A few notes before you begin reading this fic. Back in October 2012, I ran an Extra Life campaign, successfully raising $1000 for a children's hospital of my choosing. Thanks to a very generous donation from Daniel W., I reached my goal. I promised that I would write a story for the person who donated the most to my charity. Daniel requested an alternate ending for Assassin's Creed 3. Also note that there are a few references in here that are from Assassin's Creed: Forsaken.
That being said, enjoy!
All he could see was white. Instinctively, he shielded the upper part of his face with his forearm. It took him a few moments to realize that his eyes didn't feel a mild burning sensation to the atmosphere. He slowly lowered his arm and was shocked to see nothing around him. He turned, hoping to see something, anything. But there was more nothingness to greet him.
The last memory he had was being engulfed by light the moment he touched the pedestal that enslaved Juno. He remembered his hand burning, the searing pain shooting through his arm and spreading into his body. Then he fell and felt nothing. How much time had passed? Was he a spirit now? A ghost? Was this white world heaven or maybe hell?
He took a step forward and felt light footed. He couldn't feel the impact of a floor beneath his step. It was as though he was suspended in air, but there were no strings. He looked down at his feet and stared at the black sneakers that he had been wearing since Abstergo abducted him. Strange that one would still wear clothes in the afterlife. Or maybe he was just seeing a reflection of his most recent memory.
He thought of his father, Rebecca and Shaun. He wondered if they were still alive, if they were capable of stopping Juno. He asked himself, 'did I make the right decision?' When the choice of letting the world burn or saving the human race presented itself to him, he had no time to think. How could such an important decision fall on him of all people? It wasn't too long ago when he was trying to decide whether or not to ask a gorgeous brunette he had seen at the bar out on a date. And that was difficult.
But here he was. Desmond Miles, twenty-five years old, former bartender turned Assassin, and dead. He began to feel a growing irritation that there wasn't a speck of scenery he could look at in the desolate world. At least when he met Subject 16 in the Animus' safe mode program, there was shit to look at while he was going through Ezio and Altair's memories.
It was very strange to him that he could no longer live through his ancestors. They were all he knew for what seemed like decades and he began to feel they were truly family. He lived through entire lives, felt their pain, their joy, their struggles and victories. He spent more time with them than he did his own father and mother.
He brought his hands up, envisioning the hidden blades that were equipped around his wrists and forearms. He had taken lives but he had also saved many more. He experienced the journeys of three Assassins but they were very different men. He asked himself repeatedly if he would have made the same decisions as his ancestors. Would they have made the choice to liberate Juno? Or were they wiser than he and thought it better that the world be destroyed?
Desmond knelt and buried his face in his hands. What did it matter? He was here and the world supposedly moved on without him. He felt a presence nearby; his senses were on full alert. His head snapped up and he saw a very old and feeble man dressed in the robes of the Mentor of the Assassin Order.
"You're… Altair," Desmond said in astonishment.
The old man smiled and looked over Desmond, contemplating his next words. "I had often wondered what my life's work would accomplish. And here you are, Desmond, my descendant."
"What are you- why are you here?" Desmond asked. He slowly stood to his feet, but Altair gestured for him to sit. Confused, Desmond looked behind him and suddenly there was a wooden chair awaiting him. Cautiously, he lowered himself to the chair. When he was fully seated, the world around them changed and morphed. Colors swirled around them and shapes began to take form. He blinked.
They were in Masyaf, in Altair's study. Desmond remembered the countless times that he or rather, Altair, had come back to this exact spot and reported his progress to Al Mualim.
"You asked why I am here," Altair said looking out a grand window that allowed him to see the training grounds. "I was curious and wanted to see the fruition of my work." He turned and set his tired eyes on Desmond. "You were with me."
"Uh, in a way," Desmond responded sheepishly. "Don't worry, I didn't see anything that was too private." He could feel his face warm as he remembered witnessing a special moment between Altair and Maria.
Altair chuckled softly and placed his hands behind his back. "One begins to see and learn many things after the physical body has expired. There was so much I would have done differently in my youth had I the wisdom I do now."
Desmond recalled the intense hubris he felt resonating from Altair when he was first placed in the Animus. He personally thought Altair sounded like an ass, but he quickly realized how much he and Altair were the same. Desmond was just as arrogant and he felt that he could take on the entire world without anyone's help. Experiencing Altair's life was very humbling.
"The paths I had set for the future of our Order have finally come to an end, Desmond," Altair said standing now directly in front of him. "Assassins. Templars. Good and right. Evil and wrongdoing. They will all mean nothing if Juno cannot be stopped."
"Would you have let the world end?" Desmond asked carefully.
Altair smiled again. "No. I've never been one to run. I know not what will be the future of the world, but you have my thanks, young Desmond."
"For your bravery. The life of an Assassin is full of hardship…" Suddenly, Altair's eyes became sad and lost. "I do not doubt that you were witness to events of my life that were difficult to see."
"No kidding," Desmond sighed. "Not easy being thrust into a strange world and the first thing you do is take the life of a man you don't even know."
"I do not regret my life," Altair said. "All we have done has come to this moment. I have seen things no man ever should, yet my decision to see them stands. I chose my paths and have accepted where they have taken me. Seeing you here, I believe I have chosen well."
Desmond looked at Altair in deep thought. It was strange to look directly at the man rather than seeing through him. He knew how Altair moved, what he was thinking, what he valued most, and he couldn't help but believe that Altair's personality slowly shaped his own.
He saw a silhouette of a woman materialize next to Altair. As the seconds went by, she became clearer, more distinct. He could see long grey hair mixed with dark brown strands. She was strong but elegant. Maria placed her hand on Altair's shoulder. She looked so peaceful.
"It is time, love," she said. Her eyes met Desmond's and she smiled. Gracefully walking around Altair's desk, she made her way to Desmond and before he could say anything, she wrapped her arms around him in a light embrace. "Such courage and strength I have seen in your Desmond," she whispered. Her touch was motherly and it calmed him. She released him and made her way back to Altair's side. Desmond knew they were leaving him.
He stood to his feet and held out his hand. "It was an honor, Mentor." In a flash, Altair's physical appearance changed and appeared how Desmond best remembered him. Young, strong, and proudly displaying the robes of the Assassins. Maria too had looked as she did in her younger years. Bold, beautiful and ready for battle.
Altair reached out and tightly grasped Desmond's hand. Using his free hand, he enforced the gesture and lightly slapped Desmond's shoulder. "Nothing is true…"
Desmond smirked. "Everything is permitted."
And then they were gone.
Altair's study vanished and it was replaced with a bustling city that he immediately recognized. Florence was lively full of happy people, busy merchants, and best of all, there was no sign of Templar influence. He felt a hard slap on his back. The impact caused him to briefly lose his balance, forcing him to step forward. A thick Italian accent filled his ears.
"So you are Desmond Miles, eh? Piacere!"
Desmond turned around to see Ezio Auditore's beaming smile greeting him. The Italian Assassin was in his older years, but Desmond bet that Ezio could still wield a blade better than he could.
"I imagined you taller with a stronger build," Ezio continued as though he and Desmond had been friends all their lives. "So you are the savior of the world? Incredibile. Were you successful? Or did the rest of the world join you in the afterlife?"
Desmond's mind went blank for a moment. Was he successful? Did Juno really stop the solar flare? Even if she did, were the others banning together to stop her? Part of him wanted to see his comrades and his father again. The other knew his sacrifice was needed in order to give them a fighting chance against Juno's enslavement of humanity. "I don't know. I hope I'm the only one here," Desmond answered truthfully.
Ezio gestured for Desmond to follow him. "Tell me, what do you see, Desmond?" Ezio asked while they made their way through the city. Ezio lifted his head gazed upon the morning sky.
There was such a serenity to the city. The first memories Desmond had of Florence were full of violence and sadness. He remembered the anguish that was channeled through Ezio when he witnessed the death of his father and siblings. He felt the untamable rage that seeped through Ezio, the desire for revenge. Everything that Ezio knew, desired, and believed, Desmond felt firsthand. He also recalled the love that Ezio had for Christine and Sofia. Those memories triggered a calming sensation in Desmond's body and he began to look at the city in a different light. "I see… peace."
"Bene," Ezio smiled. "Do you believe the Creed is worth this? That our belief and work is worth seeing the world as you see it now?"
He had never given much thought to the Creed itself. As much as he hated the Templars, there were moments where he wasn't too fond of the Assassins either. He had journeyed through the lives of three different Assassins and they all wholeheartedly believed in their Order. He had no choice in the matter when it came to Altair and Ezio, but he found himself wanting to be a part of the solution when he lived through Connor.
When the pieces started coming together, he genuinely wanted to help. Sure, he was hotheaded when it came to his father, but what child wasn't belligerent to his parent? He observed the people around him, watching the merchants call out to potential patrons. Children were playing and running down the roads. All this was possible because the Assassin's Creed made it so. "Yes," Desmond answered.
"I am happy to hear you say that, Desmond," Ezio said, placing both of his hands on Desmond's shoulders. "I did not know what the future would hold, only that my life served as a single piece to a very complicated puzzle. But seeing you, knowing what you have done and sacrificed, I am proud that I have not strayed from my path. I was never meant to know my purpose when I was among the living, but I have found my peace. I have found my home."
"I don't know if I have," Desmond admitted.
Ezio rubbed his chin in contemplation. "I don't believe you are meant to be here, mio amico. Everything has its place, and everything has a way of being as it was meant to be."
"Wouldn't have minded vacationing here though," Desmond said lightheartedly. "I think I would have liked Florence if I didn't spend all my time on the run or killing people."
Ezio let out a hearty laugh, and Desmond realized he had never heard such a sound from the Assassin. Ezio seemed so free, completely liberated of the chains from his former life. Maybe that was heaven or whatever this was called. And he understood this was Ezio's heaven, not his.
He could feel the environment changing again, pulling away from him. It was like a breeze flowing over him, teasing his skin. "I guess this is goodbye, Ezio," Desmond said holding out his hand.
"A real honor, Desmond. Dio sia conte." Ezio grabbed his forearm with great strength and he pulled Desmond into a hug. "A real honor."
Just as Altair vanished, so did Ezio and the beautiful city of Florence.
There was nowhere to go, so what was the point in walking further? Desmond sat and waited. He had a feeling that he was going to be running into another of his ancestors at any moment. It wasn't very long before he heard heavy footsteps behind him. The figure continued to approach him, and he found it odd that Connor's steps carried so much weight. To his surprise, it wasn't Connor that came into his peripheral. The first thing Desmond saw was a tricorn hat.
Haytham Kenway stood next to him, and he wore an expression that well, he didn't really have an expression. Haytham looked completely apathetic. Ever the refined and proper gentleman though, Haytham waited patiently for Desmond to acknowledge his presence before he spoke. Once Desmond locked eyes with him, Haytham turned about face and started to walk away. "On your feet, Miles," he commanded.
Caught off guard from such a greeting, Desmond complied. When he finally got to his feet, and followed Haytham's steps, the environment changed again. They weren't in Boston like he anticipated; they were in a cave. "I know these markings," Desmond said. Of all the places that Haytham could have taken him, the cave of Iottsitison was the memory that Haytham held most dear.
Haytham held out his hand letting a pendant dangle from a chain that was wrapped around his gloved fingers. "Do you know what this represents, Miles?"
Desmond knew it was the key that he had worked very hard to acquire, but he had no idea what it meant. "I just know it was a key that Juno made me look for."
"Have you ever noticed the markings on this key?" Haytham tossed him the pendant. While Desmond was inspecting the green markings of a dragon eating its tail, Haytham continued. "It's called an Ouroboros. It represents eternity, a never ending cycle if you will."
"Ok…" Desmond replied, completely lost. "What does that have to do with us?"
"Everything," Haytham placed his hands behind his back and gazed upon the cave walls. "The war between our two factions will never cease, even when the world ends. So long as two people roam the world, so will two different ideals, beliefs."
"If the worlds ends," Desmond corrected. "We are fighting to save the world, Haytham." Their voices bounced off the stone walls and echoed further down the dark cavern.
"Do you really believe that? With everything you have bore witness to, do you really believe that people have the best intentions for each other?" Haytham asked, keeping his eyes on the images that depicted Iottsitison's story.
"And the Templars do?"
It was then that Haytham turned away from the cave wall and looked upon Desmond with a deep intensity. It was very reminiscent of the time he and Connor first met. "Did you know I was originally raised in the ways of the Assassin?"
"I knew you were… different than the other Templars," Desmond said. In the brief time he had spent in Haytham's body, Desmond could feel the faint presence of an internal struggle within him. If he had more time to search through Haytham's past, he would have welcomed it because Desmond really did believe an Assassin was infiltrating that opera house. "What's your point?"
"My father was an Assassin, and I later found that it was by Reginald Birch's order that my father be murdered. Birch was also responsible for the kidnapping of my half sister whom was sold into servitude. My widowed mother became a recluse and shunned everyone she ever loved. Especially a little boy that slew her would be killer right before her eyes. Her dear, sweet son was no longer innocent or pure." It was eerie how stoic Haytham was while reminiscing about the horrible events from his life. "I, of course, made sure that Birch's life ended earlier than nature intended."
"But Birch was a Templar, wasn't he?"
"Yes, he was. He was also my mentor," Haytham pressed on without missing a beat. I have wondered what my life would have been like had I stay on the Assassin path, but those thoughts were minuscule and fleeting. I stayed true to the Templar Order whereas Birch did not. And that cost him his life."
"Again, what's the point in telling me all this?" Desmond was becoming a bit irritated.
"The world will always need the Templars. True Templars," Haytham explained. "As humanity exists, so will the Templars and the Assassins. So long as your lot fights to give people this reckless idea of freedom, we will be there to stop it."
"You're a real asshole, you know that?" Desmond snapped, throwing the pendant back to Haytham. The Templar caught it with ease with one hand and almost glared at Desmond. "What's wrong with giving people the ability to think for themselves, to make their own choices, to have free will?"
"The world needs order," Haytham shot back. "You've seen it firsthand what this free will can do. Its corruption has started wars and caused endless suffering. Few that walk the Earth truly know what is best for them and even fewer are willing take action and make the necessary sacrifices to keep humanity from crumbling in on itself."
Desmond decided to try another tactic. "Do you regret not sharing a life with Ziio and Connor? Your son grew up without either of you." Living through Connor only enhanced his own feelings of abandonment. It ate at him that while his father was literally next to his physical body, Desmond was roaming around in eighteenth century Boston or New York looking for clues for a damn key. That was their messed up version of spending quality time together.
To his surprise, he saw Haytham's firm expression soften. The Templar let out a sigh and he pinched the bridge of his nose. "I do."
"I thought you would never wonder about what may have been," Desmond said. It was strange to see Haytham's demeanor unravel slowly.
Haytham chuckled, but it sounded full of spite. "Roaming around in the afterlife allows one that luxury. She made her choices and I made mine. I never wanted her to suffer. And I suppose, I never wanted Connor to either. But he had the final word. In saving his life, I forfeited my own."
"When did you-?"
Connor's deep voice filled the cave and it startled Desmond. "When I was to be executed." Ratonknhake:ton approached them and he was accompanied by his beautiful and unscarred mother. Desmond's stomach twisted when he and Connor watched her burn alive. He didn't eve know her, but he wanted with all his might to save her. But it wasn't meant to be. She offered him small smile and he returned it. Connor explained further. "The rope around my neck wasn't completely severed until father intervened."
Ziio looked at Haytham fondly before placing her hands on his arms much like she did the day they shared their first intimate embrace. And just like that, Haytham's stone expression shattered. He looked at Ziio with such adoration, Desmond thought he was looking at an entirely different man.
"Why did you save him?" Desmond asked quietly.
Haytham looked to Connor, and Desmond could swear he saw pride in Haytham's eyes. "If there is one thing the Assassin's Creed allows that the Templar Order does not… it is forgiveness." He met Connor's gaze and they both nodded to each other. Then he turned his gaze on Desmond. "If it were me, Desmond, I would have let the world burn. Perhaps, that is why I was never meant to find the Grand Temple."
Ziio began to pull him away, beckoning him to her. She lightly caressed Connor's arm when she and Haytham passed him and then they were both gone.
Desmond and Connor stood in silence as the world changed around them. They were now surrounded by lush thick trees, standing next to a clear blue lake. Desmond could hear the chirps and rustling of the wildlife around them. The air was clean and fresh and the sky was cloudless. He couldn't remember the last time he had been surrounded by nature. As long as a bear wasn't coming after him, Desmond would have loved to spend a few days in the forest.
"I lived nearly my entire life fighting to save my people," Connor said kneeling down, touching the dirt beneath them. "But I found that I was never meant to save just them. My purpose was to liberate as many as I could, to give them freedom once more. I didn't understand Juno when I last saw her, but now her words have become clear."
"She's not exactly the greatest gal," Desmond said agitated. It angered him to no end that Juno had tricked all of them into doing her bidding. And it pissed him off entirely that he wasn't there to help stop her. She literally used centuries of their time to devise a plan and break free from prison. The more he thought about it, the angrier he felt. In complete frustration, he pulled his fist back and punched the closest tree near him. It didn't hurt. If he were alive, he would have fractured every bone in his hand.
"You no longer walk among the living," Connor said in amusement, crossing his arms over his chest. "Why spend eternity in fury?"
"Because I should be with my father!" Desmond nearly shouted. "Why was that my choice to make? I didn't want any of this, but you know what I dealt with it. I did what was asked of me and then some." No turning back now. He knew his anger wasn't directed at Connor, but unfortunately for him, his ancestor was the only one there to listen. "I didn't want to be an Assassin, I didn't ask to be kidnapped, I didn't want to murder Lucy, and I for sure as hell didn't want to be the one that decided the fate of the entire fucking world!"
Connor waited patiently for Desmond to finish his rant. With each word, Desmond's voice grew louder and more enraged. When he was finally done, Connor approached him carefully. "And now that you've done all those things, what do you want now?"
Desmond's breath was heavy; the adrenaline rush was beginning to leave his body. "I don't want to stay here waiting for my friends and family to show up one by one. I don't want to be here."
"No?" Connor asked, raising a single eyebrow. "What if staying here meant that you could find happiness? What if it meant you could be with her again?" Connor pointed behind Desmond. Confused, Desmond turned and a breath was caught in his throat.
He recognized that shimmering blond hair, those beautiful blue eyes, and that innocent smile. So many times he had relied on that smile when he was forced out of the Animus. He couldn't believe she was standing in front of him again. "Lucy…"
"Desmond," she greeted with a smile. She was only a few feet from him. All he wanted to do was reach out and her hug and ask for her forgiveness.
He forcibly kept his arms at his sides, and instinctively looked at her abdomen. Another wave of guilt surged through him. He couldn't remember killing her, but sometimes he felt like his body did. Muscle memory was one hell of a sensation to experience. "I never…"
She grabbed his hand and squeezed his fingers. "I don't want an apology. Yes, I was a double agent. And yes, I had intended on betraying you, but something changed." Her hands were so soft and her touch was gentle. He had missed her a great deal, but he couldn't say anything. All he could do was stare into her eyes and listen to her angelic voice.
"The more time I spent with you, the more I realized that what I was going to do was wrong," Lucy said. He could see the regret on her face before she dipped her head in an effort to hide her shame. "I felt abandoned. For years, our Order left me at Abstergo's mercy, and my only chance of staying alive was with Warren. It's not an excuse but it is the truth. I'm so sorry, Desmond."
He felt tears on his hands. Ever since he found out about Lucy's death, the image of her lifeless body below him had haunted him. All he wanted was to talk to her one last time and find out the truth. And here it was. "I'm sorry too," Desmond sighed, bringing her hands up to his chest. With one free hand, he ran his fingers through her hair and they both smiled at each other.
"Your life was taken too early, Desmond," echoed a female voice. An orange light appeared over the lake and it slowly took the shape of a woman dressed in white robes. Her long flowing hair cascaded down her arms and pooled at her feet.
"Minerva," Desmond gasped. He protectively placed himself in front of Lucy. "What are you doing here?"
"I've come to offer you a choice," Minerva answered. Her voice was gentle and tranquil.
"What do you mean?" he asked cautiously. "Last choice I was given, my options were to die or have billions die instead. I don't think I can do that again."
Minerva held out her glowing hand as if reaching out to catch him. "You may stay here and spend eternity in bliss as you so deserve or…" she held out her other hand, "you may return to living world and aid in the fight to save Earth."
He wasn't expecting that. "I can go back?"
"Not as you are now. You will no longer be Desmond Miles, for his story has ended."
Just when he thought he had made the toughest decision of his life, he was thrown another curveball. What the hell was he going to do now? If he went back, he could help his father fight against Juno, but then again William Miles won't be his father. There wasn't even any guarantee that they would cross paths. And what if he stayed here? There was nothing left to worry about anymore. There was no war, no Animus, no jumping through hoops metaphorically and literally to get from one place to the next. He didn't have to risk his life to obtain the Pieces of Eden, and best of all, he was with Lucy again. "So will I be reborn?"
Minerva nodded. "You will be begin life anew with no memory of your previous one. Does your wish to save your family and the world you know outweigh your desire to stay in what you consider your utopia?"
Desmond was torn. In his gut, he felt that he was taken too early. He could have done so much more if he just had more time on Earth. He had spent most of his life running away, avoiding his problems. He didn't know when he had decided to take responsibility for his actions, but he felt that there was a place for him in the war against Juno.
He felt Lucy's presence behind and opposing thoughts flooded his mind. Hadn't he done enough though? He had made the ultimate sacrifice and now he was in a place where he could be happy. He had never felt more at peace than when he was with Lucy. All of his ancestor's lives had one thing in common. They were all at peace when they were with those they loved.
He felt Lucy's hands pull on his arm forcing him to turn around and face her. Lucy's delicate fingers traced his face and he could see more tears in her eyes. "Go," she whispered.
"I'll find you again. I promise."
Once more, he was speechless. All he could do was lean forward and wrap his arms around her. He held her tight and rested his chin on her shoulder. "You promise?"
She hugged him back just as tightly. "I do."
His heart was beating fiercely; he couldn't believe what he was about to give up. He leaned back but only enough so he could place his forehead against hers. "You better." The worry he felt lifted when she flashed him a dazzling smile. He turned his head to see Minerva waiting patiently above the lake. "Ok, Minerva. How does this work?"
"A life for a life," she answered simply.
"You're going to give up your life for mine?" he asked astonished.
"We created you once. I can create you again. Is this not why you fight? To be offered the freedom to choose your fate?"
Determination filled him and he vowed right there to put a stop to Juno. He didn't know how, but he was going to find a way. And when everything was said and done, he would find a way back to Lucy. "You're damn right. Let's do it."
There was no warning. Another flash of white light filled his vision. It felt very similar to when the orb in the Grand Temple sucked his life away. He was experiencing the death of Desmond Miles. He felt his body withering away starting with his feet then legs. Then his torso, fingers and arms began to disintegrate. Before he disappeared completely, he could feel soft lips against his. "I'll find you!" he heard moments before he became nothing.
16 years after the enslavement of the world…
Chase Huntington leapt from a three-story building, landing on top of a mindless human servant of Juno. He effortlessly plunged a small blade into the man's neck instantly killing the man in seconds. He looked around to make sure that he had not been spotted. Once he knew the coast was clear, he held up his hand, motioning forward.
Keeping himself low to the ground, William Miles ran up to meet Chase. "Not bad for a kid," he joked lightly.
"Just try and keep up old man," Chase replied, still keeping his hazel eyes forward. He raised his hand again and signaled for the second team leader to bring up the rear.
Another older man met with them shortly after. His hair was just as gray as William's, but his demeanor was far more fierce and rigid. "I'm getting quite tired of these lay low scouting missions."
"Quit your complaining, Rikkin," William snapped. "Either you play by the rules or you don't play at all."
Alan Rikkin said something under his breath, but William didn't care to decipher it. "All right, Chase you take point. Rikkin and I will cover for you."
The young man looked over his shoulder and winked a confirmation. "You two play nice now. I don't want to have to have to put you in time out," he said before disappearing into a supposedly abandoned factory.
"Never thought we would be working together," Rikkin admitted, keeping his firearm ready.
"Same here. But the enemy of my enemy…"
"Is my friend… for now."
William chuckled, reloading his shotgun. "For now."
With weapons locked and loaded, they signaled for their teams to move forward and began their first mission in retaking Earth.