"True love stories never have endings." –Richard Bach
Snow drifted down onto the manor's roof. The land was covered in the beginnings of the first chill of the season. Grass frosted over, the world absorbed its own sound and all was quiet. Animals who had been preparing for winter were caught off guard by the early snowfall, and scampered away to dens and niches. A beacon of light and heat, the manor shone down on the nearby houses and forest.
Inside the house on the hill, a killer was hanging a portrait.
Connor set the painting of a youthful Achilles above the fireplace in the manor. Jacqueline watched from a nearby chair; her shoulders rose in a light sigh. Her fellow Assassin stood back to admire it. The bald sides of his head were growing back slightly, a peach fuzz already forming. He walked with a more distinct limp than her due to whatever injury he had sustained in his chase after Lee—an event that he refused to speak about in depth. The portraits of their Templar targets, organised so long ago, burned in the fireplace, sending charred bits of parchment dancing in disjointed circles around the hearth.
Jacqueline stood, putting her weight on the leg that did not have a healing bullet hole in it, and shuffled out of the living room. The door to the cellar was open already, and she hobbled down the creaky wooden stairs. The timber was worn out and smooth from so many trips up and down.
The cellar seemed much more empty then it ever had before. Cold from the outside weather, it felt uninviting. Despite this, Jacqueline looked around with nostalgia and a faint smile. At the long table that had once been overlooked by Templars, she rubbed a finger on the charcoal name of Lee, now unaccompanied by a picture. A word she had never noticed was scrawled across the wall where the name Haytham Kenway—Grandmaster was advertised. It was a long, complex word in Connor's native tongue, one she would not have a chance of pronouncing.
On some silent cue, Connor approached her and also stared at the empty wall. Jacqueline leaned against the table and gestured to the word. "What does that mean?"
He followed her direction and hesitated. "Nothing important."
"Ratonhnhaké:ton, you forget I can tell when you lie."
"It was…foolish sentiment."
"What does it say?"
Connor didn't meet her gaze. When he spoke, it was an ashamed mutter. For a moment, Jacqueline saw the naïve boy she had met in a storm, in the stables, in a fight, in the dark. "'I made a mistake.'"
She was silent after that. They leaned into each other, wounded but healing, and stared at the blank stone wall.
In her sleep, Jacqueline was haunted.
Jilting forests leaned in dark shards around her. Guided through the maze by some kind of instinct, she stumbled and wove through the surreally shadowed realm. In the dark, a figure of blinding white emerged from around a bend. Jacqueline recognised the judicial hook of her nose and jerking, holographic robes instantly.
"I did not know if I would see you again." She did not recognise her own voice. "Not that I was particularly looking forward to it."
"We are always watching. Waiting." The woman paced back, forth, stopped. No matter how she moved, it was hard to keep a steady eye on her. There was something difficult about looking directly at her, like staring straight up into a clear sky. "I have watched and waited long enough."
"Do you expect me to be intimidated?"
"Perhaps. But I am no threat, for now. Merely checking on your progress."
"Why are you so interested in me—in us?" Jacqueline followed her warily.
The judging woman stopped and looked at her. "I have an investment in your success."
Jacqueline glared back at her. "So my life has been nothing but a gamble for you. I do not think I will do any more bidding for you, spectre."
"Hm. What you do now no longer concerns me. All that matters is this," She reached out a shimmering finger and gently prodded Jacqueline's lower abdomen. "And history will play out the way it will."
The assassin withdrew sharply, perturbed by the woman's sudden closeness. "What…what do you mean by that?" She rubbed the spot where she had touched, which burned lightly.
The woman smirked, not particularly kindly. "You will notice before long. I can see ahead, being as I am. Now go, and do not think on me any longer."
The dream dissolved around Jacqueline, the shadowed trees breaking away, the woman falling apart into dust until all was left were her piercing, judging eyes. Then they too vanished, and Jacqueline drifted in her dreams until the morning found her.
The inn was lively for the wedding reception. A few residents who knew how to play instruments played out an upbeat tune. Myriam and Norris danced to it, both beaming happily at each other. A few scattered couples joined and dropped out, but mostly left the floor to the newlyweds. Jacqueline stood with Georges, watching the residents eat, drink, and be merry.
"Care for a drink, m'lady?" Georges slurred, handing over a mug.
"You're drunk, mon amie." She grinned, glancing up at him, but ignoring the drink. "How are you and that woman faring? Apologies, I've forgotten her name."
"Ah, Amelie. She's back at the Market." He shrugged, smiling dumbly.
"You seem to like her quite a lot. It's good to see you in such a love-struck mood."
"Well, you know. She reminds me of René. She has this…" He made a fist, trying to find the right words. "Spark. I see her, and…I'm on fire again."
Jacqueline watched him. Georges stared into space, and swallowed hard. For all his joviality and lightheartedness, he was still a child inside. Jacqueline wondered what would have happened if she had stayed in France instead of stowing away. Would he have grown up? Without the death of René, would he have taken a different career than professional thief?
"You're a good man, Georges." Jacqueline patted his shoulder. "Do not let yourself be deluded out of that fact."
Georges nodded. "Merci, Jacqueline. Merci beaucoup." He looked up and gave her a light elbow in the side. Across the room, Connor had looked up from his conversation with Godfrey and Terry to observe the French pair conversing. "It seems someone wants to talk to you. I'll see you soon."
"Are you leaving?"
"Oui, it's probably best I return to the Market before things get out of hand. Even with a few drinks in me, I'm a better leader than most there."
"Very well. Be safe, my friend."
When Georges left, Connor came by to take his place. "So," Jacqueline moved closer. "Are we done?" She murmured, leaning into him.
Connor put an arm around her shoulders. "Done?"
"With…everything. Hunting Templars." Jacqueline sighed deeply. "I'm tired, Connor. I feel twice my age."
"The road ahead will be long, and far from easy. There is much that needs doing." He replied in his thoughtful, purposed way. "But for now, yes. I believe we are done."
Jacqueline smiled and rested a hand on her stomach. Two months after her dream of the mysterious woman, a prominent bump had begun to show. When she looked at it in just the right way, and the world went dark, a tiny blue nebula swirled there.
"What will we do?" At his silence, she chuckled and shook her head. "Whatever we want, yes? We'll do whatever we want."
-Very unsatisfied with this. But…I think that's it! I just wanted to say that this story was such a pleasure to write, probably the most fun I've had writing one so far. Special thanks to every single one of you who reviewed and favorited this stupid little story. It kept me going long enough to finish it, and without all of you I never would have made it this far. So I guess, nothing is true, everything is permitted. Happy hunting! ;)