A/N: The title is atrocious and makes absolutely no sense, sorry about that. This was originally in twelve parts, but I condensed it with line breaks between sections. I think it still works. Less clicking for the readers.
From the kink meme. The prompt was for a Shaun who had been in the Animus, with an Altair-loving Malik for his ancestor. Desmond shows up, and complications ahoy.
After days of sitting idly around in the Animus room, Rebecca and Shaun were at a loss for what to do. Rebecca was convinced there was nothing more she could do to improve on Abstergo's design for the machine, while Shaun had nothing to research and few other duties, and so the pair of them sat. And stared. They made small talk and Shaun was careful to keep an eye on any tactical matters the other assassins might require attending to, but for the most part, they had nothing to do and were, regrettably, bored.
Rebecca had taken to playing her music at an altogether unreasonably high volume, holding one-person dance parties by her desk that drove Shaun mad, partially because he couldn't dance and so couldn't join her but mostly because she had absolutely terrible taste in music. When she wasn't showing off her abominable preferences in musical entertainment, she sat at her computer and played solitaire, something Shaun absolutely refused to do on principle, swearing if he ever got to that point, it would be an all-time low and he would never recover from the depression that was sure to follow. He had always managed to find some way of keeping himself occupied, and he refused to let Rebecca's inane distractibility influence him. He was clever, damn it. He should be able to think of something, anything to stave off the crushing oppression of indolence. As more time went by, with the dance parties growing in alarming volume and frequency, a desire that Shaun had been nursing since they began constructing the Animus 2.0 was pushed to the forefront of his mind, and he found himself dwelling on it more and more, until finally he approached Rebecca with it.
"Listen, Rebecca, I—"
She paused, hip jutted out to the side and arms over her head, and craned her head to look over her shoulder, brow furrowed, and yelled over her music. "WHAT?"
Shaun had patience. Truly, he did. He knew he should have realized that she would not be able to hear him over the abominable sounds coming from her tinny computer speakers, but in that moment he wanted to smash said computer, and speakers, throw them out the window, and shake his fist at the sky with a fierce shout of victory; it was then that he knew he had wallowed in inactivity for far too long. One calming, deep breath later, he stalked over to the computer and yanked the speaker cable from the back, relishing the silence that fell on his abused ears, ignoring Rebecca's look of reproach as she turned to face him fully, lowering her arms to fold across her chest.
"Now. As I was saying. Seeing as we are both shamefully bored out of our bloody minds, I have an idea that will at least pass the time until . . . well, I don't know when, but at least until something happens where we actually have work to do."
"Pff, speak for yourself, Shaun. I like dancing." When Shaun glared at her, she raised her hands defensively. "Fine, fine, what's this idea of yours?"
"Well, look. I know neither one of us is terribly important to this whole project as far as our genes go, but . . ." He let his voice trail off, suddenly unwilling to give voice to his longing to see the past in person. Still, she seemed to see what he was getting at.
"Ohh, no. No, no, no. You know what Lucy said, this thing is dangerous. Bad things can happen." Her head moved slowly from side to side, emphasizing her complete disapproval.
"Well, you don't have to do it. I'll deal with the consequences." When she still seemed unconvinced, he pleaded, "Comeon, Rebecca, this waiting is bloody killing me here." He knew he sounded petulant, but now that he had told her, however indirectly, he couldn't bring himself to back down, so he tried to appear determined, looking her defiantly in the eye.
For a moment they merely stared at each other, eyes narrowing, until finally Rebecca threw her hands up and exclaimed, "Fine! Fine, fine, fine. If something happens to you, I'm not going to bother saving your ass again. Get in the damn chair." Under her breath, she muttered, "Lucy is going to kill me."
The thrill of victory sang through him, even as words of thanks flowed from his mouth, all semblances of his previous animosity and backbone melting away in light of his success. Shifting happily in his new seat, the red fabric rubbing pleasantly against his palms, Shaun waited for Rebecca to get the systems up and running, not even minding the distinctly unpleasant jolt from the needle jabbing him in the arm, so drunk with anticipatory glee was he.
"All right, Shaun, just relax. You've got a few memories here that are more complete than others, so I'm gonna try to find the one that's the least corrupted. And close your eyes."
As soon as his eyes shut, he felt himself pulled into a vast, empty void of white fog that he took to be a loading area. He panicked a little when he realized he wasn't actually standing on anything, nor was there anything above him; there was absolutely nothing at all anywhere, and he had to look down at his hands to reassure himself that at least he was there, wherever there was. Still, freakish realm of limbo or no, he was determined to see this through.
"Hey, Shaun. I have a memory here, and. I don't know, I'm not sure it's right but I'm going to try to load it, okay?" His eyes darted about wildly, trying to pinpoint the direction of Rebecca's voice, which seemed to come at him from all sides in a frankly unnerving manner and sounded hollow in the expanse of nothingness.
"Yes! Please do. This . . . whatever it is, is rather unsettling."
"All right, here goes nothing. . ."
The fog solidified and segmented like panes of glass all around him, and for a moment Shaun forgot to breathe, forgot how as the panes shifted and interconnected, slowly forming the familiar shapes of ground and buildings and people, that disappeared as walls came up around him, and then there were scents and sounds of sweat and murmuring voices, and a faint metallic taste in his mouth.
And then there was agony.
Malik writhed on the wooden table, splinters embedding themselves into his flesh as he jerked, spasms wracking his body uncontrollably as it attempted to run, hide, protect itself from the hands that held it down, from the glint of the blade that flashed briefly in the waning orange light lancing through the window from a setting sun before it entered his flesh.
Hoarse yells and screams ripped through his throat until he lost his voice despite his resolution to bear the pain with dignity, his nerves alight with liquid fire that filled his veins and pumped through his entire body with each agonizing beat of his heart. There could be no dignity in this. His fall was great, his losses many; with his brother he lost his soul, and with his arm he as good as lost his life; there is no use for a one-armed assassin. Foolishly, he had rejected all attempts by the surgeon to dull his senses with an anesthetic, had reacted violently when the surgeon attempted to override his objections through force, and now vaguely, through the maelstrom of agony that raged through his body, he could regret his decision.
And Shaun writhed with him in the Animus chair as Rebecca tried to pull him out, tried to pause the memory tried to dosomethingbut the memory wouldn't let go and so she fretted, eyes squeezed shut and hands over her ears to block out all traces of the horrifying scene
Eventually, mercifully, Malik blacked out from the pain, his muscles, his body still twitching, jerking in protest as the surgeon finished his deed, cauterizing the remainder of Malik's left arm just above the elbow. He mopped up the blood with rags and called for assistants to carry the unconscious man to a clean bed after gingerly wrapping the limb with bandages, shaking his head all the while. Outside, a single, harsh cry of an animal barked out into the night air and then all was silent once more.
And then an indefinite period of darkness that the Animus skipped over--but Shaun remembered because now hewasMalik, and he knew what had happened and felt the same fury for the same man for the same reasons, and he snapped at Rebecca, gasping but insistent, when she finally managed to pull him out, demanding that she send him right back in, because she had no right, and he wasn't sure if that was his own anger or leftover from Malik but then he was back and he didn't know yet just how much time had passed but it had been a while because everything was just a bit unfamiliar
Malik paced the short distance between walls behind his counter, robes swishing about his feet, still feeling lopsided and a bit uncertain despite the exercises he had put himself through to at least be competent, to prove that he was not an invalid, and so he would damn well at least try to kill anyone who insinuated otherwise. He moved slowly, each foot deliberate on the floor, trying to ignore how his left arm wanted to swing opposite his right leg but could only shift uselessly at his side, bandages tugging uncomfortably at the pinned sleeve, trying to ignore the man who slept in the adjacent room, the man who was the reason for his asymmetry, and trying to quell his impotent anger and anguish and that well of emptiness deep within his chest where his heart beat, hollow and lifeless. He tried not to think of how muchbetter everything would have been if Altaїr had died instead. He tried to forget Kadar.
Furious spluttering, cursing, and threats of bodily harm were ignored as Rebecca drew Shaun out of Malik's memories; he had been in there for hours, many, many hours and whether he liked it or not, his body needed the break; his vitals had started doing interesting and frightening things, and she wasn't about to risk Lucy's wrath should Shaun accidentally die while in the Animus when he wasn't even supposed to be there in the first place.
The world seemed slightly off-kilter as Shaun leveraged himself out of the Animus chair with his right arm, bitterly angry at Rebecca for making him stop, though some part of him hissed in Arabic that Rebecca was hardly the person to be angry at, she hadn't as good as murdered his brother and left him ruined and useless with one arm. That thought gave him pause, because he didn't actually have a brother, and groping at his left arm revealed that he had not actually experienced any traumatizing amputation, not really, which he should have remembered on his own but right then everything was a little fuzzy around the edges. Reluctantly, he had to acknowledge that gnawing hunger in his gut and the fact that his body had other needs that required attending to, so he let the stream of curses and threats trickle to a stop, letting Rebecca off the hook just this once. It wasn't until after he tried to take a step away from the chair that he realized the fuzziness wasn't leaving, and put his hand to his face to adjust his glasses.
"Rebecca, where are my glasses?" He turned his head to see that she had anticipated his request and snatched the frames from her extended hand, ignoring the look of concern in her eyes.
"So. . ." She said, wringing her hands in front of her nervously. "Malik, huh?"
A sigh of relief escaped Shaun when the world came into focus again, grateful that at least shitty vision wasn't a side-effect of the Animus, was just something he had all on his own, separating him from Malik, which for some reason was more difficult than it should have been at that moment.
"And, you had no idea you had an assassin ancestor?"
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Of course not. How could I? I certainly wasn't raised as one."
She couldn't quite keep the skepticism from her face. "It's just, you don't seem very surprised about it. If it were me, I'd be flipping out."
"Rebecca, finding socks that match makes you flip out, I hardly think you're the best barometer for this situation." He edged toward the door, trying to be out of this conversation as quickly as possible.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
He rolled his eyes in annoyance. "I'm fine. Do you mind? My body has some things it would rather like to take care of."
"You were in pain! I could see it! And now you come out of there looking like you don't really know who you are? And get mad at me for being concerned? For Christ's sake, Shaun." She threw her hands in the air in exasperation, taking a step toward him to halt his retreat.
"Look, you said yourself if something happened you wouldn't bother trying to save me again. So let's just leave it at that, all right? I said I'd deal with the consequences, and I will."
She gaped at him. "You don't think I was serious. You can't think I was serious."
"Serious or not, I know what I want to do, and it does not involve sitting around twiddling my fucking thumbs for god knows how long."
"Shaun. . ." Her voice held a tone of warning that urged him to back down.
"Rebecca." Sighing, he passed his hand back through his hair. "I'll be fine. I promise."
Teeth worrying her lip, she hesitated, then nodded. "Fine. But if anything like that--" She gestured at his left arm, "--everhappens again, that's it. You're done, never again. Got it?"
He frowned, but nodded. He hadn't expected her to give in so readily. "Got it."
"Good. Now get out of here, limey."
He booked a hasty retreat before she could change her mind, leaving Rebecca looking faintly dissatisfied, more than a little worried, and to be honest a bit disappointed as she no doubt realized her dance parties were, in all likelihood, officially over.
Shaun didn't sleep, not really, merely stared up at the ceiling from his bed and let his thoughts wander. In the silence and security of his bedroom he allowed himself the tears Malik had stifled, though he could not claim the grief he felt as his own, no matter how real it seemed. Memory-pain twinged occasionally in his arm; he had to be careful to not think too closely on that, too, for his stomach would churn, horror rising with bile in his throat. And, no matter how many times he reminded himself that he still had full use of both of his arms and he was an only child, he could not help the emptiness of loss eating away at him.
It was with reluctant sighs and a few disapproving clicks of the tongue that Rebecca hooked him back up into the system in the morning after a rushed breakfast and shuffled him into the loading area, which he managed to find at least tolerable if he kept his eyes closed and pretended he could feel ground beneath his feet.
His reality fragmented around him once more, but this time, there was no trauma, no crushing waves of pain, only that dull, throbbing ache of futility as Shaun gave himself up and slipped into Malik's skin.
Altaїr had completed his mission. He had done what was required of him, but true to form he had disregarded everything that Malik felt he ought to have learned, discretion in particular. Malik could only hope that he would be reprimanded by Al Mualim, at the very least, but he knew that, despite Altaїr's catastrophic failure as an assassin and a human being, he remained the treasured favorite, and so would likely be rewarded for that simple completion, that Malik was certain a callow novice could have managed with greater success. Were he not so inexplicably valuable, he would be serving a proper punishment out in Masyaf, not running missions. A knife in the gut was by no means suitable, could not compare to his own suffering. And now Altaїr was arguing the details with him; a foolish ambition.
"We are on the same side, Malik."
Malik wished Altaїr would just stop talking. He could not recall them ever being friends, only grudging allies at best, and Malik found it difficult to believe Altair had ever looked out for anyone but himself. "We were never on the same side. Do not pretend otherwise. Now go."
"Get out of my bureau, Altaїr. Now."
Malik found no satisfaction in Altaїr's retreating form, maintaining his glare even as he heard the scrape of boots against the wall, the rustling of robes as Altaїr vanished out the roof entrance to the bureau. He found little satisfaction in much of anything, of late. He had books, maps, informers and assassins to keep him company and occupy his time, but he knew he was not much for conversation, and he found himself in such a continual state of restless agitation that he could not focus on a text for any amount of time. Poring over maps, however, was a way for him to shut everything down, turn off his anger, his misery, and become empty. Perhaps he could not forget, could never be at peace, but he could give himself the illusion of such, if only temporarily.
Time passed, as indicated by the halting and fast-forwarding of the Animus, and pigeons arrived from other bureau leaders in Damascus and Acre, gossipy with news of the cities and the assassins on missions there, and unsurprisingly they insisted on sharing details of Altaїr's doings, no matter how often Malik sent furious replies that he did not care and would vastly prefer it if that name or the man owning it never found its way into his life again. However, while at first it seemed the others were just as disgusted as Malik thought they should be with Altaїr's arrogance and disrespect for all but himself, gradually they bore a sort of grudging respect bordering on open admiration: Altaїr was thorough, detail oriented, and if he had a flair for the publicly dramatic, he nevertheless was clearly skilled, and strangely compassionate, if the rumors of rescue from abusive guards were to be trusted. Malik had heard similar rumors in Jerusalem but had disregarded them as coincidence; now, he was not sure what to think. Compassion did not mesh with the image he had in his mind of Altaїr – arrogant and entirely self-serving. He felt his resolve begin to crack.
And waking up from the Animus Shaun felt a similar mixture of confused emotions combined with the disorientation he experienced before, and wondered if Malik's loneliness was getting the better of them both