Written after a plotbunny bit me in the face the other day while I was talking to a friend, I may expand on it if the plotbunny returns for some more… *sprinkles self with seasoning*
For those of you waiting for a new chapter to Fast Cars and a beginning to the Des Shaun fic I promised, give me a few more days I've gotten some written and am waiting for hubby dearest to finish proof reading it for me. I haven't abandoned anything. I swear it!
Chapter 1; Disclosure
He didn't tell them at first because he didn't want to hinder the progress.
He could ignore the misty figures that swam in his line of sight. The people that strode with purpose down streets long forgotten.
Getting as much done as quickly as possible was the only thing that mattered.
The first time he blacked out he kept it to himself. Telling himself that it was a fluke, he'd been tired anyway, it could be overlooked.
The second time, he came out of it standing in the kitchen in his underwear holding a knife and staring at a deep bloody groove on his left ring finger.
He told Lucy he'd been cutting a carrot because he'd woken up hungry and slipped…
He didn't tell them when he started to look at what Shaun had written in the database, scrubbing his eyes because the words typed there looked alien, like a foreign language.
When at breakfast one morning he flinched, realizing the reason everybody had been staring at him in horror was that he'd been speaking in Italian for the last ten minutes, he just grinned deviously, cleared his throat and said; "Pretty cool, huh!" Pretending he'd been doing it on purpose.
That was the day, watching as they visibly relaxed, releasing sighs and telling him he was a jerk that Desmond realized he couldn't tell them because he didn't want them to know he'd lied and been keeping it secret for so long.
It went on like that for weeks. Slowly losing bits and pieces of himself to this… Bleeding.
He thought it was a fitting term, Bleeding… That's what it felt like, felt like his ancestors were bleeding into him, like when one of Shaun's red wool socks had gone into the wash accidentally with one of his white shirts… The color had bled into the shirt like Altair and Ezio were bleeding into Desmond. He chuckled hopelessly one day at breakfast and asked Rebecca if she knew where he could find some brain bleach. She laughed and told him he was funny… He felt a little hurt that she'd thought he'd been joking.
It was hard to remember who he was. Hard to remember if he even really existed or not. Or if he himself were just another ancestor bleeding into some poor dope in an even worse condition that himself.
It made him wonder if the poor dope knew how things turned out, knew if Desmond lived through it all and was finally able to be left alone and mix cocktails where nobody would bother him for anything more than a refill…
He supposed that if the poor bastard were having him as that preverbal red sock in his mental laundry things wouldn't turn out well.
He wondered what the guy was going through, having a bleed of a guy having a bleed.
Well, he guessed some good would come out of it, if he was just some poor guy's bleed that meant he'd be getting laid between now and the time he died… And if that was the case, if what they said about the Animus was true he wouldn't die, this awareness would slip to his son or daughter while he was getting laid and it would all start over again…
He stopped eating, didn't feel hungry anymore, and it seemed the days passed by with unsettling speed. Whole chunks, whole hours simply missing.
He started feeling itching in his veins, and began biting his nails until they bled. He didn't trust himself with a razor any longer, not with Lucy and Rebecca giving him such worried looks from the corners of their eyes, so he stopped shaving, began sitting under icy showers, or scalding hot showers just to feel something, to remind himself that this was his reality, even if he was just some blip in the Animus after all… He started talking to this hypothetical descendant that might be watching his life, asking how their day was, imagining an answer, lying awake at night with a pillow hugged to his chest whispering that everything would be OK in the end. Voicing his own fears and insecurities and trying to think of comforting things to say that may ease whatever this descendent of his might be going through. He started thinking outside his head, wondering what year it really was, who was watching his life, how many people had come after him. Who was currently looking through the back of his eyes… He started hiding his thoughts, refusing to remember things he didn't want anyone to know, pushing them back like boxes on a shelf. Piling more in front and shoving them to the rear, farther and farther until they hit the ledge and toppled off into oblivion and he was left pulling at his hair and fighting tears because he couldn't remember his mother's face anymore. Couldn't remember the taste of certain drinks and food he'd been very fond of. Couldn't remember the name of his last girlfriend, couldn't remember what it felt like to make love… He found himself closing his eyes when he went to the toilet lest said descendant some far away time in the future, be a girl.
It was all easier to accept when he thought of things away from his life. Easier to just let himself go and stop worrying about the fact he'd sat down to read entries in the database that morning at ten, and the whole day had just… blinked away without his notice.
It was easier to keep going if he convinced himself nothing was real and it was all just a relay and when his eyes really did open he would be himself again, and not some stranger in his blood who'd been dead for centuries.
It was so much easier that way…
Two days after the incident with the database, while in another icy shower, his whole left side went numb, and a pain sliced through his head, blinding him.
He was sure the Animus had just kicked him out, and when his eyes opened he'd be himself again. Himself that he didn't remember, someone new who was not Altair or Ezio or Desmond. He'd have that fresh start, those all too brief moments of blissful ignorance—
He woke up the next day lying in his bed, Rebecca and Shaun pressed close to him, staring with wide worried eyes.
He couldn't lie to them about it. Not entirely anyway… so he decided he'd start small. He told them he'd seen a ghostly Templar charge through the shower wall at him and he'd tripped in surprise.
Rebecca looked relieved, but still worried, and forbade him from going into the Animus for a week. "Your mind is taxed, you need to rest."
He stayed in bed all the rest of that day, hugging a pillow and staring into nothing, having one sided conversations with whoever was watching him.
Lucy walked over, her face solemn and concerned, rubbing his back until he looked at her and presenting a cup of milk. "Drink this…"
He refused at first, simply because he didn't like milk really… Not since Altair had bled into him so much that is.
"I'm not leaving until you drink this."
So he had, grumbling in Arabic and staring at her through Altair's expressions.
She just smiled sadly and patted his head when he flopped back onto his face.
Thirty seconds after she'd left he knew for certain that she'd just either poisoned or drugged him, and was tempted to run toward the bathroom and shove fingers down his throat to get rid of it, but that niggling thought returned.
I'm still here… I'm not getting out of here until he knocks someone up… so even if she did poison me I'm not gonna die.
Twenty minutes later he was fast asleep… He had no nightmares. He didn't even dream. Just deep, black and silent REST.
He woke three days later and things were different.
Shaun didn't snap at him, didn't make rude comments. He seemed surprisingly distracted and didn't speak at all.
Lucy and Rebecca acted almost normally, concerned silent glances from the edges of their eyes…
But Shaun… Shaun watched him. His snapping, scathing remarks were almost completely absent. One slipping halfway out every so often, but most of the time, he just… just stared.
It was unnerving.
Days turned into weeks… His skills became razor like in their precision even as his mental state continued to corrode. Time becoming something abstract, there was only one day, one perpetual day he lived in. They moved safe houses once, twice, three times, and Desmond found himself in a drafty old house just outside of Italy, freezing in a mid-winter snowstorm.
Everyone was worn, and despite the fact Lucy gave him that drugged milk every so often to make him sleep he felt constantly exhausted. As if his mind wouldn't shut up. And even the dreamless blackness between wakings was hellish, his mind roaring and screaming and bouncing off the walls like a tethered, frightened cat.
And then Desmond became aware of a change, growing progressively worse with each waking.
Shaun was sick. He kept telling everyone it was only a cold, but Desmond had heard him coughing and somehow he knew better.
It wasn't until he was standing in the doorway to the room he had been sharing with the Brit, watching Lucy mop the sweat off his forehead with a wet rag that the nagging unfamiliar tension that had resided at the back of his mind since Shaun had started being civil to him, truly became worrying.
And then time skipped again, this time though, it was not seamless. It was not simply sitting down at the database screen and staring at it then realizing six hours have passed, or laying down after drinking that godawful milk and waking up a week later and nobody noticing anything. No… One second he was standing there thinking that Shaun needed medicine, needed a doctor, watching the water drip off Lucy's fingers as she wrung out the cloth for another pass— and everything had gone black like it did between wakings.
For a moment he thought, happily enough that he'd lost sync in the Animus and he was FINALLY going to get to wake up, but when the loading screen didn't appear after a long while of writhing in the darkness he decided maybe he'd just died, or perhaps he'd passed out because his knees had been locked… The next moment, like pages missing from a book, he was walking down the hall toward the Brit's room and Rebecca was shouting at him;
"WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!"
His limbs were heavy, half frozen, and snow was caked on his boots.
Boots? He'd been wearing tennis shoes seconds before. And what did he have in his hand?
Curiously, he stopped dead in his tracks and lifted his arm, gloved fingers uncurling, staring in wonder at the vial of penicillin in his palm.
Where had he gotten that?
Don't worry about it. Get the medicine to Shaun.
And he shuddered, taking off again, shrugging Rebecca away as he pushed into the room.
Lucy was there, and Shaun looked terrible. He was pale, too still, naked looking without his glasses, wearing nothing but a sweat stained white t-shirt and a pair of dark blue boxer-briefs, lying in an awkward looking position between thin, twisted sheets.
He stood there by the bed and watched hawk like as Lucy gave him the medicine, wincing as she plunged the syringe into his arm— Then Rebecca's fingers tangled in his coat and yanked him backward out of the room, slammed him bodily against the wall and leveled a finger in his face.
"You do NOT just disappear like that! I don't care who you think you are! You do NOT EVER DO THAT! You risked our position. You risked your life! All the work we've done! You are too valuable! Shaun knew what he was getting into, we all do! We are here to help and protect YOU! WE are expendable! YOU ARE NOT! Don't you DARE do that again!"
It was the first time Rebecca had ever really yelled at him, but somehow it felt familiar and his hands came up as if on their own framing her face, his body quickly going numb as their mouths pressed together, and suddenly it was dark. Everything was still.
He woke lying in his bed, and he didn't feel at home in his skin…
He climbed slowly to his feet and shuffled to the adjoining bathroom, clicking on the light and blinking stupidly at himself.
He stared into his own face for a long while in silence, unmoving, as if expecting his reflection to move off on its own.
He leaned close and stared into his own eyes, pulled at his eyelids, opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue, checked his teeth and scratched his nails through his hair.
There was something wrong… He didn't know what it was, but there was something wrong. He looked in the mirror again and he didn't feel connected to what he saw, to what he felt as he stepped back and slid down the wall to hug his knees.
And then he felt his lips moving, heard himself whispering, only it wasn't comforting words to his descendant. The voice that came from his throat was familiar, sounded like his own, but at the same time did not—
"I am sorry…"
He was startled, terrified even, and he quickly climbed to his feet, legs shaking and feeling oddly like stilts. He stumbled out of the bathroom and collapsed onto his bed.
Across the room Shaun's bed was empty, and fear ripped through his middle.
Where was Shaun?
A soft knocking sound on the door and the click of the lock sliding back made his breath seize in his throat.
Lucy stepped slowly into the room, her face blank.
It felt like he was watching a movie or something, nothing around him felt exactly real.
Lucy took a deep breath and let it out slowly, eyes watchful. "He's sleeping in the other room."
He swallowed hard, a strange alien fear curdling his insides. He wanted to run away from her… But why?
And why did Lucy have a stun gun on her hip?
His voice shook as he spoke, terror making his eyes water; "What's happening?"
"Nothing is happening, Des."
"You h-had the door locked… Why did you have me locked in here?"
Her hands lifted slowly, "Just relax."
"Is Shaun OK?"
"He's still asleep, but he's doing a lot better."
He swallowed thickly, feeling oddly hollow, pinching himself just to feel the sting, to reassure himself his skin was his own, despite what his mind kept telling him. He almost laughed when he spoke, simply because he was afraid and hoped laughing would make it sound absurd; "A-am I OK?"
Lucy's face remained impassive, but her eyes changed… Darkening sadly. "No, Des… You're not OK."
His vision started darkening at the edges. Little flashes of memory. And his body went suddenly numb, lips moving without his control, voice alien sounding rolling strange syllables across his tongue;
"You must leave now…"
Lucy's eyes overflowed and her hands dropped to her sides. She gave a single nod and left quickly, and as the door closed, locking with an audible click, Desmond found himself in that hellish, dark dreamlessness.
When Desmond woke again it was daylight and he wasn't alone in the room… He was sitting cross legged on his bed, and across from him, seated on Shaun's bed, were his three teammates.
Time had passed, he didn't know how much, but it must have been days because Shaun's face was covered in more sharp auburn fuzz than he remembered and the dark circles under his eyes looked more gray than purple.
Shaun was also wrapped in a blanket, looking somehow detached but professional even though it was obvious he'd been very, very ill only a short time ago.
Desmond was aware of being entirely immobile, while at the same time, he was also aware of something else. Something horrifying, life altering even… He could feel two people on either side of him. Not physically, but he was aware of them. Close to his sides… Within him.
One of the two, the one to his left was suddenly moving, writhing under his skin like a wild beast.
He panicked. This sense of wrong, of not belonging, being split washed over him and he gave a loud shout of horror—
Everything went dark again, alone, and the panic built higher. A moment later the world faded back into focus, and he could only feel one person with him. Someone calm, someone who had him pulled close like a hug while his heart hammered wildly in his chest and his skin tingled.
He wanted to shrink into the embrace, as well as push away and scream at them to get out! To get out of his body and leave him alone! This was wrong, whoever, or whatever was there did not belong!
And then the presence spoke.
Lucy flinched, eyes suddenly pained. "Desmond?"
He tried frantically to speak, to react, to do anything, but he remained still, like a little speck of thought floating in the abyss.
"He is here, tell him."
Somewhere behind him, far away, maybe in another room Desmond could feel that third person, a sick frightened speck of energy like himself bouncing around like a ball in a dryer.
Lucy's face screwed up angrily; "I want to talk to HIM! What right do you have to stay in control like this! It's not your—"
"You know what could happen if I do not…"
Lucy's teeth clicked together and for a long few minutes she was silent, face reddening from withheld anger, fists shaking, shoulders square— And then, with a hitched sob she started talking, folding in on herself in guilt.
"Abstergo, the Templars— They didn't want you Des… They didn't want information on Altair, or Ezio… They wanted Altair and Ezio." She swallowed and forced herself to continue; "They were trying to use you like a magnet, draw out their memories from your DNA and d-download it onto data disks… Then upload it into—" She shook her head, hands lifting to cover her face; "I can't… I c—"
And Shaun's hand snaked out of the blankets and rested on her knee. He took a deep breath to gather himself, looked right into Desmond's eyes and spoke three words he had not been expecting at all.
"You're a clone."
Desmond wanted to laugh, and had he been anything other than an abstract thought at the moment he would have. Hysterically. Would have doubled over holding his sides and gasping for breath. He had to be dreaming. A nightmare, a hallucination. ANYTHING would be better than this!
Shaun continued slowly, Lucy turning to bury her head in his shoulder.
"The Templars had been trying to perfect it… Get what they were after without the person going completely insane… W-without the ancestor's memories becoming integrated with the Subject's." He looked away then, into the corner; "When they found Desmond he was the last living descendent. He went mad within two months and k-killed himself." He cleared his throat; "They tried to just plainly clone him, hoping that what had happened to him wouldn't have imprinted on his DNA, but it didn't work exactly right. They got a perfect genetic replica, but there was no voluntary brain function, so they tried again, and again. With the same result."
Desmond wanted to scream, but he couldn't. All he seemed capable of was writhing, fighting against whoever was in control of his body. But whoever it was, was too strong and all he ended up doing was exhausting himself.
"Then someone got the bright idea to try and download some of his memories into one of them… And it worked, for the most part… some of the memories were corrupted… But they had you, a fresh start, and they had two more backups incase you failed too."
Lucy's voice sounded strained and wet as she turned from Shaun; "But it didn't fail this time… Somehow they didn't bleed into you. W-we thought for a while that they had, I was afraid we'd lose you, but—" She turned and looked right into his eyes. "But you're still there… You're still there and if Shaun hadn't gotten sick we would have had more time before you found out, we would have had time to ease you into it, would have been able to do something about it. They were being cooperative." She wiped her eyes; "Des, I know this is scary, but you have to stay calm, we can't lose you. Shaun, Becca and I have been trying to find a way to fix it, to separate the three of you, because having them both in there too is hurting you, mentally and physically…" She pushed her hair behind her ear; "The Templars were trying to make perfect soldiers, mindless drones with Assassin training, but they can't do that without you… And we have the data disk with all the information on it they need. We just need to figure out how they were planning to separate you once they'd achieved this. How they download the memories into—Into their blanks. If we can do that, we'll have them by the balls." She shifted forward to kneel before him in the floor, gripping his hands. "You just have to hang in there and understand what has happened, that it isn't going to be permanent… We'll get them out and you'll be OK again. Just please, please try to stay calm." Then her gaze seemed to shift, taking in all of him. "We are here for all of you. We're going to fix this… Just hang in there."