. I had never been alone. Either Mario had taken me under his wing, or she would be right at my side.
My attention was brought forth to the situation at hand—a guard riding on a mount came sauntering by me, the man's eyes speculating as he watched me from under his helmet. My gaze fell away, down to my feet. I didn't want to start anything right now. I was hungry, tired from having stayed up all night fighting with the Borgia's forces. The sooner I got back to the base, the sooner I could deal with the bastards.
The sun, however, proved to be a better adversary, and I found myself sitting on a nearby bench by a cooing mother holding a small child in her arms. Although I didn't say a word to her, I stared at the child for a moment, taking in the big brown eyes and bubbling mouth, the dark hair that was but a wisp on top of the head. A baby boy, I concluded, and then something clenched in my gut, making me turn away as I closed my eyes. If there was anything that I had learned over the duration of my lonely years it was that living in the past did nothing for the future. Even so, I felt the metal against my collar-bone seemingly sear into my skin, an evil reminder of something that I could no longer have, though I couldn't bring myself to throw the ring away. Reaching up, I allowed my fingers to toy with the band of metal, feeling the gem embedded in the design. If I touched it long enough and let my mind wander, I could actually feel her warmth still upon it.
Suddenly not so tired anymore, I stood up and prepared to continue on my way.
"Stop her! Thief!"
The yell made me stop and turn around. A guard was bolting through the crowd, following the path that a finger of a merchant was pointing. Idly wondering if it was any of my thief friends, I pushed aside all of my other thoughts and decided to indulge myself with tagging along. Climbing buildings had lost it's appeal many years before when I decided I was getting a little too old to be climbing on top of the world, so instead I followed on foot, quick enough to keep the running guard in sight, but slow enough not to draw attention.
After a few quick turns and after we had gone in almost a complete circle, more guards seemed to have joined the pursuit and the thief had been caught. A crowd had gathered around the guards that talked about punishment and sinners, and with ease, I slid through the crowd and watched the scene as well, expecting to see one of the thieves from the guild seized by the guards.
What I actually saw kicked in the Assassin mode within me.
They had a helpless child curled on the ground, the stolen loaf of bread tucked under her arm. When one of the guards cocked a leg back, aiming a kick at the child, my hand gripped at a dagger at my belt and flung it through the air without a second thought. When the guard dropped to the ground, a knife sticking out of his side that had pierced his lung, the other fellow guards forgot all about the little girl on the ground, and started to yell at me. With their sword drawn, they all raced towards me. Tired of this game already, I unsheathed my blade and raced to meet them, swinging the blade until it sliced into the stomach of the guard closest to me, the blade sharp enough to break through the armor. Pressing my hand on the back of the blade, I pushed it all the way through, feeling the anger once again rise within me. It was because of these bastards and their leaders that I was utterly alone.
The crowd gasped and ran away screaming as the man fell to the ground, literally split into two, the blood pooling around in a threat that I meant business. One of the guards, probably a younger man, gasped and stumbled away, running in his fear. The older ones still advanced, their teeth gritting and their eyes flashing in anger. The rage built up within me busted forth, and I felt my limbs shake as a bestial nature overtook me, making me blood-thirsty. I rammed the sword through the next guard, feeling his insides slice in the motion of the sword. Kicking him back and letting the sword handle go, he fell back and slid down the blade, his mouth agape as his eyes stared at the scattered clouds up in the sky. The next guard was surprised at the demise of his teammate, which gave me a wondrous opening. Extracting the hidden blades with a flex of my wrist, I used both to stab his repeatedly in his chest, then for good measure, one blade up the soft skin under his chin. His wide eyes were fixed on me, trying to grasp the last moments of his life, before I growled out angrily and yanked the blade forward, splitting his face in half, spraying blood all over my face and robes.
The remaining guards that had advanced all turned and ran, deciding that they wanted their lives today. Then I was all alone again, the courtyard completely devoid of another human being, the only noise was the heavy breaths falling from my lips and the bubbling of blood from the dead on the ground. Taking a deep breath, trying to calm myself, I used my sleeve to wipe away the blood on my face, smearing it on the dark material of my dyed sleeve. Then I grabbed my sword from the man's stomach, flicking the blood off of it before I knelt and used the soft breeches of the dead guard to wipe off the rest. When I sheathed the blade, my eyes flickered up to where the little thief had been sitting. She was no longer there, but it was quite easy to figure out where she had gone. Behind a pile of crates next to one of the abandoned stands was a quivering figure, bent down as if to avoid detection.
Deciding to check and see if she had been hurt before I came, I took advance towards the child, stepping over the first man I had killed. She must have sensed my presence, for when I leaned over the boxes, she curled up tighter, clutching the loaf in her arms tightly.
"Salute," I said, trying to put the warmth in my voice that I had seemed to lose hold of years ago.
The sob that was torn from her shocked me, and I realized she must have been terrified of me, seeing how I had killed the guards without so much of a single regret. Not that here crying could make me regret it—nothing could, I was sure of that.
"P-please d-d-don't hurt me," she whimpered, her wavy hair falling over her shoulders and hiding her face. She then held the bread out, like I wanted something to do with it. "T-take it back. J-just don't hurt me, please." She was too young to be conducting in thievery, I decided, probably only around seven. If she had been willing to risk her life for a simple loaf of bread, she must have been an orphan, all alone like I was. At that thought, I found myself wanting to reach out to her and take her with me so neither of us had to be alone anymore. But I didn't want her to be afraid of me. I wouldn't hurt her, no matter the consequences, I realized.
Sitting on the crate and staring down at her, I reached down and pushed the bread back down. "I won't hurt you," I said as softly as I could. "I'm not like those guards who try to do so."
I saw her freeze, her sobs softening as she listened to my voice. She held the bread to her chest again. "I don't want you to hurt me," she whispered quietly.
"I won't," I promised again, reaching down and putting my head on the top of her head to try and show her I could be gentle. She jumped at the touch, but didn't recoil away. "You are safe with me, I promise."
The girl let that promise settle for a moment, digging her fingers into the bread. Then she looked up at me.
She had the widest blue eyes that I had ever seen, a round, childish face that was surrounded by rich (but dirty) brown curls. The cutest button nose peeped out under her round eyes. And under her right eye was a little mole, a feature that seemed to slap me in the face and stare at the girl like a dumbstruck imbecile.
If I hadn't known any better, I could almost fool myself that I was staring into a young version of Narina.
As she stared back up at me, under my hood, taking in my blood smeared facial features, I saw no recognition flit across her face, and she dug her fingers more into the bread.
I needed to find words to say, to try and convince her that I was going to help her instead of harm her, but I heard the return of people back to the area, crying out for guards to come quick and find the murderer.
Without another thought, I reached down to the girl. "Come with me," I told her in a whisper. "I can get up someplace safe."
I saw that she glanced around, perhaps trying to find someone else to cry out for help. But she must have saw that there was no other way out, and, sitting up, she reached out for me to take her hand and help her out of the mess she had gotten herself into. Her hand was small, soft and warm when I took it into my palm, curling around it securely, but not too tightly. Then we were hustling through the streets, her little legs flying in her tattered skirt to try and keep up with my brisk walk.
I didn't know where we were going. And for the first time in a long while, I didn't really care. I had found a companion, someone at my side to ease the pain of the absence. It was indulging myself and also hurting myself when I entertained the thought that I could actually be holding Narina's hand again. When I tried to tell myself that there was no way it could have been her, I remembered that she had told me three years prior that she could start a life at whatever age she wanted. It was torture to think that I had finally found her.
"There! Assassino!" The shout caused me to jerk out of my thoughts, and I glanced back, seeing guards approach us, chasing us with swords drawn. I had no intention to fight anymore, seeing how it frightened the girl.
"We have to run," I told her, looking down upon her as she glanced back at the guards. The tears welled up in her eyes and she tore away from my hold, shocking me. But then she was reaching up to me, throwing the bread aside, telling me silently to take her into her arms so that I could make a quick escape. There wasn't a second thought before I swooped down and took her in my hold, holding her securely in my arms. Then I began to run, the child clinging to my neck.
A new wave of energy flowed through me that I thought I had lost, and I decided that I was somehow no longer too old to climb buildings.
"Hold on tighter," I told the girl gruffly, and she did so, her small arms surprisingly holding on strong. I let her go, reaching up to the building, and her little knees dug into the sides of my ribs, holding on tighter that way. Then we were climbing up, up, so high above the streets and the crowd, the wind bracing against us as we ascended above the protection of the buildings around us. The girl had lifted her head from the crook of my neck and was gazing over my shoulder, and I heard her astonished gasp, taking in the sight of Rome from our high vantage point. When we got to the top of the building, I allowed her a moment to marvel at the wonder, and I too, found myself staring out over the city with a new outlook. The city was beautiful. How had I forgotten that?
The danger wasn't over yet, and I knew it. I took off across the roof, dropping down to a lower one as the girl buried her face once again.
It took only minutes before I was in the clear, and, after dropping back down to the ground, I started to walk. Okay, maybe I was getting a little old for I was feeling a little winded. Finding an empty bench to the side of a armorer shop, I sat down and placed the girl on my knee, leaning my head back against the building as I allowed my breathing to calm.
When I looked up again, the girl was staring up at me with the most adorable pout on her lips, assessing me like she was still trying to figure out what she thought about me.
"What's your name?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.
I wanted to tell her 'Ezio.' I wanted to see if she would look at me in recognition and say 'Ezio! I've missed you so much!'. But something told me if this really was her, which I still had my doubts, and that I told her about me and tried to get her to remember me that I would be dooming her. So instead, I shrugged. "You can call me a friend."
If possible, her pout drew tighter. "'Friend' isn't a name, silly." She looked away, staring at the people walking by. "My name is Luciana," she said in a whisper, then looked back at me expectantly. "What's your real name?"
Maybe it wouldn't hurt. Maybe I could tell her and nothing ill would come out of it. But I didn't survive all these years on a simple 'maybe'. I avoided the question instead, not wanting to lie to her. "Why are you stealing, Luciana?" I asked, the name strange. "Where are your parents?"
She saddened, and I immediately regretted my question, wanting to take it back.
"They died a long time ago," she whispered.
"Do you not have any other family?" I asked, hoping and praying that she did.
I was relieved when she nodded. "Yes. My older brother takes care of me. Well, he used to anyway." Her eyes moistened and she looked away. "He's sick, and can't work anymore." She looked back at me, determination in her eyes. "I want to help him, but no one will let me work!"
"Ah." So she had to steal to make sure her and her brother survived. She was definitely courageous for a little seven year old. "Stealing can get you seriously hurt," I told her, and I immediately felt like a scolding father.
She sighed. "What else am I supposed to do then?"
I didn't have an answer, because if I had been in the same situation, I would have done the exact same thing. As a matter of fact, I had done the same thing.
"Why do you wear a hood?" She asked, once again staring up at me. "Doesn't it make you hot?"
A smile graced my lips. "No."
She surprised me when she reached up and pulled the hood back, allowing the warm city air to swirl around my face and tickle my ears. As she did so, something jabbed me from within and told me that this was my Narina.
I had found Narina.
She tilted her head again. "Where did you get the scar on your mouth?"
Wanting to hold her and never let her go again, to protect her from all of the dangers in the world, I had to take a moment to regain my thoughts. "Ah, well...it's from when I was younger." He made an arc with his hand and slid it across his scar. "Someone threw a rock at me and it cut my lip."
Luciana pouted again. "How mean!" She grew silent studying me closely, and it was a wonder how a young child could look so speculative. "You didn't kill him too, did you?"
Even though I had, I didn't want to frighten her. "No," I whispered, smiling wider now. "I didn't."
"Hmm." She leaned back from me as if she didn't believe me, her eyes studying the pink welt. "I don't like your beard," she said bluntly. "It makes you look mean."
I couldn't help it—I started laughing loudly.
There was no more doubt about it. The speculating questions, the reactions, the same pretty features, only younger, and the hatred of my facial hair. This was Narina.
"You know,"I said in between chuckles, "my wife hated my beard too." The words came out before I could stop them, and I immediately froze, realizing that I was taking this a step too far. I didn't want her to be in danger, but I was almost literally placing her in the middle of it all.
Instead of gasping in realization, she stared at me quietly. "Did your wife die?" she whispered, sympathy in her eyes.
"Yes," I murmured, smiling sadly this time, realizing that it was more true than anything. Even if this girl was the same person, same being as my blue eyed girl, she was no longer Narina. I reached up to my neck again, pulling out the necklace with the ring Narina had given back to me. "But she still lives on with me, see?"
She stared at the ring that glimmered in the sunlight, reaching out slowly to touch it. Then she grew sad, and tears filled her eyes. "Why do people have to die?" she whispered, her chin dimpling as she started to cry.
I had a feeling that she was feeling more than just remorse about her own parents death—I like to think that maybe, perhaps, she was somehow feeling all the overwhelming deaths she had seen in her past lives, seeing how she always had to say goodbye while everyone around her died. Being a almighty God was a blessing as much as it was a curse.
Wanting to comfort her, I held her close and kissed her forehead comfortingly. "It's a part of life," I whispered, tucking her in my arms. I let that settle before I sat her down on the ground, helping her wipe away the tears. "Let's get you home."
This time when she offered me her hand, I took it immediately, almost naturally, and I allowed myself to play with the thought that this is what a child with Narina would have been like. Impossible, but comforting, nonetheless.
With her guidance, I lead her home, a small building, but enough for two children. I wondered how old her "brother" was, but I decided against asking her. I stared up at the building, memorizing it so that I would be able to keep tabs on her—not to ever approach her, but to make sure she was safe and happy.
"Thanks for saving me," she said with a smile, then it dropped. "But I lost the bread..."
I made a decision then.
Crouching down to her height, I looked into her big, blue eyes. Reaching back, I unhooked the money pouch at my waist and took a hold of her soft hands. Placing the heavy pouch in her hands that held over five hundred florins, I gazed deep into her eyes. "Luciana," I whispered, "keep off the streets, and don't steal any more. I may not always be there to save you."
Feeling the weight of the pouch, she then gazed up at me. "This is too much money," she whispered.
I smiled. "You need it more than I do. Use it to buy some food and medicine for your brother so he can get better and take care of you." Another though occurred to me, and I let her hands go to reach for the necklace again. This time, however, I unclasped the small chain, and then placed it in her hands as well.
The girl seemed shocked, and stared at me with an agape mouth. "But...but..."
"I want you to have it," I explained, feeling something knot within me as I realized that I was giving away the last thing aside from my memories of Narina. "Only my wife was able to make me smile like you have—she would have wanted you to have it." It struck me that Narina really would have wanted me to give it away, to the "first girl that melted my heart", right? I inwardly laughed at the irony that it had been Narina again, anyway. "It's pure gold. If you are in any need of money in the future, you can sell it for money." The way she stared at the golden band and the clear gem told him that that was no way that she was ever going to sell the ring, no matter how poor and dire a situation got.
All the riches in the world couldn't have made me more happy than the wide smile she flashed at me did. "Grazie, signore!" She threw her small arms around my neck, pulling herself closer. Kneeling down to my knees, I hugged her back tightly, smiling softly as I felt the tears fill to the brim.
She was safe.
And she was happy.
I felt like I let go of something then—perhaps all of my insecurities and all of my worry about how and where Narina would be without me. It was like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders, and I could finally see that she was able to survive thousands of years before without me, and I had no doubt that she would still. I would just be able to help her a little.
I made sure the tears where blinked back before I pulled away, smiling down at the girl. "Stay out of trouble for me."
She nodded eagerly, clutching the pouch between both of her hands with the necklace stringed around it. "Do you live in Roma? Maybe I'll see you again someday!"
As much as I would have liked that, to watch her grow up, I knew that would only lead to danger for her. But I didn't want to upset her. Standing up, I pulled the hood back over my face. "Perhaps someday," I lied.
Her forever blue eyes lit up as she smiled again. "You never told me your name," she pointed out.
Deciding that I owed her at least this much, I said, "It's Ezio."
The smile grew wider, showing me a gap on one of her bottom front teeth as a giggle busted from her lips. "I like that name!" Then her smile grew less silly and she bowed. "Thank you for everything, ser Ezio." When she stood straight, her eyes were tinged with a bit of mischievousness. "And get rid of your beard."
A grin branched from my smile and I chuckled and shook my head in disbelief how little and yet how much she had changed. "Alright. I will."
With another giggle, she walked to the door of her house and looked back at me. "Arrivederci, Ezio."
Goodbye, Narina, I thought as I nodded and turned on my heel to walk away. And thank you.
By that time, the tattered clouds in the sky had disappeared behind the mountains in the distance, the sky turning into a cloudless blue, as if saying it was open for new opportunities. Instead of dwelling on how those clouds would never be seen again, I began to notice the doors that they had left open, allowing more room for others to flourish.
As I walked away, I didn't once look back at the small little house holding all but two children, scared and alone, but willing to take on the world.
Maybe it's fate, or maybe it's destiny, but whatever allowed me to meet Narina that one last time on that clear day in Rome, I felt like a chapter in my life had come to a close, and now I was finally able to move forward. The anger and loneliness within me seemed to melt away with the thought. The whole world was in my future, and I was willing to grab a hold of it.
All thanks to some blue eyed girl appropriately named Narina.
So, yeah. Epilogue. A little bit happier than the ending in the last chapter.
Anyway, Wild Mustang of Freedom said something about Ezio being in Modern Times or something, and it totally inspired me to do like a crack fic of this fic, totally AU, but involving Ezio and Narina in the future or something. So I may or may not do something with that.
Thank you all so much for your continued support. It's official that I have the best readers in the entire world.
I could never thank you all enough.
(For those of you who were wondering, I'm probably going to Major in English in College and Minor in Creative Writing.)
Until the next story, then. :)
EDIT: xXTron'sGirl13Xx has taken the opportunity to write a sequel to this story. Although not officially and strictly connected to this one, it's still going to be amazing, and I support her in all of her writing! So I suggest that you read her story called "The View From Up Here". Thanks!
-EDIT 2: Just so you all know, I have written another story with Ezio and Narina. It's not a sequel or prequel of this story. It's more of an AU of this story-but I would appreciate it if you all would check it out! :) Just look on my profile and find it. Or search "The Orange Complication". Thank you!