A/N: The title is inspired by The Animals' masterful song by the same name. The theme of this piece are supposed to be the painful, old scars left on Yusuf's heart from his childhood, especially on the topic of his father, who was also an Assassin. I attempted to focus on Yusuf's POV the most...I can add that imagining and writing Ishak Pasha has also been quite amusing. c: My hopes are you will enjoy reading. Thank you in advance!
Notice - phrases written in Turkish:
Oğlum - son
Evet - yes
Anne - mother
Iyi misin? - Are you alright?
Kardeshim - brother
Ne işin var? - What are you doing?
Ogretmen - Mentor, Master
Adam - man/lad/chap
Aptal - fool/idiot/imbecile
Allahim - God/Lord
Kesinlikle! - Exactly!
Damızlık - stud
Teşekkür ederim! - Thank you!
Baba - dad/father
He silently wandered the street, both familiar and unfamiliar. A distant memory fleeted onto the surface of his mind as he felt the wind ruffle his wild hair. He contemplated, for a moment, the dust coiling onto his boots as the cold made his exposed skin shiver. The setting sun triggered his subconsciousness in a manic manner, as he felt himself slip by another house, swiftly blending in with the lively native folk.
How long had it been since he had last set foot in Bursa? More than a decade, he would count down. Though deep inside, it felt like a blistering eternity than anything else.
He saw a pair of children run beside him, eager in their pleasant games. As he followed down the narrow street, his inner turmoil finally vanquished his willpower.
In the distance, though it was still within eyesight, a small, wooden hut peacefully sat, abandoned, it seemed, for centuries. Feeling his senses slowly weaken, he limped towards the house, as if his legs had suddenly become crippled, his mind beckoning for a complete shutdown.
Not that he would care. Enchanted, he approached the hut, meekly pushing its door open. It responded with a mind-piercing screech, echoing through the air as the house's confines became revealed.
Blue eyes studied, what was, apparently, already well-known. Two beds in that corner, a table with a chair in the other, a barrel of expired water resting in the third one, and a barely visible, rotting fireplace in the very middle. The dust mercilessly covered up every inch of furniture and the floor, making the dark hut glow in a silver-like tone as the light from the door approached inside.
Something cluttered on the table. He immediately went to inspect.
As the aroused cloud of dust slowly descended away, he picked it up; a small, carefully crafted wooden eagle, and he turned it around, studying it from multiple angles.
And then it lit up. The memory of his long-lost mother crawled up like an impostor, rendering him paralyzed.
"Oğlum, come to me," the woman demanded. The boy, his bright blue orbs narrowed, stood up and walked over with an uncertain step.
"Evet, Anne?" he answered, forming a small smile as his mother reached out and settled him into her lap, softly caressing her son's cheeks.
They hadn't exchanged words for a long while, as an invisible, heavenly-strong bond tied them closer and closer together, a bond only a mother and a son could understand. Enjoying his mother's touch, the child relaxed, feeling himself at peace as a majestic slumber started lowering his eyelids.
But before he could slip away into the world of dreams, the woman slightly pushed him as she swept something out of her pocket. The boy saw her study the said object, her eyes filling with bittersweet water.
"What is that?" he moved his head up, enough to see into her palm. A small, wooden eagle stood firmly between his mother's fingers. It was an elegant creation, carefully cut out from each side, with not a single fault to its edges and design.
"Your father made this years ago, and entrusted me with it. He wanted his child, his little eagle, to have it and keep it. It is yours, Yusuf," as the woman's lips curved into a smile, the boy wistfully observed the figurine, eagerly accepting it as his mother released it into his hand.
Hungrily taking in the eagle's appearance, the youth couldn't help but sigh; he imagined his father's face, drawing each feature with great focus. As he did many times before. He closed his eyes, he could see his old man rush through a bewildered battle, fighting off all the evil and salvaging the innocent. He saw him smile at the praise of the people, declining their many gifts, as he fearlessly ran off straight into another dangerous struggle, disappearing into the distant horizon.
Yusuf opened his eyes. He hugged his mother, tightening his grip around the wooden eagle, wordlessly staring away into the void wall, his mind lost, but soul on fire.
"My son, my hero, my heart..." his mother would sweetly whisper into his ear, as the slumber slowly took over his senses.
As the memory faded, now years older in appearance, the same boy shed hot, bitter tears, groping the wooden momento in his hand, as his powers withered.
Registering the voice, the Assassin stopped whimpering in a split second, hiding the small eagle in the confines of his tunic.
"Iyi misin, kardeshim?" his fellow cautiously stepped towards him. And Yusuf finally turned to face him, tears were long wiped off his cheeks.
"Evet. Sorry to worry you. Let's move out."
With another perilous task taken off of his shoulders, Yusuf settled down between the appealing, plushy pillows of the Galata Den, his mind and features at ease as he placed his hands underneath his head, in a manner to relax.
But oh, how could he?
As soon as he closed his eyes, the picture of the small wooden eagle appeared before him, and, in a flash, was replaced by the usual mass of black. Gritting his teeth, Yusuf groaned inwardly, wishing he had turned the mission down when he had been asked to do it by Ishak. He'd been restless ever since he'd discovered the ruins of his childhood home.
Inhaling irritably, Yusuf turned his back to the room, facing the wall; his navy eyes impaled with such force, such unleashed heaviness, that he wondered how did it not crumble under it. With a sour taste in his mouth, he licked his dry lips, eyes shifting and studying the golden floor batten.
He lied there placidly, feeling the small wooden figure press against his chest as he took in each breath. Its presence had slowly started making his blood boil, eyes twitch and fingers blister. A ravaging veil of what he would address as insanity coiled up inside of him, forcing him to weaken, emptying his consciousness.
Yusuf pressed a clenched fist against his beating heart, hopelessly trying to stop an inevitable pain that arose. It wouldn't be long until he would find himself crying, he knew.
He pulled the wooden eagle out; he stared at it as if it was the devil, the worst form of ferocity, who just turned his world awry in whole, and brought him nothing but calamity. Reminded him of the broken childhood he never really had.
And then came that haunting, enticing picture of his father he had made up himself. His lips quivering as he bit them, Yusuf shriveled up, placing his arms on his knees, crying himself to sleep as the wooden menace left his hand, abandoned until the morning occurred.
"Have you seen him?"
"Yeah. He's quite gloomy these days."
"Do you know why?"
The other could only helplessly shrug in response.
"I've not a single clue."
The two glanced Yusuf's way, shaking their heads as they watched their fellow quickly empty another glass of wine, pouring more straightaway.
"Think we should tell Ishak?"
Though the other nodded in response, the addressed Mentor had wandered into the room, making them bow to him respectfully.
"Tell me what, my students?" the old man inquired, his aged features steady and eyes shimmering with curiosity.
"Ah, Mentor! We, uh-" but before the startled Assassin could reply, Ishak had already noticed Yusuf's sitting figure on the floor, an empty bottle and brimming cup on each side of his knees.
"Ne işin var, Tazim?"
Yusuf slightly lifted his head, blue eyes tired and misty. After a few seconds of such maddening silence between master and apprentice, Yusuf's head fell down again, and he grasped his cup as if nothing ever happened.
"I asked you something."
The youngster groaned in response, wishing the silence would come back, and his pestering superior vanish. But seeing as Ishak still persistently hovered over him, Yusuf finally acknowledged his presence with a low hum, before he would finally speak up.
Before he could even inhale, Ishak had already grabbed him by the collar and thrown him against the wall, as Yusuf felt himself hit it with a heavy thud. His back now arched, but it didn't matter; the old man's fastening breath warned him to prepare himself for the worst.
"Are you not ashamed of yourself?" Ishak began, his expression angered as he walked over to face Yusuf, "You uselessly sit around doing nothing, whilst your brothers and sisters wander about, working like madmen. Did you think I would not notice, Tazim?"
The vizier's hand found Yusuf's collar again, pulling him up closer, as the younger's eyes could only widen and gulps raced down his throat in a manic manner. As heavy silence resented for almost a minute, Ishak studied Yusuf's startled features, before he would finally release him, signaling him to follow.
Now bitter and in slight pain, Yusuf stood up, another groan escaping his lips as he walked behind Ishak, feeling his fellows' inquisitive gazes burn the back of his head.
Not that he cared.
Upon finally reaching the Mentor's office, Ishak seated himself at his desk, clearing up a pile of scattered papers so he'd make some space. Yusuf stood before him, tired and blunt as he was, cluelessly blinking down at the old man. Awkward silence lingered in the air before the vizier would finally break it.
"What's the matter with you, Tazim? You are not yourself since you've returned from Bursa."
The very mention of that city impaled Yusuf's brain with the heaviness of an ax. Groaning inwardly, he decided to make his way out of this the best he knew.
"Nothing, Ogretmen, I swear. I'm just a bit tired, that is all."
To the youngster's surprise, Ishak laughed hysterically at this, a smirk broadening on his face.
"Yusuf Tazim, tired? Don't play games with me, adam!"
The Assassin frowned, inwardly cursing at his poor lies. Ishak's eyes, however, narrowed, as he examined Yusuf's appearance with great concern.
"Tell me," he began softly, "What troubles you, my child? Is there something you wish to talk about?"
To this Yusuf responded with another pause, as his mind shifted from one solution to the other, tearing him into two. On one hand, he could tell the vizier of his woe, and on the other, he could simply keep it to himself. It wasn't exactly Ishak's business to sniff through his issues.
As he observed his student's head hopelessly dwindle, Ishak stroked his beard in an effort to soothe the Assassin.
"If you do have something, take it off your chest. I promise to you that it'll be of use."
Sighing irritably and grasping his forehead, Yusuf pondered for another moment, when he finally decided to comply.
"Ogretmen, how does one cope with...Emptiness?" he searched for the right words, fingers intertwined tightly as he spoke.
Ishak raised his brows.
"Why, by filling the gap in! Simple as that," he declared, wavering his hand. However, this answer didn't cease to satisfy Yusuf.
"But, what if the only person who could've done it is...Gone?" the Assassin struggled for a moment, the pain gathering up in his chest again. But nevertheless, he could never weep openly in front of someone. He had his pride to take care of.
The vizier stared thoughtfully for a moment, before he would reply.
"What exactly do you imply?" he questioned, his aged features tightening as he knitted his brows at Yusuf.
The youngster gritted his teeth behind closed mouth, eager to endure.
"I...Well..." Yusuf hesitantly bit his lip, unsure of how to deliver what was on his mind.
"Evet? Speak up, oğlum!" Ishak demanded, ultimately cracking Yusuf's shell open. The Assassin reached into his tunic, pulling out the small, wooden eagle, placing it on the desk for the Mentor to see.
"What is this?" rendered befuddled, the vizier asked, staring down at the innocent figurine.
"Something my mother gifted me with as a child. She...She said father made it for specifically me. But when we moved to Konstantiniyye, I had forgotten about it in all the commotion. And, while on my mission, I wandered into our old family home, and...Rediscovered it, so to say. And, since then, it's been...Haunting me. I cannot make myself at peace. It angers me to think my father had abandoned me. He'd abandoned all of us. Dissolved without a single trace. Leaving an unfilled gap inside of me, stealing away what were supposed to be the merriest years of my life. I...I cannot forgive him."
As the words wistfully fluttered out of Yusuf's lips, he felt his heartbeat quicken, and the heat in his face rise as he opened himself to the old man, completely unhinging his troubled soul. However, as he was slowly finishing his speech, he felt the pain slowly tremble its way out him, diminishing by the second, as he inhaled and exhaled evenly.
But as Yusuf stood in a blissful, tender motion, Ishak stood up and walked over to the young Assassin. To Yusuf's surprise, he tapped his shoulder, even allowing his mouth to curve up into a smile.
"Do you know," he began after quite a pause, "Why your father, how you just put it, abandoned you?"
Yusuf blinked, navy eyes widening in anticipation.
"Is the answer not obvious to you?" uncertainty flushed through Yusuf's system in the form of shivering, as his jaw rapidly drop, but nothing but uncertainty-full breaths left his lips.
"Aptal! So his son would have a hero to look up to, tales to dream of, and skills to hon! He did it for you, not to upset you!" the Pasha hit Yusuf's back with a certain weight, making the youngster battle gravity for a few seconds.
Yusuf was wordless. Ishak grinned widely, the smirk taking up half of the room on his old face. He happily observed his startled student's features.
"Allahim, you're just like him. You have his eyes, his face, his stamina," the vizier placed his hands on Yusuf's scarlet cheeks, as he proceeded to remarkably inspect the youth's features.
Ishak left the word lingering in the air. Yusuf gulped; what was in store for him now?
The old man's face became sturdy again for a moment, as he struggled to find the correct words.
"Ah!" he exclaimed as the revelation popped inside of his mind, "You lack the privilege of carrying his surname!"
Now that, Yusuf thought, was a low blow.
"What do you imply by that, Ogretmen? I'm his son," the Assassin remarked, negligibly confused by his superior's statement.
It was as though Ishak was waiting for just these exact words.
"Kesinlikle! So act like one then, damızlık!" with a couple of tender chuckles mixed within his sentence, Ishak announced, walking himself back to his desk, picking up one of the hundred assignment reports, and dedicating to them.
And only then did Yusuf manage to comprehend his Mentor's words. Only then, did the thought of his father warm him inside.
Only then, Yusuf Tazim could feel himself at peace.