Altair admires Malik's hair.

He likes to shuffle his fingers through the short locks, observing the different angles of light that created a soft halo about the head, the two of them dozing in the warm midmorning heat. He likes the way the rafiq disregards the trait as nothing, perhaps even raking a haphazard hand through them, scowling every time the Grand Master trails a lone digit around in circles at the back—the scent draws him in, the smell of an oasis, the highpoint of water, as much as the need to memorize how it curled tightly in some areas, loosely in others, how good it felt when he touched them: a tad rough, more than a bit stubborn, yet defined. Oftentimes, such as now, he'd push back the mass from top to bottom, reveling in the slight rebellion of obstinacy, rubbing his nose against the sides to faint snores and a slight rustle of sheets. He never knew such a simple thing could be worth so much to the senses.

But that wasn't the only thing he liked about it.

Yes, like this, later on, grinding against each other to a silent rhythm on the floor, he buries his face into his obsession, inhaling the strong musk and smoothing his cheek over them, both hands interred within. It's addicting, this attribute: He finds himself pulling the tresses while he fucks Malik into the rug, and damn, it felt so good to tug it this way and that, a tool to initiate a breathtaking kiss, pinpricks on his neck, the way the panting assassin growls at the motion and bucks harder into his greed. Invariably, with a muted groan, he'd come first, giving a sharp jerk and flattening himself against the brunet's head, swallowing a deep moan, not too long before he catches his grin in the reflection of brown eyes. And then, God, that hair! The style in which it tickled his chin! He can just—

"Next time you pull my hair again, your own will be missing," Malik viciously snarled. "And I don't mean the hair on your head."


"Safety and peace, Malik."

A growl. "Your presence deprives me of both!"

That day, Altair sleeps outside on the pillows, biting down on his lip to maintain his pride and not beg forgiveness from the angry rafiq: He looks quietly at the stars and ponders if Kadar is really up there—and if he truly was, he wished for the third time in his life if he could seal Malik's wounds over his.

The prayer goes unanswered.

"Safety and peace, brother."

There's something he can't name, but aggression still boils, nevertheless. "You still have the audacity to call me one of your own?"

Nighttime passes quickly for Altair, who sat on one of the rafters that overlooked the hidden bureau; he has more than a few wounds that requires extensive care, but he dares not approach the man hidden behind a mountain of scrolls. For, just like that, the distance he knew—and feared—was already established.

His ring finger burns.

"Safety and peace, rafiq": Professional, calm, expectant.

"As to you."

Still surprised, studying the welcoming blanket of dawn, Altair perched on a nearby broken beam and contemplated—the reaction, the casual tone, the lack of hostility: such were the things that the confused assassin had a hard time comprehending, much less, knowing why, when where, so much had changed within the course of twenty moons. But he does not further speculate, more afraid than he should be at breaking the fragile bond.

There were twenty cicadas in the fountain.

"Safety and peace, Malik."

Was that a smile? "May your presence deliver us both."

He's too blinded to think.

"Safety and peace, Malik."

"Your presence will deliver us both."

And that's all he needs.


"Well, I think I did pretty well for my first time."

Malik was currently failing in maintaining his composure, eyes bulging, teeth locked together, his fist clenching to the sound of both of their dying pants and grasshoppers.

This was impossible.




"What do you mean?" he barely ground out, hating Altair's nonchalance as much as the rapidly cooling semen that littered their bodies. When the other man turned around and ghosted an exploring hand near his navel, he latched his fingers onto said wrist, tightening his grip until he could hear a bone pop. "Novice."

A shrug. "I just told you: I do think my actions were quite efficient for my first sexual endeavor."

'Heart attack' was an understatement. "You mean to tell me that you are a virgin?"

The taller assassin frowned slightly. "Was a virgin."

Not a minute later, the Grand Master found himself formally acquainted with the couch.