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Pyrophobia

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Haytham had always been pyrophobic to some extent, he supposed. As a child, his nursemaid Betty had always lit the fireplace in his quarters in Queen Anne’s Square before tucking him into bed and bidding him good night. He had always welcomed the fire while he was awake, tossing the covers aside after Betty's footsteps could no longer be heard and tiptoeing across his room to his windowsill to perch on it, watching the grounds with attentive eyes. He had grown to like the fire, enjoy it even as he sat, taking in the warmth of it and watching the flames flicker. But every night when his eyelids slowly began to droop and he pulled himself off the sill to crawl back into bed, upon shutting his eyes he grew cold with fear, the flames flickering behind his eyelids and visions of burning drapes and floors plagued his brain until he could no longer tolerate it, finally getting up and putting out the fire, swaddling himself in quilts to keep warm. Then, and only then, with the ashes cooling could he fall into a peaceful slumber.
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The night of the attack on his home, standing in the games room next to several cooling corpses, one of which was his father’s, Haytham found himself frozen with fear. It was no longer fear for his own safety or his family’s, for his mother was the only one left to protect and knew that he was safe with Birch; the fear came from seeing the flames lick at the curtains and walls, the heat and the smoke clogging his lungs and making his head throb. He stood rigid and numb as Reginald took ahold of his arm and dragged him forcefully through the doorway, not unlike men had done with his sister only moments before. Only after he was outside of the house with his mother did he begin to reign his fear in, and only barely so at that, watching the flames consume what was left of his broken home.
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He made his way down a set of steps towards where he knew Reginald would be, on the lowest floor of their headquarters in Prague. Immediately upon setting his feet upon the concrete he could sense fire, inhaling sharply at watching each flame flickering atop the pillars, casting light about the room and illuminating Reginald’s solemn face.

“It’s about your mother, Haytham. She’s dead, Haytham.” Birch repeated his name, trying for a calming effect, something to help the younger man with the news, but his efforts, meagre as they were mattered naught, for Haytham seemed to lose the ability to breathe, the flames all of a sudden seeming bigger and all around him. In his mind they reached higher and higher, surrounding him, and his mind was filled with images of the attack on his house, reliving the attack on his home over and over in bits and pieces, images of his mother in her long white nightdress, his mother holding him and calling him darling, his mother being stabbed by the man with pointy ears, the light leaving her eyes, blood cascading over her front. He snapped himself out of it not wanting Reginald to see him in such a state, and after exchanging a few meaningless words with his friend, he excused himself to be alone with his thoughts, and later on when sleep finally took him, nightmares.
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Priests are running out of the monastery, away from the overwhelming flames that were overtaking the building. Haytham cuts them down one by one, numb inside, for how else could he have summoned the strength to light torches and set the place ablaze? He continues to fight, brutally ending the life of every single man to come out of the monastery, relishing in the fear in their eyes, getting revenge for what they have done to Holden. This time there are no visions of his childhood home, for he is too busy taking a sick sort of pleasure hearing the screams of the men burning alive and smelling their flesh burning off. There is a dead sort of smirk on his face as he returns to his friend, but his smile does not reach his eyes. Not at all. There are only flames in them.
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Haytham turns on the step he is on to hand his sword to Lucio Albertine, only to have himself pierced on it, and it hits him that the sudden act of violence is not surprising. Not at all. He should have seen it coming. As he crumples, he thinks that his end is turning out to be an awful lot like his father’s, judging by the sword sticking out from him. When he loses consciousness shortly after, his fitful dreams are filled with flames that he now knows to be caused by Reginald Birch, his lifelong best friend and adopted father. But soon, flames are overtaking Birch too, and his nightmare is ended.
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He stands in the brewery with Connor, his eyes skimming the place for a way to exit when he is tackled to the ground by his son, hearing gunshots and bracing himself for the piercing pain of a bullet wound, but instead his ears are nearly blown out by explosions, and there is fire. Everywhere. He pays no heed to Connor for a split second, breaking into a dead, desperate run and stopping just as abruptly as he had started, remembering himself and realizing that Connor was not following him. He stands still for a moment, his mind screaming at him to run, but he sees the fear in Connor’s eyes and realizes that he is not alone in his fear of fire. He calls after Connor and resumes his sprint, scaling a downed piece of the roof and casting his eyes back, relieved to see the boy finally following him, if a bit too slowly for his taste. He keeps running, for every time he blinks, Queen Anne’s Square flashes before his eyes and all intelligent thoughts leave his mind as he flees. Truthfully, he is thankful when Connor tackles him into the water, for instantly he relaxes, realizing that he is away from the flames. He is safe.
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When the cannons start raining down on Fort George, he is surprisingly calm. Calmer than he should be. Numb, perhaps. But then the fort catches fire around him and he is fighting with his son, his only son, and the flames draw closer to him. Perhaps it was the fire that distracted him so, affecting him so intensely that he forgets to disarm Connor, a task that is second nature to him, being the trained, brutal killer that he is. Or perhaps he has not forgotten. The numbness turns to sorrow, and he wants the flames and the flashbacks and the fear to stop. So he pretends to forget that his son is in possession of a hidden blade and pretends to forget to pin his arm down, welcoming the blade when it inevitably pierces his neck, and he doesn’t even feel it, not really, for he is too busy being thankful that now the fire will finally cease.