A/N: Hello there. It's been a long time. I regret that it has taken this long to work out a chapter for you all, but I've had some major snags since the last update. Turns out, my skin is extremely sensitive to silver nitrate, and as it so happened, my last lab of the last quarter dealt with a small bit of it. As such, the skin of the fingers of my right hand has been… not so okay. Thus, it has been difficult to type. So, it is to my great regret that that and a good bit of writer's block, has delayed the coming of this chapter.
But on the upside, this is a very long chapter. So, without further ado, I bring you Chapter 9—in which, Desmond and Altair both muse.
EDITED on 4/23/15
Disclaimer: This author does not own Assassin's Creed.
"So, Animus time, I guess?" Desmond says once he and Altair join the others in the Hideout's main room. He gives a quick once over to the entire room, seeing Rebecca, Shaun, and Lucy in their respective areas.
'Guess that's going to be my 'office.'' Desmond thinks, sighing when he sees Rebecca wave enthusiastically with one hand and patting Baby with the other.
"Yo, Desmond! Check out, Baby!" The woman grins, gesturing Desmond over warmly. "She's a beut', isn't she?!"
"Much better looking than the one in Abstergo." Desmond praises and even Altair seems to think so as well if the curious and approving expression on the man's face was any indication.
"What is this?"
"An Animus that I think Rebecca made." The novice informs him, making Altair cock his head.
"This looks much different than the one the Templars had."
"And much more comfy!" Desmond grins. He turns to regard Rebecca and blinks when he notices the interested expression on the woman's face. "Oh, uh… He was just asking about Baby."
"I figured as much," Rebecca says with a hint of pride, before frowning thoughtfully. "But… I'm thinking that we will need a way to communicate with your ancestor there. I doubt me, Luc', or Shaun can come to you for every translation and as I said before, Google translations can only go so far…"
"Not to mention how inconvenient it would be." Shaun puts in his two cents, swiveling his chair to face the three. "You might as well tell him to bark in case of emergency or anything else life threatening, Desmond."
Rebecca rolls her eyes as Shaun turns back to work. "Ignore him. He's grumpy that we're out of his favorite tea."
"…not bloody grumpy…" Desmond can hear Shaun mumble to himself, making the corner of the former bartender's lips twitch upwards.
"Ah well…" The raven-haired woman sighs. "Anyways, I can't have you in Baby just yet. I gotta calibrate her to sync and catch up to the memory you viewed with Lucy before escaping."
"Ezio's birth?" Desmond asks, remembering the instance. It had been an… odd experience to say the least.
"That one." The woman nods happily. "Was wee baby Ezie a cutie, by the way?"
Desmond's lips twitch at the nickname. "He was." At least, he had thought so after the initial panic that Desmond had experienced when the babe had not cried out moments after the birth. Stillbirth and the accompanying feels of panic had been on the forefront of his mind before his Italian ancestor's lungs had cleared and the baby had cried for the first time.
"Anyway, you should go talk to Lucy and Shaun while I'm working on this." She pauses, lowering her voice. "Specifically Lucy. She's been lookin' kinda... weird, ya know?"
Sad; guilty—Rebecca seems to say.
Desmond sighs. "Yeah... okay."
Desmond ends up visiting Shaun first…and in retrospect, it is probably not the better choice.
"Hey, so what's all this… stuff… for?"
It's the first thing that comes out of Desmond's mouth and immediately elicits Shaun's ire.
"'This stuff', Desmond? Oh, this stuff is nothing special really, this stuff." Shaun bristles. "It's just, the stuff that keeps our whole entire operation from falling apart, really."
Altair has no comprehension of the word 'this stuff,' but his eyebrows rise nevertheless, mimicking the perplexed expression on his descendant's face.
Shaun, however, is on a roll—his hands flying in the air with just the smallest ofindignation and offense.
"It requires a great deal of concentration to keep it all moving you see, so you'll forgive me that I have no time to play meet and greet."
'Right… note to self: Do not say 'stuff' around Shaun.' Desmond thinks once the Brit gives a little huff, grumbling balefully about 'stuff' as he turns back around to type on his console.
"There is a word for him in my mother's language." Altair says suddenly to Desmond, making the novice assassin look at him curiously.
"Oh? Wait, your mother's language? She wasn't native to the middle east?" This was news to him. He had always assumed that both Altair's parents had been Syrian.
"No, she was a Christian Frenchwoman traveling through the area when she met my father." Altair says. Something crosses his eyes so quick that for a moment, Desmond wonders if it had been a trick of the light, before his expression settles on contemplation. "I believe it was… 'rosbifs.'"
"'rosbifs?'" Desmond repeats, vaguely aware of an abrupt tension in the area. "That sounds a lot like…"
"Did you ancestor just call me, ROAST BEEF?!"
Minutes later, Shaun and Altair came to be in some sort of verbal spar, one spitting derogatory terms shrilly as the other goaded him in French.
Desmond had at first wanted to step in and separate the two in case of a brawl, but after watching for a second, had thought better of it. Altair could benefit from getting to know Shaun (even if it were in this way) better, especially if what Rebecca had told him Altair had almost done to Shaun was true.
'No wonder Shaun doesn't like Altair very much.' Desmond thinks, shaking his head in amusement.
Still, the fact that Altair could speak French was a definite plus against that pesky language barrier.
He spares the two verbally sparing men another glance just to make sure they are not at each other's (literal) throats, before quietly sneaking away towards Lucy.
The blonde is dutifully working at her desk, Desmond can see. Her hair is in her usual neat bun, held together with white bobby pins that Desmond can see sticking out in odd angles, but firmly holding the yellow strands in place.
Talk to Lucy, Rebecca had wanted. Yet, looking at the blonde now, no words came to mind on how to approach the issue hanging heavy between them.
Thankfully, it is Lucy that speaks first.
"Did you need something, Desmond?"
"Oh, uh…" Desmond startles and fumbles for a moment, unaware of the faint twitch of Lucy's lips at his brief floundering. "I was just wondering what you were up to? I mean like, where do you fit in…" He gestures a hand around vaguely. "…all of this?"
"I usually report whatever useful information I can get to the Assassin Networks." Lucy says dispassionately, the steady taps of her fingertips against the keyboard keys accentuating her words. "With many teams overseas and in different countries, information is the most important thing to get around."
"I see…" Desmond says, to which the blonde hums calmly.
Desmond is consciously aware that Lucy is not looking at him in the eye.
He begins again. "You get a lot of information a day?"
"It's enough to keep me busy."
They're both dodging the thing in both their minds, and acutely attentive of it.
'Oh, fuck it.' Desmond sighs. "Look, Lucy…
"Okay, look, Desmond…"
They both stop, staring at each other with surprised eyes.
"Um, you go first."
"No, what were you going to say?"
They stop again.
"I just wanted to say—"
"I wanted you to know that—"
Once more, they pause, looking at each other exasperatedly before finally, they grin, letting out two exasperated laughs.
Keeping people at arm's length is something Lucy's good at. It's a necessity in her chosen profession and turns into something more of an inevitability when Lucy lands in Abstergo. It has its perks. Things don't affect her as much. She's rid of the pesky emotional aspects of office drama and safe behind carefully constructed walls of her making. It's a saving grace on most days.
But then comes Desmond.
And that entire vigilant construct had proven useless, as the man had surprised, exasperated, amused, and squeezed his way through with with his quick twitch-of-the-lip grins and antics. In less than a week, Desmond had nearly given her a heart attack and made the emotions she'd carefully kept intact run rampart than they ever had in years.
Lucy sighs minutely, eyes narrowing to pensive slits.
She'd be lying if she said she hadn't expected Desmond's reluctance to her 'request.' Lucy had spent the entirety of the car ride to the Hideout deliberating ways to voice and persuade him if he so happened to decline. Everything would have worked out, just as planned… but then the man had reacted, and damned if she knew why she had responded to his hostility in kind.
She shouldn't have reacted like that. What in the hell had made her react to him like that?!
And here he was, affecting her again.
Her laughter subsides and suddenly it doesn't feel like the air is trying to strangle her anymore. Lucy feels… better—like she was a fool for worrying about this talk in the first place.
She's surprised when she realizes that it's the first time she felt this nice in a while, and looking at Desmond, grinning in that semi-awkward way of his…
"I'm sorry." The apology slips out without her knowledge, and Lucy is amazed that it comes out so naturally and sincerely. "I... shouldn't have said that you had no choice."
"But, you were right and it is true." Desmond says simply, making Lucy look up at him. Yet, there is neither contempt nor accusation in his tone or face that she initially expects. Instead, he has a look of weary acceptance that makes something inside Lucy clench uneasily. His grin turns bitter. "I never really had a choice in anything, and yeah, I was pissed off that you just helped me escape to fulfill your own ends, but when I reflect on it… Abstergo's not going to stop hunting me down anytime soon. If I want any semblance of peace, they can't be in the picture."
A silence overtakes them for a minute. He's right; they both know it.
"I want others to have the choice." Desmond breathes finally and perhaps it's because Lucy's never really taken Desmond seriously before for her to suddenly have her attention so rapt on him. "I was Subject 17. There were others before me and there will be others after me, right? I want the rest to have a choice. I want them to have what I never did."
There's something underlying in his words—something that is not just about being entered into the Animus program.
"I'm sorry." The words escape against her will again. Lucy doesn't exactly know why she says it or what she's sorry for, but strangely, Desmond seems to know, and he gives just the barest of grins at her that makes her chest tight.
"Yeah." Desmond assures her, and smiles a little. "We're cool."
She manages to crack a grin at that.
"'Sides, I'm sorry for yelling at you too. I overreacted." Desmond says, sheepishly.
"Hey, guys! Baby's all set!" They both look up when they hear Rebecca. The woman is waving her arm enthusiastically and strangely, just a little teary eyed.
"You better go." The blonde gives a small smile. "Rebecca's been eager to have Baby running."
Desmond takes a couple steps before he pauses, and turns back towards her. "Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. I never did get to thank you."
Lucy blinks. "For what?"
"For helping me? For not being an ass-hat like Vidic? For busting me and Altair out of Abstergo? Take your pick." The accompanying grin with the shrug of his shoulders is light. "I haven't said it yet, but I am grateful. So… thank you."
Lucy's eyes soften.
Rebecca personally believes herself to be a good judge of people. She thinks it's because she had always liked watching people—observing anything from their tiny, subconscious brushes of their hands to just the barest of creasing of the skin of their eyes. Because of such attention to these small details, she had learned how to tell if people were lying or if they were sincere; whether they had good intentions, or bad. It was a myriad of information that she could access within a moment's notice.
It was this intuition she had that Shaun often mistook her friendliness to people as her being too trusting. He had always voiced it with a sneer, mouth pulled in his usual scowl, but with a concern that spoke through his body language. Rebecca had just grinned dumbly at that. She wasn't trusting. If anything, she was the most wary one of their team—always reading; watching; observing.
Not to say that it was a burden, though. It had never led her astray. Rather, it often led her to good places—like Shaun. The man had exuded the very aura of introversion and a spitefulness that tended to keep people at bay when they had first 'met,' but the raven-haired woman had just laughed it off—literally.
It was how they first met after all, all those years ago. The first memory of her meeting with Shaun Hasting had been of his wide-eyed, mind-boggled expression as she had laughed at his face right then and there… before saving his life.
So when Rebecca looks at Altair, friendliness comes easily to her because she sees something good in him. In that collected individual she saw sitting diligently by Desmond's side, she sees that to Altair, their novice means a lot to him. She doesn't know why nor does she know how such a thing could possibly be… but the evidence is there, dusted in the little gesture the man makes. She can see how Altair looks upon the younger man with softness in his eyes that Rebecca wants to stop and stare at.
The other assassin seems to notice her gaze upon him and turns his head to the woman watching him from her post, eyes narrowed questioningly, but Rebecca just smiles complacently, giving away nothing.
He utters something then, a string of words fitted with bobs and weaves that are foreign to her ears, but then it shifts to a more familiar phonological string that Rebecca can decipher.
Rebecca vaguely recognizes the language as French—a very outdated French.
It had been very hard to miss the contest of insults that Shaun and the Syrian had been in earlier. Between her snickering at Shaun's infuriated expression and hasty scribbling of French insults (it wasn't every day that she was able to learn ye olde French insults, after all,) Rebecca was ecstatic at the realization that she could put her French finally to use with Altair, no matter how limited it was going to be, because though translation wasn't going to be fantastic, at least they had one person in the group (who wasn't Desmond) who could understand the time traveler, if not partially.
Altair's knowledge of French made sense, of course. According to her notes, King Richard I of England had spoken French during the Third Crusade when Altair had spoken with the man and French was a common language during the 12th and 13th century.
He speaks again; his words are clearer this time and it takes Rebecca a moment to decipher that he's asking about something by her thigh—her gun.
Altair's gaze is inquisitive, and again, Rebecca can't help but grin at how much it reminds her of a Bull when the terrier pup had been curious whenever she had brought gizmos home. Explaining to the man what a 'gun' was and how it worked in a sort of broken kind of French is difficult, but Altair seemed to understand her brief description if the hum of understanding he makes is anything to go by.
His gaze changes then—from apprehension to an interest that Rebecca is very familiar with. She asks if he would like to try shooting and the expected change in the Syrian's reaction is enough of an answer for her, making Rebecca beam widely in excitement. Leaning over, she waves in Shaun's direction to get his attention.
"Teach Alty how to use a gun, would ya?"
"Teach 'Alty' to use a—wait, what?!" Shaun jerks up, looking at Rebecca incredulously and as if she was insane.(He's honestly played with the thought before.) "Are you out of your bloody mind?!"
Rebecca rears back in faux confusion. "What's wrong with that?"
"He's already armed to the bloody teeth, or have you mistaken the sword, dagger, and throwing knives as fashionable accessories?And now you want to give him a gun?"
"We're not giving him one." Rebecca rolls her eyes good-naturedly. "Just teaching him how to use one. It's the best kind of safety anyone can have, really. 'Sides, what if something comes up and he happens to pick one up?"
"We take it away from him!" After nearly getting shanked last time by Desmond's crazy ancestor, there was no way in hell the bastard was going to potentially pull a gun on him.
"I'm with Shaun on this one, Becca." Lucy says from her post, frowning. "I don't think it would be such a good idea."
"Thank you, Lucy." The Brit pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose with a finger, nodding haughtily. "'sides, he doesn't need to use one if he doesn't have one. "
"…Well, he's touching yours right now."
The predictable yelp is music to Rebecca's ears, bringing out the Cheshire cat in her.
"What in the bloody—no, no, you imbecile! Don't hold it like that and for god's sake don't point it at your sodding self!"
"I'll get the training room ready." Lucy sighs, shaking her head, but it's hard to miss the laughter glittering in her eyes.
"Oh my god, give that back!"
The first time Desmond had experienced Ezio's life was at the Italian's birth. It had been…an interesting position to be in, to say the least. It had initially started out awkward (he was in the point of view of a baby after all,) but it had also turned into a frightening ordeal. Desmond could remember it vividly. In his ears, he could hear 'his' mother's pained gasps—feel the trembling of the room and the tension in the dry air as they waited for the birth.
He remembers how cold Ezio had been when the babe had entered the world, silent as a grave.
It had been terrifying to be thrust in that memory at first. His horror had been mirrored in the eyes of the two midwives catering to the expecting mother.
At that time, Desmond had been in that out-of-body-but-still-with-them experience that he was all too familiar with inside Abstergo's Animus. It was like sliding into another's skin, but having no control save for an acute awareness of the world around. The sensation of living as Altair had always been disorienting—difficult to differentiate between what was him and what was Altair before the Animus had helped him settle the vertigo. It was no different with being the newborn Italian.
Reliving Ezio's memories in Baby however, was different.
Rebecca had bragged about the Animus 2.0's specs, leaving nary a detail out and preening all the while in pride as she did. He had to admit, though, she had the right to brag. Rebecca hadn't exaggerated when she said that the machine was more comfortable either. It wasn't a Posturepedic mattress, but it was sure as hell better than a metal table.
The software of their Animus was a lot more advanced than the one at Abstergo as well. Walking in Renaissance Italy, Desmond had felt more aware of Ezio and their surroundings. Ezio's thoughts hadn't been a low hum in Desmond's mind like Altair's had been. Instead, he could feel and hear the Italian's voice ghost in the shell of his ear, as if the man were right beside him.
It was bizarre as all hell, but oddly interesting. The last time he had been 'Ezio,' the Italian had been a mere newborn. Now thrust upon a much older version of his ancestor, seeing what that little baby had grown up to be was amazing, if not a little surreal.
Like with Altair, Desmond had seen traces of himself in Ezio's reflection. They're faces were alike, and even the scar that was still fresh on the man's face where that rock had struck was beginning to take the same length and shape as his own.
Of course, they had some physical differences. The longer hair, a freckle or two, and such, were easy to spot, but it was not those aesthetic attributes that stood out to Desmond the most and made him realize just how starkly different Ezio was from him.
It had been Ezio's eyes.
They were so…carefree.
And Desmond marvels them—admires the man's welcoming eyes and open smiles that he so easily and freely gives. The man passes by a pair of girls walking on the brick pathway and flashes them the same smile as before, eyes alighting in such a way that has Desmond suddenly…envious and self-conscious.
Would that have been how he would have looked if…?
Desmond shakes his head firmly; keen on not treading though that territory. Instead, he brings his attention back to Ezio, expecting the man to do something Assassin-y….
Desmond's eye twitches.
…only to see the man chatting with another set of women.
'…Are you kidding me?' If Desmond could groan, he would have in that instance as he regarded his ancestor sourly. Such a scene shouldn't have been surprising to him considering he'd witnessed Ezio escape out of a woman's bedroom the night before. 'You HAD to be a ladies' man…'
He figured that while he was reliving some genetic memories, there might as well be commentary to make it more enjoyable. So far, it had worked out pretty well by keeping him occupied while Ezio did menial tasks for his family.
'Gotta admit that you got a way with words, though.' Desmond murmurs, a hint of jealousy entering his words when he sees the girls titter and bat at Ezio like felines to catnip. 'Of all the things I seem to inherit from this bloodline, social skills aren't one of them. Fantastic.'
"Ser Ezio…My sisters and I would love to see a…demonstration, of your reach… to our…flexibility."
"Why madonna…" Ezio purrs, "Such a thing would require much…room, for that venture, and I am afraid that my humble abode would not be appropriate for such a thing."
"My sisters and I insist, ser Ezio… Why do you not come inside? We do enjoy guests since we have been lonely for so long!"
When did this memory become a plot from some raunchy erotica novel?!
"Well then, do lead the way…"
'THIS IS NOT OKAY.'
Sitting beside her Baby, Rebecca makes a curious noise in the back of her throat when she sees an alert on the computer screen.
"Huh. Desmond's pulse is going crazy all of the sudden..." She checks on what chapter of the memories he's in, but he's only on the first chapter. "Nothing significant should have happened yet…"
Yet, when she looks at Desmond, the man's pallor had faded to a pale shade and…
Was he sweating?
"Well, Italy is hot around that season." Rebecca tells herself, before shrugging. Shaun had told her specifically that this memory was vital, after all. The sequence that he had pointed out to her was a tad earlier in time than Rebecca would have recommended, but she wasn't the history major here.
''Sides, what could go wrong?'
It takes Rebecca all her strength to keep Desmond from choking Shaun when he wakes up from the Animus two hours later.
"Shaun, you asshole! You did this to me!"
"I'm sure it wasn't so bad, Desmond!" Rebecca consoles sincerely, but her lips twitch sporadically in mirth. "So you got an eyeful of Ezio getting busy. No big deal!"
"...You've obviously never seen a 15th century orgy." Desmond says dryly, eliciting a snort from Rebecca and making a choked sound escape from a certain Brit across the room.
Shoulders shaking, Shaun takes a second to compose himself before swiveling in his chair to face the scowling Miles glowering on Baby. "You can hardly blame me. How was I supposed to know how… amorous your ancestor was?"
"You're the one with all the data!" Desmond growls, eyes narrowing in displeasure when Shaun smirks.
Sighing exasperatedly, Desmond covers his face with his hands, hoping that the coldness of his hands would cool off his burning face.
'Stupid horny ancestor…' Desmond shudders. He sincerely hopes that no more episodes of… Italian affection… will occur, at least while he was in Ezio's head. He had not signed up for this!
Though now, he did know that Ezio was a really, really, creative man.
And he really did have reach.
Desmond lets out pained groan at that piece of information that he had been forced to verify over and over again.
Something in his mind brushes alongside his thoughts that he knows is distinctly Altair, but when he cracks an eye open, the Syrian is not with him as he had originally thought he would be. The chair beside Baby that Rebecca had pulled out for Altair is strangely empty.
"Where's Altair?" A certain blonde wasn't in sight either. "And Lucy?"
"Lucy had to take a call and Altair is in the training room." Rebecca says.
Desmond makes a questioning sound. "Training room?"
It is Shaun that speaks up then, all the while giving Rebecca a side-ways glare. "Rebecca thought it was a good idea for Altair to learn how to shoot. So, I showed him the ropes and let him be."
And the man had expressed a lot of interest at the firearm, Shaun reflects. He winces at the memory of the man examining the weapon, which he had stupidly left out on the counter. Shaun had had to yank the thing out of the Syrian's hand lest he accidentally blow his brains out. ('Considering he's part of Desmond's lineage, it wouldn't be improbable. Reckless line, they are…' Shaun thinks with a slight huff.)
Altair had growled at him when he'd taken the weapon away, and though Shaun did find him annoying and a complete sod, Shaun didn't want the guy to get hurt. Lord knows how annoying it would be to deal with another injured assassin, especially a skittish, armed one. At that point, they had had a little tug of war session, each with an irritated scowl on their face that when Shaun reflects on it, he was now thanking every deity up there that gun's safety had been on.
In the end, Shaun had pushed the irate man into the makeshift shooting range that Lucy had set up, doing his best to accurately portray and mime standard handgun use since language was out of the question. (Shaun had never been that fluent in French, let alone outdated French. He considered it good riddance to not know that accursed language.)
Shaun had to admit that Altair was a quick learner though. He was smart to know to point the gun to the ground when not shooting and he mimicked the correct form to hold the weapon as well. His aim also was impressive. Altair didn't make the rookie mistake of aiming exactly at the bull's eye of the paper targets either, but rather, the man had aimed slightly higher, as if anticipating for air resistance. Considering how accurate the Syrian assassin was with throwing knives, it made sense to that Altair would apply the same basics of it to shooting, which that in itself was quite remarkable.
"He's a decent shot." Shaun muses, tilting his chair back to stare at the high ceiling thoughtfully. "Very good for a beginner."
"Are you sure that's okay?" Desmond asks hesitantly. "I mean, unsupervised with a firearm?"
"I wouldn't worry. He and I finished up just a couple minutes before you came out of the Animus." Shaun replies.
"Oh!" Rebecca suddenly perks up. "I almost forgot. I haven't been out shopping yet, but I did manage to find some old clothes in some boxes in the other warehouses for you guys. I even managed to find a replacement hoodie for you too." Rebecca says, and pulls a white mass out of a bag by her feet before handing it to Desmond. "It's a little old, but should do."
The fabric is frayed and the arms of it are a tad long, but when Desmond pulls it over his head and wiggles it on, the former bartender is grateful that it makes him feel less exposed and more in his comfort zone. Desmond shoots a thankful smile at the raven-haired woman. "Thanks, Becca."
Rebecca nods happily. "No problem! I'll probably head out to the store a little later too. Meanwhile, you can roam around this district while I'm out—so long as it's okay with Shaun, of course."
"Oh, yeah, I have absolutely no problem with it." Shaun says just a little too quickly. "Get your 'assassin juices' flowing and all that jazz."
Desmond raises an eyebrow, and even Rebecca appeared suitably surprised at his easy admission. "Wait, what? What happened to being all uptight about me being the most wanted man in Rome and alerting attention from Abstergo?"
"Yeah, what's with the sudden change of heart?" Rebecca asks curiously.
"Well, Abstergo's out looking for you, yes? The obvious route would have been to flee the country, and probability-wise, the first place they'll search for you is for on all outgoing flights from the capital. However, by staying here…"
"…We're basically hiding in plain sight." Desmond figures.
"Essentially." Shaun replies. "That, and Lucy figured a rookie assassin like you should try blending in with crowds. We don't have you recorded for learning any of Ezio's abilities yet… but a good deal of Altair's. That should be enough, in theory, of course. It's good practical training and if you were discreet and stick by the more centralized zones, you should be able to get by. Rome doesn't get any fewer amounts of tourists this time of year, after all, and nor does this district." The brunet explains, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. Shaun gives Desmond a once over, before making an almost resigned hum of semi-approval. "Considering how generic you look, you'll fit right in."
"Generic?!" Desmond bristles.
Rebecca wants to laugh at Desmond's outraged expression, but her attention is more focused on the Brit. She knows he's lying. The way in which Shaun touches his glasses unnecessarily and the lack of eye contact to her is a huge tell, and as such, Rebecca opens her mouth to tell him just so, but as if knowing that she was going to call him out on it, Shaun gives her a meaningful look that makes her stop.
'Did something happen?' She wonders with a small frown, but she trusts Shaun and drops it.
"Practice makes perfect, I guess." Rebecca says finally.
"What about Altair?" Desmond inquires as he stands to stretch his arms, careful as to not strain his injured arm. A residual ache makes him wince.
"Take him with you." Shaun says dismissively with a wave of his hand. "I doubt we can even keep him here without you, anyways."
"And he could probably give you some pointers, too!" Rebecca insists.
"Alright." Desmond moves to leave but at the sharp call of his name, he turns around in time to catch something that Rebecca tosses at him—a cell phone.
"Make sure to keep it on you." Rebecca says with a smile, waving him away.
"Oh, and do shower before you go." Shaun drawls nonchalantly, wrinkling his nose when Desmond walks past. "I'm sure that your stench alone could land you into the center of attention than any rookie mistake could."
"Rosbifs." Desmond mutters underneath his breath.
"I heard that!"
Rebecca just laughs after him.
Desmond is adamant in the fact that he does not smell, but dear god; it's a good idea to shower.
The former bartender turned novice assassin sighs contently as water cascaded down his back. Words could not describe the joy he felt in that single moment. He was in a shower stall-a non-transparent glass shower stall, he might add- with absolutely no Abstergo brand security camera watching his every move. (That window in front of the shower stall on the other hand, could have been better placed, but he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.)
'I'm in heaven!' Desmond thinks gleefully, relishing in the privacy he'd missed for so long. He hums against the spray, feeling the tension slip away from his shoulders and down the drain. Pleased sighs leaving his lips, Desmond lets his mind wander, eyes closing almost sleepily. He hadn't felt this relaxed in a while.
After everything that had happened, it felt…nice to have some time to slow down and collect his thoughts. Just a little over a week ago, he was just a normal person and living life on his own terms. Now, he was wrapped up in Abstergo…Assassins and Templars…Altair…
At the last thought, Desmond's mind immediately goes to when Altair had appeared in his 'bedroom,' helping him to control his eagle vision, touching the scar on his lip and…
Altair's face is moving closer to his, a curious but also wicked look in his eyes. He can feel the older man's breathe brush against his own and just as Desmond's lips part in silent surprise—
Blood rushes to his face.
What the…what the fuck had that been?!
Desmond was no stranger to attractions of that sort. He had found that he could go either way and was totally okay with that, but this was… this—!
'Maybe…maybe he was… comparing scars! Yeah, that's right. Scars.' Desmond swallows thickly, but the thought still lingers in his mind. He admired Altair. Sure, the guy had been a complete jerk at Solomon's Temple, but after following the man; experiencing Altair's hardships with him and watching him grow…
Desmond found it ultimately hard not to like Altair.
Idly, Desmond wonders what they were going to do with Altair. No one really planned to have an ancestor from a thousand years in the past to come visiting, and he knew that Shaun, Rebecca, and Lucy were just as lost as him on the matter.
There was the possibility of getting the experienced and much more competent assassin to help in the Assassins' cause, but Desmond slams the thought down viciously. He refused to let anyone force Altair into anything. After all the shit Altair had already gone through in his own time, it wasn't fair to bring him into theirs.
'He doesn't need to be involved in our mess.' Desmond thinks, closing his eyes fully. However, there was that fact that the man had also admitted to coming to this time with a Piece of Eden, on purpose, and therefore, basically became involved anyways.
And there was that fact that Desmond still had no idea what it was that Altair wanted out of his whole hop through time. It makes Desmond wince; he's well aware that the Syrian had evaded the question during their chat on the roof. Perhaps he was being purposely secretive about it.
'Or he doesn't even know himself.' Desmond remembers the look of confusion on Altair's face that first time he'd asked as per Shaun's insistence. It almost makes him laugh. The great Altair Ibn-La'Ahad without answers? From what he knew, Malik would have taunted the master assassin mercilessly for it; criticizing Al Mualim's supposed 'star pupil' and best assassin—even if they both knew that Altair had proven himself twice fold that that was true.
'Dad would have been proud to have him help out.' Desmond thinks dispassionately.
It was… September, wasn't it? By his count it would be… nine years, six months since he left the Farm—not that he wanted to or even could go back since according to Vidic, the Farm had been raided.
In his mind's eye, Desmond can see the Farm go up in flames—see the stark white walls stained and charred— but for some reason, the apathy and slight pleasure that he expects to feel from the imagery is not there. Instead, all he can feel is the bitterness of… loss.
But, it is to be expected, because no matter how much he had hated and despised that prison of a home, it had, at one brief time of his life, been his home that for a small moment in time, he had cherished. Nothing could erase that.
It makes him think of his family—his mother and his father. Despite his initial shock at the news of the Farm being raided by Abstergo, Desmond was confident that his family was alive. Though his relationship with his father was anything but smooth, Desmond knew the man. His father was never without any contingency plan for anything...and nor was he stupid.
That was why when Vidic had said that Assassins had come to Abstergo to try to break him out, Desmond had been rightfully skeptic.
'A bluff, maybe?' Desmond wonders. Strategically, it would have been idiotic to raid Abstergo in broad daylight. His strategist of a father would never have ordered it. 'He's smarter than that.'
And suddenly the memory of his father gathering around a small table with his colleagues around him drifts into his mind's eye. He can hear the ghost of their whisperings—their low and hushed tones that when Desmond had been little, he had strained to comprehend.
Desmond remembers the faces around the table well. They had been etched with a tiredness his younger self couldn't fathom—their bodies fixed with a tenseness that Desmond had been intimidated by, but it had been their eyes that had left him transfixed.
For they had all held a reverence and awe when they looked upon his father, soaking in the eldest Miles' words with keen interest as if his verses were from the mouth of god.
And oh how his younger self had been so stupid to mimic their expressions, thinking that his sire was someone great and respectable –
Gold eyes narrow, fingernails digging crescent moons into his palms.
—when such a god had looked upon his own creation with contempt.
Desmond wishes that his Father wasn't this great man that those people had admired. William Miles shouldn't have been this perfect individualas they all had said. Where were his flaws?!
And suddenly, he can feel it churning within him—an old, long suppressed bitterness and resentment burning in the base of his throat and riddling along the cords of his body that just for a split second—
"YOU ARE NOT—."
Desmond shakes his head furiously, physically willing away all thoughts of his father.
He doesn't want to think about his dad or anything else about the Farm. That part of his life was over. He was not going to make the mistake dwell on it. The fool that he had been had died when he had run away from 'home' that night long ago. He wasn't Desmond of the Farm anymore.
Yet, a small piece of him wonders just who had replaced him.
Again and again, this world surprises Altair.
He knows he shouldn't be surprised. Time forever moved on and as such, the world tended to follow, but it did not stop him from being overwhelmed by the scale of change.
Altair's hand tightens around the 'gun.' He turns it over in his hands, admiring the smoothness of the metal—'our weaponsmith could never make something this complicated,'— and appreciating its complete deadly capacity.
Long distance potential such as these... Altair honestly couldn't imagine the effect they would have had in his time. The possibilities of its uses were endless. How easy it would have been to assassinate his targets. It sacrificed the silence of a throwing knife, but the sheer magnitude of its ranged capabilities and effectiveness more than made up for it. Their enemies would never expect it. Their deaths would come in the form of cracks of lightning.
But in retrospect, it could easily be used against him.
The tools of his trade—his swords, daggers, hidden blades, and throwing knives—they all required skill to use. It took assassin-to-be months, if not years, of training to fully master their uses and kill with them cleanly and efficiently. Yet, these modern tools in contrast required nary a one to achieve an end. A mere child could operate them!
It was...troubling to think that such a small, seemingly insignificant hunk of metal could cause so much harm so quickly.
Especially since such a thing had almost killed Desmond.
At that thought, Altair wills down the flush of anger that surges through his body.
He had almost lost Desmond. The statement rings in his mind and with it, Altair can see those wide peculiar golden eyes on him, gleaming with fear because…
Altair grits his teeth.
…because the guard had been aiming at him before Desmond had foolishly thrown himself in the way.
Shame fills Altair then, and it takes all his willpower to not toss the damned weapon in his hand across the room. Instead, he places it carefully on the table before sitting down on a crate and folding his juddering hands together. He breathes in deeply, eyes closing as he exhales.
He had been so close to losing Desmond. The thought infuriates Altair, making him berate himself inwardly for having nearly lost what he had come so far to regain.
'The one responsible paid for it though.' An almost vicious twitch of a smile spreads across Altair's face. 'As did the rest.'
Unlike Templars, materialism had never been in the Brotherhood's cause. Assassins were generally nomadic in nature; few Assassins in Masyaf even had the time to tend to such trivial matters when there were much more important things to do. Whatever that was precious to an Assassin were either on their own person or hidden elsewhere. Altair was no different. There was little in the world that Altair had or even bothered to claim as his own, but it was without a doubt in his mind that Desmond was his.
It is concerning that the other assassin suffered from various insecurities, however. It reeks off the younger male, tainting what he could have been with what he could not be. It makes Altair recoil with fury and disgust.
But despite that, the potential was still there. Before becoming Mentor, one of his many duties had been to oversee the newest Assassin recruits; weeding out ones that were not fit in a certain area and participating in brief trainings with others. He had ways of measuring novices he came across. With Desmond, it was no different. With the right training and direction, he could succeed.
The door of the training room opens and Altair doesn't need to turn around to know who it is.
"Altair?" Desmond smiles faintly from the door. "You feel like going out?"
Succeed, yes. Altair would ensure it.
"I do not like this." The statement is said with displeasure in his ear, but Desmond is undeterred by it; more focused on getting through his task without knocking anyone over than to listen to the older man voice his disapproval. "I would rather be down there with you."
"That's what you get for refusing to dress right." Desmond murmurs lightly. "Rebecca brought them for you for a reason, you know."
The statement makes Altair scoff and Desmond doesn't need to look up where the man is surely hiding to know that Altair is scowling. Before they had left the Hideout, Rebecca had quickly stopped them, suggesting that Altair change into more 'normal' clothes if they were going to out in public. Altair had taken one look at the offered garments before he had flat out refused, regarding the clothes with barely hidden disdain. The reaction was something that Desmond would have expected out of Ezio, but Desmond had just sighed, giving Rebecca a helpless look.
"As much I appreciate her assistance, those…modern wares… The material is so thin and its design is completely inconvenient! How can anyone hold anything in such small pockets?"
In the end, it was decided that until they could find something that the Master Assassin deemed acceptable, Altair was to stay out of sight while Desmond practiced his learned skills out in public.
Currently, Altair was on his perch two stories above the city's market place, hidden on the roof of an apartment building. The position gave him a great height advantage and succeeded in hiding him from sight from anyone who may have looked up.
"Remember to keep your touches light and brief, but with enough pressure to make them shy away from it." Though high above Desmond's location, Altair's voice is clear in his ear, magnified in volume by the Bluetooth and cell phones that Rebecca had also handed to them to communicate easier because of their increased distance. Nodding discreetly, Desmond follows Altair's advice, making sure to keep his face hidden as much as possible by his hood and avoiding eye contact as he does so. "Press against their shoulder blades to get them to move out of your way."
They continued like that for some time with Altair monitoring and giving Desmond suggestions at how to better move his way through crowds more efficiently as the novice moved about the plaza. Though the muscle memory that he had attained from Altair was still there, Desmond still found it difficult to maneuver around sometimes. Still, he was noticeably improving. Altair's advice made him accidentally knock into people less and passing through the throngs of people wasn't as uncomfortable and daunting as it had been initially.
'He's a really good teacher.' Desmond thinks, lips twitching upwards as he follows another murmured piece of instruction, and for the first time, Desmond regrets his Animus session cutting out memories of what Altair as a Mentor was like in Masyaf.
It's the smallest of details that makes Desmond inhale sharply and loose whatever momentum he had, causing him to knock against a startled tourist.
"Do you see him?"
"He has to be around here somewhere. He didn't go far."
'Shit!' Desmond bites the inside of his cheek, eyes shooting to the little symbols stitched on the front of the pair of uniformed men. He distinctly recognized the coloring of the uniform as the same ones worn by the security guards at Abstergo, but what the hell were they doing all the way out here?! Shaun had told him that the Tor Te Treste area was miles away from the Templar HQ. They had no business lurking around out here, unless…
But that was impossible. They had only been out here for an hour and he severely doubted that he or Altair could have been spotted so fast.
Altair's alarmed voice rings in his ear.
"Desmond, those are—"
"I know." Desmond hisses. They were coming closer. He tugs at his hoodie, making sure it covers more of his face. For a moment, his visions blurs, making the pair of Abstergo employees glow a dim red, before his Eagle vision deactivates on its own accord, leaving a dull throb in his temple and a sour taste in his mouth.
"I can get rid of them." Altair says suddenly, voice terse. Desmond's eyes flicker upwards, seeing the white of Altair's robe flap over the edge of the roof apartment building. Through his earpiece, he hears the distinct sound of boots slamming against the fire escape.
"And that would actually be a step backwards from not drawing any attention to ourselves!" Desmond says quickly.
The guards are just meters away from him now and immediately, Desmond burrows into himself, digging his hands into his pockets to make himself look as small and nonthreatening as possible. The surrounding crowds provide a buffer between him and them, but he can't help the hitch of his breath when one of their shoulders bump into his own—his injured side.
The Abstergo man pauses at the sound, turning around to see whom he had bumped into and caused the sound of pain, but Desmond is already moving away, using the surrounding tourists to break line of sight.
Above, Altair holds his breath, amber eyes narrowing as they watch the guard seems to appraise Desmond's retreating figure, before shaking his head almost in disappointment and running up to catch up with his partner. When the men are a safe distance away does Altair's body slack and he release a sigh of relief—an action that is mimicked by Desmond through the earpiece.
"That was too close." Desmond murmurs.
"Agreed." Altair hums, but his gaze remains fixated on the security guards, watching them search the perimeter more. The Syrian activates his Eagle vision, noting the men's reddish hue, before they round the corner and disappear from his field of vision. He is about to release his ability when a telltale flash of gold suddenly catches his attention from the corner of his eyes before disappearing all too quickly as if a trick of the light.
Altair frowns at the detail, but doesn't pursue it. Instead, he lowers himself back down on the roof, amber eyes fading back to their normal hue.
"They were… not specifically looking for you."
Desmond makes a questioning sound. "What makes you think that?"
"The Templar guard that stopped—he was measuring you for height. He deemed it inconsistent with what he was looking for and dismissed you."
"So…you're saying he was looking for someone taller than me."
"Most likely." Altair says. "In any case, we can assume an ally."
Desmond smirks boldly. He turns around a corner to a more narrow part of the city streets and idly noting how dark it had gotten. "An enemy of my enemy is my friend?"
Altair grins, an almost purr-like quality entering his voice when he replies. "Exactly, fledgling."
Desmond scowls at that, turning around a corner to a less populated area as to speak more freely. "Jeez, Altair. Stop calling me that. My name is Des—!"
All of the sudden, the wind is knocked out of him as a fist meets his stomach and hands latch onto his clothes, clawing him off the sidewalk and into an alley.
His head hits the brick wall of the alley, making his vision spin. Desmond hears Altair yell through the Bluetooth before the earpieces is jarred out of his ear from the force and clatters uselessly to the ground. A boot crushes it to pieces a second later-'I really hope I don't have to pay for that.'- before he feels another fist, larger this time, sock him in the gut. Desmond can't help the cry that escapes his throat when another set of hands crudely pins his body to the wall, putting an intense amount of pressure over his still healing arm.
'Oh…this is great.' Desmond thinks, gritting his teeth. 'Just perfect…'
Cracking an eye open, Desmond warily observes his attackers. There are three of them in all.
'Big-and-Stupid, Dopey-Eye, and Tattoo-Parlor.' Desmond counts, hissing in -and-Stupid is the one restraining him against the wall with Dopey-eyed on his left and Tattoo-Parlor on the right, raising his arm to…
'Fucking A—!' Desmond grunts when Tattoo-Parlor's fist finds his way to his stomach. There is a quick exchange of Italian between then, their voices salted with slang and just a bit slurred in his ears, before he feels Dopey-Eye pat the pockets of his hoodie and pants, most likely to look for his wallet. They do find the cellphone that Rebecca had tossed him and that is quickly passed on to and pocketed by Big-and-Stupid.
'So this is how it feels like to get mugged.' He's lived in New York for nearly ten years without getting mugged and it happens now? How beautiful. At least he doesn't have anything on him to be mugged of.
As if on cue, Dopey-Eye retracts his hands and shakes his head in negative. The lines on Big-and-Stupid's and Tattoo-Parlor's face deepen and before he can stop himself, Desmond feels his lips curl into a smirk. He pays the cost of it quickly though when instead of Tattoo-Parlor's fist in his abdomen, he feel s Big-and-Stupid's hands shake him roughly against the wall, making Desmond's head smash against the wall with enough force for stars to flash behind his eyelids.
There is a bark of a demand from Tattoo-Parlor, and Desmond regrets not staying in the Animus 2.0 long enough to have Ezio's Italian stick in his mind. It would have been so helpful right now. It was a shame that they probably wouldn't understand an eloquent, "go fuck yourself."
He says it for good measure in English anyways, and it earns him another shake—harder this time and enough to make his hoodie slide down slightly. The sight of his hair and just the view of one gold eye along with his distinct scar is enough to catch their attention and with growing panic does Desmond see a hand rise to pull his hood down and reveal his face.
'Shit!' Desmond's mind races to the news program Shaun had shown them days before. He starts struggling fiercely, clawing with dull fingernails at the hands restricting him. 'Maybe they don't watch TV?'
Lady luck doesn't appear to be on his side though because Dopey-Eye's good eye seems to light up at the reveal and he turns to his buddies, pointing at Desmond's face and making realization and a new, favorable appraisal dawn on their faces.
'Fuck, fuck, FUCK.'
"Get offa me!" Desmond yells. Adrenaline rushes through his veins, overriding the pain he feels in his front and injured arm. "Get your fucking hands offa me! ALTAI—"
A hand slaps him firm and solidly, cutting off his yell in his throat.
Desmond grunts, fingers scrambling for purchase of the arms pinning him against the wall and using it as leverage, kicks his leg out; managing a hard hit the area between Big-And-Stupid's kneecap and ankle. Immediately, the man howls in pain, and Desmond uses the brief lapse in the other man's strength as he doubles over to break out of his hold and deliver a solid punch at Dopey-Eye's face. The satisfying crack of Dopey-Eye's nose breaking is well worth the pain in Desmond's knuckles, but when he turns around to deal with Tattoo-Parlor, Desmond freezes when he meets a knife inches away from his face.
Tattoo-Parlor's face is twisted in anger as he barks something out, forcing Desmond to back up further into the alleyway.
"E-Easy there, guy." Desmond swallows thickly, raising his arms up warily and taking a step back. "I've got nothing on me so really, your best option is to let me—" The next thing Desmond knows, there's a rustle behind him and something hard and definitely not a fist slams into the side of his head, making his world spin dangerously to the asphalt.
There's a ringing in his head as Desmond tries to gather his bearings on the ground. He can feel something warm and slimy slide down from his hair and down his cheeks, dripping red dots onto the dirty concrete. His gaze wanders from the ground to the pair of scuffed boots in front of him. Next to it, a trembling metallic object glistens, and it doesn't take long for Desmond to connect the splattered red on the end of the weapon with the piercing pain in his head.
'Fucker hit me with a pipe.' Desmond realizes dazedly, raising his head just in time to see Dopey-Eye lift the pipe above his head once more and Desmond cringes, waiting for the inevitable pain to come but—
A second passes.
"How dare you?"
…his attackers are screaming; loud, terrified hollers that hammered in Desmond's head.
"How DARE you?!"
The sound of a lead pipe clattering to the ground reverberates in Desmond's skull, making his head swim nauseatingly. Something rolls towards him—the metal pipe— and with the earthquake in his head; he can only blearily blink at it before he notices that something is still attached to it, curved around its neck in a firm grip.
It twitches in a parody of a hello.
And it takes all of Desmond's will to push down the bile rising in his throat.
"Al—Altair!" Desmond gasps out, struggling to get to his feet, but Altair doesn't hear him. Instead, the Master Assassin is manhandling Big-and-Stupid against the same wall that the guy had had Desmond held against, but this time with Altair's short blade digging a fine line on the skin of the burly man's neck. At his feet, Dopey-Eye is doubled over and screeching, holding the bloody stump that had been his hand. Tattoo-Parlor lies next to him, sagged and unmoving against the opposite wall.
A sharp pain pierces through Desmond's mind, making him falter from his already swaying legs and then he feels it again; someone else's—'Altair's,' his mind tells him—rage enveloping his consciousness—screaming for blood—but he shakes it off violently when he hears the familiar wails of sirens.
Cursing, Desmond struggles to stand, using the wall as support to stagger forward and yank Altair off Big-and-Stupid. Altair doesn't expect the sudden action and snarls angrily when Big-and-Stupid takes the opening to scurry towards his friends, heaving Tattoo-Parlor up by the collar and dragging Dopey-Eye whilst simultaneously glancing back and forward at Desmond and Altair fearfully.
Roaring, Altair moves to pursue them, but Desmond holds firm, yanking the Syrian back as hard as he can. "Altair! Enough!" Desmond's eyes flicker to the mouth of the alley way anxiously where the sounds of sirens are getting increasingly louder.
"I will NOT let them—!" Altair thunders, but Desmond stops him with an angry glare, grasping the Syrian's arm tightly and tugging in the opposite direction away from the streets.
"Shut up! We need to get the hell outta here before the cops get here!"
"Just, COME ON."
"They've been gone for a while now." Lucy acknowledges, casting a worried look out the window.
"Ya shouldn't be worrying, Luc'! I'm sure Altair's lookin' out for Desmond!" Rebecca pipes up.
"It's not that I'm worried about." Lucy says with a sigh. "Well, at least that's not what I'm entirely concerned about. It's the fact that they might come back too soon."
"'Too soon?' What, are we expecting somebody?" Rebecca asks, before her eyes widen and she shoots a glare at Shaun. "We are expecting somebody! That's why you were so okay with letting Alty and Des out! Why didn't you tell me about it before?"
At the underlying hurt in her voice, Shaun freezes, pausing to choose his words carefully. "Ah... It just happened very fast, Becca."
"Uh huh." The raven-haired woman crosses her arms, clearly unsatisfied with the answer. "And what, Desmond and Altair aren't allowed to meet our guest?" She pauses then, a rare, sharp expression crossing her face. "It is one of ours...right?"
"He's one of us," Lucy assures, making Rebecca relax. "But the reason for Desmond and Altair preferably not being here when he arrives is more because we don't exactly know who is coming."
"Turns out that Desmond's mother has been worried about him-very worried." Shaun says, wincing. "When she found out that we had him and somehow got wind of him getting shot, she wasn't happy."
"She freaked, didn't she?"
Lucy nods, a weak grin appearing on her face. "As much as it would have been expected. She told me that she had sent someone to us to check up on him and everything."
"Honestly never would have figured her for the doting mother type." Shaun says, pulling a colored leaflet from the many files on his desk and pinning it onto a board.
"After not hearing from her son for years, I'm frankly surprised she hasn't sent someone after him before." Lucy adds, chuckling. Neither Lucy nor Rebecca notices the way Shaun hesitates for a split second before continuing with his work.
"Ya sure she didn't drop any hints on who's coming?" Rebecca asks.
This time, they do notice the way Shaun falters. "Ah... She eluded to it, I think, but I really hope I'm wrong."
"Because if I'm right, then he would be taking a detour around the city right now to visit a few 'friends' and more than likely, bump into Desmond and Altair." Shaun sighs. "And I doubt a family reunion is what the kid needs all of the sudden."
"As much as I appreciate the save back there…" Desmond lets go of the fire escape ladder of an apartment complex that they had chosen to hide on top of. He lands on the ground safely, only wincing slightly when it angers the pounding in his head. "Was that really necessary?"
In contrast, a figure drops next to him easily, rising gracefully from a crouch to a regal height. The reply he gets from his savior is short and clipped. "They were going to kill you."
"You don't know that. They recognized me. Probably wanted to subdue me or something to get the reward Abstergo offered." Desmond doesn't get a reply to that. Instead, Altair only looks at him, amber orbs watching him eerily before the Levantine Mentor raises his hand towards him. Automatically, Desmond tenses, holding still as Altair's hand comes closer. His arm invades the chasm between them to brush along his hairline before retracting. His fingers come back stained red.
There's disquiet in his eyes and for a moment, Desmond is thrown by the intensity of it.
"So? You've gotten beat up just as bad once or twice." Sometimes, even worse. He could count on both hands the times when the Animus had shown him Altair getting sloppy and tumbling into Malik's bureau needing more than just rest. "I can handle some abuse."
The deflection is meant to reassure Altair, but rather, Altair's frown seems to deepen, an almost pained expression flashing across his eyes before it hardens to a frostiness that makes Desmond uneasy.
"You think yourself so? Are you that sure?" Altair hisses. He stalks forward, the angles of his body moving like a predator. Instinctively, Desmond takes a step back with Altair's every forward stride.
"Altair, what are you…?" His back hits the wall. Altair halts just mere inches from him.
"You are a novice." Altair murmurs. His eyes are hooded, glistening as if they had caught and held the glint of metal. "By our ways, another brother should have been assigned to train and take you under their wing. Yet here you are, so vulnerable to—."
The words make Desmond's hackles rise.
"I don't need a babysitter." Desmond snarls out. Gold eyes narrow heatedly and he spits out the words with barely veiled disdain. "I am not weak."
"But I am."
Desmond stops short.
"…Do you remember what it is that I said to you?" Altair asks, calmly. "When the others had asked you to ask me how I had come 'here?'"
"'A piece of Eden guided the way'." Desmond recites from had been Altair's exact reply before Desmond had summarized it into easier terms to Rebecca, Shaun, and Lucy.
"And that is the truth." Altair nods. "A piece of Eden did guide the way. After Al Mualim's death, something changed. Like Malik's arm, I felt that I had lost a piece of myself and… went mad. But then… the Apple of Solomon's Temple called to me, showing me visions a different time before granting me means to have it back..." The amber of Altair's eyes are amazingly bright as they locked onto Desmond's gold. "…It brought me to you."
"What…I don't…" Desmond's mind blanks. He had not…expected this.
"I found you." Altair's hands come to grasp Desmond's shoulders, forcing Desmond to meet Altair's eyes. The Syrian's voice lowers and for a moment, he seems to talk to himself, eyes becoming half lidded in pensiveness. "You watched. You were there. You were with me, but then gone."
"And that matters?" Desmond asks and suddenly, it all seems very funny to him. Was this a joke? His mouth twitches up sarcastically. "I get a peepshow into a limited window of your life and that suddenly makes me special?"
"Get out of our way, Desmond."
"It's not just that—" Altair's brows furrow in irritation and he seems to scramble for the right words. Desmond would have found is hilarious if he wasn't preoccupied with getting increasingly pissed off by sheer bullshit.
Desmond shoves Altair away from him, putting as much space between the older assassin and him as the alley would allow.
"Desmond—" Altair tries, but is halted when Desmond shoots him a glare.
"No. I need you to be quiet so that I can explain to you why your reasoning is really, really, fucked up. That thing you're talking about—me being 'with' you? Yeah, I was, but that was entirely against my will in the first place because of Abstergo's fucked up agenda! You might have sensed me there, but I literally didn't do anything for you to warrant this—this thing you got for me! You don't know me! You don't know SHIT about me, but here you are, caring about my well-being and treating me like—like—!"
Like I'm worth something.
And…that's really what it all came down to, isn't it?
"I'm a cowardly person." Desmond says finally, anger seeping out and leaving him almost overwhelmingly tired. He closes his eyes and feels like a little kid again. "Selfish. Pretty much a shitty excuse for an assassin especially when I ran away like I did. And the fact you're disillusioned with the thought of me being worth the trouble is—"
"Are you trying to convince me of that or yourself?" Altair asks sharply, making Desmond start. The Syrian's voice softens. "It is…painful that you think so little of yourself."
"And you wouldn't?" Desmond laughs hollowly, threading a hand through the sweat in his hair in nervous habit. His jaw tightens sporadically, Adam's apple bobbing as he tries to calm himself.
"Not at all."
"…Then, you'd be wrong." Desmond says after a long, drawn moment. It is said softly, almost like a reprimand but with the slightest undertone of the keen of a wounded animal.
"Not at all." Altair says again, but this time, something in his tone makes Desmond pause.
Altair cautiously steps closer, mindful of any potential retaliation before he finally succeeds in closing the space between them. His hand moves to cup the side of Desmond neck; thumb roving over the hollow of his throat below his Adam's apple where he can feel Desmond's pulse thrum like scattered marbles against the pad of his thumb. Desmond's eyes are dilated when Altair's gaze flickers to meet him and through the low hum of the connection they share, he can feel…
Were you lonely?
A need. Something tentative, yet daring. It reminds him of feather-light touches of fluttering wings in the palm of his hands. It reminds him of unhurried, measured murmurs in stained glass cathedrals.
It reminds him of…
The hand on Desmond's neck makes its slow trek upwards until it cups his cheek and he tilts his face obligingly, eyes going wide as the color of amber fills his vision until finally…finally…
Desmond's breathe hitches.
The kiss is soft at first; a tentative pressure against lips that is unhurried and feather soft before Altair pulls away to draw breath.
Desmond is still before him, breath coming out in short pants and Altair stiffens slightly when a hand crawls up to rest flat against his middle. Several heartbeats pass as Altair waits for the slightest of pressure but to his surprise, Desmond does not push him away. Rather, he can feel Desmond's fingers curl around the material of his clothes, before yanking him into another kiss with a fiery that catches Altair off guard.
It's angry and needy and rough. Teeth clashing and breaths hot, the contact of chapped lips is rough and domineering, greedy and fierce like a forest fire finding the first offered kindling of a dry summer. Desmond can feel it through their connection vividly, amplifying the already desperate need coursing through his veins. A low moan escapes Altair's throat, sending jolts down both their bodies and neither can help the whimper of loss when Altair pulls back, breathing heavily and eyes brightly lit.
Desmond's face is flushed; the gold of his eyes dark and half lidded with desire and lips slightly open to reveal a hint of pink as he gasped for air.
And Altair burns at the sight, a deep want rousing in him that inflames him to the core.
"Habibi..." Altair gasps out, and the way he says it makes Desmond tremble. "Hab—"
Desmond doesn't allow him to finish and swallows his words with the press of greedy lips. Altair's hands tangle around Desmond's neck just touching, stroking, feeling and making the younger assassin's skin prickle underneath the touch. He moves his right hand to cup the back of Desmond's head, knuckles scraping against the stone wall as his tongue draws Desmond's bottom lip between his teeth. He's awarded with a surprised moan along with mewling and sighing as Desmond's hands clench sporadically at the rough cloth of Altair's clothes. He feels Altair stiffen slightly when he moves his hand to grip at the sides of his belt, but when it's only to pull himself closer to him does Altair groan against his mouth; the sound vibrating against Desmond's lips and making the pleasant heat between their body all the better.
At least that is true until Altair freezes. His body goes rigid, and the warmth that Desmond had been feeling evaporates into a chill. Confused, Desmond opens his eyes and then he see's it.
Beside the wide amber of Altair's eyes, the barrel of a handgun is pressed against the side of Altair's head.
And with it, comes a voice—deadly and calm.
"Step away from him. Now."
A/N: I am…extremely, extremely, extremely, grateful for all the well wishes on my exams from you all. I really appreciated them all, and they really made me feel awesome. (I also did well on the said exams too! :D )
A lot of things went on in this chapter, and for some things, I actually had to do a lot of research on.
Rosbifs - The term rosbifs does indeed mean 'roast beef' and it is a valid insult. (It's like an equivalent of 'frog' towards the French.) It's actually a well-known standard French insult for the English that originated from the popular English style cooking beef before eventually being extended to mean the English people themselves.
Altair's mother being a Frenchwoman - Unlike Rebecca's dog (which is in fact canon though not originally given a name) Altair's mother being a Frenchwoman is not canon. However, she is canonically Christian.
Tor Tre Teste - The actual location of the Hideout is on the outskirts of Rome in the industrial area of this district. The town itself is nice though.
Ezio's 'reach' - This is a reference towards that game.
Desmond's mother - Ubisoft has not released the name of Desmond's mother, so any references towards her will be intentionally vague until I can come up with one.
Myth about the 'click' of a handgun – Originally, I had wanted the chapter to end with the click of a gun. It was more dramatic and awesome. However, further researched made me reconsider. The typical 'click' that you would hear from a gun being cocked is a myth. The sound is known for its dramatics as announcing the arrival of another character (typically known as the Click Hello trope.) The sound is actually of the hammer of a gun (with the exception of shotguns and etc.) ejecting an empty round and a new one sliding into the chamber in its place. It would not have made sense to add the 'click' on William's appearance as he would have ejected a perfectly good bullet.
Last but not least, I would also like to thank everyone who reviewed, alerted, and fav-ed this story, even with the long unintentional hiatus. I very much appreciate them all, they never fail to bring a smile to my face and make me keep writing. So, thank you all very, very much. I'm just so happy!
I wish you all a good Mother's day!
The next chapter will be out after this Friday's exam. (Time to study…)
Until next time!