Warnings: unrequited love, canon character death, minor Revelations spoilers.
A/N: My attempt to cope with Yusuf's death, because a man like him deserves a better reason, if not a better end.
Yusuf knew he was only dreaming. Every night, he went to bed wishing the dream would return – sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't, but it always left an aftertaste of longing at the back of his throat and a throbbing need between his legs when he woke up again, remembering how Ezio tasted, how he sounded, how he felt, his hair tousled and his eyes heavy-lidded with pleasure which Yusuf was too happy to give.
Yusuf also knew that Ezio was not like that. He was focused on his mission, whatever it was – later, his attention shifted sometimes, when Ezio allowed it, and his heart reached out to a certain Italian bookseller. Yusuf knew: he went to check on the woman, to make sure she was worthy. She was charming and witty and learned, and Yusuf was strangely disappointed: there was no fault he could find with her, and maybe that was what made it all so difficult. Ezio had found a perfect woman, and Yusuf wished him happiness... not from the true bottom of his heart, though. The bottom of Yusuf's heart was heavily coated with a sticky, thick layer of dark longing. But Ezio was not interested in a tussle between the sheets with Yusuf, or any other male Assassin – maybe not many female ones either.
And Yusuf loved him from the first time he laid his eyes on the barely caged, raw power that was Ezio Auditore.
He knew nothing of Ezio's plans. Ezio was a force, impossible to contain or control, and he rarely shared the full extent of what he knew. There was a certain distance even to his kindness; even when he sat down with Yusuf and a few other high-ranking Assassins and had a smoke with them, even when he was charming and entertaining and outspoken, Yusuf could see a shadow in his eyes, something that rested heavy on his shoulders, something he could not share with anyone. Yusuf imagined how it would feel if Ezio allowed him to come close enough to help carry that burden: he knew with painful, piercing certainty that it would never happen, but if anything, an Assassin was certainly permitted to dream.
So Yusuf dreamed, awake and asleep, his longing almost palpable, never leaving his mind completely. Ezio had invaded Yusuf's mind and body, and it was impossible to get rid of him.
Not that Yusuf truly tried.
Ezio possessed that kind of a silent, distant authority that made everyone break their backs to please him. Yusuf was no different: he teased and joked, but whatever Ezio wanted, Ezio got. Yusuf was sure that the Italian did not know his power, not consciously, at least: he enforced his orders with a mere glance or a quirk of his scarred, full lips. It was enough for Yusuf, and he often wondered if he had not been bewitched, if the sound of Ezio's name spoken in that heavy Italian accent, in that rough, melodic voice, had not put Yusuf into a trance that allowed Ezio to make the Turkish assassin feel rewarded if he as much as caught a glimpse of Ezio's smile.
Had that been true, Yusuf would not have sought a cure.
It was always enough, to see that smile, to exchange a few light words, to tease each other before each walking their own way, killing whoever needed to be killed, spying, interrogating, tailing. Yusuf was used to it – he had finished growing up a long time ago and he knew what they were trying to do. But a fight for freedom, for equality, for a better world, had always been a rather abstract ideal, hanging over their heads like a beautiful tapestry that could be viewed from afar, but never quite touched.
Ezio was that ideal, a walking, breathing ideal that made Yusuf tremble with intensity unknown before as he felt the immense vastness of the world just by being near the Italian. Ezio was the world concentrated into one human being, all the power, all the beauty, all the sunsets and hailstorms and rare, precious peace after a long, bloody war. Ezio gave sense to everything, Ezio was someone to fight for, live for… die for.
Yusuf had been ready to die for an ideal ever since he was seventeen years old and first stepped into an Assassin tower. He had been ready to die for their cause, for his brothers and sisters, for Constantinople, for the world.
He had never thought it would make him happy, until he was ready to die for Ezio Auditore.
When Ezio asked him to keep an eye on Sofia Sartor, Yusuf should have felt bitter. Instead, he felt honored that Ezio would trust him with his tightly locked heart, even if someone else had the key and Yusuf could never get in. Ezio trusted him to guard what was most precious to him, not to the Mentor of the Brotherhood, but to Ezio Auditore, a man, and Yusuf was glad to oblige.
The floorboards of the little bookshop were littered with dead bodies, missing limbs and abandoned, chipped blades: blood flowed like a river, metal clanged against metal and Yusuf could only think of not failing Ezio.
He knew the blade was coming closer before it actually struck, but it was too late to do anything about it. He felt it pierce his lung, felt his body go rigid with pain and shock, but still managed to kill two more guards before he collapsed on a nearby bench. The green of Sofia's dress flashed in front of Yusuf's hazed eyes briefly, the rabid ferocity of her yells echoing in his ears, mingling with the sound of old, old books being scattered over the floor. Someone was laughing in the room, and then there was just eerie silence.
Yusuf knew he was only dreaming. Ezio was away, searching or fighting for something that would save the world. But it was a nice dream anyway; it allowed Yusuf to hear Ezio's voice, his footsteps and his breathing, the soft clinking of his gauntlets against his armor. He could not see anymore, even though he felt that his eyes were still open; he could only hear and feel, and if he could, he would smile at the way Ezio felt warm and so, so alive when he came closer and gently crouched near Yusuf. Ezio smelled of sea and feverish determination and lands Yusuf would never see; Yusuf would have liked to tell him he was sorry that Sofia had been taken away. He couldn't speak though; his muscles did not obey anymore.
Yusuf knew he was only dreaming. But to depart for this unknown, final journey with a dream of Ezio's arms around him felt like he was going to a better place.