Khalil, an assassin in training under the great mentor Altaïr himself, slipped silently through the streets of Masyaf. He was on his way to the castle to speak to the mentor himself. If he even got the chance...
The mentor had a tendency to shut himself away, staring into the secret's of the artifact for hours. The young apprentice felt nerves pool in the pit of his stomach at the thought of possibly being turned away. Again.
He would often come across Malik, Altaïr's second in command, instead of the man himself. Malik would look at him with sympathy. Khalil's training was taking longer than most with his mentor neglecting him more often than not. Malik would take it upon himself now and then to teach him what he could.
Now the young apprentice marched up to the castle gates, a stoney look on his usually softer features.
"Khalil, what has you looking so serious?" The teasing voice e drew the young assassin's attention. Abbas stood by the gates, leering at him with a smug look.
Out of respect for his elder, he couldn't just ignore the man's question. Khalil stared with guarded blue eyes. "It's Alt- I mean, the Mentor." Alarm sparked through him when Abbas seemed suddenly very interested. Should he confide his fears?
"What about him, hm?" Abbas sounded impatient when Khalil failed to continue. He opened his mouth, but no words came out. There were footsteps behind him. Heralding the approach of his savior.
Annoyance crossed Abbas's face, a hand came to rest on Khalil's shoulder. He turned, relief washing over him when he saw Malik beside him. The rafiq's face was stern, dark eyes narrowed as he stared down Abbas.
"Don't you have something better to do than harras the apprentices?" His tone was scolding, with a hint of scorn. Since coming into power, Malik and Altaïr had rekindled their old friendship. Khalil had heard they had fallen out after the death of Malik's younger brother, Kadar. To the point that the rafiq wished death upon the master assassin.
Abbas sparked with annoyance, but didn't question him. Turning away and heading off down the road. Malik watched him go, unease crossing his face momentarily before he turned his attention back to Khalil. Removing his hand from the young assassin's shoulder.
"In the future. Anything you have related to Altaïr must never be spoken to that man." His voice was stern, though his face was kind. Khalil nodded, not bothering to ask why. He wouldn't get the answer anyways. "You can, however, confide in me. I hear you have problems with out great mentor."
The raven haired apprentice cast his icy gaze aside. Unable to look Malik in they eyes. "I feel like.. my training doesn't mean anything to him. Like he doesn't care." He dared to look at the older man. Worry worming in his stomach. "Do I even matter..?"
Malik looked serious as he shook his head. "I know it's not easy to see... Altaïr is just," he hesitated. "Preoccupied. "
Khalil huffed, turning towards the castle and headed up. He heard Malik's voice calling behind him. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to talk to him myself."
He made his way through the stone castle. Eventually coming to the mentor's private quarters. He steeled himself and all but barged in.
Altaïr didn't move as Khalil entered the room. He was completely captivated by the golden glow of the circular artifact in his hands. Khalil stared at him for a few drawn out seconds before moving closer and tapping a finger on the older assassin's desk.
Altaïr remained unaware of the apprentice's presence. Khalil huffed silently, smacking his hand down on the hard wood. The noise was a lot louder than he anticipated, and Altaïr jumped. Breaking concentration with the artifact and staring at Khalil with wide golden eyes.
Khalil was unable to stop himself when he had the man's attention. "Will you stop shutting yourself out with that piece of junk? There are more important things going on around you while you stare into another world. What about my training? I've learned everything I can from Malik."
The young assassin was ready to continue his rant when Altaïr lifted his left hand to silence him. The gap in his fingers where his ring finger should have been caught the apprentice's attention.
Since coming to power, Altaïr had put an end to the removal of the assassin's ring fingers. Khalil supposed he could thank the artifact for that. It was how he had come up with a way to modify the hidden blade to not require such a sacrifice.
"I'm glad you sought out Malik for training when I was unavailable." It was a veiled praise, but it made Khalil's skin tingle none the less. "But..." he lifted the cool metal ball in his right hand, his golden gaze boring into Khalil with such a serious look it made the apprentice shift. "This is not junk. This is an ancient artifact with unimaginable power and knowledge."
Khalil opened his mouth to interrupt and defend himself, but Altaïr held up a finger to silence him. "I'm not finished." The raven haired assassin clamped his mouth shut and avoided the mentor's gaze. "I understand your frustration. I know I don't have a lot of time to train you properly, but as the leader of this brotherhood I have to think of everyone else as well."
"Locking myself away, as you put it, is not a way to ignore my duties. By studying the artifact, I can further advance the tools and abilities of our brothers." He tilted his head a bit to the side as he stared at his apprentice. Silent until Khalil met his eyes again. "But I suppose you do have a point. I should be making more time for you. Your training is important as well."
Khalil brightened. He watched as Altaïr rose from his desk, standing tall before him. The mentor moved towards the door, waving his apprentice forward to follow. "We can start now, if you'd prefer."
Khalil followed without hesitation as his mentor lead him out of the castle towards the training ring outside.
"I should probably test your combat abilities to judge where you stand." The older assassin opened the gate to the ring. Letting his apprentice through first before following. Closing the gate behind him and crossing his arms over his chest. Staring at Khalil with a piercing gaze.
"Try to pin me. If you can't, then I can show you a way to overpower enemies larger than yourself." He smirked. A rare sight. It made Khalil gasp silently. The beauty of that sudden smile catching him off guard.
He didn't see Altaïr move. He hadn't felt the attack until it was too late. His legs were knocked out from under him and he hit the dusty ground hard. Winded for a moment, with Altaïr pinning him. The assassin was staring down at him through narrowed eyes. A knowing hint within them.
"I'm out here to train you, Khalil. Not to stand there and let you gawk at me." Was that amusement in his voice? "Concentrate."
Khalil apologized, getting to his feet when his mentor released him. This time, he was ready.
The sun was sinking.
Altaïr and Khalil were out in the ring still. The apprentice had come close to pinning his mentor more than once. Altaïr, however, was fast. And by no means had he weakened through the years.
For the hundredth time, Khalil found himself flat on his back against the ground. Altaïr looming over him like a proud cat. He was panting. The sun illuminating him perfectly to derail Khalil's train of thoughts immediately.
He heard a snort, thick with amusement, above him. He felt heat rise in his cheeks. He'd been caught staring again. He felt hot with embarrassment, avoiding eye contact now.
As Altaïr moved to stand, Khalil reached out. Grabbing hold of his mentor's robes to stop him. He felt Altaïr freeze, his body tensing. Khalil knew Altaïr was giving him a warning look. Though he didn't see it, he felt his golden gaze searing his skin.
"Khalil," Altaïr's voice was thick with warning. "What are you doing." It wasn't a question. But the young assassin answered him anyways. Blue eyes flicked up to meet his mentor's.
"I.." His words died in his throat. Feelings taking over as his body seemed to move before his mind. He let go of Altaïr's robes, reaching up to wrap both his arms around the unmoving Altaïr's neck.
Moving closer, he pressed his lips to Altaïr's scarred ones. It wasn't until he felt his mentor move that he realized what he'd done. Though to his delight, and full on surprise, the older assassin didn't move away. He simply readjusted himself to be more comfortable.
He was kissing Khalil back, surprisingly gentle.
The kiss lasted all of a few drawn out seconds before Altaïr pulled away. Breaking the kiss altogether.
"What were you thinking?" His voice was sharp. Great. A lecture. "You can't be kissing me out here."
Khalil was about to protest before he realized Altaïr was giving him a teasing look. The Mentor climbed off of him, getting to his feet and holding out a hand to help him up.
"You come find me in my private quarters for that."
The smirk Khalil received with those softly spoken words made him feel hot with embarrassment all over again. He took hold of the offered hand, letting Altaïr help him up off the ground.
Khalil followed his mentor back out of the combat ring and back up towards the castle. "You're not gonna start shutting yourself away again, are you?" The question was quiet, but Altaïr's sharp ears caught it anyways. He turned a sly look towards him.
"Even if I did, you're always welcome to drop by and interrupt."
Okay.. maybe the artifact wasn't so bad after all...