A/N: Another kinkmeme fill, cleaned up a bit. Observe the lack of actual kink, once more.
Prompt was for Desmond panicking when he starts forgetting things from his life: family, friends, etc. but not telling anyone, and Shaun being a douchebag because he thinks Desmond is acting like a baby.
Lost the section breaks I put in before. Should be all better now.
When Desmond finishes talking, Shaun gives him a disgusted look and says, "Very funny, Desmond. And here I thought you might actually be capable of having a serious conversation for once. More the fool, I. Did you think I wouldn't realize it was Ezio you were talking about and not you? Bloody prig."
Desmond has the presence of mind to respond with a smirk rather than the blank shock that fills him when he realizes Shaun's right, and he kicks his feet up onto the coffee table. "Relax, Hastings. Just having some fun."
"Fun. Right, of course, you would find being an absolute wanker amusing. Cheers, Desmond." Shaun gives him a weird gesture, like a peace sign but backwards that Desmond doesn't understand, but the severity of the gesture and the expression on Shaun's face when he walks away tells him it probably isn't good. When Shaun is gone from the room, Desmond plants his feet back on the floor and bows his head, clasping his hands between his knees and breathing heavily.
It's getting worse.
At first, he doesn't really notice it, because it starts out so simply; the way Lucy asks him to do something will remind him of Claudia's ability to manipulate, or Rebecca's unpredictable enthusiasm will remind him of Rosa's spunk, and it seems natural, because he has only just experienced memories with them when it starts. After a while, he starts thinking of Giovanni as father rather than Ezio's father, and he tells himself it is because it is easier to shorten it, though it is harder to explain to himself the twinges of grief and lust for revenge that trouble him when the image of Giovanni swinging from the gallows next to his—to Ezio's—brothers flash into his mind, unbidden and unpredictable.
Slowly, so slowly he doesn't realize it, his memories are fading, dissolving like candy floss in the rain, and now his past is as mysterious to him as it is to Shaun, who had expressed an inexplicable curiosity about it. It had seemed easy enough to indulge his curiosity, and he dug down into those early memories he felt were his; of growing up with his brothers, of his parents, of Florence (Firenze, his brain argues). Duplicity had never crossed his mind, not when Shaun is so rarely without malice. Not when Desmond desires his approval.
When he thinks mother, he remembers Maria (sorrow, guilt), and when he thinks father, he remembers Giovanni (pain, guilt, grief); he doesn't remember if he ever actually had siblings, not anymore, but his brain readily supplies him with memories of amicable rivalry with Federico, protective feelings toward Claudia, and affectionate indulgence for Petruccio.
At Abstergo, he had told Lucy about feeling suffocated, controlled, caged on the farm, that his parents were jailors, but he doesn't remember these feelings now. His real parents are more ethereal than the mirages that flicker in and out of existence, remnants of a past not his own. Life was glorious until it took a disastrous turn at age seventeen, as far as his mind is concerned.
He almost believes it. If it weren't for the fact that he still hops in and out of the Animus every day, he could almost accept that he once had an idyllic family life that was irrevocably destroyed by the Templars. If he didn't routinely become Ezio and then return to Desmond (and that distinction is becoming more and more difficult to make), the transition would be unnoticeable.
Even still, Desmond barely notices the change until, of course, Shaun asks him to indulge his curiosity about his life before Abstergo, before running away from the Assassins. Desmond doubts the man will bother again. It had been a moment of weakness, of rare civility that Desmond's tattered scraps of memory have destroyed.
As casually as he can, he decides to ask Lucy about how Abstergo found him again, the next day. Blandly, he tells her he's curious about what sort of information they had on him, like it's nothing, like he isn't trying to remind himself of things he should already know, and he conceals his relief when she prints out several pages and tells him it's his file, all the data Abstergo collected on him while hunting him down.
When the others have gone to bed, he pores over the pages. Information is sorted chronologically, the most recent entries first, and something tugs when he sees the word "motorcycle;" a muted longing for wind whipping over his body and the heavy rumble of the engine beneath him, but older entries give him nothing. Cold sweat beads up on his skin under his shirt, his hands chill and clammy. There are so many pages, so many words in tiny print detailing the minutia of his life and he doesn't remember any of it.
They hadn't told him this could happen. They never said he would forget himself, that he would lose everything he was only to have the gaps filled in by an ancient stranger. He's shaking, he realizes, as he isn't sure who he really is if he doesn't even have memories of his own life, but he knows he isn't Ezio because Ezio is dead, and almost everyone Desmond remembers outside of this building is dead, but that isn't reassuring at all.
Nothing is reassuring.
He laughs bitterly and shoves the papers off his bed, thinking nothing is true, trying to quell the rising hysteria threatening to burst from his chest. They scatter between the wall and the frame of the bed, a few pages disappearing into the shadows underneath and it's terribly symbolic, the only remains of his life before the Animus lost in darkness.
In the morning, terror strikes him and he scrambles to retrieve those papers once more and stacks them neatly under his pillow; more symbolism, he thinks, clinging to a foolish superstition that if he keeps them close, he'll regain what he's lost.
Knowing what he's lost, and will continue to lose, makes him wary of the Animus. His reluctance to adhere to the pattern they've established over the months shows, and Shaun snaps at him to stop being a fucking child and get on with it. Desmond can feel the room shrink, the air thin as his chest constricts, something crawling up his spine as he lays down on the red fabric of the chair, even as he tells Rebecca he's fine, he's probably just getting a cold or something.
There's that unpleasant jab of the monitor in his arm before he's carried off, but it isn't a pleasant ride. Synchronicity remains dangerously low, and Desmond wavers in and out of Ezio's memories as part of him clings desperately to the delicate remnants of his sense of self, refusing to relinquish control. Finally, they have to stop entirely and he cannot hide his relief when Rebecca rouses him, shaking her head and muttering under her breath.
Desmond absconds to the warehouse under the pretence of training; while that is where his body is, his mind, his thoughts are on his past, struggling to remember the feel of the wind while racing down the highway on his bike, straining to remember the apartment he knows he must have had, girlfriends, boyfriends, anything. He pounds his frustration and his failure out onto the training dummy until his arms tire, until his hands are sore and sweat from anxiety and exertion coats his body.
This becomes the new pattern.
They make halting progress through Ezio's memories while Desmond's insides tense and churn, and he can no longer claim he's coming down with a cold when weeks pass, can't offer any explanation to them for why he trembles a little when they ask him if he's ready to begin, or why when he wakes up again, he has to go to the bathroom to throw up.
He's relieved that he hasn't forgotten being at Abstergo, or escaping to the warehouse. But he doesn't relax, because if he does he'll lose everything, and he doesn't want to forget what it feels like to have friends here, what it feels like to have Shaun hate him while he quietly admires his brilliance, an unrequited affection that used to bother him but which now he clings to desperately.
Shaun is only too willing to remind him of what that feels like, and Desmond would almost be grateful for it if the man didn't take such pleasure in flaying Desmond with sharp words and bitter insults that, despite Desmond's need for something rooting him in the present, tear strips from his pride.
It is anger, combined with his terror and anxiety, that breaks him, in the end.
Desmond is in the warehouse, winding down as he wryly weighs the pros and cons of forgetting the sound of Warren Vidic's voice, trying to find some humor in a situation that frequently has him dry-heaving, when Shaun seeks him out. This surprises Desmond, in a muted sort of way; Shaun doesn't normally go out of his way to take him down a peg or two, but the inability to get proper work done must be wearing his fragile patience dangerously thin.
Desmond can feel apprehension claw at his stomach when Shaun says his name in that deceptively calm tone, and halts his attacks on the dummy, turning to face him.
"What exactly are you playing at, Desmond?" Shaun's arms are folded across his chest, and this is a good thing; it means he doesn't plan on trying something violent.
"I'm not playing at anything, Shaun," Desmond says, or tries to say because the words come out sounding slightly wrong, and he runs them over again in his mind, unable to figure out why they didn't sound like what he intended. He brings a shaky hand to his forehead and furrows his brow, while Shaun gives him a glare of disgust.
"That's adorable, Desmond. Very cute. Now why don't you try that again in English, you bloody idiot."
He feels like he's falling. His world has tilted just so, and there's nothing, no one for him to grasp for support, for stability, only Shaun with his withering glances and acid tongue. Desmond had spoken Italian around them before, deliberately, and Lucy had smiled and indulged him in a bit of friendly conversation, while Shaun and Rebecca stared at them in incomprehension.
This is the first time he's been unable to control it.
He tries again, a note of desperation in his voice, and the livid anger that rises in Shaun's face tells him he got it wrong, all wrong.
"Do you think this is some sort of game, or something? We don't have time for your childish antics, Desmond. There are more important things at stake here than your pathetic, lazy refusal to pull your own weight." His arms uncross, and Desmond almost hopes he'll take a swing, because maybe it'll be enough of a jolt to set everything right, and everything will come flooding back, even as the slightest spark of anger flares defiantly.
That anger triggers something Desmond can't control, and words are pouring forth from his mouth and he doesn't know if it's English or Italian or Arabic or if they're even words at all or just gibberish, panicked nonsense. There's no ground beneath his feet, and he feels detached from his body, from everything and Shaun is staring at him but he's so far away, the world has stopped turning but he's still caught in its rotation.
And he's on his knees but he doesn't know when that happened, his palms are flat on the floor and he's shaking, he's gasping and heaving and he can't remember anything, can't remember what Shaun's voice sounds like through the roaring in his ears, the terrible racing of his heart, can't remember the feel of his bed or the encyclopedic words he thought he'd memorized from his file in a desperate attempt to supplement his deficient memory and now his palms are up and his face is buried in them, soaking them as moisture precipitates from his eyes uncontrollably, and he's not crying, he can't be crying because there's no sorrow, no sadness, all he has is this awful, gut-wrenching fear and loss and sense of hopelessness as he tries, tries so hardto tell Shaun he's losing it, he's losing everything, but Shaun just stands and stares at him until the words stop falling from his mouth, until his lungs give out and his voice breaks and he's gasping brokenly, struggling to regain control he lost as soon as he relived Solomon's Temple.
Shaun can do nothing, he knows, cannot help him, cannot bring him back, and while he registers the sensation of a firm hand on his back and the sound of Shaun's voice quietly in his ear, Desmond feels nothing, cannot form an expression on his face when he straightens, still struggling for breath, still shaking, but bereft of his will to fight.
There's concern in Shaun's eyes and Desmond finds himself pulled into a tight embrace full of apologies and reassurance, and while there's some small warmth in his heart at this concession, Desmond feels overwhelmed by the vast emptiness that has opened within him.
He clings to Shaun, willing himself to remember the feel of the scrape of Shaun's facial hair against his cheek, the feel of his arms around him, the beating of his heart, the smell of his hair, his deodorant, the sound of his voice in his ear, and the way their bodies awkwardly and uncomfortably press together as they kneel on the cement floor of the warehouse.
He despairs, because no matter how much he needs this moment, it, too, will vanish, everything disintegrating until there is nothing left of Desmond but what exists in the memories of others.