The journey back to Boston was interesting to say the least. Charles had never realised how much a four year old could talk or how quickly they became bored and demanded entertainment. Charles partly assumed that in Connor’s case it was nerves, for he was in a car with essentially three strangers, one who happened to be his father and most likely the one man he had spent the most time with was not his father but Charles.
The trip was no different. Charles spent the majority of his time, well fine, all of his time caring for Connor (even when he had been colouring the boy would explain and ask what Charles thought) and anxiously trying to draw Haytham in.
It had taken until the second toilet stop for Haytham to switch driving with John and twist in the front passenger seat a little and occasionally join in on a game. Charles was simply grateful for small victories.
They had left Ziio’s flat at 12:15 to discover horrendous traffic even before they hit the highway. The journey was broken with frequent toilet stops and at one point a nap, which entailed Connor curled up on the backseat (child seat on the ground by the front door), covered by Charles’ jacket while Haytham and John stood silent vigil outside and Charles sat in the front fighting off lethargy as well.
As a result it was verging on six in the evening by the time they reached their home in Boston. Connor had finally fallen quiet and was yawning a bit, though his eyes remained bright and curious about his father’s home town.
“Yes Connor?” Charles smiled, even though he was weary and could use a break.
“Are we there yet?”
Charles laughed at the affronted tone, “Yes we are Connor. I’ll unbuckle you and you’ll see your father’s house.”
Connor brightened at the prospect of being freed and squirmed as Charles, now very well practised, undid his belt. He leant on the window and stared out eyes wide. Charles hastily said, “Don’t try and open the door until I’m there Connor.”
“I know,” sighed Connor, pouting. John sniggered at the picture, “Got him trained already Charles?”
Thank goodness the man had the sense to speak quietly. Glaring at his supposed friend Charles slipped out and walked around the side. Haytham was unloading the boot and as Charles passed caught him by the wrist. Startled Charles found eager lips touching his own, deeply and yearningly. A tongue slipped brazenly into his mouth and Charles responded eagerly. Moaning in pleasure Charles relaxed into Haytham who held him tightly in strong arms for a brief moment before releasing him.
Dark grey eyes bore into his pale blue, “Thank you Charles for your patience. I truly appreciate it.”
Charles flushed, “It’s not a trial Haytham, but a joy. It is easy to love your son.”
Haytham smiled and it filled Charles with delight at the happy surprise in his lover’s face. Haytham nodded towards the car, speaking softly, “I do believe it is returned Charles. Go to Connor and we’ll settle down for the night.”
Elated Charles rounded the car and tapping the window for Connor to shuffle back Charles carefully opened the door. Helping Connor out he watched as the boy stretched to loosen stiff muscles. He was clutching his cat in his arms along with his colouring book.
“Which one is yours Mr Lee?”
“Ours son,” called Haytham, “this is your home now as well when you visit us.”
Connor bit his bottom lip, a mixture of pleased and reluctant; understandable emotions in the circumstances.
Charles gently reached for Connor’s hand, tugging his right to him. Crouching he hugged the suddenly shy boy, whispering in his ear, “It’s okay. It’s been a big day, but Haytham is right. This is your home now.” Peeling back Charles smiled encouragingly, “And that means you have to report to your mother how everything is like. So we better get started huh?”
The mention of Ziio had Connor looking like me might cry, but he was also clearly interested in telling his mother about his new home away from home. So he nodded. Grinning and relieved Charles stood.
“Very well then, are you ready to explore Connor? Remember we have to map out the front of the car first!”
Eyes wide at the reminder Connor yelped and twisting back to the car, said urgently, “My bag!”
“Here you are,” declared John handing the bag to Connor, “now watch out for the road.”
“Thanks Mr Pitcairn!”
Charles ensured he had a good grip and decided to access the front of the car from the driver’s side which was on the pavement; they could explore the passenger seat from there. He really didn’t need to risk the road. Normally their car was parked in the garage, but this was Abstergo’s car, which would be returned shortly.
Excited, Connor clambered in. As Charles explored with Connor he noted how John carried all their gear in, while Haytham took it upon himself to ensure his son and lover’s safety by maintaining vigil over them. It was sweet and domestic. Charles loved it and prayed there would be many days like it.
Once Connor had deemed to his satisfaction there was nothing left to poke he struggled out with Charles. Bouncing and all too energetic for a lad whose bedtime was seven, Connor now clasped Charles’ hand with renewed vigour.
Charles swung their hands. “Hmmm…well we better get inside huh?”
Connor nodded and cautiously padded forwards. Charles didn’t hurry him, instead aiming for a causal and relaxed approach. It worked and Connor stepped inside where John was waiting by the entrance. Charles gently ushered Connor down the corridor and into the living room.
His eyes popped open. Connor stared at the living room full of their two sofas, armchairs, shining TV and low table nestled in the middle of the sofas and armchairs.
“It’s huge!” he breathed, awed.
“Indeed son,” Haytham stepped up beside them, looking down at his son. “You should see the rest of the house.”
Connor boggled, “It’s all massive?”
Charles smiled, “Well, maybe not everything.”
Connor seemed overwhelmed and swung his head around attempting to absorb all he could. Leading him further into the room Charles managed to pry the knapsack out of loose fingers. Connor climbed onto the sofa and stared up at him. “Where’s my bedroom?”
“Upstairs, on the first floor next to ours. Would you like to see it?”
Charles looked over at Haytham and said hopefully, “Haytham can you help me?” Actually Charles didn’t require any particular assistance, he just wanted father and son to bond as he could tell how wary both were around each other. Currently Connor was bonding strongly with him, which Charles was thankful for, but ideally Connor ought to have a more powerful connection with his dad.
Haytham inclined his head graciously, “Of course Charles.” Hesitatingly Haytham held out his right hand. Connor frowned at the proffered hand from his father and glanced up at Charles who felt his heart squeeze.
“You have to escort your father Connor. Who knows what could be hiding on those stairs?”
Charles hoped he hadn’t inadvertently scared the boy.
Connor scowled and whined, “But father is a knight you said! Aren’t you?” he demanded of Haytham who was stunned. Grey assessing eyes turned to Charles and the glimmer of reproach made Charles’ belly clench.
“It slipped out sir. I only said we were knights who were trying to protect his people.”
Connor nodded in agreement, “And that you are fighting bad people to look after everyone.”
Haytham managed to collect himself and Charles saw the reprimand fade, he seemed resigned and if Charles wasn’t being too fanciful, intrigued by the chance provided by fate.
“Yes, we are Knights Connor. Our cause is very important. It is also secret.”
“Mr Lee said so! He said I have to promise.” Connor looked proud, chest swelling with importance.
It was terribly sweet and Charles hastily wiped the smile off his face when Connor glanced at him. Connor would be offended if he thought Charles was not taking him seriously.
“I did. Haytham, it will have to be a short one. And um ceremonial?”
Connor’s nose crinkled. “Cere…cere…?”
“Dress up in capes that sort of thing,” called out John. Connor was enthused by that.
Haytham actually smiled at his son, “I think we can deliver, but it will be tomorrow when we are rested. After all, we must plan it properly. Now even a Knight can require back-up so son?”
This time Connor accepted his father’s hand and assured Charles was coming by seizing Charles with his left in a grip that was surprisingly strong. In such a manner they ascended the stairs to explore.
= = =
Charles found it rather fun showing Connor the first floor as the boy was so terribly eager to see everything. He would demand to explore every nook and cranny ere they left a room and then would state his approval or not.
Connor seemed quite taken aback by the size of his bedroom, (which up until now had been one of two guest bedrooms). Charles knew the room was slightly barren for a child as it contained only a single bed in the middle with a bedside table and a chest of drawers with a hastily added cupboard shoved against the far wall – a window overlooked the garden - but since they had only purchased belongings for Connor’s room he hoped they could be forgiven.
“This is your room son. I know it isn’t quite ready for a four year old boy, but I assure you that you will be able to decorate the room the way you like it…within reason of course.”
Connor wrinkled his nose as he figured out some of his father’s comment and Charles smiled. Haytham was trying very hard to connect with Connor, which Charles appreciated was difficult. For all his virtues, Haytham was reserved and perhaps could be said by some to be a trifle cold. Charles didn’t think this was bad, it simply meant that Haytham was cautious with whom he shared information with and even more vitally who he revealed personal knowledge to – knowledge that could leave a Grandmaster vulnerable to their most ancient enemy, the Assassin’s Order.
In contrast Charles always wore his emotions on his sleeve, swinging from one temper to the next – something he would have to learn to control with Connor present – and while he exercised wariness in whom he met, Charles knew his feelings were read more easily than others.
In this case, it made getting to know Connor was more natural for Charles than Haytham, but Charles was determined to make it as easy for Haytham and his son as possible.
“Great!” Connor swung to Charles, eyes wide. “Can I put my figures on the table?”
“Of course, we also have some things for you too.”
“More presents?” Connor was practically bouncing now.
Haytham chuckled, “Yes Connor. And once the bed covers are washed you can choose which one you wish to use first.” Haytham gestured towards the cupboard, “Your clothes will go in there and in the chest we can place underwear and so on. We even have a basket for your toys.”
Connor beamed, “Thanks father! Mr Lee!”
“You’re welcome,” chorused Haytham and Charles in synch, which made Haytham smile at Charles who experienced that same flutter every time Haytham singled him out with such a winning, affectionate smile meant just for Charles.
“Well, how about you put down your rucksack, cat and colouring book,” suggested Haytham, “and we can go eat.”
Charles glanced at his watch and winced. Haytham was correct, they had to feed Connor as it was now six thirty and his bedtime was supposed to be seven! Connor frowned, eyes filling with tears.
“I can’t bring my cat?” he asked, voice trembling, turning to face Charles.
Damn. Worried by the sudden tears and possible threat of a full scale outburst, Charles crouched so he was level with Connor. He saw the tears ready to spill, but also the exhaustion and…fear? Charles wanted to curse in frustration at their stupidity. Of course Connor was afraid. He was in a new house with people he was just beginning to get to know, with his mother nowhere near and the only thing that was Connor’s was his new cat and his toys. Was it surprising he wished to hold on to something familiar amidst the alien environment?
Anxious to comfort Charles pulled Connor into a hug and murmured, “Of course you can bring her.” Releasing Connor, Charles smiled and pulled out a tissue to wipe Connor’s wet eyes.
“How about supper?”
Connor swallowed and brightened, hands clutching his cat tightly.
As he stood Charles found Haytham studying him with a closed expression. His brief flash of alarm was allayed when Haytham inclined his head and squeezed his shoulder as he passed, ushering Connor ahead. Relieved, Charles joined Connor and Haytham and together they returned downstairs to find John was in the process of starting supper for Connor, a pot was on the stove full of beans and bread was waiting in the toaster. A simple favourite for children: baked beans on toast. Also an easy meal at this late hour.
Connor grinned and enthusiastically scrambled onto one of the chairs at the kitchen table. Charles grabbed Connor and carefully helped him sit. He noted they would have to ensure all meals were done in the living area or by a lower table as the chairs were too tall and dangerous for a four year old.
“How about cushions?” suggested John.
It was so obvious that Charles wanted to kick himself. Then again John did have children. “Thanks John.”
Noticing Haytham was busy Charles picked up Connor and fetched the cushions as quickly as he could. Connor found the entire process amusing and twisted on his cushions as Charles pulled a chair close. Doing his best to stop Connor Charles saw Haytham pull out the plastic plate, cutlery and plastic beaker they had brought. Far safer than the china they normally used and easier for Connor to grip.
Haytham set to washing them in hot soapy water while Connor, thankfully no longer entertained by his cushions was ‘walking’ his cat on the table’ and watching John with interest. “Are you married?” he suddenly asked.
John looked up from the stove and seemed amused by the question, “Aye, I am. To a lovely woman named Elizabeth.”
Connor chewed his bottom lip. Charles gently reprimanded him, “Don’t do that Connor, it will hurt.”
Connor shrugged and asked, “Do you have children?”
“That I can play with?”
John smiled, eyes bright. “Yes lad. Three sons and two daughters so far, David, William and Robert and Annie and Katherine. Robert is only a year older and Katherine is a year younger, my other three are seven, eight and ten.”
“Huh huh. Mr Lee?”
“Yes Connor?” Charles reached out brushed stray hair back form Connor’s face who whined as any typical four year old.
“Can I play with Mr Pitcairn’s children?” Charles exchanged looks with Haytham who nodded encouragingly. Charles’s heart constricted, Haytham was giving implicit permission for Charles to be the one to say something. He understood what that signified: Haytham saw him as equal in handling Connor, his son, and Charles promised to show his gratefulness to Haytham later – preferably with ‘Master’ and ‘Sir’ littered judiciously since that appeared to be a turn on for the Grandmaster.
Barely functioning through the delight Charles replied, “If Mr Pitcairn is happy then yes.”
Connor turned his attention to John, his entire face one sea of hope, brown eyes dark with anticipation.
John chuckled, “I think that’ll be fine Connor. Just be gentle with my lass Katherine.”
“I will be!” promised Connor sitting up straight. “I’ll keep her safe!”
All three of them were amused by that.
“How about you settle in first and perhaps not tomorrow but the day after? You’ll be meeting Mr Hickey and Mr Johnson tomorrow after all.” May the Father of Understanding have mercy on us!
“Okay,” said Connor happily.
Haytham dried the plates and John doled up the toast and beans. Putting it in front of Connor Haytham sat opposite as did John. Recalling what he had read Charles hovered, prepared to assist Connor if necessary.
Haytham seemed fascinated by his actions, one eyebrow raised as if this was a foreign experiment worthy of analysis. Charles wanted to remark that both could join in, but was kept busy with keeping Connor’s cat from falling into his plate as Connor had to have her perched right next to his dish and refilling his glass with squash.
Supper thankfully was over quickly when to Charles’ immense surprise Haytham stood and said he would wash Connor.
“Are you sure Sir – Haytham? I can help?”
“No need Charles, you rest. I’ll take over.”
Connor wore a baffled expression as his father lifted him down. “Mr Lee?” He stared up at his father, “Mr Lee not’s coming? Will Mr Lee read me a story?”
Haytham clearly decided carrying Connor was simpler and he hefted his son into his arms. “No, he must eat something and then he’ll join us. And of course he will.”
Peering over his father’s shoulder Connor gazed at Charles and he could have sworn that the boy thought Charles was abandoning him to a fate worse than death. Charles was frankly astounded at how guilty a child could make you feel.
“I’ll be there Connor,” Charles aimed for soothing. He had sudden insight that ‘soothing’, ‘relaxing’ and ‘gentle’ were going to be very familiar actions for Haytham and him before long. Picking up Connor’s cat he handed her to Connor who pressed the soft fur against his cheek. “I have to unpack your bedding and set it to wash.”
Connor sighed as this was not a favourable answer and resigned himself to being ‘stolen’ by his father.
Once they had disappeared, Connor’s put out expression and Haytham’s exasperated look carved into his mind, Charles turned to John who just laughed. “You get used to it Charles.”
“You mean your children do this all the time?” Charles was slightly horrified.
“Yes,” remarked John who was far too unsympathetic and happy for Charles’ liking. “And they refine their techniques as they grow. You have to develop an immunity to it otherwise children sense your weakness and they’ll exploit it ‘til you feel as you have just survived an attack by assassins.”
“I thought that was cats.”
“Nope,” John sipped his tea, “I personally think they’re in league though.”
Charles put his head onto his folded arms and groaned as John snickered.
Haytham’s startled yelps and “Connor! Behave!” echoed down the stairs and Charles fervently prayed they would survive.
= = =
It was much later when Haytham unceremoniously picked up Charles and carried him to bed. Charles was mortified. Yes, he was exhausted but he could still walk, the fact he was slumped on the sofa, feet in Haytham’s lap and mostly incoherent to the world was nothing.
“I can manage Haytham.”
Charles gazed blearily up at Haytham, from where he rested his cheek on Haytham’s shoulder. This close Haytham smelled of the fresh aftershave he used overlaid by his masculine odour of sweat. It was uniquely Haytham and Charles adored it.
Haytham’s lips twitched and his tired eyes crinkled at the corners. “Indeed Charles. That is why you look worse than when you’ve been on a field operation for a week.”
Charles grumbled, and watched Haytham, eyes slits. He swore Haytham was enjoying his behaviour for the Grandmaster’s arms held him closer, crushing him against the solid frame.
“I’m not used to four year olds.”
“None of us are. Alas, my dear Charles you have borne the brunt of it today. You may think I did not notice, but I did – all day you spent playing with my son and looking after him, both in New York and our journey home. Then you were escorted through our house by Connor and finally had to read him a story.”
“It was a pleasure.” Charles glowed with happiness at the endearment from the normally serious Knight.
Haytham brushed a kiss on his forehead, climbing the stairs carefully. “I know and love you all the more for it Charles. Yet then you washed Connor’s bed sheets, refusing assistance and proceeded to unpack his toys and clothes and wash them too.”
Charles blushed and squirmed a little, but stopped as Haytham constricted his grip, warning clear. They entered the bedroom and Charles sighed, “I just felt one person could do it faster than three.”
Haytham chuckled and eased him down, keeping one arm wrapped around him so Charles was leaning against him. “You mean you didn’t trust John or I to not mess it up; understandable given the circumstances. I assure you that I’ll make a bigger effort to…connect with Connor. It is just all so strange.”
Charles clumsily kissed Haytham on the jaw, day old stubble just abrading his lips. “I’m not surprised, it’s a new way of life for all of us.”
Haytham opened the door to the en suite and Charles realised suddenly through his weary state that they were in Haytham’s bedroom.
“Sir?” Charles couldn’t stem the wonder in his voice.
Haytham glanced at him and lifting his spare left hand cradled his head. Charles could feel the long powerful fingers curling through his hair, pulling him closer. Haytham dipped his breath a ghost like presence across his skin, his mouth.
“Lovers share a room. And as my room is larger and contains a double bed I deemed it most sensible for us to share.” Haytham feather-like began to chase his lips across Charles’ skin and Charles found breathing become heavier. Everywhere Haytham’s lips travelled goosebumps rose and Charles shivered.
Heat coiled in his loins and even through his tiredness Charles’ cock twitched. Haytham stopped, hovering over Charles’ mouth. “I have waited a long time for this Charles. If you object say so now.”
Their breaths mingled as Charles whispered, “I have no intention of rejecting your offer Haytham.” Boldly Charles kissed Haytham savouring the taste and as Haytham responded, Charles lost himself to sucking lips and the firm grip on his head.
Breaking off Charles gulped air and curious asked, “If I had said no would you have let me go?”
Haytham smiled charmingly, the light from the bathroom bathing half his face, the other half dark. “Of course Charles,” he murmured. He pulled Charles’ head down, kissing his forehead moving down to deposit kisses to his eyes and cheeks. “It is always your choice.”
Charles blinked and felt the iron cage that held him upright against Haytham’s side and the unyielding hand in his hair, fingertips gently rubbing his scalp. The odd glint in his Grandmaster’s eyes was at odds with his words and Charles was almost sure that Haytham would never let him go now that he had him.
The notion should have terrified Charles yet it did not. Rather, something twisted inside him, like the gears in a lock finally sliding home after years rusted in open. Charles was possessive and he was thrilled to know that Haytham was even more possessive and territorial over what he declared ‘his’. Yes that was probably screwed up, but Charles had no issue with this as their desires matched perfectly.
“Good to know Sir.”
Haytham grinned, the slow lazy grin of a predator that had captured its prey and nipping his bottom lip, Haytham withdrew. “Then let’s prepare for bed Charles, we have a huge day tomorrow. Hopefully you shan’t be too tired the next night.” Haytham spun Charles around and slid a leg between Charles’ legs, pressing up. Charles hummed at the pressure on his cock. “I have plans.”
Charles panted and nodded fearing if he spoke he would embarrass himself. Pleased, Haytham supported Charles to the washbasin. They washed together at the washbasin, Charles electing not to shower until the morning. He would drown if he tried and if Haytham, as Charles thought he might, decided to help he definitely wanted to be in a state to obtain full enjoyment from the experience.
However, as they stumbled to Haytham’s bed in the dark Charles discovered that Haytham lived up to his determined nature as firm, confident hands began removing his clothes. Too weary to think and protest Charles subjected to the situation without much real unhappiness. After all, who would cry out against Haytham unbuttoning their shirt, fingers running over your skin as he peeled the shirt off?
Charles certainly wouldn’t. Sitting on the bed Charles tilted his head back to watch as Haytham unbuckled Charles’ belt and unzipped. It was erotic yet sweet the mix of gentle care and obvious overtones of desire as Haytham allowed himself the pleasure of cupping a pale hip bone and sensually running fingers over his crotch.
“On the bed Charles,” Haytham rasped and shivering Charles swung his legs up and nestled his head onto the comfortable pillow. He could still observe Haytham who now stood stooped over him.
“Lift your hips.” The command sent another shiver down his spine and recalling his experiment through the hazy daze Charles did as bid, “Yes Master Kenway.”
In the darkness only disturbed by the bathroom light Charles saw Haytham flick his gaze to him, face impenetrable. His hands however took on a rougher more dominant measure as he firmly slid the trousers down, ensuring he touched Charles’ long legs as he did. Charles gasped at the touch wanting more but too tired to fully react. Despairing ever so slightly Charles shifted only to have Haytham grip his ankle. “Be still Charles.”
Haytham stroked his ankle in reply, petting it. Charles’ socks followed and oh damn…Haytham without preamble slid fingers into the waistband of Charles’ pants and urged them down. Charles lifted his hips seeing the order in the inclination of Haytham’s head, nervous as he was. Haytham swiftly eased his underwear over his feet and turned to fold them. Exposed like this, Charles felt more vulnerable in the darkened bedroom than he had curled against Haytham with Haytham’s hand on his cock.
Haytham had left to retrieve sleepwear from his chest of drawers. He returned and blatantly scoped Charles’ naked form. Hell, if Haytham was using Eagle Vision Charles would play dirty tomorrow night and use ‘Master’ and ‘Sir’ with as much regularity as he could ere Haytham silenced him. The prospect was promising and Charles struggled not to show how much he was aroused by the situation, thankfully his worn out body was at last accommodating.
Haytham grinned and held out a pair of pyjama shorts. “This sufficient Charles?”
Haytham raised an eyebrow, but only licked his lips. “Hips up.”
Charles sighed and allowed Haytham to slide them on. Then he watched in happy fascination as Haytham shed his shirt and shucked his trousers with haste. Silhouetted Haytham was imposing, scary and damn sexy. The confidence Haytham exuded was intoxicating and infectious and Charles was eager to have Haytham join him – for this, the first time sharing a proper bed.
Haytham simply put on pyjama shorts as well and neglecting his top as he usually wore, (as did Charles, he always attired ‘fully’ for sleep with a top and shorts or trousers – who the hell knew when you might have to leap out of bed ready to fight?), so Charles realised as his eyes became heavy that Haytham wished to share body contact.
Smiling Charles felt the bed dip and slowly focused on Haytham who in the sudden full darkness of the room, with just a sliver of light from the street now noticeable, was a shadowy menace by his side. Hands touched him and Charles sighed at the concern they exhibited and obeying their silent directions Charles managed to pull the covers over him. Then Haytham was a hot burning presence by his side and Charles too tired to fear a negative reaction to counter the love and confidence Haytham had instilled in him pressed as close as possible, dropping his head to Haytham’s shoulder.
Lips brushed his hair and an arm weighed solidly, securely, over him. “Good night Charles.”
“Good night Haytham.”
Sleep overwhelmed him and Charles fell to dreams with Haytham holding him.
= = =
“Mr Lee!” the shriek had Charles sitting up in an instant wide awake. Well, attempting to sit up for he had a visitor straddling him. Blinking Charles peered up at Connor.
An impression of distress rapidly cooling into relief was painted on his little face. Haytham meanwhile had also naturally awoken and they were both lucky that their instincts hadn’t made them react defensively to Connor’s abrupt arrival.
“Um, good morning Connor.” Charles twisted to peer at Haytham’s bedside clock. Seven am? “You’re up early.”
Connor nodded frantically tugged at the covers. Charles caught the bedspread in a grip as he recalled he wasn’t wearing a shirt. A fact that didn’t seem to faze Connor as some of the covers had slipped to reveal his bare chest. Oh, my, what would the boy say about his father sharing a bed with his ‘friend’?
“Uh huh. I’m hungry!”
Haytham sighed, he grey eyes apologising as he caught Charles’ gaze.
“Indeed?” Charles watched as Haytham’s son bounced again and tired peeling the covers off more. As Connor successfully made headway Charles realised this was a losing battle and relinquished his hold. Squeaking in delight Connor suddenly scrambled over him.
“Whoa, Connor! Careful with your knees!”
“Okay,” mumbled Connor and Charles found a four year boy squirming under the covers and between him and the lad’s father. Haytham was clearly not impressed.
Charles tried to prevent any shouting – not a good tone to set the day to. “So you got up because you were hungry? Do you normally rise early?”
Connor traced the hairs on his chest, apparently fascinated by his discovery. “And I was bored. Why do you and father have hair on your chests? I don’t.”
Haytham coughed, “I feel that’s a discussion for another day son.”
Charles reached for Connor’s hand and gently removed it, holding the wandering hand firmly. He had rather been hoping that Connor would sleep considering how exhausted the boy had been, not to mention the emotionally wearing aspect of yesterday. However, recalling the distress he had glimpsed when he first saw Connor, Charles thought perhaps an early rise wasn’t so unusual.
Stroking mussed hair, Charles smiled warmly, “That’s fine. Did you remember where you were when you woke up?”
Dark eyes became anxious again and a faint red suffused the dark cheeks. “The room was different.”
Haytham put an arm around Connor, “It won’t always be son.” Haytham nudged Connor around so his son was staring up at him, still snuggled against Charles though. “Once we decorate the room how you want it Connor, everything will be well again.”
Connor sniffed. “Uh huh, morning father.”
It was a marvellous sight to see father and son bonding and Charles felt so privileged to not only witness it, but to be part of that bonding. It was splendid.
Shifting Charles released Connor’s hand and shifted so he could slip out of bed. “Where are you going?” gasped Connor as he tumbled out, Charles catching the boisterous boy at the last minute. “To dress and then we can go to your room.”
Connor frowned surprisingly at his statement and wriggled. A suspicion dawned, “Have you been to the toilet yet?”
“Um no.” Connor shook his head, mouth trembling. Charles knew Connor must have been too nervous when he had woken up to go and befuddled by his dreams scared by this new place. Naturally he had fled to the only people he knew in this strange house.
“Alright then,” Charles reassured, “toilet stop first and maybe you can help me pick my clothes.”
Haytham actually laughed as his son agreed by grabbing Charles’ hand and tugging impatient to start. As he escorted Connor to the adjoining bathroom Charles glanced sideways at Haytham who winked and climbed out of bed.
Sighing and still worried by the inevitable questions Connor would ask about why they were sharing a bed, Charles busied himself with overseeing Connor then being subjected to a dress code. Connor did scrunch his face up, confused, when Charles led him to his old room instead of staying with his father.
However, the lad was quickly distracted by Charles’ colourful wardrobe and the Second-in-Command to the Templar Order of the Colonial Rite, the seneschal to Haytham, ended up donning jeans, (how did they get there? Must have been Thomas), a brown leather belt with swirling patterns and if you looked closely, where the buckle fastened the end together a symbol was formed of the ancient Temple of Solomon from which they derived their name.
Connor also rather enthusiastically selected a scarlet shirt pairing a red cravat to it. He was an eye sore, but on the other hand Connor was relaxing so Charles deemed it a win, even as he privately wondered if Connor was colour-blind.
Haytham poked his head as they finished and blinked a fleeting expression of horror on his face ere he composed an aura of amusement tinged with affection. That tightness in his chest was going to become annoying Charles was sure.
“Yes!” shrilled Connor.
“Then come son, let’s get you dressed.”
Haytham beckoned Connor who bossily ordered Charles to follow. Laughing openly Charles did as ordered and had the pleasure of watching as Haytham tried dressing his son.
It began with Haytham allowing his son to choose, which went well. Connor selected a T-shirt with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle on the front and cotton trousers. Wisely, Haytham had already laid out socks and pants. Then he stood back and gestured for his son to dress.
Connor just blinked then warily began yanking on his shirt. “Oh dear,” whispered Charles as he saw Connor become tangled in the sleeves then when he had successfully pushed his head through, the shirt was on backwards. Matters didn’t improve as Connor somehow put his trousers on but fumbled with the buttons.
Charles opened his mouth to intervene, but Haytham hurriedly got up, “Son, here, let me help you.”
Carefully navigating Connor’s shirt off Haytham replaced it the correct way and then did the buttons up on his son’s trousers. It was a sweet scene as Charles watched Connor trying to ‘help’ and speak dramatically about his dream of having a pet cat that curled up on his bed and explored cities with him, while somehow being a knight.
Charles wasn’t sure how much of this story was a dream and how much was made up right there, but it was fun, particularly since Connor looked much happier by the end.
“Breakfast!” cried the four year old, a ball of energy whipping around them as he grabbed his kitten, his wolf and then barrelled straight to Charles to stand vibrating beside him. “Okay Connor, we’re going!” chuckled Charles. “Are you sure you wish to bring both your wolf and cat along?”
“Yup! They’re hungry too.”
Haytham fell into step as they walked out and towards the stairs. He pushed in front to protect Connor as they walked slowly down, in case his lively son fell.
John appeared at the bottom. “Morning Haytham, Charles…Connor. I’ve put the tea on, but wasn’t sure what to make for breakfast? I did pop out to quickly buy some children’s cereals and you do have porridge, bread and toppings in your cupboards.”
Charles nodded in thanks as they all chorused (Connor loudest of all) good morning. “Great. I’ll prepare some food for us?”
“Focus on Connor, Charles,” said Haytham, “I’ll fix our breakfast.”
With that Charles ushered Connor into the kitchen and spent the next half of the morning learning that four year olds were awfully excited messy eaters first thing and also ravenous.
= = =
Much later, when breakfast was over and a morning spent watching TV, sorting out Connor’s new clothes and toys – activities underlined with much delighted shrieking - Charles collapsed on the carpet by their sofa as Connor decided climbing over Charles was his favourite occupation. Charles sensed the beginnings of a tradition, Father of Understanding help him!
Snagging a passing heel Charles pulled Connor close and capturing him in his arms, settled with Connor on the floor, cross-legged. Connor pouted up at him, perched as he was on his lap. “But!”
“No buts, Connor,” said Charles sternly, “our colleagues will be here in a moment and surely you don’t wish to be messy when our friends arrive?”
Connor sniffed and wriggled much like a cat might to make his perch as comfortable as possible. John, blast him, was coughing behind his newspaper. Charles swore to seek revenge though how one did so, on a man already inured to children was a mystery to be unlocked.
The doorbell rang at this point and Haytham entered the living room as he had been ordering work matters in his office. He inclined his head at Charles as he passed and understanding Haytham’s gesture Charles asked Connor, “Want to wait in the garden?”
They had yet to venture into the back garden as Haytham hadn’t wished for Connor to become dirty and even unexperienced as they were, they knew garden plus child equalled filth.
“Yes!” cried Connor who instantly squirmed off his lap only to hold his arms out once Charles was on his feet. Mourning his back and flourishing with new respect for Ziio, Charles lifted Connor and hurried into the garden. He heard John murmur all clear to Haytham then John was beside him opening the screen door.
Stepping outside the sun was a warm presence, capturing the few flowers in their colourful glory: purple tulips and various primroses of white, palest yellow and burnt orange – the latter nestled in the shade of a green shrub. The garden was quite large but sparse, the grass neatly trimmed. They stood on a pretty patio of washed pink slabs, with a garden table out surrounded with six chairs, enough for the inner group. Tall fences boarded the back lawn, being completely smooth so no enterprising Assassin could manage a grip, nor were there any trees to prevent similar incursions.
The flowers and shrubs were there mostly to set off the otherwise stark grimness of the bare garden. Connor however appeared fascinated, especially when his eye caught sight of the small water fountain, water glinting and sparkling in sunlight. A tasteful bench was placed next to it to allow for peaceful contemplation.
“Can we see?”
Yet before they could move Haytham was stepping outside and with him two tired men: William Johnson and Thomas Hickey.
“Morning Charles, John,” said William, a weary smile on his face. His jacket was zipped up despite the warmth of the day and he was wearing canvas shoes, clearly loaned by Haytham. Both men had trousers streaked with grass and dust. Charles squashed his inquisitiveness down.
“Morning!” chirped Thomas who was lounging against the wall. “Yikes, you’re bright!”
“Morning William and Thomas. How are you?” Charles asked as he hefted Connor a little more in his arms. The boy was surprisingly heavy and also wriggly. He ignored Thomas’ last remark.
“Bloody tired that’s what and starving too.”
“Thomas!” snapped Haytham and Charles simultaneously.
Haytham continued, “Do not swear in front of my son, understood Thomas?”
The threat was obvious and Thomas blanched, “Yes sir.”
“Good, well let me introduce you to my son.” Haytham glanced over at Connor, who was staring in shock at William and Thomas.
“Connor, these are my friends Mr Johnson and Mr Hickey.”
“Hello?” offered Connor suddenly shy. Charles guessed it had to do with the fact his mother wasn’t here to smooth over his nerves. Squeezing Connor in comfort, Charles walked towards his friends to assist matters only to have Connor struggle.
Thankfully William saved the moment by calling out a greeting in Kanien'kéha. Connor stopped fighting and gazed at William with awe.
He started nattering excitedly whatever he was saying causing William to chuckle and nod in the affirmative. Charles sneaked a peek at Haytham who flicked cool grey eyes at Charles, yet the slight twist to his mouth belayed his amusement at his son’s burst of confidence.
Thomas rolled his eyes, “Here,” he whined, “speak a tongue we can all understand.”
“That of the beer bottle no like,” murmured Charles quietly then winced: Connor. However, the boy was oblivious and Haytham simply raised an eyebrow. When Connor paused to draw breath Haytham intervened.
“Let us all go inside. You can show William and Thomas your toys then Connor.”
Connor blinked, “But Mr Lee was going to show me the fountain!”
“Indeed he shall. However son, please do not answer me back when I ask you to do something.”
“Because I’m your father,” Haytham was losing his patience so Charles hastily changed the topic.
“Come on Connor, don’t you want to show your kitten to Mr Johnson and Mr Hickey? You must introduce her.”
Connor sighed, as if the request was too much on top of his father’s decree, but he nodded. “Okay.”
To prevent any escape Charles carried Connor back to the living room where he released him. Connor instantly bounded over to the sofa and selected his wolf and kitten.
“This is Mr Wolf and Miss Kitty!” he declared, chest out as he stated their titles with incredible importance. William and Thomas sat down, Thomas rather ungracefully in the armchair, one leg over the armrest.
William perched beside Connor as Charles, seizing the moment, slunk into the kitchen to fetch refreshments. John followed him.
“Frantically nicking a quiet moment eh?” said John.
Charles would have been offended by the accusation, but not only recalling his promise to react less badly to his friend’s teasing, he noticed the kindness shining in John face.
“Maybe,” rummaging in the cupboard Charles drew out a teapot sufficient for five people and also retrieved five glasses. “Don’t get me wrong, I love Connor, but…”
“It’s hard being the focus of attention for a whole morning, particularly when you’re unused to four year old children.” The sympathy was surprisingly easy to accept.
“Yes, does it become easier?”
John grinned, “Aye, though you’ll miss your sleep over the next few years and wait until he’s a teenager.”
Charles wondered if he could emigrate back to Britain…but no he couldn’t leave Haytham or Connor now.
John clapped him on the shoulder chuckling. “Ah, you’ll do fine, as will Haytham. Don’t worry. Now, what shall I do?”
“Rustle up sandwiches would you? We might as well have lunch now.”
“Any specific fillings?”
“A selection of ham, cheese and jam.”
“No problem. I’ll add crisps to that. ”
“For Connor, crisps are unhealthy.”
“I think that parenting book was a bad influence. If you manage to convince the lad to eat salad I’ll salute you, but at least put cucumber and carrot sticks.” John shrugged and busied himself with sandwich preparation.
Scowling, Charles started brewing the tea and grabbed Connor’s plastic glass and plate.
It was only when they had arranged a pile of sandwiches on one tray with plates and another with glasses and the teapot with cups that they registered the ruckus in the living area. Wary Charles picked up the tea tray, John the food one and together they entered to find Thomas singing some song about a cat and dancing around the coffee table.
Connor was watching avidly, mouth open an expression of bewilderment shading his face, his Miss Kitty safely clasped at his chest. Haytham had an exasperated air about him, shoulders tense, but he didn’t dissuade Thomas from his antics. William was amused, slapping his knee in time to Thomas’ wheeling arms.
Charles wasn’t sure if he angry or horrified. Did Thomas want to scar Connor for life? Thomas stopped dancing and smirking jumped onto the table with his filthy socks, the blaggard. He howled, “And the cats ran into the barn and began to---“
“Thomas!” Shouted Charles. He knew what the idiot had been about to say.
Startled Thomas lost his footing and arms wheeling yelped as he fell backwards onto William who groaned and shoved Thomas to the side.
Connor stood and glaring at the sprawled form said rather haughtily, “You’re a silly man.”
Then he flounced over to his father where he said, “Is Mr Hickey always like this?”
Haytham barely maintained his composure and Charles was trying not to cry with laughter and vindication – Connor and he were of the same opinion regarding Thomas. Wonderful, truly wonderful. A remarkable boy.
“Not always son, he’s simply excited to meet you.”
“Uh huh,” Connor appeared unconvinced. Still glaring at Thomas who was now fighting cushions to sit up, he edged away happening to glance in Charles’ direction. Beaming he instantly ran over.
“Mr Hickey was singing about a cat and dancing!” Connor clutched his jeans, little hand pulling, as if to underscore the importance of his news.
“Careful Connor, I’m carrying hot tea. I don’t wish to spill it on you.”
“I’ll take it Charles,” Haytham gently took the tray and set it on the table. William leant forward and assisted John in serving the food and tea. Thomas, after an order from Haytham began filling the glasses with squash. Haytham pulled the sofa closer to the table.
“Then he jumped on the table and fell.”
“Indeed?” Charles grinned, “And what did you think of that.”
“He’s very silly!”
Charles patted Connor on the head, “Indeed he is.”
Laughing at Thomas’ pout Charles led Connor to the sofa and urged him to sit.
“What would you like Connor? A jam sandwich or ham or cheese?” said Haytham settling on the other side of Connor. Charles had the strangest sensation of them being like a family. The curling warmth inside instilled a very peaceful contentment within his being – it was nice.
“Jam and ham!” enthused Connor.
Haytham picked the two and handed Connor his plate. Connor carefully balanced his blue plate on his lap and much to Charles’ horror opened both sandwiches up and put one slice of jam with one slice of ham.
“You’re not going to um, eat that are you?” asked William around a mouthful, shock overcoming decorum.
Thomas was drinking squash, but also watching. John didn’t seem particularly perturbed and was calmly munching on a sandwich packed with crisps, ham and salad.
“Yup,” said Connor cheerfully. He held out one monstrosity to Charles, “do you want some?”
“Ah…” What to say? “Perhaps just a tiny bite.”
Tentatively Charles took the proffered combination and nibbled away. Oh my, it was dreadfully sweet. Swallowing hastily, Charles was relieved to see Haytham handing over his own sandwich and a glass. Returning Connor’s nightmare Charles said politely, “An interesting flavour, but I think I’ll stick to my cheese.”
Connor shrugged and offered his father a bit. Haytham tried with a rather determined expression as Charles gulped and chewed to banish the taste. Fleeting disgust showed only in the bob of Haytham’s Adam apple then he was handing Connor his bounty.
“Thank you, now eat up.”
On cue Charles returned Haytham’s lunch and watched as the Grandmaster chased away the horrid taste. Meanwhile, humming happily, Connor began devouring his meal. William saluted Charles with his sandwich and John winked. Thomas simply sniggered and snatched up a ham one to choke down.
The rest of lunch passed without incident though Charles only prevailed to persuade Connor to munch on a couple of cucumber sticks. At least it was a slice of progress though Charles was going to do better.
“Okay son,” said Haytham as he watched Charles finish wiping Connors mouth clean and checking greasy hands – (a job that Haytham had willingly handed to Charles), “Charles and I must meet with Mr Pitcairn, Mr Johnson and Mr Hickey. You can watch television or a DVD, but you must behave. No shrieking or running amok.”
“Amok?” enunciated Connor slowly.
“Wild,” said Charles, handing a towel to Connor who clumsily rubbed his hands.
“Oh, what can I watch?”
“We have a few Disney DVDs?” Charles returned the towel to the handrail and guided Connor out of the bathroom.
Connor raced to the TV and prodded the stand eagerly. Charles showed him their small collection and wasn’t surprised that Connor picked Robin Hood. Talking animals it was.
Popping the disc in and settling a glass of squash and apple slices on the table Charles moved next to Haytham, “Enjoy! Don’t go outside without asking your father or me first ok?”
Haytham said, “Have fun son. We’ll be in my office if you require anything.”
“Uh huh,” Connor nodded already absorbed by the opening credits. He was cute, staring intently at the screen and Charles, while anxious to learn all the information from Haytham and his friends
However, they had a vital job to do, namely stopping the Assassins from reaching Juno first.
Following Haytham, Charles discovered that the inner circle was all gathered, (well bar one).
Leaving the door ajar so they could hear Connor’s voice, Charles went to sit on a spare chair.
Haytham took the head of the table, “Gentlemen, let us begin.”
= = =
Picking up a single sheet of paper John handed it to Charles. Glancing at the page Charles noted it listed designations along a route, possibly checkpoints. He recognised the red markers that signified Templar agents.
“That is the route that Ziio will take,” John explained as Charles handed the paper around. “I will be one of the agents ensuring she reaches us safely.”
“I shall also go,” commented Haytham, “though I would prefer to stay here.” Charles flushed at the obvious reason why when Haytham’s gaze settled on him.
“Connor and I will be safe enough here Haytham. I can protect him and will Ben Hornigold be here? Surely the information Ziio carries is of import?”
Haytham nodded, “Indeed it is. After questioning and essentially repeating the conversation we initially had on what could be causing these disturbances, Ziio revealed that her people have long guarded various devices that we know came the First Civilisation. Only one remains.”
“So what is it?”
Haytham paused, considering what he had been told. When he spoke, it was with care, “From what John and I could infer from the both of Ziio’s tales and what her people have experienced: visions, images of writings, ‘spirits’ etc., I believe the device they are currently guarding is something that grants the holder the options the future contains.”
Charles was wary, as was William for his friend leant forward, asking: “It doesn’t contain another Juno does it?”
“No, Ziio was adamant on that. The single time she was permitted to see the device and talked with the Shaman, the device is very different. The holder must think of a question about the future and ‘visions’ appear, almost spirit like in substance. Not just one, but three…four maybe more.”
“So,” said Charles, “the people shown in these can look like spirits, but aren’t? Almost like an oracle if it shows various paths.”
“I would concur,” said Haytham and John nodded too.
“Seems just as tricky to me,” commented Thomas, “as having a Juno in one of those darned devices.”
“From what Ziio said the device is more accurate and is guided wholly by the person holding it. You also cannot control people like the Apple, so it most certainly isn’t one. Of course, whatever is happening now has caused the device to be ‘on’ the majority of the time. I’m not sure whether distance will switch it off and return it to normal.”
“We could at least contain it so it doesn’t leak?” offered Charles. “We have enough First Civilisation equipment we can try.”
“I think Charles has a point,” said William. “What Thomas and I discovered was that the Temple was flicking on and off, various objects in there were glowing?, as if aware that a member of their race is walking the Earth again.”
“Yeah, it was strange,” Thomas stretched, “everything was glowing in the dark like one of those stickers you buy. Then it would go off and come back.”
“It worked on a cycle,” said William leafing through his notes. “It would alternate by switching on and then the glow fading, every two hours. I believe the Temple walls provide some protection from the wake-up Juno’s release has caused. We did remove containers from the site so Charles’ theory might be useful.”
“Are we interested in the device? What use is it to us?” asked Thomas.
“It could ultimately place us ahead of the Assassins,” Haytham responded, “while we cannot guarantee the future it shows is true, it might inform us on the activities of the Assassins – a very definite boon for us. Even if not, I would rather have it than the Assassins. It also increases our standing with the Native people, proving we care. We asked, the Assassins will not.”
Charles knew that was true, however, “Did Ziio agree to bring the device to us?”
“Yes, even if her people do not. Though it may take two days, so the day after next.”
That was worrying. “So we must ensure her safe passage in those circumstances.”
“Yes, as John said he will leave tomorrow to be waiting outside the Reservation to meet Ziio with a trusted team. I shall leave in to two days to meet half-way. I do not wish my movements to alert the Assassins.”
Charles sighed, “It’s a shame Church isn’t here.”
Haytham frowned and squeezed Charles’ hand, “He must finish his research into the latest Animus updates and the reactions of our guests to them in the machine. I also wish to ensure he is loyal as of late his thirst for money frustrates me.”
“Yes sir.” The sabbatical was meant to test Church, hopefully their comrade wouldn’t fail as Haytham didn’t take treachery well.
“One more thing before we conclude. Connor is aware of our true nature, well a basic version. He comprehends that we are Templar Knights fighting the Assassins for peace and order with the intention of protecting everyone, including his people.”
“How?” asked William.
John coughed and dipped his head at Charles.
Charles was deeply mortified. “It slipped out!”
“And no-one is blaming you,” soothed Haytham, yet with a stern warning to the others who subsided with any remonstration.
“So what do we do?” asked Thomas.
“An induction ceremony, so he can swear loyalty,” Haytham smiled, a little fondness leaking into his voice, “My son insisted on making a promise himself.”
“That’s sweet,” said William. “When shall we hold it?”
“Tomorrow,” suggested Charles, “today is already a bit overwhelming for him.”
“That will be quite a sight,” said John.
“Indeed,” agreed Haytham. “I’ll think of an easy oath for Connor to take.”
“How about clothing?”
“Pardon?” Charles blinked at John in confusion.
John sighed and explained slowly, “Children love dressing up, including boys. Put them in costume and they’ll love you forever. So, special ceremony equates to fancy clothes.”
“Oh.” Well that made sense didn’t it? Charles wondered what they could scavenge.
“Charles can you arrange appropriate clothing?” Haytham was looking at him.
“Of course sir…Haytham.”
“Excellent.” Haytham allowed a brief smile then turned serious again.
“Any more gentlemen?” Haytham looked at of them in turn.
“No? Good. William and Thomas, you are welcome to stay the night.”
Charles almost put his head in his hands. Oh what trouble would Thomas get Connor into?
“Awesome,” said Thomas.
“Thank you Haytham,” was William’s more sedate reply.
Smiling Haytham ended the meeting and they returned to Connor who was absorbed in Robin Hood fighting for the Golden Arrow.
= = =
The afternoon was marvellously free of incident. That is, until Connor paused mid-run around the fountain in a game of tag, causing Charles and Haytham almost to trip over him as they tried stopping in time.
“My bow!” he cried excitedly. Swivelling he bounced up and down, eyes bright. “I can be like Robin Hood!”
“Bow?” repeated Thomas, a grin snaking across his face the bastard. “I didn’t know ya had one Connor.”
“Uh huh!” Connor wrapped his arms around Charles’ leg and gazed beseechingly at him. “Please. You said I could play if you’re here!”
Oh crap, apparently the lad knew who the weakest target was. Charles wanted to know when his resolve became as strong as melted chocolate because this was ludicrous. However, he had promised, though surely only trouble could result with Thomas present.
“Well…I suppose you could at the fence. Haytham?”
Haytham inclined his head graciously, “Of course Charles. Yes Connor you can play with your bow and arrow. How about I fetch it and then you and I can show Charles?”
Oh thank goodness, he actually got a chance at resting.
“Okay!” Connor sat on the fountain brim and trailed the tips of fingers in the water. “Do spirits live here?” he asked quite seriously.
“I shouldn’t think so,” Charles said, sitting beside Connor. “Why?”
“Mummy says spirits are all around us, our family and nature and animals.” Dark brown eyes studied him, absolute faith in his mother’s teaching a steady flame never wavering.
Charles knew he had to answer carefully, he also wasn’t sure quite what to say. His own faith was yes, there is a god, but he didn’t follow a specific religion. He had witnessed too much not to have some belief in other forces. Haytham however, did not and so Charles dithered between what was right to say and not. He settled on a neutral response, tempered with his own belief. It was up to Haytham and Ziio what paths should be presented to their son to take.
“Your mother is a wise woman and knows more than I on the subject. But I don’t think there any spirits in our fountain, not enough nature. They probably prefer the forest and woods, or the sea.”
“The sea? There are spirits there too?”
Charles grinned, “You should hear Biddle talk about it.”
“Oh, Mr Biddle, another friend. You’ll meet him sometime.”
“Great.” Before Connor could continue his questioning Haytham reappeared with Connor’s bow and arrow set.
Charles shivered at the devious smirk on Thomas’s face and urging Connor to his father glared at Thomas, putting forth retribution if anything should happen. Thomas shrugged as he passed, “Not scared Charlie.”
“Don’t be, I’ll complain to Master Kenway and I believe he’ll side with me.”
Thomas went pale but recovered, “Master Kenway still huh? Must be real interesting when you’re in bed.”
“Jealous?” Then hurrying over to William who was sitting at the garden table Charles curtailed any further conversation. Thomas just shrugged again and joined Haytham and Connor at the opposite end of the garden. Thomas actually had minor experience with the bow unlike Haytham, Father of Understanding help them.
“This surely will end in mischief,” said John.
William folded his newspaper to watch the archery lesson with great attentiveness. “Hopefully not.”
Charles sighed as he nervously sipped cool water, “Haytham knows what he’s doing.”
John raised an eyebrow, “With a four year old? Ah, we’ll see if so Charles.”
“Now son,” Haytham’s voice carried, “Pick an arrow and stand beside me.”
Connor happily selected a little arrow with black-grey feathering at the top. Fitting to the bow he stuck his tongue out and aimed at the fence.
Connor let go and the arrow actually went a little way. Nowhere near the fence, but impressive for a four year boy. Pouting Connor spun around.
“Ah!” gasped Haytham, clutching his shin. Connor’s eyes were wide and Charles stood, but John touched his arm.
“No…no problem son.” Haytham rubbed his shin and said as calmly as possible, “How about you try again?”
Connor nodded and grabbed another arrow. Haytham stopped rubbing his leg and stayed crouched. As Connor aimed his shot his elbow went into Haytham’s face.
Haytham remarkably didn’t say anything beyond a hiss. Connor was so contrite that his father simply smiled, refrained from touching his nose and stood. “One more time son eh?” Thomas was laughing and grinning as he took an arrow and clapping his hands chortled, “Aim higher lad and pull as far back as you can.”
Connor gulped and glanced at Charles who forced a pleasant confident grin on his face. It worked and Connor again plucked his bow.
“Fire!” shouted Thomas.
Haytham glared at Thomas even as Connor shot and began shrieking in joy, “Look father! It’s near the fence!” Dancing on the spot Connor flung his arms around his father with the bow still in his hands.
“Oh dear,” panted Haytham as he gripped his other shin and used his free arm to hold Connor still.
“Father?” A face full of woe checked his father out and Haytham, thankfully rallied like good fathers everywhere and murmured, “Nothing son. However, I feel we should learn safety rules before we proceed.”
Thomas rolled his eyes, “I’ll take over if ya like.”
Haytham actually agreed. Charles knew they were doomed. What sort of riot could Connor, trained by Thomas, run in their household? Thomas, as if he knew Charles’ nightmares, waved at that moment. Connor following Thomas’ actions, waved and shouted, “Mr Hickey is going to teach me how to shoot!”
“That’s fantastic. Be careful. And have fun!” Father of Understanding help him.
Waving, Connor turned to Thomas who selected an arrow and began speaking in earnest. Haytham limped over and eased beside Charles. Immediately Charles began fussing and the normally independent Grandmaster relaxed and permitted him. William rolled his eyes and continued pursuing his paper. John just snorted and watched with good humour.
The next quarter of an hour passed suspiciously calmly. Connor was carefully aligning his shots with Thomas’ guiding hands and occasionally hollering for Haytham and Charles to watch. It was unnatural and Charles was a nervous wreck, not even soothed by Haytham resting his arm on the back of his chair, a comfortable line of warmth along his shoulders.
The Grandmaster appeared mostly recovered from his injuries though he was going to bruise slightly around his nose. Who knew children could be so dangerous?
Just then their peace was shattered as Thomas began running around the garden with a terribly enthusiastic Connor in his wake. Together they were shouting ‘You’ll never get me!’ (Thomas) and ‘Yes I will!’ (Connor).
“Peace Charles,” reassured Haytham, using the fingers of his right currently draped behind Charles, to stroke the side of his neck. “I’m sure Thomas will behave.”
Charles desperately wished he could convince Haytham that Thomas was dangerous, but alas no one believed him. John seemed more inclined to not trust him with his children, but neither did he deter Thomas from visiting (unless he was already drunk of course).
Thomas raced around the fountain then jumped on the bench, brandishing his arms with a leer. Connor stood and drew his bow, thankfully without an arrow braced, “Down or I’ll shoot!”
“Never!” yelped Thomas who leapt off and raced toward them.
Connor gave chase breathless, swinging his bow. Thomas circled the table and Charles tensed, especially as Connor followed and as Connor reached Thomas and again cried for him to stop, Thomas tripped backwards over William’s chair and brought William down on top of him.
Naturally Connor saw this as great fun and jumped on top of the tangled men.
He still had his bow and quiver on his back.
William actually managed not to curse, while Thomas only shouted in pain as small fingers accidently smacked him in the face.
“Father of Understanding!” Charles hurled himself at the mess and snatched Connor up who protested strongly, “But I had him!”
“Indeed you did Connor, but how about we put away the bow before anyone else is hurt?”
Connor pouted, bottom lip plump and face scrunched with disappointment. Charles remained firm. Haytham and John were assisting their friends.
Haytham raised an eyebrow, “That’s enough for one day. How about dinner?”
John warily pulled the bow from Connor who whined but desisted at Charles’ stern glance and he sighed as his quiver was retrieved also.
“Come now Connor,” soothed Charles, “a Knight has to keep his strength up and learn discipline. Remember? Anyway, guess what? You’ll have a promise ceremony tomorrow like your father said.”
Connor immediately brightened and twisting in Charles’ arms stared up at him, “Really? Awesome. What’s to eat?”
Chuckling at Connor’s change of temper, Charles said, “Fish fingers, potato waffles and baked beans.”
“Of course, not complete without ketchup!” Charles bounced Connor who shrieked in delight.
Gaining approval from Haytham with a silent inclination of his head, Charles took Connor inside to ‘help’ him cook.
= = =
It was with great relief that Charles put Connor to bed that night with his new wolf sheets. William and Thomas were sharing his old room, (at some point Charles would move his belongings into Haytham’s – their – room), and John was in one of their other guest bedrooms. Connor of course, was now housed in one of the guest rooms used by their friends when they stayed.
Tucking in a rather tired little boy, Charles brushed back black hair, smiling fondly at the sleepy eyes fixed on him.
“Thank you Mr Lee.”
“For what Connor?”
“For letting me call Mummy.”
It was sweet that Connor was thanking him for such an obvious act, really Haytham and he weren’t monsters, they wouldn’t deny a homesick boy from ringing his mother while away. “No need for thanks Connor. Are you happy now that you spoke to your mother?”
Connor nodded, “Yes, but I was happy before.”
Yup, that was his insides becoming mush.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying staying with us Connor.”
Connor snuggled his kitten, his wolf resting on the covers next to him. “I am. I wish you lived closer to me Mr Lee.”
Charles coughed, it was either that or allow tears to fall. Damnit!
“And your father?”
“Yes, is he coming?”
“I’m here son.”
Charles’ heart fluttered. How long had Haytham been there? Haytham came over and sat on Connor’s other side and bending kissed his son on the cheek. Only a touch of tension in the Grandmaster’s shoulder’s belied his discomfort of doing this. He was still adjusting to having Connor.
“Sleep well son.”
“You too father and Mr Lee.”
“Goodnight Connor. If you need anything come to us and knock or shout okay? Mr Pitcairn isn’t here as he’s gone to his family, however Mr Johnson and Hickey are here too if you require assistance okay?”
Connor just yawned, but seemed to understand mostly what he had said so Charles switched off the bedside lamp and kissing Connor on the cheek too rose and went to the door. “Okay?”
Connor whispered, already half asleep, “Yes.”
Not daring to speak again Charles ensured the door was ajar so the hallway light would show a bit and also so they could hear if needs be.
Haytham kissed him the moment he turned around and whispered against his lips, “I have a promise to keep for us Charles.”
Shuddering at the memory of that Charles swallowed and whispered back, “I’m ready Sir.”
Haytham without warning swept him up and eyes dark. “Oh I think I have to keep you in line Charles.”
“I always obey you Master Kenway.”
“Hmmmm, we shall see my Charles.”
His gust twisted at the possessive note and Charles felt a surge of excitement at what was ahead.
It was but a short ‘ride’ to their room and how Charles hoped to be riding something else very soon. Haytham succeeded in locking their door to prevent innocent eyes from being traumatised.
Darkness descended, only broken by the lamp shining by their bed. Haytham gently placed Charles on the bed and Charles waited breathlessly to see what Haytham would say. Haytham’s gaze narrowed and his jaw tightened – in pleasure – as he realised that Charles was awaiting orders from him.
“Undress yourself Charles. Slowly.”
Charles swallowed the moan at the command and began undoing his cravat. It took all his willpower not to be hasty under the hot assessing stare from his – his! – Grandmaster.
As sensually as possible he slipped the cravat from his neck before moving to his shirt, one button at a time revealing his pale chest with a light smattering of hairs.
“Eyes on me Charles,” ordered Haytham coolly.
Charles met those wonderful eyes, usually devoid of excessive emotion unless under great strain and found them burning their way into his soul. Shrugging the material off his shoulders Charles watched as Haytham’s jaw clenched – he clearly was enjoying the show. Emboldened, Charles cast his shirt to one side and allowed his hands to fall to his belt. As slowly as he could manage, Charles unbuckled the metal and fed it through the hoops on his jeans, letting the leather slide through his hands.
Cradling the belt in his hands Charles took unusual care in wrapping it around his hand before dumping it on the floor beside his bed. Haytham smiled hungrily.
Charles struggled to keep his eyes locked on Haytham as he unzipped his jeans over his erection. Then, still attempting to maintain eye contact, Charles did his best to lean back on his elbows and raise his hips. With his right hand he tugged at his jeans to slide them off.
“Why don’t you stand?” Haytham’s voice was hoarse. A thrill went right through Charles. He was causing that reaction!
“Because you haven’t ordered me to,” it was an honest answer tailored to underscore how Charles wanted to play at Master and faithful second-in-command and with hope drive Haytham mad.
The sharp intake of breath and the fiercely intense expression convinced Charles he had had the desired effect.
“Obedient as always Charles.”
“Would you like me to stand Sir?”
Heart thumping, Charles continued pushing his jeans down. Eventually with some judicious twisting (and jaw clenching from Haytham) he succeeded in pushing his jeans off his hips and over his bottom. It was simple then to pull his legs up and finish dragging them off. Chest moving more strenuously with the effort, Charles inched off his socks and nervously hooked his fingers into the waistband of his pants.
Haytham moved then, striding to Charles and placing a hot hand over one of his.
“Lie back,” voice low yet strong. Charles loved that, he adored it when Haytham had that ringing command quiet yet full of strength and undeniable power. He got off on it when they weren’t well, boyfriends. Now? It made him moan, unable to deny himself.
Haytham growled. “Now Charles.”
Shivering Charles lay back, fearing he would have to break eye contact, but ah! Haytham was leaning over him and his closeness was intoxicating. As he struggled afresh with his underwear, each time he raised his body off the bed Haytham’s shirt and belt, hell trousers rubbed against his skin. It sent yearning lust through him and whimpering Charles was about to gasp he couldn’t do this and he was terribly sorry and frustrated about this, when Haytham knelt on the bed.
Astride of Charles he stopped his actions with one hand and instead, with ease and the arrogance Charles loved, pulled his pants down. The smile that formed was teasing but also promising.
Recalling last night Charles adhered silent commands and lifted his hips and legs at the right moments. Haytham showed his delight once he had discarded Charles pant on the floor. They would certainly have a mess to sort in the morning. He trailed his hands up Charles’ legs past Charles’ aching groin and resting his right hand on his belly.
With each breath Charles could feel the pleasant weight of Haytham’s hand, calloused from training. It was hot and delicious and he moaned as his cock twitched. Haytham smiled, licking his lips.
“Undress me Charles.”
Charles inhaled and held his breath. Was Haytham joking? No, for he got off the bed and stood with a smirk and a raised eyebrow as if questioning whether Charles would follow his direction or not. Indignant and rising to the challenge, as was his dick, Charles crawled off the body aware of how his cock bobbed as he walked to Haytham. Halting Charles fixed his gaze on the pulse beating at the base of Haytham’s throat only raising his eyes when Haytham coughed politely. “Sorry Master Kenway.”
Haytham sighed, “Apology accepted Charles. Do continue.”
Hardly believing he was at last being granted what he had desired since he first set eyes on Master Kenway, Charles touched Haytham’s shirt, loving the feel of silk under his fingertips. With precision Charles unbuttoned it, licking dry lips as he saw Haytham’s chest revealed to him. Oh he had seen Haytham without a shirt, but not in such an intimate manner.
Fine hairs, dark like the hair on his head, adorned Haytham’s chest. Charles wished to touch that magnificent assortment and ensured his fingers brushed them as he reverently pulled the shirt open and sensually pulled it off Haytham’s shoulders and down long slim, muscled arms. Curling and rough, it was a terrific sensation Charles committed to memory and further exploration when Haytham permitted.
Ah, the bracer.
Haytham raised a hand and gently stroked Charles’ cheek. Charles leaned into it. “Be careful Charles.”
Happy at the implicit concession with the loving warning, Charles undid the straps on Haytham’s hidden blade and with supreme wariness removed it. Haytham took it and briefly left to place it on his desk.
Haytham laughed, “Good man Charles.” He picked his bracer up and stashed it in the cupboard. Striding back he hissed, “Trousers and hurry.”
Fuck yes. With due haste, Charles unbuckled the belt and threw it away. Trembling at the sight, for the bulge was impressive; Charles unzipped and fell to his knees as he peeled back the Grandmaster’s trousers. Unable to resist Charles forwent the socks and moved back to the pants. Haytham’s cock bounced free and Charles couldn’t help but gasp in joy. His breath curled over Haytham’s flesh and a sudden snarl was Charles’ only warning ere he was being dragged to his feet and kissed brutally.
Haytham covered his lips, hand cupping his jaw, forcing his mouth open. Charles moaned into Haytham’s mouth as he felt Haytham invade with his tongue. Haytham moaned in return as he plundered Charles. Then Haytham was kissing his throat and nibbling at his sensitive skin, biting his way up and down both sides, ere nipping at the base of his throat.
Dazed at the onslaught Charles wasn’t sure how to respond until Haytham drew a deep breath and regaining control whispered harshly, “On the bed Charles. I’ll ask only once, knees or back?”
Charles knew without hesitation what he wanted, what he had dreamt of. Yes, he wanted Haytham to take him on his knees, but for their first time he was desperate to see Haytham’s face, to know this was real and not a fevered dream.
“Excellent.” And ah, it was beyond nice to know that Haytham desired the same thing as well.
Haytham inclined his head to the bed, “Wait for me.”
Trembling, Charles clambered on and watched as Haytham retrieved condom and lube from his jacket that he had left on the chair yesterday.
Haytham strode quickly to the bed and climbing on placed the condom to one side. “Open your legs Charles.”
Breathing heavily Charles did so and swallowed dry damanations, as Haytham crawled in-between. Haytham uncapped the lube and squirting the liquid on his fingers he rubbed them together to warm the liquid. His voice was seductive, like honey, when he spoke.
“No noises Charles that is an order.”
“I don’t think I can Sir.”
Haytham laid his clean hand on the inside of Charles leg, squeezing. “I have faith in you Charles. Now, you shan’t hurt yourself? Would you prefer something between your teeth?”
Haytham sighed, “A shame to silence you since you say ‘Sir’ so prettily. However, I will not have you harmed.” Haytham again disappeared and Charles focused on not touching his dick because how he wished to.
Haytham was there, leaning over him and Charles hissed as Haytham’s cock trailed over the inside of his leg and pressed against his erection.
Heat, solid pressure and wetness from leaking tips. Charles shut his eyes and tried not to come. He hadn’t for so long he feared he wouldn’t be able to. Silk was pushed between his teeth and opening his eyes Charles realised that Haytham had chosen one of the few cravats Haytham personally owned (being more of a tie man).
It was a startling pale blue, almost like his eyes. Haytham seemed to think so for he trailed his fingers over the material before raising his hand to Charles eyes. Shutting them Charles felt Haytham trace over his eyelids with a feather touch. Shivering at the sensation Charles was relieved and disappointed when Haytham returned to focusing on reapplying the lube.
“Relax Charles,” was his only warning ere Haytham was lifting his right leg slightly and slipping in the cleft of his behind, feeling his way to his hole. It was ticklish and Charles gasped around his mouthful. Remembering the order for silence Charles instantly bit down on the silk and opened his eyes a slit, hardly daring to watch. Haytham had an expression of concentration mingled with the dark hunger lurking.
Charles involuntarily raised his hips higher when Haytham dipped one finger past his ring of muscle. It was strange, not painful more pressure than anything else. Haytham sighed and pushed in more so that his entire finger to the knuckle sank in.
Now that was a shock, his body clenched on the invader and Charles wriggled at the feeling of his insides fighting Haytham, especially when Haytham flexed his finger and began pushing at his walls. It was achy but in a good way.
Dipping his head back onto the pillow Charles forced himself to breathe steadily. It was hard maintaining silence. And…oh shit. He almost choked when Haytham’s lips brushed the scarring on the inside of his left leg. It was wonderful.
Charles hadn’t realised how sensitive he was there. Trembling Charles pushed up on his elbows to witness Haytham mouthing at the patchwork of scars left from a bullet wound when an assassin had come too close. Lovingly Haytham basted the area with his saliva, tongue tracing the pathways the scars etched and then suckling on the flesh. Body shaking with the effort not to speak or moan Charles was sure his throat would convulse if he tried to be quiet for longer.
Haytham took advantage of his distraction to slide two fingers into Charles, twisting and pushing to widen his passage. It was murder, as Haytham mouthed at his scar he also found that sweet spot that sent fireworks through his body. Charles fisted the bed covers and chewed the cravat.
Hot lips gliding over his flesh, blowing hot air on his straining manhood and oh that voice, husky with want and authority, “You may show your pleasure Charles but quietly.”
Relief, pure and clear. Removing the gag straight away Charles moaned lowly, eyes barely able to stay open. Haytham just nodded at him, focused on his task of undoing Charles. The intensity was the same as when Haytham operated on a mission and having that devoted entirely on him was exquisite and Charles felt rather smug.
Haytham pressed against his prostate again and Charles whined. Haytham bit gently over his scarred flesh and Charles discovered a new kink. Pushing his leg closer to Haytham’s mouth he heard the low chuckle and determined to not give leeway, Charles moaned, “Master Kenway, please sir.”
A hiss and immediately three fingers clumsily being pushed into him were his satisfactory response. Charles flung his head back again, arching up and relishing as Haytham suckled at his wound and twisted fiercely inside him. He clenched hard, aching for something else entirely.
Sensing his want, Haytham withdrew leaving Charles open and bereft. He heard the rustle of the condom packet and Haytham’s barely controlled moan as he slid it over his manhood. Swiftly however, Haytham was leaning heavily over him, naked flesh on his and it was searing heat and pleasure pooling in his groin, tingling all over his skin. Long fine fingers caught his chin and obeying Charles met Haytham’s gaze.
Love and yearning were there and the same hunger, stronger than moments ago. “Ready Charles?”
Kissing him Haytham reached down and lifted Charles right leg over his shoulder. Bent like that Charles whimpered and found a pillow adjusted under him for some support. Haytham’s belly pressed on his dick and Charles surged up with a broken groan.
Laughter in his ear and wet kiss to the ridge, ere pain burst as Haytham eased in perhaps faster than he should. However, it was temporary as gasping through the initial entry Charles was distracted by kisses over his cheeks, forehead and moustache.
Blinking eyes open, Charles reached up and draped his left arm over Haytham’s shoulder and clumsily kissed his lover’s throat as Haytham nibbled at his other ear. A light scar ran along Haytham’s collarbone and just about able to twist to it Charles licked at the white line.
Haytham sighed and pulled out. Charles whimpered at the slight burn and panted out ‘Sir!’ in happiness when Haytham thrust back in. From then on Haytham set a ferocious pace, snapping in and out so that Charles was tortured by the slick slide of Haytham’s belly over his straining leaking erection and the beautiful fullness and stretch as Haytham pried him open with each meeting of their hips.
Charles dug his nails into Haytham’s shoulder and latched onto that wonderful collarbone, nuzzling at the scar as Haytham pushed him up the bed. Hooking his left leg over Haytham’s back, Charles clung on and by the appreciative hum Haytham approved.
Haytham was relentless, biting and kissing his throat and each time Charles whimpered too much he would slacken his pace and murmur, “You will tell me if it hurts Charles. That is my direct order.”
Haytham simply returned his fast pace and shortly Charles could feel his belly clench and his dick was painful from how full and heavy he felt. Haytham’s kisses were all too much and caught like a moth in amber Charles cried out as his orgasm flew through his body. “Master Kenway.”
Shattered Charles was aware of Haytham groaning as his muscles bore down on his manhood and stilling, Haytham shuddered as he too orgasmed.
For a few seconds they lay chest heaving then Haytham gently slid out and lowered his leg. Charles watched Haytham through slit eyes, exhausted. Haytham pulled off the used condom and standing shakily got rid of it. He returned with a wet cloth and wiped Charles clean, kissing the inside his leg, petting the wound and then kissing Charles softly and lovingly on the lips.
Haytham’s expression was so sweet that Charles was stunned. He hadn’t seen such a tender emotion from the other man, from the normally stoic Grandmaster, who displayed feelings only to a certain extent even between them.
Wondrous and hopeful, Charles touched Haytham’s cheek and Haytham kissed him, chasing away his fears. “I love Charles. Thank you for this.”
His heart fluttered and Charles kissed back. “I love you Haytham. Always.”
Smiling, vulnerable in this light, Haytham finished cleaning him.
Charles shifted on to his side and blinked tiredly as he remembered something, “The door? Connor won’t be able to get in otherwise.”
“Ah, good call Charles.” Haytham undid the lock and returned, climbing under the covers. Murmuring, Haytham scooted to him, engulfing him in arms toned by battle, “We’ll wash later, before we’re disturbed.”
Nodding in agreement, Charles nestled back and relaxed, knowing he had what he had always desired, Haytham’s respect, admiration and now, love.
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