You own nothing.
This is how you justify it to yourself as you watch him pull the hood over his eyes, as you catch yourself watching the last glimpse of tanned skin along his neck, the last flash of dark eyes that vanish beneath the white.
You can't reach out to him, can't take any of this, and he'll beckon you with dark glances and soft words, but you can't have anything.
You own nothing, not property nor belongings. You carry your beliefs and you carry your devotion, but there is no room for anything else when your hands are so full of arrogance.
The last time you see Malik as your companion it is the night before you leave, when you drink to fortune and to the brotherhood. You don't watch him as carefully as you should, don't see the things that linger in front of you that he won't give voice, and you will regret it.
You will regret not watching his hands curl around the goblet, regret not watching the way he smirks around the wine at something Kadar says – you will regret not drinking all of this in before you ruin it beneath your own two hands, before you leave all of this in shambles.
Because the next time you see Malik there's nothing left of the man who welcomed you as a brother, nothing of the man you grew alongside, nothing of the man who had a place for you. This man is drowning in anger, in regret and guilt, and he is suffocating on all of the pieces of his life you left at his feet.
You touch him by accident and it hasn't been long enough, may never be long enough. His body stiffens and he drops the feather he's holding out to you, retracting his hand as though your fingers are poison, as though you're something contagious that he can catch.
One accident turns into one mistake, because you catch his wrist and you hold him there, and you watch the surprise in his eyes without flinching, watch the anger that forms there without remorse. Every emotion he flickers through you hold on to, hold on as tightly as you do to the skin underneath your fingers.
You bring the hand to your chest, to the heart you want to swear is still beating, and he watches you with so much anger, so much hatred – but he doesn't pull his hand away, doesn't move at all.
You linger a moment too long and pick up the feather in your other hand, releasing his slowly. He's not yours to hold; there's not enough room for him when he's filled with so much disgust.
To err is human, you think to yourself when you lay on the rafters, bleeding from where the arrow is embedded in your right leg.
It is a traitorous thought and it suffocates you, tightens your entire body as though you've said it aloud instead of only thinking it in your mind. Failure after failure, but there's no room for any more – you should either take this life or leave your own.
It's the push of discipline, the rush of obedience that makes you climb back to your shaky feet and go back into the compound. You bleed a trail along every stone and tapestry, until your hands are shaking and your eyes are shaking and your swear your heart is still beating, because you can feel it in your ears.
You almost leave the feather, stained in blood on the floor, when the Templars converge upon you.
Malik meets you on the roof near the hideout, because you haven't the strength to climb down yourself.
He half carries, half drags you back into the bureau, berates you the entire way for the trail of blood you leave over everything. You bleed along the wall he takes you down, along the ivy and the engravings, along stone and flower, onto his hands and onto yours. His movements are not gentle, are not forgiving. He drops you against the stone floor of the garden like you're already dead, like there's nothing there worth saving.
You lay unmoving but your vision is dark and the sound of your breathing, the sound of Malik shuffling in the other room is loud. You wonder if the whole city can hear the way your lungs are struggling to work, if they can hear your pride slipping through your tired hands.
Malik tries so hard to stay firm in his beliefs, tries so hard to stay distanced, but he kneels beside you and digs the arrow out of your leg like he has no other option in the world. He gives in to you over and over, like even amidst his anger and his grief he cannot say 'no', and it's crushing you too.
He mends and bandages your leg slowly, like the night is never-ending, like no one could possibly find you down here.
It is the blood loss that makes you delirious, dizzy and irrational. This is what you tell yourself when you speak without being able to stop, when you stare at him and wonder aloud why he should save your leg when you've taken his arm.
Malik takes in a sharp breath, bites back through gritted teeth, "No more words, Altair. Speak no more."
The bureau is a safe haven, until the night one of your own turns tail and flees. He tells the Templars of it, tells the Templars everything. You are six steps from the wooden lattice, six steps from the entrance of the bureau, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It is the breeze that brushes past you, brings the smell of blood to you, that halts your steps.
Worse is the silence that permeates the air.
You don't hear the clank of metal boots against the stone, don't hear the scuff of leather, don't hear anything at all.
When you slide down the stone into the bureau it is infuriatingly quiet. There are two bodies laying on the ground, one against the desk and another in the doorway. They are bled out, laying in still wet puddles, and Malik is not among them.
The city is silent, brightly lit under a nearly full moon, and it is not difficult to find him. Black robed body, head covered in fabric in a haphazard disguise, slung over the shoulder of a bleeding Templar. There is a single guard alongside him, casting nervous glances at every shadow, like he expects all of the brotherhood to converge upon their location; you know by the way he moves, by the anxiousness in his step, that he is the traitor in your ranks.
So you fall into the alley at your feet, amongst barrels and baskets and these streets are so crowded – too crowded to search every single noise. Your feet are silent against the ground, but the guard's – the former assassin's – eyes are darting around like he knows you're watching.
You would take your time, would skirt alongside them until the man breaks off in nerves and runs, but you're on Malik's time and not your own.
One break out of the alley is all it takes to send him into hysterics, as your former brother swings hysterically with his sword – but it's the Templar that falls first. The twist of a hidden blade in the area where his helmet disconnects from his neck, into bone and spine, and he falls to the ground in a heap. You step over his body, and Malik's, to where the former assassin hasn't yet fled – and you're on borrowed time, but you find extra for him.
You clean the wound on his head with water from the fountain, bitingly cold and he hisses when you drag the stained rag over the broken skin. When he grabs your wrist you let him, let him press you into the stone you're sitting against. Five fingers smear blood against the curve of your jaw and he leans over you, a knee pressed into your thigh, and he breathes against you.
One more breath and you take his shoulders, fingers finding purchase in the dark robes there. His body gives in under your hands, muscles relax and tension fades. These bruises aren't your doing, but you skirt along them like they are, like touching them makes them real.
"Breathe," he commands, and you wonder when you stopped. He smells of earth and blood, tastes like something you remember and can't place. You wonder how he expects you to breathe when he's wrenching you open like there are only strings holding you together.
You give up everything.
Skills and weapons, pride and honor, praise and jurisdiction. You give up your life and you take a blade in its place; you take up disgrace and dishonor without a choice.
You leave everything behind until you are completely empty, until there is nothing in you but a faint lingering of the arrogance you once carried – and that too starts to fade. You cling to the last remnants, cling to whatever remains, and then it leaves you in such a rush that you are left clinging to yourself.
You have nothing.
It makes it easier when Malik reaches out to you, when he takes you in and accepts you for what you are, for what you've become. It makes it easier when he gives in to you, when he falls into you and your hands are so empty that there is nothing but room for him.