Written for the AC kink meme!

Prompt: Malik feels like swimming and it leads to a race against other novices, in which he totally wipes the floor with them. Altaïr obviously doesn't participate but can't help but be impressed and a little turned on by seeing a wet Malik.

Uh, I didn't get in the last bit, so it's a bit on the UST-ish side.

The river was clear that day, free from the silt the currents would churn up and far upstream to avoid the city's sewage. The sand was soft between Altair's toes and the water blissfully cool. He did not go directly into the river, but he could at least take off his boots and shed his outer robe to nap on an outcrop of rock. He had stuck his legs into water and, with the shade of a fern tree shielding him from the sun, he was nearly tempted to stay that way for the rest of the morning.

"Master Altair?"

He cracked open an eye, staring up at the novice—a energetic young man who was still enough of a boy to be delighted by the smallest of things—and sat up on his elbows.

"What is it?" he asked, his annoyance disappearing at the novice's worried expression.

"Uh, it's Master Malik. He is swimming."

Altair looked out into the river politely, unable to see what was amiss. The river was not very wide, though it was far enough to make him squint in order to see Malik on the opposite bank, taking to water like a fish. "Yes?"

The novice suddenly looked embarrassed, but Altair had to admire how the young man pressed on.

"Is it not dangerous for him?" he asked, lowering his voice as if he feared Malik would overhear him from the other side of the river.

The whole idea that Malik might possibly be swept away by the mild current seemed so absurd that Altair let out a bark of laughter. "And, tell me, Naji," he said, settling back down, "did Master Malik not disable three of your peers while sparring last night?"

The novice nodded, but did not seem to be very surprised by Altair's rebuke. Altair glanced sidelong at the young man for a moment before finally hitting on the real reason why Naji was oddly concerned for Malik.

"If you wish to swim in the river as well, you could have done so. The day is hot and, if you have completed your tasks, I would not mind," he said then added in an offhanded way, "I'm sure Malik would enjoy a companion. You ought to challenge him to a race; he is only treading water over there."

The novice's face brightened and Altair was almost expecting for the novice to disrobe right then and there. Instead, he turned away, hopping on one foot while he tried to pull off his boots.

"You think, master? I'll go get Halim and Yusef! We've all done our tasks and I think they would like to go swimming too—"

Altair watched as Naji took off before he could say anything else. He shook his head, knowing that while Malik may tolerate one novice, he may not be as patient with three. This particular group had a habit of being rambunctious and, soon enough, they came splashing into the water and leaping off the rocks. He suppressed a grin, noticing that Malik had stopped his treading to call them over with a scowl on his face.

Altair could not hear, precisely, what was being said between them, the water being too loud and him too far away. The novices were gesturing, their light punches on each other's shoulders spoke of a friendly rivalry. They did not dare touch Malik, of course, but it was clear they wanted the older man to join them in the race.

He could not see Malik's expression, but he saw the way Malik drew himself up a little higher to meet the challenge, the water playing patterns of light against his back. Altair sat up once more, curious to see how this would play out. He had not expected Malik to accept, but apparently he was discussing whatever terms the race would involve with the novices as they made their way to the river's edge.

Halim, with a grin Altair could see from where he was sitting, called out, "Master Altair, would you mind overseeing the race? The first one to touch the rock you are sitting on will be the winner."

In answer, Altair held up a hand, bringing it down in a quick slashing motion—go. The novices were quick, diving into the water and taking off. Malik, just as fast, disappeared entirely beneath the river. Altair only saw him a moment later, arm coming up and down in even strokes.

He watched, keeping a critical eye on the novices—Yusef was swift, Naji splashed too much, and Halim was obviously an inexperience swimmer—and Malik, well, he was not perfect either, but Altair was hard pressed trying to find a fault. Despite the single arm, he was leading; Altair had no doubts that he would win.

He was, however, a little surprised by just how much Malik overtook the novices by. In no time at all, his hand was slapping against the base of Altair's rock, and when Malik's head broke the surface, water dripping from his hair and down his nose, he looked up at Altair, flushed and panting.

Altair met his gaze, mouth gone inexplicably dry. He did not move, but said, faintly, "Well, it looks like you won."

Malik glanced away, but Altair could see traces of a fierce grin before the water seemed to explode in front of him. The sound of three other hands slapping against the rock and laughter from the novices as they resurfaced seemed overtly loud, just for a moment.

"Who won? Who was first?"

"Malik, Yusef, Naji, Halim," Altair said, and was glad that he had been not wholly distracted.

"What!" the novices cried out and began to bicker among themselves, slapping the water to splash each other. A spray hit Altair and he idly kicked the water in retaliation, grunting.

"If you three must be children, do so somewhere else," Malik said crossly.

Halim, perhaps more sensible than the rest, took his friends by the necks and smartly dunked them. He cackled and swam downstream, Yusef and Naji at his heels, shouting curses.

Altair felt a touch against his ankle, brushing lightly in the water. When he turned to look, Malik's face was still flushed, chest moving up and down with each deep breath he took. He had shaken the water from his hair, making it stick up in all directions, and his good arm rested against the rock.

"Are you sure you cannot be persuaded into the water?" Malik asked, with the same brief look he had given Altair the moment he won the race—focused and expectant.

"I rather stay here," he replied, only because he wasn't quite sure what he would do once in the water with Malik. Certainly not swimming.

"It's not that deep," Malik smirked, watching as the novices made jumps from over hanging branches.

"That isn't the problem," Altair said.

Malik glanced at him, shaking his head, "Hmph, what is it that you find so impressive, I wonder," but there was another faint touch at his ankle, so Altair assumed that Malik must have understood a little bit.

They waited in silence—for what, Altair did not know. It was not exactly uncomfortable, but he had the feeling that they had somehow missed an opportunity. Finally, Malik tapped his leg, leaving droplets on the white fabric.

"Lend me a hand," he said.

Altair half-expected to be dragged into the water as soon as he held out his arm, but he did it anyway. He leaned forward, bracing himself, and Malik grabbed his upper arm. There was a tug, far too gentle to send Altair tumbling into the water, but it had buoyed Malik up to place his mouth over Altair's, the taste of the river cool and sweet between their lips for a brief second.

Altair could feel every inch of Malik's grin. When he started to sink back down, Altair followed with him, keeping a hand on Malik's shoulder. Their teeth clicked and the ends of Altair's robes had slipped down, soaking up water. And still, Malik did not try to bring him down, only moving his good arm to hook around Altair's shoulders. Everywhere he touched left the impression of water on Altair's clothes, making it cling wetly to his skin, and Altair shuddered, breathing into Malik's open mouth.

"I've no intention of drowning," he murmured, pulling away.

Malik let go of him, laughing quietly. He climbed up by himself, requiring no help, just as Altair knew he wouldn't.

"And I have no intention of letting you," he said with a wry smile, and sat next to Altair for the rest of the morning.