Summary: The first time Shaun came face to face with the bleeding effect, a firm grip stopped him from grabbing his gun. But he kept his silence concerning these visits, even while distancing himself from his team.
Warnings: Dark angst.
A/N: I don't know why I wrote this. This... this thought would not leave my head. And I find Shaun to be a very under-appreciated character. The idea is much used, I know. And I don't care. This was just a write and post story, so it doesn't really reach the depth with which I usually like to write with.
And, as you can probably tell, I do not speak Italian or Arabic, so the words may be faulty.
Towards breaking point
He could not sleep. He was cold above the blanket and hot under it. Disoriented, Shaun raised a hand to massage his aching head, but his strength failed halfway, and his hand fell back onto the bed. The historian drifted in and out of consciousness, thoughts lingering somewhere between dreams and memories. At times, he managed to open his eyes long enough to regard an empty, dark room, but was unaware of the soft whimpers that escaped him.
Shaun did not expect any help from his fellow team mates. Neither did he find it likely that they would come to his side as the fever of exhaustion ran through his body, filling his dreams with shadows of templars and Abstergo. Did Shaun regret angering his team? No, not really. Not when he remembered the events leading him here.
Barely even aware of another entering the room, he closed his eyes and thought back. Had it been a month? Two? Three? In his state, he truly could not tell.
The first time Shaun had come face to face with the Bleeding Effect, he had woken up with Desmond Miles standing over his bed. A firm grip on his arm had stopped him from grabbing his gun and the blurry figure had whispered to him:
"Ablaj, Malik. Āsif... Wahashtini..."
Shaun had thought it an ill-fitting joke at first, but then Miles had sat down on the edge of the bed and began to talk in perfect, fluent Arabic. Shaun could do nothing but listen in awe.
It had happened again some weeks later. And then again some weeks after that. The visits were irregular, and the historian found himself sleeping restlessly, wondering when he'd next wake up with a legendary assassin standing over him. Sometimes Des- ...Altaïr would mutter softly to him, and Shaun would pretend to understand. It was the tone in the legend's voice that tipped him off, and Shaun assumed Altaïr was there in need of someone to confide in.
On some nights, the only thing Altaïr did was smile gently and say:
And then there were times, during which Shaun supposed it was the less pleasant memories that had awoken, that Altaïr, the legend among assassin's, would lie down on the bed next to Shaun, leaving a few inches of space between them and murmur a silent: "Tuṣbiḥ 'alā khayr," before going to sleep.
In the morning, the historian would pretend to be asleep as Miles quickly and silently sneaked out of the room. Neither one mentioned these events to the girls. Miles, most likely because he felt embarrassed about them, and Shaun, because the visits happened with enough time in between as not to alarm him too much. Even if his sleep had become disturbed, the historian was sure it would not be much of a problem.
The first time he woke up to Desmond Miles speaking Italian, he felt thrown off track.
Shaun's Italian was rusty, and Ezio spoke an old dialect that was difficult to keep up with. Gathering together what he remembered, Shaun said in what he hoped was a good enough accent that he was tired.
The other nodded and fell silent, but a vague level of suspicion had entered his eyes.
The morning routine didn't change. Shaun still pretended to sleep as Miles fled the room.
However... as time went by, Shaun had to reconsider his position. These events were taking more out of him than he thought they would. Had Ezio simply taken over some of Altaïr's visits, Shaun was certain he could have handled it better, but the Italian memories had started a cycle of their own. The visits stayed irregular, but became more frequent. Sometimes Shaun would wake up two nights in a row with different versions of Miles in his room, and sometimes neither would show up for a week. His own sleeping routine suffered greatly.
Yet as he watched the dedication with which Lucy and Rebecca worked, the historian bit his tongue and stayed silent. He refused to behave like a child and complain about a few sleepless nights when everyone was equally stressed.
But even with this conviction in mind, Shaun felt a paranoia settle each and every evening. He found himself waking up every now and again, and lie restless throughout the nigh, his subconscious constantly expecting someone to show up. And in the mornings he was tired and irritable, snapping at the other members of his team. And they, in turn, snapped back at him.
It felt as though a thick, stone wall had settled between him and the others. And Shaun tried to ignore how alone and abandoned he was on his side of the wall.
Downing a cup of the most bitter coffee he'd ever tasted, the historian grit his teeth and continued to work. He would endure, they would find the Piece of Eden, and they would find an end to the war.
In the meantime, he would listen to Altaïr in silence, and tell Ezio that he was tired and needed to sleep. And for that purpose, he even took the time to memorize a few useful phrases when the others weren't paying attention.
Weeks went by, and though Altaïr seemed content, the suspicion in Ezio's eyes never left. Shaun saw it each time he spoke, and each time it was that much more evident until finally the assassin had apparently had enough and climbed into bed next to Shaun, placing a hand on the historian's chest.
"Leonardo, che cos'è?" he wondered and for the first time Shaun recognized worry in his voice. Swallowing a lump that began to form, and he knew damned well why, the historian recalled his phrases and answered:
"Mi dispiache. Non mi sento bene."
A moment of silence passed, and then Shaun found himself pulled into an awkward hug with Ezio whispering into his ear a question from which he did not quite catch more than the name Borgia.
Unsure of how to respond, Shaun stayed quiet.
This was taken as an answer in itself.
Ezio held him tighter and murmured what presumably were promises and comforts and one or two apologies. It was, Shaun knew, that small gesture of kindness and caring that became his undoing. With the feeling of shame clawing at him, the historian pressed his face against Ezio's chest and sobbed, letting tears of pure frustration fall, having kept them in for so long.
He hadn't cried since before he became a part of this war...
In the morning he pretended to sleep as Miles cursed, untangled himself from Shaun and silently left the room.
He did not feel any better for his outburst. Rather, he felt drained.
Shaun continued with his work, distanced himself from his co-workers and hid his tired eyes behind his glasses and computer monitors. His sharp words kept the girls angered enough not to pay too much attention to him, and Miles avoided him as always. There were more important things at stake, after all.
That was perhaps why no one noticed that Shaun came down with a fever. No one brought him a glass of water or an aspirin or a cold cloth to place on his forehead. Instead, Shaun woke from his fevered dreams and half-remembered memories to find that the Bleeding Effect had once again taken place, and Miles, controlled by the memories of his ancestor, was holding Shaun's hand and whispering desperate prayers in old Arabic.
The look Altaïr gave him was not all that strange, knowing that a fever could easily kill a man during the 12th century. Shaun would later blame it on the sickness when he tightened his fingers around Altaïr's hand and greedily accepted the comfort when given.
Vaguely, he considered the irony of a historian finding comfort in someone who had been dead for centuries; a relic of memories, as one could call him.
...a pity Shaun was too tired to laugh.
Ablaj, Malik. Āsif... Wahashtini : Calm, Malik... (I'm) Sorry... I missed you...
Shokran, Sadeaky : Thank you, my friend.
Tuṣbiḥ 'alā khayr : Good night.
Leonardo, Che cos'è? : Leonardo, what is it?
Mi dispiache. Non mi sento bene : I'm sorry. I don't feel well.