Disclaimer:I don't own anything!
Author's Note: I recently finished Revelations and...the end to Altair and Ezio's story very nearly made me cry. And, the whole game, I was thinking that Ezio was too old for this stuff, so I was kind of writing this in my head as I played.
SPOILERS for the ending of Revelations! This is the one warning I'm giving people.
"A man's age is something impressive, it sums up his life: maturity reached slowly and against many obstacles, illnesses cured, griefs and despairs overcome, and unconscious risks taken; maturity formed through so many desires, hopes, regrets, forgotten things, loves. A man's age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories."
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wartime Writings 1939-1944, translated from French by Norah Purcell
Sometimes, he feels as if he is getting too old for this—not that he'll ever admit it if anyone asks. His joints ache at night or in the cold. Weather bones, the old gondoliere call them in Venice. His back pains him when he crouches for too long and it cracks loud enough that, sometimes, he swears that it can be heard back in Rome.
Sometimes, he watches the newer recruits, sees their faces—so unlined and smooth and young—and he wonders if it is right that he brings them into this, all so that they would one day, if they were fortunate, to end up like him; unmarried, with arthritic fingers that sometimes pain him so badly that he has to go to the doctors to get a salve. (Leonardo used to have something better than their salves, but he's back home. In Italia. Perhaps back in Venice. Probably not. He'd left Roma, that was for certain and Ezio doubted that Leonardo would return to Firenze after so long)
This city—the crossroads of the world, warm and stretching out along rocky fields—is vaguely rejuvenating. He has the same thrill of exploring a new city, of learning new streets and seeing new people, but there are moments when he truly realizes how far he is from home. It is not a new feeling, not after so many years of travelling, but most of his travels have kept him near Italy. Here, when he perches on an overhang or a sits on a bench to watch the world go by (His mother used to do that. He remembered long hours of them sitting off to the side of a plaza or a market and he would ask her, what are we doing here, and she would reply, watching people. It wasn't until now, decades later, that Ezio understood.) that he hears the wash of unfamiliar languages. Hebrew, Arabic, English, and, sometimes, he hears his home language whisper into the crowd, familiar and sorely missed.
He wonders if seeing ghosts is a sure sign of getting old. Yusuf reminds him so very much of Federico that it aches sometimes. He has the same vitality, the same arrogance. They look nothing alike, of course, but sometimes, Yusuf will turn to him when they're on the rooftops because he wanted to show him something of this fair city of his and Yusuf will grin and all he can see is Federico.
Some of his recruits, his apprentices, so young and so alive, they have families. Annetta has a son, almost eight years of age, who is missing a tooth and is growing up within the Assassins. He watches from his seat on the banister, heels kicking gently, as people mix the ingredients for bombs and fetches water from the well so that they can clean a wound. Sometimes, on a lazy day, Yusuf allows the boy to follow him onto the roof. The boy climbs clumsily, small hands slipping and feet scraping against the side, but he enjoys being up there.
(Once, Ezio was up there as well, resting his back against a sun-warm wall and the boy was standing, a wide smile on his lips. Birds flew overhead and the boy's head arched back to follow them with his eyes. "It would be amazing, wouldn't it, Mentor?" Even the boy calls him that and, sometimes, Ezio thinks he might forget his name here if it weren't on the lips of every guard who announced the price on his head.
"What would be?" Ezio had asked.
"To fly. Really fly. Like the birds." The boy turned, a gentle smile on his lips. "I wish they would carry me up and away, to far off places. Like the stories you tell sometimes."
The way the boy looks there jerked at his heartstrings because he remembered another boy, a little older, a little sicklier, with a wide, laughing smile who used to sneak out of the house to collect feathers.)
Some days, his body refuses to really cooperate with him. His knee—the left one in particular, where a mace had nearly shattered it once—will remind him, sharply, that he is not a young man any longer and those days, he must rest before he makes it worse.
Those days, he walks to Sofia's bookstore (Sometimes, he marvels at how different the streets are from this angle, when it wasn't laid out in loving detail like a map from one of the towers) She'll smile and welcome him in, offer him cafe—he never forgets Antonio, who had first told him about it, who had been there the first time he tried it, who had laughed along with Rosa at his expression when he tried the bitter beverage. She is intelligent and has a will of iron somewhere beneath the gentle exterior, with a witty tongue. Sometimes, she goes as far as to remind him of his mother.
The first time he tells her that, she chuckles a little. "Is that a good thing?" She asks, tucking a loose lock of copper hair behind her ear.
"Yes," He tells her. "She was…an incredible woman." He had not realized how much it had cost her to be wife to an Assassin, how strong she had to be to help lead that double life, not until he saw Claudia have to go through the same thing.
When he steps into Sofia's bookstore, sometimes, she'll grin delightedly at him. "I believe I've solved it!"
She explains to him where she believes those books are, hands brushing the page and he can see long pages of scattered notes on her desk. She reminds him of Leonardo at those times, scatter-minded and so sincere; burning with the need to know, with the want to discover knowledge.
They discuss books and plays—the sorts of things he hasn't read since he used to recover from the particularly bad injuries in Leonardo's studio or with the thieves in Venice and only occasionally in Monteriggioni, since Before (Before his father and brothers were murdered, Before his mother went silent from grief, Before he'd ever seen the white of Assassins' robes) and he'll escort her to the market, help her carry the particularly heavy things.
"I feel like a packmule." He remarks once, but he isn't complaining. Claudia, once upon a time, before she became so headstrong and independent (Like her brother, his mother had said one afternoon), used to ask much the same of him.
"You volunteered." Sofia reminds him.
She asks him to pick up flowers, once. White tulips. Or rather, he offers because she needs time to decipher the book. As he trails the flower seller to his supply, he can't help but remember nights when his father would come home, a small bouquet in hand, smiling charmingly at his mother and kissing her gently, calling her his il suo bellissimo mondo. Giovanni had never been reserved in showing Maria affection. She was his wife, his confidant, the steady rock at his back. Ezio remembers nights when they would go out, just the two of them, his father and mother, and Maria would dress in her elegant gowns and when she came down, Giovanni would look at her as though seeing her again for the first time. He would talk of her, twenty years into their marriage, as he had when they were teenagers, Mario told him once, when Giovanni only just began to decide to court Maria.
Now that he is out here, doing something so simple, so normal, as picking flowers for someone—he hasn't done this since he was a boy, proud to show his mother the flowers from the windowboxes—he realizes he wants what his parents had. Wants to be able to be like that with his wife. With Sofia.
It feels strange, admitting it to himself after so long that he could not—would not—allow himself to settle down, even after Roma, after the debts had all been paid and the vengeances fulfilled. But it feels right to do this now, he has done his part. Let the rest of the world, let anyone who would follow, this Desmond, perhaps, let them do theirs.
"I do not regret those years, but it is time for me to live for myself, to let them go. To let go of all of this. The end of the road."
"…You had better come out of there alive."
A quiet, shared smile. "I plan to."