This deals with some of my personal headcanon for both Altaïr and Maria, but it's mostly a way of dealing with my irritation at Maria's redesign in Bloodlines and AC2. I'm kind of nervous about this story; I have no idea if it succeeds at any of the things I tried to do, so feedback or criticism or being told that I'm engaging in pantsless asshattery is more than welcome.

May contain rough consensual sex, anal sex, gender issues, cliches, ridiculous fanon, and trace amounts of fluff.

Finding a proper uniform had taken some effort; in the end, Maria took a novice uniform and dredged up what few sewing skills she'd grudgingly acquired in her childhood, and altered it to fit. She missed the security of her chainmaille, but the thick leather of the Assassin swordbelt provided nearly as much protection to her midsection, and the harness for her short blade and throwing knives was nearly as comforting a weight across her shoulders.

The hood, though. The hood felt wrong; it blocked her peripheral vision and nothing she did to the way it fell across her forehead seemed to make it itch less. Some tiny voice in the back of her mind pointed out that her helm and coif hadn't afforded her even half as much visibility, and the worn linen didn't really itch, but she ignored it.

The solution was simple enough; she sat at the little dressing table in her room and took her hair down. Freed from the crown of braids, it fell to the middle of her back in thick waves. Maria looked at her reflection in the mirror for a moment; her face looked strange and soft with her hair down. She could dimly recall her mother saying, years ago, that such fine hair would surely catch her a good husband some day.

The memory made her mouth twist into a sneer, banishing the pretty stranger in the mirror. She twined a lock of hair around her fingers and took a knife to it, as close to her skull as she dared. Robert had insisted she keep her hair long, in case she were called on to appear as a woman and not as his squire and steward. At the time, it had made some amount of sense, but now it seemed like something done to keep her in check, something to prove his control over her.

Despite that, the braids had proven useful in their own way; they provided a little extra padding beneath her coif and helm. But she'd put her maille away in the bottom of the trunk she kept in the room she shared with Altaïr. Her Templar uniform, with its scarlet cross and the bloodstains of a dozen dead Saracens, had been burned. Her loyalty had been to Robert, not to his cause.

Things were different, now. She did not regret her time spent as one of Robert's men, nor the years before and after, as a mercenary. But that part of her life was ended, and this was who she was now: the Assassin whites, and the gray hood of a journeyman. She pulled another handful of her hair taut and sliced it off. Her knife was good Damascus steel, strong and sharp, and it cut through the strands like the finest razor. Perhaps later, she could ask Rauf or one of the women who tended the bath house to trim it more neatly; until then, she could endure a few uneven patches. The hood fit properly now, with her hair chopped down to a bare fraction of an inch in places.

Altaïr found her as she was wrapping up the scraps of her hair into a bundle to burn later. "Maria?" He stood in the doorway, looking uncertain. "What are you- what have you done?"

"I've been living here long enough to grow weary of being treated like an outsider," she said, tilting her chin up in silent challenge. "If I wish to be treated no differently than one of our brothers, I should look the part, don't you think?"

He took a few hesitant steps towards her, taking in the altered cut of the uniform: the way the swordbelt sat a little too high on her waist because of the swell of her hips beneath it, the way the straps of her shoulder harness nestled between the bound curves of her breasts. She was tall for a woman to begin with, and slender; with her hood up, shadowing her face, she was as anonymous as any other Assassin in the Brotherhood.

"Should I call you Marius, now?" He pushed back her hood, running his hand through the haphazard spikes of her hair. Altaïr had always liked to touch her hair; apparently it did not matter how long the hair in question happened to be. The feel of his hand against her scalp raised goosebumps along her spine.

"I called myself Matthias, once. Before." The deception had been necessary for years, but Robert had put an end to it when she became his steward. He'd found it amusing, though he'd said she looked more like a Daniel, stepping into the lion's den with nothing but defiance in her eyes. But Daniel had walked with the grace of God, and Maria had known even then that she would never be so blessed. She'd chosen the name simply because she liked the sound of it, and prayed that God might forgive her transgressions some day, when she was ready to repent them. "Would you treat me like one of your men if I insisted on another name?"

"I do treat you the same-"

"No." She swatted his hand away, stepping back. "You don't. You pull your blows in the training ring, and you refuse to assign me missions that are suitable to my skills. I will not be coddled simply because you think I am fragile."

"Fragility has never been one of your faults." He reached for her, catching her wrist and pulling her close so he could run his other hand through her hair again. "But you are impatient, and for all your skill with a sword, I still wouldn't trust you not to break a hidden blade against your target's ribs."

She felt that shiver down her spine again, only this time it gathered between her legs. This close, she could feel the heat of him, the solid strength of his body, and she could smell the faint tang of dust and sweat from the training circle clinging to his skin. "You underestimate me, husband."

Altaïr smirked, still stroking her hair, and wrapped his other arm around her waist. The buckles of their shoulder harnesses clanged together. "You should say 'Master' instead, if you want me to treat you like one of my men. When you say 'husband,' it just makes me want to do this." He crooked his knee between her legs, pulling her up by the back of her belt so that she was straddling his thigh. His nipped sharply at her earlobe, and nuzzled the soft patch of skin behind it, tasting it with his tongue.

"Your behavior has absolutely nothing to do with what I call you," she said primly, even as she reached between them to palm his cock through the soft linen of his breeches. She wrapped her other arm around his neck, pulling back his hood and winding her fingers in his hair. "And you let both titles go to your head." Her smile was wicked as she squeezed.

He kissed her then, a kiss full of heat and wetness and the rough edges of his teeth against her lips, and when she bit back, he snarled and pushed her up against the dressing table. He knew the closures to her uniform better than she did- though she wondered how often, and with whom, he'd practiced opening those ties from this angle. Within moments her pants were pooling about her ankles, and his hands were burning a path along the bared skin of her inner thighs.

Maria leaned back across the table, grinning smugly. "Still insisting you treat me no differently than the rest of your men, Master?" She made a mocking obscenity of the title, just to make him snarl. He pretended he didn't care about rank and title- and perhaps he didn't, compared to the man he'd been before she'd met him- but she knew how to wield a name like a weapon.

He captured her mouth in another savage kiss, wrapping her in an embrace while he tore at the buckles on his bracer behind her; Maria pulled at the laces of his breeches and freed his cock just as his hidden blade fell to the floor with a clatter. She kicked a foot free of the tangle of her pants in order to properly spread her legs, but Altaïr took her by the hips and turned her, pinning her face down against the table.

"Perhaps I should start treating you all the same." His voice was harsh against the back of her neck as he kicked her legs apart. "I can think of quite a few of my men who could use a lesson like this." She was already wet, more than ready for his cock when he entered her in a single deep thrust.

Maria rolled her eyes and reached back to tangle her fingers in his hair (which was now longer than hers in places), pulling his head around so she could kiss him and pull a low noise of pure lust from his mouth with her tongue and teeth. For all that Altaïr might treat her as though she were fragile in the practice ring, he'd never done so in bed (or against the wall, on his desk, or over a table), and Maria was glad for it. In this, at least, he had never treated her as less than an equal, had never questioned that she could take anything he offered and give it back in kind.

She bit sharply at his lower lip, moaning appreciatively at the feel of his cock striking the most sensitive spots inside her. "I don't believe you'd ever fuck one of your men this gently," she hissed, pulling a little harder on his hair and arching her spine to urge him deeper, harder. "You're beginning to bore me."

He turned his head to suck a bruise onto the side of her neck that would surely last for days. "If you were a man," he growled, rubbing his cock, now slick from her cunt, up between her asscheeks, "I would take you like this."

She spread her legs further, pushed her hips back against the steady pressure of his cock and laughed. "If I were a man, it would be you bent over this table."

His sudden startled intake of breath was the only warning she had before he snapped his hips forward, impaling her all at once on the hard length of his cock. Maria swallowed a cry of pain and dug her fingers into the worn wood of the table; it had been too long since the last time she'd done this, but oh, she'd forgotten how good it could be, forgotten the bone-deep satisfaction of it, the way a man's cock could reach some hungry place inside of her she hadn't even known existed.

His breath was ragged against the back of her neck, ruffling the fringe of short hair there. "Fuck. I'm sorry- are you-"

"Fine. I'm fine, just- move, damn you," she gasped, trying to catch her breath. Her thighs were trembling with the effort of keeping her knees from buckling. The pain was excruciating; the pleasure, moreso. She twisted to look at him over her shoulder, challenging and inviting all at once. "You like that idea, don't you?"

"Shut up." But his eyes were shut tight and his mouth open and panting with the effort of keeping himself under control; her knees were not the only ones shaking. He pulled his cock back slowly, then thrust in with the same deliberate, torturous patience.

"You do, you like the idea of being fucked- I'd make you scream for it, have you begging-" Altaïr's next thrust was a little faster, a little harder, and his fingers dug into her hips hard enough to bruise. God, she was so wet; she snaked a hand down to finger her cunt, sliding two fingers inside so she could feel the hard thrust of Altaïr's cock pressing against her inner walls.

"Shut up," he said again, but his voice was a broken moan against her shoulder. He wrapped his hand around the back of her neck and held her down against the table as he fucked her slowly, each thrust careful and deep. Like this, with her face turned away so that he could only see her shortened hair and the disheveled tangle of robes hiding the curve of her hips, she looked no different from any of the novices or journeymen in the Order.

"Or what? You'll keep treating me like glass? Fuck me," she snarled, rocking back into his thrusts as best she could with his weight pinning her to the table. His only answer was a growl- and compliance. The wood was rough beneath her cheek, she could hardly breathe with Altaïr's elbow digging into the center of her back, but these were inconsequential discomforts in the face of the wildfire pleasure that suffused her to her very fingertips. Altaïr was fucking her properly now, hard and deep, the force of his thrusts rocking the table against the wall. Maria curled her fingers to rub against that spot that made liquid fire rush through her, and pressed the heel of her hand against her clit; she wasn't going to last long like this.

Neither was Altaïr; his thrusts grew erratic, pounding into her so hard she knew she'd be aching from it for days, hard enough that the table hit the wall with an alarming crack as he spent himself within her. Maria cursed angrily and forced a third finger into her cunt when she felt his softening cock slip from her body; she was so close, she could almost cry with frustration.

Abruptly, Altaïr flipped her around again, so that she was leaning back against the now tilting table. He dropped to his knees before her and pushed her hand aside, sparing a kiss for her fingertips before putting his mouth to better use. He worked over her clit with a too-clever tongue, holding her just on that aching edge for a tortuous eternity- when he glanced upwards at her she could see the laughter in his eyes, the bastard- until she wrapped her hands in his hair and pulled viciously. He relented, sliding two fingers between her slick folds and suckling hard at her clit until she burst, pleasure glittering in her veins like hot steel. He put his arm around her knees and held her upright, his lips still pressed against her like the sweetest sort of kiss while she fell to shaking pieces in the aftermath.

They made their way to the bed- thankfully only a few stumbling steps away- shedding the rest of their clothes and weapons as they went. Maria collapsed onto the mattress, feeling like a waterskin with a hole in it, drained and emptied. Altaïr curled up beside her, his arm around her waist, and rubbed his cheek, catlike, against her shorn scalp. She smiled and leaned back against him, reaching back to rest her hand on his hip, pulling him closer. Her eyes drifted shut; it was midday, and they really couldn't spend much longer here like this, but surely they could take the time for a brief nap...

"I will miss your hair," Altaïr said suddenly, quietly. He began petting the short fuzz that remained. "But I like this too."

"So glad you approve," she muttered sourly, some of her good mood dissipating into restlessness. She sighed. "It will grow out again; even when I was Matthias, it wasn't this short."

"I can pretend to hate it, if you prefer." Altaïr smiled into the crook of her neck, and bit down hard enough to make her toes curl appreciatively. "Do you miss that? Living as a man?"

Maria frowned and opened her eyes, rolling over to stare at the ceiling. That restless feeling became an itch beneath her skin, and she shifted away from Altaïr's touch. "Does it matter? That was years ago." It wasn't an answer, and they both knew it. "If I'd been a man when we met, you wouldn't have hesitated to kill me."

"True." Was that an edge of disappointment in his voice? Surely not. "But that was then. Now...if you wanted to take up that name again." He paused, throat working around the words. "It would be strange, at first. But you could. If you wanted."

Maria pursed her lips in thought. She'd never had the choice before; it had always been a matter of survival. Hide or be killed. Obey or be cast out. "Would you rather I were a man?" She meant the question half in jest, but- all of his previous lovers had been men, and she wondered, sometimes. There was Adha, of course, but Maria had a strong suspicion that what Altaïr had felt for that poor woman had not been love so much as obligation. But she doubted Altaïr would ever admit that to anyone, least of all himself.

Altaïr exhaled slowly, and reached for her, spreading his hand over her hip. "I don't know." She permitted the touch, and wrapped her fingers around his, squeezing slightly; she knew what this honesty cost him. "I would change nothing of the way I feel towards you. That will remain the same, no matter what."

"Oh," she whispered. "I'm glad." She shifted over, settling against him. Altaïr put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer.

"I do miss it sometimes," she admitted after a moment. More than sometimes, if she were being totally honest. "Perhaps someday, I will return to that life. But for now, I think I shall remain myself."

"Ah." He touched her cheek with impossibly gentle fingers, and gazed at her with such warmth in his eyes that it made her breath catch in her throat. "But who is that?"

That was the question, wasn't it? So much of her life had been shaped by other people that she wasn't sure she even knew, herself. "More than a name and a set of clothes." She tilted her face towards his, capturing his lips in a kiss. It was enough, now, to have the choice; she'd never had that luxury before. Everything is permitted. The thought made her lightheaded with possibilities. "Beyond that, I suppose we'll just have to find out."