A/N: Another angsty fill for the kinkmeme.
Prompt: Suicidal!Desmond, with a mix of Shaun/Desmond angst. The poor guy is kidnapped, used as a science experiment, gets told that "the fate of the universe lies on his shoulders!", probably feels lonely because his allies still view him as a science experiement (or so he thinks), dealing with the Bleeding effect (and in turn losing his mind). And of course, there's Shaun making it worse. If all that ends with sex, even better ;)
The poor guy is kidnapped, used as a science experiment, gets told that "the fate of the universe lies on his shoulders!", probably feels lonely because his allies still view him as a science experiement (or so he thinks), dealing with the Bleeding effect (and in turn losing his mind). And of course, there's Shaun making it worse.
If all that ends with sex, even better ;)
It is time for another of his weekly check-ups, and Rebecca sticks him with more needles, draws blood, listens to his heart, his lungs, checks his blood pressure, looks at his eyes and conducts all manner of other tests while Lucy asks him question after question about the way he feels when he comes in and out of consciousness from the animus, what it feels like when he has his hallucinations, when he sees echoes of the past, what it feels like for this or that and he answers automatically, as he does every week, while Shaun takes note of his responses, writing unknown comments in his file.
He used to feel somewhat self-conscious, stripped down to nothing but boxer-briefs in the chilled bathroom set up as a make-shift infirmary in their rooftop apartment in the middle of the city (Desmond had expected something more remote but Lucy had brushed aside his concerns about security, telling him not to worry about it, it wasn't his problem to sort out) but now, after so many weeks of the same routine again and again he just stares ahead of him tiredly, listening to Shaun mutter about the disappointing lack of a "control group," and Lucy telling him that they couldn't very well have cloned Desmond at any point, since that's the only way they'd ever have a control. Desmond hears disappointment in her voice as well and he feels like a failure, a science experiment that they can't just throw away because they've put too much effort into him already.
He's so close to not feeling anything, but he does feel, and it's so futile, because when the bleeding effect takes over they aren't even his feelings, but those are the only feelings that matter here; not how he feels about his allies or about this war or about being confined to these few rooms in isolation or anything personal, only the feelings of his ancestors when they are in control.
He remembers complaining about feeling pent up, about going stir crazy once, but that seems so long ago and he no longer feels anger when he recalls how Shaun sneered at him, told him condescendingly to grow up and do what he was good for, gesturing dismissively at the Animus. Nor does he feel warmth from remembering the few times when Shaun treated him as an equal, a friend worth conversing with; he feels only the sad weight from wasted efforts as slowly he's been forced to realize none of it matters, none of it ever mattered and while he may have wanted Shaun before, now he closes his eyes against such fruitless desires.
In an ideal world, he thinks, he could turn everything off, like a machine, and just perform his duties without having to face the same crushing, inevitable emptiness every single day. He comes to enjoy the bleeding effect, enjoy when Ezio, damaged by grief though he may have been, fills him with life and exuberance, and he even enjoys when Altaïr manifests, because while cold and proud, it's still a release from scurrying around his little cage fully aware, while the others look on and take even more notes on his condition.
When Shaun rolls his eyes at him and mocks him for something he's said (and often he cannot even recall the words he speaks in an attempt to fill the void, as though pretending enough will finally make it all better), Desmond wishes one of his hallucinations would start, so he'd no longer accountable for his words or his actions, could no longer be judged for being himself. He wants to be able to slip into someone else's skin at will, wants to no longer care.
He's torn, because he has come to depend on the bleeding effect to stifle the damnable press of his self-pity, but it is getting to the point where he's not entirely sure if he's still Desmond, if Altaïr and Ezio ever actually leave, or if they continue to hold him even when he thinks he is himself. He's not sure that if he peeled back his flesh, he wouldn't find them waiting beneath his skin, clawing their way out of his body, and part of him wants to find out.
And now, he wishes Lucy hadn't interceded on his behalf at Abstergo; she should have just let Vidic's superiors do what they wanted and just had him killed, because while he knows it's selfish, he's sick of being useful, of having the entire world and the human fucking race depending on him, of being valued for something he has no control over and would rather not have any part of.
He lays in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking about what he would do if it turned out his allies were actually enemies, what he could use to defend himself, how he could take each one of them down. While it is almost painful to think about, he still considers how he could eliminate Shaun if he needed to, how he could use the man's poor eyesight against him to get the upper hand. What he would need to do to kill him.
Knowing what his ancestors knew about death makes him increasingly, morbidly fascinated with all of the everyday objects around him that have that fatally destructive power, and how he could use them to his advantage. How he could turn them against himself.
Rebecca and Lucy can brush his concerns aside as much as they like; Shaun knows something is off with Desmond, and has been for some time, but they tell him that's what the weekly check-ups are for, that they are taking precautions and if something were wrong with Desmond, they would have found out by now.
Frankly, Shaun is convinced that argument is several types of bollocks, because he has seen Desmond retreat into himself, has seen the desperation in his eyes when confronted with every reminder of his responsibility while slipping in and out of consciousness, has seen him shut down after attacking him verbally, trying to shock something akin to life back into his system through anger and failing miserably.
But Shaun knows for a fact that Desmond is slipping when he walks into their shared bedroom in the middle of the night to see Desmond propped awkwardly up in bed, hidden blade pressed to his face where the scar on his mouth is, dragging along the line not quite hard enough to break skin but there's dried blood on the blade, Shaun can see, browning and marring the shine of the metal, and he doesn't know where the blood came from but he has a sinking suspicion.
Demanding that Desmond tell him what the hell happened yields no results, only silence and a slow blink in response, and the closest he comes to seeming alive is when Shaun tries to approach him to find out just where that dried blood came from. Desmond almost threatens Shaun, gesturing at him with that blade and telling him if he's so damned concerned about his condition then he can wait for the fucking check-up in a few days to find out, and Shaun's suspicions are as good as confirmed when Desmond winces while twisting a bit, rearranging himself to lean up against the wall more comfortably.
Come the weekly check-up several days later, and Desmond has bandages wrapped around his torso, clearly haphazardly applied, igniting a flurry of demands from Rebecca and Lucy as to how the hell that happened while Shaun just stares, perturbed by the look of absolute calm on Desmond's face as he tells them he snuck out and fell on something (which makes Shaun wonder if Desmond actually has snuck out at some point), and he manages to look sheepish; Shaun is disgusted that Lucy and Rebecca eat his explanation right up, berating Desmond for his carelessness.
Though Desmond never looks directly at him, Shaun can practically feel his defiance, and senses that he's being trusted with a monumental secret that he finds he cannot divulge, even though he knows something horrible is going on and by keeping quiet he's only enabling Desmond further.
In the end, Shaun ends up sending the girls away. Even though they don't believe him when he says something is very seriously wrong with Desmond, they leave and he returns to working on his computer, feeling sick from the nervousness stirring in him at the prospect of confronting Desmond, putting it off because it could go so catastrophically sour; though he never saw it for himself, he imagines the blood that covered the lab at Abstergo from Subject 16 and knows Desmond is so very close to finding that end for himself.
With Lucy and Rebecca gone, Desmond has nothing to do but sit and twiddle his thumbs; after a while, when the silence stretches on and Shaun has yet to work up the nerve to actually talk to Desmond, Desmond announces he's going to bed and abruptly departs, leaving Shaun to his work.
He can only stare at his computer screen and think about how to say something to Desmond without it being an accusation, a condemnation, for so long, until he decides he will just have to see what happens. Desmond isn't in their room, however, or anywhere else in the apartment for that matter, and after a moment of blank confusion Shaun remembers Desmond talking about sneaking out, and he knows where he'll find him. Shaun rushes to the roof and feels his heart stop when he sees Desmond standing at the edge, just a few feet away but it might as well be miles for all the good he'll be if Desmond decides to jump.
His foot scrapes against the roof and Desmond turns his head, then closes his eyes for a moment when he sees Shaun standing there; Desmond imagines he sees more disapproval in his face, and says quietly, "Don't worry, Shaun. You're not about to lose your science project."
Shaun knows there's no way Desmond could possibly execute a leap of faith without it being fatal, so he must be considering jumping and while he knows that Desmond has been morbidly self-destructive, he hadn't realized it could be a bit more serious than that. He's not sure whether he should approach Desmond or keep his distance, and while he's frantically deliberating he doesn't quite digest Desmond's words right away, just stands there gaping while Desmond stares down at the cars below.
Desmond is imagining the free-fall, and he closes his eyes, remembering through Ezio and Altaïr the feeling of weightlessness, and he imagines that's what death feels like, and it's the closest to peace he's felt in weeks, months.
He doesn't notice that Shaun has gotten over his shock until he hears him say, "Science project . . .? Is that what you think? Oh, Desmond." And there's something in his voice that Desmond is sure he's never heard before, so he opens his eyes and looks over his shoulder again, confusion stirring in him at the expression on Shaun's face, a pained sort of sadness that seems incongruous in Desmond's mind with everything he understands about Shaun. "You're not a bloody science project, Desmond."
"No, you're right. I'm just everyone's savior. A modern-day Jesus Christ. Better pray for your sins," and while he intends to sound sarcastic he just sounds tired, worn out, defeated; he toes the edge of the building, hearing the sharp inhalation of breath behind him as he looks down again. "I won't jump. I already said so."
"Yes, well, forgive me if I'm a bit nervous." Shaun fidgets, then says, "Desmond, please come away from there."
"Incredibly. Please, Desmond." Shaun is pleading with Desmond, and so, slowly, almost reluctantly Desmond turns and makes the smaller jump down from the ledge, casting a final glance at the cars below over his shoulder before facing Shaun fully.
Shaun is struck by the immediate change in Desmond; his previous serenity transforms into a kind of broken weariness and he looks at Shaun a moment before he slumps, lowering himself to lean against the ledge, folding his hands across his stomach, head tilted back to stare at the sky, ignoring all else.
Shaun remains silent, so Desmond says, "Still here, Hastings?"
After a moment's hesitation, Shaun makes the few steps to the ledge where Desmond stood moments before and shudders when he leans over a little and looks down, his insides tensing as he pictures Desmond pitching over the edge. He shakes his head, attempting to banish that thought, and seats himself carefully on the ledge. "Of course I am, you wanker. Care to tell me what's going on?"
He winces when Desmond closes his eyes and frowns. "Nothing, Shaun. It doesn't matter."
"Doesn't matter? Are you off your bloody—no. I'm sorry." Shaun scrubs his face with his hands and sighs, cursing himself and the delicacy of the situation. "Desmond. Please tell me that's not what you think."
"Science project, savior, any of it." Desmond doesn't respond, and even with his eyes closed Shaun can read the tugging of his lips even further into a frown as disgust. "Desmond."
"Just leave it, Shaun. And why the hell are you even here, anyway? Don't you have work to do?"
"This is more important." Desmond snorts, and Shaun's brow furrows. "Desmond. . ." Though closed, Shaun can tell by the way Desmond's eyes tense that he's rolling them, and he feels helpless, because he fears nothing he can say will have any effect, or will change Desmond's mind.
Shaun slides off the ledge to crouch down beside Desmond, and a moment later he sits down next to him, staring up at the night sky, obscured by heavy cloud cover. Desmond sighs beside him. "What are you doing, Shaun?"
Desmond's chest feels heavy; he doesn't want Shaun here, he doesn't want to be this close to him because he remembers wanting this and he remembers losing that hope along with everything else that he's lost. "Just. Go away. Why are you even here?"
"Because it does matter. Because you're not some experiment, and certainly more important than updating the bloody database. And I'm not leaving." Shaun does his best to keep his voice level, to not reach over and shake him, or alternately smack him upside the head and kiss the melancholy right out of him, because he is fairly certain that would have an adverse effect.
Desmond shouldn't feel claustrophobic on top of the building with nothing but sky all around him, and he opens his eyes to remind himself of that, but so close to Shaun now, when all he wants is to be left alone, his lungs feel several sizes too small and the world seems to constrict around him. "What are you talking about?" He shakes his head. "Why can't you just leave me alone?"
Shaun shifts, fussing with his slacks. "Because I know better. You can fool the others, apparently, but you're certainly not fooling me."
"Like you care anyway. Whatever happened to you wanting me to 'do what I do best'?" He shakes his head. "You don't care. All that matters is the Animus and the bleeding effect."
For once, just once he doesn't want it, that excuse the bleeding effect provides, because he wants to know what the hell is going on and why Shaun suddenly seems so interested and concerned, but if the bleeding effect takes over he'll never find out because he can't trust Shaun not to get distracted by how very intellectually stimulating this part of Desmond is. But that blue-grey fog settles around him, and he can't keep the distress out of his voice when he swears. "Shit."
"Is it . . .?" Shaun doesn't want to say bleeding effect because the way they throw the term around when discussing Desmond has to be driving the man more crazy than he already feels, and when Desmond nods he says, "Look at me, Desmond."
Desmond does, but then his eyes shift to behind Shaun and while the hairs rise on the back of his neck, Shaun knows there's nothing there, so he reaches over and gently catches Desmond's chin in his hand. "At me. Nothing else."
When his eyes focus on Shaun, Desmond tries to force the images away, tries to force down the rising sense of other, and he wonders whether it'll be Ezio or Altaïr this time, and whether they'll want to take that leap of faith after all and he almost feels sorry for Shaun, who'll have to explain to the others why he leapt from the building in the middle of the night.
He imagines he sees something behind Shaun, something vague and threatening, but Shaun is still holding him in place, and it's only a moment of just looking at each other before Shaun pulls Desmond into a kiss that neither of them really anticipates, and it's terribly awkward but when they part Desmond's eyes are startlingly focused, fixed intently on Shaun.
"What." Desmond shakes his head, shocked and relieved that whoever was about to take over has retreated back into the depths of his mind, that fog blessedly absent, and he's torn between scrambling away and kissing Shaun again, unwilling to believe that this is anything more than a fluke but even more unwilling to let it go to waste.
That desperate desire to get at least one thing he wants overrides all else and he leans in and cautiously presses his lips to Shaun's once, then again when Shaun doesn't punch him in the face, and when Shaun reciprocates there's this unexpected rush and he feels light.
Desmond thinks suddenly he must have imagined Shaun returning the kiss, must have imagined him pulling him close in the first place because he's fairly certain he's losing his mind half the time and he tries to scoot back, retreat to safety, but that ledge is behind him and Shaun's grabbing him anyway, holding him.
"I don't understand," Desmond says. "What the hell are you doing?"
Shaun looks at him seriously for a moment. "I am pretty sure I was kissing you. I would like to continue, if you don't mind."
Part of Desmond is convinced that this is just another hallucination, while the rest of him desperately hopes it isn't. He feels like part of his brain has shorted out and it's just filling in what he wants to hear, but he nods anyway just in case, and he still doesn't really believe it when Shaun moves in, straddling him, and kisses him slowly, carefully, like he's memorizing every detail of Desmond's mouth and the way he reacts to hands here, and it's strangely like falling, he thinks, as though the wall opened up behind them and they're tumbling through the air with Shaun's hand down his pants.
And it is good, fantastic when Shaun shifts lower; it feels amazing with his mouth around Desmond's cock, and when he comes it isn't at all like he imagined hitting the tarmac so many stories below would have been, it's not like plummeting into traffic but like that feeling of narrowly avoiding an accident, a sudden rush of adrenaline and the realization that he came so close, so very, very close to losing everything, and when Shaun kisses him again, with the taste of himself on his lips, Desmond hopes to god he doesn't lose this.
Coming down from that high, still breathing heavily and alternating between staring at Shaun and avoiding his gaze altogether, Desmond knows his problems can't be solved with a simple orgasm on a rooftop, that there will be more clinical observations and more episodes and loss of self-control, of looking down into the expanse of emptiness, but he thinks maybe, with Shaun's help, he'll be able to keep from wanting to jump.