AN: MASSIVE HUGE SPOILERS ALL THROUGH AC3 AND RIGHT TO THE END.

DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED THE GAME.

IF YOU HAVE FINISHED THE GAME, then please continue.

This will be my personal take on the game and my own concoction concerning the ending to AC3. For the sake of any wayward readers who are STILL reading but don't want spoilers, I will not say anything here.

Enjoy the story. :)

*Artwork is by Ringreen on y!gallery who gave me permission to use the artwork as a thumbnail for my story. Thanks, Ringreen!


About three nights ago, Shaun had moved his sleeping mat away from the others and situated himself alone by the massive doorway. Desmond stood, arms crossed, a scowl creasing his brow, staring at the other's distant shadow from the sleeping area. His father was asleep a few feet away, but Rebecca was awake. Desmond heard her fidget every few seconds. The constant dark circles under eyes told him she hadn't been sleeping at all lately. Neither had he, to be honest.

It was December 16th. Well, the 17th, actually, but only by a couple hours. They had less than a week until the solar flare would strike the Earth, killing billions, unless they could open that door and discover what was hidden behind it. And every time they thought themselves to be closer to finding the amulet, some new twist would inevitably move it farther from their grasp.

It was bad enough worrying about the fate of the entire world without the added stress of seeing his teammates falling apart around him. Sure, his father seemed to holding up well, but Desmond would catch him wandering the temple floor, aimless, eyes hazy with distraction. And he couldn't seem to meet Desmond's eyes lately, especially after saving him from Vidic. Though the few times he'd managed to catch him unaware, he could have sworn he'd seen his father's eyes water.

And Rebecca was a mess. If Desmond didn't know any better, he'd worry about her betraying them. She'd become increasingly depressed as the weeks wore on, posing strange, concerning questions about joining power with the Templars to utilize their resources and fiddling with the same wires near Baby over and over.

Of course, he understood that there wasn't much to do when he wasn't in the Animus. Without his memories to sort and catalog and study, nothing needed attention. So everyone was left to do meaningless tasks while they waited for his return to unconsciousness.

Sometimes it felt like they were glaring at him behind his back, barely suppressing the urge to order him back into Baby.

But, fuck, Desmond was only human. No matter what his coma had done to him, he still had to stop to eat, to relieve his bladder, to bathe. On the rare occasions he was allowed outside, he'd washed quickly in a nearby stream. The same stream where their clothes were washed. 'Washed' being the closest term appropriate to what was basically running a dwindling bar of soap over any stains and then rinsing them once or twice in the cold water.

He needed sleep. The Animus did not provide him with restorative REM cycles.

It was time to sleep now. Hours past midnight and exhaustion had his eyes itching and his muscles creaking.

But Shaun was all alone by that goddamn door. Probably not sleeping either. Desmond was willing to bet Shaun was using the isolation as a way to sneak in extra work. What work he could get done without a session, Desmond hadn't the faintest idea, but that was a more comforting excuse than the thought of Shaun shutting himself away from the others.

A heavy sigh, a scratch at the back of his neck, and Desmond lightly scuffed his sneakers against the stone floor. It wasn't good for Shaun to be alone so much. The man, for all his complaints of being bothered, clearly craved human interaction. Desmond couldn't even get near him before the redhead was alternately asking him questions, seeking honest and thoughtful responses, and regaling him with stories of the Assassin's or his own history. And the bragging, oh god, the constant bragging.

Desmond smirked. Couldn't really fault Shaun for being proud of his intelligence or his skill in tactical planning. Shaun had gotten them out of a lot of tight spots before, and Desmond was grateful.

Lately, though, Shaun had gotten quieter. Whenever Desmond had gone to speak with him, their conversations had been less interactive and more Shaun lecturing him with his immense historical wisdom. Which was fine, because Desmond actually found it all interesting, but not as satisfying as an actual exchange.

Conversational topics aside, something was up with Shaun, and the historian's recent penchant for lurking all alone away from the others had him harboring a healthy dose of concern.

It had nothing to do with the fact that he enjoyed sleeping next to the surly historian. Or that he liked waking up to that bleary face, lines from the sleeping bag on his scowling face and that red hair a nightmare. Absolutely nothing.

Enough shuffling about, he decided. It was time to do rather than merely think. If Shaun wanted to go off on his own, Desmond was going to convince him to come back. Before he even took one step though, Rebecca's voice called out, clear and curious.

"What's up, Desmond?"

He glanced back, knowing without looking that her hushed voice had woken his father. Assassins slept lightly, as was necessary, but they also, thankfully, fell asleep quickly, to compensate for the often interrupted sleep.

"I'm going to check on Shaun. I don't think all that time alone is good for him."

Rebecca's reply was a hopeless sort of chuckle. "Good luck with that. Shaun doesn't like to be fussed over."

Desmond frowned to himself as he made his way across the vast cavern floor. Rebecca may have been working with Shaun longer than him, but he was pretty sure Shaun thrived on attention. Why else would someone who was so adamant about being left alone be so eager to talk to anyone who came within speaking distance of him? And why would Shaun always butt into everyone else's conversations if he actually didn't want to be included?

No, Desmond was pretty sure it was the exact opposite, but he wasn't going to voice that thought. Shaun didn't need him walking around verbalizing his beliefs that Shaun was desperately lonely.

He crossed the vast temple floor quickly, trying to soften his steps so they didn't echo in the open space.

As he drew nearer, Desmond saw Shaun lying on his side, facing the greenish glow of the door. He also saw how Shaun was still fully dressed except for his shoes and wasn't even in his sleeping bag, but rather had it completely unzipped and spread out beneath him.

Wasn't even trying to sleep, was he.

He slowly climbed the steps leading up to the other's farce of a sleep site, slowing as he drew nearer. There was no sign the other noticed him. On the off chance that Shaun actually was sleeping, the very small tiny minuscule chance, Desmond kept his voice hushed as he called, "Shaun?"

"Desmond." Came Shaun's soft, alert reply.

He let out a whoosh of air, grateful he hadn't woken him. A sleepy Shaun was a force to be reckoned with. Well, used to be. "Hey, so…uh, I just came over to check on you."

No reaction.

Desmond plowed on, trying to figure out the best way to phrase his thoughts. "So, um, I was wondering if you were planning on coming back to the sleeping area any time soon?" When Shaun didn't immediately answer, he hurried on, nervously, realizing he sounded like someone's mother. "I mean, don't you think it's safer with everyone else?"

"Contrary to the fact that I spend the majority of my day in front of a computer screen, Desmond, I am, actually, quite capable of taking care of myself in an emergency, thanks. Though, 'big empty cave' hardly constitutes as an emergency situation."

Desmond winced, noting the defensive edge in Shaun's voice. "No, I know that. I…I just don't think it's…healthy to be off here on your own so much."

"Yes, Mum. Whatever you say."

Desmond rolled his eyes, sighing in frustration. The last thing he wanted was a fight. "Come on, Shaun, don't start. Please. You really need to come back with the others. Sitting in front of this thing all the time, it isn't good for you, and you know it. You're changing, and I don't like it. I know you-"

"Know me?" Shaun had twisted to peer disdainfully over his shoulder, those hazel eyes glaring. "You don't bloody know me."

Desmond blinked at the response, but didn't back down. "Of course I know you." Shaun looked about to snap at that, but Desmond cut him off. "No, listen, Shaun, I'm serious." He could feel himself getting worked up. "You can't hang around someone every second of the day for months on end without getting to know them pretty well. You can't put your life in someone else's hands without fucking knowing them. So shut it and listen to what I have to say."

That had Shaun's mouth twitching shut as he quickly sat up, brows raised and surprise behind those rectangular lenses. Good. Desmond had his attention then. He didn't want to argue. He just wanted Shaun to come back and go to sleep and stop being so quiet and moody and different. All the things he'd been worrying about the past few days suddenly came pouring out.

"Rebecca and my dad and all our equipment is over on the other side of this place, and you were too at one point. Then your computer moved over here so you could work while you examined this fucking doorway, then your paperwork moved over here, and then the rest of your stuff, and now you're sleeping in front of the damn thing? Jesus Christ, you think it's going to disappear if you look away from it? And don't even pretend that you're actually sleeping over here, because I know you're not. I can tell. Just like I can tell no one else is sleeping. We're all exhausted but at least we're still together. I meant what I said; it's not healthy to be over here, secluding yourself from the only people you've interacted with since October. We're all equally important here and I can't have you giving up, and don't say that you're not," Desmond demanded angrily when Shaun looked about to protest. "Without you, I wouldn't even know what to do with my ancestor's memories. I wouldn't know where I was, or what was supposed to happen. Fuck, I'd probably go insane in Baby if I didn't have your databases to steer me in the right direction, to tell me what the fuck is going on, or where I am. It'd be a complete clusterfuck without you, so stop moping or whatever the hell it is you're doing and come back to our group because we sure as hell can't do it without you!" He finished loudly, face flushed.

But Shaun didn't move, and, for once, seemed at a loss for words. Which would be hilarious in any other situation, the talking encyclopedia that was Shaun Hastings finally rendered speechless, but Desmond was too fired up to admire that fact. He stared back, waiting for Shaun to get up, to listen to him, but Shaun didn't move. In fact, he seemed less likely to move than before.

Stubborn prick!

Angrily, he knelt down. "Fine," He hissed, elbowing Shaun aside. "Move over then." And he settled on one half of the open sleeping bag, on his side, crossing his arms with a huff. If Shaun wasn't going to join the rest of them, then he'd join Shaun.

Though, lying here would prevent either of them from actually covering up, with Desmond essentially lying on the cover half of the sleeping bag. But that wasn't his concern. If Shaun wasn't going to listen to him, then he would have to suffer the consequences.

He could go get his own sleeping bag, but he didn't want to wake Re-

Desmond gasped, throwing his hands over his face, cheeks on fire. "Shit."

"Yessss," Shaun drawled smugly behind him. "I was wondering when you'd realize that your impassioned speech was most definitely loud enough for William and Rebecca to hear every word."

With a grimace, Desmond groaned. "Dammit, I feel like an ass."

Shaun made a sound nothing like a laugh. "And how do you think I feel, hmm? Not exactly thrilled about your little outburst. Had to come over and scold me like I was a schoolboy again and you the headmaster, did you? Though," A slow sigh and hesitant sort of humming sound. "Thank you, for what it's worth. I appreciate what you said. Most of it, anyway. Not the yelling, mind you, or that last bit about the moping, you twat, but the rest, very much appreciated. You can go now. I promise I'll not suffer a mental collapse without you babysitting me."

Desmond's momentary grin faded. "…You're going to stay over here."

"Yes."

"Then I will too." Desmond snapped, forehead creasing. "You're not the only one who can be stubborn."

An elbow jabbed Desmond in the side, and he threw a dirty glare over his shoulder. Shaun grinned unapologetically in return, most likely paying him back for before, then settled on his side of the sleeping bag, bending his elbows to rest his hands behind his head as he lay flat. Desmond shifted onto his back as well. For all Shaun's bluster, there wasn't any real fight to be left alone. If Shaun really wanted to get rid of him, he could simply move to a different area of the temple. But no, this only strengthened Desmond's belief that Shaun was lonely.

The silence between them was neither uncomfortable nor awkward. Rather, Desmond felt himself relax fully for the first time in days. As the quiet wore on, he began sliding into sleep, but then Shaun was sighing.

"You really intend to sleep here, don't you." Shaun said without asking, as if he was already resigned to the fact.

"I said you weren't the only one who could be stubborn. I'm not leaving you alone."

"How sweet, Desmond. I can almost feel my teeth rotting from your feelings. Be mindful of your volume though, if you're going to stay. We're far away enough to be unheard, but not if you get into another row with the air." Came Shaun's half-hearted gibe. "But really, what's got you so bothered? Surely my time away from the group isn't enough to warrant such a scene."

"It's not just that you moved away from the group, Shaun. You've been different lately." He could sense Shaun about to scoff or snort or do something dismissive, but he pushed on, unwilling to let the other brush him off. "You're always on your own. Whenever we talk, you're always distracted or tense. And you've stopped teasing."

"…Count your blessings, then." Shaun muttered. "Would have thought you'd appreciate not being subjected to my humor."

Desmond was surprised at the self-deprecation in that statement, and he floundered a bit, not used to hearing Shaun, who was usually quite conceited, put himself down. "I like your humor." He said without thinking, blushing and scratching his cheek in embarrassment. "I mean, I'm not saying I liked all of your jokes, but it certainly did alleviate the tension at certain points. And you always say what no one else is willing to. I respect that. But something's different. You use humor for every emotion you have. Anger, frustration, fear, happiness, when you're tired, when you're hungry, hell, you probably even joke when you're having sex." Desmond snorted softly at the other's silence. "But you've stopped. Even your emails have gotten more serious. I can't help but wonder what's suddenly making you so serious. What could possibly be making that sharp wit disappear?"

Shaun was quiet for a while, but he seemed to be thinking. Desmond waited, feeling the minutes tick by like ants crawling on his skin. Had he been too forward?

Finally, Shaun shifted, his chest rising with a deep breath in Desmond's peripheral.

"Hopelessness."

Desmond blinked, wide-eyed, twisting his neck to peer sideways. "What? You don't think we're-"

"Desmond." Shaun interrupted forcefully. "I've examined every single inch of this door. I eat beside it, I monitor your Animus trips beside it, and as you can clearly see, I now sleep beside it. Other than that amulet, which we don't even know how to use if you'll recall, I see no way to open it. No sodding mechanism to even operate it with. And, on the slight chance we do figure out how to open it, we don't even know what's on the other side. We've all heard your conversations with Juno, darling that she is, and nothing she's said gives me hope that we're getting out of this alive. You said it yourself: if the first civilization couldn't save the world, then what chance do we have?"

Desmond bit the inside of his cheek guiltily. He had said that. But that was over a month ago. After all their progress, he no longer believed it was all for nothing. Back when him and Shaun had first spoken about their mission, the other had seemed slightly desperate for his reassurance of their success, and he'd certainly been the more hopeful one. The change saddened him. "I don't want you to give up hope." He murmured absently, toying with his sweatshirt zipper. "I…don't want you to doubt yourself."

Shaun's immediate scoff sounded forced. "D-Doubt myself? Myself? I don't doubt myself."

"Yes, you do. Don't try to hide it from me. When you introduced yourself to me, you said you were tactical support for those assassins who were out there, what was it, 'actually doing something'? I know you were just trying to insult me, but you were also insulting yourself, too, weren't you." He didn't ask that last part.

Shaun's silence told him everything.

"You hate not being out there, for whatever reason, even though you're brilliant doing what you're already doing, and helping so many, but you still resent it. You feel useless. I know what that's like. But you're not useless, Shaun. You are so important to this team, and we need you with us."

There was deep exhalation, then Shaun was haltingly clearing his throat. "How exactly do you remember what I said? That was over four months ago. I'm so bloody exhausted, I can hardly recall this morning, let alone months ago."

Desmond couldn't help the chuckle. "I don't think I'll ever forget meeting the illustrious Shaun Hastings. You nearly bit my head off, remember?" Not that he begrudged the memory.

"Hm, well, can't really fault me for that, can you, Desmond?" Shaun's voice had warmed, and was only slightly mocking. "In you come, fresh from the most rubbish fight I've ever seen, I mean, really, Desmond, you were dreadful with those Abstergo guards, and Rebecca and I were supposed to accept you as our savior. Mind you, I had looked you up, to see why Abstergo wanted you, and the only thing I found was the fact that you ran away from your life as an Assassin and then holed yourself up in a bar for nearly a decade." He scoffed. "Honestly, was I supposed to be impressed? Or nice? We had a job to do, and you wouldn't bloody leave me alone. You seemed more concerned with giving me a bit of a chat-up." Then Shaun was snorting into his hand.

Desmond smiled, confused, but joining in on the laugh despite not knowing what was so funny. "I'm chatting with you right now, aren't I? You don't seem too upset by that."

Shaun snorted louder, his head shaking side to side in Desmond's peripheral. "No no, that's not…Heh, nevermind. And anyway, it's different now. Back them I thought you were an utter buffoon who was going to get us all killed. But now…"

Desmond brows shot up at the almost nostalgic change of tone in the other's voice. "Now?" He encouraged, slanting a look at Shaun.

Shaun sighed, all traces of laughter gone. "Now I think I might trust you with my life."

Heat rushed up Desmond's face, unexpected, and he snapped his attention back to the ceiling, unsure why he was suddenly prickling with embarrassment. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he muttered an awkward, "Thanks."

"Well, apparently the feeling is mutual, so I thought you deserved to know." There was a fond sort of snort. "Since when did you get so friendly?"

The whole exchange, strange as it was, had Desmond's chest feeling as warm as his cheeks. "Well…we're supposed to be friendly. We're friends."

A contemplative sound from the other had Desmond glancing over, seeing a smirk on those lips.

"Hmm, are we?"

Desmond grinned back. "Yeah."

"Good to know."

"Yup." Desmond said, quite lighthearted.

"This will come a shock, Desmond, but I haven't too many friends." Said Shaun, playful yet serious. "Being an Assassin affords little time for personal relationships. Not that I'm complaining, mind you."

Something flipped a little in his stomach at the word 'relationship', but Desmond ignored it. "Oh, it's the job that keeps others away? It's not the way you verbally assault anyone who tries to get close?" He teased, lightly jabbing the other with his elbow again.

Shaun chuckled, protesting. "I don't assault! I merely…Oh, alright, maybe I'm a bit rough."

Desmond nearly choked on his laughter. "A bit? You called me a tiny child the day we met, and every time I tried to talk to you, you acted like you were one step away from slamming your laptop into my face."

"Yeah, well…" Shaun assented, voice deep and attempting to sound innocent. "Maybe I'm not so good with new people. People who, mind you, are rubbish at fights."

"You wouldn't say that now." Desmond challenged jovially. "Come on, admit it. I could take you in a fight now, I bet."

"Take me?" Shaun's indignation was palpable. "What is this, a pub in Camden? I may be sat in front of a computer all day, but I'm still an Assassin, Desmond, and though I might concede that your training is a bit better than mine, simply because of your teachers, don't think I'll fall over like some old gran without her cane."

Desmond couldn't resist. "I've talked to Rebecca. She told me she always beats you."

"What?!" The historian's voice notched up another octave. "She-That's-"

"And don't claim it's because she's a woman, I know you're not that much of a gentleman to let a woman beat you up." He jabbed, because it was true. And Rebecca was strong.

Though, not quite as fast as Lucy had been. Lucy had always kicked his ass. He wondered, briefly, if she hadn't been a traitor, if she were still alive and still with them, if he'd be able to win a match with her. She had been amazing. The best fighter out of all of them. The thought made him sad. But only for what could have been. She had been a good friend.

Shaun was still sputtering irately beside him, finally huffing and crossing him arms over his chest, expression petulant.

Desmond grinned to himself, feeling slightly charitable. "Unless you just let her win because she's your friend too."

Shaun nodded quickly, obvious in his need to defend himself. "Of course it is." He snapped. "She's been depressed lately and, good person that I am, I thought it might boost her mood to let her win once or twice."

Which was a complete and utter lie because the two of them hadn't even sparred lately, but Desmond wasn't going to point this out. Shaun's inelegant indignation was quite enjoyable. He wanted to see more. "You know, when I first met you two, I thought you were together."

"What."

The flat, blatant disgust in that single word was so sharp, Desmond didn't even have to look to see Shaun's expression. He could imagine it, and he did, smirking unabashedly.

"Are. You. Mental?!" Shaun exclaimed. "You thought me and her, that…that…we…You've got to be joking. Rebecca, she's…First of all she's a nutter, second, have I mentioned she's a nutter? The woman is insane, always harpin' on about computers and technology, I wouldn't be surprised if she wasn't actually part cyborg. Would make sense, to be honest, since she gets her jollies leaping out of airplanes and scaling mountains, or whatever nonsense she's into nowadays. And all this is rendered completely invalid by the fact that she is a wom-"

Shaun cut himself off so quickly, that the ensuing silence was painful.

Desmond held his breath, embarrassed simply because he could feel how tense Shaun had suddenly gone. It's not like it was a surprise. He'd already known Shaun was gay, though, for whatever reasons Shaun felt the need to keep it quiet, Desmond knew the other hadn't meant to say that just now.

Best not to let it fester though, not with the way he could feel Shaun mentally withdrawing. But how to go about it? What was the best way to assuage the awkwardness of the moment without sounding accusatory or pitying? He attempted a relaxed chuckle, pleased it came out sounding almost normal. "I only said 'at first'. Don't worry," Please let his voice not sound as strained as he felt it was. "It was obvious pretty quickly that you two weren't compatible. You bicker with her more than anyone else."

Would Shaun understand him? Could he see that Desmond wasn't making this into a thing?

And apparently, he could. Though Shaun, perhaps feeling the need to share, didn't shy away from the topic.

"How did you know?" Came Shaun's casual query, as if he were asking about the weather.

Desmond sighed. "Well, little things here and there, but I think the biggest clue was that really long email you sent, about how the founding fathers were bigots-"

"They were." Shaun interjected fiercely.

"I know, I know." Desmond soothed. "I'm not arguing. I'm just saying, that kind of sealed it for me. You were so passionate about how backwards they were, and I felt like you took their sodomy laws personally."

Shaun visibly bristled. "You don't have to be gay to be passionate about equal rights. If you think-"

"Shaun, man, relax." Desmond interrupted quickly. "I know that. I wasn't trying to be offensive. I'm just saying I understand. I get it. There were a lot of clues, but it didn't matter. Who the hell cares who is attracted to who? It doesn't change anything about you."

There was a gradual shift at his side, Shaun relaxing back against the sleeping bag, and Desmond let his breath out, relieved. Thank goodness. The last thing he wanted was to make him think he was actually bothered by something like that. Not when he himself was-

"What kind of clues?"

"What?" Desmond startled, wary of another fight starting.

But Shaun's voice was curious, nothing more. "You said there were clues. What were they?"

That was a loaded question. After a moment of very careful thought, Desmond answered. "Well, I think I first started wondering after that bit about Kate. You were so awkward about it, and Rebecca definitely hinted at something." He remembered how red Shaun had gone, stuttering wide-eyed at the implications of Rebecca's 'lunch' with Kate. "After that, it was more of just noticing little things. You can't deny you kept a picture of Da Vinci under your pillow."

A new bout of sputtering and Shaun was hurriedly making excuses. "That's-He was a great scholar, I admire him, you can't-"

"Shaun." Desmond said gently, unable to suppress a smile. The other's reaction was quite endearing. "Come on."

"I admit nothing."

Desmond snickered.

Possibly in an attempt to regain a semblance of dignity, Shaun changed topics. "I'm a bit surprised, Desmond, by your magnanimity. You seem a bit…straight-laced to be so open-minded."

"Hey," Desmond muttered, wincing. That stung. "I've been a bartender for nine years, Shaun. I've seen and heard everything. And…if I had to be honest, well, the, uh, the opportunity has presented itself." Desmond admitted, blushing. He'd rather not discuss his rather unsuccessful attempts at same-sex sex. Inexperience and insecurity and partners who expected more of him had turned him off from continuing, so in that area, he was painfully unskilled. As time went on, he'd lost interest.

Though sometimes, very briefly, he wondered about Shaun. As the other's sexuality became less a question and more a surety, Desmond couldn't help but think about…

Well.

Things he quickly stopped thinking about because Shaun was a colleague and a friend and this was not a college dormitory nor a nightclub back room and those kinds of things were best left alone.

Shaun still hadn't responded to his confession, and he fidgeted nervously. This was a risky conversation, and not at all what he'd planned on talking about when he'd come over.

But all Shaun finally said was a neutral, "Oh."

Desmond felt the need to explain himself, uncomfortable with all the hidden implications in that silence. "Not that I've ever…" How did he clarify without sounding offensive or desperate? "There were, um, interested parties," There was a definitive snort from the other, but Desmond hurried on. "But I…I…never-I mean, I would, but-"

"This isn't a quiz show, Desmond, calm down." Shaun's voice was far too amused for Desmond's liking. "I don't need your history."

"But I thought that was your specialty."

That earned him a hushed bark of laugher, and Desmond grinned to himself, relieved as his embarrassment faded with each deep chuckle from Shaun. Once more falling into a comfortable silence, Desmond stretched his legs and folded his hands across his stomach. Drowsiness came swiftly in the companionable silence, and he closed his eyes, sighing as the minutes slipped by. He wondered if Shaun had fallen asleep already, but then-

"Do you…ever get lonely?"

Eyes flying open, Desmond felt his breath hitch. For long moments, he couldn't remember how to operate his lungs. Part of him wondered if he had really heard the whispered question. Maybe he'd imagined it. Surreptitiously risking a look sideways, he saw Shaun staring steadily at the ceiling.

Okay, so he definitely didn't imagine it, then.

What the hell kind of question was that? There was no way he could answer something like that. No way he was going to-

"Yeah."

He surprised himself, his mouth going dry at his own boldness. Why hadn't he just pretended to be asleep? Why had he felt compelled to answer, to tell the truth?

"I'm lonely, Desmond." Came Shaun's murmured admittance. "Haven't been with anyone since I joined."

Fuck. This was getting too…

What?

Something. Too something. Way too something.

Letting out a shaky breath, Desmond tried to slow his thumping heart, uneasy about how odd he felt. Technically, it was the same for him too. Hadn't been with anyone since he joined. With a woman whose name he didn't even remember. A pretty, but forgettable girl who had been clear about her attraction and even clearer about her disinterest when she'd all but kicked him out of her apartment minutes after the act, complaining of work in the morning.

She'd called him Dennis.

But that had only been about a week before Abstergo had found him, back in August. How long had Shaun been an Assassin?

"Two years." Shaun said bitterly, as if reading Desmond's mind.

Fucking hell. Two years? It'd only been four months since Desmond had been kidnapped by Abstergo, and he was sorely missing the feel of naked skin. Not to mention how impossible it was to find even one moment of privacy to relieve certain needs. He'd managed to sneak away on two occasions, attempting some manual stimulation, succeeded once, but been panicked the whole time, and gave up the second time after an eternity of trying to orgasm because he couldn't shake the feeling he was being watched.

But two years? Years? He ached sympathetically for the other man's solitude. He managed to squeak out an answer, eyes focused back on the darkness above him. "…It's, ah, the same for me."

Shaun continued quietly. "Do you miss it?"

Desmond shivered at the almost accusatory tone in the other's voice. "…Yeah."

"We have five days. Desmond." Soft sounds, then Shaun was sitting up, spine straight and voice steady. "Do you think we'll die lonely?"

Nothing said had been suggestive, or lewd, but Desmond abruptly couldn't breathe and his chest quaked with his frantic heartbeat. Feeling desperate and brave and stupid, he ignored the alarms going off in his head and whispered, "We don't have to."

There was no warning, but Shaun suddenly loomed over Desmond, slid astride him, one knee forcing its way without invitation between his tense thighs, then lips met lips, and Desmond jumped at the ferocious way Shaun invaded his mouth, one strong hand grasping Desmond's jaw and forcing his head to the side for better access, the other slipping down to curve around Desmond's hip, thumb brushing underneath his shirt and making Desmond twitch as Shaun's weight settled heavily atop him.

Desmond had never really thought about what it would be like to kiss Shaun, because such thoughts were dangerous, but if he had, he certainly wouldn't have thought Shaun to be this aggressive. As much as he tried to keep up, Shaun outpaced him, dominating his mouth with deep licks of that curling and winding tongue. Desmond realized with a start that he was achingly and immediately hard, groaning at how Shaun's leg pressed – oh god - against his cock in all the right ways.

He bucked up, hands finally catching up with his brain and wrapping around the other's back, hugging Shaun tightly. Then he pulled away, panting. "Hang on," He rasped, reaching to undo the buckles securing his hidden blade, tugging it off then sliding his arm around Shaun's back as they resumed kissing, yanking Shaun's shirt up, his sweaty forearm sliding underneath to delight at the feel of Shaun's bare skin, of the furrow at the base of the man's spine. Desmond slid his palm down, fingers stretching hopefully under the other's belt.

Shaun answered with a slow roll of his hips and Desmond's eyes rolled back in his skull. The sound that came from his throat was nothing he'd ever heard himself make, but he honestly couldn't give a fuck as Shaun rolled into him again, those soft lips trailing away from his mouth and up his jaw to his ear. A tongue traced the shell of his ear as hot breath brushed over him. Desmond's skin prickled into goosebumps and he arched his neck, wanting nothing more than Shaun's mouth on as much of his skin as he could get to as he moaned softly.

Palms slid slowly up Desmond's stomach, eliciting shivers as they went, bunching his shirt up under his armpits, and he shifted, framing the other's sides with his legs as Shaun ducked down to kiss at the bared skin of his chest. He barely kept himself from shouting as Shaun dragged him mouth across one of his nipples. His cock throbbed painfully in the confines of his jeans. Thank god the denim was old and soft. He shifted restlessly, trying to relieve the pressure.

In answer to his movement, Shaun's palm landed firmly on the ridge of his erection, and that mouth was once again on his.

Desmond was burning up, circling his tongue slickly around the other's, his skin growing sticky with sweat as he fumbled to get his hand down the back of Shaun's pants. That damn belt was too tight. Why did Shaun have to wear such tight goddamn clothing? All he could get was a tantalizing grope at the upper edge of Shaun's ass. Groaning in frustration, he circled his arms around Shaun's back, pulling him close, then sat partially upright so he could flip them over and spread Shaun out below him. He pulled his mouth away reluctantly to a soft sound of protest, which had him throbbing all over, and refitted his hips into Shaun's, grunting softly as the pressure returned. Shaun shifted beneath him, arms coming up to grasp the back of his neck again, and Desmond felt hips rock up into him, a long leg moving up and twining around the back of Desmond's thigh, a socked foot fitting in the crook of his knee.

Something sizzled right down to Desmond's toes, and he moaned a little too loudly from the intimate feel of Shaun wrapped around him.

"Sh!" Came Shaun's sharp hiss, that mouth quickly following the warning with another deep kiss.

Right. Blearily, his mind hazy from the heat and pressure, he remembered that his own father was under the same open ceiling, and Rebecca was probably still up, worried for the upcoming unknown. He'd already let one outburst disturb them, he definitely didn't want to wake them with this.

Not when Shaun's fingers were digging into his back. He fumbled between them, trying to undo Shaun's belt, but for some reason, he suddenly forgot how to be dexterous.

Climb a building while bleeding and being chased by thirty guards, easiest thing he's ever done.

Undo a horny man's belt while trying to rut against that man's thigh? Apparently harder to do than solving a codex page without Leonardo.

Shaun batted his hands away, impatience obvious in the movement, then Desmond was being shoved to his previous position on his back, Shaun climbing over him once more, this time, something inscrutable on his face as he paused on his knees, undoing his belt and yanking it from its loops. It was tossed aside, then Shaun was unbuttoning and unzipping as well, his thumbs hooking down beneath the waist of his trousers.

"I-I don't have any lube." Desmond blurted, unable to look at anything else but the faint trail of reddish hair leading a thin trail down.

Eyebrows arched high in surprise, Shaun suddenly grimaced, stilling with a snort. Then he was bending down over Desmond, hands planting firmly on either side of his head, expression a mix of frustration and disgust as he stared imperiously down into Desmond's eyes. "I'm not sure if you've realized, Desmond, but we've been bathing, if you could call that pathetic pantomime bathing, in a stream for weeks. And before that, we washed out of a water trough. Sex has to come with a shower. Nobody's cock is going up anybody's arse."

Desmond shivered, confused. "But…then…"

"There are plenty of other ways to comfort each other." Shaun whispered, his voice low and soft, full of promise.

Then Desmond was once again being kissed breathless, Shaun's tongue forceful and dominating, those skillful hands, so nimble on a keyboard, were swiftly undoing Desmond's jeans. His lower body was bared without warning as Shaun shucked him of his jeans and underwear in one quick move. Distracted by the kissing, Desmond didn't hear the other shifting down his own clothing, but Shaun was suddenly pressing down against him, naked from the waist down as well. Their groins met in a shock of smooth, hot skin, and Desmond bucked up with a gasp. He'd never felt anything like it before, the answering press of another man's cock, or the pulse of someone's heartbeat from such an intimate place. Jeans tangling around his knees, Desmond tried desperately to spread his legs, wanting Shaun's weight between them.

For a fleeting moment, he imagined Shaun fucking him.

He nearly came.

His hands flew up to grasp desperately at Shaun's back, his hips thrusting up of their own accord as Shaun reached between them to wrap his fingers around both their cocks.

"Ahh!" Desmond moaned heatedly, barely suppressing his voice in the other's mouth, not caring in the least even if his dad did hear him. All he wanted was more touching, more Shaun, more heat, and then, blessed release.

Shaun didn't shush him again, but he did lick over his parted lips and tangle their tongues together as he jerked them both off.

Never in Desmond's life had he been touched with such skill. Every shift of Shaun's palm had him whimpering, and as Shaun tongue-fucked his throat, he could barely concentrate on breathing normally, his breaths coming quick and harsh.

The hand lifted without warning, and Desmond nearly whined at the loss, but then Shaun was shifting to spit unceremoniously in that hand and then returning it between them to wrap once more around them, skin now slick and so much fucking better than before. Heat coiled razor sharp in his gut.

"Sh-Shaun-!" Desmond grunted, hips curling up as he tried to thrust into that dexterous grip.

Shaun didn't answer, but sped up his stroking, and Desmond's bottom lip was pulled between gentle teeth and gnawed on.

So close.

The heat of Shaun's cock against his, the other man's fingers wrapped tightly around him, the taste of his mouth, and the sounds he was making, urgent and throaty, it was all overwhelming, and Desmond shuddered, his fingers digging into Shaun's shoulders as he came, thickly spurting over the other man's hand, moaning raggedly as he trembled through his orgasm.

The waves slowed, then faded, and Shaun's grip grew nearly painful as the aftershocks grew too intense. But then Shaun was arching stiffly over him, face falling to press into the juncture of Desmond's neck, breath ghosting hotly over his skin. Shaun shuddered violently, voice a strangled groan, and wet heat splashed across Desmond's stomach.

Shaun's fingers grew slack around their waning erections, his face was still buried in Desmond's neck, body a pleasant and heavy weight, draped loosely over Desmond's body. Without thinking, Desmond slid his arms further around Shaun's back, nuzzling the juncture of neck and collarbone to press a kiss softly against the other's sweaty skin.

But Shaun rolled off him like he was suddenly on fire, shaky breaths and red cheeks betraying the otherwise calm expression he had on his face. Desmond caught the barest flash of Shaun's ass before those trousers were being yanked back up slim hips.

"Look," Shaun whispered, as if suddenly afraid that the others could hear him from way over here. "That wasn't, I mean, we aren't…" His breath whooshed out and Shaun turned to lay on his side, back to Desmond. "I'm lonely and tense and we're not anything but coworkers, as far as I'm concerned."

Something cold crept over Desmond. Was this a joke?

But Shaun coughed awkwardly, all traces of humor gone. "I'm saying what happened… What we just…" Again he faltered. "That was just…"

Desmond beat him to it, something heavy settling in his gut. "Stress relief."

Another moment, and then Shaun was quietly agreeing with him, voice flat and toneless. "Exactly."

Desmond had to strain to hear it. As the other's words sunk in, erasing any residual pleasure from their coupling, Desmond sat up slowly, rearranging his jeans and pulling down his shirt over his sticky stomach. Unable to take the nothing that stretched between them, Desmond quietly got to his feet, picked up his discarded hidden blade, and made his way back to the sleeping area, uncaring if he woke the others.

"No luck then?" Rebecca asked sleepily once he settled into his sleeping bag.

He mumbled noncommittally back, not trusting his voice.

"Told ya," She said with a yawn. "Shaun doesn't like to be fussed with."

Desmond tried to go to sleep, listening to how Rebecca's breathing slowed to match his father's.

But sleep was a long time coming for Desmond, who refused to dwell on how something hot and painful prickled behind his eyes.

TO BE CONTINUED


AN: There should be about 5 chapters for this fic, though don't expect me to go crazy on the action/adventure plot. My main concern is Desmond and Shaun, who went from awkward colleagues in the AC2 to Best Friends in AC3. Seriously, they were so bromantic with each other, it's not even a question.