A/N: All right, another Assassin's Creed story, because writing Haytham is fun.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters.
Haytham prided himself on his ability to stay calm even in the direst of circumstances. It was essential in his line of the work, where the slightest distraction might jeopardise the mission and get him killed. So when he woke up in the middle of the night and found himself in his room at Queen Anne's Square, he did not panic. When he noticed something was wrong with his body and found a child staring back at him in the mirror, he managed not to make a sound and even had the presence of mind to change out of his nightshirt before leaving his room.
The silence in the hallway made him tense and the unaccustomed weightlessness around his forearms reminded him of the fact that he was unarmed. Not that he couldn't defend himself with his bare hands - a quick snap of the neck could be just as effective as a thrust of his blade - but the situation was highly unsettling and he hated being confused. Cautiously, he lit up a candle and walked down the stairs to the entrance hall, taking in the familiar sight. The place - his childhood home - was exactly as he remembered it, down to the cracks and scratches on the walls and wooden floor. It was as if the fire had never happened. He walked across the entrance hall to the games room and let himself in. Bookshelves lined the walls of the room with a covered billiard table at the centre. This was where he had spent countless hours with his father, learning how to use a sword.
With his second sight, he found the King James Bible in the bookshelves easily enough. He triggered the switch and watched as the books slid aside to reveal a secret compartment. The journal with the Assassin insignia - the one his father had died to protect - was in there, but it was not what he had come for. He pulled out the box next to the journal and opened it to find a short sword, beautiful in design and very well made. He reached for it and knew at once that it was indeed the sword his father gave him on his eighth birthday, the same one he lost in Corsica when he was twenty-eight. The weight of this particular sword in his hand brought home the fact that this was not a dream. He was a child again and all that had happened in his life had not yet come to pass.
How could it be?
The last things he remembered were fighting his son at Fort George and dying, but that was not all. He remembered seeing a young man whose clothes bore a distant resemblance to the white robe of an Assassin, though it was much plainer with barely any place for concealing weapons. The poor excuse of a hood, instead of masking his face, made him look even more ridiculous. Tried as he might, Haytham could not recall what the young man had said to him. All he knew was that when he woke up again, he was back in London. No, he was back in time itself, it would seem.
"Interesting," he murmured, then winced at how high-pitched his voice sounded.
Somehow, the clock had been turned back. He had no idea why, but as far as he knew, the only ones capable of such a feat were Those Who Came Before - the precursors who had always been tauntingly out of reach. He wondered if everyone had retained their memories of the future or if he was one of the few, and how this would affect the events to come.
"Hmm. Very interesting."
Acting like a child felt very much like an infiltration mission (and as an added bonus, the thought that it was a 'mission' made the whole experience far less humiliating). His old journal was an excellent source of information, reminding him of how he used to act at this age. So far, he managed to avoid detection and fooled all those he came across (though he might have got a little too stiff when his mother hugged him and acted a little too indifferently to his sister's bitter glare). But the real challenge came when his father returned home.
Given a few more days, Haytham knew he would be able to perfect his act. For now, though, it was far from flawless and his father was a perceptive man. If there was anyone who would notice something was wrong, it was him.
Haytham's trepidation made him extra sensitive to his surroundings, which was why, when he was poring over his old journal under the stairs and spotted a flash of red from the corner of his eyes, he had jumped to his feet before he realised what was happening. It was only because of the weeks he had spent working with his son, who had remained stubbornly red throughout the ordeal, that he managed to stop himself from attacking his father.
They stood facing each other and for a moment neither of them moved. Haytham forced his tensed muscles to relax. This was not his enemy, he told himself, his chest tightening at the fact that he needed the reminder at all. This was his father, the man who trained him, who he had always looked up to. There was no need to fight. There was no need for anyone to die.
His own thoughts frustrated him. Just how much had he changed from the boy he used to be?
A lot, obviously, seeing as his father had never been anything but a comforting blue before.
"Jumpy are we, Haytham?" said his father.
"Ready for today's training?"
Weapons training, with his father blazing in red. Wonderful.
"Of course, sir."
It was only when he was back in the safety of his room after dinner that he allowed himself to drop his guard. Whoever had turned back time and made him relive his life must have a cruel sense of humour. While many would see this as an opportunity to correct past mistakes, he happened to be quite satisfied with the life he had lived and would rather not do so again. There were regrets, of course, but he was never one to wonder what might have been. He had even said as much before he died, but apparently no one had listened.
And so here he was in the past, where he was still an innocent little boy in his mother's eyes and a future Assassin in his father's, but that could not be further from the truth. He was fifty-six, a man who had taken countless lives and a Templar Grand Master who firmly believed in his Order's ideals despite the lies that made up his life.
But there was not point in being sentimental now. He was not about to think he could simply start over and be that little boy again. What he could do was to make the most of this unwelcoming opportunity, which meant there was planning to do.
It was too early to say for certain, but from what he had seen so far, he seemed to be the only one who had retained his memory of the future and he fully intended to take advantage of what he knew, changing the events to come to further his cause - the fact that he was not a part of the Order yet made little difference. But if he changed too much, he might risk altering the entire course of the future and rendering his knowledge irrelevant. He had to think this over carefully.
Part of him, however, had already come to an unpleasant realisation.
His father's death was the turning point in his life. It was what took him away from home and from the Assassin Brotherhood. It was the reason he scoured Europe with Reginald, fought alongside Braddock in the Dutch Republic, and later, travelled to America. It was the beginning of everything, and the one event he could not afford to change.
There was no other way. In order to maintain some control over what was to come, he had to let his father die.