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Eagle in the Supermarket

Chapter Text

The sun shines, but Altaïr doesn’t feel warm.

He stands in the doorway allowing the sweltering breath of a breeze from the street into the air-conditioned storeroom.

As a city-bred child, Altaïr hates everything about the city. Regardless of season, it sounds and smells same. Filthy, trash-filled streets, car exhaust, the shuffling of a myriad feet on pavements, the screech of old brakes on nearby cars. Worse yet, he hates everything about his life, and many a thing about himself.

The summer day is smothered in the stale air of the city as Altaïr nips out to delve into the new delivery―two chimneys of empty carton boxes and a throng of flower-laden baskets. They shouldn't be left out in the sun for longer than necessary, so he opts for them first and begins lugging them off into the storeroom. The first basket he picks up is brimming with roses of all colors, most of which are still contracted into flowery buds.

Their scent overwhelms his senses and for a split second an inane thought crosses his mind.

If he were a budding rose, life probably wouldn't look as dreary as it looks to him now. Sure, the petals are drawn tightly around their faces, their vision severely restricted to nothing more than a little speck, but their leaves will soften to the warm sun and open up to expand into an exciting world. Altaïr's own, on the other hand, will remain dull, will not stretch outward.

"Ey, Eagle!"

Forth into the sunny day is thrust the face of Ezio.

Altaïr grunts out in wordless inquiry and Ezio slaps him jovially on the shoulder. The mischievous, garrulous, and oversexed Ezio. A gregarious adolescent who wears his sexual appetite on his sleeve and breaks hearts for hobby. God help him, but Ezio is about the closest friend he's got.

"Boss says you should unload them straight to the flower-shop, then help me out on the checkout," he garbles out, on his way of departure before properly finishing the sentence.

Altaïr nods to no one and proceeds with the task assigned to him. Sometimes he’s the cashier, sometimes he’s a flunky. And today he's both.

He crams the flower baskets onto a cart, but upon entry into the customers area of the supermarket he is jolted into a startled smile by the presence of his boss. She scowls at him and flings her jewelry-laden hand into a gesture of reproach, an exacting boss who demands smiles with more fervor than she demands work. He doesn't drop the smile as much as he lets it melt into a sour expression the moment she falls from his sight.

Altaïr drives the cart between customers that mill around in search for goods and produce, floats toward the small flower-shop like he floats from job to job.

Altaïr has long fixed his seat in mediocrity, a life of mindless routine, a life of just another brick in the wall. Having given up an academic career for a life of obscure toil, he feels that hours of his adolescent life have been lost in vain, and it's futile to believe he will ever recover them. His world is simply cheerless, his life a boring pattern which repeats itself every fucking day. Work. Eat. Shower. Sleep. Work.

Altaïr doesn't want to be a paper-pusher or a cashier his entire life.

Why should he toil and moil without getting a single thing done? He is not prone to despair, but he feels like he hasn't accomplished anything―anything except just getting along. He wishes to move out with his mother from their current flat; it's not a slum, but it's one of those mediocre neighborhoods where mediocre people live mediocre lives.

The colleague at the flower-shop greets him with a smile before he begins unloading the delivery. Altaïr offers a watery smile in lieu. This store seems to be all smiles.

After he weighs out two pounds of onions for an old lady on his way to the front-end of the supermarket, he fixes his lurid-green uniform and settles into the cash register next to Ezio's.

"What’s up with you, bird trouble?" Ezio asks between two customers.

"Nothing." Altaïr evades what will surely turn into a barrage of questions if he doesn't put a stop to it right away.

"Cheer up, will you? You're a total chick-repellent."

Ezio turns to seize him up from head to toe and Altaïr tries to deter his scrutiny with a scowl. That gaze tells him all he needs to know about the subject Ezio is about to broach.

"You’re getting skinny."

It isn't true. Ezio says this to spite him or to ensnare him into a chitchat he appears to be desperate for.

"And you seem to be packing on pounds in preparation for winter hibernation." Altaïr opens fire in retaliation. Ezio huffs out and settles back into his rolling chair with an unnecessary flourish after snatching a pack of cigarettes that hover on the stand over his head. He dumps the subject though.

Altaïr has secretly been taking weight-gain pills for the past two weeks without Ezio's notice. He makes sure to swallow them when wandering eyes can't catch him, keeps the tiny bottle brimming with pills within the depths of his pocket.

Handsomely slender is how his mother describes him, no doubt to try and boost his ego, but Altaïr doesn't want to be slender, he wants muscle. Scrawny is the word that unwillingly comes to his own mind: scrawny as a hen. Altaïr has a trim waist and a lean chest twinks would die for, but he isn't overly defined or overrun with muscle―he is lanky and trying to put on some weight because he needs some more substance, or so he keeps telling himself.

His pondering wanders to other realms too, like shaving―whether he should do it or not, where and how much―but his simple worries have turned too much body-centered before he even realized when that had happened. There's a point where questions about self-image have gone too far and asking yourself whether your ass-crack is too dark is definitely well past that point.

"Hey, Ezio?" He calls.

"Hm?"

"I'm having a date tomorrow."

Ezio swirls over in his chair to grin at him, and it's not like Altaïr hasn't expected that.

"Really? Where did you find him, Eagle?"

"Partnership announcement."

Ezio's visage scrunches up into something instantly revolted.

"People still use newspapers for that shit?" He asks a question Altaïr doesn't have time to answer, "You think that's safe, Altaïr? Have you even seen the guy?" Ezio turns to a fuming customer to resume what he's paid to do and Altaïr finds it easier to talk to him without eye-contact.

"He sounded cultivated on the phone. And cultured." Altaïr insists on defending a total stranger, like 'cultured' meant something of importance to him, "'Well-educated gentleman, well-positioned, athletically-built, non-smoker, Capricorn'―" He quotes on until Ezio butts in.

"Bullshit. Stinkin' bullshit." He lowers his voice, then turns to lean in across his register doorlet when Altaïr's customer line clears off, "How old is he, Altaïr?"

Altaïr hesitates with the answer, but he won't dodge the truth because Ezio is not his mother and it's not his place to chastise him.

"Thirty-five."

Ezio's jaw literally plummets off and Altaïr switches his gaze to avoid getting infected by his disbelief. Ezio retreats to his territory with no utterance offered after things start to get too rowdy on his side of checkout and people grow restless.

"You're nuts. He's probably some married creep looking for a quick affair. He just wants to get into your pants." Ezio throws in his two cents at last, because he is the kind of man who can't keep his thoughts to himself.

What Ezio doesn’t know is that at this point Altaïr is so desperate for sex he’d pay for it. If he had excess money.

Sometimes all you really want is some cock.

It’s been over two years since he had even a hint of sex. Two unfortunate things get him through just enough to not keel over from sexual deprivation, those being his hand and a sad little vibrator colored in a hideous garish yellow, small enough to wrap in a sock and hide from his poor mother. He doesn’t masturbate more than three times a week, as a rule. To remind himself less of what he doesn’t have.

There's only one man who visits him late at night. The dark knight of the soul, where you wake up at 3 o'clock and nobody loves you and you feel such a wonderful self-pity during this to and fro in the strange and solitary anguish of your life.

The truth is, he doesn’t really know what he wants in life. Were his life preferences only so clearly-defined as his sexual preferences… well, both would probably be equally unattainable.

He had tried hooking up with guys closer to his age, but it always results in the same outcome: bouts of meaningless cuddle after uncomfortable wringing of hands in the wake of utterly disappointing sex. He doesn’t need coddling in bed. Life is too short for shitty sex and bad relationships. Altaïr just needs good, hard fucking. That is what he hungers for, and then also he hungers for something else. He wants rough sex and gentle love. Either of those two would be nice. Combined, they would be just about ideal, but this sounds too far-fetched even to him, like a thing plucked from some third-rate romance novel they sell near the toilet paper racks.

Upon one drunken occasion he had told Ezio he is into older men and Ezio had laughed at him, advised him to seek professional help. Altaïr had shrugged it off. He has never listened, never wanted to.

Even if he had money to spend on a psychologist, why should he?

So he can be told that he had lacked a strong fatherly figure in his life and consequently developed a daddy kink? This he knew on his own.

Altaïr doesn’t have trouble accepting himself the way he is, he has trouble actually finding a daddy. Not an old creep, but a mature man older than him who would give it to him so good that he sheds tears of pleasure at the end of the day.

The checkouts grow vacant and they take up perusing random magazines during this moment of tedium. Altaïr arbitrarily lands upon a page featuring proverbs of the week and the adage printed across the page top makes his face darken with a scowl. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness is the newest gemstone that's being shoved down readers’ throats. What a strangely inaccurate thought. Altaïr's fire is a light gloomier than the darkest black. And he doesn’t have a candle at any rate.

"Eagle?"

Altaïr hums out a pensive sound in response.

"What's C-4?"

"Some explosive, I think."

"It says here 'entire bus-station destroyed by C-4'." Ezio whistles, "Cazzo, that must have been some ugly explosion―"

"And just what are the two of you doing?" Their boss seems to materialize from thin air to make them drop the magazines and scramble back up to proper stance. She turns her exclusive focus to Altaïr who remembers to let his eyes fall to floor far too late.

"Haven't I told you to remove those creepy lenses?" The grating high-pitch of her voice makes Altaïr's stomach turn. And his lenses are not creepy, the amber makes him look exotique when coupled with his shade of skin, hence his nickname.

"Tattoos, piercings and all those modern flings: outside my market! And put a damn smile on your face. I want smiles!"

Altaïr's work-smile looks like a ghastly manufacturing mistake.

Their smiles remain frozen until their mouths grow numb, until she is on a distance safe enough that they may drop this pretense.

"Fuck her. I don't give a shit," Altaïr utters profanities under his breath, watches a new onslaught of customers advance towards them, "My ambitions don't include staying at this place for the rest of my life."

From the neighboring cash register where Altaïr expects a retort of confirmation comes an audible intake of breath instead.

"Altaïr," Ezio breathes out in a whisper, "Look over there, that's my new neighbor."

Altaïr leans off to follow the trail of Ezio's gaze but ultimately fails. "Where?"

"There, the blond in the white shirt," Ezio nicks toward the man's general direction, ruffled up like a cockerel, "He's moved in across the street last month. We exchange greetings sometimes―he's Italian, too."

Altaïr's first mishap is missing how Ezio sank a canine into the flesh of his lower lip, the way he always does when morphing into a predator. His second mishap is locking eyes with the man, this neighbor of Ezio's.

It's a spruce man in his late twenties, a slender, graceful man with an attractive Van Dyke matching his fair hair.

"He's handsome..." Altaïr admits, failing to notice the smirk of pride that crosses Ezio's face like he owns the man. He can't restrain a thrill of admiration at the man's clean and well-cared-for appearance, a quality almost extinct in population Altaïr encounters these days.

The man smiles at Altaïr's close scrutiny―a man who could drive beasts and assholes to a smile―and Altaïr tries to muster up the most appropriate response. He lifts his mouth into what he hopes looks like a charming smile, an expression that lights up his features before he even considers the outcome of his bold attempt to secure himself a potential lover.

Altaïr's third mishap is failing to see as Ezio starts to flick his gaze between the two of them as it dawns on him that Leonardo is looking at Altaïr.

"Leonardo! Mio amico?" Ezio startles Altaïr from this reverie with his insistent barks for attention. Ezio is moving out, stepping over the line to lure the prey into his own territory.

Altaïr watches with a harrowing scowl wrought with disappointment and pain as Ezio unblushingly steals the man away under his nose. Ezio, whose fancy for men kicks in once in a blue moon. Ezio, who also has a tendency to move to conquest after conquest. Ezio, who would rather turn this man into just another notch on his belt instead of letting Altaïr try his hand at seducing a decent-looking man into a stable relationship.

Leonardo turns to Ezio's register with a conceding smile.

Of course he would.

Between him and Ezio, anyone would opt for the Italian who draws in men and women alike, as opposed to Altaïr who is brooding and moody.

"Mio Dio, what a pleasant surprise to meet you here, Leo," Ezio begins to pepper his speech with more Italian than Altaïr is used to and it makes him sick to listen to their exchange.

"I work here nearby," Leonardo explains without revealing the details.

"Well, that makes the two of us then, no?" Ezio chuckles his throaty chuckle and Altaïr skims a gaze at him to watch the saccharine smile on his wetted lips, to see the way he has managed to button off his working shirt, the gleam in his eye as he leans forward while Leonardo writes his signature across the credit-card slip.

"You don't have to write your full name. Just your phone number."

Leonardo gives a soft chuckle in response to this bold bravado, but adds his number across the back of wispy paper.

Altaïr sits stooped in his chair, gives a dainty sigh while he listens to Ezio flirt with Leonardo, tired of a conversation in which he has no share. Ezio has clearly outrun him in this chase before he even managed to recognize it as a hunt of two predators. He forfeits the victory to Ezio and falls into the tedium of scanning bar-codes and issuing receipts. Until behind him there is a crash of a fallen stall burdened with chewing gum and lighters that rests in-between their cash registers and Altaïr bolts out to rectify this accident without waiting for assistance that doesn't come his way in any case.

Ezio leans across the check-lane belt to watch him straighten the stall and decides to introduce Leonardo to Altaïr during his predicament, while he is kneeling before the man and trying to gather up the strewn items into some semblance as a throng of edgy people waits at his lane.

Altaïr nods bitterly and lifts his free hand into the handshake he couples with another smile as a clumsy effort to appear colorful and vivacious and good-humored. Altaïr's eyes don't fall to their joined hands but he dissects this physical contact without putting his impulse to a halt.

Leonardo's handshake is not flabby per se, but it lacks convincing power, it's too soft for Altaïr's tastes which revel in male strength.

Ezio shamelessly breaks their hold and chatters on as if nothing had happened.

"So I was thinking that it would be a great idea if we could return home together after work, until you assimilate to your new neighborhood, what do you say?"

"With pleasure, Ezio. I'm here with my car, we can ride back together." Leonardo beams in good cheer, and perhaps a hint of dally.

"But we're partners only temporarily, Leo," and the timbre of Ezio's tone assumes that hushed nuance he flirts with, "don't even try to be smitten by me, or I'll offer a resistance veeery meek."

Altaïr doesn't watch them anymore at this point, but he can't avoid the chuckles and the flirt and the attraction that sparks between the two Italians. Maybe it's for the better. Leonardo is a mite too sentimental for Altaïr's tastes. He is brave enough to keep his heart pinned on his sleeve for all to see, something much more suited to Ezio's preferences. 

"It's settled then. I'll leave earlier and Altaïr here will close my till, will you not, amico mio?"

Altaïr nods to himself curtly and fixes a plaster smile to his face, continues serving his customers.

 

 


 

 

Altaïr furtively rummages through his pocket and uncaps the bottle before bringing a pill to his lips for a dry swallow.

It's nearing ten o'clock, the windup of yet another dreadful working day, and a handful of staff still linger.

The pill is not yet past his throat when Ezio bursts into his field of vision, a touch of swagger in his step as he passes Altaïr's checkout and ruffles fleetingly through his hair in stead of offering parting words or a simple thank you. Altaïr rises to his feet, hopeful when he calls after him:

"Ezio, don't forget you'll return the favor when I go out on that date tomorrow, right?"

Ezio turns on his heel, an expression across his face Altaïr can't quite decipher.

"Eaglet, today is today, and tomorrow is another day," he waves off and slips into the night.

Altaïr lets himself fall back into the chair, glaring pointlessly at the spot where Ezio last stood. What an arrogant bastard he's turned into for no reason. It isn't his fault Leonardo looked at him first.

It's almost eerie how a place that has been filled to overflowing with life and has itched and squirmed with energy now looks like a ghost town during late hour. The silence is almost terrifying.

Even more terrifying is the surprise when Altaïr turns to find a boy of no more than twelve years standing across him, behind the blurry plexiglass of his barrier from customers, with some roses in hand.

These flowers he puts onto the check-lane belt and then there is a wet patch that spreads because they have been freshly plucked from the water buckets standing in front of the flower-shop, with the plastic wraps used for packing flowers locked off inside the closed shop.

The child puts its hand across the counter and opens the fist to let a handful of coins spill forth along with the paper money, the exact amount required to cover the cost of roses.

The pair of bright-blue eyes stare up at Altaïr in a quiet expectation, his skin a few hues darker than Altaïr's. He is adorable and chaste to a fault. What a child is even doing out at this hour is beyond Altaïr's grasp.

"We're closed. The checkouts are shut down."

The child blinks, melts its expression into an imploring look before nudging the roses over toward Altaïr.

"Didn't you hear, kid? We're closed. Come tomorrow to buy flowers."

"But my big brother's birthday is tomorrow and I always make him a cake with roses on top, I can't buy them tomorrow―"

Altaïr cuts him off with a blend of groan-and-moan, and when he snatches the bouquet with an angry hand he accidentally sweeps the money from the lane belt and copper pennies rain upon the floor inside Altaïr’s booth, roll off under the heavy counters. The tinny dance of coins across tiles follows Altaïr as he trudges off to fling the roses back into the wet bucket they came from.

"For heaven’s sake, kid, what are you waiting for?" he repeats when he returns and the child is still there, puts a tremendous effort into keeping his mask up as his gut knots up, "Can't you see we're closed?"

Altaïr doesn't know how much longer the kid keeps staring at him because he turns to packing up his meager belongings, but when he glances sideways he sees the child collecting the few pennies that haven’t fallen victim to Altaïr’s surge of frustration with the most crestfallen expression Altaïr has ever had a displeasure to witness, and then he shuffles off toward the slide-doors in small steps and reluctantly walks off across the extensive ground of parking-lots spread out before the supermarket.

Altaïr falls into the chair, immediately regretting what he's just done.

He sets his elbows upon the soaking belt lane and sinks into the cradle of his palms to feel like less of a disease on society.

Chapter Text

"What's got your boxers in a twist, Eaglet? Has your daddy called the date off?"

Thus starts another obscure workday of early July behind a cash register.

"I think I'm quitting our friendship. You can shove it up your ass," says Altaïr and, for a man used to getting at least eight hours of sleep (more if he could help it) who had managed merely a cumulative hour of restless dozing, he keeps his tone positively neutral.

"You're almost your darling self today, Eagle. I wonder why though?"

"Because you're a Machiavellian manipulator and an oversexed weaver of schemes."

Ezio gives an exaggerated shiver for a show.

"Careful with those edges, Eagle. You might cut yourself."

They continue on with work in quietude during the rush-hour of heavy traffic of customers until Altaïr is brimming with unspoken words and turning to fling another knife of accusation Ezio's way.

"Shame on you, Ezio, you're catching lovers with dirty tricks―Leonardo looked my way first, he came up to my checkout."

"Until he saw me, you mean. Sure, Altaïr, whatever helps you sleep at night." Ezio maintains with more vigor than is appropriate and Altaïr knows he's struck a sore nerve. Ezio doesn't tolerate not being the center of attention, nor settles for being the second choice.

"It helps me sleep to know you had to throw yourself at him so he wouldn't choose m―"

"Yeah, like I should set you up with my own neighbor―!"

"I'd leap from a tower into a fucking haystack for you, Ezio―!"

First there is a deafening crash of glass.

Then there is the blood-chilling pitch of screams of terrified people around them before the crowd begins to gush backwards into the bowels of the supermarket.

Altaïr twists his head to look before the rest of his body follows. He stops dead at the scene before them.

A man tall and broad-shouldered stands in-between two sliding doors holding a mighty-looking rifle, dressed in monotone black down to combat boots, the hood of his overall turned up, the rest of him concealed by a ski-mask. The place erupts into chaos as customers and workers alike elbow one another to jostle their way through checkouts and swarm across the facility. During this mad stampede to the fire exits a single gunshot rings out, pointed toward the optical sensor of the sliding doors, sealing the masked man within the small hallway separating the doors. He holsters the smaller gun and turns to break the closed glass doors with the butt of his rifle.

Altaïr drops to take cover in his booth just as the man makes a beeline for the checkouts and swings himself onto the lane belt next to Ezio's and aims the barrel high before sending a barrage of thundering bullets across the supermarket.

"Customers out, staff remains!" His deep, accented voice booms through the deafening silence that settles after.

It becomes apparent what the man means when people find the exits blocked off.

A couple of wary civilians edge forward, toward the entrance where the man awaits with lowered rifle, and he admits them outdoors. Seeing the gate opened, the crowd presses forward and he lets them pass through the break of glass. The first and only time he intervenes is to grab a daring boy in his green uniform by his neck and thrust him back at the checkouts with little care. He points to the fallen boy as the last of customers slip alfresco and hollers:

"I want every. Fucking. Staff member. Right here!"

No one has the guts to follow the order until another hail of bullets sends the women into panicked screeching and only then do they begin to cluster behind the checkouts, and the males are pressed to follow.

All this Altaïr observes from the cover of his booth, bereft of breath.

He watches as this angry-and-deadly man pursues a zigzag course across the clear expanse behind the checkpoints, looking into every nook and cranny in search for cowering staff members, heaping them all together in the middle and ordering them into kneeling. He plods between the shelves as his gaze roves around, combing the market for residual people.

"Robbery!" Shrieks the familiar voice of their boss as the man emerges with her and two whimpering girls at his front and steers them with pointed rifle into the clump of workers where a woman is already openly sobbing.

He thrusts the muzzle into the boss' face to cut off her cries of accusation.

"This is no robbery, " he growls livid, "I'm not a fucking thief!"

The whole room kneels suddenly silent, stuck in a medley of frozen paralysis and wide eyes, completely gobsmacked at the crime that appears to have no motive.

They are fucking going to die in here. Altaïr thinks fleetingly back to his lonely mother as he sidles to the cash-register in the hope that he won't be discovered when he sees the man launch a last investigation. He hears a quick military step, the boots that splatter across spilled drinks on tiles and the crunch of scattered shards of glass and other debris under his soles as the man draws nearer, and in short, Altaïr is afraid.

He's too young for the day of reckoning.

Altaïr tilts his head up and upon him is the masked face of his nemesis. The man gives a severe stare before he hauls him out roughly and hurls him toward the huddled group of his colleagues. Altaïr has scarcely made it to their vicinity when the girls break into shrill shrieks little before something cuffs Altaïr right across the back. He twists to look at the package of saran wrap tossed at him, the spot sore where the vicious hit had landed, and then stares up at him in puzzlement.

"What are you gawking at? Wrap them up." The man orders and takes to replenishing his ammo.

Altaïr nods once, embarks on this task, and begins to literally wrap the circle of staff up into a tight-and-crammed ring. He girdles round-and-round until nothing is left of the wrap. While he works in silence the man begins to shout his grievances, blazing with a chilling fury:

"Is this why I spilled blood for this country, is this the justice I fought for?"

He sends a massive stand to ground before them and the entire caboodle scatters across the tiles with a thunderous crash, drives a couple of girls into repeated shrieks.

"Have I fought for this, so that you could bully my little brother into tears!?"

Altaïr blanches at the words in sudden terror.

The man cracks another stall into the floor and sends the goods flying across tiles.

"That he should change three buses to come to this shithole, only to be abused by your staff, his money taken from him. Is this the justice I fought for, hm!?"

Altaïr feels uncomfortably conspicuous, clutches stiffly at the naked roll of saran wrap and hides his head like an ostrich while the man circles them in silent ferocity, each step tears further at Altaïr's heart.

He has single-handedly caused this.

He had harassed this man's sibling last night without reflecting on possible ramifications of his rash act. He glues his gaze to the floor in mortification, blends his face into a façade stitched together with sheer will, to avoid drawing attention to his shaken mien.

"Mister?" calls his boss from behind, wriggles her hand out from the tight grasp of wrap Altaïr had tied them in to draw the man's attention, "Mister, just point at the one who did that and they will be fired immediately―"

"I don't know who did. That's what you'll tell me! That's why I'm here."

The man slips his hood back and tears his mask haphazardly off and―

oh.

Altaïr feels the bones of his jaw turn into proverbial goo and his mouth grows slack.

There's nothing not fascinating on this man's face. Dark skin, dark eyes, dark hair. A well-groomed beauty of a man, much older than Altaïr, his skin a darker shade revealing his heritage, his lips shapely and full, his small goatee a true eye-catcher, his thick hair darker than blackest coal. His jaw is hard and the summit of his nose assumes a subtle crook which makes his appearance all the more arresting, crafts a ruggedly-handsome image that makes him an ideal of masculinity Altaïr has seen nowhere but in women magazines and on porn blogs he frequents.

He would let this man own his ass.

The man runs his hand through his hair in vain attempt to tame the chaos, his hair messy, the woke-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-pillow messy, or just-took-off-my-burglar-mask messy, and Altaïr feels himself growing a little hot under the collar.

The long muzzle lifts to point at sitting bodies.

"I've got all time in the world. We'll stay here all day if necessary until someone recognizes the culprit."

The man lets his eyes roam over the group in silent expectation before he puts his gaze to a rest on Altaïr.

Funny. How a simple stare could stop Altaïr from doing something as natural as breathing. When his lungs begin to burn from withdrawal, he remembers to inhale and exhale through his nose, brings the berserk rhythm of his heart to a respite.

Then his heart revives the wild drum as he catches a movement behind the man's back.

It's their butcher from the meat retail, a middle-aged guy who has just recently cropped up from the cold storage room and started slinking bit by bit up toward the man's back. Altaïr's eyes grow wide and his mouth goes dry and his heart resumes jack-hammering in his chest. Altaïr settles his agitated and silent gaze on the handsome man and they swap looks. Altaïr shifts his wide eyes toward the butcher behind, a gesture devoid of reason, an attempt to draw the man's attention to the presence creeping up behind his back with a fat butcher knife in hand.

The man asks Altaïr's business by a single lift of an eyebrow.

Altaïr knows if he doesn't alert him to the presence of his colleague the man might not notice it in time, distracted as he is. Altaïr can't speak with the bunch of his colleagues right behind his back. He is stiff with alarm when he widens his gaze further and subtly nicks his chin toward the sneaky butcher drawing nearer, now steps away from them.

The man decides to open up a little and scowls at him, nicks back in silent question.

Altaïr mouths a silent 'behind you' and the man is riled into action in the fraction of a second, quicker than anyone can follow.

The knife falls heavily to the floor and the butcher drops with a grunt, the blow to the head he receives thrusts him backward into an ungraceful sprawl. The man slings his rifle onto his shoulder and kicks the butcher, delivers another blow to his stomach before he curls up and wraps himself in pained groans. The man lifts him off floor and snarls into his face:

"I've killed men for less than that."

The women behind Altaïr gasp and whimper when their colleague falls to ground strewn with thick pieces of broken glass and struggles onward toward the only exit, driven by the rifle leveled at the back of his skull. The man crawls through the sliding doors and flees, and a number of younger girls resume their quailing spurred on by this unfair grant of freedom.

"It's those modern movies and games to blame for all this violence, they drive people to killing―" Their boss moans before she can stop herself and whispers start to circulate, to pass from mouth to mouth, in a murmur which erratically changes its tone, first incredulous then alarmed, but the bound group only looks around, mutually encouraging one another to do nothing.

The man slings his weapon upon shoulder again, closes in on them.

"I'm no history expert, lady, but I'm sure no one got murdered before the TV was invented."

Oh, the sass of this man. A stifled chuckle leaves Altaïr's nose before he can rectify it, and Ezio sitting wrapped little to his left fixes him with a stare. Altaïr colors his face in a paint of blank and looks up at the man again.

They exchange a lengthy look.

After a long moment, the man appears to give up on finding an appropriate response to Altaïr's former gesture and acquiesces with a single dip of his head. Altaïr feels something warm and viscous branch out to the tips of his body and lets his eyes fall to ground to evade a risky smile.

"Go find me a tank top, boy. I'll be at the storerooms," he orders and marches off after the promise of threats he leaves behind. No one of the wrapped up group dares to flinch, and Altaïr knows no one will even dare to budge during their absence.

 Altaïr sprints off into the underwear section to pick up a sleeveless cotton singlet, opts for a white one with a size approximate to the man's body type, though this remains a somewhat intricate business, taking into account the uncompromising sturdiness of the overall that's too stingy to reveal the man's shape. Altaïr hopes he's made the right choice as he livens his pace on way to the storerooms, rips the plastic protection off on mid-way and lets it fall in heap with other goods left scattered across the expanse of floors where customers had dropped off their baggage in panic.

The sound of a fridge being shut tips off the man's approximate location to him, he holds the clothing item in hand, exits this walkway flanked by shelves, veers left to give him the desired clothes and―

oh mama.

The man pulls his collar up with one hand and pulls his zipper down with the other one where he is clutching a bottle of water layered in condensation. The overall he shrugs off in an efficient pull and lets it shed from his body and shirr slowly onto his hips.

Altaïr shuffles off behind the shelf to watch the man unseen, stands completely in awe of him.

He peels off his equally black tank top drenched in sweat and casts it aside, uncaps the bottle to have a drink, and the sight of him is jaw-dropping. The long black pants of his overall hang low on his hips showing off the pronounced V-shape that makes women and men alike swoon. Below, he only has boxers on. The overall didn't do him justice, its misshapen robustness and the baggage of his supplies didn't hint at what lay beneath.

He stands there, the man a God's gift to all women (and some men) on this earth.

Altaïr gorges himself on the statuesque body, on the man's sculpted form developed through diligent exercise, doesn't hide a single swell of muscle or dip or curve from his wandering eyes. He watches a moving and breathing fantasy decanted into reality, the epitome of a legendary Greek god, with a mouth-watering nuance of bronze and body hair added. The man doesn't see him looking, but that toned and husky torso begs to be ogled, and Altaïr takes everything in, the bulk of his abs ridged out against the ladder of ribs and the trimmed waist expanding into the plummeting cut, all stippled in a covering of thick hairs from below the notch of his collar down the groove between the rounded planes of his pecs and down to his navel, and lower. A sheen of cooling sweat veils him like a coating of finest oil.

Heavens, the beauty of this man is painful.

His torso is a work of art, a paragon of masculine beauty Altaïr pines for.

The man could probably charge for a close-up of his body.

He brings the bottle-neck to his lips and starts drowning the water, drinks in long, greedy swallows, and Altaïr catches himself watching his throat in fascination, follows his Adam's apple move as he quaffs half the drink down, then lets off with an exhale and lifts the bottle above his head, tips it over.

This movement rips Altaïr from his trance-like state and he zeroes in on the sight of the man pouring residual water over himself, over his untamed hair and down his face, sends rivulets of icy liquid down the expanse of his chest. A trail of water catches onto his nipple and drops off to the floor in a slow, dying trickle and Altaïr feels like latching onto that pec like the gayest little lamprey.

The man shifts, tosses the bottle aside, and reveals the entirety of his left flank to Altaïr.

An elaborate tattoo covers him from shoulder to wrist.

It expands across the straining muscles of his left arm, doesn't descend from shoulder down but climbs from his wrist up. A memento mori, a shaded skull with bones sloping into a dark scowl resembling that of its bearer and hosting a leery predator of rare beauty with jagged talons griping at the bones, a towering owl with piercing coals for eyes, crowned by a laurel of crimson roses that look as if they have only now burst forth from tight buds into blossoms.

Altaïr is absolutely and entirely and completely besotted with this man.

He could watch him until his brain melted from his ears.

Indeed, he could watch a whole five seconds before the buttons of his work-trousers gave way under the weight of his erection. A pool of saliva collects beneath Altaïr’s tongue while he stands mired and slack-jawed. He begins to feel the expanding edge of unsteady vertigo, and all blood in his body seems to be magnetically drawn to his cock. The man takes his ogle in sublime ignorance, and Altaïr licks his lips and swallows the extra build-up of saliva, lets his hand drop down to cup his crotch and he feels the swell of his hardness, doused in lust to the point of busting a ball. He is so painfully and ridiculously horny that he could probably fuck a frozen tundra right now.

Altaïr would hand his ass over to this man on a silver platter with no qualms. He would die. He would die the death to get this man into his bed and into his pants.

He steps out from behind his cover to chance another look at the man, hopes the gleam of his gaze won't fall upon Altaïr's growing secret and reveal his sorry state of mind and pathetic state of body. His quiet steps draw the man's attention to his approaching, and he slows down, until the musty scent of a man plummets down on him and he swallows anew, and thrusts his hand out to deliver the tank top.

He looks into the man's face, not precisely a look of fear, yet full of awe and smothered lust while the man slips the new clothing on and smooths it out across his chest. Oh, to be those fingers...

Altaïr is snapped from his perverse musings by a question.

"Am I jumping the gun or are you having a stiffy, boy?"

Shit.

Goddamn. Fucking. Stinking. Shit.

Altaïr breathes in-and-out through his nose in quick-but-silent spurts, plainly caught with his hand in the cookie jar. His own crotch feels to him like a distant territory he really doesn't want to look upon right now as the man mocks him with the most condescending and insulting of smirks.

"What, thought I wouldn’t notice your dick is about to split your trousers? Stop acting like a young buck, boy."

Altaïr is torn between a blaze of wounded pride and a smoldering desire. He once thought he could be sufficiently happy with the mediocre in men, and it's only been self-delusion before. The man standing before him is a living god. Altaïr now won’t rest until he gets his greedy hands on this hard body and seduces this man into his bed.

He opens his mouth to offer something witty in retort, but a blast of sirens soars from the parking lot and they turn in unison to follow the direction of a blaring megaphone:

"This is the police. You are completely surrounded. Put down your weapon and leave the building with hands in air."

Chapter Text

Altaïr is ordered to return to his colleagues, but he lingers long enough to see the man zip his overall up and scurry off into a small toy store nestled within the lineup of small specialized stores at the setback of the supermarket.

Altaïr leaves him to his own devices and tears off down the walkways fringed by shelves after a cold rush of anxious adrenaline calms his libido. He finds them where he had left them, tense and quiet, listening to the surge of sounds outside as their view is clipped off by the checkouts.

"Altaïr, I'm thirsty." The girl from the flower-shop begs earnestly and he nods, doesn't await approval from boss when he takes a bottle of water from the mini fridge at his former checkout and uncaps the bottle. He kneels down before her, Ezio to his left with the strangest expression of puzzlement on his face, and he's scarcely put the bottle to her lips and angled it for her convenience when the police announces itself once more:

"I repeat, you are completely surrounded. Put down your weapon and leave the building with hands in air."

Ezio's scowl uncoils to make space for bewilderment.

"That's Leonardo." He whispers to draw the attention of others and those who are physically able stare at him in rapt bemusement.

"Holy Christ, that's Leonardo's voice"

"you hooked up with a cop." Altaïr cuts in to ridicule and the flower-shop girl spits out a spray of water in abrupt laughterhe manages to draw it back just in time to prevent her from choking. The rest of girls, an occasional boy included, join in this laughter and poking of fun.

Ezio sits wrapped up, his gaze fallen to the floor in the most dismayed expression of betrayal Altaïr has ever seen on him and he feels a stab of pity for his friend's inadvertent choicesno one wants to be a holster humper.

Altaïr himself didn't peg Leonardo for a cop.

It's no secret that the police force is the least respected and most detested institution of this city.

Should you wish to alienate yourself from your peers and neighbors, the most brilliant solution you could procure is entering the police force. The police department that should be estranged from the scum of lot that holds reign over the country instead couples with this lowest of the low like a salacious prostitute to suckle on the welfare of the people. It's a public secret, this knowledge that heads of the state plot with police departments for personal deals and pacts while publicly posing as saints they are not and point the finger at criminals that do no exist to lay the blame off.

All this people know and stomach, deadened as they are in their mute suffering.

And while the military force still retains its independence, the police is steered by puppet strings pulled by those who hold power and position and by megalomaniacs who make people's disadvantages their advantage. To be a cop equals to be the enemy of the public, the adversary of common people, most notably within this city where the own son of the president had been appointed the head position of special forces. Such is the state of politics in this city.

To make friends with a cop is to make yourself a figure of fun.

The ramble of derisive sniggers chimes down in tone after the man keeping them captive propels forward, between the checkouts, with a cluster of flamboyant balloons, and stops in front of the sliding doors before slinking through the glass-break after a long perusal of the parking grounds.

Altaïr shoots up to give himself a wider viewpoint and to watch what will happen but stays behind the cover of a checkout.The police have roped off the area but a part of the parking lot is hemmed about by a small audience of curious civilians. Leonardo's third appeal rings out from the megaphone:

"Throw your weapons out and exit the building with hands in air, and everything will be alright."

Altaïr sees the gleam of an unsheathed knife before the man shouts back in retaliation.

"I can throw some bullets your way at best!"

He starts blowing up the balloons with the knife in quick succession and makes an ear-splitting opera of reverberating pops. "I didn't come here to surrender, dirty cops!"

Duped by the noise, the crowd takes cover where they stand, flattens to the ground, while cops fall back behind their vehicles. Leonardo is the first to rise as he hurries into a string of orders for a preemptive cessation of fire. He walks out a couple of steps, closer to the man's vision, his hands in air as he holds the megaphone and shouts back in his own voice:

"Here, we will surrender instead if you so wish! I'm a chief inspector, in plainclothes, benevolent and with a good will!"

"That's how I like you, meek and good-willing, dirty coppers." The man slurs with his rifle pointed toward Leonardo's immediate direction, with only the barest of himself exposed. Leonardo shrugs the insult off, very much used to the pet hate of masses.

"I wish to point out that you've found yourself in a very delicate situation." Leonardo takes up his megaphone, stands there halfway between the vehicles and the supermarket entrance as if unaware of the risk he exposes himself to with this fragile position.

The man edged against the sliding doors scowls at the blond but forfeits his aim as he somewhat lowers the muzzle. "Which one?"

"You have launched a terrorist attack on foreign territory."

There is a moment of awkward silence as the accused man inches away from the door and Altaïr watches his face darken with all colors of puzzlement that broadens the moment he sees Altaïr peeking at him from behind checkouts instead of waiting where he had been ordered. He sends Altaïr a hard stare, his eyes narrowed. Altaïr glares back as a matter of principle, but the man merely shrugs his shoulders, rolls them back, and looks out to Leonardo again.

"Last time I checked this wasn't a fucking embassy. Check your specs, cop"

"Hey." Altaïr calls.

The man turns to spare him a second look.

"He thinks you're a terrorist." He mouths at him and the man goes up in a blaze of fury.

"I'm not a fucking terrorist, you prejudiced fuck!"

Leonardo drops the megaphone, stunned into silence. When he turns to the police squad to yell, hardly a man is left unmoved by his tone that mirrors that of the armed man, "Who gave me this information about a terrorist attack!? Check your facts, for heaven's sake!"

"I'll blow this whole fucking place to pieces!" The faux terrorist yells at Leonardo's back, makes him swirl around to relocate his attentions.

"Please do not!" He implores, the tone of a man who takes his duty as a peace-maker to serious extents, "Why? What troubles you?!"

The man lowers his rifle to ground, ventures a step outside so that he can be seen in his entirety, by Leonardo and cops in cover, by the crowd of people girdled around the roped off area before the supermarket. When he speaks at last the underlying pain in his booming voice is carried forth between the people, frowned upon by the police, taken seriously by none but Leonardo, but appreciated most intensely by the gathered populace:

"Injustice troubles me!"

Behind, where the man doesn't see, Altaïr's expression plummets into a jarring pain. It's not often that he is reminded of his faults, but now that he discovered a purpose of different nature for himself during this entire escapade, he seldom remembers to hark back onto the event that gave rise to all this, to this destruction and demolition and involvement of police. He had inflicted grievous injury to this man he now desperately wants, and the injustice of this hurts as much as the injustice he himself had done.

"I'm the Keeper of Justice, and this is my Bureau!" He slinks away into the depths of the facility and leaves Leonardo to gawk at the entrance. The blond trudges off towards the vehicles despite the unrelenting judgmental eye of the citizens, feeling like a man that has accomplished nothing during this strange exchange except being forced to a step far beyond his predilections.

"Call for reinforcements." He orders.

 


 

 

 "Return to the rest." The man orders as he slips by, his voice domineering, his handsome face awry with burgeoning plots. Altaïr has no appetite for the rest of the group and follows along like some obedient dog. The man takes up a shopping basket from a rack and proceeds to pile up on the weirdest assortment of goods: glasses of all shapes and colors, cooking utensils, kitchen knives. Altaïr knows the man can see him from the corner of his eye, he's made it clear thus far that he will follow him around, but the man gives a sigh and keeps on filling up his basket in silence. They go on like this for a minute or two, looking a lot like two people gone shopping, were it not for the goods strewn across the floors.

They return to where Altaïr has first seen the man half-naked, and it feels like a déjà vu when the man puts the basket down and proceeds to unzip his overall once more, this time with back turned to Altaïr. He is kneeling in the wet patch of water he had spilled earlier and rummaging through an inner pouch while Altaïr loses himself in the divine display that is this man's back-muscles and rippling triceps.

"How come every time I drop my clothes you start flapping your jaw, boy?"

"I have a name, you know."

"And I’m kinda busy here, boy, so if you don’t want to get your head blown off…" he trails off.

Altaïr scowls, a look sooner dropped than gained as a grenadea real fucking hand grenadecasually floats into his vision. A wild instinct makes him recoil, but he chastens this itch for survival when he catches sight of the man's calm face. He surely wouldn't be chilling here, trying to fit the grenade into the most appropriate glass, if he didn't know what he was doing. Altaïr lets the impulse of fear seep out of his body with a noiseless exhale, watches the man try out another glass.

"It’s Eagle," he supplies at last, a renewed attempt to pick up the conversation.

The man pulls the grenade out and fixes him with a lifted eyebrow before settling on a slim wine glass at last and setting the grenade snugly inside it. Altaïr knows the man is not buying that shit.

"It’s Altaïr, actually. What’s yours?"

"What’s it to you?" The man asks, now turning his attentions to cooking utensils.

Everything. "Nothing."

"Malik." He offers laconically.

A king.

How exhilarating it feels to know the man's name.

Malik picks a wide spatula and slips the handle through the two door-grips of the storeroom flaps and rotates the spatula so that it may rest leveled across two handles without keeling over. Altaïr watches engrossed with this entire process, until Malik pulls at the safety pin of the grenade. Now, Altaïr is no expert in weaponry, but according to what cartoons had taught him at a young age, pulling that ring out is a big no-no. Nothing happens. Altaïr stares wide-eyed as Malik places the wine glass hosting the grenade onto the flat blade of the spatula with the greatest care, keeps his palm beneath this impromptu construction while he assures himself in its stability, then lifts himself off and slowly backs away, dragging Altaïr with him.

While Malik's hand rests firmly across his belly, his mind turns to absurd thoughts.

Once they retreat amid the long shelves, where the touch of Malik's hand most unfortunately goes missing, Altaïr dares his own hand to shoot up and stop the man in his tracks. He is granted a look, then a scowl that pressures him into an immediate response, and Altaïr knows this might end up in another rash act that will end bad, but his mouth just opens to utter what is the pinnacle of conversational subtlety ever to be spilled forth from his brain.

"Wanna fuck, Malik?" he hears himself say in the mindless surge of libido.

Then there is this uplift of harsh brows that appears to be Malik's specialty.

"Boy, I realize you’re bad at maths, but you probably noticed the age gap," he lets Altaïr's clutching hand fall from his forearm, "Come back when your nut-sack drops."

The ridicule settles within Altaïr's stomach like acid and he gives up all hope of getting on a friendly footing (he doesn't deserve) with this man. To show his ill reception of mockery, Altaïr snarls, his lips draw back to expose his pearly-white teeth as the rest of his face descends into a glare.

"If I wanted your spit in my mouth, I'd just kiss you." Malik teases on.

"Just kiss me as hard as you think you hate me, that ought to spice it up." Altaïr glares on as he encourages, unsure if the idea will truly stick in Malik's head, but shamefully hopeful. Malik looks like a man who wouldn't be enticed into sex even if Altaïr just dropped his clothes right there and then, and all these distasteful attempts at failed flirting begin to slowly tumble upon him, with the painful awareness that it's too late to backpedal now.

"You don’t wanna fuck? Just for the fun of it?" Altaïr pleads without pleading, without letting the piteous quality of begging enter his tone, "I'll give you a blowjob," he dots his disaster with a paint of lure for a good measure.

"Why would I want a boy to suck my dick?" Malik deadpans.

"For the same reason anyone would want their dick sucked."

The eye-lock between them is sparking with something less like attraction and more like enmity.

"You can get a bang, boy. On the head."

"When?"

"Soon, if you don't stop."

 


 

 

The massive vehicles that join the already parked ones don't differ much in their way of approach from the standard police car. But when Leonardo shifts his gaze from the supermarket entrance and toward his approaching colleagues, he is less and less pleased with what he sees.

He is downright displeased when the SWAT van spits out none other than a Borgia.

The man commences his strut towards the crime scene, with a pair of sunglasses matching his dark uniform and a no-nonsense attitude about him. Leonardo cuts off his track, riled up to the point of indignation.

"I didn't ask for special squads, I demanded simple reinforcements, Cesare. Why did you come?"

Cesare doesn't take his sunglasses off, but he holds long enough to dignify Leonardo with frankness. He lowers his voice, leans in, with features pulled up into an overbearing self-importance of a man who had been established into his position via family connections and nepotism, and says, "Because we fuck people up. So they sent us to finish this shit."

Before Leonardo can decide if this is a jibe at his peace-keeping tactics, Cesare turns to bark out his commands.

"Boys! Get ready for infiltration."

"What infiltration!? We can't face him so fraudulently, Cesare!"

"How else?"

Leonardo pulls himself up and straightens, lifts his chin higher to cement his beliefs with physical confidence, "Tactically. Psychologically."

Cesare chances a look towards the supermarket entrance, switches back to Leonardo with a puzzled eye.

"What grieves him?"

"Injustice." Leonardo says in smaller voice.

Cesare blatantly bursts out into a bark of a laughter. "A philosopher, eh? I love such shits most!" He slaps Leonardo on chest, gives another laugh, "We're going to fuck this nutcase up, alright. Call him out." And he goes off.

Leonardo is beside himself.

There's only that much a sane man can do while swimming in a sea of outrageously senseless men. His concern for their immediate surroundings is mounting to a worry as he sees a shoal of reporters traversing the amassing populace and trying to worm their way into the police circle and into the crime scene. The local newspaper immediately joined the fray and the entire area is already hemmed about by a cheery swarm of people.

Men like the one holding reigns inside this supermarket are great crowd-pullers.

Word travels fast about an odd justice-seeker holding hostages, and desperate commoners have wordlessly chosen this man as a mascot without his consent. Leonardo can't order these people away without force involved, and applying force would alienate the already distrustful people. On the other hand, popular support might turn his case into a migraine should they fully adopt this man as a hero.

He sighs and sidles up beside Cesare, turns his megaphone on once again.

"The special forces find you abstract and uncooperative!"

There is an angry rifle before there is a man, and a voice before there is a face.

"What special forces, we're not in the fucking army?!" Malik throws back at him, his words send the crowd into loud hoots directed at the police. Malik is torn between locating mentioned special squads and trying to fathom the role of the ever-growing populace that appears consolidated to his stand without concern for the hostages he holds.

"I beseech you to take my words seriously. Or I will be forced to relinquish command into the hands of special forces." Leonardo says with a hint of threat.

"What forces?" Malik reiterates.

"Special forces, you nutcase!" Cesare lashes out through his own megaphone, incensed.

"I beseech you to listen to me." Leonardo cuts in, and adds, "You are surrounded by special forces. Come out and see for yourself."

These words have no sooner left his lips when Cesare gives a hand-sign for his boys to take action, a move unseen by Malik but very visible to the crowd.

The people are in tumult.

Before one member of special squads can even draw near the sliding doors, Malik has been alarmed to their presence by the hoots of derision drawn from the mass targeting these dirty ploys.

"Stand back or I'll shoot, fucking jackals!"

Leonardo puts himself to risky grounds again when he darts forward to put himself between Malik and masked squads, discolored with mad fury.

"Fall back! Fall back! Do you not listen to orders!?" he waves about, desperate to shoo them off into retreat which is slow in progress, "Weapons down, retreat! Does no one listen to damn orders in here!?"

 


 

 

 Altaïr is sitting next to his wrapped-up circle of colleagues when Malik storms inside and toward them, drenched in blind fury like when he first arrived in the supermarket.

The lot of girls break into whimpers before Malik can even reach them, frightened.

He pulls at the first girl that falls victim to his arbitrary choice and she shrieks, what for fear, what for Altaïr imagines must be the pain of his grip. The saran wrap is so tightly coiled around them that she won't budge from her sitting place, and Altaïr looks up to Malik, volunteers as a substitute with a silent lift of hand. Malik shifts his attentions to him, snatches his lifted hand and hauls him up with so great a force that Altaïr can do nothing more than collapse against his chest.

It's a game of dice, what Altaïr is doing.

It's risky, and racy, and he realizes far too late that he has fallen into Malik's merciless hands, but Altaïr is so overwhelmed with not giving two shakes of a rat's arse because Malik twists him within his grip and Altaïr's back is suddenly glued to Malik's chest as the man loops his arm around his middle in a vice grip, and goads him on toward the exit.

Balance turns into disadvantage as Altaïr wants to lure Malik flush against himnot for a bit of heat, but for a bit of a feelhe just wants more because Malik's bruising hands set his blood to boiling and his legs to a quiver and he feels content with walking this good dream, however fake.

Altaïr hears the outside before he sees it, and when he does, it's a fucking pandemonium.

Hoots of a massive gathering worth a couple thousand individuals rip him cruelly from the powerful clutch of Malik's hand, and he is thrust forward onto the climbing steps of the entrance to the supermarket before these loud cheers and before the snout of the police forces. Altaïr is afraid.

Altaïr is very, very afraid.

Primarily because of a myriad weapons pointing their way (and he doesn't want to be riddled with holes like a Swiss cheese, thank you very much), and secondly because it's embarrassing enough existing in this state of half-arousal without a quarter of the city bearing witness to this. Beside his ear, Malik begins to shout a barrage of threats:

"Don't fuck around with me, I'm loaded with explosives!"

"Altaïr!" Leonardo draws forward, excited and distraught by recognizing him. He does make a dashing young inspector like this, but he plays with fire and puts too much trust in people's good will, "Don't worry, everything is under control," he tries to reassure him, oblivious to the true musings of Altaïr's lust- and excitement-muddled brain.

Yeah, everything's just ducky at the moment.

Altaïr nods to offer Leonardo some kind of feedback, and Malik behind him orders Leonardo into retreat, sends him into a look of panic when he pushes Altaïr down into a bend by a pressure on his nape and puts the muzzle of the rifle against his skull. Altaïr doesn't know where all the air went, but he can't breathe.

"Want me to blow up his head? Fall back!"

"Please do not! I give the commands herethe special squads won't dare another infiltration without my express command!"

"Who won't dare? Who!? Who!?" Cesare butts in, piqued by this insult, but Leonardo dismisses him entirely.

"It won't happen again," he promises.

"It'd better not. Leave this place until I finish what I came for and that's it." And Malik (finally) removes the weapon from the back of Altaïr's head and pulls him up against his chest again, coils his arm firmly around his middle, and Altaïr can more-or-less breathe again.

Until Malik's handconsciously or unconsciously―starts to wander around Altaïr's torso, first across his chest, with his left hand catching on his nipple through his clothes, then lower as he goes on with his negotiations, right above his crotch. This is bad. Really, really bad. It puts a fire to the the already blazing one in Altaïr's loins that revels in the grind of Malik's body as the man moves, and the last thing he now wants is another erection before this multitude that stands as eyewitness.

"You think you can pull that on us!? You think we are cattle?" Cesare shouts, draws more howls of derision from the crowd.

They grow in volume until the entire area is alive with booing and sounds protest and the civilians have to be taken into consideration as an active force on this playground. Altaïr is overwhelmed by the support that's carried onward like waves, because he's never before seen the city in an uproar and standing united in such a magnificent display.

"You have my guarantee that we will put to jail all those that have caused you injustice!" Leonardo jumps in to parley and puts Altaïr's heart to a standstill.

Altaïr doesn't know what he feels first, the loss of vision or the vision of loss.

His face is a medley of alarm and terror, an outcome of racing thoughts, not one among them that can get him out of this predicament. Malik settles behind him, appears interested in this offer, and Altaïr knows he must react now or never.

"He's serious!" Altaïr yells, casts Malik himself into a startle, "He'll blow us all to pieces!"

His faked fear sounds genuine enough to draw everyone to distraction, heavens be praised.

"We'll fly to Neverland, you jackals!" Malik mocks and threatens, infected by the enthusiasm that surges from the crowds.

A man emerges behind Cesare, silent as night and donned in black, stands like a shadow behind his commander. "Cesare, he lies. He has no explosives on him."

Cesare turns his head to Micheletto to confirm this before he looks up at the pair standing atop the stairs. He grins, spreads his arms out and around, pointing to the people, "Come on, tell us all what fucking explosives you've got in there, you vagabond!" he goads through the megaphone to pass it on, puts the masses to a silence.

Malik, too, is pressed into a silence, Altaïr feels his airs shift from confident to anxious through the way he holds him. He waits, the time ticking by as Malik keeps quiet and breathes softly into Altaïr's ear, with the sea of upturned faces looking to him expectantly.

Altaïr keeps his hands high in the air in a gesture of surrender, curses himself for lying instead of a man who doesn't want to lie, swallows, shifts his neck subtly toward Malik and keeps his lips unmoving while he speaks:

"Come on."

"What?" Malik breathes back, equally quiet.

"Say something."

This doesn't press Malik into words. The more his quiet stretches on, the wider Cesare's grin gets. Then, there is a sliver, a word or idea or a memory that crawls through his brain and through his mouth:

"C-4!" he shouts, almost rips himself from Malik's arm as the force of these words carries him forward, "C-4! He has C-4!"

Cesare's expression slinks away into bewilderment and Malik's pieces itself into a mask of confidence.

"That's right, I've got the plastic, you Doughnut Squad!"

The mass explodes into roars of laughter before Malik's insult is taken up with a rhythmical clap of hands and chanted back at the police. Malik pulls Altaïr back and through the doors, followed by cheers of support as they disappear inside the facility.

 


 

 

"That wasn't bad, kid." Malik tells him when they are safe inside, away from eyes of both the crowds and Altaïr's restless colleagues.

"You should stop calling me kid, I have a name."

"I call you so because you are one. What are you anyway? Twelve?"

Altaïr parts his mouth at the sheer offense of this proposition.

"I'm twenty." he supplies at last because he can't think of anything better to offer.

"I meant your mental age, of course." Malik secures the rifle across his shoulder, pulls it tighter, smirks at the look of indignation tossed his way.

"I’m fucking twenty," Altaïr bites out through clenched teeth.

"Really? I didn't notice." Malik says, making sure to lay the sarcasm on thick.

Altaïr almost wishes he hadn't got himself in so much trouble just to bail the man out. He is still physically affected by their former tight press of bodies, his cock on a temporary standstill and waiting for further command. Altaïr slips his gaze lower, down to Malik's crotch, where a convenient compress of the overall reveals to him a swollen bulge and what he does next he does because he can, and because he wants it. Because if he is going to throw out all of his inhibitions, he might as well go all the way.

"Yeah? Well, your cock isn’t complaining about my age." And Altaïr launches what is a valiant attempt at grabbing what he can of Malik’s dick.

Malik's left eyebrow skyrockets at this perversely courageous move, but he doesn't flinch under Altaïr's fingers.

"I’m not hard, boy."

The smirk slinks from Altaïr's face in a slow crawl.

All focus still present in Altaïr's body slops down into the grab of his hand while he tries to measure out what exactly he's holding. For a confusing moment his brain does not compute and Malik is watching the pair of eyes beneath his grow like saucers as Altaïr takes in the size of his cock.

Altaïr goes slack-jawed.

Oh sweet Lucifer...

"Wha—"

"What makes you think I’m into men?" Malik cuts off his puny attempt at words. He removes Altaïr’s absolutely non-functioning hand from his dick, "Stop slobbering over it, it’s rude."

But the child does not see fit to let the matter drop.

"I’d kill to have that. In me." Altaïr adds in a breathless tone drenched in infatuation and hopes it will spark Malik’s lust.

Malik bursts into a laughter.

"You’re one of those who have starving eyes but aren’t up to challenge once things get rolling, I knew it."

"You think I can’t take it, asshole?"

"Boy, you’d be crying halfway through."

"Maybe, but out of pleasure."

Malik barks out another laughter and Altaïr watches his world slowly crumble around him.

"In all honesty, kid, I think you're probably beyond any help I can give." Malik says once he's settled into a tranquil expression.

The awkward silence spans for more than a minute.

Altaïr drops his gaze to ground, collects the remaining pieces of dignity from it, fits them into a semblance, but he doesn't look into Malik's eyes when next he puts his lips to speech and forces his voice into nothing more than a loud whisper.

"I'm hungry. Mind if I raid your fridge?"

"Be my guest."

Altaïr nods, clenches his teeth into a painful grit to avoid Malik's gaze that sees him off as he goes in the general direction of the restrooms.

Malik watches him go, hopes that maybe, just maybe, there is a heart of gold behind that whorish exterior.

Chapter Text

In the men's restroom, locked in a stall and seated across the toilet lid, Altaïr is having one of the quickest jerk off sessions ever in his life.

Less because of lack of time, as Malik will probably come looking for him should he drag out his ostensible search for food, and more because he is provided with abundant masturbatory material that won't leave him in peace. And for this reason, and because his sexual drive won't let him settle enough to properly talk to the man unless he vents some tension, he sits there with hands slick from the lotion he had seized on whim on his way here and starts rubbing one out.

There's nothing indulgent in the way he strokes himself, no touch lingering to pamper himself with pleasure, and his right hand is nothing more than an efficient squeeze-and-pull of a young man experienced in ways which can throw him over the precipice in record time. Altaïr plies his fingers tighter around his slick shaft and puts his other hand behind, flat across the lid, to lean back and to spare his spine the burden of a low bend. The pull and twist of his fingers is satisfactory enough, but his rampant imagination is what provides him more pleasure, and he closes his eyes and parts his mouth to let breath spill forth from his lips while in his head he is pounded into submission by Malik, bent over his checkout before all their audience and fucked into nothing more than a moaning mess of a man by Malik's fat cock.

Altaïr removes his stroking hand and drops lower to cradle his balls as he widens his stance, kneads them and thumbs across to let the fantasy linger for a few more moments, to let it find a proper finish before he spills himself, and it ends in Malik keeping him pressed down as he fills him to brim with cum. Altaïr pulls his work-shirt up to his chest before he shoots his load across his belly with nothing louder than a soft breath.

The hand he leans his weight into falls asleep after a time, but he sits on in a brief silence recuperating from the weak climax, feeling the stringy patch of come cool on his skin. He sighs, coils a layered wrap of toilet paper onto his fingers and begins wiping the mess off his body.

He feels like shit, but his head is cleared at last. He really needed a quick orgasm to settle him into sober thoughts.

Altaïr keeps the soiled paper in his fingers carefully, his mind harassed by the terrible perplexity in which he had presented himself to Malik, how weak and in need for cock he had made himself look before this mature man.

Little wonder then that he had mocked him with such ridicule.

But Altaïr isn't one to admit defeat while there's still chance to rectify what can be undone. He still has time left, and he'll make use of it, won't let advantage slip, because he who dares wins.

The worst thing he could do is nothing at all.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 


 

 

Altaïr picks up handfuls of sandwiches from the fridge in the bakery retail and returns to find Malik watching out toward the exit with the wrapped-up circle at his back. He stands with his arms crossed and listens to the chants and melody of trumpets where the crowd has joined into a jolly tune. To Altaïr he offers a fleeting gaze and doesn't object when he distributes the food among his coworkers.

It's past noon, and his stomach knows it.

He is about to settle down on the floor beside them when he drops his gaze to the turkey sandwich he had designated for himself, then up to Malik. He walks over to him after a thought settles in his mind, and holds his last sandwich out to Malik as an offer, "Breakfast?"

"Kid, breakfast was five hours ago."

"What universe are you from? Anything accomplished before noon is just wasted effort." Altaïr says and starts tearing the wax paper off, seeing how Malik's appetite is lacking.

"You talk too much." 

"We all have our faults," Altaïr shrugs and Malik gives him only a hint of a smile.

"Go eat," he tells him at last and Altaïr sits down next to Ezio who has already wolfed half his meal down. There's some crunchy chews and munching and nothing much besides. Altaïr chomps a piece of his turkey sandwich off but he doesn't chew, only deposits the food in the hollow of his left cheek as he watches Malik stare out to where the billowing masses of people stir to the music of trumpets and drums. He begins to chew slowly, watches how his handsome face is beset by heavy thinking. Altaïr doesn't look at his body, although he does have ample opportunity to do so.

Everything is unnervingly quiet after this small lunch comes to an end, until Leonardo's megaphone goes off once more to harangue Malik with suggestions of parley.

"I see you are communicative enough. How about we make an arrangement to release some of the hostages as a sign of good will?" Leonardo's voice is calm and lacking formality, as if Malik and he were talking alone, face-to-face, "Everything else we can sort out through democratic dialogue."

Malik circles a long and slow walk around the group, watches and ponders, until at last he sheathes out his knife and gives rise to some gasps of startle and fear. The persons nearest to him shrink back and put the entire group to a movement as he bends with his knife at the ready, but Malik merely cuts through the wrap with no regard for their distress.

"Be grateful I'm a good man," Malik says as the wrap goes off, "be grateful that cop down there is a considerate and tactful man, so he changed my mind about keeping you here."

Malik is selective in his choice.

He picks and pulls up only girls and women from the floor, leaves only the boss behind. The males all remain seated. Altaïr instantly knows Malik must have gathered from his little brother that the one who had harassed him was a man, and so Malik is less reluctant about releasing the girls. Altaïr is again reminded of his faults and he pulls his knees up to his chest, watches as a couple―a girl to be released and a boy left behind―don't want to break up and clutch onto each other, watches how Malik separates them with a threat and they fall quiet and apart.

Altaïr's gaze follows the group of girls out as they trudge carefully over shards of glass and trail after Malik who leads the way with rifle at the ready. They halt before the exit as Malik checks the outside but doesn't leave his cover. He orders them out and they string through the glass-break, and down the steps where they are greeted by the cheers of crowd in the background and Leonardo with the paramedics at his back. The blond keeps the calms among the group of ex-hostages, leaves them in the care of professionals, pleased with the state of affairs thus far.

Inside, the youth that has been parted from his girlfriend keeps calling after her even after she is safe outside, and Malik canters back to silence him because these yells and cries annoy him. The boy falls mute when the rifle points up at him and doesn't break another word.

"I have an appointment for tonight." Altaïr says out of the blue, to break the gloom that settles over the remaining group. Malik puts his aim to ground and deadpans at him.

"A blind-date," he adds, and for a couple of moments they all stare at him as if he's just grown a second head.

Malik mellows out, passes his gaze over the group with a sour look.

"If I let you all go... then why the fuck did I come here in the first place," he waves his free hand about with an air of dissatisfaction, "One of you here has to be the culprit―"

"I―" Altaïr begins to say but Malik's harsh look cuts him off and he drops whatever he had initially intended to say, "―am aware of the circumstances and I'll stay if I must."

"All of you will stay." Malik says, no compromise, no concessions, "Wrap them up again," he orders and turns to set off toward the exit.

Altaïr nods, finds a new saran wrap, and begins to bind the men that slowly pack themselves into a huddle.

 


 

 

 Leonardo is pleased with how things are turning out, watching the last of girls being ministered to, when Cesare appears at his back, content enough about the release of hostages, but far from satisfied.

"What now, Silky?"

"Now we negotiate. We wait for him to surrender," Cesare comes to stop at his side and Leonardo pats him on the shoulder, a smile on his face, "This is real democracy, my friend."

Cesare laughs, "And what about us who don't give a fig for your democracy? What do we do while you negotiate?!"

"Masquerade. Put on a show. Until you are ordered otherwise―"

"Hey, coppers!" Malik shouts at them from his cover, holding his rifle without targeting them directly, and they both twist around to face him. The trumpets come to an abrupt stop and people quieten down into a hush to listen to the exchange.

"There, I kept my word and released the captives―what are you waiting for!?"

Cesare slips under the crime scene rope and starts throwing a fit.

"We wait because we are―democratic!" He spits the word forth like poison, "You goddamn nutcase!"

"Pull your heads out of your asses, democrats, the boy's told you I'm loaded with explosives!" Malik's yells ring out like a threat before he tames his voice into a somewhat composed volume, "Stick to your part of deal until I finish my business here and let's part ways in peace."

"What did you say you came here for―because of justice!?"

The crowd goes off into a screech of loud whistles.

"Because of injustice, coppers, there's a huge difference between those two!"

Cesare glances back at Leonardo, at his wit's end, and the blond merely shrugs at the play of words.

"You want the entire nation flocking here because of you idiot who keeps little boys hostage!? Do you want the media to badmouth the city, the state to turn their back on us, huh!?"

"What state, idiot? The one that turned their back on us ages ago!?"

"The government cares for the people, you madman!"

People explode into hoots and booing which brings all exchange between Malik and Cesare to a temporary standstill through the sheer volume of the noise.

"They care for you maybe―they gave you those tragicomic uniforms so now you have to suck up to them and kiss their fat asses!" Malik shouts back at him with all his might.

Cesare pulls out his gun and starts for the doors but Leonardo shoots ahead to pull him back and a handful of other policemen jump in to wrench the head of special forces back toward the vehicles and soothe his nasty temper.

 


 

 

There is a grin and something purposefully determined in the expression on Malik's face as Altaïr watches him meander between the shelves to collect armfuls of packaged foods and expensive sweets and even a handful of long, fat salamis hanging on hooks behind the fridge laden with fresh meat, and the entirety of the wrapped-up group watches along, even those who have to twist their necks around to follow this weird scene.

Malik scurries back to the sliding doors and exits the building completely, stands on top of steps where he earlier held Altaïr before the crowds.

"Is this how the government cares for us?! While they let the people starve on streets?!" Malik begins to fling the foods toward the people who accept him and his offer with a wild uproar of cheer, collect the food where it lands, break through the police ropes.

This spectacle is so awe-inducing that Altaïr finds a kitchen knife to cut through the wrap to let his colleagues watch this mayhem, and all of them hop off to sidle against the checkouts and watch and listen to how the events are unfolding.

"Wake up, cattle!" Malik hollers and hurls item after item into the awaiting hands of the people, "We live in an economy tottering on the brink of collapse while these dogs serve injustice!" He chucks the salamis at the faction keeping Cesare restrained and it slaps the Italian right across the face and the multitude hollers in approval.

Altaïr stands completely in awe of how Malik managed to carve himself a safe passage. Altaïr is not stupid. He knows what the man is doing. He has successfully involved the people and granted them the role of a considerable force, thus ensuring his future safety from this entire debacle. Malik knows how to steer and manipulate the masses, a gift that is only rarely acquired and very tricky to master.

"We are the population of the landless, the homeless, the jobless, the whateverless!" He ignites the people and they take up his words with hunger.

"The whateverless!" They chant continuously back at the police, roar the words at the special forces in their newly-found power, fueled by a sense of unity.

The police ignites the heavy vehicles and drives forth to put a physical barrier between the supermarket staircase and the masses and to cut them off, but the song of merriment and trumpets is carried on toward the very outskirts of this massive gathering.

Malik tips off his invisible hat before he retreats into the facility while the police goes on to strengthen the borders between him and the populace, he leaves the chaos knowing they won't bother him for the time being.

When he returns to the focal point inside and sees the workers released, he doesn't protest, his mind still with the crowds outside.

"You shouldn't broaden these issues, you are here because of your little brother..." A man whose name Altaïr fails to remember speaks up without giving his tone a convincing force.

"This isn't only about my brother anymore," Malik almost shouts at him, his voice a tad scratchy from all the yelling outside, "This is about all of you, you youth who should speak up about these problems."

"I agree." Altaïr pipes in, and Ezio rolls his eyes at him before he butts in as well.

"Because you're such a social activist, Altaïr."

"I gotta piss," says another youth, emboldened into speech by all this sudden chatter.

Their boss rises from the floor, approaches Malik with a gallant and daring move, puts her chin up before she speaks:

"Mister, I'm putting in my complaint about this barbaric demolition of my property," she starts indignantly and Malik listens to her without much interest, "In the society I grew up in, destruction of private property is the eighth deadly sin."

"What are you, some social critic?"

"I'm a democrat," she tells him, puffs herself up to appear bigger while he looks down on her.

"And I'm an altruist."

"Me too." Altaïr adds in a small voice, but he goes unnoticed as Ezio who has clearly been having a shit day so far rises from the spot he's sitting on, a fearless anger written all over his face as he walks up to Malik and thrusts his face spitefully against the other man's.

"Listen to me, you fucking madman," he yells into Malik's face, but Malik doesn't flinch a dram under his rage, "I don't give a shit about you, or your brother, or your fucking fans down there―"

"―I've stopped listening, why haven’t you stopped talking, boy?"

"―my shift has ended ages ago, and I just fucking want home―"

Malik's hands shoot up to cup Ezio's face and cut him off with a vicious press of lips.

He shifts to grasp Ezio's nape in a vice grip and keep him in place as Ezio comes to his senses and starts resisting. There's no tongue, nothing but a stinging junction of lips meant as a punishment and silencer, but he doesn't let Ezio escape when the youth begins to groan and pound his fists against the muscle of Malik's chest.

This farce of a kiss doesn't last for more than a handful of seconds before Altaïr is there like a wild beast to put a wedge between them.

"Enough!" He roars, splits them apart and almost sends Ezio to the floor through the reeling force of his angry push.

Altaïr is mad with jealousy.

Ezio slinks away toward his shelf, touching along his aching jaw, and spits out across the tiles before he even thinks of dignifying Altaïr with a look. He scowls at him when the spate of jealousy speaks through Altaïr's eyes like a blazing fire. Ezio sits down, confused by the hateful gaze directed at him.

"Don't force me to turn ugly on you. I'm trying to ease things for you and this is how you return the kindness..." Malik trails off as he watches them, switches from visage to visage until a hissing sound of an opened coke bottle makes his gaze swirl to his left.

Malik's eyes fall to the fizzy drink before they flit up to Altaïr's sour face as the boy presents the bottle to him with a slow, earnest gesture. Malik accepts the drink that Altaïr thrusts into his hand.

"Rinse your mouth," Altaïr mutters without looking him in the eye.

As soon as the bottle passes from Altaïr's hand into Malik's, he slinks off to sit below the shelf neighboring Ezio's and a look passes between them. Altaïr feels an urge to put some distance between himself and his friend. Altaïr glimpses up at Malik from the cover of his lashes and watches him drink.

Ezio shuffles over and then there is the heat of his body, and he watches Altaïr―Altaïr feels Ezio's eyes on his face―before there is a hushed voice in his ear:

"Oh. Oooh. Oh my God, it’s him," Ezio awes with a hint of accusation, because how could Altaïr not tell him that he has a thing for their captor, "But whatever you fancy..."

"T'least not having a fling with a cop." Altaïr turns his head to the side to avoid further conversation. Malik's voice shakes him into focus.

"This boy is even sacrificing his date for my cause, and the rest of you just moan about," he points to Altaïr through jest and then goes off, away from them and toward the sliding doors where he sinks down and takes cover, monitors the moves of the police that is still lost in the process of quelling the riot through peaceful means.

Altaïr needs no convincing as he lifts himself and goes to join Malik, leaves the rest far behind his back. On his way over, he stops to pick up a gift box loaded with chocolate truffles he had always found almost too pretty and expensive to eat, and brings them along.

Malik gives him a look but is not surprised at this insistent company.

Altaïr sits beside him and leans into his flank, uses the motion of tearing the paper off to shrug himself closer to his body. He offers the truffles to Malik first, but the man declines with a shake of head and continues to watch out from their cover. Altaïr stifles his craving for sugar in silence, thinks of how to start a proper conversation since Malik doesn't appear inclined to do so. He points to the chocolate box with a small lift, swallows before launching into small-talk:

"Stuff is getting more and more expensive these days," he says in a small voice.

"Prices are as they've always been, kid. Only the people are cheap." Malik retorts without ire or spite, calm in his musings.

"You're a pessimist?"

"Realist." Malik says with a hint of a smile, but doesn't turn to Altaïr who is tightly lodged against his side.

Altaïr puts the box down, wipes his sticky fingers off against his uniform, steeps down into a deep pondering while they sit there in peaceful silence. At last he speaks, opens up to this man:

"Sometimes I feel like I'm a pessimist. And often I feel like a drop in a vast ocean..."

"Silly boy. The drop is a small ocean."

And Malik then turns to look at him, an odd look of warmth in his dark eyes, and Altaïr almost forgets what he was trying to say. How enchanted a person can get by a pair of eyes and a warm look.

"But sometimes, I get this feeling of paranoia," Altaïr goes on, hopes he doesn't sound like he's just landed at a psychiatrist's plushy sofa, "a suspicion that people will just leave me in the end―"

Malik blatantly snorts at him.

"What?" Altaïr bites out, because he can’t tolerate being made fun of.

"You youth getting your boxer-shorts in a twist about trivialities. You go on about your paranoia and drown yourself in self-pity while you wait for the inevitable. I don’t understand your generation. Have you ever tried actually doing something, boy?"

Altaïr's features descend into a dark scowl, at the lecture he didn't ask for. Old men grumbling about rowdy youth―what a tired leitmotif that is. But Altaïr won't take this scolding because―

"Have you tried doing something to prevent it? So at least in the end you can say it’s not your fault it failed?"

―because...

"Have you, boy?"

... because―

"You haven't because you only care about yourself―"

A gust of breath leaves Malik's mouth as Altaïr jumps him, wrings his fingers into the collar of his overall and shoves him against the wall. He holds there, with Malik's back upright and pressed against the flat surface while he searches out Altaïr's eyes in a tranquil silence.

"Alright, now that you’ve shown me what a big scary boy you are, what do you plan on doing now, huh?"

Altaïr seethes and feels anger surge to the very tips of his body.

"Look, boy, I’m so scared," Malik mocks with a face of utter confidence, and Altaïr knows he will have to come up with something different in order to impress this man.

"It's not true." Altaïr says, surprises himself with the composure permeating his voice, "I care about others. I care about my mother," he releases his hold and leans away, crouches on his knees before Malik as he speaks, "I care about improving her life. I care about my peers, I care that money has become a substitute for meaning in our generation, has replaced emotion that is the backbone of human relationships and caused all this disillusionment..."

Malik watches him, truly watches him, drinks up every syllable that leaves Altaïr's mouth.

"... I care that the civilization never grew up, that it never reached any degree maturity and remained an infant―it loves distraction, like kids playing with toys... That's how I see the achievements of civilization, and that's why I care."

And Altaïr sits there on his calves, feeling the inspirational impulse that had prompted him to these words leave behind a swell of something scorching-hot inside him. Malik watches him with different eyes. His eyes soften before the corners of his mouth assume the smallest uplift, and when he speaks, he does so with a great deal of esteem.

"You're not a child anymore," he admits the words Altaïr has longed to hear, "When you stop to look past the end of your nose to realize that you're a part of people and not apart from them, that's when you cease being a whiny little child."

Altaïr holds still as Malik reaches out and lays a hand across his jaw, and cradles it, glides his thumb across his cheek.

"You're such a kid," Malik says and Altaïr almost embarks on a childish roll of eyes, but Malik says his tease almost... fondly. So Altaïr stills his body to encourage Malik's hand to linger upon his face and allows two dark eyes to set his body on a wildfire.

Chapter Text

"Commander, I firmly believe that a careful strategy ought to be chosen―patient, and lawful, above all." Leonardo confidently reports to De Sable via the two-way radio while sitting in his vehicle.

"In some perfect and fair world, Silky, we both would be eating cotton candy under a full moon on a grassy field singing songs about peace and legality while picking flowers. But this isn't the perfect fucking world, you educated democratic idiot―I'm giving you one hour to finish this, even if you need to eat him alive to do so, or I will launch such a 'lawful' hunt that Cesare himself will look like a saint beside me. Was I sufficiently clear?"

"Crystal." Leonardo mumbles out after a few moments, and the line goes dead.

Cesare is inches away from his face where he leans heavily across the window and grins at him in all his glory before he smacks a juicy air-kiss at him. Leonardo doesn't turn to look at him but he presses the roll-up button to close the window, thus giving Cesare no other option than to lift himself. His grin rests confidently on his lips because he benefits from Leonardo's predicament, and he stands there on the other side of the window wordlessly tapping against the glass of his wristwatch in a silent threat.

Leonardo sighs in the solitude of the police car, losing hope as dusk slowly crawls over the horizon.

 


 

Most of the hostages have drifted off into a light nap, and most of them recline on the side-surface of shelves or checkouts but keep a close range to each other. Ezio has abandoned a magazine he had picked up earlier to quell his boredom, and now sits with crossed arms leaned across his bent knees staring off into space. Altaïr follows Ezio's earlier example and takes up some magazine to leaf through while Malik is busy checking his pouch and filling his rifle with new ammo. Altaïr holds a vanilla-toffee ice-cream cup in his free hand until the condensation starts dripping down his fingers in fat drops and he peels it open to start his second treat of today.

He flaps page after page until an ad he's seen a couple times makes him stop. It's some perfume Altaïr is less interested in, and the ad is altogether too tasteless and flashy, but there are two details Altaïr is drawn to. First there is a majestic eagle coursing the Photoshopped skyline atop a half-naked couple―a skinny girl latched onto a ripped, hairless male advertising this perfume for men as 'the smell of freedom'. The only thing beside the eagle that Altaïr likes is this flag the model is holding, an original design which is supposed to represent this so-called freedom, but it's pretty enough to distract from this mindless prospect of dumb marketing.

Altaïr stops shoveling the food into his mouth and glimpses a distance to his left where Malik is sitting on a rolling chair he had snatched from a checkout booth and examining his weapons.

He drops his gaze down to the half-done ice-cream cup, an idea burgeoning in his mind. Malik is too preoccupied to look at him, but Altaïr scratches along the bottom of the cup with the plastic spoon long enough to make it an annoying itch and Malik is forced to grant him a look.

Altaïr looks back with all innocence he can muster, before he starts playing a hazardous game, hoping for a stroke of luck.

He licks his lips with a deliberate slowness and brings a spoonful of the ice-cream to his mouth with one wicked look. And Malik does watch him, with something he hopes is interest. He dips his spoon into the melting thickness of ice-cream and flicks his tongue out to lick off one toffee-colored droplet―the very color of his skin―and taps the spoon against the flat of his tongue wetly. He stops thinking on how to best maneuver his body into a language of flirting and lets his body do the work with no thoughts. And by the look on Malik's face, he isn't doing a bad job.

Altaïr leaves the empty cup aside and rises from his sitting position to approach Malik while holding the magazine to his chest, waits for Malik to give him a green light, but the man rises from the chair instead.

Altaïr spreads the magazine open to show the ad to him. Malik's brows descend into a brief scowl but he grabs Altaïr by the waist and pulls him against his body―Altaïr's back to Malik's chest―as they gaze at the ad together. Ezio watches them silently from the floor, smiles to himself at the display because the spark of attraction between the two is too fierce not to be noticed.

"Are you trying to steer me toward indiscretion?" Malik asks lowly, keeping his arm coiled around Altaïr's midriff.

"For someone who wants nothing to do with me, you seem kinda interested at times." Altaïr whispers into Malik's face which so close that he could kiss him if he tipped his head up high enough.

"So you are seducing me?"

"Is it working?"

Malik leans in the tiniest bit without touching Altaïr's awaiting lips. It sends Altaïr’s eyes into a sudden flutter and quickens his breath, but Malik refuses to be enticed by this.

"Not at all." And Malik chuckles warmly and quietly.

This man is a fucking enigma and forces the Sphinx herself to dash her head against a stone.

Malik nicks down at the magazine, "What's with that?"

Altaïr's gaze drops to the ad and he taps his thumb at the flying eagle with a half-smile.

"Nice bird," Malik says.

"That's why my nickname is eagle."

"I meant the chick."

Altaïr's mouth sinks into a frown while he looks at the female model, "She's too skinny for my tastes."

"Because you have such a refined taste, Altaïr," Ezio butts in from the floor and Altaïr turns his eager glare at him.

"She's made of plastic. She's only naturally stupid."

"You’ve probably just never been with good women," Malik breathes down his neck and Altaïr's focus switches back to him.

"I have."

"Putting your dick in a sock doesn't count as sex, boy."

Altaïr tears himself from Malik's hold with an angry growl and wakes up most of the napping people. He strides through to swerve behind the nearest shelf, chucks a stand of chocolate bars down to the floor on his way there.

"Stop that, you'll get fired!" Their boss calls after him. There is another loud crash as Altaïr knocks what is presumably another stand in his irrational rage and revenge, coming somewhere from behind the long shelf where he dwells, away from their sight.

"You are fired!" She screeches, alerting the residual workers to this commotion.

While Malik is busy staring off at where Altaïr has disappeared with something like hurt-or-wonder etched into his features, the rest of the group stirs slowly into an irritable chatter of whining and moaning about their current condition, nudged into protests by Altaïr's prissy fit. It's silent Ezio who rises and puts this hubbub to a halt.

"Silence, people!" the Italian yells at them, and there's something resolute on his face, a glint of deliberate purpose in his eye, "Don't you understand what's happening here? We've been abducted by a war criminal."

"I'm not exactly a war criminal―I didn't mean―" Malik jumps in to explain, but Ezio doesn't care much for his defense, doesn't even care what the man is, all he wants is to direct the conversation to its original purpose.

"You didn't mean what? See how you made my best friend angry!?" Ezio picks up the magazine Altaïr had dropped off and shoves it into Malik's face, "Now get him such an eagle to make him feel better."

"Eagles aren't legal as pets." Someone behind Ezio provides.

"Well, then, get him this flag here. Altaïr collects flags." Ezio alters the proposition and looks into Malik's eyes with strapping determination while he is backed by support of his colleagues around.

Malik wants to laugh at this outlandish proposition but this chatty group grows in volume and he's forced to take more drastic measures to bring the hum of their babble to a stop.

"Silence!" Malik shouts, "Are you all always this stupid or are you making a special effort today? What fucking flag―I'm a veteran, not Santa Claus!"

The lot cowering behind Ezio drop their demands and their gaze, or look elsewhere, but Ezio persists. He doesn't talk but he keeps his eyes on Malik, stares at him with a glare and the most accusatory expression Malik has seen all day on anyone. The group behind scatters in low spirits but Ezio stands his ground like the bravest soldier and looks daggers at him until Malik slumps his shoulders in defeat and yields in the face of his perseverance.

 


 

"Hey, cops!" Malik shouts from his customary cover.

Cesare is there to hear him out, having cantered around the general vicinity of the entrance, but Leonardo bolts from the police car when he sees him.

"We're still here, waiting!" Leonardo speaks through the megaphone the moment he is near enough, "Say what you need!"

Instead of shouting back, Malik thrusts forth his unarmed hand and flings something out, toward their direction. The two of them stare up at what looks like a paper airplane, and they stand mesmerized while the toy aircraft slowly glides at them. A hush passes over the crowd that follows this silent flight. Leonardo recovers first to put his megaphone to ground and jumps up to catch the paper construction.

"Scram to find me a flag like the one on the paper!" Malik orders and falls from sight.

Leonardo slowly unfurls the warped piece of magazine paper and, sure enough, there is a colorful flag on the perfume ad.

 


 

"You're going first, Micheletto, from the back. Through the storeroom entrance," Cesare draws the line across the architectural plan of the building with his red marker, four operational unit members crouch around him, "no noise, no breaking in. I want this to be flawless," he turns to Micheletto with a touch of reprimand, "you already have one minus, watch what you're doing."

"I obey, Cesare. I will get him, or I die," Micheletto says in a solemn quiet.

"You two," Cesare turns his attentions to the rest, "as soon as he gets in―tear gas! From both sides. And don't waste time once you're inside," Cesare scribbles their positions across the tablet before he turns to his last member.

"You shoot the ceiling to draw his attention. Meanwhile all hostages have to be taken out. As soon as the ground is clear, he's yours, Micheletto. Understood?"

"Yes, sir!"

The group dons their gas masks, and scatters.

 


 

 

Altaïr sits there wallowing in solitude, leaned against the shelf far away from the rest, his eyes closed. He yawns, scrunches his face to stifle the movement, covering his mouth with a fisted palm.

He reclines there on his side with his knees bent, and hopes he's made Malik reflect on his own mockery. The next time they talk he really doesn't want the man peppering their conversation with unnecessary tease aimed at his age. He keeps his eyes closed while rolling his stiff neck to the side, fights off another yawn, and hears the silent patter of steps too late, but he doesn't open his eyes to look at the newcomer.

Someone crouches before him and then there is some crinkling before something small lands in his lap.

Altaïr peels an eyelid open to find Ezio crouching there like a little monkey, a grin contorting his face. He doesn't feel like sitting there gabbing all night with him, but when he looks down upon his lap, there is the shiny red package of a condom. Then there is another. And another. Ezio keeps showering a handful of colorful condoms at him before he tops it off with a fancy bottle of brand-new lube.

"If you need bigger condoms, they're on the third checkout," Ezio's bent figure straightens before Altaïr can even come to his senses, "Happy fucking!" Ezio manages in a hushed whisper before he scuttles from his sight, veers behind the first corner and vanishes entirely. Altaïr stares wide-eyed and stunned with this entire encounter, but then there are more steps, coming from the other end of the walkway. Altaïr launches into a little panic attack as he collects all these items and flings them between the menagerie of potato chip snacks to hide them. He presses his eyes closed and resumes his position, calms his wild breathing before Malik can arrive.

And it is Malik, with heavy steps that turn softer when his gaze lands upon Altaïr resting there alone, with the metallic jingle of his ammunition announcing his approach.

Altaïr senses his immediate presence as the man lowers into a crouch, where Ezio had been only a minute ago, and probably watches him. Altaïr feels a gentle touch of hand above and behind his ear, feels fingers tousling his hair.

"I wasn't sleeping," he speaks just above a whisper, "I was resting my eyes."

Malik sits next to him, opts for the side Altaïr is leaning into, and lets him rest heavily across his flank and shoulder. Altaïr opens his eyes before they dart up to Malik's face, "Why did you take my perfume sample?"

"You’ll get your stupid flag now."

Oh, but there’s something Altaïr craves much more.

Altaïr brings his hand upon Malik's shoulder, below his own chin, spreads his fingers to feel the firmness before he commences a slow crawl lower, across the taut swell of Malik's pec. Altaïr's throat closes off from the surge of lust and he swallows, parts his mouth to let a gust of warm breath wash across Malik's neck. Malik is not exactly protesting this daring touch, but he doesn't touch back. And Altaïr is hoping to entice him into a response, be it physical or verbal.

He decides to ask the question.

His head tilts up to gaze at Malik face and watch if he will play along, his voice drops to almost an alluring tone, flirtatious, "How long is it?"

Malik shrugs the shoulder that isn't occupied, "Never bothered with measuring. It means nothing if you can’t do anything useful with it. Having a big dick doesn’t mean you know how to wield it."

"And you do?" Altaïr asks with a thudding heart, because he is being bombarded with more information than his poor body is ready to absorb. Malik overlooks the bait on his hook.

"I don’t brag, I speak my words with actions."

Altaïr's breathing rate picks up to the point of being noticeable, because he is so close to Malik's neck, but the smouldering look of lust is a display even more palpable than his breath and Malik sees it, even with their physical proximity.

"Don’t give me that look, I’m not going to fuck you."

Something icy drops in Altaïr's gut. He looks crestfallen, a look of utter defeat on his face, a slump of despair in his body.

"OK, I get it. I’m just not attractive," Altaïr forces himself to say, unsure whether he should remove himself from the comfortable position he had assumed, pressed into doing so by a sense of decency, but reluctant to part from Malik's warmth.

"The matter has nothing to do with your physical appearance." Malik says evenly, doesn't pressure him to shift his position.

"Then what?"

"You being younger."

Altaïr growls. He starts up, filled with frustration to the point of bursting, "You’re making so much fuss over a simple thing like sex!"

Malik's face is parallel to his own, his eyes regard him with as dispassionate a look as he can muster, "Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think of sex in the same way."

And, shit, this is not where Altaïr's brain wanted to go. It's always hardest dealing with the cascade of nonsense that spills from his mouth before he thinks about consequences. He sighs, a despondent action laden with the burden he feels for saying something so stupid. Of course he doesn't really, truly, think of sex like quick rutting whenever two people feel an itch.

"Sex means a lot to me, too." Altaïr says firmly, because he doesn't want to belittle his statement with something puny as a whisper. He presses the heels of his palms against his eyes, flattens out the scowl resting above, "Dammit, I’m such a kid..."

"Acknowledging your faults is the first step to solving the problem." 

Right. He should really be allowed to speak only when his hormones aren't hurling him into a whorish state of nuisance.

"True, I'm not a shining example of chastity, but―"

There are lips upon his, and Altaïr's mind is blank.

Blank, until it morphs into an endless loop of Malik, Malik, Malik.

Altaïr is paralyzed and shell-shocked with disbelief, before a joyous spark slithers down his spine and branches out in a slow crawl. His hands drop from his face and Malik leans further in and Altaïr's lips hurry to press back, to part.

Malik is so warm.

Altaïr's heart is thudding madly against his ribcage as he bolts up to wind his hands around Malik's neck and Malik grabs him into a crushing mesh of bodies, and there's nothing elegant in the way Altaïr is latched onto his body, but Altaïr is fine because Malik is finally, finally, finally kissing him.

Kisses are something Altaïr has not dedicated much thought to. Surely, as far as he could remember, they have not been so overwhelming in their power, they don't leave you feeling so pathetically faint in someone's arms, or fuck up your perception of time.

Malik's hand is at his nape, to angle his head and pull him up into the kiss, and Altaïr opens up with a tiny noise from the back of his throat and welcomes Malik's tongue on his own, and Malik takes everything that is offered to him. His lips conquer and Altaïr's obey. He tastes faintly of cola, of power and strength, of Altaïr's sweetest fantasy. When their kiss breaks, he gasps against Malik's lips, then kisses him again, because he doesn't dare show just how breathless he is, because one kiss will never be enough.

Altaïr gorges himself on Malik's virility, on how the man is defiling him with something simple as a lip-lock.

His throat gives another traitorous hum of pleasure without his consent and Malik parts from him, holds him by the nape so he wouldn't lose purchase while they breathe a shared breath. Altaïr craves another join of lips but his chest heaves with breaths and pleasure washes over him in wild waves.

"What did you want to say...?" Malik asks in the barest of whisper, brushes their lips to see Altaïr's part further in vain expectation. Altaïr blinks up at him, feels like he's teaching his mouth to speak from scratch.

"I... I can't remember..." Altaïr can't finish his thought because, really, his brain is having a massive short-circuit, and all he is aware of is that he is exposed to temptation to rip the clothes off Malik and mount him right here and now. He leans up for more, but Malik keeps him in place. Then he pushes him away.

Malik is engrossed in sharp focus as his head suddenly twists to the side.

Altaïr's own senses perk up and there it is...

There is what wrenched Malik's focus away, there is this rattle in the background, there is this break of small glass and a tinny clatter.

"Get down!" Malik warns and takes Altaïr with him in a sprawl across the floor before Altaïr can't even comprehend what's happening, but Malik's protective form is above his when the explosion blasts from the storerooms, followed by a boom of detonation that is felt across the entire facility.

Malik bolts up before there is yells and shouting that follow after the explosion, leaves Altaïr on the floor, but he falls from Altaïr's sight before the youth can follow.

Altaïr's body tingles with a numb excitement as he scrambles up, undecided in which side he should turn to, but he has no sooner started down the shelves when two consecutive ear-splitting pangs ring out, and there is a shit-load of rapidly-spreading thick smoke.

It comes in waves until it fills up the entire building and has nowhere to filter out and Altaïr can't breathe, can't keep his eyes properly open because it makes him tear up. He clutches the bend of his elbow tightly across his nose and advances on to where his colleagues are, and for a couple of seconds he can only discern a few dark figures dressed in black uniforms that swoop down the supermarket.

Altaïr forces his eyes open long enough to see what they are up to, and then he begins to retreat. Because the police is getting the hostages out and he has no intentions of going anywhere.

Altaïr doesn't linger to see his coworkers being led out onto fresh air while they cough their lungs out, he can barely keep his eyes open and he can only hardly breathe through the material of his shirt, but he retreats into unsafe territory and begins the ludicrous enterprise of tracking down Malik inside this cloud of tear gas. He keeps his head down to tame a sudden bout of vertigo and feels his way along shelves, but he is coughing and trying to stifle it, fearing discovery by a member of the police.

There is a crunch of someone stepping upon broken glass before there are arms around Altaïr's midriff, and his dread turns real when he opens his eyes to see a masked black figure trying to haul him over his shoulder. He resists and struggles, he doesn't call for help because attracting others won't help his cause, and he is victorious for a very simple reason. The need for fresh air launches him into stealing something he needs most. While the man is busy trying to lift him, Altaïr pushes his gas mask up and over his head, tears it completely off, and the man leaps into a fit of coughing and releases his hold on Altaïr.

Altaïr collapses into an ungraceful heap before he vaults after the gas mask and picks it up from the floor to press it to his face.

He hears the cop behind him but he hops onto his feet and sprints off into the unknown, gulping deep breaths of air through the massive mask. He blinks through the veil of tears clogging his vision, but the vision beyond the mask is no better.

Altaïr wanders through the stagnant mist of fog trying to locate some orientation point but instead he stumbles on quite a sight, and he is glad he appeared when he did.

Because Malik is in the process of strangulating a cop to death, both of them crashed on the floor and bereft of gas masks, while another man dressed in black is attempting to aim his rifle at Malik who keeps thwarting this effort by imbuing constant movement into this struggle. Altaïr doesn't think when he moves forward in a quick stride, and for the first time in his life he doesn't give a shit for acting rashly because he'd rather take a bullet himself than let Malik get killed. 

He doesn't really know how to fight like a professional, he probably couldn't kill anyone even with this surge of adrenaline shooting through him, but he knows how to slip off the gas mask from this cop who keeps aiming at his Malik, and his actions result in the same outcome as they did before. The guy goes off into coughs before he realizes what has happened, but Altaïr is upon Malik because the man is pulling his gun out and putting it to the cop's skull.

"Release him!" Altaïr shouts at Malik and the man listens to him with a heavy heart and chucks the lying figure into unconsciousness.

Altaïr thrusts the stolen gas mask into Malik's hands and the man puts it on with little effort. He goes off to knock out the remaining cop, and then he orders Altaïr to bring him shopping carts. Altaïr doesn't question this, and when he returns Malik begins loading the unconscious bodies into them.

They find one more man, the one Altaïr escaped from, and all three of them they roll off toward the checkouts and past them, before Malik pushes the carts down the sloping ramp while he's hidden behind the cover of gas that's filtering out of the building in thick smoke, and leaves them into the hands of their commander as a threat.

The crowd applauds Malik's well-being through a sea of whistles and cheers before he retreats inside.

Altaïr sits alone at the ex-focal point, leaned against a shelf with his head turned up toward the ceiling, and steadily breathes through the massive mask. Malik assumes a place next to him, puts his rifle to the floor. A few moments pass before Altaïr slowly turns his head to Malik's side, lets the heavy load of the mask and the pulling gravity finish his movement. Malik does the same until the filter canisters at their mouths join into a touch.

They sit next to each other waiting for the thick fog to disperse.

They sit searching out each other's eyes through masks.

They sit together, finally alone.

 

Chapter Text

Ezio starts down the ramp and toward the handful of paramedics the moment his gasps can pass through his constricted throat without driving him to coughing, but he freezes in mid-step as his eyes fall upon the blond issuing orders to a handful of policemen. Ezio straightens himself into a semblance and breaks through the wall that is the ambulance crew.

"Leonardo!" He calls loud enough to draw attention over the rising clamor around him, but careful to not let his voice adopt any firmness.

The chief inspector twists around in a heartbeat, and Ezio inches his shoulders inward, morphs his features into a doleful expression he doesn't truly feel, and looks at Leonardo with the most elaborate doe-eyed look a man can muster.

Ezio sends Leonardo this look that pleads for assistance, and Leonardo is drawn to this like a moth to a flame.

"Ezio! I'm such a fool!" The blond dismisses the couple of paramedics towering at Ezio's back with a wave of hand and takes the youth into his hold, "I didn't know your shift was today—it didn't even cross my mind that you too were held hostage..."

Ezio doesn't much care for the past events, doesn't even care he's just walked through a cloud of tear gas, all he cares for is that he can now put his hands to Leonardo's chest while the man cradles his face, and he gives a small sniffle and looks innocently to ground to make himself appear smaller because he knows Leonardo will fall for such display of vulnerability, because Leonardo is protective over everything that requires protection, and Ezio is more likely to secure the man's attentions through this carefully-knitted plan.

Leonardo is indeed prompted into leaving the scene unattended by a mere hint of a pout on Ezio's lips and falls easily into the trap, and leads Ezio over to the ambulance car himself, with a shielding arm wound around Ezio's shoulders while the youth shuffles himself closer into the chief inspector's hold and subtly leads him away from the commotion, inside the vehicle where they can be alone.

The night is upon them.

 


 

 

Micheletto is not among them.

Cesare watches the last of his members being loaded into the ambulance car but the crème de la crème of his operational unit has yet to emerge from the facility, and Cesare doesn't know what has happened to him.

He is beside himself as he watches the ambulance roll off alongside the thick line of people who stand behind the police ropes, singing and chanting and whistling and in jolly spirits while the police is being mauled by a single man hiding inside a supermarket.

But not for long, no.

Cesare seizes the first policeman that is running past him, grabs the man, outraged, shouting into his face, "I want this madman's file! Name, surname, everything! Find it! Find it yesterday! Do you understand!?"

The man nods vehemently and Cesare lets him off.

"Where are their rifles, goddammit...?" He mutters to himself as he reflects on the lack of weaponry on his unconscious men, and glares up the supermarket entrance with a dawning suspicion.

 


 

 

Three identical rifles, Malik's bigger one, and a fat pouch all lie on a neat heap before Altaïr's crouching form while Malik works. He keeps on fortifying their little stronghold, a ring not too wide in diameter but spacious enough, walled by heavily-laden shopping carts from the backside and beverage chillers in the front. The height void between the floor and the shopping carts is filled in with cartons of bottles.

Altaïr glances up at the loud scraping where Malik is pushing the last fridge into the remaining chink of space. This one, too, is crammed with drinks, from spring water to fizzy pops. It must weigh a ton. Altaïr is half mind to go assist in this task of sealing off their fort when Malik emerges and switches sides, now pulling instead of pushing, and he waves Altaïr off where he stands. Altaïr reverts into his previous position, content to observe Malik, because it's quite a sight.

His torso and back are once again shamelessly showed on display because his overall is zipped off and secured by a procured belt, and Altaïr ogles with furtive glances because he doesn't want to be caught looking. It's funny, because while Malik keeps his focus on shifting the fridge into place without getting his gloved hands stuck, the tattooed owl on Malik's strained muscles keeps a watchful eye on him from where a part of its head peeks toward Altaïr. But Altaïr's mind has the annoying hobby of drifting off into colorful musings whenever he lays eyes upon Malik's hard body, and his imagination is running wild before he can bother to stop it. Before he knows it, he's having another daydream which includes Malik bending him over a desk and slamming into him in a tireless drum of hips until Altaïr is breathless or moaning or both, until Malik turns him into a mess of a man.

Altaïr has barely crossed the realms of another lurid erotica when Malik's gaze suddenly swings at him and Altaïr is quick to look away, because the places his eyes are resting on aren't very innocent. Malik scowls, and focusing on his face proves best.

"If you want to stay here, help me with filling the cracks," Malik says with a hint of temper.

"I stayed here to save your life," he returns, knowing there is nothing more to fill because he made a decent job.

"You? To save my life?"

"I could have left with the others, you know," Altaïr says crossly, his tone lower but aiming to sting when he adds, "I had a date in any case..."

He is somewhat embarrassed when Malik keeps on blatantly evading his bait.

"So why didn't you?"

"Because they would've killed you," he feels stupid saying this because, fuck, isn't it obvious?

"They are hard, boy," Malik reverts to the mocking pet-name, to prove something, or not, "I'm harder."

Altaïr knows one thing which surely does turn hard at Malik’s proximity.

To escape a useless onslaught of other fantasies, he tightens his body stance and leans his chin on his knees, looks at the weapons he guards. Fuck some stupid date, fuck freedom, and fuck the police. He'd stay in this building forever if it meant keeping Malik safe. He thinks this with an angry indignation, unsure as to who he's targeting with it.

Then it hits Altaïr.

It hits him like an avalanche, or a ton of bricks.

The gripping realization is so shocking in its strength, in its truth, that Altaïr almost plops his butt straight down onto the floor.

Okay, his mind spits forth while Altaïr's eyes are slowly bulging. Okay, it keeps repeating, Oooookay. Okay. Okaaaay. Okay.

It seems to him that somewhere between Malik tearing his mask off and this conjuring up of perversities he has... fallen in love. Altaïr doesn't know much about love other than it sucks. It's... stupid. It's juvenile. It's dangerous. Because the man he is now in love with actually hates him without even knowing. Because Altaïr is the reason why all this shit has happened in the first place. He is the very cause of Malik's injustice. On a completely unrelated note, the man could be married. He could be a father for all Altaïr knows. This thought settles him even deeper into unease.

He is in love.

He is in love. He is in love. He is in love.

His mind keeps working like a mantra, like a broken record, until the scary reality of it fully sinks in. Oh sweet humiliation. Thy name is Malik.

Altaïr tries to backpedal, to ask himself once more if he's sure he is in love with the man, but this sorry attempt at cheating is as successful as his attempts to lure Malik into having sex. He isn't even sure what love is anymore. Isn't it something that comes slow, at a snail's pace? How long do you even need to tell you love someone? Falling in love isn't supposed to be a fucking blitzkrieg, to come swift within a single day. Maybe there just are different kinds of love. Because when Altaïr thinks back on the moment of readiness to take a bullet to keep Malik safe, the sensation in his chest isn't something merely gentle and tender, but rises like a gorge, like an angry and reeling urge to protect and to cherish. And in that split second when the feeling overwhelms him to the point of physical pain, Altaïr knows denying it would be self-delusion.

To err is human, to fall in love is human, too.

Altaïr's heart is large enough for a guest, but lonely and chill, without a fire he longs to kindle.

In the background, somewhere far-away-sounding, the cops are yelling for attention. Altaïr can barely hear them over the roar of his own thoughts, but when Malik goes for the sliding doors Altaïr is quick to follow. 

"Is this your tear gas democracy, dirty cops?!" Malik shouts as Altaïr takes a place to his left, glued to the wall.

"Is that how you're trying to get me out? How your sponsors from the top have taught you, huh!?"

"I don't have sponsors from the top, you mongrel!" Cesare hollers through the megaphone, "But I'll show you what I've learned!" He then turns to a colleague to issue an order, schadenfreude written plainly across his grinning face, "Turn off the lights!"

Cesare takes up the megaphone again, yells at Malik, "Make it dark, so he doesn't see what I'm about to do to him!"

There is an anticipatory moment of no exchange, and then there is a power outage as the inside of the supermarket is plunged into darkness.

"Turn the lights on, coppers!"

"You got some other special wishes?" Cesare taunts, laughs, "We'll tear it piece by piece until we get you out!"

The mass of people goes berserk, boos and whistles alike plunge the entire area into a din of noise. Cesare turns to them, the grin on his face faltering only for a second before he thrusts the next words into the sea of outraged faces, "We'll use racket launchers if that's what it takes to pull you out!"

"Don't! You will kill me too!" Altaïr's yell tears from the depths of his throat.

Cesare spins around, flabbergasted.

"Who's there!?"

The crowd behind him falls into a silence, waits in suspense.

Altaïr looks into Malik's face and whispers, "Do you want me to go out now?"

He knows he wouldn't budge from Malik's side even if the man ordered it so, but he wants to hear his response, he is pathetic enough to need Malik to need him, wants Malik to take his hand and ask him to remain, maybe give him looks of adoration and love. Altaïr likes the sound of that. Malik doesn't say anything. He does return the look, but on his face is nothing more than vague confusion. Altaïr schools his features into blankness before they can descend into disappointment, but his sentiment stands unflinching.

"I'm a hostage!" He shouts, sending the thousands into uproar.

Cesare stands wide-eyed, as if someone has just slapped him across the face. The man had thought all hostages were cleared. He had thought that the criminal is the lone figure left inside the building.

Inside, Altaïr's eyes are soft and his heart is full even with the lack of response, and he presses his hot cheek against the cool surface of the wall and his eyes are clouded with love as he whispers, "I'll stay with you."

Malik nods, unsurprised.

 


 

 

"Oh, Leonardo, I've been so frightened..." Ezio keeps on peppering his speech with little sniffs, seeing how susceptible the blond is to his exaggerated vulnerability and how eagerly he drinks up Ezio's playing a child that hasn't hardened against the world yet. 

A patient smile lights up Leonardo's features after he closes the ambulance car, and he turns to Ezio who sits inside, the two of them alone. 

"Don't worry, Ezio, it wasn't the poisonous gas that they once used―this is an ecological one, in accordance with human rights." Leonardo has to lower his head somewhat, hovers over the youth's form, but then Ezio is sitting up higher in his seat and slipping off button after button on his shirt. Leonardo's hand is warm in Ezio's other one as he finds it and brings it down to his chest.

"But, Leonardo, my heart is beating so fast in my chest, please feel it..."

Leonardo's jaw is slack when Ezio sneaks his hand inside his own shirt and puts it firmly against his skin, climbs further up to encourage it deeper inside, and Leonardo's pupils are dilated while he stares into Ezio's pretty eyes and pouty lips. Ezio hooks a single finger in Leonardo's collar because the man is just so close yet far away, and he tilts his head to the side before he wrings the collar down to cut the distance off, and they are kissing.

Leonardo bends lower to seal the kiss tighter, to give his wandering hand more vantage and Ezio leans eagerly up into his sweet touch, just when Leonardo parts his mouth and his tongue joins pleasantly with Ezio's.

But then there is this voice that follows the slide of the ambulance doors that wrenches the man from Ezio's grip as he recoils back, and there is a jolt of distress in his warm-blue gaze, and a hint of blush across the dusting of freckles on his handsome face.

"Get off that kid, idiot!" Cesare stands there livid, hardly paying Ezio attention while he shouts at Leonardo, "While you're fooling around in dark corners that lunatic up there keeps another hostage! Shame on you!"

While Cesare is spilling forth his grievances Ezio is slowly, ever so slowly, rising from his seat behind Leonardo, the power of his ire swelling to overflowing with each word that leaves Cesare's mouth, before he bursts to unleash the pent up wrath he has harbored ever since this morning. And when he shouts back, his voice booms and carries forth the thunder of his anger.

"What the fuck do you want, you stupid mutt!? What fucking hostage―Altaïr chose to stay in there on his own! Fuck off before I throw you off a fucking cliff!"

The silence that follows is palpable.

Leonardo and Cesare stand equally wide-eyed, and Cesare brings himself to movement first, slowly slides the doors closed, humbled, and slithers off in utter silence.

Leonardo turns to look at Ezio, and the youth melts into a smile sweet as cotton candy.

 


 

 

Altaïr shifts and relocates his cheek onto a cooler spot on the wall and listens to the song of people below. He looks out to watch the cheering crowds, filled with a sense of pride. There's so many of them.

"You managed to unite the city in these hard times," Altaïr says, his words awe-induced, meant as a praise.

"Times are not hard, Altaïr. We’ve only grown soft."

The rebuke, gentle as it is, gives rise to a small frown on Altaïr's face, but Malik's usage of his name is heartfelt and makes him feel mature and grown up.

"I believe in what you believe, Malik. I, too, am against this carrot-and-stick system that makes life a pitiless race between a few winners and many losers who were born to lose anyway."

Malik eyes him like he’s matured at least ten years since they first lay eyes on each other this morning, but when he speaks his words are far from what Altaïr has expected.

"I’m not here for politics, only to even the scales of justice."

Ouch.

There's Altaïr's old friend again, the arrow of crippling guilt.

"So you're not against the system we live in? Where the few have the right to rule and the many have the duty to obey? Where the moral code condemns not injustice but failure?"

"You are mature for your age," Malik eyes him with a smile-cum-smirk, and by now Altaïr has gathered that Malik has no appetite for discussing politics. Malik's expression does strange things to his guts, and illegal things to his crotch. Altaïr's own face simmers down into a thick look of lust and his eyelids fall into a drop under its weight.

"Do I get the D now?" He hears himself say.

"Not a chance."

Well, it was worth a try.

Altaïr turns to the crowd to shake off the remnants of lust, "I support you in your struggles. But you'll have to surrender sooner or later."

"Why should I? It will make me look bad."

Altaïr fixes him with a look, "You could look far worse, if you go on. The politics―"

"I fuck politics in her fat ass." Malik growls at him. Altaïr shuts his mouth. All he wants is not to be parted from Malik, doesn't the man understand?

"I'm here because of my brother. Because you people harassed an innocent child." So Malik had lied to them earlier, or he is lying now. It's no matter anymore in any case. What matters is Malik's accusatory tone.

"Why are you pointing at me?" Altaïr defends himself even when guilt eats him out.

"Because you too are working here."

"You're still mad about that?"

"That's why all this shit is happening! Because of my little brother. Don't you remember?"

Altaïr swallows and purses his lips, looks elsewhere.

"If you say that publicly everyone will laugh at you. What kind of man takes an entire supermarket hostage because of a little boy?"

Malik leans into his face, close enough to intimidate, and Altaïr's breath stops.

"I'd kill off half the world for my brother." Malik's eyes are fire and his face is conviction, and Altaïr has no doubts he would. He slowly works his throat into movement, whispers into Malik's face:

"That works on me, but you will have to come up with something better if you want the cops to release you..."

Malik chuckles, then retreats.

"I don't know what you're smoking to distort your view on cops this severely, but can I have some?"

Altaïr frowns at him.

"I don't do drugs."

"The joke has clearly been around longer than you have," Malik teases.

Altaïr overlooks the tease because there is something he's been meaning to ask.

"The age gap between you and your brother seems huge."

Malik smiles.

"Kadar was an accident. He was a miracle. My mother was nearing her middle age when she conceived. I was twenty back then, nearing twenty-one, and I had been worried. But things went well: Kadar was born a healthy baby." Malik finishes, too gloomy for a story with a happy ending.

"Your mother must have been proud," Altaïr says.

"She died in childbirth."

Altaïr feels the shock of this course through him from head to toe.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Altaïr whispers, and he's never meant these words so honestly as he does now. He has a soft spot for mothers, he thinks to his own mother who must be worried sick about him and it makes him ill. Altaïr is not efficient in physically consoling people, but he reaches to put his hand over Malik's and gives a squeeze.

"Thank you." Malik answers this silent condolence, recognizing the candidness of Altaïr's words.

Their hands remain joined for a few more moments before there is a sudden flash of floodlights pointed toward the supermarket entrance, its jarring rays permeate the gloom of the interior behind. They separate to bring their hands up to shield their eyes from this onslaught of lights before Malik takes to shouting down at them.

"Turn that light off, fucking cops!"

"Release the boy and give back the guns, you vagabond!" Cesare retaliates, "This is your last warning!"

"THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING!" Shouts the crowd back at him unanimously, the volume of it so potent that it sounds like a football stadium brimming with people.

Cesare looks at them, a quick questioning glance over his shoulder, before he turns to Malik anew with more vain threats, "We're going to fuck you up!"

"WE'RE GOING TO FUCK YOU UP!"

Cesare spins around entirely, lowers the megaphone, shouts at the city gathering this time to pipe them down, "Shut your fucking mouth, bastards!"

"SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH, BASTARDS!"

Up in the supermarket, Malik and Altaïr are guffawing with laughter.

"I'm gonna mess him up!" Malik yells the moment he works himself into some semblance.

"He is serious!" Altaïr shouts himself, prompting the crowd into a roar. Cesare is looking up in their general direction, irresolute of how to cope with all this. Leonardo appears at his back, his collar askew and his lips suspiciously reddened, but looking unruffled otherwise. He puts his hand to Cesare's shoulder, makes his colleague look at him.

"We haven't killed anyone today, let's keep it that way, Cesare." He suggests conciliatory, a convincing smile on his face.

"I'm in charge now, Silky." Cesare says, doesn't shout, rubs his face to calm himself. Leonardo shrugs the pet-name off, slaps Cesare's shoulder before he speaks.

"I know. Have you managed to find his little brother?"

"What brother?! I don't even know who he is!" Then he remembers his earlier order, "Where is the file I've sent for? Bring me his fucking file!"

"I had a chance to meet that boy inside," Leonardo says to Cesare, "Lovely creature. Spare his life if you can."

 


 

 

"So, will you really mess me up?" Altaïr asks once they thread inside. Altaïr had expected them to return directly to their little bunker, but Malik has snatched another cart and now rolls it down between the shelves, gathering up some food Altaïr pays less attention to as he trails after him. Malik looks over his shoulder, gives an enigmatic little smirk.

"Depends on how you mean it."

Altaïr's mouth drops because he doesn't know anymore if he's chasing mirages or if Malik is flirting with him. He is too overwhelmed by processing and dissecting this to realize that Malik has slowly but surely led them back into their stronghold. They slip inside, cart and all, and Malik orders him to stay while he goes off in search for more supplies. He returns hauling two smaller round tables. He joins them together and puts two box flashlights at each far end, and then he begins to work.

Altaïr sits on the floor leaned against the fridge, feels his eyebrows rise toward his hairline with each passing second because Malik is making a real little feast from the stuff he had collected. The man is so meticulous and creative in what he does, so painstakingly detail-oriented that Altaïr swearshand on heart and honest to Godhe has never in real life seen a man prepare a meal so appealing to the eye.

Malik cleans his sharp knife, cleans each piece of vegetable, cuts a melon into a piece of art and fills it with a diverse assortment of salad, cuts meat and cheese up into mouthwatering slices loaded onto skewers, arranges a table-full of dazzling display until Altaïr's eyes don't know where to look first. Altaïr now knows that Malik is orderly, and detail-oriented, and a creative man with a knack for cooking, and he is... perfect.

Altaïr will have him. He will have him, or he will die.

"Kid," Malik calls as he washes his hands, "Supper."

Altaïr rises and devours the sight that whets his appetite. If he ate like this each day, perhaps then his body would fill out as he wishes it would. Perhaps he would then gain weight through a proper diet instead of gobbling bad foods poor in nutrition and sugary sweets that only stave off his craving but never bulk him up. His last train of thoughts makes him halt, takes him off to the realm of sweets and cake, and he belatedly remembers it.

Today is Malik's birthday.

Malik follows with a scowling eye as Altaïr sprints off with a stolen flashlight, and he runs toward the flower-shop where he picks up the prettiest red rose he can find, and offers it to Malik as a gift, out of breath as he fights off a smile and holds the flower out. Malik's smile is wrought with warmth that melts into longing when he accepts it and takes a whiff, puts the rose across the table, between plates.

"Happy birthday." Altaïr says, recklessly, foolishly, swayed by the beauty of Malik's gentle expression, and when the words hit him back across the face he drops his smile and breaks into a cold sweat. Seeing the look of confusion turn into a darkening frown feels like watching an impeding car accident that's bound to happen, and when Malik looks up at him Altaïr keeps his face surprisingly blank.

"How do you know about my birthday, Altaïr?"

Altaïr doesn't blink, he doesn't swallow to wet his dry throat, he doesn't nudge himself into elaborate thinking, he just blurts out the first that his mouth finds agreeable enough to produce:

"You've said it yourself."

Malik descends into a thoughtful scowl, combs through his memories, plainly confused. It seems that after a few agonizing moments Malik has fallen into the modest trap, guessing that he dropped word about this event during the course of his outpour of fury early this morning, and he shrugs it off, returns to the meal.

Crisis averted.

Malik pulls the cork from a wine bottle with his teeth and sloshes a generous amount into an empty glass before offering it to Altaïr first, "Drink?"

Jesus Christ, yes please.

Altaïr only nods and takes the glass with both hands to ease the shake. At least he can breathe again. He drains it before Malik can fill his own and holds it out for a refill which is obliged without delay. Malik drinks his own wine methodically, starts his meal slow where Altaïr is enthusiastic. 

The food is plentiful, but they polish the table off with their healthy appetite.

Malik is not inclined to leave the mess inside their fortification and brings the tables out, cleans the area off, returns with some pillows to sit on.

"How was the supper, kid?" Malik inquires as he tosses a pillow at him to catch and settles next to the youth to recline on the fridge. Altaïr feels full and content when he pulls his small secret out of his pocket and puts it up.

"Better than these pills I take," he chuckles, shakes the small glass bottle into a brief rattle. Malik's entire face sours as he regards the thing in Altaïr's hand like it's something vile.

"You poison yourself with that chemistry?" And he's obviously not happy to find this out. Altaïr feels his joke has gone down the toilet and he thinks on how to conjure up an appropriate excuse, because the last thing he wants is Malik to regard him with disappointment.

"I take them only to gain more weight."

"You shouldn't fill yourself up with needless medicine."

"It's only until I right my body shape," Altaïr says in lowered tone, feels like he needs to convince himself first of the validity of his arguments.

"Perfection does not exist," Malik switches into a more amiable tone when he senses the issue is a painful one for Altaïr, "and flaws make us human, Altaïr. There are many people out there who just don't understand that, especially you young people." Malik takes Altaïr's drooping head into his hold, lifts him up to same eye-level to make sure Altaïr lets his every word sink in, "Someone will always have big ears, or a shit personality, or a crooked nose, or a few chubby rolls, and they will think their lives would change were it not for those things. But it wouldn’t, Altaïr. It would stay same."

"But I can’t find what I’m looking for with the way I look..." Altaïr doesn't say, he whispers.

Malik inclines his head closer toward Altaïr's and asks, "And what is it you’re looking for?"

Altaïr ponders lying or evading the truth. He’s not sure how much Malik wants to hear or how much he himself is willing to offer. But he has no reason to lie to this man, not a single one. It’s been ages since he could plainly open himself up to spill what truthfully rests upon his shoulders and heart, and this is a one-time chance he would be remiss to ignore.

"I want a man, preferably older, bigger than me who would fuck me without mercy in one moment and tenderly hold me in the next."

Altaïr is prepared for anythinganything except for Malik’s lack of response. It hurts. To see Malik mull heavily on what he will say before he says it.

"So go find someone who fucks you right and treats you how you deserve to be treated."

Yes, I’ve found him, Altaïr wishes to say, he’s holding my face. But he is quiet.

He slips out of Malik's hold and leans back, a little hunched in his posture, purses his lips when he feels a sting in his eyes, and twirls his thumbs to keep his body busy while he thinks back to the origins of the conversation to try and find some less embarrassing point he could pick up.

"I take them when the times are rough."

"You don't know what rough times are, boy."

Altaïr sighs as his eyes fall closed. Here we go again. Same old repetitive circle. You're a chick just hatched from the egg and you haven't seen shit, son. Right.

"I've spent almost ten years in ditches, on the front line, in constant danger."

Altaïr stops his thumbs and slowly turns to look at him, eyes like saucers, a cord of awe and fearful esteem coiling slowly up through his gut and chest while he listens.

"I've seen hell, desperation, blood and tears."

"A soldier?" Altaïr breaks into a whisper.

"Warrior. Special unit. You don't know how much you underestimate me, boy."

And, sweet heavens, Altaïr is enchanted by Malik's voice, by the core power of what's resting beneath this god of a man. He would sell his soul like Faustus to know more. To see and feel more of him.

"Who are you actually?"

"If I tell you I'll have to kill you."

Altaïr is so intoxicated by a wave of danger, of awe and excitement, that the only way this medley of sensations can find outlet is through a childish chuckle.

"Tell me," his whisper seeps with excitement.

 


 


"Owlik?"

Cesare looks up to deadpan at the handful of colleagues that cluster the spread-out file.

"Is someone fucking pulling my leg here? What Owlik!?"

"I think that's his codename." Leonardo supplies while picking up Malik's photograph to examine the man.

"Oh. I thought it's some title." Cesare drops his tone in discomfiture and bends down anew to read out the data.

"Malik Al-Sayf. Thirty-three years old. Drafted at twenty-one, relieved of duty... three years ago; second parachute brigade; counter-terrorist unit. Fought on three fronts. Trained for diversions, survival in extreme conditions, unconventional warfare. Highly trained marksman. A dietitian with special nutrition recipes for maintenance of physical and mental abilities of soldiers. Special unit..." Cesare finishes this reciting, and swallows.

"Find his brother," he orders in a whisper.

 




"That's me in short," Malik finishes and taps against the middle of his tattoo, against the scowling owl, "This is me. A war veteran. An owl of war," he allows himself to smirk while Altaïr regards him like something altogether too divine and immaterial before his finger slips lower across his forearm to cradle the owl's throne, "the skull is my enemies. The memento of lives I've taken."

"Why are you an owl?" Altaïr asks without taking his eyes off Malik's tattoo, his relics of life and war he carries with him.

"I've done most kills at night. When my enemy thinks I sleep." Malik shifts, encourages Altaïr to have a closer look, to touch, and Altaïr welcomes the chance and traces the elaborate feathers on this majestic creature of death, feels like he's just been told a horror story, and climbs up to the owl's flowery crown in hope of a happy ending. Surely the flowers must signify something other than death and military prowess.

"And this?"

As expected, Malik's face mellows out, shifts to an odd fondness.

"Ever since Kadar learned how to pick up a spoon, he's made a habit of making a cake for my birthday. He covers it with rose petals." Altaïr listens and pets across the blooming petals and feels Malik's skin rise to goosebumps under his touch, "I don't celebrate birthdays. But I look forward to that cake every year. These stand for the roses that adorn it, and for Kadar himself."

"There are three roses?"

"The third one stands for my mother."

Altaïr pets across it in gentle strokes. For a short moment he feels devastated. He feels like bawling his eyes out at the unfairness of this. He's ruined Malik's birthday by slighting Kadar, an innocent child with wish to make his brother happy, by insulting Malik's memories, by taking this cake away from him. What a terrible piece of shit he's been.

Malik's hand winds behind his neck and pulls him up by the nape until they are an inch apart, and Altaïr's mood flips like a coin.

"You sealed off your destiny. You're going to die with me. Here, in the supermarket."

For half a minute Altaïr knows only how to breathe and watch Malik's eyes, and nothing besides.

"How romantic..."

"Incredibly romantic."

Malik's breath is a warm tease against his lips and Altaïr is losing focus, losing control over his body and tongue.

"So do you grant final wishes before death?"

"If it's sex, forget it. We're thirteen years apart."

Altaïr restrains himself from a boil of anger because he will try to cook up some better argument.

"My view is if there is grass on the field, play ball. Any younger is no good."

"That’s fucking disgusting."

"Will you fuck me or not?"

"Had I less self-control, I might have."

"I'll believe that when I see it."

"Forget it, kid." Malik releases him and leans away, begins to zip his overall up again. Inwardly, Altaïr wilts a little. Outwardly, his dick does the exact opposite. Why couldn't his fixation with Malik's body just die already before he turns absolutely pathetic? Altaïr rises and lifts himself up to full height, fuming, then turns to nurse his bruised ego with an insult.

"Fuck you, I hope you fall off your high horse, you limp dick."

Altaïr starts a step, doesn't get far as a voice unalike anything he's heard on Malik stops his track.

"Hold. Get back here." When Altaïr doesn't, Malik gets up himself, his voice dripping with threat, "What did you just say, boy?"

Altaïr had meant his words as mindless insult, not enticement, but who is he to complain? Malik is provoked by the allusion to impotence and it suits him just fine. A haughty expression crosses his face, an expression Malik never gets to see because Altaïr never turns to face him, but he recommences his steps instead.

Altaïr shames himself with a rather loud yelp of surprise as Malik hauls him backward, pins him against the heavy fridge. His eyes are wide as he finds himself unable to budge, staring up at Malik whose voice is too calm and collected for Altaïr's liking.

"That's enough, kid."

"Why won't you respond to me? Should I fucking spread my legs for you to catch a hint?!"

Malik's look turns into a pained grimace, like he... like he feels sorry for him. And only then does it dawn on him what a slut he made himself look just now.

"Sorry." He grits out.

Malik doesn't look the slightest bit appeased by this. Altaïr scowls up when he works himself up into facing Malik. He's already apologized, but now the man wants him to grovel.

"Sorry for harassing you," he elaborates, hoping it will be enough, and it is. Malik's painful grip loosens.

"It's alright. I've got an uncanny patience for idiots." He drops his hold entirely and Altaïr looks to the side, shamed into silence.

"You're really desperate to see the D, aren't you?" Malik says in a taunt, but that doesn't matter, because Malik is suddenly pulling the zipper down and shrugging the overall off like he did before. Only this time Malik's hand delves into his boxers and he pulls them lower while his other hand takes it out and Altaïr’s eyes grow wide and color drains from his face when Malik pulls the thing out.

Malik stands there with a smirk, displaying his hard cock with confidence.

He clasps two fingers around the base and can’t even make them touch properly, so thick is his girth. He tilts his fat cock up and lets it fall into a light bounce before Altaïr's gaze like a big meaty bait, and Altaïr makes a quiet little noise in the back of his throat because there is no other appropriate response to this... this weapon of ass destruction, for the lack of a better description. Jesus. Malik doesn't fuck his partners, he impales them.

Altaïr has cut off all communication with the outside world because all he can think about is how he would go about in his approach if he were to fall to his knees right now to worship this beauty. Said beauty is robbed from his field of vision when it disappears from his sight and into Malik's boxers and—

"What? Where? Wha—"

"Eyes up here, boy. Look at me."

Malik backs him into the fridge once more, now with less threatening and more promise as he says:

"You’ll go to the restroom. You’ll freshen yourself up and think again on what you’re asking of me. And if you still want it when you leave that room, then you will come back to me. And I’ll give you what you want."

The forbidden fruit is no longer forbidden.

 

Chapter Text

The pool of water in his joined palms is icy.

He wets his face with splash after splash until it's numb from coldness, until his agitated stomach recovers from another surge of excitement. There's nothing much to think about, really. He has wanted Malik from the very moment he had laid eyes upon his face, but he gives his body a few more seconds to reconcile itself to the impeding event.

He dries his face against the sleeve of his working shirt and heaves a deep breath, picks up the small flashlight from the hand basin before setting out to find Malik.

Altaïr leaves the restrooms, freshened and calm, with eyes and body set upon his goal. With his long strides he crosses the track back to the vicinity of their bunker, then stops. He has made himself sufficiently loud to announce his presence to Malik, and when Malik looks up there is enough light to see the wicked grin that spreads across Altaïr's face. Altaïr doesn't cross the gap between the two of them. He eases his body into a fluid state of swiftness before he swings left and hides behind a shelf with a glint in his eye.

Malik is upon him in a fraction of a second, and the hunt begins.

Malik is fast like a gazelle, he is halfway down the aisle before Altaïr can even exit it, and he's forced to grasp the nearest stand and fling it in Malik's path to slow him down, veers to the side and starts down the next aisle to hide. He looks up to the top of the shelves separating them, half-expecting Malik to vault across, but Malik seems to have deliberately slowed down to give him some advantage. Altaïr grins and sprints down toward the end and out into the crossroads, thinks on where to flee before Malik can catch him. This game of chase through a gloomy supermarket is more exciting than any sex he's had in his life, and his heart is alive with a healthy drum, his mind thrilled as he hears fast footsteps echo behind his back, his body titillated into a blazing fire of lust.

Another grin splits his face as he swerves to the direction he came from, only two aisles further down this time, and starts toward the bunker with muffled steps, to avoid disclosing his hiding place as this venery continues on.

But not for long.

Malik materializes at the end of his path as Altaïr is about to exit the aisle, and Altaïr is left bereft of chance to react as he crushes against his solid chest and Malik secures his hold on him, clutching both arms around his waist and locking his hands before lifting a winded Altaïr off floor a couple of inches.

"Gotcha."

Altaïr has no idea how his track was predicted, or if it was predicted at all, but nothing right now provides him with enough motivation to think on it, because Malik is pressing his prize closer to his torso until Altaïr lifts his legs and wraps his thighs around Malik's hips, winds his hands around the man's neck, and lets him shift his hands to basically grope his ass.

"Let's play a different game now," Malik whispers throatily, denies Altaïr access to his mouth as he speaks.

"Yeah?"

"Let's play summoning spring."

Altaïr cradles Malik's jaw in his hold, drinks up his every whisper, feels the tight coil in his gut give slow rise to another erection while his crotch is pressed up against Malik's torso.

"How's that played?"

"Easy. I fuck you and shower you with come and you flourish under my care."

The words send Altaïr into a vertigo of excitement, and—oh, oh—his cock gives a twitch and his hips buck subtly against Malik's solid form, and he can't control himself at all.

"Oh fuck—yes… let’s play spring," Altaïr manages to whisper as he keeps Malik's head secure to crush his lips down against his, kisses harshly for all he's worth as he claims fistfuls of Malik's hair to press himself tighter, to coil his thighs against Malik's body until it aches.

Malik lets him do this for the shortest time only, then lowers the youth to floor and lets him gather his balance.

"I'll get condoms, you find yourself lube you like most," is all Malik tells him before they part ways.

Altaïr hurries to get the one Ezio had found for him earlier because it's nearby and because it's good. He finds it behind the bags of chips, but doesn't bother with the strewn condoms. Malik knows best which suit him most. The thought drives him to another grin and an excited flip inside his stomach, before it plummets into a sober realization. He has nothing to impress Malik with. Even his clothes are the same lurid green from that morning, dusty and marred with all sorts of stains by now, and plain unattractive. He might at least find himself a new shirt. And so he does as he runs off to pick up a decent white one and he slips it on, sheds his working clothes, buttons himself up, ruffles through his short hair.

When he returns to the bunker with lube in hand, Malik is patiently sitting in a chair, reclined comfortably with an inviting spread of thighs, yet still in his frustrating overall.

As he slips through the sole chink of the loop to enter their stronghold, Altaïr's eyes flit across the ground to note how well-prepared Malik actually is. The man had proved already that he thinks ahead with that hand grenade trap he had set, among other things, but now with the three sets of sheets (for whatever purpose he intends to use them), pillows, and an actual mattress huddled in the center of their bunker, he realizes just how detail-oriented and well-thought-out Malik actually is.

"You put on new clothes?" Malik asks, ever observant, and remains seated while Altaïr stares at him from across the ring.

Altaïr shrugs.

"I wanted to present myself properly," he murmurs out in response.

"Nonsense. You wanted me to find you attractive."

There's a touch of shame on his cheeks as he lowers his gaze but doesn't bridge the distance between them. He peeks up when Malik next speaks:

"It worked. Come here, let me look at you," he says with an inviting lilt in his deep voice.

Altaïr does want to, but he scowls at the idea, and Malik is quick to sense his discomfort.

"Hm? You hesitate?"

"What do you want to see me for?"

Malik seems close to chuckling at his question.

"Well, isn't it obvious? To have a look? You're rather nice to look at—"

"It's not true."

"Who are you to decide for the observer?"

Altaïr sneaks another peek and Malik eyes him with that knowing uplift of lips that only mature men can pull off and make you feel foolish. Malik hooks a finger, telling him to come close. Altaïr swallows, but moves over with head dipped, tightening his clutch on the lube bottle to relocate his attentions elsewhere as he settles, standing between Malik's spread thighs.

Malik leaves the backrest and leans forward, holds below Altaïr's shoulders before he lets his grip slide down the length of his arms, "What do you see?" He asks Altaïr.

Altaïr shrugs again, doesn't answer right away because it's difficult admitting your faults to the one you wish to impress.

"Just a scrawny boy who should have more substance."

"Is your weight normal?"

"Well, yes, but I don’t want to look like this."

"Can you move normally? Can you breathe and perform all bodily functions without problems?"

"Yes," Altaïr begrudgingly admits, already aware where this is going, "Stop using the guilt card. I know what you're trying to tell me."

"I'm trying to tell you that there's nothing wrong, Altaïr."

"Easy for you to say. You’re perfect," he grits out and Malik does give a chuckle this time.

"In your eyes maybe. You should already know that points of view differ. To some I've got too much muscle, to some it's not enough. Too much hair, not enough hair. Too dark, too foreign, or not exotic enough, and so on and so. Rare is the man who pleased all tastes."

Malik's hands allow themselves more liberty and begin to wander, and this touch coupled with his words stir somewhere inside Altaïr an ember of fire until it roars into a simmering flame. His warm hands ask for permission to unbutton the shirt and Altaïr nods, inspects Malik who inspects Altaïr's torso being unveiled button after button. He flicks the piece of cloth off Altaïr's shoulders and lets it shirr onto his elbows for the briefest moment before it falls to floor.

Altaïr stands there in-between Malik's thighs while the man is sitting, feels Malik kindle the flame of desire into another flare as he eyes him up and down like a fine piece of meat, starved. He pulls Altaïr to himself, pushes his hands up higher across Altaïr's trim waist and over to his back, puts his mouth to Altaïr's lean chest, presses a litany of kisses below his collarbone. His wet-and-warm mouth is upon a pebbled bud next, and Altaïr's arch of body prompts Malik's hands down his spine and to the small of his back. Altaïr breathes heavy, his own hands grip at Malik's hair, tighten in response to the wet friction against his nipples and the chafe of his goatee on his skin and Malik's sudden-and-firm grip on his clothed dick. Malik holds him secure and allows Altaïr to press his erection against the rough touch.

He starts unzipping Altaïr's pants, delves in to palm him through his boxers, finds them patched with a wet spot where the boy has started leaking pre-come, rock-solid.

Malik's persistent tongue sends Altaïr into an unwonted moan stifled by Altaïr's own lips, and Malik nips and licks with the expertise allowed only to mature men who know what they are aiming for, and he steadies Altaïr with a knee between his legs, presses up while below the belt-line he is running a finger teasingly up and down the underside of Altaïr's cock and Altaïr whimpers, tries to grind into the light touch. But this is not all Altaïr wants, no. Altaïr wants something little more vulgar in sex, wants to drop all his inhibitions, and he wants Malik sans clothes. Now.

Altaïr latches Malik off his flushed chest where first marks of attention are already blooming, and tips his head up, bends to press their mouths together and delve deep into Malik's mouth, to find his zipper and pull it down with a convincing force. They break the lip-lock breathing heavily, and more clothes follow to ground in mindless stripping.

Altaïr doesn't allow for Malik to sit back again but keeps the man standing, the two of them naked except for boxers and flush against each other, with Malik's hand lightly against Altaïr's nape while the youth begins a slow-but-quick crawl down Malik's torso. Ages he wants to spend on worshiping the sculpture that is Malik's body, but a treat waits for him eagerly at mid-point, and he starts out with a brief kiss at the join of the man's neck and shoulder and descends, with wet lips across muscle rippled in the wake of his wandering hands, traces the arch of his pec and ribs on his way to the solid ridge of his abdominal muscles, tasting a brief sample of every inch and curve that stands in his path before he sinks to the floor completely.

He softens the ground with the layers of their shed clothes, doesn't balk at getting down on his knees to suck Malik off, and hitches his thumbs in the hem of boxers to shove them down Malik's hips and watch the heavy cock bounce up like it's spring-loaded. Altaïr again zeroes in on the cock standing out from dark curls, wide-eyed and with lips parted in awe at the sight set before him, sight he eats up with ravenous appetite.

"I'm done for," he whispers faintly with an underlying squeak-or-moan, and a sliver of nervousness streaks through his stomach because the matters are basically as follows: Altaïr's head says yes, but his butt says no. And his mind screams at him to adore it, to worship it.

Malik pets through his hair as if to say do whatever you're comfortable with, but he doesn't urge him on. Altaïr's gaze is glued to Malik's package, his hands braced on his robust thighs feeling the trained muscle beneath, eyes following the shaft's subtle curve upward and the meaty head of his cock that are the paradise for any bottom and their prostate.

Altaïr knows to give good head, but he can't—and probably never will—deep-throat Malik entirely, even if he wishes he could. The poor man has probably never even had a proper blowjob, or alternatively, he's been offered one only to discover that it's not in fact a blow job, it's being jerked off with a little tongue action. So when Altaïr reaches to grasp the sac that hangs below he rolls it around in the cup of his hand, every image he's seen in porn and every blowjob he's dreamed about reels through his head, and when Altaïr tilts and bends to bring his mouth toward the base, he looks into Malik's eyes to let him see that he's not just sucking cock, but sucking his cock, with all the thrill this knowledge brings.

His tongue flickers from root to tip across the underside in a zigzag pattern before he moves to grip the thick base and aim the shaft at his lips. He flicks his tongue out flat across his lower lip and slaps the meaty crown against his tongue in a few fat smacks, feels a sensation like an aphrodisiac has been given to him when the soft tissue of his mouth molds to Malik's hardness. Malik is putting his hand to Altaïr's nape without pressure at first, to crane his head as Altaïr keeps opening his mouth to take him and gives in to the rising pressure on his neck until he feels the fat head of this cock at the back of his throat.

Altaïr applies his tongue freely and generously and isn't afraid to venture into uncharted territory, to mark it as claimed.

He doesn't skimp on saliva and sucks wetly, lets Malik's invading cock press at his tongue and into the velvety warmth of his mouth, hollows his cheeks with his reddened lips stretched obscenely around his girth as he gets the hang of it with uncanny speed until Malik can't do much but watch half his dick disappear within Altaïr's working mouth, only to reappear slick and glossy with spit. Altaïr tries to inch deeper with each new swallow while keeping his left thumb squeezed to staunch off the gag reflex, and he opens his mouth wider and loosens his throat, gives him more than he thought he had, until his tongue is exhausted and he allows Malik to hold his head and fuck his mouth.

He tears his smouldering eyes up to steal a glance as the older man tips his head back, he traces up the valley of abs and hard pectorals, up the dark skin glistening with rising sweat while Malik fucks his mouth with abandon, and he renews his hold on the weight of swaying balls, wedging them upwards into a firm grip and moaning, the vibration of his voice traveling up Malik's shaft and sac. Altaïr takes it like a champ as Malik keeps thrusting to the back of his throat while his breath quickens, and Altaïr feels Malik's body stutter and the leathery sac in his grip beginning to contract before Malik yanks at his hair, pulling him away.

"I'm close," Malik warns in a throaty whisper, his sudden movement leaves a rope of saliva looped from his glans to Altaïr's mouth, leaves the youth's chin shiny wet.

Altaïr's dick is hard and his pupils are dilated when he grasps again at the base to direct the shaft and trace the dewy head of Malik's cock over his swollen lips, feeling bold as he answers with a scratchy voice:

"Right in my mouth... let me taste you..."

He closes his fist around the girth, giving a couple of firm strokes as if it were his own cock, delighted at the distraught moan that rips from Malik's throat at this proposition, and he can't get enough of that sound to satisfy himself. He guides the slick length into the confines of his mouth and hums again, doesn't get past a couple of deliberate and methodical swallows before he can reap his reward.

He doesn't back off after the first spurts of seed flood his mouth, but takes it greedily. He swallows, but Malik keeps coming. Altaïr allows the last ropes to find refuge within his mouth and lets the man enjoy the stray jolts of afterglow, then leaves his half-hard dick to nuzzle and pepper wet open-mouthed kisses above his crotch as a sweetener.

Malik lifts him by a pull on shoulders, angles his head up to press a kiss against Altaïr's swollen lips. Altaïr breaks this touch of lips, he has to look up due to height difference, but whispers harshly nevertheless.

"Tell me you want to fuck me."

"I do." Malik answers in a low tone.

"Then don't kiss me like that. Kiss me like this," Altaïr hisses as he yanks at Malik's hair and joins their lips and tongues until all he knows is the warmth of Malik's mouth and body.

"Feisty, aren't we?" Malik teases, infers from Altaïr's bold behavior that he's no longer interested in setting a good or chaste example, and it suits him just fine, because he's about to fuck the boy's brains out anyway. He picks Altaïr up and heaves him onto the mattress where he lands short of breath, and stoops after to manhandle him onto his knees and elbows. When Malik slings the boxers off he grins at the find, sinks his fingers roughly into the supple flesh of the cutest bubble butt he's ever laid eyes upon. And Altaïr has been complaining about his looks, the blind fool.

Altaïr feels another kind of hot surge suffuse his cheeks while Malik inspects him, doesn't look over his shoulder to see if Malik is enjoying the offers or not, but keeps his forehead against his joined hands, looks almost like caught in prayer were it not for the man behind his back forcing his knees further apart and kneading into his ass like it's the most fascinating thing in the world. Altaïr is blushing but bared for Malik to see, aroused to the point of burning up from the sensation.

Malik snatches the lube as he grudgingly removes one hand from Altaïr's suspended rear, drips thick ropes of lube down his crack, and although it has no practical propose, he lets it dribble down his sac and around and down his erect cock. Malik spreads him shamelessly, and Altaïr revels in the throaty moan of appreciation that comes from the man behind while he takes in the sight. Malik rubs the pad of his thumb over the puckered hole, smearing the rich thickness of lube that had gathered there and Altaïr whimpers audibly, bucks to earn more friction, losing control before Malik has even entered his body.

"Please, Malik..." he breathes, tries to still his body, but it's all in vain once he feels the heavy weight of Malik's cock resting atop his butt pointing toward the small of his back, as if the man's is trying to measure how far in he will go while fucking a smaller body. Altaïr perches his ass up to try coax him into movement, rubs against the length of Malik's warm shaft inadvertently slicking him up, but Malik stills his actions, digs again into the malleable and eager body beneath his.

"You can't take me. I should prepare you."

"No… no, I used my vibrator last night."

"No matter, I should prepare you."

Altaïr huffs with a sting of impatience because he just wants that cock inside already. But Malik is patient in his lust, and Altaïr moans with unfiltered arousal when Malik breaches him with a slick finger, then two, melting away all lingering inhibitions. Altaïr's cheek is pressed against the loose-fitting sheet across the mattress, his ass sticking up high for Malik's handling, and the man knows what he's doing. Three fingers has Altaïr gripping the sheets, breathing hard, as Malik continues to work him up into a twitching and bucking mess of a body, and fingers alone never felt this good, and, gods, his arousal isn't warm but hothothot.

Malik's free hand grips him by the base of shaft and his palm is warm as he starts milking his cock with a deft twisting of his wrist, and Altaïr moans because he doesn't need his manliness today anyway. Malik slows the steady thrusts of fingers and eases them completely inside to just stroke in short circles over the swell of Altaïr's prostate and Altaïr is losing it before he can hear the low drone of Malik's chuckle as the man eyes the mess Altaïr's cock is leaving behind in the process.

Altaïr forces his mouth shut with great endeavor and forces his eyes open to look down his body where Malik is looking. Altaïr is leaking pre-come like a broken tap.

He resists the reflexive urge to clamp down on Malik but his cheeks heat up because he's mortified to see an abundance of pre-come soaking the spot below his cock while Malik is milking him for release. He tends to leak a fair bit while getting his prostate stimulated, especially if he hasn't come for a couple of days prior, but Altaïr pretty much does it only during masturbation and never with other people, and Malik is apparently turning him on to the point of gushing, to the point where he can only watch the trail of a translucent line dripping thickly to add more to the mess on the white sheet.

"More," he breaks into a pleading, "Oh, damn, more." Altaïr leans into unsteady hands, overwhelmed by the musky scent of arousal, dripping with pre-come and lust equally, now too busy riding Malik's fingers to be embarrassed. He is turned on into a terrible state of moaning as he keeps his face buried into the sheets, keeps his body grinding it out because Malik is attending to all the sensitive spots and making him feel desired and sought after, and Malik is far from complaining because this tells him he's doing his job right. His attentions further deteriorate Altaïr into a mess as the youth is caught between soft moans or sharp gasps, and he notices before Altaïr does that the boy is teetering on the brink and plummeting too abruptly.

A shudder racks Altaïr's body after too quick an orgasm and Malik lets him ride it out until the youth is only half-spent and still waiting for the real thing while his body recuperates. Malik's is already coiled with a fresh lust, his dick at full mast, but waiting for Altaïr to recover from the clutches of a gentle climax.

Malik's shaft is slick-and-smooth with condom and lube when he presses his crotch up against Altaïr's perched backside, draws the swollen head of his erection down the crack of Altaïr's ass until it catches on the slippery rise of puckered skin and just rubs the blunt underside of the crown against his hole without pressing to breach him, just testing if the orgasm mellowed him out enough into loosening up. It will be a tight fit. Malik doubts that Altaïr is a virgin, but he has the overwhelming urge to defile him, to fuck him in the most obscene ways until the youth begs for mercy, to dominate him until there is nothing but a sated mess of a man beneath him. But he has to get inside first.

"I'm gonna give it to you so hard, boy," he promises in a dark, thick husk and gets a breathy whine in response, and a wild buck as Altaïr grinds back into his slicked cock.

"Just fuckin' do it and fuck me," Altaïr is the embodiment of impatience as he proceeds to grind up and down the length of Malik's upturned dick until Malik's hands clamp upon his supple cheeks and halt his almost frantic movement.

"Fuck?" Malik splays himself out across the expanse of Altaïr's back, without leaning his weight into it but hovering with an air of threat or promise, glues his hard torso to equally sweaty skin beneath until his mouth is upon Altaïr's ear, "I don't fuck, Altaïr. I ravish."

This forces a full-blown moan from Altaïr's throat as the youth angles to the side, thirsty for Malik's lips.

"Kiss for good luck?" Malik asks and gets a nod in return, meshing his fingers into the pliant flesh while chastely kissing into the cushion of Altaïr's wet lips. He spreads Altaïr again as he moves up and back, and Altaïr tenses a little at the slick movement of Malik's cock sliding across his hole. Malik applies more pressure but slips off before he can enter and he grunts in frustration. He flattens his hand out against the small of Altaïr's back and strokes across to coax him into relaxing, hopes he won't have to abstain from sex half-way through because his partner can't take it as it had happened too many times before.

He reaches down to hold himself in place before pushing against the unyielding tightness of Altaïr's body. Altaïr grits his teeth as he feels the warm tip of Malik's cock trying to enter. The youth writhes the tinniest bit as it does, in attempt to get away from the source of pain, and his lips are raw from the clench of teeth upon them as he continues to pull away from the sensation for only a few more moments before he settles into the feeling and breathes through. Malik penetrates ever so slightly, and then backs away. He knows it's quite a bit to take, so he keeps petting over Altaïr's waist and back as a partner tending first to his paramour's needs before tending to his own.

"Altaïr?" Malik asks, concern saturating his voice. Altaïr will answer, but he stalls for a few moments, stealing time, knowing Malik won't move until he feels ready.

"Move."

"Then don't squeeze me so tight."

He wants Malik's dick, he really does. That's why his body loosens in response to this thought, strews desire within his crotch until his cock is rising to full mast again and he moves his own body to unwind and takes the rest of Malik, delighted by the gruff moan that rips through the man at the constricting warmth. His grip at Altaïr's hips increases and Altaïr moves his hips into a sampling wriggle and gyration while testing out the girth, the depth of penetration, and confirms to himself that he's never had cock big as this up his ass. His breath hitches while he gets accustomed to the stretch and he presses back until Malik's dick can't get any deeper, sinks his face into the sheets again at the blend of rising pleasure and dying discomfort, doesn't know what he's feeling anymore.

"I'll give you your due..." Malik says wryly, with something dark and thick swelling in his tone, "You have one hell of a tight ass, boy."

"Fuck you," Altaïr growls muffled by the sheet, enjoys the unflinching pressure against his swollen prostate in a daze far too thick to see the look on Malik's face.

"Well, if you insist."

And things migrate toward the serious as Malik seizes Altaïr's arms to wrench them behind Altaïr's back, holds them by the wrists in a tight-and-rough grip, keeps Altaïr’s body suspended and taut as a bowstring while he shoots his hips forward and fucks into him, uses the leverage coupled with gravity to slam up into the awaiting body. A yelp of shock tears from Altaïr's throat but it does nothing to staunch the brutal assault upon his body. His eyes are rolling back and falling closed as pleasure floods his body and hard snaps of hips hurt so good while Malik fucks him with abandon. Altaïr had never gotten this in bed, ever. There's nothing to compare it with. No one he's been with had possessed nearly enough power to hold him like nothing more than a rag-doll as this seasoned man does.

A muffled sound slips from Altaïr's unhinged mouth, the crossbreed of a yelp and moan, and his breath is ragged when Malik pulls his body tighter, warns harshly:

"Don't you dare holding back. I want no phony moans, lies aren't compliments," Malik fortifies with a hard rutting up, drives himself into Altaïr's eager body like he owns it, "Give me the rawest of what you feel, boy. I want to hear everything my cock does to you."

Altaïr's heart-rate goes berserk even before the awaited barrage of thrusts crushes upon his body. His arms are being pulled tighter and his body is tense and hurts, but his ass his eager as Malik rocks his hips, and Altaïr's deeply-rolling moan is louder than the wet slaps. The words have struck a chord in him and his head is spinning and Malik's warm hands hold him suspended and this is a whole different level of pleasure he is assaulted by. Another response is wrung from his throat while Malik fully sheathes himself in thrust upon thrust and Altaïr feels strangely disconnected from his brain as his body falls completely in sync with Malik's and he has no feeling in his arms and hands but he coils what he can of his fingers around Malik's bunched knuckles blindly and cries out a litany of pleas and warnings.

"Harder... please, fuck me good, fuck me!" He gasps a few more times through the impeding climax, piecing together the dregs of his scattered words into a semblance of language, "Gonna cum. ’m gonna cum—"

"Oh no, you won’t."

Malik drops him to mattress.

Altaïr slumps gracelessly, a heaving disarray of a person recovering from near-orgasm withdrawal. Malik keeps himself deeply-embedded but unmoving for a prolonged time, until Altaïr's body retreats from boundaries of an immediate orgasm, and he withdraws the lock of his grip on Altaïr's hips only when the youth turns to glare daggers over his benumbed shoulder.

"I said fuck me harder, did I stutter?"

"You wish to move?" Malik asks drily, "Go ahead, boy, fuck yourself on me."

Malik wants to see how far the boy will go under his own steam, if only for a moment, and he is not disappointed. He allows Altaïr to push his ass onto his slick cock and watches the join of their bodies knowingly, aware of how close Altaïr is to finding release. So he licks his lips as Altaïr backs off for a new plunge and his body slowly gives Malik his cock back, and Malik waits, watches for the tell-tale signs, until Altaïr has picked up a pace that rips a ragged groan from the boy's hoarse throat. He puts a stop to it with renewed pressure on Altaïr's waist, tries to do it, but the youth doesn't show disposition to settle down and lifts himself keeping Malik sheathed inside, uses the momentum to tip the man over until he is sprawled on his back, and Altaïr has few precious moments to fuck himself on the fat cock, reverse-cowgirl style.

It's like riding a bull, only with an awkward tangle of limbs, fighting to see how long you can stay on before it bucks you off.

And Altaïr doesn't get much time, not near enough to allow himself into a much-deserved summit. The slow torture of Malik's orgasm-denial is almost breaking him down into frustrated sobs. Malik cants him to side, the groan or roar that tears from depths of the man's throat is something primal and entirely chilling, and Altaïr welcomes him between the spread of his legs in a sign of submission, welcomes Malik's bulk as the man shuffles him about and rearranges Altaïr's body to his personal liking until the small of Altaïr's back is perched up against Malik's solid thighs and his own are fastened to Malik's ribs. He welcomes the pierce and sting of teeth that leave blooming marks on his skin, and he knows these nips on shoulder and neck will morph into bruises and bites that will not fade by the morning.

He feels the slide and brush of their lengths on his belly and wants release like he wants air.

"Look at me, Altaïr." Malik parts from his abused neck, "Pay attention..."

Altaïr's gaze falls low when Malik arranges him until he is nearly bent double beneath the man, watches near wide-eyed when Malik aligns himself and guides his cock back inside, fitting in seamlessly. A new batch of arousal comes coursing through his body at the sensation of being so full and stuffed with cock when Malik begins to rock his pelvis into an unbridled pace and into what Altaïr hopes is not another denial. But Malik solicits a slightly pained moan by pinning Altaïr's arms parallel to his body, imprints him into the mattress, and starts systematically fucking him into oblivion, until Malik's name is the only extent of Altaïr's verbal acumen.

Altaïr gasps loudly through his open mouth, their breathing strained and heavy and the end is just around the corner as they meet each other with every thrust of hips before Altaïr's body gives in and just takes Malik's pounding, his brows knit in pleasure, in enjoyment at feeling the deliberate rub of the upward curve of Malik's thickness against the swell of his prostate, and he will finally come as he always imagined he would, hands-free and stuffed with a huge cock.

He hates how wanton he sounds but he feels the hot coil in his gut wind tighter to fracture the pleasure wracking his system until he is in flames, the kind that will never burn out because he wants this. This, his inner child hisses and points rudely, because he wants to be fucked like this almost every day and he'll burst if he doesn't get his load of Malik's cock for more than a week. He'll burst. And it's this thought that makes Altaïr's climax all the more intense when it slams into him. But the sensation is insane, because he's never had full-body orgasms like this during sex, and his body never felt like it's gotten caught in a riptide and is being dragged under, never felt like he's been fucked hard enough that he can't move his body past a few twitches as he spends himself.

Malik fucks it out of him and backs off when Altaïr's body delves into an overload, takes the condom off and rubs it out routinely and old-fashion way without much refinement, sufficiently pleased at having given Altaïr all that he had hoped to give.

He launches a thorough perusal of Altaïr who is lying with eyes closed calming his breath, his shoulder and neck layered in red-purplish marks, sweaty and showered in ropes and droplets of milky seed—nothing a shower couldn't fix—but the youth looks wrecked and owned, like something Malik could keep for himself afterward.

Altaïr doesn't try to move. He isn't even sure he can.

Malik wants to clean the fluids off his body before it begins to dry, wants to change the sheet, to swap it with the one of the remaining two he had hauled over alongside other supplies.

"Kid?" He calls, merely prompting Altaïr to open his eyes into drooping slits. Only when Malik picks up the clean sheet to indicate his business does he begin to stir into something that looks alive, and he rolls to his belly and lifts himself on wobbly knees, trying to find his balance. Malik uses the chance, not knowing how long it will last, and bundles the sweat-and-come-soaked sheet to replace with the new one. He even manages to slot in a pillow before Altaïr collapses sideways into the mattress. Malik is torn between highly pleased at the results of his work and utterly distraught at the lack of cooperation as he cleans Altaïr off to the best of his abilities in present circumstances and commences the slow and wearying task of putting clothes back on—nothing beyond the simple shirt and plain pants—because he must keep them at the ready regardless of how strong his wish to join for afterglow petting.

Altaïr latches onto Malik's form the very moment he joins on the mattress, his body in a content, pleasant torpor.

"Any critique, kid?" Malik asks in whispers and pulls Altaïr's frame tighter into his flank. He's learned bodily closeness through Kadar's presence in his life, and falls easily into the role of cuddling.

"Astonished..."

"Good. Astonishment was my intent." Malik instills a sense of jest into his words, but that answer alone seems to have exhausted Altaïr's remaining functioning resources as he doesn't feel the urge to retort in any way other than pushing his head up into a nuzzle against Malik's goatee, against the jaw now brittle with the beginnings of stubble.

Malik nabs a kiss and a nudge against Altaïr's forehead before the youth manages to drift off, and follows closely. It's gloomy inside the supermarket and rays of police lights still penetrate through the darkness elsewhere.

Outside, a cluster of onlookers holds guard tonight before the supermarket, but the rest of city is asleep.

 


 

"How many hostages are left?"

"Just one, male. A boy barely twenty." Cesare adds hoping to lure Robert into acquiescence. On the passenger's seat to his right sits Leonardo as silent observer, without much role to play, but Cesare's confidence is emboldened by his mere presence. 

"Then just bomb the place with nerve gas." Robert speaks through the video-and-sound transmitter, as a man unruffled by the consequences of this and indifferent to civilian casualties, as someone who spent too much time far-removed from the populace to fall into any kind of sympathy for what is not his immediate concern.

"You mean, just a hint? As a warning?"

Robert's gaze now centers on Cesare entirely, like he had expected the head of special units to side with him.

"No warnings. Let their heads ring like bells from psycho bombs." De Sable taps against the side of his head for emphasis, "One hostage less or not, no one gives a shit."

Cesare flicks his gaze to Leonardo whose face is blank with a sentiment too intricate for Cesare to unravel. He has looked at Leonardo expecting backing, or sympathy at worst, but he gets nothing but a sigh as they listen on to orders from above.

"I want this done and finished until dawn. A new day carries more publicity, and that's what we want to avoid. Am I clear?"

De Sable doesn't wait for answers, and the connection is dead before any of the two can give opinions. They sit in silence of the car that is beset by the sound of crowds outside, at a loss of words before Cesare speaks at last:

"Lucrezia is twenty..." he compares, a glaring sympathy penetrates his words. Cesare is stingy on empathy, and Leonardo appreciates it for the rare sight it is.

"The boy won't leave the supermarket without him. I hope you're already aware of that." Leonardo looks down to his joined fingers instead to Cesare, waiting to hear how far his sympathies will extend.

Cesare clicks his tongue in frustration. "I can't disobey orders from above."

Leonardo knows it, knows that Cesare has been installed into the position by his father and has reputations to uphold.

"To die from psycho bombs is a horrifying death, Leonardo." Cesare utters what the blond already knows.

He sighs, puts his faith into the goodness of humanity before he answers what Cesare doesn't want to be told.

"You are in charge now, Cesare."

 

Chapter Text

 

They are sweaty, dusty, and tired.

While it's nothing unfamiliar to Malik, Altaïr is a different story. He is not weak, but his body is foreign to prolonged exertion. Malik drives himself to waking from time to time, every two hours or so, to check for police movement outside, before he drifts off again under the solid press of Altaïr's weight. Altaïr's deep, calm breathing pattern seduces him into sleep, in the same manner Kadar does when he occupies Malik's bed. Altaïr is deeply embedded into his side, face laid near Malik's neck, one arm slung across the rise-and-fall of his chest, fast asleep.

The boy is a cuddler.

He has yet to remove his body from Malik's or to change his posture. Malik's body is growing restless and demanding movement, but he decides to allow Altaïr this position for another last round of sleep before he wakes at dawn to listen for commotion from where he lies, to avoid waking him.

 


 

Micheletto wakes at dawn.

The gas mask is pressing down into his face under the sheer weight of debris covering his entire body. He needs a couple moments to collect his wits, and a few more to remember what put a stop to his mission. An explosion. A hand grenade. A trap. Set shrewdly at the other side of sealed storeroom doors he had tried to unbolt.

Micheletto brings his limbs to a movement, frees his hands from the rubble, and begins to rove his way out. It takes a while to set his entire body into motion, but he is not bleeding, he is not injured, though he might have suffered a mild concussion from the impact that knocked him out.

Clever man, this.

Micheletto has an appetite for clashing with men of his caliber, but he hungers more for revenge now, vengeance for his failed mission when Cesare had counted on him most.

His rifle he can't find. But on him is still his hand gun, and it will suffice.

Micheletto rises, dusts himself off, slips carefully past the demolished remains of door flaps and throws a look around before he discards the needless mask.

The supermarket is in absolute disarray. Dim daylight slowly filters through the glass of entrance doors, bathing half the expanse of supermarket grounds in a muted glow, in an eerie atmosphere. He advances step after step, careful to avoid all items, all glass, all strewn goods across his path, until he discovers a structure incongruent to its surroundings and location. The small improvised bunker rises tall toward the supermarket entrance and slopes down into a lower wall toward its back, made of crammed rolling-carts, all protecting the clearing inside.

And inside there is a sight to behold.

The duo sleeps on a mattress, uncovered, the ex-hostage nuzzled deeply against the target's body lying on back.

Outside, there is a rising hum of voices as citizens start gathering to join those who have camped out behind the crime scene, and Micheletto will have to act quicker than he already is, before this noise alerts the target into waking.

He comes to a stand at the target's free flank, hovers over him. A movement catches his attention. The boy's face contorts for the briefest moment before he nuzzles up in deep sleep, burrows his face further into the target's neck, and Micheletto takes it as a cue to react before his last chance is lost to a cuddling boy.

The muzzle of his gun touches the center of Malik's forehead.

The press is feathery and the man doesn't wake. Micheletto's gaze plummets to where the man's free hand—the one not wound around the boy's shoulder—rests across his own hip. Micheletto nudges it, it falls open at the man's side, and he steps onto his hand, pressing down with the sole of his boot.

Malik's eyes shoot open, he startles forward, but not past an inch, the gun now tight against his forehead keeping him down. He blinks, once, stares up at Micheletto with wide-but-fearless eyes, alert. Micheletto's sooty face twists into a toothless grin, sinister and pregnant with vengeance. The gun slides down Malik's forehead, over his nose, nudges against his lips.

"Bite the barrel." Micheletto orders through the smirk, his words a deep near-whisper.

Malik's face is placid when he parts his mouth and lets Micheletto glide the barrel across his tongue and into the warmth of his mouth, sets his teeth against the steel. Micheletto's grin breaks on the side, revealing his white molars. His target below him is the type of man Micheletto wouldn't mind fucking, but when he decides to go on he aims at startling the man into fear, seeing how the civilian boy must mean something to him, if his protective body language is to be trusted.

"You can't imagine the things I'll do to you." Malik doesn't bat an eyelash at the threat, which is a reaction Micheletto expects, but his gaze then switches to the slumbering, oblivious youth, "And then I'll play with your boy-toy."

This, on the other hand, gives rise to a reaction Micheletto does not expect.

Malik's gaze widens for the fraction of a second in response to the words before he reacts. He fists his hand that rests on Altaïr's back into the shirt and pulls at him, shoves him off, sends him across the mattress and falling from it in a tumble while his other hand grasps at Micheletto's wrists to push the weapon out of his mouth and to the side, the one facing away from Altaïr.

Altaïr shouts for help.

 


 

Cesare stands before the supermarket, gazing up the entrance illuminated by the sunrise, a chilly summer morning upon them while citizenry at his back rouses into wakefulness at an uncanny speed. Their numbers are still great, swelling by the minute as new ranks keep on joining the crowd. Leonardo comes to a stop at his side, silent.

"I used violence back in spring, and during those last winter protests, and in many more times between..." Cesare trails off, switching his gaze to Leonardo but not his head, "I believe in power. In force. It's in my veins."

Leonardo says nothing, his eyes are tired while he looks at where Cesare has been looking before he arrived.

"I'm not a democrat. But I would like to become one."

Leonardo turns to him, quiet in his surprise. He smiles, pats Cesare's shoulder amiably.

"Now you have the chance, colleague."

Cesare nods in contemplation, his temper waning from either exhaustion or wish to not use psycho bombs on civilians, and he decides to leave things in hands more familiar with the fair-minded side of force.

"I give you charge to finish this using your democratic methods. I'll watch and learn."

Leonardo takes to sliding his jacket off his shoulders, a genuine smile on his tired face that assumes more alertness with each order he's about to issue.

"First, tell your men to keep his little brother near, and safe." He leaves his jacket into the hands of a lower-ranked man, then straps off his gun, "Secondly, we go in alone: you and I. We leave our weapons outside."

Cesare eyes him with a sour look, but at seeing Leonardo part from his weapon he launches into a sigh, and begins to unload his weaponry. Leonardo lifts an eyebrow when Cesare hands over only two guns, prompting him to full acquiescence.

"Weaponless, Cesare. To show our good intentions," he says with a small smile and a warm blue gaze.

Cesare sighs, but concedes at last, taking off the gun strapped to his back, and they stand there bereft of weapons.

"Malik Al-Sayf, my friend!" Leonardo calls loudly, sans megaphone, "I would come in with a colleague, no weapons! We wish only to negotiate—"

"HEEELP!" A loud shout rings through the supermarket and down the entrance, freezing them for a second before Leonardo pulls at Cesare and runs up the stairs and they storm into the facility together.

 


 

It has been a stupid and foolish move, getting this close to a target with a weapon.

Malik lifts his torso off mattress by sheer muscle power and climbs to his feet because they are battling for the weapon both, Micheletto keeping it high above their heads, and Malik's hands holding his wrists from aiming as they grapple and crash into a freezer, silent in their endeavors to subdue one another.

Micheletto is hardened for a fight, but not as much as Malik. And Malik is sure in his physical superiority, but a fully-loaded weapon is something he won't risk, not near Altaïr, not near himself. Instead of gripping Micheletto's wrists now, he shoots up to the trigger itself, starts firing into the ceiling in a succession of quick shots, to waste the ammunition before a gun can injure anyone. The gunshots are ear-splitting to unprotected ears, the muzzle flash is bright in the dimness of the bunker while the freezers are putting a curtain to additional light streaming in from the glass doors.

He hasn't wasted all bullets yet when Micheletto puts a formidable force into the tussle, puts a stop to his efforts.

"Put your gun down, Micheletto!" yells a familiar voice from their side, from outside the bunker.

"You heard the order! Put the gun down!" Leonardo joins, watches this fight turn ugly as the two men crash into the floor next, Malik keeping Micheletto's handgun at a safe distance in exchange for personal safety as the man uses his other hand, his forearm, to press down Malik's neck, to put his entire weight into it.

"Micheletto!" Cesare urges, in vain.

The ring of the bunker is broken as Altaïr pushes through the rolling carts, takes the half-empty wine bottle outside they drank from and rushes in, swings it at the cop before breaking it across the back of Micheletto's skull. The man is startled but not beaten, not knocked out as Altaïr naively believed he would be, but this tiny chink in defense, this moment of distraction is enough for Malik to recover, to turn the tables, coughing but victorious as he crushes an elbow into Micheletto's face, throws him off-kilter.

Instead of squandering the remaining bullets, Malik wrestles it from the cop's grip and points the gun at him, rectifying the mistake the man had made, scrambling up to his feet and away from him while he keeps aim.

A number of rolling carts is being removed by Cesare and Leonardo as they hurry to enter the ring, and Malik turns vigilant to their presence, levels the aim up and alternates between the two of them while he falls into retreat, a wild look on his face. He wishes to keep Altaïr at his back, to protect him, to keep him out of reach where he can't be taken from him, but it's Altaïr who bolts forward to stand unflinching in front of him, it's Altaïr who puts himself between the gun and the cops.

"Stop! We surrender!" He yells at the two men, but Malik grabs him by the shirt and pushes him out of the way and behind the cover of his own back, aims the gun at lying Micheletto once more.

"Who told you to come in, cops!?" He accuses as he keeps switching the barrel between all three of them, keeping all three at aim. Cesare and Leonardo are keeping their hands up in a peaceful gesture and silent surrender, but Cesare issues a warning in a threatening but calm tone:

"Killing a policeman is a serious offense. No crowd or democracy will help you with that."

"Altaïr, please, tell him to put the gun down." Leonardo beseeches.

Altaïr maybe doesn't even listen to Leonardo as he puts himself into the gun's aim again, this time facing Malik, not the cops.

"Hey," he calls softly, and Malik is bound to look at him, for all the pain that's carved into his face, a look he hasn't seen on Altaïr until now, "Hey... It's all my fault..."

Malik scowls, a sense of panic, of disbelief, begins to spread through his stomach at the devastated look on Altaïr's contorted face, a youth Malik has fallen in love with yesterday with such ease. The dread freezes blood in his veins, and Altaïr speaks on to say what Malik doesn't want to be true, what he fears most.

"I'm the one you were looking for, Malik. I'm the one who bullied Kadar... I'm sorry..." The whisper is so quiet, so weak in its volume and potent in its power, and Malik sees nothing but Altaïr's face and the agony of penitence chiseled deep into his pretty youthful face.

"No..." Malik whispers, face falling.

It's the most tragic word Altaïr has ever heard uttered from a human mouth, as if those two lone letters have broken Malik's heart into a myriad shattered pieces that now lie among the broken shards of glass strewn across the supermarket floor.

"I'm so sorry..." Altaïr clenches his teeth into pain, to keep still the lower lip that wants to quiver under the onslaught of unspilled tears. He has lost Malik before he truly had him. It had been naive to think it wouldn't come to this, the truth always prevails in the end. Life is trampling on him once more. He fell in love with a man he didn't have moral right to fall for, and he admits to having started a fire he doesn't know how to fight. In his solitary life Altaïr had never before felt such a deep yearning for another human being, and here he stands agitated by the sense of loss, watches Malik's face clouded by pain of the truth.

Shift after shift, Malik's gaze slowly falls to the floor, and his aim follows on.

The man drops to his knees, before Altaïr or before the police, it remains unclear.

The police is closing in on them, growing in numbers. Malik flings the stolen weapon to the side and out of his own reach, looking at no one as the look on his face ebbs away into an ugly blank.

Cesare slowly inches forward toward the discarded weapon, presses down it with his boot until he can lift it up secure in his hand, keeping his wary gaze on Malik.

"You are lucky you ran into me in my mature stage, you madman." Cesare says, his voice calmer than Leonardo or anyone else has expected. He holsters the gun and signals for other members to arrest the kneeling man.

Malik doesn't resist.

A sickening sense of loss assails Altaïr's mind, and then the entirety of his body, while he watches a cop bend to put handcuffs on Malik's unresisting hands. Malik puts them behind his back and stoops his entire posture, a blank gaze glued to the floor, a deep void on his face.

The cop locks one wrist into handcuffs.

Altaïr is terrified. He is more frightened by Malik's emptiness than by his wrathful voice. He doesn't want to end things like this, he'll never find someone like Malik again, he'll spend his life comparing everything to this man, pining only for him. Everything he had yesterday built with the man destroyed by a single admittance. The horror of this soon outweighs any other feeling and Altaïr starts forward, wrenching himself from Leonardo's hands on his shoulder.

Altaïr is ready to risk all to gain all.

He falls hard to his knees beside Malik and thrusts his own hand into the other open manacle, locks it before the cop can react.

The cop glares at him, pulls Altaïr's cuffed hand up to slide the key into the hole and unlock him, but Altaïr snatches the key away with surprising swiftness, and much to everyone's shock, he shoves the key into his mouth.

"Altaïr, you'll choke!" Leonardo pleads, but it's too late.

Altaïr swallows.

Malik somewhat lifts himself from his self-imposed stooping position, until their faces are on the same level while Altaïr swallows again tightly, forcing the piece of metal down his throat. Malik stares wide-eyed at him, stunned by this rash act.

The silence seems to stretch to infinity before Malik starts a slow, slow shake of head, and there is a faint flush of hope in Altaïr before there is a blooming uplift of lips upon Malik's face that grows into a warm smile and Altaïr needs a few moments to adjust to this fond expression of silent reprimand.

"You're such a kid..." Malik feels the need to inform him before he pulls Altaïr's face to his own in his free hand, and puts his lips to Altaïr's.

A tender touch of his lips and nothing more. Just one kiss. Then another.

A deep-seated relief stirs deep from Altaïr's guts and Malik is as warm as he'd been during their first kiss, and Altaïr is maudlin with love he feels for this man. He loses himself in the want of Malik, stares dazed into his dark eyes once they part, holding closeness.

"And? What do we do now?" Malik asks in a whisper, amusement written across his features.

"From here on we go together." Altaïr glides in a little with each uttered word, until the tip of his nose touches Malik's and all they see are each other's smiling eyes.

They are prompted to rise from the floor, led slowly outside across the rubble beneath their feet, but hand in hand.

"I must be growing softer with years if I'm allowing this," Cesare gestures to the two of them cuffed together, walking out of the supermarket under the watch of police.

While they descend down the stairs and into the sunny coldness of early morning, they are received by a tremendous applause and excited shouts of admiration, and the people greet them with a happy uproar.

Malik coils his arm around Altaïr's shoulders and smiles at the crowd, entices a continuous chant of his name until the police can't hold the lines any longer and the barriers are washed down as people spill forth to surround them. The joyful carol of Malik's name is appended by the music of instruments, all sorts of marching bands that have joined the support protests yesterday, and the two of them only slowly progress toward the police car that awaits them, being held down by the cluster of an enthusiastic multitude.

Altaïr can't contain a smile at the collective exhilaration that swells within the crowds and draws them in into their glee at seeing their hero emerge unharmed, at seeing the city unite together under the same cause. Altaïr knows his and Malik's visit to the police station will be a short one. To fight this mass of people is madness, to turn against popular demand in such a critical moment is to dig a path to your own grave, and the populace never liked their heroes being taken away from them.

Altaïr walks on with Malik's arm around his shoulder and his warmth against his side, with countless smiles directed at them and many a hand thrust forth from the mass to hold on, the hands that will support them on their way out from detainment.

"Altaïr!" Shouts a familiar voice, and Altaïr turns vaguely to the source to see Ezio surface from the wall of people before him, holding a colorful bundle in his hand, grinning while he shouts, "Take your freedom flag, Leonardo got it from the perfume company!"

A number of Ezio's words is lost on Altaïr in the sea of chants and music, but he grabs onto Ezio's outstretched hand to squeeze it before he takes the flag and pulls it to his chest.

Ezio slinks into the background where the grounds are clearer, and the last Altaïr sees of Ezio is him jumping into Leonardo's hold and kissing the man on the spot. Altaïr grins at this, wants to see more, but the police at their backs goads them on through the crowd. His heart swells with happiness for Ezio even when his friend falls from his sight completely, but this feeling is ephemeral.

At the backside of the police van designated for the two of them stands Cesare holding Kadar hand-in-hand.

Altaïr has not until this moment felt such fear as he feels when he is thrust forward before this child.

He turns a pleading look up to Malik, anxious and timid, but Malik's expression is earnest and tender as he lets his arm drop from Altaïr's back and pushes him a step toward Kadar.

Altaïr looks down, and Kadar is looking up, smiling.

Altaïr hopes this smile is meant for him.

"I'm sorry, Kadar." He apologizes, feels the warmth of Malik's hand at the small of his back.

Kadar beams up at him, a child too difficult not to love.

"You made brother smile, so I forgive you. " Kadar says before he switches to Malik, impatient, and extends his little arms toward him. When Malik stoops into a crouch to lift him, Altaïr has to follow, but it's no bother. Kadar loops his arms around Malik's neck, tightly, with a suspicious sniffle as he draws back to look into Malik's mellow face.

"Happy birthday, brother."

The brothers are given a short moment to exchange tokens of affection, a few seconds to touch their foreheads before Kadar presses a kiss into Malik's cheek and coils his arms around Malik's neck in a second tight hug. Malik lowers Kadar to some degree and the child laughs and surprises Altaïr with a kiss on his right cheek, and then Malik puts him to ground and leaves him in the hands of police knowing he'll be in safe hands with Leonardo. The van is opened to beckon them inside, and Malik turns around once more, followed closely by Altaïr, to salute the crowds, to thank them for their continuous support.

Altaïr lifts his gaze from the cluster of onlookers with a smile, squints up the clear sky with his hand in Malik's.

It's not warm, but the sun shines.

 

 

Chapter Text

A shift, rather than soft tones of the alarm, pulls Altaïr from the abyss of dreams.

His eyes remain closed because he's not inclined to open them, because he doesn't want his consciousness yet wrenched from the grasp of half-awareness. His body feels the heavy arm slouched across his waist, bent at elbow and aligned with his chest while he lies on his side, and the hard torso emanating heat glued tighter to his back now that the body behind his is stirring into full awareness.

Malik is quick in waking, a man efficient in rising from bed. He will cuddle at night, after sex, and before sleep, but he will only rarely remain in bed after rousing. And yet he lingers a handful of moments—Altaïr feels the warm caress of his slow breath on a spot of his shoulder. He feels his soft sigh before he hears it, feels movement before he feels the press of Malik's bare shin into the supple muscle of his calf. Malik's thumb strokes languidly over the center of Altaïr's chest while the man steals another moment of peace before rising. Altaïr is sufficiently drowsy to not stir, to not let Malik know he is awake.

Malik then shifts away with one last sigh and leaves the bed thinking he hasn't woken Altaïr up. He tucks Altaïr in, to cover his naked torso that has been exposed in the wake of his departure, because he is about to open the window entirely to let the chilly summer morning trickle into the bedroom, and because his retreat has left Altaïr's back unprotected to the air. It's unwritten rule that Malik sleeps on the spot near the windows, while Altaïr occupies the spot facing the door and the interior of the room.

Malik takes his clothes and leaves in silent steps, going about his usual morning routine before leaving home. As if the quiet retreat wasn't clear enough a sign, Malik opts for the other bathroom instead of the one adjacent to their bedroom, and Altaïr knows the man thinks he hasn't woken him.

A sleepy smile imbued with fondness stretches his lips at how considerate Malik is as a partner, but the man underestimates Altaïr's ability to snooze back off in a matter of moments.

Malik has no sooner closed the door when Altaïr rolls over to collect whatever is left behind Malik, afraid to lose the remnants of precious warmth. Altaïr coils his hands around Malik's pillow to draw it near, hurries to hug it for the scent that will linger for a few fleeting seconds. The scent that blends pleasantly with crisp freshness of washed linen and a whiff of Malik's shampoo and a hint of his warmth. It smells of cozy home and snug happiness, and a new day to look forward to.

A morning breeze wafts inside through the open window, a chilly current washing Altaïr's skin with goosebumps and billowing the long damask curtains into an undulating dance. Above his head, there is a wispy swish of fabric moving against the wall, as the breeze is stirring the flag into movement. His 'freedom flag' from the time at the supermarket that now hangs majestically above their bed as a memento of the events.

Altaïr tightens the sheet across his shoulder and curls up into Malik's pillow, granting himself a few moments of peace to let his mind slip back into slumber.

 


 

 

It feels like a moment and not an entire hour later when Altaïr is lured into wakefulness at the thunder of running steps that thud across the floor and into the bedroom.

"Wake up, wake up! Wakeupwakeupwakeup!"

Before Altaïr can even open his eyes Kadar has mounted the bed and started jumping on and across the bouncy mattress, barely missing Altaïr's stretched out body. The child is ringing with laughter and bursting with restless vigor. Kadar is a bundle of energy when his batteries are recharged, and Altaïr knows it takes a different kind of talent to keep up with him.

Kadar springs off in a high jump to pull his knees up half-way and lands on his butt before this landing propels him right to Altaïr where he lands sprawled across Altaïr's back. Altaïr grunts from the impact and rolls off to let Kadar slip in into his former spot, then rolls back with a loud boom bellowing from his mouth as he tucks Kadar into the sheets, rolls him into a tight burrito while the child shrieks in excitement.

"Shhh, Kadar, shhhh. We're under attack!" Altaïr whispers in a hiss while he holds the wrapped child in a tight clasp of both arms.

"We're not! Altaïr, that was you!" Kadar giggles as he speaks while two smiling blue eyes peek from the tight swathe of sheets and gleam with childish excitement.

Altaïr grins before bends to burrow his face into the sheet wrapping to press a kiss across Kadar's forehead, knowing they have a cake to make before Malik returns.

 


 

 

"And you used cake flour?"

"Yes, mom."

"And buttermilk instead of plain milk—"

"Yes, mom. I followed your recipe to the letter, mom." Altaïr tries not to let his tone assume a bratty pitch while he keeps the phone pressed between his shoulder and ear, his hands occupied with the endeavor of coating the cake in its last layer of whipped cream.

His mother seems to sense his predicament and leaves off with the inquiry.

"Say happy birthday to Malik from me, and send kisses to Kadar."

"Will do, mom."

They part with customary tokens of affection before Altaïr can leave the phone to finish the decorations. Across the large round table Kadar is sitting with the look of deepest concentration etched into his features—a tidbit of pink tongue peeking from the corner of his mouth during this most serious procedure of drawing—with a menagerie of colorful crayons scattered about across his half of the territory.

On the clear patch away from Kadar and his drawing-in-progress, there is a bowl of washed and cleaned rose petals that are to be strewn across the birthday cake.

"Mother sends kisses," Altaïr says after he picks the bowl up and begins to sprinkle the fragrant petals that make an eye-pleasing contrast against the fluffy white below. Kadar purses his lips and smacks a loud air kiss back at Altaïr without letting his eyes swerve from his drawing, and Altaïr smiles at his diligence.

"Can I draw something for Malik, too?" Altaïr asks through the smile, amused at the serious face Kadar is pulling.

"If there's space..." Kadar trails off, utterly devoted to his current task as he allows Altaïr to finish the cake alone. It's an expression of trust in its own way. Altaïr chuckles and arranges a cushion of crimson petals across the expanse within the decorative ridge of whipped cream. Malik should be coming home soon.

Strange, to know how much can change within the course of a single year. And for the better, too.

Altaïr used to think these changes would affect primarily his private life, but they have spread like wildfire to include the entire city, and beyond.

They had been released from custody sooner than expected, within a few hours, whatever damage had been done to the supermarket compensated by the state under the sheer pressure of public. And having felt a taste of their own power, the people demanded further change. Change that went as far as removing the most corrupt of office-holders in the city, the rest of similarly questionable individuals chastened themselves into obscurity under the veil of fear that followed them during the mass protests that Malik himself had led, pushed up to the leading position of this public upheaval by the choice of commoners.

Malik had been fearless in his support and leading of this struggle during this weary process of regenerating the city through change in politics and public officials. It was a risky business, and Malik had a lot to lose, more than Altaïr had previously imagined. Nine long years in the military on special operations have amassed Malik with substantial money, a part of which was invested into buying this lofty flat and into Kadar's future education, and another part shrewdly invested elsewhere. All of this, all his material possessions, were thrust onto a pedestal of hazard, and Kadar's safety, and not to speak of Malik's own. But Malik persevered in leading the people without buckling under the weight of threats.

When at last, after an entire month of social upheaval, Malik had been offered the head position of the public safety department, he had been hard-pressed by mass expectation to accept it. It wasn't a job Malik had initially coveted—nothing related to personal gain, except maybe Kadar's future, had driven him to lead the protests in the first place—but Malik has grown into it despite the hostility of those slighted by these changes, those who had to crawl into silent oblivion under the watchful eye of woken public that decided to have a share in the power.

The city now prospers under proper care. Many others are bound to follow after this example, and worker parties are already stirring into action in some of the neighboring cities and towns.

As a credit to Malik's words during the supermarket escapade last year, his office department is fondly referred to by the people as 'Malik's Bureau', a pet name taken up with enthusiasm and one not rebuked by Malik himself.

Malik is on official leave for holidays, but because of his birthday he is summoned by the people and by his department for a short event to honor this occasion, and someone of Malik's social bearing and influence can't dismiss this social gathering. Altaïr finds it convenient, because it leaves him and Kadar enough time to finish Malik's cake in peace and greet him back into a loving and cozy home once he returns.

These are the changes that have swept the city.

The ones that have affected Altaïr's life are equally auspicious.

As his words during the supermarket escapade had already hinted, Altaïr and Malik have remained together. After the short detainment and through the month of social upheaval that followed and in the months following after, until Altaïr at last moved in under Malik's insistence. Under similar Malik's insistence and support—both moral and financial—Altaïr has enrolled in a university, well on his way of entering the second year in the department of veterinary medicine, firmly bound to elbow his way to becoming an avian veterinarian specialized in treating birds. Malik provided for the bulk of his entry fees, but the rest he handles alone through a part-time job.

And while his education is thriving, his love life is flourishing with the same vigor.

Malik is a keeper.

That's why Altaïr didn't have qualms about moving in with him in the first place. Altaïr is starting to understand that Malik wishes to settle, and this causes an odd medley of emotions in Altaïr's chest whenever he is reminded of it. Most powerful among them excitement, joy, and contentment, because he wouldn't waste a moment answering yes, should it come to a proposal.

His body is thriving also.

Nurtured into more bulk after months of Malik's cooking, Altaïr is shaping his body into a resemblance of his former wistful wishes under Malik's watchful eye. A proper training and diet have drummed up inside him a coil of energy he's never had before, and his muscles are growing into a shapely form.

The unlocking of door jars both of them into focus.

Kadar hurries to scribble their names in the corner of the drawing and Altaïr sweeps the remains of dirty dishes from the table and into the sink to clear it for the cake only.

Kadar is up and about before Malik has even reached the kitchen-and-dining-room, clinging to Malik's neck as the brothers enter Altaïr's vision.
Malik holds Kadar in his arm and reaches out with his tattooed one to hold Altaïr's nape as he bends to imprint a chaste kiss into Altaïr's awaiting lips.

"Happy birthday, brother!" Kadar finds it necessary to infect everyone with his enthusiasm while he snuggles himself closer into Malik's hold.

Malik's smile is something Altaïr wants to see every day and his face is drowned in affection while Kadar begins to sing the Happy Birthday song closely joined by Altaïr. Malik's smile grows into a chuckle when Altaïr gathers a finger-full of whipped cream to smear it onto his face, with Kadar following his example until both of Malik's cheeks and his nose are marred by sweet cream and he lets them do this absolutely crucial and necessary part without a protest.

"Brother, I must show you my present!" Kadar gasps in sudden memory and he's sprinting across the room the moment Malik lowers him to the floor, having forgotten said present in his bedroom.

Altaïr uses this opportunity, this moment of loneliness, to lean up into a proper kiss, whipped cream and all. Malik kisses him hard like he's been starving for this chance all day, and Altaïr's head goes blank, blank like the first time Malik had kissed him, and his body goes into a fire, because Malik is warm as ever.

Altaïr manages to part from the kiss because there's something else he wishes to say before Kadar returns. Malik is wiping off a trail of whipped cream from his left cheek, about to lick it off his finger when Altaïr curls his fingers around Malik's wrist to detour it into his own mouth. He licks it off and suckles briefly on two fingers with a familiar glint in his eyes while Malik keeps them in the warmth of Altaïr's mouth, his thumb stroking beneath Altaïr's chin.

Altaïr pries the wet fingers away with a heavy heart to bring them down, to lay them across his crotch before he humps into Malik's hand once.

"You can unpack my present tonight..." He whispers against Malik's lips to entice him because he knows the man is excited for it as much as he is. Because Altaïr goes into male PMS if he's not had his load of Malik's cock in longer than a week, and they have been abstaining from sex before Malik's birthday.

"Looking forward to it, kid." Malik whispers in return, his voice dripping with lust, because Malik is a man with a healthy libido craving sex like a man used to the welcoming body of a steady partner. He manages to sink his teeth into Altaïr's bottom lip, wet and sweet with whipped cream, and to grind forward into Altaïr's crotch in a short thrust as a small appetizer of the feast to follow tonight, before there is a patter of hurrying steps to drive a wedge between them.

But this feast never comes.

Because when the time arrives for the meals to be set upon the bed, the three of them have found themselves seated snug into the cushions of the large couch strewn with ruddy pillows of various patterns.

"Oh, come on! It's only been two episodes!" Altaïr grumbles, more to himself than to anyone else, because really—who falls asleep after the very outset of a Star Wars marathon? Malik he can understand, the man had an eventful day that drained his oomph, but he had expected more from Kadar who now lies comatose, his energy batteries drained, with only a cushion parting him from Malik's left flank.

He huffs, pressed to join in this energetic group activity because watching alone is losing its appeal, and so he puts the bowl of popcorn into the care of the coffee table beset by empty cake plates in favor of leaning back into Malik's free flank to salvage what he can of the evening. He only absentmindedly listens to the opening credits of the third episode, because he's drawing his bare feet up onto the couch and leaning his knees into the pillow that is touching Malik's hip, setting his chin onto Malik's shoulder to nuzzle his nose into the crook of his neck. With his right hand, Altaïr reaches out to occupy Malik's other shoulder, to feel along his bone and muscle in search for himself.

Altaïr's eyes are closed and his fingertips blindly trace up the short sleeve of the sleeping man's t-shirt where the roses rest. Malik's tattoos are like wooden drawers. Pull each drawer out to find a meaning or person hidden within its contents.

There are four roses on Malik's shoulder now.