Disclaimer: I don't own Assassin's Creed or Altair. This story is rated M for both a lemon and coarse language. You've been warned.
AN: I blame this sudden inspiration on the release of AC 3. Please note that this story is rated M. There is coarse language in this chapter. If you don't like it, don't read. Initially this was supposed to be just a one-shot, but I decided that it was long enough to just split into 2 chapters for ease. If you're looking for the lemon, feel free just to jump to the bottom half of chapter two. If you want to read this odd bit of character development I've created, feel free to start here. Also, this is the first time I've really jumped into something like this, so reviews would be loved! Thank you.
~A shot in the dark
A past lost in space~
Masyaf, the evening after the assassination of Abu'l Nuqoud…
In the depths of the night, the towering bastion that housed the Assassin's greatest treasures in the city of Masyaf was largely full of shadows dancing in the flickering glow from the torches. The majority of the inhabitants were sleeping soundly, resting for or from travels and tasks in service of the Creed. Despite the unusually high amount of trained warriors in one place, which generally suggested fear or violence, the Assassins rested well; here, in their stronghold, they were confident that their high walls and the strong mortar between the bricks would not fail them, and even if it did said warriors were never far from their weapons. A few men were awake, of course, guards who stood atop the walls and whose keen eyes watched the ground below carefully, but the bulk of the stone fortress was shrouded in silence.
Within the walls, a different shadow strayed in and out of the light from the flames, one born of restlessness. Altair Ibn-La'Ahad paced through the hallways and library of the citadel, fully dressed in his white robes despite the late hour, weapons strapped in place.
To say that Altair was a bitter man was an understatement. The Creed made men hard. It was simply part of who they were, a natural progression of the lives they led. Training to fight, to kill, to face death daily from an early age left them cynical to the hardships of life; by adulthood most had seen horrors few other people could imagine, and their self-imposed isolation within their Order gave them little to consider besides their next task. It shaped them to be determined and strong, both physically and mentally, to relish in their work as they had nothing else, and it added lines to their faces years before they ought to have appeared.
Still, tonight, his guilt over leaving Malik and Kadar to fend for themselves and more his failure in his mission and punishment by Al Mualim—to be so chastised when everyone knew he had the surest blade!—left him angrier than ever, and he paced with his teeth set in a hard line. Nine lives for his. Part of him was filled with pride at the thought of being worth nine men, but mostly he was frustrated from having all of his hard years of work stripped away from him, and being forced to rise through the ranks and work like a novice again. Not, of course, that he wasn't capable of performing the tasks set for him—if a lowly novice could do it, he could. At least now the familiar weight of his hidden blade had been returned to his left arm and his sword to his hip. Being without weapons left him feeling naked in a way his bare skin never had.
He wanted to be active, to drown out the thoughts plaguing his mind, to be outside the walls, moving, finding a new target, lunging for the kill, relishing in the feeling of his toned body hurtling across gaps from roof top to roof top that made lesser men hesitate. Altair had not hesitated, had not feared, in many years. But Al Mualim's word held him in place, confined him. Everything was so simple when he was killing. It was the one thing he understood above all other things in life, the one thing he had perfected, that had shaped his life and remained a constant even when all other things changed. In the movements of his body he could free his mind, concentrate on the task, let his world shrink to the moment and all other thoughts cease. Death followed the Assassins as closely as their own shadows.
Another shadow moved in the night, and the Assassin whirled, his highly tuned instincts reacting instantaneously to anything that could be perceived a threat. There had been no sound to announce the approach of someone else, but nevertheless he came to stop with his hidden blade touching the skin of a woman's neck. Niari Ahabhan stood only a few feet behind him, face perfectly calm and unnervingly void of emotion, the way it always was. She was not dressed in her own white robes however, but in a dress with a neckline that was indecently low—and which captured his attention for much longer than he would have hoped. With a sigh forced through his teeth, annoyed, and a strained relaxation of his shoulders, Altair loosened his stance, straightening and sheathing his blade.
"I could have killed you," he growled quietly, both because his voice was always gravelly and in deference to those who could sleep around them.
"I knew you would not," she replied in that infuriating, calm, confident way she had that seemed to know him better than he knew himself. "Your body is fast, Altair, but undoubtedly your mind is just as sharp as your blade. I knew you would recognize me before you struck. It's late. Why are you awake?"
"I could ask you the same question," he retorted, crossing his arms. "You reek of alcohol."
Her face moved for the first time, one corner of her lips pulling up into the barest of smiles. "It lingers from the breath of the scum I was sent to pull secrets out of, not my own. I am as sober as you are." Her eyes narrowed. "Or have you turned to drink to drown your sorrows?"
Altair scoffed. "Oh, so you were whoring around for the master again?"
Her shoulders tightened impeccably. "I have many skills, most of which you are aware of, Altair." She dared lean close to him and poked her index finger into his chest. "However, know this: I never bedded a man I did not choose to." She gave him a fierce glare, and then she left, stepping delicately around him and melting into the darkness on silent feet. He couldn't help admiring her tenacity and the slender curve of her waist as she walked away.
It was rare for women to take the Creed. The harsh truth was that the lifestyle and the physical feats required by the sworn members simply were not ones a woman could perform. Still, there were a few. Niari was one of these, having been brought into the order at the tender age of thirteen—though she had looked two or three years older. She had not started out with a blade and training, of course. Initially the skills that had made her valuable were her slim waist and budding curves, her quietness of foot and fingers that loosened purses as easily as her bosom loosened tongues. She had a knack for the words that would lead to the outcomes she wanted; her acting skills could fool many of the Assassins themselves; and she had the advantage of her gender: most saw her and immediately dismissed her as a threat. If she had stopped to review her past, she probably would have had a few regrets in the ways she had used her body to get what she wanted, but Niari did not dwell on the past. It was of no concern to her, nor could it offer her anything save lessons she had paid dearly to learn, which made her wise beyond her years to the ways of the world. She was quite pleased with her station in life.
The blades had been a natural progression of her skills. She had gradually gone into more and more dire situations, until finally she was the only one in a position for the sort of quiet assassination that was required. And then she had been taught a hundred different ways to slip a blade into a man's body such to kill him. Further training had followed that naturally as well, until she was considered as much of an Assassin as one of the men, and sparred with them in the training pits. It was her lone lament that she could not sacrifice the ring finger on her left hand and wield the hidden blade that was the Assassin's trademark tool, a weapon that would have saved her trouble many times, but that would have been a flaw too noticeable when she used her body to tempt men. Still, her blade work with the short blade was respected. Niari could never hold her own in an honest fight—the men were stronger and had height on her. But she had silence and grace and speed on her side, and that combination of rare elements made her irreplaceable among the Assassin's ranks.
Finally feeling exhausted, Altair turned and stalked back to his rooms, collapsing on his bed for at least a few hours of rest before the sun came rushing across the landscape to shine in his window.
~And where do I start?
The past and the chase~
Masyaf, the evening after the assassination of Garnier de Naplouse…
With a hiss that would have scared a snake and multiple curses under his breath, Altair stood in the middle of his room, trying to remove his robes as gingerly as possible. His undertaking today had been a success, of course, but as he eliminated the targets Al Mualim set for him, the rest of the Templars became more guarded, and he found it harder and harder to sneak around the populated cities that had formerly been easy to infiltrate. The number and skill of the guards had increased as well, and hence his white robes were stained with blood around a large gash in the flesh of his left shoulder. Initially adrenaline had blocked out the pain; but now that he was back in the fortress and his report to the master complete, removing his robes was a chore as the blood had dried them to his skin, and in the process of undressing he tore his wounds open afresh. Worse still was the shallower cut across back which he could not quite see or reach.
The tall assassin was distracted from his troubles by the slight creak of his door opening, and he turned to glare at Niari as she stepped inside his room wearing her own white robes, albeit with her hood thrown back and her weapons missing. Somehow even loose robes could not hide the slender curve of her waist, he managed to note through anger born from embarrassment, and he decided not to dwell on it.
"What do you want? I'm busy," he demanded gruffly, shrugging his shoulder and regretting it with a wince.
"I saw your injuries as you returned," she said quietly. She hefted a small basket he hadn't noticed was perched on her shoulder. "I brought you some things." And just like that, she walked into his room completely at ease, straight to the lone table and began unpacking things from the basket: linen bandages and healing salves. He was irked at the way she seemed to simply take over his room as if it was hers but he wasn't really in the mood to argue, and as much as he would never admit it, he needed some help with the cut on his back. He realized she had never actually said the word 'help', knowing he would rebel against that. She really did know him better than he knew himself.
He was too caught up in his thoughts and she too light of foot to realize she had walked up to him until she had grasped his good arm to direct his body where she wanted him. Firmly, she pushed him backwards until he felt his bed behind him, and he allowed his knees to bend. "Sit," she ordered, and then she sat sideways beside his injured side, a shallow bowl of warm water and a pile of rags beside her on the bed, one leg folded under her. Niari tsked under her breath. "You should not drag these out so sharply," she scolded lightly, soaking a rag and then pressing it over his wound. He grunted lightly in pain as the water began to soak through his robes and into the wound, loosening the blood naturally. She held the rag firmly, unafraid of him, however, with one hand, while her other hand inspected the tear in the back of his robes and found the other cut. He flinched as she touched it and she murmured an apology and removed her hand to re-soak the rag.
He watched her face as she deftly worked, since there was little else to do as she gingerly eased his shirt away from his injury over the next few minutes, hands working nimbly. He couldn't help but notice that her face was rather pretty, despite deep set eyes and a slight scar beside her nose on her right cheek. She had long eyelashes and full lips. The woman was well aware that her body was one of her best weapons, and she had taught herself to use it so well that it had become a part of her unconscious movements, the way she held herself or glanced around the room. He grimaced inwardly and tore his gaze away, and suddenly the silence in the room began to weigh on his shoulders. As usual, the first words in his mind involved both bragging about his success and insulting the other person.
"Did Al Mualim send you to reward me for a successful mission?" he asked casually, and then, to his shame, the proud Altair Ibn La-Ahad yelped as the woman, fiddling with his robes to see how loose they were, suddenly yanked them free of his skin. He leaped to his feet spitting curses and turned to glare at her.
"Sorry," she apologized, voice in no way contrite. "But that's as loose as they were going to get." She rose from the bed and deposited the used rags on the table. Now that his robes were free, he quickly pulled the top half the rest of the way off and threw the aggravating shirt into a corner, glad to be rid of it, stiff with sweat and blood as it was. He turned to find her watching him, a small vial of salve in hand. Straightening his spine unconsciously, Altair couldn't help the triumphant grin that spread across his face as he watched her take in his muscular chest, mouth pursed thoughtfully.
"See anything you like?" he asked nonchalantly, and she lifted her gaze back to his face shamelessly and walked back towards him. The Assassin regarded her warily for a moment until she lifted an eyebrow in a gesture of innocent curiosity, and then he permitted her to inspect his wound.
"Well well well, someone hit you good," she commented after she prodded his tanned skin a bit harder than was necessary. "Fortunately, it's mostly in the flesh of your shoulder, away from the bones and blood. Just muscle that's severed. You men have such large shoulders," she added, almost to herself. "And no," she continued. "Al Mualim did not send me. I simply observed your wounds and decided to come of my own accord." Her brow furrowed lightly in concentration as she opened the vial she held and began to apply the healing salve to his wound. The sting made his back tense suddenly, but he kept his face blank and clenched his jaw, refusing to make any more sounds of discomfort. Instead, he was surprised at how tall she was. She normally portrayed a feeling of fragility, and he realized for the first time that perhaps he too had been under her spell, seeing only the Niari Ahabhan that she had wanted him to see.
They didn't speak anymore that night. He remained silent and still the rest of the time she worked, as she finished treating his shoulder and applied the salve to his back, and then as she went to the table to retrieve the linen bandages and wrapped his cuts. Then he gingerly sat down on his bed. Niari silently gathered up his dirty robes and the rags and the supplies she had brought, blew out the last candles, and he fell asleep before he heard the door creak closed.
Altair woke dizzy and confused. At first the obvious culprit was the sun shining directly into his eyes, but as he attempted to lift a hand to block the offending sunlight, the room spun and his hand seemed to go everywhere except where he told it to, and when he went to sit up in confusion and the room spun so abruptly that nausea struck him hard, he knew. During the night, a fever had set in. And there was nothing the strong Assassin could do about it except use every ounce of his will to turn his back to the sun and pull up the sheets to protect his suddenly cold body. He passed some time—he didn't know if it was hours or minutes—shivering, dozing, and waking to horrible waves of nausea. One time, he thought he woke to a cool, slender hand on his forehead, but with the rest of his delirious dreams he wasn't sure what was reality and what wasn't. Still, that hand was so hot, and he was so cold…he grabbed for the warmth, somehow finding a strength in his weak body, and refused to let go. In fact, he tugged it closer to him, and was rewarded with a wonderful heat spreading through him…He finally slipped fully unconscious.
The next time Altair awoke—well and truly conscious—it was to thirst. He closed his mouth and it took several moments before he could call enough moisture to his mouth to lick his lips, and he swallowed several times. His tongue felt oddly thick. Driven to quench his thirst, the man slowly blinked his eyes open, sighing in relief that the sun was no longer pouring into them, but that he was instead staring at his ceiling. What had happened? His memories were all blurry and jumbled together. He turned his head—and found Niari in bed with him, tucked securely against his right side, sleeping with her head on his shoulder, and the Assassin's heart nearly stopped. He glanced down further—no, they both still wore clothes, so he had not missed an encounter between them. That would have been a pity. A twinge from his movements drew his attention to his injured shoulder. It had been rewrapped sometime since he had last seen it. That motion drew his eyes to the pitcher of water set beside the bed, and he was so desperate to reach it that his entire body was moving before he remembered Niari.
But the woman woke the instant he began to lean towards the water, before his hiss as his shoulder protested the movement, and she sat up to lean across him and retrieve it for him. He drank deeply before he could ask her what was going on.
"How long did I sleep for?" he asked when he could finally get words out.
"I found you burning with fever about this time yesterday," she answered, leaning back over him again to put the pitcher back and then retreating to her side of the bed, sitting cross-legged. Her hair was rather messy, tendrils pulled loose from her normally neat hairstyle, and he found it made her face seem more alive than he had ever seen it. "I unwrapped your wounds and found they had festered, cleaned it again, and visited the healer down in the town for more salves—I'm glad you were unconscious," she abruptly interrupted herself. "We force fed you a potion to bring down the fever." She paused. "You were very cold, and you grabbed my hand and asked me not to leave, and we decided it would be best if someone kept watch anyway," she finished explaining. It was odd to see her hesitate, but he sensed it was because she was unsure of his reaction, not because she was ashamed of anything. "I know you were not yourself." He gave a nod and looked around the room. She slipped off the bed. "Well, now that your fever has broken and you have returned to us, I think it's safe to leave you to recover on your own," she said, gathering up the rest of her robes and some more vials. She paused before heading to the door. "Shall I return again today?" He studied her for a second, and then he gave a single nod.
Being sick or recovering from injuries had never sat well with Altair. He was a man of action, with a sharp mind, and doing nothing did not sit well with him. Within an hour of Niari's leaving, he was bored. At first he did his best to clean the rest of the dirt from his travels and the sweat from his fever off his body, careful not to jostle the linens wrapped around his wounds. Then he changed clothes, pulling on clean trousers and a loose shirt that fit over the wrappings. There was little to do. He began to clean his blades, which took twice as long with only one hand, and he quickly became frustrated with his lack of ability and set that project aside.
So it was hardly a surprise when Niari returned and found him leaning on the window sill and watching the people moving around outside. His good arm was over his head, braced against the stone wall while his bad arm was held close to his chest. She at least had the decency to knock before opening the door this time.
"What are you doing out of bed?" she asked as soon as the shock of seeing him upright faded. Jealously flitted through her; men were so much physically stronger than her, and recovery so much faster. She kept that off her face, however, and was pleased at that decision when he turned slowly to face her. Her eyes took in the discarded clothes and the abandoned blades as she walked across to him. "No matter how bored you are, you need to rest. You shouldn't be up yet," she scolded, and paused at the look at his face. "What?" she snapped irritably, feeling heat rise to her face at the intent way he was studying her.
He chuckled quietly. "I've never seen so much emotion on your face before," he said simply. "Dear Niari, are you actually worried about me?" He grinned.
She pursed her lips and forced herself to stare him down, forcing any thoughts about the vibrant color of his eyes down. She admitted, she had been physically attracted to Altair for a very long time, and in her life style physical attraction really was all that mattered; but Niari was resolute in that she got to chose who joined her in bed. It was the only difference between her job and that of a common whore. She straightened her shoulders.
"You are one of the best fighters this Creed has, Altair," she said solemnly. "Of course I am concerned about your well being. Especially now, with the Templars so on guard against us. We cannot lose your skills. Now," she continued, her voice much sterner, "you get back to bed and stay there, or so help me I will tie you down."
A strange light gleamed in his eyes for a split second and he raised an eyebrow as he shoved off of the wall, staggering forward to heed her orders, but letting his movements bring him very, very close to her. His sudden lurch caused her to inhale, and his proximity brought his scent to her—a scent that reminded her of how close she had been to him last night, an experience she wasn't afraid to admit she had greatly enjoyed. Unbidden, her eyes stole down to the skin of his chest shown by his shirt, one she would love to trace her fingertips over…His body really was exceptional, toned and well muscled and brimming with health and strength. Altair bent his head to catch her gaze, and she made herself stare him down without any of her turbulent emotions displayed on her face. "And tell me, dear Niari," he said quietly, breath brushing her face, "what would you do if you had me tied down?"
Without skipping a beat or allowing any trace of surprise or how her heart sped up at the thought, Niari answered him just as confidently and boldly. "I'd fuck you until you had no strength left," she said.
An eyebrow quirked upwards. "Oh, so you think you have more stamina than I do?" he asked, a teasing, challenging edge entering his voice for the first time.
"No, I don't think so," she said, and his brow furrowed in wary confusion for a moment. "I know I do." His face brightened again and one corner of his mouth pulled up in a smile. Then he straightened back to his full height and turned away from her, walking back to his bed, where he had the audacity to lean back against his pillows and offer his wrists to her in a challenge and open invitation.
The woman gave him an incredulous look. "You're still far too weak from the fever," she dismissed. "Were I to enjoy a romp with you, I would want you at your full strength." And she swept across the room and out the door before she gave into her pounding heart and did something that she would regret and he would probably laugh at and use to insult her in the future. And part of her wondered if she had just made a dangerous deal, a part that warred with the lust rising inside of her. She was too caught up in her thoughts to notice the strange mix of surprise, anger, and disappointment that marred Altair's handsome features.
~You hunted me down
Like a wolf, a predator
I felt like a deer in love lights~
Altair's return to Masyaf, immediately following the death of Robert de Sable…
The fortress was in an uproar. Never mind the fortress, the entire city of Masyaf was in chaos. Altair sprinted up the dirt streets of the small city as fast as he could, Robert's words still playing in his head, spurring him onward. He had to reach Al Mualim and confront him before anything worse happened, if anything worse could happen, judging by the smoke rising above the city. How could he have been so blind to do exactly what his enemies wanted all along? He had never felt so stupid in his life. The anger that had been rising since Robert's death fueled him, pushed him onward, ever onward. Surely Al Mualim knew what he would discover when he confronted Robert and would be waiting for him.
What he did not expect was for his brother Assassins to stand in the way.
You coward, Al Mualim! he screamed in his mind, letting his frustration with his incompetence turn to anger at the Assassin's leader—former leader, if he had his way. Altair didn't know how, but he swore that Al Mualim's life would end on his blade today. His anger made his normally forceful attacks even more terrifying as he slammed through his opponents with brute, intimidating force, paying no heed to any danger. Nothing was going to stop him, and anyone in his path would be cut down.
He had never been so happy to see Malik in his life. The other man appeared right at the most opportune moment. Another who had been here since the beginning—seeing his friend—yes, he admitted, he finally considered Malik a friend—strengthened Altair's resolve even more. Now he would not be alone, he would have the knowledge that others were with him as the world went to hell.
And standing in the back of the group, paying more attention to their surroundings than the conversation, was Niari. Hooded head or not, he would recognize her slim figure anywhere, and he begrudgingly respected her prowess, and he felt a bit of pleasure at seeing her as well: her defiance of him was something he looked forward to taking away; he intended to make the woman pay for her teasing arrogance by beating her at her own game, and her dying before he exactly that revenge would have been a pity.
The woman was fully clad in her battle gear, white robes dirty from travelling but mostly free of blood, long sword on her hip, short blade on her back, throwing knives on her shoulder. As if sensing his gaze she turned her head towards him, peering out from under her hood, the barest of smiles pulling up one corner of her mouth, and she gave him a slight nod, which he returned. As the group moved off to do their best to distract the brain-washed Assassins at the rear entrance to the stronghold, he felt his anger settling into place. Instead of charging him on recklessly it gave him a narrow focus, but also caution. People were counting on him. He could not let them down. With a deep breath, the Assassin turned and sprinted up the remainder of the path to the stronghold, fate pulling him and Al Mualim undeniably together, no matter how many mindless slaves and mind tricks the old man tried to throw at him.
AN: Italized lyrics are from the song 'She-Wolf' by David Guetta featuring Sia.