Chapter 1: Desire
“There are children in there!” Jacob stared, waiting for a reaction. This was Roth’s idea, surely he knew. But he was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Roth’s expression collapsed. He walked to the edge and looked to where Jacob was pointing. Where more children were pouring in. “Fuck,” he whispered, stepping back. He shook his head, scoffing. “Surely you can get them out.”
Jacob clenched his jaw, grabbing Roth’s arm. “Did you know?”
“Yes, but,” He tore his gaze away, turning towards Jacob, “I bribed a Templar to keep them out. You have strong morals, my dear, I set this up for you. No children were supposed to be present; this was for fun!”
“Right…” Jacob stared at the workshop. All this child labour, it wasn’t right.
He didn’t wait a second longer. He hopped off the building, rolling to his feet as he went running over. He kicked the door in, giving the room a good look over. Boxes of weapons littered the floors while children worked at the tables. There was a dozen or so, and they looked terrified. He cracked his best grin.
“You’re free now.”
The children looked confused before they all scuttled outside. He followed after them, whistling loud and clear. Hoping someone was nearby. And luckily enough, four Rooks appeared from the alleys surrounding the workshop, sprinting up to Jacob. He turned to the children, giving them all a reassuring smile.
“I promise you, you’re safe now.”
“What will happen to us, Mister?” one asked.
“You’ll get a choice in matters, supported by others your age. And my gang…” He pointed to the Rooks approaching, “will help you.”
“Where should we take ‘em, Jacob?” a Rook wondered, hand on their hip, staring at the children.
“Take them to Clara.”
“Right you are, sir!”
He watched as the Rooks escorted all the children off, talking to them and explaining what would happen. He knew this process well from all the other factories they had liberated. But this was different… They normally took them over, not blow them up. But how could he not indulge? And, destroying it would mean Starrick would have nothing to claim back, as well as sacrificing less Rooks to watch over another workshop.
He climbed back onto the rooftop Roth was now sitting at. He glanced to the workshop, thinning his lips. The chaos was worth it, wasn’t it? The area was clear, no one would get hurt.
“Everyone is safe, Roth.”
Roth hummed, picking himself up from the edge. He looked down at his Blighters. “Light it up, boys!”
They both watched as the Blighters ran towards the dynamite, lighting each one before booking it out of there at speeds untold. The workshop erupted into an explosion that nearly shook the entire area. Roth grasped at his forearm, lighting up in a blazing smile.
“Now this is a show!”
The flames licked at the building, pouring out of the windows. The workshop couldn’t be saved, nothing would be left once the fire stopped, or was put out. It would set back Starrick at least a little. Depending on what his next move was. Although he ignored much of Evie’s progress, he had to admit she was getting closer to the piece of Eden. Which could, in turn, draw Starrick out, make him take to drastic measures.
After all, who was left but him and… well, Roth? But it wasn’t like he was on Starrick’s side anyway, so that was one less worry.
Roth let go of Jacob’s arm, backing away. His expression somewhat thoughtful. “Come see me this evening. For now, I must dash.”
“Clearing your tracks?”
“Something like that.”
Jacob watched as Roth made his way back down the building, hopping onto his carriage and doing a quick turn in the road. That man… He couldn’t stay away, couldn’t even try to, wouldn’t even want to. And wasn’t that an unforeseen problem? Well… unforeseen was probably the wrong word. It had caught him by surprise, but that was due to how quickly he’d begun to feel like this. The feeling itself, that had been inevitable.
Inevitable from the moment Roth sent that invitation.
They needed each other to be seen as they really were. Chaotic, but not without reason. Not without some morals. Sure, they were on opposite sides, should have been on opposite sides, but as a moth was drawn to flames, Jacob was drawn to Roth. Their relationship was beneficial in the bigger picture, but what could possibly come after? What would happen once Starrick was dead? Would Roth tire of him?
It seemed like an impossible thought.
He couldn’t help but mull it over as he made his way back to the train. Their whole partnership had been born out of a mutual want to cause Starrick pain. And even though it had only been days, Jacob would almost call Roth a friend. It stung to say so, because somehow, he doubted it was true, but that didn’t mean something else wasn’t there. Something he didn’t want to acknowledge. Buried deep and kept far from the forefront of his mind.
Perhaps he hadn’t been good at keeping it buried since meeting Roth, but that was hardly his fault. He hardly knew what any of it meant. And what it would change if he really thought about it for two seconds.
As he clambered onto the train, into his carriage, he collapsed down on the sofa, breathing out, closing his eyes. Intense. The last few days had certainly been that. His mind had been racing with hundreds of thoughts since their first outing. It didn’t allow him to relax, sadly.
“Jacob,” Evie’s voice rang out, from the doorway it seemed.
He reluctantly opened his eyes. “Yes?”
“If you’ll be out all night, which I presume you will, can you be here in the morning? Around eight o’clock?”
“Why do you presume that?”
“Because you are most nights.” She folded her arms, sighing. “Although, I will admit your nightly outings do usually include good things.”
He grinned. “Someone has to save the children and take down strongholds.”
“Yes, of course. So, you will be going out tonight?”
He pursed his lips. “I have things to do. Not sure it includes any liberating though.”
“Oh, well, it’s good to hear London will get a break from your antics.”
“Hey.” He tried not to be too offended, but before he could protest any further, Evie rolled her eyes and went back into her carriage. “Antics,” he murmured to himself.
Jacob landed in the alley, approaching the door slowly. Something, an instinct, told him this was his last chance to walk away, that if he went inside now, there was no turning back. He’d seen what Roth was capable of, what he would do. But still, even with that, he was here. Not entirely knowing what he was getting himself into, because the way Roth had put it, this wasn’t for a fourth outing.
This was social.
He waltzed in, disregarding his own worries. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t in deep anyhow, he was in much deeper than he really knew. He immediately noticed that backstage was entirely empty of people. There was always one or two standing around, and the distant sounds of others making backdrops. But… there wasn’t, not tonight.
Roth was sitting at the table, coat missing. His sleeves were rolled up, exposing powerful forearms that captivated Jacob. He was reading through something, completely absorbed. Perhaps it was a script. Jacob took off his hat and tucked it into his coat, approaching slowly. He noticed two tankards, one at each seat, and a half empty bottle of rather expensive looking wine between them. The set up felt entirely different to what Jacob had seen so far.
He cleared his throat as he neared, slipping into the chair.
Roth looked up from his papers, instantly lighting up. “Jacob, my dear!”
“What’s that?” He nodded to the stack of paper.
Roth placed it down, patting it twice. “A script for a new performance. Magic.”
“Magic… Sounds like fun.” Although, while the magic that ended up on stages was nothing but a bunch of tricks, Jacob being what he was, knew of the real magic that plagued the world. He didn’t have to care about the pieces of Eden to know how dangerous they could be, doing impossible things. So different to what people thought magic was.
“Oh, it is! But for a good performance, you have to balance danger with old fashioned party tricks.”
Roth grinned. “Like cards.”
Jacob picked up the tankard, taking a sip, then a small glug. He was right, the wine was expensive indeed. “So, what’s the plan for tonight?”
“I thought we could relax, we’ve had a busy few days.”
“Doesn’t sound like your speed.” He raised an eyebrow, taking a deep pull of his drink, leaning forward after. Roth, without missing a beat, picked up the wine bottle and refilled his tankard. His eyebrow raised further. “Not trying to get me drunk, are you?”
“Drunk? No, not exactly.” He took a sip from his own drink, regarding Jacob with a strange expression. “Don’t be fooled, my dear, while I do love the chaos this city can provide, I do have to relax, in my own way.”
Jacob narrowed his eyes slightly, leaning back in the chair. “And what way is that?”
By the time they had worked their way through the first bottle, they moved to Roth’s office. A plush sofa was pressed against a wall, a desk opposite it, and a door adjacent. Jacob sprawled on it, setting his tankard on his thigh. He watched as Roth sat, crossing one leg over the other as he refilled his own mug.
The atmosphere was buzzing with something as they kept drinking. It was calming, as they idly talked about London, theatre, drama. Jacob got comfortable as he listened to Roth talk passionately about anything that came to mind. He pushed himself into the corner, letting his legs splay out as he glugged some more of his wine down.
Roth had suddenly stopped talking, and when Jacob lowered his tankard, he realised he was staring. At him. At his left thigh that had invaded much of Roth’s space. Something crackled between them, but Jacob wasn’t sure what it was. What it meant. But Roth kept staring, with eyes that screamed want. Desire.
At that realisation, he felt flustered. Even if he didn’t know what any of it meant.
“Roth…” he said slowly, nearly whispered.
“Maxwell. Please, call me Maxwell.”
Jacob’s lips curled slowly. “Maxwell…”
R– Maxwell’s eyes shifted from his thigh to his face, gazing as if he’d just done something wonderfully chaotic and dramatic. His eyes wild… but there was a softness there. It had been present throughout their time together, but it had grown since they started… whatever this was. Whatever this had become. Saying anyone’s first name tended to be intimate, but this… was a different kind of intimacy, one that burnt at his heart.
Maxwell took a breath. “My dear, I don’t wish to push you too far. I don’t want to do something if you’re not willing. There’s no fun in that.” He shifted towards Jacob, leaning forward.
Jacob sucked in a breath. The tone had changed, the evening had taken a serious turn, with the promise of fun if he was willing, if it wasn’t too far. But in regard to what, he had no idea. He sat up, leaning closer to Maxwell, but not too close. “What do you mean?”
Maxwell placed his tankard on the floor, moving so that his leg was pressed up against Jacob’s. “This.” He cupped his jaw, his fingers curled around his neck, and before he knew what was happening, Maxwell tugged him into…
Into a kiss. He barely knew what he was doing, acting on instinct as he kissed back. Just for a second. He placed his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, wishing he could pull him in, but pushed him back instead. He couldn’t– He didn’t– Understand, he didn’t understand. He furrowed his brow, staring at Maxwell as if he’d stung him.
“I…” Jacob began to say, quickly realising he didn’t have any words.
“Oh, my dear. It’s okay.”
He stared at the hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, he gripped lightly before letting his hand drop. He was in shock, of some kind, definitely not a feeling an Assassin was used to. It was the kind of thing they were trained to supress. But then… Well, he’d been kissed by not only someone he was supposed to kill, but by a man. It was deeply illegal, not that Jacob cared much for the law, but this was different. This was wrong, unnatural… Wasn’t it?
The people he held dear would surely see it as such. Everyone was raised to think it was disgusting, after all. But here was Maxwell, a man who craved a special kind of freedom. Not just from an oppressing force, but from society too, it seemed.
But wasn’t it wrong?
“My dear, if this isn’t something you want, just say the word and I’ll never try again,” Maxwell said, brushing his thumb across Jacob’s cheek. It felt wet… Oh… He was crying, when had he started crying? The tears were crawling down his face, relentless. But he was allowed that, this situation was overwhelming for him.
“Your company means more to me.” He tilted his head, trying to catch Jacob’s eyesight, but he wouldn’t look. Not yet.
“I, god, I–” Blinking back tears, Jacob glanced away. He’d felt more like himself in these past few days than ever before. He had relaxed into himself, and while he embraced chaos, it was more than that. As if his whole demeanour changed when he was around Maxwell. He took a breath. “I’m… How can this be right, Maxwell? We’re both men.”
He needed reassurance, needed it like air.
“Jacob, it is as natural as breathing. There are plenty of people out there who break free from the lies others tell us.” Maxwell pressed his hand to Jacob’s cheek. “You’re an Assassin, darling. Breaking free from norms is what you do. It’s right as long as we both want it.” He brushed the remaining tears on his cheeks away. “Do you want it?”
Jacob looked back to Maxwell. How could he resist…? He lunged forward, capturing Maxwell’s lips with his own, brushing his hand across his neck, curling his gloved fingertips into the short hairs there. He kept the kiss brief, his meaning very clear as he hummed into it, breaking away just enough to reply. “Yes.”
Maxwell smiled in such a soft and wondrous way, but it didn’t last long, as he grabbed Jacob’s lapels, pulling him back in. He went easily, keeping one hand at Maxwell’s neck, and the other at his waist, eager to reciprocate the kiss fully this time, holding nothing back.
Gradually, the kiss deepened as Jacob opened up to Maxwell, allowing him to lick into his mouth, moaning as he curled his tongue around his own, sucking. It drew noises out of Jacob he didn’t know he could make. Sure, he’d kissed before, but it had never led to anything as passionate as this. This was… far more intense than anything he’d experience before.
Maxwell drew back, taking Jacob’s bottom lip, and lightly scraping his teeth across it, sucking at it thoroughly, biting down gently. He groaned into their next kiss, a more bruising one than before as tensions built up, as desire pooled in his stomach like never before. As Maxwell explored what Jacob liked, what made him groan and moan, Jacob started to learn what made a kiss amazing. Learning from the very experience that was beginning to get him very hot under the collar.
Jacob nipped at Maxwell’s lips, teasing and exploring, while Maxwell easily moved his hand to Jacob’s thigh, inching it upwards. He parted his legs further, giving his lips one last teasing nip before Maxwell took the lead once more. He trailed kisses along Jacob’s jaw, brushing his hand up his thigh slowly, nearly touching, then pulling away. He kept it in sync with each kiss, till he had worked his way to Jacob’s ear.
“Darling,” he practically purred, inching his hand upwards once again, “what do you want?” As if to make clear just what he was asking, he brushed his fingers against Jacob’s hardening cock.
Jacob gasped, his jaw slackening as a groan escaped him. “I want it all, Max.”
Maxwell exhaled shakily, grazing his teeth along his earlobe, eliciting another groan from him. “I have a bed, in the next room.”
Maxwell pulled Jacob up, walking backwards, pulling him along, to the door. Suddenly, Maxwell’s hands were at his belts, tugging them loose. It would be no use taking them off if he still had his coat on. He pulled Maxwell into a long kiss, unbuckling his gauntlet, letting it fall. He shucked off his coat, pulling his other glove off with it, and smiled into the next kiss as Maxwell’s hands froze.
“I trust you,” he whispered into his mouth.
Maxwell broke away, his hands still firmly on Jacob’s belts. “That’s a dangerous game, my dear.”
Jacob shook his head, busying himself with Maxwell’s waistcoat buttons. “But we’re not playing games anymore, are we?”
“No… we’re not.”
As Jacob went to kiss him again, he was making a promise. ‘I trust that you aren’t going to kill me, not now, and I won’t and can’t kill you’. As they kept walking towards the room, Maxwell rid Jacob of his belts as Jacob pushed Maxwell’s waistcoat off his shoulders. They went backing up, right to the door, but missed completely, hitting the wall instead, with Maxwell thudding against it.
Jacob leant in, pressing Maxwell against the wall. He kissed him deeply, pulling at his cravat, undoing it with one hand while his other pushed Maxwell further into the wall. As he loosened the thing, pulling the collar out of the way, he left his lips to explore his neck. He teased at the skin, pulling it between his teeth, biting down. It pulled the most delightful groan from Maxwell’s lips, as he bared his neck, allowing the access Jacob so dearly needed.
As Jacob soothed the spot with his tongue, he moved lower, and this time, he bit down harder, causing Maxwell to not only groan, but to buck his hips. Their cocks came into a brief contact, which elicited quite the sound from the both of them. So Jacob pressed in once again, grinding up against Maxwell as he licked up to his ear, breathing hotly.
“Will you fuck me, Max?” he whispered, leaving himself breathless at the words alone. He wanted, wanted everything.
“Oh yes, my dear.” Maxwell got his hands on Jacob’s waistcoat, practically ripping the thing off.
There was a push and pull as they divested each other of their cravats and shirts, sharing heated kisses as they did so. Maxwell pushed away from the wall as they were left in nothing but their trousers and shoes. He pulled them into the room easily, but Jacob was far too immersed in Maxwell to really look at it. Though, he did note the bed had sheets as red as blood.
They pulled away briefly to rid themselves of their shoes and socks before they came back together in a hasty kiss. Jacob splayed his hands on Maxwell’s stomach as he walked backwards towards the bed, their lips never breaking contact. Eventually, they made it to the bed, as the backs of Jacob’s knees hit against it. He sat down, pulling Maxwell with him to continue the kiss.
Maxwell pulled back, staring at Jacob with pupils blown wide. “My dear, there’s no space for me.”
Jacob smirked, pushing himself back onto the bed, till he reached the headboard. He spread out his arms. “Come and get me, Max.”
Maxwell climbed onto the bed, crawling up to Jacob and settling between his legs. “My darling,” he began, placing his hand at Jacob’s trouser button, “it seems we are still overdressed.”
“Guess we’ll have to correct that problem.”
“We will.” Maxwell popped open the buttons, pulling Jacob’s trousers down, along with his drawers, throwing them aside. As his gaze fell on Jacob’s cock, he paused, staring at it as if it was gold. He leant down, nuzzling it.
Jacob gasped, watching intently. “Max…”
With a smirk, Maxwell licked up the side, making Jacob’s back arch, a groan bursting from him. He’d never been touched like that before, and it felt so good. “As much as I would delight in making you fall apart with my mouth, you expressed your desires and I intend to make them come true.”
Jacob licked his lips, sitting up, tugging at Maxwell’s waist, bringing him closer. “We can do it all, but tonight I know what I want.”
“And if it’s what you want,” He pulled him into a kiss, nipping at his lips, “it’s what I want.”
Jacob undid Maxwell’s trouser buttons swiftly, yet sensually enough that Maxwell stared at him, parting his mouth. He pulled the trousers down to his thighs and slid his drawers down too, his breath nearly hitching at the sight.
Seeing Maxwell in his entirety, he was so beautiful. His sparse and various scars around his body only added to that beauty, but, naturally, his eyes were drawn to his cock. Thick and wonderful. Looking at him was a delight, a privilege.
He placed his hand at Maxwell’s neck, bringing him into a kiss filled with emotion. It was easily overwhelming, all of this. It was new, exciting, perfect, and his kiss was to explain all of that. He lay back, pulling Maxwell with him, licking into his mouth at the same time. They both groaned as their cocks slid together, relieving some of the tension that had built within him.
And, god, hearing those wonderful sounds from Maxwell only made his desire and want grow.
Maxwell broke away, grinding against Jacob as he leant into his ear. “Are you ready for what comes next, my dear?”
“God, yes.” He was too worked up to be scared, though he couldn’t deny he was nervous.
Maxwell reached over to the bedside table, grabbing something off it. Jacob realised it was a bottle of oil, well then… He watched with intent as Maxwell spread some onto his fingers, inching Jacob’s legs further apart with his other hand. He inched close to his hole, circling the rim.
“This might sting, darling, but it won’t hurt for long.” His voice was so soft against the hoarseness of it. He raised his eyebrow, as if asking permission again.
“I trust you.” It was the second time he’d said it tonight, and he meant every word.
Maxwell smiled far too gently for their current situation, but that melted away as he pushed the first finger in. Jacob’s eyes fluttered closed as he sunk into pleasure, moaning with it. He was far too used to pain to pay it much mind, but it faded quickly, leaving nothing but a beautiful feeling in its wake.
As Maxwell pushed another finger in, Jacob realised he was caressing one particular spot that grew in intensity with each touch. It made him groan and writhe, wanting more, more, more. He eventually managed to open his eyes again and was quickly overwhelmed by the look on Maxwell’s face. He was staring at his fingers, eyes half lidded, lust swimming in them, his mouth slightly parted. Jacob suddenly realised how worked up the both of them were getting just by this alone.
As the third finger went in, he knew he was almost ready. He wanted Maxwell in him, sooner rather than later. He was feeling such an amount of pleasure, but he needed it all, needed all Maxwell could give him.
“Max…” he said, his voice throaty and thick. “Need you.”
Maxwell kept moving his fingers, looking to Jacob with a raised eyebrow. “My dear, are you sure you’re ready?”
He leant down and kissed the corner of Jacob’s mouth, pulling his fingers out. Within a moment, Maxwell slowly pushed in. A slow moan fell from Jacob’s lips as he relished in the feeling of Maxwell being inside him. He felt so alive, so ready. He wanted this, with every fibre of his being. They both stayed still, for one second too long. So Jacob rolled his hips, testing.
Maxwell’s attention snapped from Jacob’s hips, to his eyes. He let out a small whimper, like he’d lost himself. “Sorry, dear, I got overwhelmed.”
He wasn’t the only one. Jacob leant up just enough to kiss him softly. “It’s fine, Max.”
As Jacob lay back down, Maxwell had a faint smile on his lips. A brief moment passed between them before Maxwell snapped his hips, beginning a series of slow thrusts that made Jacob writhe with the amazing feeling, balling up the sheets with one hand, while the other dug into Maxwell’s back. Gradually, as if not to hurt Jacob, Maxwell’s thrusts came quicker, hitting that particular spot again and again.
Their moans, groans, gasps, whimpers, filled the room, creating a delightful melody of intense feelings. Jacob began to match Maxwell’s thrusts, adding a rhythm to their wondrous sounds. A special song shared upon these very sheets.
The pleasure kept building and Jacob held onto Maxwell’s back, clinging on, wishing to last longer. Resisting the release he so dearly needed. It was all so pleasurable, all so perfect, so engulfing of the mind, and he wanted it to last and last and last. But alas, it couldn’t last forever. They both knew that.
“You’re close,” Maxwell said, followed by a thrust that punched a groan from Jacob.
“Yes, yes,” Jacob eked out through his panting, digging his nails into Maxwell’s back more than before, which gained him quite the gasp.
“Touch yourself, my dear. Tell me when you’re ready.”
Jacob released the sheets and wound his hand around himself, stroking once, twice– “Maxwell.”
They came at once, moans and whimpers escaping them. Jacob felt the hot spurts of white coat his fingers but couldn’t care much as he rode out his orgasm, laying back on the pillows in bliss. Maxwell collapsed down on top of him, pulling out in one fluid motion. They shuddered and gasped, drawing breaths in as the feeling ran through them.
It had all been wonderfully perfect. Everything Jacob could have ever wanted, without even knowing he’d wanted it earlier.
Maxwell leaned over to the bedside table again, returning with a cloth. He cleared the mess on Jacob’s stomach, gently taking his hand and wiped his fingers clean. Jacob merely watched him closely, relishing in the silence. After Maxwell was done, he put the cloth back and covered them with the sheets, placing a cautious hand at Jacob’s cheek.
“Will you stay with me tonight, my dear?”
Jacob smiled, turning to kiss Maxwell’s palm. “Of course. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Maxwell’s smile radiated a kind of joy Jacob hadn’t seen from him. It was true, deep from the heart, different and far from the chaos he found fun. This… was special. “I’m glad.”
Jacob cuddled into Maxwell, tucking his face into his neck as he wrapped an arm around him. Maxwell sunk one hand into Jacob’s hair while the other lay upon his waist. They lay there, peaceful and content. It was a calming cool down compared to the intensity before. An important softness neither wanted to miss out on.
And all too quickly, Jacob fell into a deep sleep.
He woke to a warmth, feeling the morning light on his skin. Which was unusual for the train. He opened his weary eyes, and it all came crashing down at once. How he could have forgotten where he was, or what happened last night, he did not know, but he couldn’t help but smile. He’d ended up curled around Maxwell’s back, an arm thrown over his middle. It was… awfully tender.
As much as he didn’t want to, he pulled away and looked around the room. He quickly found what he was searching for. A clock. It was seven. It didn’t give him much time to race after the train, but he could make it. He gave the room another sweep, finding objects and furniture that made it functional, but Jacob doubted it was Maxwell’s home. This was a place to sleep after spending too long prepping for a show. But it was well loved and used all the same.
Maxwell shifted in his sleep, turning to lie on his back. Jacob reached out, placing a hand at his cheek. He needed to go, but not without waking Maxwell first. He pressed a kiss to his forehead, wanting to wake him up gently.
“Max…” he whispered, more than once.
Maxwell soon opened his eyes, blinking through the grogginess. “Morning, my dear.”
Jacob smiled. “Morning.” He stroked his thumb over his cheekbone. “I wish I could stay, but I have to go see Evie.”
Maxwell sat up a little, leaning on his elbows. “Well, you best go then. You can hardly leave your sister waiting.”
“I’ll be back as soon as I can, don’t know when.”
“I’ll be here, waiting for you.” He grinned at him. “But do let me enjoy the view while you get dressed.”
“I think I’ll have to find most of my clothes first.” Jacob glanced over the bed, chuckling to himself. “Pretty sure half of them are in the other room.”
Maxwell lay back against the headboard. “Best get looking, I’ll stay here and watch.”
Jacob looked to him and cocked his best grin, sweeping off the bed in one swift motion. He went into the other room first, finding his shirt, waistcoat and cravat, taking them into his arms. Then he picked up his coat from its crumpled state, collected up his belts and gauntlet. He went back into the room and dumped them at the edge of the bed.
He got the rest of his clothes from the floor and pulled his drawers on first. He glanced to Maxwell, who was certainly observing with a keen eye.
“Is it easier to put it all on than take it off?”
Jacob picked up his shirt, whipping it on. He twisted his mouth as he did up the buttons. “Both are difficult in their own ways. More frustrating to take it off though.” He laughed to himself, tying his cravat. “I often sleep in all this, too busy not to.”
“It’s any wonder you don’t slice yourself open with your hidden blades.”
He tilted the left side of his face towards Maxwell. “That’s how I got this scar.” He tapped it before grabbing his trousers, pulling them on. “I’d been given my hidden blade, and as every young Assassin does, I was testing it, seeing how it worked… I may have gotten a little too close to my face, accidentally deployed it, and cut my skin clean open.”
Maxwell barked a laugh. “Are all young Assassins that clumsy? Or was it just you, my dear?”
Jacob shrugged, pulling his waistcoat on. “We once had a tradition of cutting off our own fingers. We aren’t strangers to the danger of our own weapon.” He smiled to himself. “My father regularly leant on his hands, the blade just inches from his throat.”
“It would to you.” He smirked as he picked up his belts, buckling them up.
“Oh? And what does that mean, dear?”
Jacob said nothing for a minute, putting his boots on. “I think you’ve made it clear during our time together that you find that kind of danger exciting.”
Maxwell pressed his lips into a thin line. “I suppose I have.”
Jacob slid into his coat, attached his gauntlet to his arm, and completed his outfit by pulling on his glove. A long process to get dressed, but worth it in order to stick to current fashions while being able to do the work of an Assassin. He sauntered over to Maxwell’s side of the bed.
“How do I look?”
“Dashing as always, darling.”
Jacob smiled and leant down to kiss Maxwell. He let it linger, just for a moment. He had no idea what the day would entail. Death could sneak up on people, each day could be his last. Assassins may have been masters of their craft, but they weren’t invincible.
As he pulled back, Maxwell held him there, resting his forehead on Jacob’s. “Be careful, my dear.”
“I always am.”
“You and I both know that’s a lie.”
Jacob cupped Maxwell’s face, kissing him again. “I promise, I’ll be careful.”
“That’s good enough for me.”
No matter how much he wanted to stay in that moment, he had to go. He moved back into the other room and pulled open a window, closing it on the way out. He went running across the city, on the streets, and up on the rooftops. Trying to work out where the train was at any given time was hard, but considering the time of day, he knew where to start.
By the time he finally climbed into the back of it (after chasing it for far too long), it was almost five past eight. Which… wasn’t ideal. But, he tried, and it was more the train’s fault than his own. If only it didn’t travel so fast.
He walked into the carriage Evie was in. She was standing by the assassination board, her expression clouded with some form of anger. Jacob slunk into the carriage, ready to use his best techniques to defuse the situation if Evie felt a need to lecture him.
“You’re late,” she said, her tone stern.
Jacob brushed a hand through his hair, hoping it didn’t look too out of place. “By a few minutes. I’m here, aren’t I? Now, what’s happening?”
“Starrick is making his move. The piece of Eden is somewhere inside Buckingham Palace.”
A smile crossed Jacob’s lips in an instant. “Great. Let’s go kill the bastard.”
“Let’s not be so hasty. We’re still waiting to hear from Henry’s spies.” Evie sighed. “Look, Jacob–”
Footsteps alerted the both of them, and they turned to see Henry standing at the doorway to the carriage. “I have just received word from my spies. At the palace ball tonight, Starrick plans to steal the piece of Eden, and then eliminate all the heads of church and state.”
“Well then…” Jacob grinned, “I don’t suppose we Assassins can magic ourselves up a fairy godmother.”
Evie shook her head. “Surely there is someone who can get us in.”
Henry stepped towards them. “My spies did mention you had befriended Mrs Disraeli, Jacob.”
“Oh… yes.” He tilted his head, raising his eyebrows. “I’m certain she’ll find our request, exciting.”
“Then let’s start with that. We can formulate the rest of our plan while we wait,” Evie said, turning to their assassination board. “We’re going to win this.”
Jacob climbed onto the train, sighing. “I’m sure you got the better set of genes.”
Evie laughed, a look of smugness in her eyes. “It isn’t my fault you stumbled over a track.”
“We should race again, a rematch.”
“No, you’ll just have to learn to live with your defeat.” She moved away from the desk to the assassination board. Jacob watched as she drew a large red cross upon Starrick’s picture. It was a glorious site to see. As she dipped the brush back into the red paint, she stared at the board for a good while. “Did you kill Maxwell Roth? You never said anything about it.”
Jacob felt panic wash over him. He moved towards the sofa, perching on the arm of it. He put his head in his hands, sighing. If he explained anything, it would only implicate him. Evie was well aware of his assassinations, how he stopped at nothing to kill Templars, not that Maxwell was a Templar, but he was still the leader of the Blighters. He should have been dead, but Jacob was completely taken with Maxwell, he couldn’t cause him harm.
“Jacob…” Evie warned, moving towards him. “What did you do?”
He scoffed, glancing away. “If you knew what I’d done…” He closed his eyes, only to stop the tears building in them, “you will never look at me in the same way again.”
“Then let me judge that for myself.”
“Well… he isn’t dead.”
Evie’s eyebrows jumped up. “He’s not?”
“No, he’s very much alive.”
“I thought, after that invitation, you would have gone to kill him.” She sat down on the sofa, looking up at Jacob. “Was there no opportunity to assassinate him?”
He bit at his bottom lip. “Oh, no, there were ample opportunities.”
“Then… why? Jacob, this is so unlike you.”
“I have a good reason. I went to that dinner, or well, dinner wasn’t really the right word for it.”
Evie bolted up from the sofa, looking to Jacob as if he’d done something scandalous. But she knew nothing yet, and that was if he even told her. “You went?”
“Yeah… We had a little wine, agreed to harm Starrick together, and then I set off some explosives in St Pancras.”
“Of course that was you.”
“Yes, well, it was Maxwell’s idea.”
Evie raised an eyebrow, almost gaping. “You’re on first name basis with him?”
Jacob rubbed his hands together, as a way of distracting himself. “I may be.”
“And just how many times have you visited him?”
He considered that for a moment. Technically it was three outings, but four visits. “A few times now, we certainly weakened Starrick in his last three days but… it was more than that. It was– It let us– It meant we… bonded. I’d call us friends.” Except they were more like lovers now.
“I don’t understand.” Evie scrunched up her face, confusion clear. “Why would you be friends with someone who would do harm to the people of London?”
“He’s not… He’s not quite what his gang represents.” Jacob leant his elbows on his knees, wishing he could just run away from this conversation. “He believes in me, finds me fascinating. I… Evie, I can’t explain any of this to you. Not my motives, not how I got in so deep, not any of it.”
“He’s the leader of the Blighters, Jacob. Does that mean nothing to you?”
Jacob closed his eyes, tilting his head back. “I can’t just– sink my blade into his throat and call it a day. Not now.” He opened his eyes and looked to Evie earnestly, the tears threatened to run. And if they spilled, he wouldn’t be able to stop them.
Evie stepped towards him; her brows furrowed. “Why? You don’t know him, you said it yourself, you’ve only seen him a few times.”
“Don’t make me say it…” he whispered, knowing Evie would hear regardless. “I know him enough.”
“What don’t you want to say? Please, Jacob, I don’t want secrets between us.”
“This is my choice. You can’t force my reasons out of me.” He stood, pacing to the other side of the carriage. “When I tell you, it’ll be because I trust you not to hate me.”
“Why would I hate you?” Evie’s face was contorted with pain and utter confusion. It wasn’t fair to her, but it wasn’t fair to him either. He needed time to work himself out…
“I… I like him, Evie.” He breathed in slowly, trying to not show his own distress, how much he wanted to cry in fear. “And that’s all I’m willing to say for now.”
“So, all in all, you like his company? You like being his friend?”
Jacob felt a wave of relief wash over him as Evie missed the meaning he’d put into his words. “Simply? Yes.”
“Alright then…” She gave a reassuring smile, even if there was objection in her tone. “I’ll trust you to tell me everything when you trust me.”
He smiled. “Thank you.” He turned to the open door. “Now, I really have to go.”
Evie nodded, the confusion firm on her face. “I won’t keep you.”
Jacob climbed to the window of Maxwell’s office, glancing in. And luckily, he was sitting at his desk, with sealed envelopes all around him. He was currently writing another letter, it seemed. Jacob knocked on the window, watching with a grin as Maxwell startled, his expression wild as he looked outside. He visibly relaxed as he noticed Jacob hanging on the ledge.
He walked over and opened the window, smiling down at him. “Have doors gone out of fashion?”
“Mmm, yes.” Jacob climbed through, smoothing down his coat. He didn’t hesitate to say, “Starrick is dead. London is free.”
Maxwell’s face cycled through around twenty different emotions, settling on joy, his grin blinding. “That is the best news I’ve heard all day, my dear.” He moved closer, settling his hands on Jacob’s waist. “With Starrick out of the way, I’m not bound to him or his Order anymore. I’m free to pick a new side.”
Jacob cupped Maxwell’s neck, stepping closer. “Isn’t picking a side losing freedom for you?”
“Not if it’s your side.” He leant into Jacob. “Perhaps not the side of your Creed, not yet, but in time, I’d like to learn more.”
“And what of the Blighters?”
“I think we could arrange an alliance.”
Jacob grinned. “Peace, for the two most powerful gangs in London? Who would have thought?”
“Unpredictability is what makes the world interesting, my dear.”
“It certainly does.”
They leant in at the same time, catching each other in a kiss. As if to seal the deal. But it made everything feel real again. Jacob had been riding on a high ever since killing Starrick, and in a strange way, being with Maxwell kept him grounded, brought him back to reality.
Jacob broke the kiss gently, pecking the corner of Maxwell’s mouth. “As much as I would love to continue this, could we have a quiet drink? This last day has been hectic.”
Maxwell caressed Jacob’s cheek, his eyes shining with something Jacob didn’t recognise. “Of course, darling.”
They ended up on the roof, a bottle of wine at their feet, tankards in their hands. The air was cool but not unpleasant, especially with all the layers. They sat against the stonework, legs stretched out, leaning into each other. It was peaceful, relaxing. The alcohol gently buzzed in his system, finally giving him a well-deserved break.
“Evie asked about why I hadn’t killed you yet…” Jacob whispered in the quiet. He rolled his head along the stone, looking to Maxwell earnestly. “I didn’t know what to say, really.”
Maxwell hummed knowingly. “I’d say be cautious, my dear. You can never be sure how people will react.”
“How can you tell?”
Maxwell turned into him more so, setting his tankard on the ground. “With you, my dear, I could sense it. It’s an inkling when it comes to others like us, subtle clues, even if the person doesn’t know it themselves.”
Jacob nodded along. “But with people who aren’t… like us?”
“Then… you have to look at who they are, as a person.” Maxwell touched the scar on his right cheek. “I never told you how I got this…”
Jacob reached out, covering Maxwell’s hand with his own. “How did you get it?”
“Years after I lost contact with my friends from the circus, we found each other again.” He swallowed thickly, taking Jacob’s hand away from the scar, holding it to his chest instead. “I was still young, and… I was naïve.” His eyes shined with tears. “I told them, against my better judgement. They were the strongest men we had in the circus, and upon finding out, they caught me off guard. A moment of weakness on my part. They dragged me to their lodgings, tied me to a chair. They cut into my skin with a knife and threw boiling water on me after…” Maxwell touched his scar, his eyes lost in the memory. “Hurt like bloody hell. But they didn’t count on me being skilled at breaking free from some rope.”
Jacob blinked back tears, swallowed past a lump in his throat. “Did you kill them?”
“Barely, but yes. It was quite the struggle.”
Maxwell had the eyes of a man that still grieved for those people. Jacob pulled him to his chest, stroking a hand through his hair. They stayed like that for some time, with Maxwell burying his face in Jacob’s clothes, while Jacob rubbed at his back, brushed his fingers through his hair, held him close. A moment of comfort after a moment of truth and vulnerability.
After a while, Maxwell whispered, “I’m sure your sister will not judge you, Jacob.”
“How do you figure that?”
“She’s your twin, that must mean more than any other bond.”
“I’d hope so.” Jacob sighed. “But I wouldn’t want to risk losing her either.”
Maxwell moved in the hold, sitting up once again. He looked Jacob in the eye. “Surely she’s as progressive as you. Shouldn’t the Creed be more accepting than society?”
“The Creed should be, yes. But… it’s never that simple.” Considering the Council didn’t even want to free London, the Assassins as a whole weren’t as progressive as he would have liked them to be.
“Life never is, my dear.”
Jacob took a large swig of his drink. He pushed away all the inner struggles and looked to Maxwell, grinning. “Do you want to know how we took down Starrick?”
“I’d love to, darling.”
“He’d decided to make his move at the palace ball, and it was a race to kill all his decoys, preventing them from eliminating all heads of church and state.”
“Including the Queen?”
“Especially the Queen. How could he rule if there was a monarchy in the way?” Jacob scowled at the thought. Even though there were problems with the monarchy and the way they craved power, the royals were quintessentially British, and Britain wouldn’t be the same without them. “I got to him first, but he’d already donned the piece of Eden. His wounds healed; he was stronger. It didn’t bode well for us.”
Jacob had nearly died three separate times, if it hadn’t been for Evie. And vice versa.
“But we worked together and took him down.” He turned his left arm, extending his hidden blade. “With only our blades, despite his advantage.” With a smile, he continued, “and since we saved the Queen, we were knighted.”
“And that is why you’re the bravest man in London, dear. Or shall I call you Sir now?”
“Stick to dear.” Jacob smiled, bashfully. “You do flatter me, Max.”
Maxwell cupped Jacob’s face, giving him such a soft look. “That’s my goal. You deserve the compliment, and more.” He kissed the corners of his mouth, staring at Jacob for a moment, and Jacob soaked it up, relishing in it. “I want to get my mouth on you and make you fall apart.”
He couldn’t help the way his breath hitched at that. “What’s stopping you?”
“Our gangs.” Maxwell dropped his hands. “We should probably send word about our new formed alliance. They shouldn’t be killing each other.”
“Hmm, but can my Rooks give your Blighters a stern talking to if they’re trying to harm innocent civilians?”
“Does a stern talking to mean stabbing and punching?”
Jacob smirked. “Maybe, but as long as the Blighters are dangerous to the people of London…”
Maxwell tilted his head, almost in thought. “That’s fine by me, it’ll weed out the Blighters who became more like Templars.” He paused for a beat, staring at the skyline. “I can’t promise the Blighters will ever be as righteous as the Rooks, but they can be better than they are.”
“Just not good?”
“Fine by me.”
Maxwell chugged the rest of his wine, standing up in one fluid motion. He offered a hand. “Together?”
Jacob took his hand and stood. He grinned, draining the remains of his drink. “Where to first?”
“Devil’s Acre. I need to speak with John the Tosser.”
“I met him, seemed rather open to exploring his emotional side.”
“He’s one of my most loyal men.” Maxwell smirked as he headed to the edge of the roof. “He told me about Mrs Disraeli but didn’t mention you.”
“I was retrieving her dog at the time.” He moved beside Maxwell, peering over the edge. “We’re not going down the conventional way?”
“I fancy something different.” He placed a hand at his hip. “Although it’s been some time since I climbed down a building such as this.”
“Come on, you climbed that building by the workshop.”
“There was a ladder.”
Jacob shrugged, stepping up onto the ledge, perching there. “It’s not hard.” He turned, hopping down and gripping the edge. He climbed down by jumping to the next foothold, perhaps showing off a little. When he made it to the ground, he stared up at Maxwell. “See?”
“You’re sixteen years younger than me, my dear,” he shouted down.
“I believe in you!”
It seemed, that was all it took for Maxwell to climb down. Albeit a little slower than the speeds Jacob was used to, but that was merely because he was out of practice. Relearning those skills as if they were instincts would surely fix that right up.
“That seemed pretty spry to me,” Jacob said as Maxwell made it to the ground.
Maxwell half-heartedly glared at him. “Don’t lie to me, Jacob.”
He grinned, tilting his head. “I’m not lying, I mean it.” Licking his lips, he smirked. “You only need to get back into the swing of it. I’m sure with my help, it’ll be second nature in no time.”
“With the way you climb, I’m more than likely to fall off a building.”
“Excuse me, I think you’ll find I’m one of the best.”
Maxwell thinned his lips, seemingly repressing a smirk. “A Blighter once told me you jumped from too high a height and struggled to your feet.”
Jacob nodded, that was fair, he did do that, too often. “Alright, so I’m a little clumsy.”
“Ah, so Sir Jacob Frye has faults.”
He spread his arms. “Just like everyone else.”
They grinned at each other before laughing at the absurd conversation. Jacob would teach Maxwell how to be efficient at climbing once again. Though, he did have to admit he had two left feet sometimes. Still, he was better than most.
As they made their way to Maxwell’s carriage, Jacob gazed at him for one moment too long. He felt a soft and gentle feeling settle in his stomach as his chest squeezed and constricted. And while he wasn’t experienced in the subject, he had a feeling this was what falling in love felt like.
Falling was one word for it. Crashing down in a chaotic mess after a few days would be the right way to explain it, though.
After the meet with John the Tosser and the subsequent meeting with several prominent Rooks, the alliance was set. The only time either gang could harm each other, was if any Rooks saw Blighters terrorising innocents. While the Rooks had been confused with the development, some Blighters had knowing looks in their eyes. No doubt because a few knew of Maxwell’s preferences.
When they returned to the Alhambra to have a few drinks, it quickly escalated to more than drinks. Maxwell hadn’t been kidding when he’d said he would make Jacob fall apart with his mouth. And then everything else he promised when sucking marks into his skin, easily led to the two of them hiding away for two days. They hardly got out of bed, and only did so for the essentials.
They explored every single part of each other till they knew what made them tick. What turned them on, and what was far too much. It allowed them to find their balance, to learn exactly what the other wanted from a single sound, or movement.
Jacob lay back, panting as Maxwell curled up next to him, throwing an arm over his chest. It was any wonder they actually had any energy left; Jacob was sure he could sleep for a day. After the ever so methodical yet powerful fuck they’d just had. His orgasm alone nearly wiped all his remaining energy out. He brushed his fingers through Maxwell’s hair, massaging his scalp. Jacob loved the quiet moments they had afterwards, the blissfulness that came with it. The calm.
“I could stay here forever,” Jacob whispered, holding Maxwell closer.
“Alas, neither of us can spend forever here.” He lifted his head from Jacob’s shoulder, looking into his eyes. “People will get worried over you eventually.”
“And not you?” Jacob reached out, pushing the strands of hair that had fallen into Maxwell’s face, behind his ear.
“I’m knowing for going missing for a few days.”
He sighed. Hiding in the warmth of Maxwell’s bed couldn’t prevent the inevitable. He had to go back to the train eventually. “Evie will be worried. She probably has the entirety of the Rooks looking for me.”
“I’m sure you’ll have plenty of explaining to do.” Maxwell grinned as Jacob closed his eyes in frustration, breathing out.
“Yeah, the Rooks have probably ratted me out already.” He tucked his face into Maxwell’s shoulder. “I’ll go as soon as I wake up.”
Maxwell settled back down, pulling Jacob to him. “That sounds like a plan, my dear.”
Jacob half groaned, half scoffed. He didn’t want to, not entirely, but he would have to at least explain what had happened with the Rooks. Why they were suddenly at peace with the Blighters. For now, though, he closed his eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep with Maxwell’s warmth curling around him.
In the morning, despite his protests, Maxwell persuaded Jacob to go. He kissed him goodbye in such a natural way that it felt as if it was already becoming part of a routine, something he did automatically. Regrettably, he left the Alhambra and took to the rooftops. He kept well out of the way of any place Rooks tended to gather at. Not wanting any of them spotting him and finding Evie first.
When he got to the train, he found Evie in her carriage, talking with Henry. He cleared his throat as he entered and both of them turned to him. Evie seemed to be a little wide eyed, her hair far too out of place for her usual. Meanwhile Henry looked at Jacob as if he’d just spat in his face. Which was more than strange.
“Hey…” he murmured, feeling like he was in trouble.
“Where have you been?” Evie’s voice was strained, she approached Jacob, anger clear in her eyes. “And you better explain what is going on with the Rooks and the Blighters.”
He swallowed, turning to glance out the window. “I was… at the Alhambra.”
“For two days?!”
“We thought you were lying in a ditch somewhere,” Henry said, his eyes weary. “But instead you have been with the enemy?”
“You don’t understand, neither of you do.” Jacob clenched his jaw, biting back his words. “He’s not the enemy. He’s a friend and an ally, Henry.” He gestured to Evie. “We talked about this.”
Evie glared at him. “I thought you’d be gone for an hour or two, or at least until the evening. But instead you go missing for two days.”
Jacob hung his head, sighing. “Henry… I need to talk to Evie in private, please.”
“You go,” Evie said, “I’ll handle him.”
“If you’re sure.”
Henry swiftly left the carriage, which left a tense silence between the two. Jacob turned and closed the carriage door, walking past Evie to sit on her bed. She sat opposite him, on her armchair, glaring at him. Though, her eyes were red, as if she wanted to cry in some sort of frustration.
“I need to explain why, I know. But I think it’s easier if I explain the gangs thing first.”
Evie sat back. “Go ahead.”
“As soon as I told Maxwell that Starrick was dead, he claimed he was finally free, and free of the Order.” Jacob took a breath. “He was never a Templar, just a gang leader who was employed by him. He doesn’t believe in their thesis; he believes in freedom.”
“He’s a criminal, no matter what he believes. He’s dangerous.”
“Of course he’s dangerous!” He scolded himself for shouting, but… Well, that danger was part of what made him keep going back. He had other reasons now, better reasons. “Anyhow, we decided that our gangs should form an alliance. After all, there’s no reason to fight if we’re on the same side. And there’s an agreement that Rooks can kill Blighters if they’re hurting innocents. Maxwell said it would weed out the Blighters aligned with the Templars.”
“This isn’t making anything better, Jacob. You have an alliance now. But what happens if you don’t see the knife coming if or when Roth stabs you in the back?”
“He wouldn’t– Not to me.”
Evie furrowed her brow. “You seem so convinced of that. You’re taken under his lies.”
He scoffed. “It’s not lies I’m taken under. Besides, I’m more dangerous to him than he is to me.”
“You can’t trust someone like him.” She folded her arms. “You think I haven’t talked to the Rooks? Or the Blighters we’re suddenly at peace with? Roth’s reputation precedes him. He’s unpredictable, and whatever this friendship is, will fall through when he bores of you, I’m sure.”
Jacob felt hollowed out with that remark. As if he didn’t already worry about Maxwell tiring of him. It had only been a week after all… But it wasn’t like the past two days didn’t have the soft moments, vulnerable moments, there was something wonderful building between them. Surely, Maxwell wouldn’t tire of him…
“Evie… I’m going to tell you something, and I need you to promise me you won’t get angry.”
She sighed, shaking her head. “I won’t promise that, but as long as you’re truthful, I’ll try not to.”
“Truthful, right.” He rubbed his palms together, swallowing thickly. “We’re not friends, me and him.”
“We’re lovers,” he said quickly, cutting her off.
Evie’s whole expression collapsed, she sat forward in her chair, her eyebrows furrowing deeper with each second. She opened and closed her mouth, shaking her head. Confusion, shock, and disbelief washed over her face in a matter of seconds. Jacob waited with bated breath over what she would say.
“Are you in love with him?”
She drew in a long breath. “He’s a man. I never would have thought you were like that.”
Jacob glanced to the ground, anywhere but at Evie. “Do you… Does it make you uncomfortable?”
“Oh… Jacob, no.” She moved from her armchair, to the ground, grasping at Jacob’s hands and holding them between hers. “I just thought you liked women based on the way you flirted with them back in Crawley.”
He finally looked back to her, seeing distress on her face. She… didn’t hate him for it. “I still like women, but I like men too.”
Evie sat next to him, still holding his hands. “And that’s perfectly fine. I wouldn’t hate you for that, never. It’s natural, even if the church would say different. But we don’t live by their rules or code.”
Jacob gave a small smile as relief bloomed within him. “Thank you.”
“So… you love Roth, does he love you?”
“I don’t know… I haven’t told him I love him yet.”
“I still think it’s dangerous, Jacob.” Evie let go of his hands, leaning forward. “He could be using you.”
“I don’t think he is. You don’t know him; I know things about him no one else does. He trusts me.”
In the last two days, Jacob had learnt a lot about Maxwell. He had listened intently as he told him about his childhood. First, he explained that the story he told everyone was a dramatic rendition of what really happened. His childhood hadn’t been as interesting nor as chaotic as he wished.
Instead of his parents being part of a travelling theatre troupe, they were respected actors at a theatre in Bristol. He learnt everything about the theatre from them, which in turn allowed him to run the Alhambra efficiently today.
He was born as Oberon Rothbart, but his birth was never registered anywhere, to why that was, Maxwell didn’t know himself. When he was ten, the circus came to town. He went to see the performance every day they were there. It had been exciting to him, more so than the theatre. And so, his parents encouraged him to go. He simplified his surname and took on a name he’d always preferred.
The circus quickly taught him sleight of hand, acrobatics, boxing. He’d learnt quickly and understood much of the world better than the other children in the group. So, when times were tough for the circus, he along with a few others, used their sleight of hand to steal money from their richer audience members. He grew to accept the criminal part of it, finding it necessary and wonderfully thrilling. But the circus eventually fell apart. So Maxwell moved to London and used his skills for the criminal underworld.
From there, the rest was true.
If Maxwell was using him, he would have told the same story everyone else knew. Besides, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t shared some other personal things no one knew. Jacob could trust him, he knew that.
“Are you sure you’re not just… infatuated with him? Why does it have to be him?”
Jacob scoffed. “I could ask the same of you and Henry. Just because Maxwell is, well, Maxwell, doesn’t mean my love for him and whatever he feels for me is wrong. It’s him because it’s him, right?” He looked to Evie with pleading eyes, he only wanted her to accept this. “We can’t help who we fall in love with.”
Evie looked to him; her eyes sincere. “We can’t… Just, be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“There’s always a risk of that when it comes to love, doesn’t mean we won’t cherish it while we have it.”
“I suppose you’re right.”
He smiled, leaning back on the bed. “You can’t tell anyone else.”
“I won’t. I promise.”
The last week had been an eventful one.
First of all, Jacob and Evie spent much of their time clearing out the remaining Templars that had dispersed after Starrick’s death. It was obvious they had become unorganised after, scrambling to find a leader. Luckily, Jacob and Evie got there first. London would stay free.
Second, Henry set up a location for them to use as a training site for new initiates, an end terrace house with a sizeable garden. They were already converting that very garden into a yard, covering it with dummies and chests of weapons. Everything initiates would need to learn the art of fighting. Henry also made sure there were plenty of history books in the small library they’d made. Even if Jacob didn’t care for it, young Assassins needed to know the history of the Creed.
Third, Clara O’Dea pointed certain children interested in becoming an initiate to Jacob, Evie and Henry. They’d acquired quite a few children over the age of seven, not wanting to bring anyone younger into the fold. A few adolescent orphans had joined too, most likely looking for a better life.
And lastly, a Rook had been brutally murdered by one of the Templars. He was informed that she was a mother, and her son, Jack, had been taken to Lambeth Asylum. Supposedly, the orphanage admitted him because he lashed out at people, which was understandable. He was grieving. So, Jacob had freed him, bringing him to the other initiates.
They had the numbers to rebuild the British Brotherhood. All they had to do now was train the children so they could become fully-fledged Assassins in adulthood. Nigel had also decided he wanted to be an Assassin, as well as a few Rooks that wanted to be part of more than just a gang. Their declining numbers were suddenly raising, which granted them a visit from George and a council member.
Jacob and Evie had only met a member of the Council once, when they were twelve, as he visited their father. But they had never been to where the Council had set itself up, in Dover. Henry, on the other hand, had been in various contact with them over the years, so he was more familiar.
“I’m surprised you didn’t get yourselves killed,” George said as he stepped onto the train with the council member. He pulled his hood down and glanced to their assassination board. “Displaying your feats proudly?”
“Well,” Jacob began, spreading his arms, “we did free London. It’s quite a feat.”
“Although, really, we’ve simply been too busy to take it down,” Evie said, side-glaring at Jacob, he smirked back.
“You did well,” the council member spoke up. He still had his hood up, and his clothes were hardly in Victorian styles. It looked as if he hadn’t updated his garbs in decades. “And for that the Assassin Council thanks you. Even if you did go against our wishes.”
Henry turned to them, furrowing his brow. “You told me the Council sent you.”
Evie thinned her lips, looking to Jacob, like he should explain. He rolled his eyes. “You said that, we didn’t correct you.”
George shook his head. “Despite that, despite going directly against me and the Council, you succeeded.”
The council member nodded. “We thought of going after you, but George convinced us that you were more than initiates or novices. That you were fit to be Masters. I think all of you deserve that rank. After all, you three managed to usurp the Templars in a matter of months, something other Assassins couldn’t achieve in the last one hundred years.”
“Masters, Evie.” Jacob grinned. “I told you we’d manage it after it was all said and done.”
Evie smiled. “Perhaps I should trust what you say more often.”
The council member cleared his throat. “I do believe that your Rooks are not the best at keeping Assassins hidden. You should think of disbanding them.”
Jacob gaped, about to argue with that directly, when Henry stepped forward, shaking his head. “I’m not sure that’s wise, Councilman. The Rooks have helped disenfranchised members of society greatly, and we wouldn’t have freed London without them. They are a vital part of keeping the city at peace. They are our constant eyes and ears. We need them, and after all, they’re only a gang. They know little of the Creed.”
With a sigh, the council member nodded. “If they are that important, you can keep them, but do note the Council will be keeping a keen eye on them.”
Jacob bit back a sarcastic reply and instead said, “absolutely, Councilman.”
“Anyhow,” George piped up, “I think we should celebrate. Let’s have a drink and toast to your new ranks.”
Evie narrowed her eyes at them. “You are hardly discreet for a London pub.” She gestured to their clothing. “But no matter, we have a bar here where we can drink.”
The council member pulled his hood further over his head. “Not for me, thank you. I must be getting back to Dover.” And with that, he was gone.
George glanced over his shoulder. “He’s a strange one…” He looked back to the three of them. “Honestly, all I can say is… I’m sorry. Henry, I should have tried to help you more. Jacob and Evie, I should have believed in your skill and tenacity.”
“George… you were trying your best without realising we had all grown complacent,” Evie said. She glanced to Henry. “And we left a fellow Assassin to fend on his own in a city of Templars.”
George nodded, seeming to accept that. “Then as we rebuild the Brotherhood, we must teach the initiates to always look out for other Assassins. Even if the Templars seem too strong.”
Jacob smiled faintly. “Does that mean you’re staying with us? It’ll be nice to have four experienced Assassins in town.”
“I’ll stay, for now. Until I retire.”
“Then that’s another thing to celebrate for.” Jacob turned, heading to the next carriage. “I’ll go pour us some drinks!”
They were Master Assassins. George was staying. They were about to rebuild the British Brotherhood. This was a great day for the Assassins, the future was certainly looking bright.
After a couple of drinks, Jacob took his leave. (To the great surprise of George). Since his week had been so manic, he’d hardly spent enough time with Maxwell. He’d constantly been on his mind, and when he did see him, he could feel his love for him grow. They had even begun to spend time in Maxwell’s terrace house instead of the Alhambra, which felt like a step up in trust. Slowly, their lives were becoming intertwined, spending as much time as they could together.
Today, though, Maxwell would be at the Alhambra all night. As the performance of Corvus The Trickster was going ahead. Everything had been thoroughly prepared and rehearsed. Jacob had watched some of the practices, finding the whole process rather fascinating. Especially since the magic of the show was incorporated into a story, a magic play of sorts.
Until Maxwell, Jacob had never been a fan of the theatre, but that had changed now. It all seemed rather fun.
When he arrived, he found Maxwell at one of the bars, chatting to the bartender. Jacob slid onto the stool next to him, grinning. Maxwell looked to him warmly, gesturing to the bartender. In an instant, the guy poured some beer into a tankard, Jacob’s favourite brand.
“I changed some of the pipes to your tastes, my dear,” Maxwell said, his voice soft.
Jacob felt his chest constrict, again. It was a thoughtful gesture. “Thank you.” He took a large swig. “Delicious.” He turned in his seat to lean on the bar. “How are the preparations going?”
“All seems in order, so I’m taking a break before I really have to crack on.” He glanced away, before shaking his head. He looked to Jacob, but something was off in his eyes. As if he was scared. “Will you come to the roof with me?”
Jacob slipped off his stool. “Of course.” He smiled. “It was nice last time.”
They made their way up to the roof with their drinks in hand. The cool air welcomed them when they got to the top, the sun was hidden in the clouds. All things considered, the weather was good for spending time on a rooftop. Maxwell walked up to the wall edging, placing his tankard on top, staring out at the city.
Jacob approached, feeling a weird vibe coming from him. “Are you alright?”
Maxwell bowed his head. “What are we doing, Jacob? What is this?”
“It’s not like you to get insecure. What happened to why not?”
“I’ve never been with anyone for this long…”
Jacob smoothed his hand across Maxwell’s back. “Now, that sounds impossible. How so?”
“People become uneasy with me, find me too extreme, or too willing to take risks. It’s a fair assessment, but most of it is all in the name of fun.”
He moved his hand to his hair, settling his fingers there. “Max, look at me.” He did so. “You’re chaotic and you’re extreme about some things, but then I’m an Assassin. And not just your normal kind. I know you’re on the right side, barely, but you are. You also care about freedom, that matters.”
Maxwell glanced away again, back to the skyline. “You could do better than me.”
“I wouldn’t want to.” Jacob moved his hand to cup his cheek, taking a steadying breath. “Because I love you.”
Maxwell’s breath hitched, he looked to Jacob as if he’d grown another head. As if this moment couldn’t be real. He gradually smiled, beamed. He covered Jacob’s hand with his own. “My dear… I love you too.”
“You were scared that I didn’t.”
Jacob leant his forehead against Maxwell’s, closing his eyes. “I love you so much. You must know I fell hard and fast, believe that.”
Maxwell cupped Jacob’s jaw. “I believe you. I fell so quickly, when we met, I think. Our second outing especially.”
“That’s when you started calling me dear.”
He smiled. At first he hadn’t noticed the change, but when he did, he relished in the terms of endearment. “I love when you call me that.”
“And I love when you call me Max.”
“So, what are we then…?”
“We could be partners? In every sense of that word.”
“Yes. Yes, I’d love that.”
Jacob let out a breath, one full of happiness. They loved each other… it was real and true. He inched closer, kissing Maxwell sweetly, completely overjoyed. Maxwell curled his hand at the back of Jacob’s neck and drew him in for another kiss. It felt freeing, in a way, releasing all the pent-up nervousness about his love not being accepted. Jacob deepened the kiss, pushing Maxwell back against the wall, which elicited a groan from him.
Maxwell caught Jacob’s bottom lip, nipping at it and soothing the spot before kissing him more chastely, breaking the kiss after. He smoothed his hands down Jacob’s coat. “I should get back inside. They’ll be lost without me.”
Jacob smiled, pecking Maxwell on the cheek. He grabbed his pint in one hand, and grasped Maxwell’s hand with his other. “Can we? Just until we get downstairs?”
“Of course, my dear.” He beamed at him as they walked hand in hand back down into the Alhambra.
Jacob shadowed Maxwell all day, watching his partner in his element. Forgetting the gangs, forgetting everything, Maxwell was a true theatre manager. Keeping everyone in line, making sure all the workers knew what they were doing and when. Seeing over the props and their quality. Checking over the costumes for any last-minute corrections. He was a master of his craft.
He even sectioned off part of the upper level, just so he and Jacob could watch the show in their own bubble, away from everyone else. A couple Blighters were going to make sure no one could get through, trusted ones that were like them. So they wouldn’t dare tell as soul if they noticed them sitting too close, or anything like that.
As the Alhambra began to fill, Maxwell ensured everything was in order, before excitedly taking Jacob to their little private area. They grabbed drinks on the way, wine for Maxwell and beer for Jacob, and settled in comfortable seats some poor sod had to drag there. Jacob reached out for Maxwell’s hand as the show started, holding loosely.
They glanced to each other and smiled, the gesture of holding hands may have become Jacob’s new favourite thing. It was loving, and gentle.
The performance was one hell of a drama. The characters danced around each other, using magic to defeat the villains of the show. Every so often, a volunteer would be called to the stage, incorporated into the show, and the actors perfectly made it work with the story. It was… a spectacle. At parts where the fast-paced story caught him off guard, Jacob would lean up to Maxwell’s ear and ask him about it. And Maxwell would explain it all simply. This magic… Tricks… It was better than any bloody piece of Eden, that was for certain.
The show ended with a knife fight. The villain, Corvus, was strapped to a spinning wheel. Each time the knife missed, till it pinned his sleeve, and Corvus the Trickster promptly died, much to the delight of the audience. The actors took their bow, while the audience erupted in a loud applause. As the curtain closed, the actors disappeared behind it, and it was over. Slowly, people started to mingle and filter out of the Alhambra.
Which made Jacob feel bolder.
He leant over and kissed Maxwell’s cheek. “The audience seemed to love it.”
“And what did you think, darling?”
“It was the best show I’ve ever seen.” He grinned. “I think the reviews will be fantastic.”
Maxwell lit up. “I’m glad you found it enjoyable, everyone worked so hard.”
“They deserved all the applause.”
For a moment, they gazed openly at one another, the atmosphere around them warmed greatly. It was like their love was crackling around them, demanding attention.
“Will you come home with me?” Maxwell asked, caressing Jacob’s cheek.
“Yes, you know I’ll follow you anywhere.” Jacob kissed him firmly, deepening it in an instant. Moving closer, he took their still entwined hands and pressed them against Maxwell’s crotch as he sucked on his tongue. “Take me home,” he murmured into his mouth.
Maxwell put his free hand in Jacob’s hair, tugging gently. “Gladly.”
That night was filled with passion, desire, lust.
But most importantly, love.
It flowed between them beautifully. And Jacob knew, he was going to spent the coming decades at Maxwell’s side. They’d be unstoppable, and that… that made him excited for everything the future held. Fighting against oppression, with his partner right there with him. Committed to the end.
Maybe one day they could seal it with a vow, loving and cherishing each other, fighting together, till death did them part.
It sounded beautiful.
Come talk to me on tumblr!!! :D
Sooo, this is absolutely a completed story, but I'm thinking of writing more (mainly doing an AU of 1888). Let me know if you'd like to see more and I guess we'll see what the future brings!!
Chapter 3: India
So!! Here it is, the first chapter to the continuation of this fic! :D
It's finished and I'll be uploading chapters every other day so stay tuned for that :)!
Hope you enjoy this Post-Canon to 1888 section of this fic!
Jacob flipped the spike, staring at it with a raised eyebrow. “So, you stick it at the wrist?”
Evie nodded with a smile. “Ingenious, isn’t it? A non-lethal way to take down people that don’t need to die.”
“Making others scared in the process.” He chuckled. “They really have it covered over here.”
India was a whole different world compared to Britain. The Assassins here had a whole area dedicated to their Brotherhood. Currently, Jacob and Evie were in the vast training grounds. She was showing him the various tools that the initiates would learn to use in their time here. While not entirely Jacob’s style, as he much preferred complete stealth these days rather than ever getting into a fight, he could see how it would benefit the young Assassins.
They could learn a whole new style and stop unnecessary deaths if they were spotted. Instead of running wildly trying to escape an assault.
“I’ll make sure to get you the schematics. You can take a box or two with you, in case your people want to improve on the design.”
Jacob smiled, he’d pass them onto Nigel as soon as they got home. He was a blacksmith these days, giving them a steady supply of hidden blades, throwing knives and various armour for their clothes. The spikes would be easy for him in comparison to everything else.
Jacob picked up a fear bomb again, examining it. He could only imagine, given its range, that the Assassins were trained to resist its effects.
“They use a similar hallucinogen to us?”
Evie nodded, taking the bomb from him. “It’s more potent. And the gas is deliberately colourful to catch others off guard. I think it scares people even more.”
He hummed. “Making the gas visible and colourful is a fantastic idea. It probably works by inducing a deep instinct from our ancestors. Anything bizarrely colourful strikes fear in our hearts due to venomous animals and poisons. That paired with the hallucinogen finishes off the effect. Causing our brains to go haywire.”
“Have you been talking to Darwin again?” She folded her arms, tilting her head. “You sound far too educated.”
Laughing, he said, “I’ve been learning a lot while you’ve been here. We get lunch every week now, either on a Sunday or Tuesday. Half the time I let him rant about unsavoury types in the scientific community. We mostly debate biology though. It’s fun.”
“I see such a difference in you since two years ago.”
“The same could be said for you. I see little recklessness in you now, and the Indian Brotherhood has clearly changed your mind on how we should kill.”
Evie nodded, examining her gauntlet. Her outfit, her entire style, was far different too. It contained a lot of Indian influences. “Why kill people that aren’t targets?”
“That’s fair enough here,” Jacob leant against the table the spikes and bombs were on, “but London and Great Britain as a whole is a different beast. Over the last year, Templar inventors are crawling out of the woodwork in industrial cities in the North.” He shook his head, sighing. “More Templar gangs are popping up too, it’s hard to spread the Rooks and Blighters out across the country, but it’s our only choice.”
“You never said it was that bad in your letters. Why has it gotten worse all of a sudden?”
“If I had to guess, more opportunities away from the capital can catch us off guard. Travelling to the North from London isn’t easy. Since George retired, I only have four Assassins that are trained enough to cope on their own. It’s not enough. I’m afraid I’m leaving us open for an attack when I send them away.”
Evie gave him a sympathetic look. “We have so many resources here, and you’re still rebuilding an entire Brotherhood.”
“I say that’s one of the few problems with having so many initiates who are children.” He shrugged. “It takes time.”
“You do have a lot of children under your care… More than I remember.”
She took him by the arm, dragging him to a secluded part of the grounds, away from all the Assassins training. “What about children of your own?”
“I’ve thought about it… I want to pass on my genes, guarantee another Assassin with strong and stable Eagle Vision, raising them straight into the Brotherhood.” He shrugged, half-heartedly. “But I’m with Max, I can’t.”
“Jayadeep and I can’t have children.” Evie bit at her lips, a lost look lingered in her eyes. “I don’t know if it’s me or him, but one of us is infertile.”
“I’m sorry. That must be hard.” He grasped her upper arm, giving her a reassuring squeeze.
“So it seems our line might stop with us.” She pursed her lips. “There is one method you could use. Artificial insemination.”
Jacob furrowed his brow. “How does it work?”
Evie thinned her lips. “I don’t necessarily want to get into the specifics, but sperm is injected directly into the woman’s cervix. It would be a no strings attached situation.”
“Hardly, if there’s someone pregnant for nine months.” He folded his arms. “But I have a friend who could help.”
“There are a lot of people like me that live in secret, with their partners, and some of those people take the risk of having a child. There are members of the community who can give them that.”
Jacob’s friend was a woman called Adelaide Larkin. She frequented the pub he and Max went to in their free time. She was known in the community for offering help to those who wanted a child, being a surrogate of sorts. Although artificial insemination wasn’t her usual method. Perhaps she didn’t even know it was one. It would certainly cause a lot less difficulties, for everyone involved. And it would mean he wouldn’t feel like he was cheating on Max.
Suddenly, having a child felt like a real possibility. That was if Max agreed to it.
“It’s such a shame you fight against oppression in Britain, but when it comes to who you love, there is nothing to be done.” Evie shook her head. “You, and people like you, shouldn’t have to keep who you love a secret, or be forced into marriages you don’t want.”
“I’m lucky. My life is already secret, hidden in the shadows. It’s not ideal but, people like me know how to hide, know who to tell, and who they can’t ever breathe a word of it to.”
“Yet you still haven’t told Jayadeep.”
Jacob scuffed his boot on the ground, sighing. “Telling you was hard enough. And I saw the look he gave Max when he greeted us. He still doesn’t trust him, and I worry about his reaction to that more than his reaction to my preferences.”
“He wouldn’t judge you for you though. He’s progressive.”
“I would hope he is, doesn’t mean I’ll tell him.”
Evie gave him a small sad smile. “Does anyone know back in London?”
“Nigel, Agnes and Clara know, a few Rooks and Blighters do, and Sybil does.” The few people in their line of work he knew he could trust explicitly. Other than that, it was acquaintances from pubs and clubs.
“I’m glad you have people you can trust.”
“It doesn’t make it easier.” He clasped his hands together. “Anyhow, should I bring the initiates here in the morning? I’d like to start their training right away.”
“Of course. We’ll be eager to train them.”
“What happened next?!” Rose exclaimed, her voice strong and dominant. Sometimes Jacob forgot how old she’d gotten.
He leant on the doorframe, watching as Max tapped his chin, as if thinking over the next part of the story. All the children, from age eight to sixteen, were captured, leaning forward, hanging off every word. Max was a true actor, overly dramatic but incredibly effective. It had become quite a routine back home for him to tell stories in one of the terrace houses after dinner.
“Well!” Max continued. “I suggested we should blow it up, add a little finality to it all. A grand third act! But, as we all know, us initiates, there is a time and a place for blowing things sky high, and we needed the supplies. So, you know what Jacob did?”
“What did he do?” a wide-eyed Avis asked.
“He snuck around the ship and worked his way past three Templars, ending their lives peacefully. Until he got to the cockpit, realising the person piloting the boat was our missing lad! The young boy was shaking like a leaf, scared of what the Templars would have done. While I took control of the boat, guiding it to one of our docks, Jacob calmed the lad down, promising that we would return him to his family as soon as possible.” Max lit up in a grin. “We got extra weapons, found a person we thought dead, and sold a pretty good boat.” He rubbed his hands together, crouching down a little. “So, what do you think the moral of the story is?”
“Don’t blow things up!” Luther shouted, a little too loudly. They really were trying to work on his volume control.
Walter stuck up his hand, saying, “stealth is better than bullheadedness?”
Rose shook her head. “Don’t go in with too much haste, obviously.”
“Never give up on someone who might still be alive?” Avis whispered.
Emelia tilted her head. “Take care of people in need!”
Max hummed thoughtfully, nodding. “All of you are completely right!” He looked to Luther. “Although, sometimes, your only choice is to blow something up. I will admit, it’s a rare chance.” He rubbed his hands together, standing tall, sweeping his gaze over all of them. “I think you have missed one lesson, though. Any thoughts to what it is?”
Jack nodded vehemently. “Killing shouldn’t be fun!”
“Exactly! It’s all fine and well having fun with your job, but remember we are Assassins, not murderers. Killing is necessary to achieve our goals, but that is only true of the Templars, of their gangs. Be careful with your blade, it is an extension of yourself, not a mere weapon.”
Jacob smiled, walking into the room. “I see you’re entertaining the children, Max.”
Max grinned at him, wrapping an arm around his shoulder once he neared. “I am, they love your heroics, my dear. Don’t you?”
The children erupted in cheers.
“Alright, you lot. Evie says we can start training tomorrow, for now, stick to your rooms and get an early night,” Jacob said, watching as some cleared out of the common room.
Jack stood up and approached Jacob with a curious look on his face. “Will fear help us be better Assassins?”
He crouched down, ruffling Jack’s hair. He was closest to him, out of all the children. Ever since freeing him from the asylum, he’d felt responsible for the child. “Any training makes us better. These fear tactics will help us when we don’t want to harm people.”
“Okay!” He went running to his friends, who had been waiting at the door for him.
“You’re so good with them,” Max said, his eyes gleaming with pride.
Jacob pressed a brief kiss to his cheek. “And so are you, love. They hang onto your every word.”
“I suppose I am telling them amazing stories, your stories.”
“You big me up too much.”
“Ah, ah, ah. No. I don’t. It’s the truth, darling.” He smiled, curling his hand around Jacob’s arm. “How was your talk with Evie?”
“Great. We caught up, thankfully. I was missing her greatly.”
Max squeezed his arm, leaning into him. “I know, but at least you’ll have plenty of time to spend with her now.”
“Yes… We also discussed something I need us to talk through.”
Jacob tugged Max to their room. They all had quarters, and while the children had rooms with beds inside, they had been given one with two. They were only decorated with a few ornaments and were largely empty. Probably due to the fact that they were guest rooms. Jacob sat down on his bed once they got there, Max sat on his.
“Children,” Jacob said, suddenly. “I always liked the idea of having a child, raising them into the Creed, being better than my father. Continue the line.” He rubbed his palms together. “Evie said there is a method, different from the one we know of.”
Max lay back on his hands. “You’re asking if it’s okay with me?”
“Yes. And also if you want children. We are partners, Max, this needs to be a joint decision.”
“My dear… I can see us now, humming a babe to sleep.” He smiled. “If you want a child, then we shall have a child. I never thought I would be with anyone where this kind of life was possible… yet here I am, with you. So, yes, I would love to be at your side raising a child.”
Jacob broke out into a grin. He rose from his bed, pacing across the gap and cupped Max’s jaw, leaning in to press a joyful kiss to his lips. “You’re amazing. I love you.”
“And I love you, my darling.” Max tugged him down to the space beside him. “Do you think we can get away with sleeping in the same bed?”
“No.” Jacob nuzzled into his neck. “It’s going to be difficult, these months.”
“I know how to act in London, most pay you no mind. But here…”
“Nothing is the same… We should be as cautious as we are when we’re out in public together, at all times. Even in this room.”
Max turned to kiss Jacob’s forehead. “At the very least, we must stick to one kiss a day.”
Jacob chuckled softly. “Yes, I think we can do that.”
“Good, it’ll make it all easier.”
Jacob cupped Max’s jaw, drawing him in for a sweet goodnight kiss, keeping in mind that it had to be brief. Yet, he let it linger, not wishing to let go of routine. Still, it had to end eventually. He broke the kiss, barely pulling away, and for a moment they gazed at each other, knowing that they both wanted nothing more than to draw one another back in.
Alas, Jacob stood, taking one of Max’s hands, pressing a small kiss to the back of it. He returned to his bed, lying down, staring at the ceiling. Nothing was ever simple, was it? Keeping their love hidden in London was fairly easy, they had spaces they knew were safe. But at any moment here, someone could see them. It wasn’t worth the risk… yet it was.
“This year marks our five-year anniversary…” he murmured. “It marks Evie and Henry’s too. They can tell people, be joyful, celebrate. And we… hide away and whisper to those who know, and they whisper back wishing us more happy years.”
Max hummed. “All that is, is proving to others that you’re in love. It’s not fair, but we’re still fully committed to each other regardless.”
“Sometimes, I wish we could get married.”
“We could. There’s nothing to stop us from having a ceremony and inviting everyone we trust.” Max’s voice was so wistful, like he really wanted it now that he’d said it. “And then we’d be married when we have a child.”
Jacob grinned, turning his head to look at Max. “Yes, I love that idea. John can be the officiant.”
With a smirk, Max said, “and Nigel can be our flower boy.”
He barked a laugh, shaking his head. “Oh… no… He’d hate it.”
“He’d love it.”
“If he’s our flower boy, then Clara should be the one to take care of the rings.”
“Of course.” Max slowly grinned. “It’ll be a quiet affair, with some of our friends from the pub.”
“Yes… Yes, it’ll be lovely.”
“We should do it, as soon as we get home.”
Jacob’s cheeks hurt from how much he was smiling. “I’ll send a letter to Nigel, so we can do it as soon as we get home.”
“Then it’s a date, my dear.”
They grinned at each other, full of happiness at the mere prospect. It would be wonderful, just being able to fully commit to each other in front of witnesses. And they could wear rings under their gauntlets. No one outside their circle of trust would ever know.
Sleep was hard when excitement bubbled under his skin.
Jacob narrowed his eyes, watching closely as one of the mentors demonstrated to the children on the techniques of using a fear bomb. He wasn’t getting involved himself, the bombs weren’t for him. Perhaps he could develop his smoke bombs instead, adding chemicals to disorient someone, rather than putting the fear of whatever into them.
The mentor threw it down and…
The screams were horrific. He noticed Emelia cover her ears, whimpering slightly. By the third throw of the bomb, however, she slowly pulled her hands away. He knew part of the training required building a resistance to the bombs, but he couldn’t help but think the hallucinogen would affect the younger children. The potency was geared towards adults, after all.
When the children were left to try, they did so one at a time. Evie seemed to explain to each one on the best way to throw it, which, as far as he could tell, was to merely throw it down hard. As if it was a smoke bomb. It took a couple of seconds to detonate, erupting in a demonic scream as it did so.
As the children practiced, Evie approached Max (who was eager to learn) and gave him a bomb. Jacob smiled as Max examined it, plopping it down on the ground, watching with a tilted head as it exploded. He coughed a small bit as the gas drifted over but shook himself off. Evie laughed and patted him on the back.
“What do you think?” Henry suddenly said, appearing out of nowhere.
Jacob nodded to himself as he watched all the initiates learn. “I really think these weapons will be good for the children, it can bring in a new era for missions that require little to no stealth. And with the gangs… we need that right now.”
“That’s still a problem?”
“More than you know, Greenie. The Templars want their stronghold back.”
“Do you have enough Assassins in London to combat them while you’re here?”
“Oh, yeah. I trust in my initiates.”
Henry nodded, turning to look at the training session. “The children are eager, and all seem comfortable with one another. You picked well.”
Jacob furrowed his brow. “Don’t forget you and Evie were involved in their care for a while too. They still ask if either of you will ever return.”
“It’s easy to forget when you’re so far away.” He stayed quiet for a moment. “I see your friendship with Roth developed into him becoming an initiate.” His tone was… off.
“And what does that mean?”
“Just that, I’m glad you could sway someone like him to our side. It’s not often a Templar does so.”
“He was never a Templar… He’s a good man, Henry. I don’t appreciate people that put him down due to his past.” Jacob folded his arms. “He is a great friend, and he has helped me train the children. He may be learning himself, but that’s more to do with not slicing himself open with a hidden blade and reading the history books.”
Henry looked to Jacob, raising an eyebrow. “He cares for our history? Perhaps I have misjudged him.”
“Perhaps you have.”
“You clearly care about him, a great deal it seems.”
He glanced off to the side, thinking of what to say. He wouldn’t tell him, not now at least. Even with all his courage, he couldn’t bear telling someone else. Didn’t have enough energy to do so. “I should think I care about my friends. He means a lot to the children and everyone back home, his stories keep them entertained when stresses are high.”
Their conversation was cut short as a large amount of gas rose in the air. The mentors and Evie guided everyone away, and one was carrying Jack, who was coughing and shaking. Jacob sprinted over, his eyes wide, his heart beating wildly. What had happened? Was the lad okay?
“Jack…!” Jacob exclaimed as the mentor laid him on the ground. He crouched by him, placing a hand at his shoulder. Jack’s eyes were scrunched up tight as he whimpered, shivering as if he had a fever. As if he was completely terrified. Not unlike the state Jacob found him in at the asylum back in 1868. “What happened?”
“The boy took two of the bombs and threw them down at once,” the mentor said. “Most likely curious about the effects. The hallucinogen has gotten into his system, poor boy.”
Max kneeled down next to him. “What does Jack fear the most?”
Jack whined; his eyes shut tighter. A small word crossed his lips. Mother.
Jacob sat back, pulling Jack to his chest. “It’s okay, it’s alright, you’re not there. You’re not there. It’s the fear bombs, just a hallucination, it’s not real, none of its real. You’re in 1873, you’re here, in India, with us. It’s okay, Jack, it’s okay.”
Evie stepped in front of them, raising her arms. “Let’s give them some space. We can start training with the spikes.”
As the others began to make their way over to the other side of the area, Rose approached Jacob and pressed a cautious hand to Jack’s cheek. “It’s okay, little lad, Rosey is here. I’ll tickle your toes if you don’t open those peepers for us.”
Jack curled into Jacob, still shaking, still whimpering. The poor lad had been completely terrified, his body was trying to fight off the effects of the chemicals. How long did it all last for?
Max stood, looking at Jack with concern. “Let’s get him to his room. He needs to sleep this off.”
“I’ll help,” Rose was quick to say. At their questioning looks she shrugged. “He’s, you know, Jack the Lad… I hate to see him ill. We all love him so much. Nothing would be the same without him.”
Jacob slowly stood, holding Jack securely. “Come on then, better to get him comfortable sooner rather than later.”
As they settled Jack down in his bed, tucking him in, Rose sat by his bedside. She was willing to sacrifice her own training to help look after him. Jacob bit at his lip as he watched Jack struggle with the hallucination, with the fear. He guessed it had different effects on adults, but to a child, it was far too potent for their smaller bodies.
“He will be okay,” Max said, placing a hand at his shoulder, squeezing.
“Maybe these bombs aren’t as good as I thought. If it’s so easy to end up like this.”
“Evie was telling me it takes a few months to build up a resistance to the fumes and the screams. She says children train with them all the time, so this is a rare incident.”
Jacob thinned his lips. It happened often enough that the mentors weren’t too concerned about it. “I hope it doesn’t leave any lasting effects.”
“The bombs wouldn’t be used if they did.” Max dropped his hand, smiling faintly. “The Assassins know better than that. It’s not exactly non-lethal if you cause people permanent harm.”
“Yeah… Of course. It’s just… It’s Jack. He’s been through so much already. He doesn’t need this to remind him.” The problem was… how did any of them really know what the effects were if people ran off screaming?
“He’s strong, this won’t affect him too much.”
Jacob watched as Jack curled into a ball, his whimpers calming. “I… You’re right.”
Evie smirked, leaning forward. “And how do you think Nigel is back home with the others?”
Max laughed, waving dismissively, as if the question was absurd. “He’ll be fine, and if he’s not, Sybil will keep him in order. He hasn’t done anything unintentionally reckless since the factory incident over a year ago.”
“He was trying to steal supplies from a rival gang, but was almost caught, so in his haste, he threw them into a fire. It caused a small explosion and forced the factory to close down for a week.”
Jacob put his head in his hands. “Don’t remind me of that mess.”
“It was in the newspapers for days.” Max patted Jacob’s arm. “We made sure the workers lost no money from it.”
Jacob looked to Evie with withering eyes. “He’s worse than me sometimes. But thank goodness he decided to become a blacksmith for us, that’s all I can say.”
“Is he good at it?” Henry asked.
“Very good. He has a natural talent for it. Knows how to make the metal work for him.”
Evie chuckled. “I never would have thought Nigel could do something like that.”
“Ah,” Max uttered, vaguely waving his finger about. “Do not doubt a person’s ability to do what you least expect.”
“I suppose you’re right, Roth.” She narrowed her eyes. “People can do what you least expect.”
“Are you referring to me?”
“Yes. I never thought someone such as yourself would become an Assassin.” She faintly smiled. “I’m glad for,” Her eyes flicked to Jacob, “everyone’s sake, that you did so. You’re cherished by the children.”
Max grinned. “Ah yes, I suppose certain people do benefit from me choosing this side.”
Henry looked between them, his eyes shifting. “I feel like there is a hidden meaning behind your words.”
Jacob shrugged, aiming for nonchalance. He didn’t want Henry working it out. “I’m sure you’re missing nothing, Greenie.”
“Nothing at all,” Max affirmed.
He still looked sceptical, but Evie placed her hand on top of his. “My words mean what they mean, and I’m sure Roth’s do too.”
Henry stared at Evie for a second. “Alright. Must have been my imagination.”
All three of them nodded, accepting his conclusion.
The night continued on as normal. They were sitting outside, enjoying a quiet drink as all the children were in their rooms, most likely sleeping. A lot of reminiscing had occurred, talking about 1868, talking about everything. Evie and Henry told stories of their time in India, while Jacob and Max broke down in laughter over Nigel, the children, and everyone else in between.
It was a night of stories, of joy. And it was their last night in India. Tomorrow, they would begin the journey back to a damp and dreary London. But, then again, the constant rain and cold weather would be a welcome sight. Jacob couldn’t say he preferred the sun.
As Max and Henry got into a debate about the inherent chaos of Assassins verses the peace and freedom they brought, Evie dragged Jacob away from their table, further into the quiet night. She had a solemn look on, which was exactly how Jacob felt.
“It has been good having you here, brother dearest. I can’t persuade you to stay, can I?”
He shook his head, taking in a sharp breath. “As much as I wish I could, London needs me. I’ll miss you, but this isn’t goodbye, dear sister. We’ll visit each other in the coming years.”
“Maybe I could visit London next time.” She idly rubbed her arm. “I’d like to be back there.”
“Maybe you could. Everyone would welcome you, and Henry.”
“Yes. Well, that’s a plan. In a few years I’ll come to you.”
Jacob smiled, sadly. He wished Evie could be in London all the time but… love took you to places you never thought you could go.
They quickly pulled each other into a hug. Both of them knew this was the last time they would see each other for years, and how many that would be… was undecided. It could be two, three, five. More than that even. It didn’t feel right, being away from Evie. And these months had been a blessing in comparison. If only they weren’t a world apart. Doing good things in different places.
Tomorrow would have a more heartfelt goodbye, but for now, Jacob just needed his sister.
Jacob did a quick headcount of the children. Everyone was present. Luckily. There had been a brief worry that on their way to the station, one of them could get lost, but no, he should have had more faith in them. As they waited for the train, the children sorted themselves out into groups. He watched with a smile.
“I can’t wait to go home!” Jack exclaimed, grinning. “I miss Nigel.”
“Me too!” Luther shouted. Even after all the training, he was still too loud. “And Sybil! Everyone!”
He chuckled softly as the children devolved into shouting about who they missed the most. A large plume of smoke caught his attention in the distance. The train was nearing. Evie turned to him, a long sigh escaping her lips.
Jacob spread his arms. “One more?”
Evie stepped into the hug, tucking her head over his shoulder. Jacob held on tight. Who knew how long it would be before they saw each other again, touched, hugged? Letters would never be enough. And their work… Anything could happen between now and the future. He didn’t want to go, but he had a duty, a place to go back to. He had to go back.
“I love you, dear brother.”
“I love you too.” Jacob sniffled, closing his eyes. “Write to me, all the time.”
“I will. And you should constantly send me letters, never give me a chance to reply, otherwise it will take too long.”
With one more squeeze from the both of them, they pulled away from each other. Though, it was with great reluctance. Their hands lingered on one another’s arms, slipping away just as the train rolled up to the station.
Max approached, placing a hand on Jacob’s shoulder. “I’ll get the children on board.” He moved past, rounding all of them up.
“Visit us, soon, don’t leave it too long,” Jacob said, trying to keep himself from crying.
“I won’t. I’ll be with you before you know it.”
Yet they both knew it would be much longer than they hoped.
He looked to Henry, smiling slightly. “Until next time, Greenie.”
Henry walked up to him, giving him a warm and friendly handshake. “Until next time. And good luck with all of them, Jacob.”
He turned to the train, seeing the last passengers board. He smiled at Evie and Henry, giving a little wave before he walked away, hopping onto the train easily. As it pulled out of the station, Jacob waved, gazing forlornly at Evie. All the children waved too, but theirs had a happier feel to it. To them, leaving was no hardship.
But it was for Jacob. Being unable to see Evie everyday left a hole in his heart. She was his twin; their connection ran so deep. It already hurt, knowing he was going to be thousands of miles away. As he sat down, Max discreetly patted his hand, leaning into him.
“It won’t be too long before you see each other again,” he said, which brought little comfort, but Jacob appreciated the effort.
“That’s what I keep telling myself, but as the British Brotherhood continues to grow, I’ll find it harder to leave. And as Evie spends more years in India, will she want to leave? Even for a visit?” He sighed, folding his hands on his lap. “It’s difficult, for the both of us.”
Max gave him such a sympathetic look, but there was optimism in his eyes. “Darling, you’re twins, you can hardly be apart for too long.”
Jacob, with all his being, hoped that was true. “We’ll see what the future brings.”
Chapter 4: Another Frye
Jacob slid into the booth and leaned back. The pub had seen an upgrade in furniture since he’d last been there, but it was very much the same place it had always been. A safe place. Even though most were still very discreet, the private rooms upstairs were anything but. He was glad to know that was still going on, most didn’t get the luxuries some of them had. Others had lives where a partner would never be viable.
Adelaide, who was sitting across from him, raised an eyebrow. She was in one of her bright dresses today, red and white. Her brown hair was tied up in a bun. Which all meant she was seeing Viola. He smiled, seemed that hadn’t changed since he’d been gone. Given that she was wearing the rose gold bracelet Viola had gotten her last year.
“Can I help you, Jacob?” she asked, sipping at her beer.
“You know Max and I have been together for a while now.”
“Five years, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” He smiled. “We live one of those secret lives, you know? Which puts us in a good position for a child.”
Adelaide leant forward. “It comes at a price.”
“I know. Have you heard of the method of artificial insemination?”
“I’m aware of it, though most usually go for the other method. It’s more… accurate.”
He tilted his head, he had to give it that much. But he didn’t want to feel like he was betraying Max. “Would you be willing to do the other method?”
“Sure, it’ll take pressure off me, off you.” She gave a slow smile, sitting back. “You’re lucky, no one else has propositioned me recently. Come back here on Sunday, at ten in the morning. Bring the… supplies.”
“Alright. How much is your price?”
“Well, I can take away the cost of trauma… So, it’ll be two thousand pounds.”
Jacob grinned. It was suddenly feeling very real, very possible. “Sounds fair to me.” He nodded to her drink. “I could buy you another, to settle the deal?”
She smirked. “Go ahead, I don’t mind.”
He whisked up to the bar, signalling to Cooper. It was one of those rare days in which Smith wasn’t present. Cooper made his way over, tilting his head, his eyebrow cocking. As if he was asking something, but Jacob wasn’t picking up on whatever it was he was trying to say.
“No Maxwell?” he asked as he stopped by Jacob.
“Ah, no, I’m here for business today.”
Cooper smiled. “Saw you talking to Adelaide. Must be an exciting time for you.”
“It is. Can I get another of what she’s having?”
Cooper got to work while Jacob set a few notes down on the bar top. He took a sweeping look around the pub, so many were happily enjoying the safety of this place. Hands rested on knees. Longing gazes were exchanged. People snuck off out back. It was all so wonderful, that people could be free in this pub.
It reminded him of the other reason he’d come here.
As Cooper set the tankard down and took the notes, Jacob said, “Max and I are going to have a ceremony. Want to come?”
Cooper stopped in his tracks, glancing to Jacob with a furrowed brow. “Like… a wedding ceremony?”
“Um… Wow. Okay. Sure, I’d love to see that. It’s unheard of, but then you and Maxwell are the riskiest people out of all of us.” Cooper smiled, confusion passing over his face, but joy for them lay underneath. “Does the invite extend to Smith?”
“Good. Where will it be?”
Jacob reached into his coat, pushing an invitation over to Cooper. It was nothing special, just a where and when written on a scrap piece of paper. (Although Max had decided to draw a rose at the corner).
He tucked the invitation into his pocket. “We’ll be there.”
“See you then.” He grabbed the tankard, returning to Adelaide. He placed the drink by her last one and sat back down. “So, it’s a deal?”
“It’s a deal, Jacob.” She took a large glug of her drink, smiling after.
“I have something else to ask.”
“Max and I are having a wedding ceremony. Do you want to come?”
Adelaide broke out in a grin. “A ceremony… It sounds like a fantasy. I’ll be there, I’m sure Viola will want to come to.” She stared down at the table for a moment. “Such a shame you can’t do it in the eyes of the law.”
“The law is unjust and immoral, and I’m sure it will be for years to come. Doesn’t mean people like us can’t do whatever we set our minds to.” He lay back, raising his eyebrows. He knew he was right.
“You’re right, we can do anything. A lot of us aren’t as brave as you and Maxwell though.”
“Maybe… in time… people like us will spark a revolution and the laws will change.”
“Hopefully.” She toyed with her tankard before taking a sip. “Where will your ceremony be?”
Jacob took out another invite, passing it over to Adelaide. “Just a few days away.”
“I’m sure you’re excited.”
“I am.” He huffed a joyful breath. “I can’t believe that I’ll be dedicating my life to him. We’re committed anyway, but this feels more real.”
“I understand. Vows and everything that comes with a ceremony means more than only giving your word.” She reached over, punching his arm playfully. “A marriage first before a child, you’re doing things in order.”
He barked a laugh, shaking his head. “Guess I am. Who would have thought I could do it all with Max?”
Adelaide spread her arms, chortling. “You’re a gift to this community, Sir Jacob.”
“Why thank you!” With a smile, he gestured to her. “And you too are a gift to this community.”
“You’re too kind.”
“No, you’re too kind.” Jacob paused for a second, thinning his lips. “I really mean that. You do something for this community others would never dream of doing. You’re the true inspiration here.”
She ducked her head. “Thank you. That means a lot.”
He picked up the empty tankard, wishing he’d bought a drink now. “To being inspirations for far different reasons?”
Adelaide picked up her tankard and clinked it against Jacob’s. “To being inspirations.”
“You’re not… nervous, are you?” Nigel asked, hugging the flower basket to his chest.
“I am, a little.” Jacob raised an eyebrow, chuckling. “Why, are you nervous?”
“No… But you know me, I’m more likely to trip over and spill the flowers than sprinkle them down.”
“Nigel,” Jacob began, placing a hand at his shoulder, “you will be fine. Nothing can go wrong with your part. We’ve practically Nigel proofed the aisle.”
He turned back to the mirror, straightening his morning coat. It was his standard formal wear, though he had swapped a red cravat out for a blue one. There had been little time to organise anything else, not that Jacob saw a need to get a new outfit.
“How long do we have?” he asked Nigel, who immediately flicked open his pocket watch.
“A few minutes.”
“Well, let’s get out there.”
They had completely decked out the Alhambra’s stage in flowers, found an old red carpet from somewhere to go up the aisle, and brought all the chairs they needed from the main floor and the upper levels. The Alhambra was completely closed today, no workers were allowed in, and trusted Blighters and Rooks covered every exit. It was a very safe and very wonderful place to have their ceremony.
Currently, Jacob was in a dressing room, which had been awfully convenient to get changed in. He’d never known they could be so comfortable. Nigel left first, heading to the backstage, while Jacob knocked on the next room over.
“I’m ready if you are,” he said, smiling as there was a giggle, followed by a withering sigh.
“Clara is torturing my hair, my dear!”
Jacob snorted. “You asked her to do it!”
“He’ll be out in a minute,” Clara said, giggling away.
Grinning, he left them be, finding Nigel at the side-lines. He peeped out around the wall of backdrops they’d created. There were only two empty seats, for Nigel and Clara. The rest were filled with their friends. Everyone from the pub, Sybil, Agnes and Lewis. John, however, was standing at the altar. A very quiet affair indeed.
Soon enough, Max was approaching. First, his hair was immaculately done by Clara. It didn’t look too different, except for the curl of hair coming down upon the right side of his forehead. And his outfit was a complete surprise to Jacob, due to Max keeping it a secret. He wore a grey morning coat and trousers, with a light blue waistcoat and white cravat.
“Ready?” Nigel asked the both of them.
“Yes,” they said at once.
Nigel went out ahead of them, scattering petals out on to the aisle. His basket had a lot inside, so he threw down large handfuls. Still, it looked delicate and pretty. Jacob and Max walked up the aisle, arm in arm, while Nigel and Clara took a seat. John regarded them with a huge smile as they made it to the altar.
They turned to hold hands, beaming at each other. The realness of it crashed down on him, staring into Max’s eyes like this. They were going to say vows… Just like any other wedding.
John cleared his throat, bringing all attention to him. “We’re gathered here today to witness a queer ol’ time. Those are Maxwell’s words, not mine. Jacob and Maxwell have been on a journey of love unseen by the masses. While others get to show off when courting, our grooms here stuck to the shadows, building their love in their own way. Some would say it was chaotic, but isn’t that what love is? And now, Jacob and Maxwell are confirming that love in front of all of us. In a ceremony like any other. The law may never recognise it, but every single one of us here will. And that is the meaning of love.”
He tucked his notes into his pocket, cupping his hands behind his back. “You may say your vows. Jacob?”
Jacob sucked in a breath, a little shaky. “I, Jacob Frye, take you, Maxwell Roth, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.”
Max beamed, squeezing Jacob’s hands. “I, Maxwell Roth, take you, Jacob Frye, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.”
John grinned at them. “Clara, if you will, the rings.”
Clara bounced up from her seat, producing two rings from her pockets, passing one to Jacob and the other to Max. The rings were rose gold with ‘J&M’ inscribed inside. Matching in every way.
Jacob delicately took Max’s hand, slipping the ring onto his finger. “I give you this ring as a symbol of our love.”
As Max took his hand, he couldn’t stop smiling, neither of them could. “I give you this ring as a symbol of not only our love, but as a promise that as long as you wear it, I will always be with you.”
Jacob squeezed his hands tightly, reassuringly. He knew Max’s exact meaning of that. It wasn’t brought up often, but it was a real possibility. As Max still beamed at him, he knew any sorrow feelings those words came with weren’t present
John clapped his hands together. “I now declare you husbands! You may kiss.”
They pulled each other in, sealing it all with the most delightful kiss. They wrapped their arms around each other, getting as close as decently possible. The warmth of it, on this wonderful day, filled Jacob with all the happiness he could take. A true and beautiful display of their love, in the very place it had all started. He melted into everything Max was willing to give in front of their trusted friends.
And when they pulled apart, Jacob had never seen such an overwhelmingly happy smile on Max’s face.
“Hello, my husband,” he said, holding Max’s hand, tight.
“My dear husband, we’re married.”
They turned to their friends, who lit up and erupted in a joyous applause. They walked back down the aisle as nuts were thrown towards them. Adelaide broke down laughing as she threw her nuts, and Viola shook her head fondly. They were certainly celebrating fertility considering that would be happening in two days.
The lot of them made their way off the stage, onto the lower floor. A simple three tier cake decorated with orange blossoms sat on the table in the middle. Proudly. As everyone crowded around, they watched intently as Jacob picked up the knife.
“Looks blunt,” he murmured.
Max curled an arm around his shoulders. “What do you want, my dear? A kukri?”
Jacob lit up. “Oo, could I?”
“It’s a cake, not a target.”
With a chuckle from them both, they each held onto the knife and cut into the first tier of cake. Sybil and Agnes helped to place pieces onto plates, passing them around so everyone got a slice. They weren’t exactly going for a traditional wedding by any means, they were making up their own rules as they went along. Choosing to only eat cake and not having breakfast or lunch was one of their new traditions.
Cooper raised his plate of cake once everyone had one. “To the happy couple!”
With laughs all around, everyone did the same, repeating the phrase loudly. Jacob chuckled as he ate a bit, finding it delightfully delicious. The baker had done well indeed.
Everyone mingled for a few hours, talking and laughing about all sorts, working their way through the cake. Until, some slowly started to leave. Cooper and Smith had to open the pub, Adelaide and Viola had ‘something’ to do, Agnes wanted to get back to the train. Even if it wasn’t used as a home these days, it still worked as a hideout for the Rooks. Nigel and Sybil went with her.
Clara stood, smirking as she stood tall. “I have business to attend to. Do have fun tonight.” She angled her head towards John and Lewis. They followed after her, and then they were all alone. Clara was a life saver.
Jacob smirked, sitting back in his seat. “Well, we’re alone now.”
“That we are…” Max stood, offering his hand to him, he took it, standing. “We don’t have to go far.”
“No… As I recall, there is a perfectly good bed upstairs.”
Max hooked his arm around Jacob’s waist, smirking up at him. “Let’s not dawdle.”
“Let’s not.” He leant into his ear, whispering, “I want to please my husband as soon as possible.”
“What do you have planned?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
As they began to walk, Max softly chuckled, shaking his head. Jacob smiled, excitement bubbling beneath his skin. They were married now, in the eyes of themselves and everyone they trusted. And the thought of spending the night wrapped up in each other, completely committed to one another as husbands, warmed him to no end.
Once they made it to the bedroom, they locked the door, to ensure no one could possibly disrupt them. Jacob grinned as he settled his hands on Max’s hips, pulling him close. Max wrapped his arms around Jacob’s back, staring into his eyes. For a moment, Jacob was frozen, taking note of just how beautiful Max was. His eyes shined, green and magnificent. He could get lost in them, and he would, on any other day. But for now, he wanted to make good on his word.
“We need to get rid of these clothes.” He moved his hands to Max’s waistcoat buttons. “Swiftly.”
Max pushed his hands underneath Jacob’s coat, pushing at it. “Well, my dear, that’s easy.”
Their coats came off quickly, and so did their waistcoats, after deftly undoing the buttons with great speed. Off came their shirts, leaving them bare chested. Jacob briefly got distracted as he traced one of Max’s scars, kissing him sweetly. Max quickly rectified the situation, moving them onwards as he reached for Jacob’s trouser buttons. They kicked their shoes off and stripped the rest of their clothes away.
And… because Jacob was feeling particularly strong today, he scooped Max up into his arms. He grinned as Max batted his shoulder. “What…? Do you not want me to lie you down and kiss, lick and bite every part of you, till you’re begging me to take you into my mouth?”
Max shivered, breathing out slowly. “I… God, darling, I need that.”
Jacob gently laid him down on the bed, hovering over him with intent. Where to start… He smiled slowly, half smirking. “Which do you want first…” He tapped each spot, his earlobe, neck, and left nipple. “Choose one.”
Max drew in a small breath. “I would prefer it if you went from top to bottom.”
“I can certainly do that.”
“Mark me up, dear.”
Jacob grinned, half moaning at the thought of tomorrow, seeing Max covered in beautiful marks. He leant down, mindful not to brush their cocks together, pulling his earlobe between his teeth. He nipped at the soft flesh gently, licking at the spot, and when he went to bite at it again, he applied a touch more pressure, drawing a small gasp from Max.
He soothed the spot once more before moving, trailing small bites downwards until he reached his neck. Licking at one particular spot caused Max to shiver, which Jacob knew well. He rolled the skin between his teeth, biting down just on the right side of pleasure. Max writhed as he did it again at a different part of his neck, sucking intensely to keep drawing wondrous sounds from his husband.
As he repeated the process, marking up the entirety of the left side, he felt himself getting perfectly hard. And one quick glance downwards gave him the delightful sight of Max, in exactly the same state. He smiled as he moved on to his collarbone, sucking along it, leaving bites at regular intervals. He was being precise in where he left each bite, wanting it to be special.
As he bit down, hard, at the base of his throat, Max bucked his hips, seeking something Jacob wasn’t going to give him yet. There was still a lot of skin to cover. He made his way up his neck, leaving a delightful bite at every inch, licking and sucking to soothe each one. He stopped at his ear, nipping his earlobe, leaving a small kiss there.
“Nipples?” he asked sweetly.
“God, yes, Jacob, please.” His voice was throaty and oh so needy. It pleased Jacob to no end.
He moved down once again, biting into his chest on the way, licking down until he reached his right nipple. He wrapped his lips around it, sucking gently, at first. Till he was pulling a moan from Max. Then, he grazed his teeth across it, applying such a small amount of force. But clearly, it had the right effect, as Max stopped balling up the sheets and spread his hands across Jacobs back, scraping.
Jacob grinned triumphantly, leaving that nipple behind and moving onto the other. He curled his tongue around it, sucking once again, but introduced teeth a little early. Truth be told, the slow tantalising pace he’d set was making him a touch impatient. But he’d made his intent clear, and would stick to it, even though he wanted to get his mouth on Max now.
He wanted his husband to be pleasantly satisfied, after all.
“Jacob, please,” Max eked out.
He nuzzled Max’s stomach, eager to get his mouth on the plane of muscle. “We’re almost there, love. Hold on.”
Jacob sucked and licked at a spot first, loving how hard the muscle was behind his tongue. As he sunk his teeth in, with the exact force Max enjoyed the most, a groan burst from him. Jacob smiled, leaving a few bites upon his belly before deciding to take mercy on his husband.
“Please…” Max murmured. “Want you, so bad, darling.”
“I know, I know.” Jacob cupped Max’s face, kissing him deeply, beautifully. “Do you want it?”
“Yes, you know I do.”
Jacob smiled, leaving a lingering kiss upon his lips before moving downwards, getting a good look at his needy cock. He was thoroughly excited to get his mouth on him, wanting to watch him fall apart in one of the best ways. Without wasting another second, he dove down, gently wrapping his lips around him.
He swirled his tongue around the tip, delighting at Max bucking his hips at the much-needed touch. Jacob had prepared for it. He held his hips down, pressing his thumbs into the dips, keeping him in place. He took him in deeper, right down to the base, with great skill. He knew what Max liked, knew what he needed at every point. Sucking roughly for one, which caused Max to groan loudly, trying to move, but Jacob wouldn’t let him.
He moaned against his cock, bobbing up and down a few times. Drawing every sound he could from Max. He flicked his eyes up to him, noticing how Max was staring right at him, his eyes tense, pupils blown wide. Simply beautiful. He truly loved him, his husband. Pleasuring him on their wedding night. It made it mean all the more.
As Jacob sucked particularly hard, swirling his tongue against the tip once again, Max put his hands into his hair, tugging gently. Which meant Max was getting close. Slowly, he made his way back down, sucking harder. Max’s gasps and moans were coming faster now, so fast that he wouldn’t be able to speak if he tried. A triumph in Jacob’s eyes. And with one last powerful suck, Max cried out.
It was always a delight to hear Max say his name as he came. Hot spurts hit the back of his throat, and Jacob swallowed every last drop down, slowly letting his cock drop from his mouth. Max was beautifully laid out, looking completely blissful. It was a wonderful sight to see.
As Jacob settled next to him, Max calmed down from his orgasm, snapping back to reality. He glanced to him, smiling, before his eyes drifted to Jacob’s still incredibly hard cock. He smirked and rolled closer to him, reaching out.
“May I?” he asked softly.
“Please.” His voice was hoarse and quiet, but that was a given. He pushed his hand into Max’s hair, looking into his eyes, willing to get completely lost in them.
Max reached out, curling his fingers around Jacob, tugging gently. Jacob leant his forehead on Max’s, staring into his green eyes, groaning as he quickened the pace, making his grip tighter, and so perfect. With how intense Max’s eyes were, and how worked up he’d gotten, it didn’t take him long to get close with each stroke.
“My dear, come for me.”
He couldn’t resist it any longer. “Max,” he moaned, shuddering as he came, coating Max’s hand in his release. It felt so good, so perfect and wonderful. And it had all gone almost exactly as he planned. He panted, feeling his mind drift.
Slowly, he came down from the high of it all, having zoned out. Max had already begun to clean up the mess, throwing the cloth away once he was finished. Jacob watched carefully, smiling as he settled in next to him, curling an arm around his shoulders.
“Darling, what a wonderful wedding night this has been.”
Jacob grinned, pulling him closer. “Wonderful indeed, my beautiful husband.”
Max looked at him, gazing with loving eyes. “Husband… We’re really husbands.”
“We are.” He rested his hand on his hip, smiling. “I love you.”
Max kissed the corner of his mouth sweetly. “And I love you too.”
Jacob scraped his nails through his scalp, ruffling up his hair. He couldn’t help being worried, after all, his own mother had died. But Adelaide had been down this road several times before, she knew what she was doing. But it wasn’t exactly for her to decide, was it? Anything could go wrong. And if it did, then his genetics would have caused two deaths. It could happen, what’s to say it couldn’t?
“Jacob,” Max said firmly, wrapping his arms around him. He shuffled on the sofa, pressing up against him. “She will be fine. Everything will be fine. Stop worrying.”
“Can’t help it.” He rose to his feet, pacing on the spot.
Max sighed. “You’ll wear a hole into the floor. My dear, please sit down.”
“It’s just–” He stopped. “It’s been hours, it’s not as if I know what’s normal.”
Jacob did so, breathing in and out slowly. “She sounds like she’s in a lot of pain.”
Max nodded as he rubbed Jacob’s back, the comfort helped. “Childbirth is painful. Nature is cruel. Sometimes labour lasts for a day, or more. Nothing is ever normal when it comes to this. Do not fret.”
Viola came into the room moments later. Her white dress had a smear of blood on it, but that didn’t seem to concern her. Jacob supposed a couple consisting of a surrogate and a midwife, worked very well when it came to this. She smiled. “Congratulations, it all went well! You have a baby boy!”
They both bolted up, hugging each other, bouncing a little on their feet. Relief washed over Jacob at the news that it all went well. As they pulled apart, Viola took them to the room Adelaide was in. She was holding the baby close, all wrapped up in a blanket.
“Do you know what you’re going to call him?” Viola asked as she stopped at Adelaide’s side.
“Emmett,” they said at once, smiling at each other as they did so.
Adelaide grinned at the child, stroking his little cheek. “Hello, Emmett Frye. Welcome to the world.” She passed Emmett to Viola. “Hold him, he needs to meet his fathers.”
Max grinned, turning to Jacob. “You first, my dear.”
Viola carefully transferred Emmett into his arms. Jacob smiled down at him, his tiny little face, his tiny hands, his crying as he adjusted to the world. He was so beautiful. He could tell, just by looking at him, that there was greatness in this child. Or maybe he was projecting. Either way, Emmett would be well looked after, raised by the best.
“Hello there. You’re my son. Aren’t you beautiful?”
Emmett merely cried, though he doubted it was in response.
Jacob looked to Max, grinning ear to ear. He slowly passed him over, watching as Max’s expression melted into awe. He tickled the palms of Emmett’s hands, cooing at him. “Who is a little sweetheart? I’m your second father. Yes… Yes, you’re lucky you get two.”
They all chuckled at that. There was little possibility of ever being able to tell Emmett that Max was his father too. But he would be, he always would be. Because having a child had been something they both wanted, and they were married. Even if Emmett would never know, Jacob and Max would, and in the end, in a world where this wasn’t ‘normal’, that had to be enough.
Jacob watched as Max hummed to Emmett. Of course, the babe didn’t understand what was going on, but Max’s tender swaying brought the child into a calmer rhythm. His crying lessened a small bit. Jacob glanced to Adelaide and Viola, who were smiling brightly, watching closely.
“You handle him well,” Viola said. “Far gentler than how you act in the pub.”
“Ah, Emmett is a babe. You have to be careful; they are fragile beings.”
Jacob stepped beside him, curling an arm around his waist, gazing down at Emmett. “He’s our child, Max. Our beautiful boy.”
Max leaned into him, smiling at Emmett. “He is a wonderful little thing.” He looked to Jacob with such loving eyes. “We’re parents.”
“Yes, we really are.” He kissed Max briefly, pouring all his joy into it before pulling back, staring at Emmett again. He reached out, stroking his finger down his cheek. “He’s so small.”
“He’ll get big really quickly,” Adelaide said, she straightened out her covers, patting the bed for Viola to sit. Which she did. “Breast is better than any other substitute, so I’ll feed him until he can manage other foods.”
Max nodded, glancing to Adelaide. “Thank you, you’re really considerate.”
“I basically do this for a living, Maxwell. I know how to do it well.”
Jacob grinned at her. “Well, thank you, all the same. Will you rest now?”
“Yes, it’s been a long day.” She lay back, closing her eyes for a second. “Leave him in the cot when he settles. We can talk more in the morning.”
Viola barked a small laugh, moving to lie beside Adelaide. “It is the morning, my love.”
“Ah… Well, I’ll see you lads in the evening, or tomorrow, or– I’m going to sleep.” Adelaide settled down, closing her eyes.
Viola shrugged at them, smiling. “You can sit in the living room, but when he starts crying again, he might want a feed, so just bring him back in here.”
“Okay,” Jacob murmured as they both made their way back to the living room, sitting on the sofa. “He’s ours, Max, he’s real and alive.”
Max passed Emmett to him, stroking a hand down Jacob’s back. “He is. And he’s such a cute little babe.”
Jacob gazed down at their son, their newborn son. He held him closer to his chest. “I love him, so much, already.”
“Me too, darling.” Max lay his head on Jacob’s shoulder. “Me too.”
“My sweet boy, rest your little head now.” Max brushed his hand through Emmett’s hair, humming a joyful tune, relaxing yet dramatic. A piece Jacob didn’t know the name of, but Emmett loved it every time he heard it. That’s what mattered.
Jacob kept watching until Emmett rested down in his cot. He was far too lively for a three-year-old, he had more energy and stamina than what was expected. But then, wasn’t that a Frye trait, to be like that?
As Max’s humming petered off, he reached down, covering Emmett with the covers. He was most certainly asleep now. Gladly. He’d woken up suddenly, crying. A nightmare, probably. Children had strange imaginations. But Max had handled it, claiming it was his turn. (It wasn’t). Jacob had been too awake to stay in bed, however, which was how he ended up leaning on the doorframe, watching his husband look after their son.
Max turned to the door, tsking as he saw Jacob, angling his head as he approached. Jacob stepped back, shrugging a small bit as Max closed the door behind him.
“I said stay in bed. You have a busy day tomorrow, my dear.”
Jacob smiled lazily. “I like watching you take care of him.”
“Oh… darling, that’s sweet.” He kissed his cheek, curling his arm around his waist, guiding him away, to their room. The benefit of having their own house on the next street over, was that no one knew what went on. Meaning they could live their life in peace.
“You’re so good with him, and he loves you, and I love that.”
“You sound tired.”
“Templars are… tiresome.”
Max chuckled, opening their bedroom door. Had they really arrived already? “You need plenty of rest before you take that trip to Newcastle.”
“Mmm… Why do Templars like the North so much?”
“Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it isn’t an Assassin Stronghold, and it’s an industrial powerhouse.”
Jacob pursed his lips, stumbling onto the bed. He mushed his face into the pillow, with his legs hanging off the side. “Probably… The North is easy to…”
The bed dipped as Max sat, pulling the covers over himself. “To corrupt?”
“To exploit.” He rolled over, pushing himself up the bed to slip under the covers. “Vulnerable people up there.”
Max hummed, brushing a hand through Jacob’s hair as he settled down. “Better rest, my dear. Think about it in the morning.”
“Mmm, yes.” He snuggled close to Max, pushing half his face into the pillow, finally letting his heavy eyes close. “Goodnight.”
As silence fell over them, Jacob drifted to sleep, entering a dream he knew all too well. A recurring one. Of him and Max in the countryside, watching their grandchildren run around in the garden, training, being better than they could ever wish to be. It was such a common experience, he was highly aware when he dreamt of it, seeing how it played out.
Sadly, he was abruptly woken by the distant cries of Emmett. Half screaming the house down.
“I’ll sit with him for a while, please, sleep, Jacob,” Max whispered, pressing a kiss to his forehead. Jacob didn’t open his eyes, still far too tired, but he felt the loss of Max’s presence instantly.
Missing the warmth of lying next to him, sleeping next to him, curled up around him.
But their son needed one of them, and Max had made it very clear Jacob had to sleep. He wasn’t wrong about the journey to Newcastle.
He smiled at the thought of Max holding Emmett, calming him down as he read stories, sang to him, or hummed. His next dream consisted of those thoughts, of the joy that came from them. Max was a brilliant parent, and the comfort of that alone, sent Jacob peacefully to sleep.
Jacob stumbled into the house, sighing with relief. He’d never thought he would have to outrun so many policemen. And all he did was accidentally set off a smoke bomb. It hadn’t been his fault, exactly. He’d gotten distracted talking to some Rooks, and a pickpocket tried to steal from him. He intercepted the man, but in the process, one of the bombs shook loose.
Dozens of police ensued… The rope launcher saved him in the end.
He collapsed down on the sofa, whipping his hat off, throwing it onto the table. He slouched down, calming his breathing. After a few minutes, he recovered, opening his eyes to see Emmett approaching slowly.
“Father…” he murmured, fiddling with his hands.
Jacob smiled, sitting up. “What is it, Emmett?”
“You’re green. That means friend, right? Sybil said it means friend.” His voice was quiet, careful, confused. All the usual signs of a developing sight.
Jacob could feel the excitement in him bubble to the surface, this was the first time Emmett had mentioned it. Being only eight, they hadn’t started much training yet, only the easy things, like history lessons. It was what they did with all the other children. Eagle Vision as a concept wasn’t brought up until they were older, so they could understand everything about it. But, many of the children didn’t come from lines with a rich genetic history of the sixth sense.
Emmett had, and he was clearly beginning to learn what he was seeing, hearing, sensing. When they were children, Jacob and Evie had started to develop their vision when they were seven. It didn’t fully come into its own until they were adolescents. Emmett had a lot of learning ahead of him
Right now, however, Jacob sat Emmett on his knee, holding him securely. “It means friend. Or ally. For me, after lots of practice, I began to see people a certain way. Now, I see police as blue, friends as green, targets as yellow, and enemies as red.”
“Enemies?” Emmett looked to Jacob, his eyes wide. He was alarmed. “Jack is red.”
Jacob felt his breath punch out of him. He smiled reassuringly at Emmett while inside, he was screaming. What did he mean? How could Jack be red? He was only ever… Well, he’d always been gold for Jacob, but he’d assumed that was because he had once been a goal, a target, someone to save back in 1868. That he was still a target in ways because Jacob was helping him become a better Assassin.
Although, he was twenty now. He wasn’t a child anymore.
“Did he say something to you? Do something?” Jacob tried to stay calm, not to raise his voice in fear.
“Emmett, please, I need to know.”
Emmett squirmed, looking away. “Jack said you’re not a good person, that none of us are.”
“Why would he– Emmett, we are people doing the right thing. It makes us liable to mistakes, and we do bad things to get a better outcome for normal innocent people. Do you remember your teachings?”
He shook his head, quickly. Squirming some more. Jacob let him go, and he bounced onto his feet, swaying back and forth. “We… work in the dark to serve the light.”
“Yes… That is exactly what I mean. It doesn’t make us good in terms of the law, but we are doing the right thing. Otherwise, the world would have fallen to order and control centuries ago.”
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted?”
“Exactly.” He leant forward, ruffling Emmett’s hair. “You should play in the garden and worry about the future another time. You will learn more about Eagle Vision and what being an Assassin entails in the years to come, but you are a boy, and you should enjoy these years.”
He was off in an instant, acting as if nothing was wrong. He probably didn’t understand it all anyway. Not the vision, not what red really meant, not any of it. He understood the history, but not all of it without Templars to give it context. When he reached a suitable age, he would. But, for now, there was the matter of Jack.
Surely it was okay. None of the others had mentioned anything about what he showed up as. But that didn’t mean he showed up as green either. All the vision told anyone was how you particularly saw them, not their true motivations. But Emmett had been confused, probably because he didn’t know the real reason as to why Jack showed up like that. It was probably a blip, nothing to be concerned about.
Just a case of Eagle Vision needing to be developed, nothing more.
“Uncle Max!” Emmett shouted, holding up his left arm, showing off his gauntlet like it was a prize. “Look at what Nigel made for me!”
Max swooped down, picking Emmett up with relative ease, spinning in a circle before letting him down. He was ten now, so he was still light as a feather. However, that would change, as this was his first day of training. “That’s wonderful, my boy! You’ll be an experienced Assassin in no time.”
“I’m excited.” He turned to Jacob, lighting up. “Father, when will we start?”
Jacob hummed, tapping his chin, as if he was mulling it over. They were in their own house right now, and a short walk across rooftops to the terraces would be a good way to break him into it all. “How about today?”
Emmett bounced on his feet, his grin spreading across his whole face. “Really?!”
“Yes, we could begin your climbing training.”
“How do we do that?”
“With a chase.” Jacob backed towards the door. “First to climb this house wins.”
Max chuckled, shaking his head. “Starting with the difficult stuff, I like it.”
He spread his arms, grinning. “Only the best for Emmett, right?”
Emmett looked between them, grinning ear to ear. His joy from the developments clear. “Uncle Max, will you count down?”
“Absolutely. Let’s go outside first.”
They all made their way out, and when Jacob and Emmett were standing on either side of the door, Max cleared his throat, clapping his hands together.
“On your marks…” Jacob hunched down a little, there was nothing like friendly competition with his son. “Get set.” Emmett flexed his wrists. “Go!”
Of course, Jacob made it to the top first, in a way that allowed Emmett to learn. While he had been an avid climber of trees, a building was a different beast. But Jacob was on top to help, and Max was on the ground just in case. After a few moments, Emmett slowly got the hang of it, finding places to hold on and hoist himself up. It would take him a long while to master it, as it did for most, but he had plenty of potential. He even jumped up to one ledge, pushing himself up onto the roof.
“How was that?” Jacob asked as he helped Emmett up to his feet.
“Scary… How do you do it all the time?”
“Practice, Emmett, it’s all in the practice.” He pointed off in the distance, to the terraces. “Think you can run with me?”
“I can try… Don’t let me die.”
“I’d never let you die. You’re my son, you’re under my protection.” Jacob peered over the edge of the roof. “We’re going to the terraces!”
Max grinned, waving to them. “I will see you there then. Have fun, Emmett!”
Emmett chuckled a little shakily. “I’ll try to.”
They went running across the adjoined rooftops. Emmett, being as young as he was, kept up, but his stamina needed to be worked on. It would come to him, in time. He would learn each nuance. The best way to jump. How to climb without hurting yourself. How to fall. How to fall on enemies. He would learn it all. He had years to develop his skills, to become the best he could be.
When they came to the first gap, Jacob jumped first, backwards and forwards a couple times, demonstrating as well as he could. When Emmett jumped, it was sloppy, but he made it, and for now, that was all Jacob needed to see.
As they came to the building across the street from the terraces, Jacob climbed down the it slowly. Demonstrating. When Emmett copied, he was methodical, but was gradually gaining confidence. His time climbing trees helped him greatly.
“Sybil and Rose will join us later to show you how to conceal and disguise yourself. What I will teach you, is how to use your hidden blade.”
“Sounds intense for the first day, Father.”
They walked through the second terrace, right out into the yard. This one was equipped with weapons hidden in a locked box. Plenty of dummies. And had the most space to practice with the rope launcher.
“It is. But this is what training means, Emmett. If you don’t want to be an active Assassin, you will know soon enough, but I know you. This will be easier than you think.” Jacob ruffled his hair. “You’re my son, this is our family legacy. I believe in you.”
Emmett faintly smiled. “Thank you, Father.” He raised his left arm, staring at it with wide eyes. “How do I use it?”
Jacob extended his hidden blade, almost without thinking. He had used it for so long, it was an instinct, truly an extension of his own arm. He showed it to Emmett. “Tensing, mostly. Minute movements, especially in your wrist.”
He withdrew it, watching it carefully. It was almost like an art, to accurately use it. To keep it from extending without wanting it to. Emmett furrowed his brow, tilting his head a little. He looked to his gauntlet, a well-designed dark brown one, perfect for his training.
“Just keep it away from your face for now.” He tapped his scar. “Don’t want to end up like me.”
Emmett shook his head. “No…” He held his arm, staring. “Can you guide me?”
Jacob crouched down, carefully taking Emmett’s arm into his hands. “Do you trust me?”
He smiled before concentrating on Emmett’s wrist. He pushed down on it slightly, keeping all other appendages out of the way. With enough force and movement applied, the blade jutted out. Emmett flinched, but kept himself steady enough that his arm didn’t move, gladly.
“See?” Jacob asked, pushing Emmett’s wrist a small bit upwards. The blade retracted with ease.
Emmett pulled his arm away from Jacob’s hands, moving his wrist ever so slightly. The blade extended. He made a similar movement, and it withdrew once again. He beamed at it, holding his wrist with his other hand to take a closer look at the blade.
“I do.” He turned to Jacob, still smiling. “And how do you use it on people?”
Gesturing to the dummies, Jacob smirked. “You can stab, or slash. Give it a try.”
Emmett walked up to one of the dummies, tilting his head back and forth. He extended his hidden blade, forcing it into the dummy’s chest. He pulled it out quickly, retracting the blade. Heaving in a breath or two, he looked to Jacob, raising his eyebrows. A question.
“You did good…” he began, approaching, “although, you need to concentrate on your footwork. You were far too rigid. Move with your arm, with your blade. Sometimes, for me, it’s easier to lift a leg or to jump into my movement. As if your kicking your leg back as you force your arm into your target, balances you out.” He thinned his lips. “Does that make sense?”
“Yes, I think. Should I run into it? I have seen other Assassins do that.”
“If you prefer that way, nothing will stop you. We’ll move onto the advanced stuff when you get older and when you’re learning out in the streets. For now, keep to perfecting your footwork and the way you move with your blade.”
Jacob watched as Emmett slowly became more fluid as the minutes ticked on. When he pointed out his foot turning in too much, Emmett corrected it immediately. He was certainly a fast learner, always had been. Training would really highlight it, however. Emmett treated the hidden blade as it was meant to be treated. With grace, with respect.
And as Max came into the yard, Emmett had just stuck his blade into the dummy’s neck, smiling as he pulled it out seamlessly. He turned away, lifting his chin.
“What do you think, Uncle Max?”
“I think you’re doing well for your first time out in the yard.” Max gave a slight smile, narrowing his eyes. “Other initiates weren’t so married to their blade after half an hour.”
“No…” Jacob grinned at Emmett, folding his arms. “You’re like me, your blade is all you’ll ever need.”
“Yeah, but still. Your technique will only improve in the coming months and years.”
Emmett looked to his gauntlet, glancing to the terrace. “How do you do an air assassination?”
Jacob almost bounced on his feet, feeling the pull to demonstrate. “We have a dummy just for that!”
Max laughed, shaking his head. “Your father tends to get like this. Teaching is one of his true talents.”
“I suppose it’s a good thing really.” He picked up the dummy that sat by the weapons box, positioning it at the right distance from the roof. The easiest for a beginner. Learning all the angles and how to jump and catch two people would come later. “Otherwise rebuilding the Brotherhood would have been a pain.”
“George helped you, didn’t he?” Emmett asked, suddenly appearing beside Jacob. He had been silent until he’d let himself be known, a good thing to learn quickly.
“He did. His help was invaluable in the early days.” Jacob locked the dummy into place. “Your auntie Evie and uncle Henry were great too. Of course, without them, I had to learn the best and most efficient ways to teach.” He booped Emmett on the nose. “You’re getting me at my best.”
“Good.” Emmett rubbed his nose. “How do I do this?”
Jacob leant on the dummy. “I’ll show you but… You climb the building and you jump, using the dummy to break your fall while sticking your blade into its throat, or back.”
“That’s scary... Why don’t you hurt yourself?”
“Because… falling depends on how you land. And an Assassin always knows how to land right.”
“It’s second nature,” Max added, grasping Emmett’s shoulder. “Once your father shows you a few times, I know you can do it.”
Emmett smiled up at him. “Thank you, Uncle Max.”
Jacob clapped his hands together. “Shall we continue?”
Emmett gave one firm nod. “Let’s.”
Chapter 5: Chemistry
In terms of the British Brotherhood, everything was going fine for the Assassins. Peace had existed in London for almost twenty years. Templars were assassinated before they could become too powerful. Some of the older ‘children’ were now adults, in relationships, perhaps getting ready to have children of their own. And if they did so, more Assassins could be brought into the fold. It really felt like nothing could bring them down.
Of course, for a Master Assassin, that sort of cockiness was bound to get him killed, or make him take his eye off the ball. Luckily for Jacob, however, he had Max to remind him that he was the leader of the London Assassins. He had to be focused at all times.
And with Emmett approaching twelve, it was time to up his training. Along with some of the new children they had in their ranks. They were much older than those he’d taken on in the past. Different times required different methods.
Jacob hopped onto the train, taking off his hat and folding it into his coat. The place didn’t feel the same without Agnes, but she could hardly handle the workload now. Besides, Garnkirk had welcomed her back with open arms. She’d always considered that her retirement plan, heading back home. Although, Jacob had thought she would have stayed longer.
Nowadays, Nigel commanded the train, having learnt everything from Agnes. He’d also moved all his tools here, allowing him to conduct all of his train related work, as well as doing his normal blacksmith work. All the carriages were the same as they were in 1868, except the last. Most of the older unused tech had been moved out and replaced with a kind of forgery for Nigel.
It worked for him. And with a moving train, pickups were made easier.
“Nigel!” Jacob called. “Have you got the spikes I asked for?”
Nigel raised his head, looking to Jacob with a furrowed brow. He was sitting at the desk, a large book open. Probably the one that tracked all the Rooks they had currently. “My brain is fried… How did Agnes ever manage all this work?”
“Ah, well, for one thing, I don’t think she was a blacksmith.” He smirked, patting Nigel’s shoulder. “Are they in the back?”
“Yeah, yeah, go ahead and take them. I’m going…” He looked back to the book, snapping it shut. “I’m having a nap.”
Jacob chuckled softly, shaking his head. “Take the break, Nigel. You deserve it.”
Within no time, he had the box of spikes. They weren’t hard to find, Nigel always kept things well labelled, which surprised Jacob to no end each and every time. When the train rolled into the next station, Jacob hopped off, carrying the box to the nearest Rook carriage and hitching a ride back to the terraces.
Once he got there, he popped into the third one, heading right the way through and into the garden. This particular yard had a large shed, where the initiates could experiment on their old equipment. This allowed them to find a passion in a future of weapons making, which they sorely needed. It seemed a few were interested, but most weren’t. Hence, the shed.
He was surprised to find Jack inside today. He was tinkering with a fear bomb, so focused that he didn’t even notice Jacob enter. Although, to be fair, that could have been because he was as silent as a mouse. He placed the spikes on the table, making himself known.
“What are you doing, Jack?”
Jack looked up from his activity. It was only then that Jacob noticed a second fear bomb, but it was black instead of gold. “I’m experimenting. Increasing the potency.”
“Easier to clear out an area if people are instantly scared. It might waste less bombs.”
Jacob thinned his lips. He briefly entered his Eagle Vision, still seeing Jack as gold. Why didn’t he see him as green? He saw everyone else that way. From the initiates, to Max, to Emmett. But not Jack. His own sixth sense had seen something that he couldn’t. The same went for Emmett’s, his sense saw something in Jack that no one else could see.
Jack was a brilliant Assassin, he was, that was a simple fact. He could drop a fear bomb in a vicinity full of people, clearing out innocents, before doing a brutal takedown to scare away any gang members who didn’t need to die. Proceeding to complete whatever his target was. There was nothing bad about that, he was a well-balanced Assassin, able to fight in direct combat as well as ensure no one ever knew he was there.
So why was he gold, why was he red?
And did anyone see him as green?
Jacob rocked back and forth on his feet, mulling over what Jack was doing with the bombs. “Alright, but, if it causes any adverse reaction to your own mind, return to the normal bombs. You know what happens when there’s too much of the gas. Be careful.”
Jack rolled his eyes, shrugging. “I do tend to be. Unlike other Assassins, I’m never seen. You could say I’m a mystery to people, a legend.”
Sometimes… Jacob forgot how old Jack was now, still seeing him as the boy everyone loved. But he was twenty-four, experimenting to become a better Assassin. The only problem was, there was a change in him. An innocent one, maybe. Though, a dangerous path lay ahead of Jack if he thought himself to be above others. Caution was needed, a gentle guidance.
“Don’t judge your peers, Jack. Every Assassin has their own method, even if spotted, none of us put the Brotherhood in jeopardy, and that matters more than not being seen.”
“You’re right… Sorry.”
Jacob patted his back twice, stepping away, back to the box of spikes. “I want you all to be better than me, have better opinions. Don’t worry about it too much but keep it in mind.”
Jack smiled, cracking the fear bomb in two at the same time. No gas was released, instead, the powder was still inside, in a form Jacob had never seen it in. “I’ll keep it in mind.”
Jacob watched as Jack’s smile almost became predatory. He hoped… deeply hoped that this wasn’t the beginning of something awfully serious. “Alright. I’ll leave you to it.”
If Jack noticed a change of tone, he didn’t show it.
On the way back to the house, Jacob noticed Rose doing press ups in the yard. She stopped to give him a quick smile and wave.
“Rose, can I ask a question?”
She tilted her head. “What is it?”
Jacob swallowed thickly, feeling himself shake a little. “How do you see Jack, in your Eagle Vision?”
“Oh… He’s green. Why?”
“No, no reason.”
That was certainly interesting. What was it about Jack that set off Jacob’s vision and Emmett’s? Because after that incident in 1882, Emmett’s had stayed consistent, even though Jack had never said anything strange since.
What was he missing?
Jacob stared at his letter for a long moment. An update to the Council. It detailed their current activities, mentioned their numbers and– Oh, that’s what he had forgotten. He needed to mention their supplies, just so they had a better idea of their methods and what they favoured.
He was about to put pen to paper when the door swung open.
“Father, I want to go to Italy, to train with the Brotherhood there,” Emmett said quickly. His tone full of confidence.
Jacob turned in his chair, looking to Emmett with a furrowed brow. “Why? Is there something wrong with our training?”
“No, of course not. I just… want to experience something different. Learn a new language, become better.”
“Okay… I’m sure I could set something up. I’ll reach out to my contact.”
Emmett raised his eyebrows. “You have contacts? I would have thought you knew no one from there.”
“The Assassin Council is resourceful. I was invited to see them a few years ago, and other Assassins were there from councils in different countries.” Jacob picked up a pen, clearing his desk, discarding his current letter. He placed a plain piece of paper down, immediately dipping his pen into the ink. “I’ll begin right away.”
Emmett stepped closer, looking over Jacob’s shoulder. “Mind if I watch? Maybe you could tell me about your contact? The Italian Brotherhood fascinates me.”
“Take a seat, I’ll tell you all about it.”
Through the next six or so months, correspondence was traded back and forth. Eventually transferring from Jacob to Emmett. By the time December came along, Emmett was good friends with the mentor he would be meeting when he made it to Italy. They had talked far more than Jacob had been expecting, but then, it was unusual for a member of the British Brotherhood to go to Italy to train with the Brotherhood there. Jacob was proud that his son had handled himself so well.
He had the makings of a true Assassin. Kind, effective, and deadly.
It was strange to think that Emmett would be so many miles away. That Britain wasn’t enough. It hadn’t been enough for Evie, and it wasn’t enough for Emmett. Although, since his father had loved India so much, travelling to distant countries was in their blood. Jacob, however, had always strayed from the pack, so… Britain, London, it was the perfect fit for him.
And while he was sure Max would follow him anywhere, London was where the Alhambra was. It was where they had lived together for a decade, rebuilding what had been lost a hundred years ago. London was home. For others, it held them back. Everyone was different.
It didn’t stop Jacob wishing his family could stay close. Evie still sent regular letters but hadn’t mentioned visiting since 1876. And Emmett… well, no one knew how long he would be gone for, not even Emmett himself.
However, as much as Jacob would love to hug Emmett tight and never let go, he had to let him spread his wings. And today was that day. The train station was a busy place at the best of times, but in the afternoon, it was packed and heavily crowded. Still, it made it easier to blend in. And with their Rook train still on the tracks, they were used to this environment.
Emmett placed his bag down, taking a brief look at his pocket watch. “I feel too young to have this.”
“Your grandfather would be rolling in his grave if he thought I was letting you go without a watch.” Jacob chuckled, ruffling Emmett’s hair. “It’s not as if there isn’t ten more of his watches. He was an avid collector.”
“I think, Father, that’s the best thing you have ever said about him.”
“He wasn’t an easy man to like, not for me at least.”
Max stepped beside Emmett, handing him the ticket. “It’s all sorted. I can’t believe you’re going already, my boy.”
“Uncle Max…” Emmett smiled at him, forlornly, hugging him quickly, “I’ll send letters, and I won’t be gone for long. Only a few years.”
Max cupped Emmett’s neck. “My sweet boy, a few years may as well be a lifetime.”
“That means the world. You’re very dear to me, Uncle. I’m sad my leaving will make you sad.”
“My feelings are irrelevant. You must spread your wings and become the Assassin you want to be.”
Emmett hugged him again. “Thank you. That makes me feel better.”
“Did you say goodbye to everybody?” Jacob asked, noting that the others weren’t there.
“Yeah. They wished me well, and Rose caught me in a headlock, saying that her fellow brother couldn’t leave without proving I could get out of a life and death situation.” He laughed, rubbing his neck. “I’ll miss her the most. And Avis, she gave me a decorative dagger. Walter said it was illegal for the youngest to fly the nest first.”
Jacob chuckled, shaking his head. Ah, Rose, Avis, Walter, they had always hated goodbyes. Hated the thought of being without people they held dear. While Sybil and Emelia in particular believed in people doing the right thing for themselves, even if that meant they wouldn’t see them again. Of course, many of the others had varied views when it came to this kind of situation. Jack, in particular, didn’t care what others did. But when he first heard that Emmett would be going to Italy for years, he waved dismissively and left the room.
Jacob didn’t want him to go, but what father would he be if he chained him to London?
“Then I’m the only one left to say goodbye to.”
“That you are, Father.” Emmett smiled; it was filled with a thousand emotions. Excitement, fear of the unknown, joy, and sadness over those who would miss him.
Jacob stepped forwards, spreading his arms. Emmett ran into him, nearly knocking him off his feet as he hugged tight. Jacob held on for dear life. He knew travel wasn’t too perilous, but compared to staying in London, he would be in far more danger. Hopefully, if anything did go wrong, his immense skills would help him and ultimately save him from any danger.
Emmett was far more equipped than Jacob was giving him credit for.
“I’ll miss you,” he whispered. “Remember to write.”
“I will.” Emmett cuddled into Jacob further. “Stay safe here.”
Reluctantly, Jacob let Emmett go. The train slowly rolled into the station, causing Jacob’s heart to pulse violently. Emmett smiled at the both of them, picking up his bag. He glanced over his shoulder, gazing at the train for a moment.
“Goodbye.” He looked to both of them, nodding to Jacob. “Father.” He gave Max a small nod too. “Uncle.”
“Goodbye, Emmett. Have fun,” Jacob said. His son had to spread his wings, he had to.
Max raised his hand in a slight wave. “My boy, have the best time of all.”
Emmett beamed at them, turning and running towards the train. Just before he boarded, he waved to the both of them, hopping on thereafter. Jacob entered his Eagle Vision, watching as Emmett made his way to his seat, sliding into it and placing his bag beside him. As the train sparked back into motion, he let his vision fade away. Standing tall, he tried to not let his heart pang.
Max curled a hand around his arm. “My dear, let’s get you a drink. I’m afraid you might faint.”
He shook himself off, sighing. “It was hard to watch him go.”
“I know. I know.”
They made their way through the streets, heading back home from the station. Everything was fine. It was any normal day on the streets. People were arguing. Some were singing, completely drunk despite it being the morning. Others were merely walking, going about their day. They took a shortcut through an alleyway when…
Jack jumped down in front of them. He was… wasn’t wearing his usual preferred clothing. The sleek, green and black style was gone. Replaced with black, all black. From head to toe, hat to boots, everything was black. He was wearing something that resembled a big overcoat. Thick and bulky, the opposite to what any Assassin would prefer.
Jacob had been aware that Jack had disappeared for a month or so, but that was normal when he got caught up in work. He had been on a mission, after all. But everything was too different for him. He had changed, completely.
“So… you’ve sent your son away?” Jack said, his voice darker. Thicker.
Jacob narrowed his eyes, leaning away from Max a little. “I haven’t sent Emmett anywhere… He chose to go.”
“And yet you never would have let us stay in India. You see us as mud under your boot, but your son is part of your bloodline, so he means more.” Jack spat on the ground, glaring at Max after. “And you both think you can live your secret life without hurting others. Maybe Emmett ran away because he craves a mother.”
Jacob furrowed his brow, gaping. Confused and offended. “Jack, what on earth are you talking about?”
“Your creed can’t even protect its own.” He stepped back, using his rope launcher to jump away, onto the roof.
Max – who had flinched at Jack’s words – gave out a sigh, a breath, of pure confusion. “What… was that? What was he talking about?”
“I’m not… I’m not entirely sure.” He brushed a hand through his hair. “None of the children expressed wishes to stay in India. Jack was homesick for London, he missed Nigel even. And… he doesn’t know about us, how could he?”
Max placed a hand in his pocket, walking forward once again. Jacob followed. “Jack is clever. We live in the same house, raised Emmett as a pair. There was always one of us minding him. He, and others, most likely worked it out.”
“Shit. And now he hates us for it.”
“Because he lost his mother.”
Max’s step faltered. He looked to Jacob, tilting his head. “How did the Creed not protect its own?”
Jacob scoffed. “Honestly, Max? I have no idea. We have done nothing but protect them all.”
“We should keep an eye on him.”
“You don’t understand!”
“Yes, I don’t! Nothing in my teachings could be twisted into this!” Jacob clenched his fists, breathing heavily. “How dare you try to suggest people should fear us! What part of work in the shadows don’t you understand?”
Jack threw his arms up, pointing to Jacob. “You don’t get it. Terror, fear, it’s how we have worked since we went to India. It is you who never learnt, never respected the teachings. Believe me, Jacob. I know what is best for this creed.”
“No, Jack. You don’t.” Jacob glanced out the window. He could see into the house opposite, where a family lived. The children were adults now, but a decade ago, they used to play with the initiates in the street. Everything had been so innocent back then, when exactly did it all go wrong? “We are not to be feared.”
“If we were, maybe my mother wouldn’t be dead.”
“You can’t possibly blame me for that.”
Jack huffed, angrily, lunging after Jacob, pushing him hard. He stumbled backwards but kept his footing. “Her death is your fault, your guilt to bear.”
“What are you thinking?” Resisting the instinct to fight back was difficult, but he would not harm Jack. Not yet, at least.
Unfortunately, Jack took advantage of his lowered guard, clasping his hand around his throat. Hardly applying pressure. It was a deterrent. It was Jack telling Jacob just how far he’d really go to achieve anything he wanted.
“My mother was part of your gang. And you let her die.”
Jacob grabbed Jack’s arm, pushing against his chest, stamping on his foot and kicking him away. Jack fell to the floor, shaking his head as he picked himself back up. He brushed a hand down his coat, staring at Jacob with dead eyes.
“Fuck, Jack, snap out of this delusion!”
“It is not a delusion if it is the truth! You didn’t clear Starrick’s men out fast enough, causing my mother’s death. A creed should protect their own. And you stood by and let countless Rooks die for you.”
Jacob could feel Jack slipping away. It seemed as if nothing could convince him of the truth. “I’m sorry I failed to teach you that blaming others for something out of their control is not right.” Jack seethed at him, and in response, he tried not to flinch. “I’m sorry I let you roam free on your own for so long without checking up on you. I’m sorry I failed you, because something happened, Jack. You are not the boy I raised.”
“And you are not my father!” Jack bared his teeth, grinding them. “You’re not superior to me. I am better than you. I command you.” He smiled, his lips curling in a predatory way. “You cannot beat me, brother. For you see me as a boy, as you always will. And not for the legend I will become.”
“You are not a legend, Jack. People won’t bow down to terror. They never have, and they never will.” Jacob placed a hand at his chest. “That is why the Assassins exist, to fight against order, control, fear, and terror. Not to promote it.”
“In my creed, we will emerge from the shadows. Everything is permitted.” He lifted his chin. “Even killing those who get in our way, innocent or otherwise.”
“Jack… No.” He shook his head, over and over. “You can’t. It would destroy us if the public saw you murdering anyone you like.”
“It is not murder, brother, it is an art.”
“If you do this, Jack, there is no telling what will be done to you.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t sully your creed.”
Before Jacob could reply, Jack jumped out the nearest window, smashing it in the process. Jacob ran to it, glancing out. He saw Jack disappearing around a corner. People in the area were looking around, staring and pointing up at the window. Confused or amazed, it didn’t matter. Jack was on his own, and with all he’d heard, Jacob wasn’t sure what he would do next.
Once, Jack had been so avid in promoting the lessons of the Creed. Believing that killing shouldn’t be fun. That fear would only improve them, not define them. That they had to be careful with their blade. He once understood exactly what ‘nothing is true, everything is permitted’ really meant. And that working in the dark to serve the light was how Assassins had to operate. He even believed that what happened to his mother was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But those beliefs had changed, he had changed, all the way back in 1882.
There was only one thing that could affect his mental state in such a way that everything he knew had become warped.
The fear bombs.
When they had made Jack have that violent hallucination, so bad that he was barely conscious, he never said what he saw. Perhaps that was the first instance in which he believed Jacob was at fault for his mother’s death. Perhaps, the continued usage of said bombs only increased that way of thinking resulting in… Jack’s ideals becoming extreme. Going against everything he had once known.
Jacob would have to research if the bombs could be at fault. And if they were to blame, there could be a way to fix this mess. Or at the very least, understand what had happened to Jack’s mind.
First… he had to do the most important thing of all. Summon someone who knew fear bombs better than he did, better than Jack did. Someone he trusted. Evie. She would know what to do, and she could ultimately fix his biggest mistake of all. Believing that all his initiates would turn out to be good people.
He made his way to his desk, pulling out a piece of paper and dipping his pen into his ink well. He began writing immediately, wasting no time. The letter didn’t need to be perfect, it just had to explain how much she needed to be in London, as soon as possible.
When he was done, it read:
I need you to come to London as soon as you get this letter. It is highly important that you do so.
The lives of everybody in the British Brotherhood depend on it.
I am sorry to ask this of you, but I have to put my people first.
Please, we need you. I need you.
Folding it up, he placed it into an envelope, sealing it with an inconspicuous Assassin seal. He opened his drawer full of stamps, sticking one on.
He was down the street and had it posted in no time at all. It was March, so it would take until September – at the latest – for her to receive it. She was their backup, if things began to get worse.
All he could hope for now, was Jack staying on his best behaviour.
Max leant forward in the armchair, covering his mouth. “Really?”
“Yes, I think so. It’s the only way to explain this.”
They were sitting in their living room. The fire crackled as a tense silence grew between them. Jack had been gone for a day now. He hadn’t told the initiates yet, but he had told Max. The Brotherhood didn’t need to panic over this, yet. Not until Jacob worked out what was to blame. Whether it was Jack’s own mind, or if the bombs had contributed to it, or caused it.
“I know a chemist who would help. Lawrence Houghton.” Max dragged a hand down his cheek. “I still can’t believe it. Jack… of all people.”
“If we figure out what caused it, there may be a way to fix it.” Jacob leant his elbows on his knees. “I know we can fix him. Bring the real him back to us.”
“My dear, I don’t think there is any of the old Jack left if he truly blames you and the Creed for his mother’s death.”
“It’s– I won’t believe that.”
Max shifted in his chair, towards Jacob. “He will become a monster if we don’t stop him. We have time, believe he can’t be saved before you believe he can be fixed.”
Jacob shook his head, closing his eyes in the pain and denial of it all. “He’s not a monster.”
“Not yet.” Max stood, sitting on the arm of Jacob’s chair. “Come on, let’s get a few bombs and pay Lawrence a visit.”
With a small crate of bombs, Jacob and Max made their way to Lawrence’s house. According to Max, he was one of Nigel’s old suppliers, but Lawrence had moved onto other avenues. Mainly with forward thinking science. A puzzle like this was right up his street, apparently. He liked nothing more than working out what drugs did to the mind. On the way, Max told him all about his findings on alcohol.
When they arrived, the door swung open before they got a chance to knock. A man stood there, dressed in ill-fitting clothes. He grinned as his eyes landed on Max.
“Maxwell! I thought it was you!”
“Lawrence,” Max greeted warmly. “This is my partner, Jacob. We have a challenge for you.”
Ah, so that was why Max had kept in contact with an old supplier. He was either very progressive, or like them himself.
Lawrence lit up. “Well, come on in.”
He guided them to a room upstairs, full of chemistry equipment. From beakers, test tubes and Bunsen burners to shelves of well labelled chemicals and benches packed with measuring cylinders, stands and clamps.
“Pop that down on a bench.”
Jacob carefully placed the crate down, taking one fear bomb out. He had disabled them all, so Lawrence could experiment without accidentally setting one off.
“We need you to figure out the long-term effects of the hallucinogenic within these bombs,” Jacob said, holding it up.
Lawrence spun on his heel, raising his eyebrows. “I’m sure Maxwell told you I was a supplier, but I never supplied those.”
“We made them ourselves, what you did, was make up our dart solution. Correct?”
“Correct. Is it the same?”
“The base hallucinogen is,” Max said, taking a copy of the schematics out of his pocket. He passed it over to Lawrence. “The mixture of chemicals, however, isn’t.”
“And you think that combination creates different effects?”
“We know it does, but we want to know what using them for years and possibly breathing small amounts of the gas in, would do to someone’s mind.”
Lawrence tilted his head, skimming through the schematics. “These things have some nasty shit in them. What do they do?”
Jacob thinned his lips. “They make people have hallucinations of what they fear, scaring anyone in the area away. They are coined fear bombs for a good reason.”
“First, I’ll have to research what each chemical would do to a person’s mind. Then I’ll see what the combined mixture does. It will take time, but rigorous testing will allow me to theorise what years of usage would do.” Lawrence approached the crate, peering in. “This should be enough. Is there anything else I should know?”
“Yes. One of my students increased the potency.”
“Ah… Then once I have my base results, I’ll tweak my calculations to work that out as well.”
“Thank you, Lawrence,” Max said, giving him a faint smile. “We appreciate your help.”
“It certainly will be a challenge. What do you want out of this?”
Jacob folded his arms, glancing to the floor. “To find out if there is a way to reverse the effects.”
Lawrence sighed, nodding. “Your trying to save your student?”
“I’ll try my best to puzzle this out, but I can’t promise there is a way to save their mind.”
Jacob could only hope there would be. Killing Jack was not an option for him if it came to that.
Which it wouldn’t. Because they would fix him. Lawrence would find a way.
Otherwise… Jack would follow through on his Creed of Terror. And Jacob couldn’t allow that. No matter how much he wanted to get Jack back to the way he used to be.
On their way back home, after Lawrence had chased them out to do his work, Jacob and Max witnessed a girl grabbing a cane from some brute of a man, defending another woman.
They didn’t think twice before approaching, offering the two some dinner at the nearest pub. The brave girl was called Nellie, and Jacob had no doubt that she would become a great friend.
Chapter 6: The Betrayal
Jacob stared out the window, powerless to do anything but watch the events unfold. He knew the man well, his name was Alexander, and he’d been a Rook for years. No shred of green could be found on him, oh no. He was wearing black instead, and when Jacob entered his Eagle Vision, he showed up as red. Which was no surprise, since he’d punched a civilian without prompt, causing others to run in panic.
There was only one person in all of London that thrived off gang members causing mass hysteria.
Problem was, if Jack was going after his gang, there was little Jacob could do to stop it. His leadership of the Rooks had faltered ever since he began rebuilding the Brotherhood. He left much of the work to Agnes, then Nigel, who had passed some responsibilities onto Jack. Since he’d always loved the Rooks, ever since he was a child.
Gaining their loyalty and turning them against Jacob wouldn’t be hard. And clearly, he’d already achieved it. Right under his nose. Luckily, not even the devil himself could sway the Blighters away from Max. Their loyalty was to him and him alone. He still had regular meetings with them, still commanded them.
But Jacob hadn’t truly been in charge of the Rooks for at least five years.
Hence, green made way for black. Jacob could only hope those who refused were let off lightly. Although, since Jack had expressed desires to kill people who got in his way, anyone who didn’t follow him blindly was probably dead. It was such a shame they couldn’t say Jack had turned away from the Assassins. He still believed in the Creed, yet he had twisted the lessons. Creating something horribly new.
Something they had no control over. Because Jack was a problem unseen. He had grown too strong in his numbers after only a few months. Slowly taking the Rooks and warping them into something horrifying. In every way, Jack was superior because he was unpredictable. He was yet to make a substantial move. Jacob feared over what would come next.
First, he had expressed his views. Second, he had taken the Rooks. Third… Well, there was a line he had to cross, and whether he would or not, would define his very plan.
All Jacob could do for now was finally warn all the Assassins.
So, that’s just what he did. He sent out a message, and within two hours, everyone had collected in the living room of the first terrace house. They were cramped into the space, standing side by side. Most were adults now, while some were older adolescents (they still recruited from time to time). Nevertheless, it didn’t matter how old they were. Hearing what had become of Jack would strike fear in all of them.
“Jacob,” Sybil said carefully as he stood there, struggling to find words, “why are we here?”
“It’s about Jack.”
Nigel stepped out from the crowd; his brow furrowed with worry. “What about him?”
“He… expressed desires to make the public fear us. He wants to make our Creed one of terror instead of freedom. Everything I ever taught him has been twisted into his terrifying views. He may well be the most powerful enemy any of us will ever face because he was one of us, and still is. He is sick, and I believe he can be fixed.”
“What brought this on?” Walter asked. “He always abided by our code, always.”
“I think the fear bombs got to his mind, in more than one way. The gas produced could be the reason.”
Emelia hopped up onto the windowsill, raising herself above the others. “You have known this for a while now, haven’t you?”
“For three months, since March.” Jacob breathed in slowly. “He has been slowly but surely taking over the Rooks, and at this point, I can’t stop it.”
“The good news is,” Max interjected, standing tall, yet this was breaking him too, “he can’t get to the Blighters. They are our only force on the streets now.”
“How can Jack be fixed then? If it’s the bombs, is there a way to reverse it?” Emelia tilted her head, raising an eyebrow.
“That is what I’m hoping, if it is indeed the bombs,” Jacob said. “I have a chemist researching them. But other than that, there isn’t another option. And I won’t send him back to the asylum, that won’t fix him.”
“Why not?” Luther called out. “Because from what I’ve seen, he deserves to be there. Rooks have been found dead in the streets; their throats slit. All witnesses give the same story. A person dressed in black and purple cut down the victim. Jack’s people.” He fiddled with his gauntlet. “He should be our next target.”
“No, don’t say that.”
Avis gave him a soft look. “You’re too close to this, Jacob. You need to let us handle it.”
He hung his head. “I don’t want him to die.”
“You raised him, we can all understand why you want to protect him, or to protect all of us for the same reason. But come on, Jacob, if he goes on much longer, he will have complete control of Whitechapel.” Luther paused, scoffing. “Isn’t that why you put me on this? To find out what he was doing so we can get him?”
“I put you on it because you’re our best at gathering information, Luther.” Jacob closed his eyes, taking a breath. “I know it looks bad–”
“It is bad.”
He glanced away, feeling his heart tear at itself. Something had to be done, but not like this. “You’re all dismissed, except Luther, Nigel, Sybil and Rose.”
The others filtered out, deflated and moods faded. The morale was at a record low. There was no joy to be had when Jack was out on the streets doing god knows what. Rooks were dead. The new Rooks were better trained now, able to fight in ways Jacob had never wanted for his gang. Terror was coming for all of them, and through it all, Jacob only wanted to get Jack back.
“Rose, I need you to keep an eye on everyone. You’re good at keeping morale up. Can you do that for me?”
“I can… I’m really sorry this is happening, Jacob.”
“I’m sorry too. I know he meant a lot to you.”
“He means a lot to all of us.” She twisted her mouth, frowning after. “But we have to let that go.”
He looked to Luther, seeing how much anger was present behind his eyes. “Keep gathering information, we need everything we can get right now.”
Luther nodded. “Right. I’ll get to it.” He left the room with a stomp in his step.
“Sybil. I need you to find any remaining Rooks that are loyal to us and bring them here.”
She tilted her head from side to side. “I can do that, if any are left. There might not be.”
“I know, but Jack operates primarily in Whitechapel, he can’t have them all. London is too big a city.” That was what he hoped, at least, it didn’t mean it was true. But the Rooks had been good people, once.
“I’ll try my best.”
“And Nigel, how many spikes would Jack have?”
Nigel glanced to the ground, scuffing his boot on the wood flooring. “A month ago he, uh, took five full boxes. But don’t forget we supply to our shops. They won’t know not to sell them to him.”
Jacob rubbed his forehead. “And he can make his own bombs. Fuck…”
Max placed a hand at his back. “We’ll have to send a message out. I’ll do it. You concentrate on getting results from Lawrence.”
“Right. Yes.” He looked up to the three. “You’re dismissed. Good luck.”
Rose and Sybil left, but Nigel stayed. He looked nervous, or scared, or worried. All normal for him, except there was a grief there. He had been close to Jack; their relationship was much like a sibling one. To hear this news, it must have been hard on him. A shock even.
“Jacob, could I go after Jack? I know him better than anyone, I could talk him down. Bring him back to us.”
“You’d be risking your life. He’s already killed Rooks.”
“I’m different. We’re like brothers, truly. You know that.” Nigel frowned, his eyes filled with tears. “I want him to come back to us, before he goes too far.”
Max huffed a breath. “I think it may be too late.”
“Can I at least try? I can get away if he wants to kill me.” His voice shook a little, as if the mere thought of Jack killing him, despite their friendship, terrified him. “Don’t forget we’re all Assassins here. He knows everything we know.”
Jacob considered it for a moment. If anyone could do it, Nigel could. He had that crucial connection they needed right now. Perhaps they could spare Jack from crossing one line too many. “Okay… You can try.”
Nigel smiled slightly, sighing with relief. “Thank you, Jacob. He’ll be back before you know it.”
Somehow, he doubted that was true.
“It might very well be the bombs,” Lawrence said, handing a piece of paper to Jacob.
Lawrence’s writings detailed that briefly being exposed to the gas would not affect the mind long-term, people would always recover. But the long-term effects from breathing small amounts in over time, over years, could make someone’s mental health deteriorate. However, it was highly unlikely, since they would have to be using the bombs several times an hour, standing directly in the detonation zone.
Using the bombs with a higher potency, on the other hand, made the effects much more likely to occur. And could even make the effects on the brain worse, or permanent.
“It could be impossible to reverse it.” Lawrence wrung his hands. “I’m not saying it definitely is, but to make the gas turn black, like Jack’s bombs are… There’s not much chance of him returning to who he used to be. His mind would have changed too much.”
“But there is a chance?”
“A slim one.”
Jacob handed Lawrence the paper. “Then please.”
“I can give it my best shot.” He moved to the side of his lab he’d reserved just for this. “If I can find the right combination of chemicals, I could liquify it, and jam it into a dart.” He smiled briefly, in pain. “Jacob… you might have to let this go, if I can’t find anything.”
“He’s my responsibility, Lawrence. If there’s a chance of getting the boy I raised back, I’ll take it.”
“I understand. Just… keep everyone alive until I can give you a definite answer.” Lawrence turned to him, folding his arms. “If I don’t find a cure, what will you do?”
Jacob glanced to his gauntlet, closing his eyes. “What I do best.”
Jacob curled into Max, nuzzling his face into his neck. He didn’t want to wake up yet. Another day in this nightmare… He couldn’t cope with it. Max was his one comfort in all this. The only person who could make everything feel alright. Either through reassurance or making him forget his own name. He didn’t mind which. Not really.
But each morning, each new day, was another risk. Nigel had been gone for a month now. Jacob could only presume he was dead. Rose had already done a vigil for him, and Max had set up an altar in the third terrace, where people left flowers. It could happen to any of them, at any time, by any hand, but if Jack had killed him… Well, the Brotherhood would have something else entirely to grieve.
Reality was a horrific thought. It was painful, causing constant worry. For everyone. Even Max was cracking under the pressure, finding it hard to keep his thick mask on. He didn’t hide in front of Jacob, but he did pretend to be strong, for the both of them. And now, as July was halfway over, even Max couldn’t be strong.
More often than not, they fell asleep in a tight hold, so close that no one could pry them apart. If he woke still in the hold, or at the very least curled around Max, then he knew they had survived another night. It was very, highly possible, that Jack would come after Max. He’d do it just to hurt Jacob, he had no doubt about that now.
And losing Max, he couldn’t lose him. He couldn’t lose his husband.
“You’re shaking…” Max whispered, spreading his fingers across Jacob’s back, moving them in circles. “Are you alright, darling?”
“I was thinking.”
“Ah. About Nigel?”
“Amongst other things…” Jacob pulled away from the hold, rolling onto his back. He stared at the ceiling, wishing it could give him the answers he needed. “Jack will come after us all, eventually. I fear he’ll take you first.”
Max shifted close, cupping Jacob’s cheek. “I wouldn’t let him. I may be fifty-seven, but I’m still unbeaten in the ring. Try as he might, no twenty-six-year-old is going to know as much as I do, or as much as you do.”
“Knowing is different to physical strength, Max.”
“Tell me you wouldn’t be able to beat him in combat.”
Jacob thinned his lips, sighing. “I won’t ever have to fight him.”
“Jacob. Tell me.”
“Jack is a brute, that’s where he honed his skills. Fear and strength alone.” Which was almost a blessing. Jack could do stealth as well as any of them, but in true hand to hand combat, he lacked skill. “He has no technique, no strategy. So… if I tried, I would beat him, easily.”
“My dear, what is your biggest fear?”
“Jack killing us and wiping out the Brotherhood.”
Max let out a shaky breath, moving his hand to Jacob’s chest, above his heart. “If he uses his bombs on you, you’ll be able to combat it with logic. You’ll know you’re alive, that I’m alive, and that the Brotherhood is safe.”
“The Brotherhood will only be safe if I send them away.” Jacob looked to Max, pleading. “George retired to a decent country house. You could all go there.”
“All? My darling, I’m not going anywhere.” He cupped Jacob’s jaw, placing a kiss on his forehead. “I’m staying at your side, until this ends.”
Jacob grasped Max’s wrist. “Please, you’ll be safe. This is my fight.”
Max furrowed his brow, gaping, clearly about to reply, when someone knocked on the door. It was loud and sounded urgent.
“Are you decent?” Sybil called from the other side. “Inspector Abberline is at the terraces.”
The both of them bolted up, looking to each other with wide eyes. If Freddy was here, something bad had happened indeed. He never did personal calls, not anymore, not since 1868. Sticking to business alone. Most likely because he didn’t want to be associated with Assassins, which was fair, considering he was an Inspector now.
“What is he here for?” Jacob asked carefully, not wanting to know.
“He wouldn’t say, he wants to tell you first, Jacob.”
By the time they got to the first terrace, Walter was supplying Freddy with a cup of tea. They were standing in the entrance hallway, where Emelia was leaning on a wall. A few of the others were sitting on the stairs. Rose, Luther and Avis were the ones he picked out first. They were watching Freddy carefully, fear in their eyes over what he would say.
It was no secret that he was stationed at Whitechapel these days.
“Inspector, what is this about?” Jacob asked as he shook his hand.
Freddy took off his hat, placing it at his chest. “This morning Nigel Bumble was found dead in an alleyway. His throat had been slit and he had a wound in his chest.”
Jacob closed his eyes, feeling anger and sorrow build in his stomach. “Are you sure it was him?”
“I identified the body myself… It was him, of that I’m certain.”
Walter staggered back, hitting against the wall. Avis sniffled, staying silent. Emelia sunk to the ground. Sybil punched the wall while Rose cried out. Luther, on the other hand, thundered down the stairs, pacing the width of the room, pulling at his hair.
Freddy put his hat back on, looking forlornly to them all. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Max opened the door and let him out. There was an awful finality to it all once the door shut. The air was thick with emotion, a heavy weight lay upon the atmosphere of the room. As cries filled the lurking silence, Luther stopped still.
“That son of a fucking bitch!” he shouted, loud, unbearably. “Jack killed him, didn’t he?! It had to be him.”
Jacob looked to Luther, finding no energy to say anything at all. There had been little chance of Nigel being alive, but knowing he was definitely dead… it made everything so much worse. There was only one person who could have done it. And… oh god, Jack had done what they had all feared the most. If he could kill Nigel, one of his greatest friends, then none of them stood any chance.
He would be ready and willing to kill them all.
At the lack of response, Luther balled up his fists, baring his teeth. He extended his hidden blade, retracting it immediately. Jacob shook his head, wanting to scream ‘no’, but was unable to speak through his shock. Luther had only one look in his eye. The look of death. He rushed towards the door, yanking it open before anyone could stop him.
Max lunged after him, grasping his arm, but Luther used his rope launcher to jump away, ripping himself from the hold. Jacob stood there, frozen on the spot. He found it hard to breathe through the sorrow pulling at his heart. God… Nigel was dead. Really dead. And now Luther was going after Jack, to avenge his fallen brother. In all likelihood, he wouldn’t return either. Nigel may have been a blacksmith, but he was formidable with his tools, and very good at escaping.
And yet, he had died anyway.
“I’m increasing Blighter presence around the terraces,” Max said, moving beside Jacob. He rested his hand at his back. “I… I can’t believe it.”
In the commotion of Luther leaving, Walter and Emelia had left the room. They were most likely off to vent their emotions on the dummies. Rose was curled up on the stairs, crying her eyes out in quiet wails. While Sybil was on the floor, head tipped back against the wall, her eyes closed. And Avis stood, making her way upstairs, completely silent.
Everyone reacted differently to things like this.
“Do you think Luther will survive?” Jacob asked, his voice barely a whisper.
Max curled his arm around Jacob, offering support, but also leaning in such a way that suggested he would collapse if he stood on his own. “I don’t know, I hope so. He’s too young to die by Jack’s hand.”
“I don’t want to find his body…”
“But that’s what we’ll find,” Sybil said, looking to them. “He is thinking with his heart, not his head. And Jack will–” She cut herself off, glancing away.
“Kill him,” Rose eked out, her voice thick through her tears. “I don’t want him to die too.” More tears spilt out as she hugged her knees to her chest.
Jacob glanced to the floor; his heart heavy in the shock of it all. Grief hadn’t had a chance to sink in yet. “Rest in peace, Nigel…”
Three days. Luther had been gone for an agonising three days. If he was alive, Jacob hoped he would make it home. If he was dead… he hoped it would have been peaceful. Jack had clearly been as merciful with Nigel as he had been with the Rooks. Slitting the throat was a fairly quick death. The chest wound, however, could only come from a spike and… that was slightly more horrific.
As soon as the police were done, they could have a funeral. Max was currently out with Walter and Avis, beginning to plan it all. While Jacob was at home, trying to get some semblance of rest. Resting on the sofa reading a book was a good start. He had the fire on to make it slightly cosier and calming.
Yet, he couldn’t get the words to stick. Having to read the same paragraph multiple times. It was possible he was too stressed. That his whirling emotions from Nigel’s death was too much to bear. Nigel had been such a good friend; how could he be gone?
Luckily, to snap him out of his thoughts, someone knocked on the front door. He left the book behind on the table, and made his way to the hall, opening the door swiftly. Sybil stood there, head bowed, sniffing. She held a box in her hands with such care.
“Hello, Jacob?” She gave a faint, fake smile. “Can I come in?”
He stepped aside, letting her in. She walked straight to the living room, placing the box down on the table. Standing tall, she cupped her hands behind her back. Jacob realised that instead of her usual brown and red attire, she was wearing black and white. In mourning… They were all mourning.
“Nigel and I were beginning to work on your birthday present.” Her expression collapsed, even though she was trying to stay strong, thinking about Nigel was clearly hurting her. “We wanted to give you a new outfit. So, we began work on and finished the coat but… He’s dead, so I can’t complete it all.” Tears ran down her face. “I want you to have it now, he’d want you to have it now.”
Jacob approached her, his heart breaking a little. Sybil and Nigel had formed a wonderful friendship over the years. “It’s okay that it’s only the coat. I’m sure Nigel didn’t hate my style that much.” He gestured to his waistcoat, which was a lovely burgundy colour. How could anyone complain about that?
Sybil huffed a laugh. “He didn’t. His only criticism was your lack of colour these days.”
Jacob thinned his lips. “I like being as dark as the shadows now. Things were different in 1868.”
“Yeah, they were. Feels like a whole different world now.” She gestured to the box. “Open it, please.”
He reached down to pick it up. Peeling away the ribbon Sybil had secured it with. He pulled the coat from it, placing the box back down. Carefully, he unfolded it, loving the feel of it. A shiny black leather. It had a golden outline and had a red lining inside. It was done beautifully well, and the details with the colour truly made the whole piece shine.
“It’s… wonderful.” He immediately put it on. It rested on him perfectly. He looked down at it, smiling. “I love it. Thank you.” He frowned. “If only Nigel could be here to see me enjoy it.”
“He’s watching,” Sybil said, quiet and muted. “He knows you love it. And I’m glad you do.”
“I think I’ll wear it from now on.”
“Nigel would be so proud to hear that. It’s good you like it otherwise,” She huffed wetly, tears still rolled down her face, “I don’t know what I would have done.”
Jacob stepped beside her in an instant. He spread his arms in question. She hugged him tightly, hanging on for dear life as she let herself cry. Sybil was one of the strongest emotionally out of them all. But grief was a cruel thing you couldn’t stop. Everyone had to process it in their own way. And after three days, it was Sybil’s time to cry. He held her gently as she wept, wishing he could fix this. Wishing he could fix all of it.
But Nigel was dead, Luther was missing, and Jack seemed like an unstoppable force.
All he could do was give comfort and hope it was enough. But it wouldn’t be and how could it?
As much as he wanted to save Jack, monsters were usually slain.
“I can feel you pulling away from me.”
Jacob sat back in his chair, feeling all his energy drain from him. Maybe it was true, maybe he was pulling away from Max. But it was for both their sake’s. Jack would either take Max from him or take him from Max. Wouldn’t it be best for the both of them if they got some space, to make Jack believe they had fallen out?
“No,” Max seethed. “Don’t you dare think that it’ll protect us. You can’t make me leave you.” He approached his desk, leaning on the edge. “We made vows, remember? We have to stick together.”
Jacob closed his eyes, keeping the tears that were welling up at bay. “It’s too much, Max, it’s all too much.”
“Oh… my dear, I know. It’s tearing me apart too.” Suddenly, there were warm hands on his face. Max was sitting on the arm of his chair, staring down at him with loving eyes. “If we stick together through this, we can beat the monster.”
Jacob pulled Max towards him, pressing their foreheads together. “I don’t want you to die.”
“I won’t, not without a fight at least.” He slowly slid into Jacob’s lap, inching closer so their mouths were a hair’s breadth away. “Let me be here with you. We can send the others to safety, if it comes to that, but I need to stay. I don’t want you to die either.”
Tears ran down his face as Jacob closed the distance, pressing his lips to Max’s. Sorrow was ever-present as they kissed, slow and easy. Nothing but a chaste desperation. It was possibly the saddest kiss they had ever shared, but a needed comfort when reality was a nightmare. Jacob curled his fingers in Max’s hair, keeping a tight grip. He didn’t want to let go, fearing that if he did, somehow, he’d lose him forever.
It was irrational, but he hadn’t been thinking clearly for the last seven months.
Max pulled back, kissing Jacob’s cheeks, his forehead, the corners of his mouth. “I love you.”
Jacob caught his lips, pressing insistently. “I love you too.”
They wrapped their arms around each other, holding one another as if it was the only thing keeping them sane. Jacob was scared. He had never feared Max being torn away from him until now. It was the worst thought he could think, sending him into irrational panic every time. Max was with him, alive and safe, for now. And if he had to keep reminding himself of that every day, every hour, to stop the panic, he would.
Pulling away, or pushing Max away, wouldn’t solve anything. He had Max’s constant support if he was there with him, instead of being miles from home. But he couldn’t help but think he’d rather be dead and have Max survive, than for them both to die at Jack’s hands.
Jacob buried his face in Max’s chest, breathing his scent in. Letting it ground him. “I won’t pull away anymore, I promise.”
Max brushed his fingers through Jacob’s hair. “Good. I can’t be without you, my dear. Even if it was only miles away.”
“I know… It hurt to suggest it every time, but I can’t help my protective instinct.” He looked up at him, giving a faint smile. “We’ll get through this, alive.”
“I trust in us, darling. Years of commitment proves we can survive anything, together.”
Jacob reached up, kissing Max sweetly. “Together.”
Anguished screams erupted from downstairs, breaking the moment.
They launched themselves off the chair, pulling apart. They were out the door and running down the stairs in an instant. Jacob was faster, heading down them two at a time. Panic building with each second.
A large crowd surrounded the door, he was sure he could see Rose on her knees, crying out. The initiates parted as Jacob neared, all shaking, some were crying. It felt like everything was going in slow motion. Sound was muted, everything was so much duller. As he made his way through, he staggered against the doorframe, grasping it to stay standing. Max came up beside him, falling to the floor at the sight.
It was… Oh god, it was Luther. His body lay on the doorstep, broken and misshapen. Slashes covered every inch of skin, blood surrounded the wounds, dried and dark. He’d been cut open, his stomach torn. Blood covered his face, but it wasn’t the only reason it was red. The skin had been carved away. He had been mutilated. Destroyed. His body was stiff and pale… And it was– Awful. So awful. Because this wasn’t a clean, quick kill. This was torture, with the intention to do the most harm before death.
Whether it was blood loss or shock that got him, it was a painful end.
He tightened his grip on the doorframe. “Okay. Everybody… We– We need–”
“There was a note,” Rose whispered, her tears running so fast, choking her with sobs, that it was a miracle she could speak.
Jacob slowly lowered himself to the ground, using the doorframe. Poor Luther… The sight of it made his stomach lurch. “There was?”
She handed it to him. He couldn’t read the words at first, in too much shock to process them. But after a few moments, he managed to take in what it was saying. The message was important for all of them to hear, so he read it out.
“‘Dear Family, come after me and I promise this is what will become of you. I do not wish to kill our Brotherhood. I want to improve us. Make us into what we truly are, killers. If you leave me alone, I will leave you alone. Sincerely, Jack.’”
There were gasps and strangled cries. Jacob read the letter twice over, trying to keep his emotions at bay to think clearly. Jack had planned this. He had tortured Luther in a brutal and horrifying way, written a note to go along with his body, and brought him to their doorstep for them to find. What kind of monster would do such a thing…?
“Shit…” he whispered, looking to Rose, to Max, to anybody for answers. “He did this as a– a warning?”
“He’s deranged, Jacob,” Walter said, tears staining his cheeks. “We have to cut him down.”
“No.” How could any of them think this was the right time to strike? Jack would use Luther’s death against them. “We can’t…”
“Fuck that! He’s killed two Brothers now! He needs to die!”
Jacob stood, whirling around. “No one is going after Jack. Not until we’re thinking with our heads.” He threw the letter down. “We will never know what happened, but Luther died because he was clouded with anger when he went after Jack. We have to be smart.”
Sybil bowed her head. Her arms were curled around her body. “Jacob is right… More of us will die if we go after him. Jack said as much in his letter. We have to come up with a plan.”
“Shut up,” Rose said, glaring at them all with red eyes. “Jack is a monster, yes, but now is not the time to mention his name. Luther is on the doorstep…” She broke down crying, rocking back and forth, as if it would help with the pain.
Max slowly pulled Luther off the doorstep. He cupped his cheek, staring down at him, completely silent. It wasn’t surprising his reaction was so different with Luther compared to Nigel. He had adored all the children, staying up late to help them, creating stories for them, playing with them in the yards. But Luther was different, he always used to seek Max out first when he needed help, and the two had grown close. As close as Jacob had been to Jack.
Rose dragged the rest of Luther inside, placing her hand at Max’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“The poor lad didn’t deserve this,” Max murmured, pushing the matted hair that had stuck to blood on his face away. “He deserved peace…”
Jacob rubbed his forehead, trying to think through a mess of thoughts. He turned to Max, crouching by him. “Let’s get him inside. He shouldn’t be on the floor like this.”
“I’ll clear the dining table, we can rest him down on there,” Emelia said, leaving the entranceway with Walter in tow.
Jacob brushed his hand over Max’s back, pressing gently. “Are you okay?” he whispered.
Max shook his head. “Let’s just get Luther in a safe place.”
The initiates stayed out of the way as Jacob and Max carried Luther’s broken body to the dining room. Everyone followed, sniffling, crying, sobbing, or silent in shock. As Max gently rested his head down, Emelia covered his body with a white tablecloth. The table’s chairs had been moved out of the room to allow ample space. Everyone could pay their respects. Rose touched Luther’s chest, whispering something. While Sybil grabbed one of his hands under the cloth, saying he had done them all proud.
Walter was in the corner, anger rolling off him in waves. Jacob was glad he wasn’t racing off to do something stupid. Avis murmured a prayer, while Emelia bowed her head, staying silent. Every single one of them said something to Luther or gave him the respect of silence. As the moments ticked on, people started to filter out, until Max and Jacob were the only ones in the room.
“He was one of the youngest…” Max murmured. He glanced to Jacob, with a lost look in his eyes. “I can’t– Luther.” He scrunched his face up in pain, letting himself cry.
Jacob wrapped his arms around him, pulling Max’s head to his chest. He rubbed his back, murmuring reassuring words, but he knew it wouldn’t help. None of it would help, not yet. The wounds were too fresh, the pain too sudden and new. No one expected to find Luther so battered on the doorstep today. And yet… here they were. With his body on the table. All Jacob could do was hold his husband and hope.
Of what to hope for, he wasn’t sure. But if anything, he wanted this nightmare to end. Alas, Jack was just getting started, and that was an awful revelation. Anyone Jacob sent after him would die, that was the true message.
Whitechapel would fall to terror long before they could stop Jack. And there wasn’t a bloody thing he could do about that.
For now, they could only grieve. Jacob had never seen Max break down so severely before. His cries were heart-breaking but were muffled as he had covered his face with his hands. Jacob let his own tears fall as his shock melted away. The day had taken such a dark turn, and it was impossible to keep up the façade of strength when Luther had been mutilated in such a way.
“I’m so sorry, Max. I know you were close.”
“I’m close to them all,” he eked out, wetly. “But Luther… he was… he was… He’s gone, Jacob.”
“It’s so horrible…” His tears ran down his face more so, falling off his chin. What the fuck… What the fuck was happening? “How could one of us do this? How dare he.”
Max pulled back, looking up to Jacob. His eyes were red raw, his face was drenched in tears. “I don’t know… But I can safely say he is a monster. Because no one, not even a Templar, would do that to a person.”
“This nightmare will be over once Lawrence finds a cure. Jack was never this, never a monster.”
“My dear, seeing what he did to Luther, I’m starting to think a cure wouldn’t fix him.”
As much as Jacob would like to argue the toss, he knew Max was right. It didn’t mean he would stop trying. As long as there was hope, as long as there was a chance, he would try to get the real Jack back.
He swallowed thickly, glancing to Luther. “I’ll still believe, I have to, for my own sake.”
“I know. But don’t forget what you are.” Max stepped away, moving towards the table. He rested a hand down. “We’ll honour you, Luther. We’ll give you a good send off, I promise.”
A plan to stop Jack could come later, right now, they had to concentrate on grieving. On giving both Nigel and Luther a funeral. They deserved the best for sacrificing themselves, because ultimately, that was exactly what they had done.
And in their quest to stop Jack, they wouldn’t be the last either.
Chapter 7: Autumn
In a week, too much had happened. The funerals had been and gone, giving everyone a chance to truly say goodbye. They had honoured them well, giving them ceremonies worthy of their sacrifice. Everyone had something to say about Nigel and Luther, giving such a personal eulogy. It had all lacked any form of humour. Everything had felt so dark and dreary.
None of them were okay, and that was fine, but grief made it hard to think rationally. And they needed rational minds in this nightmare. Otherwise they would all die, and Jacob couldn’t allow that. He sometimes wished he’d sent the letter to Evie sooner, if he had, maybe she would be here right now, helping them.
He could only hope the letter would reach her, because if something happened, she was their only chance.
He made his way into his office, and while he had one in his own home, he always preferred being in the first terrace, where other Assassins were. It made certain things easier. Such as, if they needed to seek out his counsel, he was there for them.
Lawrence had sent a letter full of theories and results. Jacob had been working on his own calculations, figuring out the probability of a cure, along with a possible chemical formula that could act as an antidote to the hallucinogen’s effects. Lawrence couldn’t do all the work on his own, it was too much considering all the possibilities. He had to do the chemistry, however, as Jacob had no skill in the practical side of the science.
Slowly, they were beginning to realise that the long-term effects, the personality changes, were not necessarily permanent. A cure could very well reverse the damage that was done. Especially if they could stop Jack from using the fear bombs. They were getting closer to an answer.
As Jacob sat down to work through some more formulas and calculations, Max swanned into the room. His expression spoke of anger, but the grief was still clearly visible. The worst part of this all was seeing Max in so much pain. They’d had peace for twenty years, and this one year was testing them to their limits. Their relationship would hold out, of that, Jacob was certain, but the strength they had may not survive.
“What are we going to do about him, Jacob?” Max asked, his tone accusatory. “I’ve had Walter crying on my shoulder. Walter! He never likes to show his emotions in front of others, and yet, he was breaking down in the living room, crying and venting about all of this. Something must be done, before another dies.”
Jacob gestured to the swarm of paper in front of him. “I am doing something.”
“You’re hanging on to false hope. It’s been months, Jacob, and Lawrence has found no cure.”
“Well, don’t forget Evie will most likely be here in a few months. Her view on the fear bombs will be invaluable. She might have the answer we’re looking for.”
Max waved dismissively. “We can’t wait for Evie. Her advice will mean nothing if we’re all dead!”
“She knows more about the fear techniques than we ever could!” Jacob stood, rounding his desk, trying to appeal to Max by saying, “she is our best chance at stopping him. We’re powerless.”
“Not completely. Take a blade to his throat, he does not have your skill.”
“I’m his mentor, he knows everything I do.”
“You learnt to have a silent grace. He never did, and it’s all because he favoured the spikes and bombs as an adolescent. He forgot that the blade is an extension of himself, not a callous weapon.”
Jacob rubbed his neck, hanging his head. “I can’t kill him… Not yet. There’s still a chance.”
“You’ll doom us if you think like that.” Max turned away, looking anywhere but at Jacob. “There is only one way this ends, you know it, I know it, all the initiates do.”
“If it comes to that, which it won’t, it will not be my blade. It could be yours, Rose’s, Sybil’s… But not mine, never mine.”
“But you wouldn’t let anyone kill him.”
“Don’t pretend this is easy, Max. This… all of this, is horrific. But if there is a single chance of getting Jack back, then I’ll take it, because I fear he can’t be stopped.” He rubbed his forehead, leaning back against his desk. “I know it’s my fault, but I won’t give up now.”
Max sighed, moving towards Jacob. He folded his arms. “We raised him together, this doesn’t fall solely on you.”
“He was never your responsibility. I’m the Master Assassin, I taught them to be killers!”
“Jacob… please, darling, understand that what Jack has become isn’t your fault, none of the others turned out this way. But know that if you choose to do nothing, then we’ll never survive Jack’s plan.”
He hung his head, feeling all energy drain from him. “It is my fault. I let him make the bombs more potent. I saw what was becoming of him.”
“Because of Emmett?”
“And because I’ve always seen him as gold.” Jacob glanced to his gauntlet. “As a target.”
Max stepped beside him, sitting back on the desk. He brushed his fingers into his hair. “I suppose I shouldn’t blame you for focusing on a cure. If it had been Luther, I would do the same.”
Jacob curled his arms around himself, glancing to Max. “Except it wasn’t. I blame myself because it’s Jack. He was linked to us right from that one week where Evie, Henry and I were making plans and killing lingering Templars. And because I chose to take Jack in, he’s turned on us, betrayed me, and the Creed. All because some fucking hallucinogenic twisted his mind.”
“You’re not to blame because you did something others wouldn’t have. Jack is the only one at fault for what he’s become.”
“I still let him make his own bombs, and ultimately, that is the cause to all of this.”
Max moved his hand down to Jacob’s back, rubbing circles. “What about 1882, with Emmett seeing him as red? The bombs can’t be the only cause.”
“I know… Him being red to someone now would make sense, but back then… Jack merely saw us as people doing bad things to do good, which in turn doesn’t make us good people. Which is a fair view.”
“But it can be easily twisted into seeing us as bad people that can do anything we bloody like.” Max breathed in slowly, sighing deeply. “Almost like how chaotic I used to be, nearly crossing several lines. Except Jack is worse, favouring fear over chaos, and killing his own people.”
“None of this should be happening. Where did we go wrong?”
“We didn’t… The others prove we didn’t. Jack is an anomaly.”
Jacob stepped away from Max’s touch, going to stand by the window. The day was rapidly heading into the evening, and while it had been a sunny one, a permanent gloom surrounded them all, hiding them from the light. “I wish it could all go back to how it used to be. Before we lost… Just before.”
“I know, my dear, I wish that too.”
Jacob stared out the window, noticing just how many Blighters Max had around the area now. Every few metres there was a person clad in red. And in the distance, across the street, there were a few Rooks, wearing black and purple. Nothing was the same, and none of them could go back. Forward was the only way, and no matter how it ended, terror could never survive. People always fought back against it.
“I need…” He sighed, turning to look at his desk. “I need to do some calculations. You’re welcome to stay.”
Max shook his head, closing his eyes briefly. “No. I need to get some rest. This last week has been… so tiring.”
Jacob nodded, understanding that feeling completely. They gave each other sympathetic looks before Max left the room, deflated and defeated. Talking through it never helped, it only ever made him feel worse.
As he walked back to his desk, the floorboards creaked. Rose was stepping into the room, seeming awfully cautious, wringing her hands. A habit she took to when nervous. There was a pain in her eyes, her posture was off… No doubt because of her grief.
Jack’s betrayal had hit them all hard, especially the older children who had once seen him as their younger brother. Nigel and Luther, they had been so loved… They were grieving, they had lost so much. Whatever happened to the lad Jacob had raised, who had taken each lesson seriously, and had become an advocate for non-lethal violence? Because the man who had slain two of his Brothers was nothing like that lad.
“Jacob…” Rose whispered. “I have an idea.”
“What is it?” His voice sounded far too eager to his own ears, but they had a monster on their hands. And if he was allowed to go on as he was, he could jeopardise the whole Creed.
“Where are the safest places to hide in Whitechapel?”
Jacob furrowed his brow. “The brothels, but–”
“I could spy on Jack. Gain the information we need, and if there is a single opportunity, I will strike.”
“No, Rose. No. Absolutely not!”
“He would never see it coming.”
Jacob shook his head, breathing in and out at the thought of Rose’s body turning up at their doorstep, her body covered in wounds. “Perhaps not at first, but as soon as he does realise, he will kill you.”
“We’re Assassins.” Rose threw up her arms. “He can’t kill every one of us, he’s not better than us.”
“No, he’s not. But he’s brutal and uses all I taught him to beat us down. He wants us to become like him, but we refuse to, and he uses our emotions against us.” He brushed a hand through his hair. “We have to work out how to save him before we go after him.”
“By then it’ll be too late! He’s already seized control of Whitechapel, gaining the favour of Lady Owers, according to Luther’s last set of info. He will go through with his Creed of Terror, he already has your Rooks. And if we’re not careful, he’ll take Maxwell’s Blighters too.”
“I don’t want you to die.”
“But I will, to save our Brotherhood. He will drag the Assassins through the mud, out into the light where we don’t belong. Jacob, please, don’t let him complete whatever his plan is.” Rose tilted her head, sympathy written on her face. “I know you see him as your own, but you have to forget about that. Send me in, or we’ll never catch him.”
Jacob turned, pressing his fists into his desk. “You do realise what you’re asking me.”
She scoffed. “You may have raised most of us, Jacob, but we’re adults now, let us decide for ourselves. We can get Jack, even fix him if you want. Let us try, I know others who will go in with me.”
He hung his head. “I know some people who want to get out, I can give them money to escape and four of you can go in. But only four.” He couldn’t risk the Brotherhood, wouldn’t dare to, not after how long it took to rebuild. “I have a contact you can use to settle in, but you must stay dark. Letters only.”
Rose inhaled sharply. “Thank you, Jacob. You won’t regret this. We’ll get him, we’ll bring him home, and we’ll fix him. And if we can’t… we’ll do what’s necessary.”
Jacob turned, leaning back against the desk. “I believe in you, all of you. You’re right, you’re adults now, I can’t treat you like children. Problem is, Jack is a beast I have never encountered, I can’t guide you on this. His potent bombs can sway even the hardiest of Assassin. I have no doubt that’s how he took down Nigel and Luther.” He gritted his teeth. “For god’s sake, the Templars are more civilised than this.”
“Jack… always believed killing was needed, but he never believed in terror.” Rose folded her arms, closing her eyes. “I hate that the fear bombs did this to him. But I don’t think the hallucinogen is solely to blame. I think it began in 1873. Even after his reaction, he fell in love with those bombs when he saw the effects in action. Maybe he craved the power it gave him, maybe that’s why he made his bombs more potent. And one day… with the help of the hallucinogen, he gave into the temptation of that power, of terror, of finding it all fun in his twisted way.”
Jacob thinned his lips. “I think you’re right, he had the potential to become what he is now, but the chemicals tainted him all the more.” With a sigh, he glanced away. “It’s fine to find fighting fun, as long as you keep it in check, but death… you always respect death. Jack’s kills are to make even the most seasoned Assassin feel queasy, and that is why he is so dangerous.”
“Because of the monster he’s turned into?”
“Because he’s going down the path of a serial killer. This isn’t just an Assassin going rogue, or changing sides, this is… true horror. And I fear what we have seen is not the worst to come.”
Rose’s eyes hardened. “We’ll stop him, before it’s too late.”
“I hope, for all our sake’s, that you’re right.”
Jacob set the four dresses down on the table. Placing each specific one opposite who had volunteered. He couldn’t deny he was scared for Rose, for Avis, Sybil and Emelia. Going in like this was dangerous. They would have to fit fully into the role, in every way that required. He didn’t want that for the people he’d trained. He couldn’t exactly say he’d raised the four, since Sybil had been seventeen back in 1868, but he had contributed to their growth as people, as Assassins.
“You will go…” He closed his eyes, swallowing thickly, wishing he didn’t have to say what he was about to. “You will go in and talk to Lady Owers. From there… I’m not sure what is next for you all. But your positions will give you direct access to the Rooks and–” He felt bile rise in his throat at the thought of them… It was horrifying. “And, hopefully, you will gain the information we need to get to Jack.”
“It’s okay, Jacob,” Rose reassured. “We know what we’re getting into.”
“I fear you don’t.” He pressed his hand down on the table. “Find Nellie, a young woman with brown hair and freckles, she tends to wear green and purple. She is a friend of mine, an unfortunate woman who has the courage to defend her ‘sisters’. She will help you if you get into trouble.” Taking a breath, he looked at them carefully. “You will largely be without your weapons, but I’ve had pouches stitched into the skirts of your dresses so you can hide knives. Don’t die, for your own sake.”
Sybil rounded the table, grabbing Jacob’s shoulders and giving him a brief shake. “Be strong. We are at the top of our game, all of us. Jack will not defeat our Brotherhood, and he will not defeat you, so long as you know he may not be saved. Please, have faith in us.”
Jacob nodded, stepping out of her grasp. “He was one of us, once, I won’t give up on saving him.” He thinned his lips. “I do have faith in you. But we’ve already lost Nigel and Luther, please don’t risk yourselves. Put your safety first, and if it comes to it, assassinate him in self-defence.”
“We’ll stay safe,” Avis said. “None of us want to die by Jack’s cruel methods.”
Emelia picked her dress up. “Let’s get started then, no time like the present. As long as Jack is out there, he is gaining more power. The city will be consumed by his terror if he isn’t stopped. You didn’t free London for this, Jacob.”
“This will end,” Rose declared, eyes hardening, her lips set in a scowl. “One way or another, no matter the sacrifices, he will be stopped.”
The four went to their rooms to change. Jacob leant and sagged against the table, whimpering. He covered his mouth with his hand, biting back tears. This… God, this was horrible. How did it come to this? Why was he willingly letting his own people go in and sacrifice their lives? It should have been him doing all this… Although, maybe the four of them were better equipped to handle Jack.
Holding onto hope, it would doom them, but he had to, for the sake of everything he knew. His bond with Jack had been broken the second he killed Nigel. It was beyond repair. And the end to this was inevitable. Perhaps he would come to accept that, but not yet.
“Darling…” Max said, coming into the room, “they will be okay.”
He shook his head, trying to keep his tears at bay, but it was impossible. “They’re too confident. And if they ever slip up, he will kill them.”
Max came up beside Jacob, wrapping his arms around him. He still balanced himself on the table, otherwise, he was afraid he’d fall.
“They won’t. They’re skilled, brilliant Assassins. Some of the best. They can do this, Jacob, I believe in them, and you do too. Don’t let fear control you.”
“It’s hard to do that when this entire year has been consumed with fear.”
“Still, you shouldn’t let it. Otherwise, Jack will get away with whatever he wants to.”
Jacob leant into Max’s touch, straightening up. “We won’t let him get away with any of it.” He gritted his teeth at the thought of getting justice. “I may want the old Jack back, but he has to pay for what he’s done. He has betrayed us all. I know that.”
Max sighed, pressing a small kiss to Jacob’s temple. “I’m sorry it turned out this way, dear, but in the end, we will win against this fight.”
“I know we will. Even if sacrifices will be made.” He rubbed his neck. “Doesn’t mean it isn’t going to tear us inside out.”
“These next months will be crucial, I’m sure.”
As the four came back into the room, Jacob had to agree with that.
They were dressed in clothes so ill-suited to them. But they would learn to adapt. This was their choice… Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t stop them. Rose, Sybil, Emelia and Avis, they were brave, true Assassins. Masters in the making, given half a chance. He feared what would happen to them but no matter the outcome, they could never fail him, or the Brotherhood.
“We’re ready,” Rose said.
Jacob stood tall, squaring his shoulders. “This has to be your mission. I’m a liability to your survival out there. If you need me, do not hesitate to send a letter, or pass one through Nellie. I’ll be there for you in a heartbeat.” He clenched and unclenched his fists. “Jack knows each and every one of you, so outsmart him, blend so seemingly into your environment that he could never pick you out. And while you’re out there, I’ll search for another way.”
Sybil smiled faintly. “We’ll do you proud, Jacob.”
“You always do.”
“Sir! Sir Jacob!” a Blighter shouted, running towards him. His face was pale, as if he’d seen something awful.
He stopped in his tracks, tipping his top hat downwards, to keep himself more concealed. It was dark, getting close to four in the morning, people wouldn’t notice him, but it was just to be safe. “Yes?”
“I think I found Rose.”
“What do you mean?”
“Dead. I found her dead.”
Jacob froze, staring at the Blighter as if he’d grown another head. “Take me to her, now.”
The Blighter sparked into action, walking quickly. Jacob followed, panic rising in him. Not again… Please, god, not again. He couldn’t take more grief, not right now. The four of them had been out in the brothels for just over a month. And if Rose really was… dead… then he had to take the drastic measures he’d been thinking about.
The Blighter led him straight to an area full of blood. One glance with his Eagle Vision turned the whole place yellow. He closed his eyes, following slowly as the Blighter gestured to a body. As he neared it, he shook, covering his mouth. Yet again, it was a horrific sight. He wanted to cry, scream. He balled up his fists, trying not to break down in front of the Blighter.
It was Rose…
Her throat had been slashed with such a force (the kind Jack could apply) that her head very well could have been severed from her shoulders. Luckily, she hadn’t been cut to pieces like Luther had been. But at her lower abdomen, her clothes were ripped, and incisions were made across her body, from left to right. He had given her more mercy than he’d given Luther, but she was still… dead.
He couldn’t even process the fact that Rose was gone. He’d never get to speak to her again, never get to praise her, joke with her…
“Sir Jacob,” the Blighter whispered, tugging on his arm. As Jacob snapped out of his thoughts, he realised the man was pointing towards police officers who were turning into the area they were in.
He nodded, running to the side of a building, scaling it quickly. The Blighter rushed away, getting to safety as the officers walked up to Rose’s body, realising that she was dead. They sparked into action, hurrying to find some help. Jacob tucked his hat away and pulled up his hood. As much as he wanted to hide and cry and mourn, he had to get to the terraces.
Warning Sybil, Emelia and Avis would put them in danger, and he didn’t wish to reveal them to Jack. But he could send the Brotherhood away, to George. Jacob had sent a letter months ago, detailing the problem and his hope that George would take the Initiates in. He had agreed easily, saying that he’d been getting lonely in his country house.
And Jacob had to do what he’d been planning since June. Confiscating the fear bombs and spikes from all the Assassins, as well as removing them from every shop. That way, no other Assassin would be tempted to go down the same path Jack did. After all, the hallucinogenic wasn’t the sole cause. The power it gave people was also a factor.
As he arrived at the terraces, he went into each, waking everybody up and telling them to meet in the first’s living room. He was lucky Max had chosen that night to crash out in the office, after doing some of the work that had built up after Nigel’s death. (Accounts on remaining Rooks and financing for the gangs and Assassins). As everyone made their way in, now dressed, Max was getting increasingly worried. Jacob knew that he knew that something had happened, something very bad. But he wanted everyone to find out together.
And so, here they were.
“I’m sorry to tell you all this but… Rose…” He paused, trying to push through his denial. The words didn’t feel right. “She’s… dead. I saw her body and I have no doubt that Jack was her killer.” Tears welled in his eyes; he couldn’t help it. “I now have to take the necessary precautions to save this Brotherhood.”
“No…” Walter murmured. “Not Rose… That bastard!”
Max stared wide-eyed at the ground. “What about the others?”
“They are safe, for now. I can’t warn them, it’ll only put them at risk.”
Walter bowed his head, closing her eyes. “What did that monster do to her?”
A few tears ran down his face as her body appeared in his mind. There had been so much blood. “He gave her more mercy than he gave Luther, and that’s all I will say.”
“Then what’s next? What are these precautions?”
“First, after all I’ve seen, I’m confiscating and stopping production of all fear bombs and spikes.” Some in the room made disappointed sounds at that, but they would have to get used to it. The tools gave people the kind of power over others no Assassin should ever have. Jack was proof of that. “That starts now. If I find anyone with a bomb or spike by the end of the day, there will be consequences.”
Max furrowed his brow, tilting his head towards Jacob. “Isn’t that a little harsh?”
“Yeah!” Finley called out. He was one of the few initiates who was older than Jacob, and he didn’t look particularly pleased. “That’s not fair on people who have misplaced bombs or spikes.”
“Finley… there is a serial killer out there utilising those devices. We do not need our Creed associated with tools of terror. So, yes, while it is harsh, it is needed right now.” He gritted his teeth; he wasn’t backing down on this. “We will not be sullied by him.”
Finley had the decency to look ashamed for even vaguely suggesting that people should have more time. “I suppose you’re right… After all, he has killed three of us now. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Jacob rubbed his hands, preparing for backslash from his next precaution. “And since he has killed three of us now, I believe the best I can do for all of you is to send you away. Until this is over.”
The room erupted in objections. He couldn’t hear any of them over the noise. He was fairly sure Walter said it didn’t make sense to send them away. Finley called him a bastard, amongst other things. And so many others either swore at him or shouted how it was unfair and that they wouldn’t go.
Jacob had predicted this. All the initiates were passionate about protecting one another, but this wasn’t a decision taken lightly. “I don’t care what any of you think, I’m not taking no for an answer! You’re going. The Brotherhood must be safe. I didn’t rebuild it just for us all to die by Jack’s cruel hand.”
Walter balled up his fists. “We get no choice?”
“No, you don’t. But you’ll thank me when we don’t find your entrails on the street because Jack decided to rip them out.”
“Okay… Shit, Jacob.”
He shook his head, disbelieving. What was so wrong with Assassins that self-preservation didn’t exist for them? “Trust me. Sybil, Avis and Emelia are doing what they need to right now. I too also have to stay. And Max will as well. Everyone else will leave, and if you find out we all died from the newspapers, then work together and take Jack down in our honour. But don’t sacrifice the Brotherhood to do so.”
Walter ducked his head. “When do you want us to leave, and where will we go?”
“I want you all gone by the end of the week. And I’m sending you all to George.”
“I’m sorry that it has to be this way.” Jacob brushed his tears away, trying to show some strength. They all looked grief stricken, angry, or shocked. They needed all the leadership they could get. “But Rose is dead now, and I have to do what I must.”
Finley stepped out from the crowd, turning to everybody. “You heard Jacob, everybody. This is necessary to our survival. Let’s just do as he says.”
Jacob smiled faintly, glad that Finley had listened and understood why he was doing this. “You’re all dismissed. But I will expect your bombs and spikes in the coming hours, don’t forget.”
Slowly, the room emptied as everyone went off to do what they had to. Max moved closer to Jacob, pulling him into a hug. He wrapped his arms around him so securely, that it felt as if he’d never let go. Which would be fine, since this year had been terrifying in every way. Jacob leant into him, burying his face into his shoulder.
“You did the right thing at the right time, my dear. They will understand, eventually,” Max whispered, kissing his temple.
“I want them to be okay, I don’t want anyone else to die.”
“And they won’t. I’m sure Sybil, Avis and Emelia will proceed with caution.”
Jacob closed his eyes tight, leaning into Max fully, taking all the comfort he could get. “I know they will. It doesn’t mean they will survive.”
“Have faith in them.”
He did, in ways, but Rose was dead. And if she had fallen into Jack’s clutches… he couldn’t say with any certainty that any of them would survive this.
“Jacob, why are you here?” Nellie said, approaching the grave. He wiped his tears away quickly, before she noticed.
“I’m paying my respects to her.” He wasn’t, he was paying his respect to Sybil, but Nellie didn’t need to know that. Keeping her in the dark was one of the few reasons why she was alive right now. She wasn’t a target if she wasn’t involved. “The murderer must be caught. She did not deserve this.”
“They’re calling him Jack the Ripper.”
He scoffed. Of course they were. No doubt because Jack was controlling the newspapers, sending them threats. Whitechapel was his now, well and truly. “He’s controlling them, like he controls the borough with his terror.”
“You seem more familiar with him than you should be.”
“I once explained to you what I do…”
“So you are familiar.”
Nellie stared at Sybil’s grave for a moment. While it said Annie Chapman, she, as far as Jacob knew, was still alive and well. “Do you know who he is?”
“Yes, but it doesn’t matter.” Jacob folded his arms. “I have no idea where he hides.”
“I don’t think he hides. He hunts others, I presume, for fun, so I can’t imagine him hiding.”
“Perhaps not. But I can’t find him. I fear he’ll find me first.”
“Do you plan to kill him?”
“Honestly, Nellie? I don’t know yet.”
Sybil was dead. He’d killed her a few days ago, slicing her throat and taking her womb from her. She must have been terrified. Sybil had always been a close friend, someone who really looked after the Brotherhood. And despite it all, Jack managed to kill her. Jacob didn’t know how he was overpowering everyone… But with Sybil now buried, only Emelia and Avis were left. And if they died, he had no idea what would come after.
Because surely, he should kill the monster.
“It sounds like you know him more than you’re letting on.”
“That’s because I do… I used to know him very well.”
Nellie glanced to him, a questioning look upon her face. “What happened?”
“He forgot what I taught him.” He swallowed thickly. Sybil was right there, in the ground, safe within the best coffin Jacob could buy for her. He was grieving and wanted to stay by her grave, to talk to her. But he couldn’t show those emotions in front of Nellie, otherwise she would grow suspicious. “And he has become something I don’t recognise.”
“I’m sorry he turned out to be someone you never knew.” Nellie turned away from the grave, balling up a fist to her chest. “I hope he drowns in his own blood.”
Jacob glanced to his blade. In a way, slicing someone’s throat did drown them in their blood. Swiftly, he felt his stomach turn at the thought. His mind recalled how Rose’s and Sybil’s throats were slashed to bits. Assassins weren’t as cruel as Jack but… he couldn’t help but notice similarities.
Although, there was a difference between clean and brutal.
“He will get what he deserves. I can promise you that.”
She turned to him, smiling slightly. “Good.”
Jacob curled his arms around himself. Sybil’s grave loomed over him, and with every second, he was reminding himself what they had all lost. “Nellie… if he kills again, I want you to leave Whitechapel.”
“I can’t just leave.”
“You’re crucial to stopping him.” He sucked in a breath. “If something happens to me, my sister will eventually arrive and solve this entire mess. When she does, I need you to be safe and willing to give her the information she needs.”
“You make it sound like it will happen.”
“It might. I will give you money to leave. The last thing I’d want is the Ripper getting you.”
Nellie frowned, nodding. “Alright, Jacob. I trust you.”
He smiled, feeling relief wash over him. “I’m glad.”
She glanced away, then back again. “I should get going. I hope you work this out.”
“I hope I do too. I’ll see you soon.”
“Goodbye, for now.”
As she made her leave, and once she was long gone, Jacob knelt by Sybil’s grave, bowing his head. The gravestone was all wrong, and he would surely invest in one for Sybil eventually, once this whole ordeal was over. For now, though, her body lay in a grave meant for someone else. But that person was safe, while Sybil had been sliced and tortured before her death.
“I wish I’d stopped all of you,” he whispered, screwing his eyes shut. “You would be alive right now if you hadn’t gone in disguise. You could have been in the country, with the others and George. You would be safe and alive. Rose would be with you, and everything would feel less bleak. You shouldn’t be in this grave, I should be.”
He grinded his teeth, he was angry. So angry that Jack could have done this. First Nigel, then Luther, Rose and Sybil. Emelia and Avis were next. And then, would it be him? Would he go after Max first? What order would he prefer? The Brotherhood was in a location Jack didn’t know of and were far from his grasp, he couldn’t go after them. His choices came down to who was left, and if he wished to kill them, then they would fight and die.
“You deserved to live your life to the fullest. You deserved to find someone who would accept you for who you were. You deserved so much, Sybil, and I’ll miss you every day you aren’t here. It hurts me to my core that you won’t be here to see the new century, you were so excited for what the future would bring. I’m so sorry, so, so sorry.”
He broke down into tears, curling into himself as he cried by her grave. The grief of all the months was building to unacceptable levels, he could barely contain it all at any point of the day. If he didn’t cry whenever he needed to, he would have choked under the pressure by now.
All he could do was honour their deaths by doing the right thing.
It may have been a little too late now, but it certainly wasn’t too late to try. Jack wasn’t invincible.
Jacob looked over the letter once more. It was… good enough. Rushed, maybe. Ineloquent, perhaps. But would Emmett truly care about that? He doubted it. Once he saw the letter, Jacob was sure he would want to rush back home. But he had made it very clear that he should do no such thing until he sent another letter. If he didn’t within six months, he demanded that Emmett should stay in Italy for another year before thinking of returning.
He had written about how proud he was. How much he loved him, and wished him the best in all his training in Italy. He didn’t mention death too much, but he did speak of the danger he was in. Emmett wasn’t the kind of person to sit by and do nothing, a true Frye trait, but Jacob knew time was running out.
For all of them.
And he was certainly on Jack’s hit list.
The letter was fine. It detailed everything he needed Emmett to know, that was enough. He folded it into the envelop, about to seal It, when he realised he could at least give his son something. If he was to die, then Emmett should have the one thing that Jacob kept very close to his heart.
He took off his necklace, laying it in his palm, brushing his thumb over the shilling. It not only resembled his first pick-pocketing attempt, but the first time he’d truly rebelled against his father’s rules. He’d sent them out to steal some plans from a factory when they were twelve, strictly telling them to stay out of sight. On the way out, Jacob had run into the rather rude foreman. His clothes suggested he was rich, so in return, he tried out his newfound skills, only managing to swipe a shilling.
Evie had mocked him for days, so he got a hole drilled into it and had worn it ever since. It had become so sentimental over the years. It meant a lot to him.
If he was to die, then Emmett should have it next. He slipped it into the envelop and sealed it, tucking it into his pocket to post when he went out later.
There was a knock at his door, which was conveniently timed. He went to open it, stepping back with a sigh. Max made his way in, rubbing his arms, likely cold. The days were as dark as the morale of the streets now. Snow was already beginning to fall, freezing and lifeless. He sat on his sofa as Max closed the door, turning a curious eye to the crate adjacent to it.
“Why do you have fear bombs and spikes?” he asked.
Jacob sat back, shrugging. “I’m still taking some off the market. The shop owners don’t appreciate me taking them away. Turn up a lot of profit they say, but that just means Jack is still buying from them. And it’s not as if I can tell them Jack is also Jack the Ripper in his spare time.”
“I guess you can’t.” Max sat down next to him, leaning into the corner and crossing one leg over the other. “What are you doing tonight?”
“I’m going to have a chat with Mr Weaversbrook.”
“About the letters, I presume.”
“Yes… He must stop publishing them.” Jacob shook his head, sighing deeply. “Jack has sent me a couple... horrific writings. There is nothing left of the person we all knew. Of that, I’m certain.”
Max nodded, shifting closer to Jacob, placing a hand at his knee. “Does this mean you have given up on trying to fix him?”
“Not completely… But if I see him– I know what I have to do.”
“I’m sorry you haven’t found a cure yet.”
Jacob leant into Max, needing comfort from his husband. “We didn’t have as much time as we thought. It doesn’t matter now, because if Jack does strike again, I have no choice… But I don’t think I can face fighting him either.”
Max cupped his cheek, staring at him in earnest. “Darling… promise me one thing. Don’t die.”
“I won’t. I promise. I won’t let him kill me.”
They both leant forward at once, as if in sync, capturing each other in a kiss. Within a second, Max deepened it, and as he moved slow and easy, Jacob cupped his jaw, leaning into it, taking all he could from him, all he would give. This was the first time, in a long time, where they had initiated this without tears in their eyes. Sadness and grief made way for anger and emptiness. The passion they held between them in moments like this was the one thing that made Jacob feel alive in this dark time.
Max slid his hands to his shoulders, pulling him down as he lay back. Jacob settled between his legs, sucking at Max’s tongue, drawing a pretty little groan from him. He left his lips slowly, nipping at them as he went. Grinding against Max as he kissed along his jaw, made him gasp, and as he moved to his neck, he bared it easily.
Jacob smiled briefly, grazing his teeth over the skin. He breathed Max’s scent in, a welcoming aroma, as he licked up to his pulse point, the exact spot he wanted. Sucking at it made him moan, rolling his hips, making Max just that touch harder, making him gasp once again. Delightfully. He pulled the skin between his teeth, biting down just the way Max liked, hard yet gentle, and in return, he bucked his hips beautifully.
He licked up to his ear, nipping at his earlobe. As much as he would love to rid themselves of all their clothes and make love to Max all night, he had things to do. So, something else was in order. He breathed hotly at his ear, whispering, “I have to go, but I could suck you off.”
“Oh, you make it sound so romantic.”
Jacob laughed into his skin. “Well?”
Max playfully batted his arm. “No, you’d only get incredibly hard and I’d have to fix that. Then you’d miss your plans.”
“True enough.” He raised his head, capturing Max’s lips once again. “We’ll continue after?” he whispered into his mouth.
“Yes, darling, we certainly will. I’ll look forward to it.”
Jacob pulled back, launching up from the sofa. He straightened his clothes and put his hair back into some sort of order. “I’ll meet you at your house.”
Max sighed, sitting up. “I do hate having to be secretive in a different way.”
“At least we’re used to secrets.” Jacob reached for the door, but Max gasped, in a scandalous way.
“Where are you going without your top hat?”
“We’re in Whitechapel, Max. If anyone saw me in a top hat, they would know I don’t belong.” He spread his arms, smirking. “I have to fit in.”
“That you do, my dear. Good luck.” Max smiled faintly, but his eyes spoke of fear. They both knew the streets were dangerous for them now, what with Jack on the loose. He could be anywhere, and any moment could be there last. “Stay safe.”
“I will.” Jacob smiled, nodding to him. “I’ll only be an hour, so I’ll see you then.”
Max swallowed thickly. “Don’t be any longer.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Not again, not now.
The police let them through, and immediately, Jacob wanted to scream at the sight. He crouched by Emelia’s lifeless corpse, noting her injuries. At least she was covered up, but he could tell Jack had mutilated both her and Avis without a second thought. Nellie looked to both bodies, sounding in denial. Her words echoed his thoughts. Not both, not in one night.
He was angry, his blood boiled at the thought of Jack doing this just because he could.
Being mindful of the reporters and police around, he grabbed Nellie’s arm, dragging her carefully to one side.
“Nellie. Remember what I said.” He grabbed a bag of coins from his pocket, pushing it into her hand. “Now go…!”
She looked unsure, nervous and scared even, but she left all the same. He watched as she ran off, hoping that she would never come back to Whitechapel. With a slow breath, he looked to the wall, entering his Eagle Vision.
‘How many more Assassins must die before you see the truth?’
Jacob scowled, his eyes darting from side to side. “Only one more, Jack.”
Him. He would have to die before he saw any of Jack’s ‘truth’. Because whatever he believed in wasn’t the truth, it was lies and twisted thoughts.
He scaled the wall, running across the tracks before jumping off. He could feel the air shift, as if an evil force was out tonight. And from what he’d just seen, Jack was definitely watching. His so called ‘work’ seemed cut short on Avis. Which may have meant she suffered less. He hoped, at least.
As he began walking in the alleyway, he knew who was behind him. “I know you’re there, Jack. The Master of Terror is afraid to show himself, is he?” Baiting him may have been the wrong decision, but it was a bloody good method to get what he wanted.
“I am your shadow, Jacob.”
As Jacob got to the entranceway of the alley, he began to run, crossing the road and making his way into another area. He threw a smoke bomb down for good measure, making his way into a crowd, hiding himself from sight. An Assassin who knew how to hide well, basically made themselves invisible.
But Jack knew that tactic well, and Jacob should have predicted that. He grabbed the first policeman he ran into and gutted him in a brutal takedown. Jacob felt sick at the sight, half terrified. It was the first time he had seen Jack in action, and he knew, truly, that whoever this man was, the Ripper was a name that suited him well. Because Jack… never did such things in the past. Jacob had seen him at work years ago.
Seeing it like this cast a new light onto the situation.
As the policeman fell to the ground, Jacob ran off again. “Come on, you monster! Let’s be done with this!” He threw another bomb down as he booked it as fast as possible.
“Run all you like, Jacob. I will catch you.”
Jack’s voice taunted him, but Jacob would not let it get to him.
He ran by some policeman, quickly saying that a killer was on his tail. Swerving into the graveyard, he hid, waiting for Jack to arrive. Maybe it was cowardly, but would he really kill anyone just to get under Jacob’s skin? The cruelty he displayed was terrifying.
After a few moments, Jack walked up to the archway, dragging a dead policeman. Jacob closed his eyes slowly, disbelieving but was hardly surprised.
Jacob walked out from behind the grave, as angry as ever. He stopped, sticking his arm out. “Stop!”
Jack did so, staring with soulless eyes he could barely see.
“You want me, Jack? Come and kill me!” He wanted to at least give fighting him a go. He was angry, so angry. He wanted to rid London of the monster once and for all.
Jack threw the policeman down, stepping into the graveyard.
Jacob withdrew his knife (since he no longer used a kukri and carrying around a sword-cane was too irritating; a knife was easier to operate). He certainly didn’t want to use his hidden blades, yet. A knife would cause a lot less damage than what he usually intended with his blades.
“This is not our way,” he said, approaching.
“This is my Creed.”
As Jacob made a swing for him, not entirely meaning harm, Jack grabbed him, smashing his head against his own, and swiping with his knife. Jacob managed to dodge it, barely. He got a slash or two on Jack, but it hardly nicked his coat. It was certainly a tough material, hard to break through. Jack went after Jacob again, managing to slash the side of his chest, around his ribs.
As he stumbled, Jack grabbed his shoulders, kneeing him in the stomach. It caught him off guard just enough for Jack to punch him in the jaw. Jacob staggered, grabbing a smoke bomb and throwing it down.
It knocked Jack onto the ground, giving Jacob enough time to sprint out of there as quickly as he could. He paid no mind to the fact that Jack was likely right behind him, he merely kept running. As he managed to get to a road, he ran up the street to an empty carriage, stealing it in an instant. As he rode on by, he noticed Jack running up to the pavement.
He’d done it, he’d managed to escape. And was probably the first person to do so since Jack had turned on them all.
As he made his way back, all that raced through his mind was that he had no energy to fight Jack. He was perfectly fine in terms of his health and his abilities (although he had a rather nasty nick in his side now). But actually killing Jack was a whole different story. Eventually self-preservation would surely come into it, but for now, as long as escape seemed plausible, he would try to extend the time he had left as much as possible.
Bursting into his lodgings, he stumbled through to the back, reaching for his papers. They detailed all the calculations and formulas they had been through already. All had been tested, and all had failed to be the antidote they needed. If he lost his research, fixing Jack would be impossible. While Lawrence had his own notes, Jacob had everything. Saving his mind was top priority if he couldn’t physically kill him.
“Going somewhere, Jacob?”
Jacob stopped in his tracks, knowing what was coming next. Still, he reached out to him anyhow. “Jack… you’re sick.”
Jack looked down at his knife, readjusting his grip on it. He moved towards Jacob, and that meant only one thing. He backed away quickly, dropping the papers and extending his hidden blades. Jack attacked first and Jacob dodged, twice, before Jack hit him in the side as he blocked. He stumbled back, taking a chair out on his way, and found his footing as Jack came at him again.
He tried to attack, but missed, barely dodging another attack. He dodged again, but as he tried to move, Jack managed to slash him in the side. He went around Jack, holding onto his side as he barely managed to block and dodge another attack.
Jack slammed into him, sending him falling backwards. He kept defending, trying to attack but failed to do so. Jack managed to elbow him in the face, and he blocked twice more, before Jack grabbed his wrists, bashing their heads together. Jacob blocked again, resulting in him falling halfway to the floor. Opening himself up for attack. Jack took advantage, smashing his head with his fist once, twice, three times before Jacob fell completely.
He scrambled backwards, curling up on himself, withdrawing his blades, and hitting against a table.
“Don’t you see the irony, brother?” Jack asked, tipping his hat forward.
Jacob raised his hands. “Jack…” He shook his head, turning his palms outwards. As if to convey ‘why’, ‘why are you doing this?’.
“Only you know who the Ripper is, but you can't tell a living soul, because it would destroy you, and the Assassins.”
Jacob narrowed his eyes. Strictly, that wasn’t true. Because the Assassins were a secret, and besides, if he was arrested, who would believe a serial killer if he tried to tell the police they existed? All it would destroy was the illusion of fear, if the Ripper was just another man who had decided to wield a knife.
He glanced to his bookcase at the other side of the room. His gun was stashed amongst his books. If he could just get to it…
Grabbing the candle stand that had fallen next to him, he clobbered Jack over the head with it. As he went running for it, clutching his side, Jack kept shouting no, before something hit him straight in his back. He crashed to the floor, injuring himself more in the process. As he turned to stand, Jack launched himself up, landing on top of him.
He clasped Jacob’s throat, holding the knife above his head.
“Jack…” he said, choking on his words. “We can fix you.”
“Fix me?! I am the solution!”
He raised his knife up and Jacob widened his eyes, knowing exactly what would happen next. As it came down, he cried out in pain before everything went dark.
Chapter 8: Captured
Everything was so… cold. All he could feel was the crisp air seeping into his joints, and the pain that bloomed in his side, his head, his… eye. He managed to open his right eye, although his vision was blurred and groggy. His left one… didn’t open. It hurt like hell. He touched it gently, finding it swollen. As he pulled his fingers away, they were damp with blood.
Jack had certainly done something to it. But he hadn’t carved it out… something was definitely still inside the socket.
Why wasn’t he dead?
Why hadn’t he died in horrific pain, like everyone else Jack had killed? What made him different?
He curled up on himself, pressing into the wall. With all the energy he could muster, he used the wall to push himself to his feet. He was weak, in a lot of pain, and tired, but he had to at least work out if he was trapped here. Glancing to his arms revealed that Jack had taken his hidden blades, which wasn’t surprising. Jack wasn’t going to risk dying, he had made that very clear.
The brick was cold even through his gloves. And there was a door, a very secure one at that. A bit like the ones in prisons. There was a small window, with a few bars, most likely for guards to look through. But Jacob doubted anyone was outside his cell.
A brief walk around the room revealed nothing. There were no discarded and forgotten pins, coins, or anything else that could aid in an escape attempt. Just him, the door, and the cold walls. Is this the kind of place he’d kept Luther, when he tortured him?
Jacob’s breath came quicker as he leant against a wall, sliding down. Was Jack going to torture him and send his dead body to Max? Because that would be cruel. That would be so much worse for Max than losing any of the others. Jack at least had an inkling they were together; he certainly knew more about them than he let on. So… he would, wouldn’t he?
Because that was the kind of person Jack was now. The type that didn’t care for anyone but himself. Believing that the Creed should be something it could never be. Favouring terror over everything else. He was dangerous, to everyone. And god knows how many more he had killed, Jacob had no doubt, innocents had died.
As he settled against the brick, closing his eyes as they fell heavy, the door swung open. It groaned with the movement, so it was likely old. That didn’t give him any clues to a location though. Something metal slid across the floor, hitting against Jacob’s foot.
He didn’t dare open his eyes, or well, his right eye. He didn’t want to see or talk with Jack. Too scared of what he’d say. If he had plans of how he would torture him, he didn’t want to hear it. Although, his curiosity was piqued. ‘Why’ kept circling in his head for several reasons. Why here? Why was he alive? For example.
“JaaaacOB…” Jack sing-songed, loud enough to jolt Jacob from the suddenness of it.
He opened his eye, quickly adjusting to the image before him. Jack was leaning against the wall, by the door. The cloth that usually covered his face was gone. And his eyes were as bright as ever, but Jacob could see the evil that lay within them.
Perhaps he had been wrong the entire time. Maybe there was no way to fix him.
“Eat up,” he continued, nodding to the plate by Jacob’s foot. A slice of bread and a small cube of cheese. “I need you to keep your strength up. I have plans.”
“Why–” he croaked, his throat was awfully dry. “Why am I alive?”
Jack smiled cruelly. “Oh… brother, don’t you understand? Killing you now would give me no joy. I need you to watch your world fall apart first.”
“You have already taken so much from me, Jack. What else could you possibly take?” He hoped, in saying that, Jack would be knocked off the scent. But his lips curled all the more instead.
“I’m going to catch your beloved Maxwell and bring him here.”
“What… will you do– to him?”
Jack walked to the other side of the room and back again, tapping his chin as if he was thinking on it. “I’ll tie him to a chair, in this very room. And you’ll witness the life fade from his eyes as I slowly carve his heart from his chest. You’ll watch it stop beating as I cut it from him…” He tilted his head; his eyes were dead. “If you don’t die from heartbreak… then I’ll do the same to you. And send your pretty hearts to your sister.”
Jacob scowled, his nostrils flaring at the very thought. “You will never catch him. He has an advantage over you, and you’re too bull-headed to see it.”
Jack approached him quickly, withdrawing his knife. “What advantage?”
He spat at him. It didn’t land near him, but the insult was enough. “The kind that will see you dead the longer he thinks I’m gone.”
“He’s too old for such tricks.”
“Then you never knew him. And you never knew me, and I never knew you.”
“You will tell me what he is planning.”
“Over my dead body. I see now, Jack… you cannot be saved. We lost you long ago, before any of this.”
Jack stood tall, putting his knife away. “I think you will find that I am the true face to what this Creed needs to be. I am not lost. It is you who is lost. I will make us pure again.”
“You disgust me, and history will forget you.”
“On the contrary, I think I will be the legend you fear me to be.”
Jacob lifted his chin. Even though he was on the floor, broken, cut and bruised, morally, he was above Jack. “You are nothing but a target for the Creed to rid the world of. I have never seen you as an ally in my Vision, and now I know why. It is not for me to kill you, but someone will, and when that day comes, I will not grieve you.”
“You will die long before that day, Jacob. I can promise you that.”
Jack whisked out of the room, and Jacob caught a flash of light. A torch maybe. He was most likely below ground, judging by the dark and cold. There weren’t many places in London where underground cells would be. But he had seen something once, back in 1868. With some certainty, he could say he was in Lambeth Asylum. Which… didn’t bode well for anyone.
The very asylum Jacob had rescued Jack from once. Only to be betrayed now… threatened to die in this awful place. It was almost like being taunted. As if his kind gesture was actually a form of punishment.
All of this, all of it, was the result of one person being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Jacob wished he could count the days, but it was so dark down here, he had no way to tell. He kept drifting in and out of sleep, due to his injuries. His body needed ample rest and medicine, but he could get neither. His wounds would likely get infected, and it was far too cold to rest well.
All he could think of was Jack hurting Max, torturing him, killing him. But if that had happened, surely Jack would have followed through with his plan. The thought of Evie receiving their hearts turned his stomach each and every time.
However, if Max could hide out long enough, perhaps when Evie arrived, they could work together to bring Jack down. Although, in that case, the likelihood of them ever finding him was low. But he would gladly starve to death as long as Max lived.
He wasn’t sure how much time passed when Jack came back into the room, wearing the cloth that covered his face. Jacob supposed the cloth was scarier than any hood could ever be. Jack was breathing heavily, pacing. He was angry, frustrated maybe. When he stopped, he cracked his knuckles, shooting a blank dead glance to Jacob.
“Why can’t I find Maxwell?! He can’t be that good at hiding from me! I’m Jack the Ripper!”
Ah… Good. Jacob laughed, shaking his head. “You really think you can find him? You are no match for him.”
“He’s an old man.”
“He has more skill and experience than you could ever wish to have.”
Jack sparked into action, stalking up to Jacob, grabbing his lapels and hoisting him up. Holding him against the wall, staring up at him. His eyes were… so angry, so full of emotion. There was no plan here, it was pure reaction. As if he had come to get answers willingly out of Jacob, but since he was resisting… “He has only been an Assassin for eighteen years of his life, I’ve been an Assassin for all my life. I was raised with these skills, he was not.”
Laughing again, Jacob knew his husband was completely fine. That Jack hadn’t even caught a glimpse of him yet. He had a better chance of survival the longer Jack wasted time. “And yet here you are, begging me for answers. How long has it been?”
Jack dropped him, causing him to get a nasty jolt of pain in his side from the fall. He groaned, curling into himself. Despite that, he knew he was lucky. Unlike the others, he wasn’t being tortured within an inch of his life. But he was sure that would come, eventually. Maybe now, if he laughed in Jack’s face enough.
He wasn’t scared yet, and maybe that was foolish.
“You will tell me.”
“Tell you what? I have no idea where he could be, Jack.” Jacob pushed himself back against the wall, sitting up. “He’s probably planning how to assassinate you right now, while you waste valuable time down here with me. You’re nothing but a coward who hides behind terror as if it is a mask, killing whoever you want to feel some twisted sense of power. True Assassins have no need for such things.”
Jack stayed silent for a moment too long. He took two steps towards him, grabbing his shoulders. Jacob lifted his chin, bracing himself. He was ready for the consequences to his words, his plan to waste time was working. Jack snarled at him, throwing him across the room. The force from it made him roll when he landed. A second later, Jack kicked him in the stomach. Jacob merely closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and let Jack continually kick him until he was satisfied.
He could stall for as long as Max needed. Even if he died because of it, that would be better than doing nothing, and watching his husband die before his eyes.
“Jack… please.” He choked on the cough that was forced from his lungs. “Stop…”
“Tell.” A kick to his stomach. “Me.” A punch to his left eye. “Maxwell’s.” A stomp to his ankle. “Plan!”
“I… don’t know.”
Jacob could barely see; his head had been knocked around that much. Every part of him throbbed, he wasn’t sure he even remembered all the parts Jack had punched, kicked and stomped on. He could feel blood flowing from his nose, seeping onto his lips. And he was sure he would never be able to stand in his current condition. Beaten half to death.
Jack was getting desperate.
He caught a blurred glimpse of a boot connecting with his ribs, knocking him flat on his back. He heaved in painful breaths, trying to get his lungs to work. Barely able to against the pain. Never had he been so vulnerable to attack, so easy to beat down. But Jack had made sure he was weak, limiting his water and food. He was a waste of a Master Assassin.
As the boot came down on his chest, applying pressure, Jacob wheezed. “Stop… Please just stop…” He wildly grasped at his ankle, trying to pull it away. “Just… end this.”
“You’re not– the one being…” The pressure increased tenfold. He choked on the air escaping him. “Being… tortured.”
“I never would have been caught in the first place.” Jack grabbed at Jacob’s coat, hauling him up slightly, punching him so violently that it had a sort of finality to it. “I will find your deplorable lover, and I will kill him in front of you.”
He dropped him and Jacob had no energy to move a muscle. He pressed his face into the cold stone floor and laughed quietly to himself. “Sure you will.”
“Why do you doubt me? You have seen how I have slaughtered all the initiates you sent after me.”
“You will trip up eventually, Jack.” He coughed into the ground. “Make the wrong move, kill the wrong person, underestimate someone. In the end, you will fall on your own knife.”
“I will not!”
Another kick came to his stomach, but Jacob could only laugh.
“I’m not scared of you… Beat me all you want, you made it clear I won’t die until you get Max.” He stared up at him, stared at the soulless cloth. “Which you never will.”
“Then my plans may change.” Jack withdrew his knife, playing with the tip. “Perhaps I will instead send your heart to Maxwell.”
“All you would do is make a chaotic man burn all of London to get to you. In the ashes, you would fall… I would advise against it.”
“Innocents don’t matter to me.”
Jacob shook his head, smiling. “You can’t control a city with terror if there is no city.”
Jack stared at his knife, quickly putting it away. “Even now, you’re still teaching me things.” He glared at Jacob, but his eyes were unrecognisable. “I could create a reunion instead, bringing you all back together.”
That was… unsettling. What did he mean by that? “How…?”
“By waiting for the last piece to arrive.”
Oh… no. Oh, no no no no. He meant Evie, didn’t he? All back together. Last piece. Somehow, he had found out. Perhaps from Nigel, or Luther, Rose, Sybil… Emelia or Avis. They all knew he had sent for Evie. If one of them had slipped up and told Jack out of spite, or under distress, then he understood. He truly did. He was being very careful himself, trying not to reveal anything to Jack. Not that he knew much.
He didn’t even know what day it was. But if he knew Evie was coming… Jacob could only hope she would catch on and find out what was happening before she was ambushed. If anyone could take down Jack right now, it was her. He had plenty of faith in Max, but he was highly emotional. Jack could easily use everything that had happened against him.
At least Evie would be disconnected from Jack, from all the events that had occurred.
“You will never succeed,” Jacob eked out, looking up at him. All love he had ever held for the boy he’d raised was completely gone. Hatred was all he felt towards Jack now. “People like you die young.”
“I’m no target, brother, I am the future.”
Jack stood tall over him. Jacob watched carefully, preparing himself for another hit. But instead, Jack walked away, leaving the room and slamming the cell door shut. Perhaps he had been rattled by his words. Or maybe he was beginning his plan, ‘the reunion’. Whatever he was doing, it wasn’t good for the people of London.
He hoped, with all the energy he had left, that Max and Evie would end this once and for all. Because if Jack was going to bring them together, that was the best time to kill him.
And maybe, Jacob would manage to survive all this.
“Welcome to the reunion, Miss Frye!” Jack’s voice boomed. “Where is Maxwell? Did the coward decide to leave you in the lurch?”
“Face me, Jack! Let’s be done with this!” Evie shouted.
Jacob slowly opened his eye. How long had he been asleep for? It felt like forever since he last saw Jack, when he brought water and a morsel of stale bread, giving him a good beating after. Outside his cell, he could hear smoke bombs going off, the sounds of Evie fighting… She was… really here? It felt too soon. Perhaps he had been out longer than he thought.
His cell door opened, and Jacob struggled to see through the dark with his one eye. It didn’t help that his vision was groggy and couldn’t adjust. He coughed, trying to make his throat work, but he couldn’t… He could barely lift a hand, never mind much else.
“Oh… my dear, oh god, what has he done?”
That was… Max’s voice. Max was here? But Jack had said…?
A light appeared suddenly, enough to allow Jacob to see. He gasped, so glad to see his husband alive… looking well. He didn’t have any wounds on his face, which was good. Although, he couldn’t be sure he wasn’t hurt anywhere else. Max collapsed by him, placing the lamp he’d been holding down. He wrapped Jacob up in his arms, resting their foreheads together.
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t get to you sooner.”
Jacob had so many questions, so many. He made a small noise but couldn’t get himself to speak. He was too bruised, too battered.
Max withdrew an inch, cupping Jacob’s face. His eyes searched him, most likely assessing his injuries. Hopefully, he didn’t look too bad. The blood on his face felt dry now, at least. And while his eye still stung with pain, his side had healed well. He probably had an infection or two, nothing he couldn’t recover from. Max had no need to worry.
Ah… So, that was as bad as it felt.
“I am not a monster!” Evie shouted, and if Jacob concentrated really hard, he could hear violent stabbing.
Jacob furrowed his brow slightly, wondering what she meant by that. Max sighed, moving his hands to Jacob’s shoulders. “Jack has been trying to say that he and Evie are one and the same. That her fear is just like his terror.”
He frowned. How twisted was Jack for him to think that? Evie was nothing like him.
“I know, there isn’t a single similarity. Her bombs haven’t tainted her, I promise.” Max smiled gently. “I think you and Lawrence were right, the bombs are fine, normally, but too much can change anyone’s mind.”
Jacob closed his eye, breathing out. Thank goodness for that.
The door opened again, and Evie entered the room, dragging Jack’s body in. He was… lifeless. His top hat was gone but the cloth remained. Good. No one needed to see his face ever again. He was best forgotten. After all he had done, Jacob hoped he was in the deepest pit of hell. Tortured for eternity. He deserved to feel all the pain he had inflicted onto others.
“He’s dead?” Max asked.
Evie turned to them, nodding. “Well and truly.” She hesitantly took a step, then took a few more, kneeling at the other side of him. “Jacob…”
Jacob tried to look at her, but everything hurt too much to move, especially his head. Despite that, Evie took one of his hands, cupping his jaw. He leant into her hand as best he could. Max still held onto his shoulder, but had his other hand pressed against his chest. They held him so delicately, as if he could break. He soaked up their comfort, needing their soft touches after Jack had beaten him up so many times.
The peace and quiet didn’t last long as Freddy burst into the room, his gun drawn. He pointed it at Jack, even though it was obvious he was dead.
“Miss Frye, what the hell happened here?”
“Nothing, Inspector. Nothing happened here.” She stared at him for a moment. “Trust me, Jack the Ripper is dead.”
“Inspector!” someone outside shouted.
Max glanced to the door. “Help us, please. No one can ever know the truth.”
Evie swallowed thickly. “Jack the Ripper was just a man, never an Assassin.”
“Inspector! The journalists are here!” the voice said.
Freddy stared at them for a moment, breathing heavily. Making his decision, he left the room, shouting back, “I want those vultures gone this instant, is that clear?!” When he returned, he closed the door.
“It's over, Jacob,” Evie said, smiling gently at him.
Max leant more into his side, supporting him fully. “We’re here.”
If he could speak, he would have said he loved them both, and that he was glad.
Glad they had found him, glad they had killed Jack, and glad they were alive. It was a good day, all things considered.
“I missed our birthday?”
Evie nodded, sitting on the edge of the bed. She handed a cup of tea to him. “After we found you, your condition was so bad, you passed out the second we tried to move you.”
“Happy Belated Birthday to the both of us then.” He sipped the tea, smiling at its warmth. He had been so cold, for an entire month. Being in the comfort of his own home, in his own bed, warm and safe once again was a blessing. “Jack made sure I was too weak to do anything but blink after I taunted him one too many times.”
“Why would you provoke him?”.
“To stall. To make him waste time trying to shut me up.”
“As foolish as always.” Evie shook her head, placing her hand on his leg. “Maxwell was fine, he had been hiding at his own home, only going out when the streets were quiet.”
“But I didn’t know that, so I was doing all I could. Even if I almost died because of it. Giving Max time to plan was all I cared about.”
“Jack really hurt you, didn’t he?”
Jacob stared down at his tea, watching it swirl. “Yes… In more ways than one. I saw him become that monster, and we were all powerless to stop it.”
Evie glanced away, sniffing. “Maxwell told me who you lost. I can’t believe Nigel is gone.”
“I never should have let him go, but back then, we didn’t know what he was capable of. Nigel was his closest friend…”
“I suppose we will never know what went on in Jack’s mind.”
“He was sick… because of what his own bombs had done to him. But there was something deeper too, something Emmett saw before anyone else did.” Jacob shook his head. “I still wonder what made him see Jack as red in 1882. We’ll never know.”
“No… we won’t.”
Jacob smiled to himself as he looked at Evie. “I really like your outfit. It’s very you.”
“Thank you.” She straightened her coat. “I designed it myself, with the help of Jayadeep, of course.”
For a second, it felt as if everything was alright. As if it was all normal and Evie was here for a simple visit. But it wasn’t, and they both knew that. Their smiles quickly faded as they lapsed into silence.
Luckily, to break the melancholy in the air, Max walked into the room, holding the letter in his hand. “I want you to read it before I send it off. I don’t want to miss anything.” He climbed onto the bed, sitting next to Jacob.
He took the letter and had a quick skim through. It mentioned how the Ripper was gone, how Jacob had been caught and was recovering, and that Evie was now in London. At the end, Max had promised they would explain everything once they all got back to the terraces. It also thanked George for his generosity. The initiates were probably driving him up the wall by now.
“It’s fine. We should send it as soon as possible.”
Evie reached out, taking the letter from his hands. “I’ll send it. I think you both deserve some time alone.” She moved forward, kissing Jacob’s forehead. “I have some business to take care of as well. Rest well, Jacob.”
“We’ll have to talk more later,” he said, with a small smile.
“Yes, we will.” She gave Max a little wave and left the room swiftly. Well, she certainly didn’t waste any time there.
Jacob set the tea down on the bedside table. He looked to Max, frowning slightly. “I was scared you would die.”
Max moved closer, snuggling into his side, resting his head on his shoulder. “And I thought you were dead, my dear… We’re all lucky I didn’t raze London trying to find you.”
“How did you?”
“Jack played games with me and Evie. We assassinated a couple of his people. It drew him out in the worst way.”
Jacob closed his eye, hanging his head. “Who was the last?”
“Just a woman… Not one of us. He did heinous things to her.”
“Who was he by the end…?”
“I don’t know.”
Jacob rested his head atop Max’s, breathing in and out. Staring forwards, thoughts rattled in his brain. Thoughts of the worst, and how this was the best-case scenario. They were still alive. Jack couldn’t complete his plan because Max and Evie were better than him, in every way. For the first time in over a month, pressed against Max, Jacob finally felt safe.
“We need to get a doctor to look at that eye,” Max said after a while. “There could be an infection.”
“I know… I’m not entirely sure what he did to it.”
“We’ll work it out. And if it can’t recover, there have been plenty of Assassins who used eyepatches in the past.”
Jacob chuckled softly. “I think I would look good with an eyepatch.”
“You’d look dashing and dangerous.”
“A good combination.”
Max huffed a laugh. “Always.”
“Can we… lie down and just… hold each other? I need you,” He closed his eye, breathing deeply, “so much.”
“I need that too.”
Max got under the covers, cuddling up to Jacob as he turned on his side, lowering himself down. They tangled their legs together as they moved closer, leaving little space between them. Jacob pushed his forehead into Max’s neck, while Max curled his arms around his back, rubbing soothingly. Instantly, he felt a little better. Wrapped up and warm, in his husband’s arms.
“We’re still here…” he whispered, only just beginning to believe it.
“Yes, my dear, we’re still here.”
As he drifted back off to sleep, he knew everything was going to be okay. For the first time in almost a year.
Horton tilted his head back and forth, thinning his lips, taking a closer look before stepping back. He’d already had an in depth look at it with a magnifying glass, though, Jacob doubted it made much difference, due to how swollen it was. He was a good doctor though, and someone they trusted. Many years ago, Jacob and Max had befriended him at the pub. He tended to treat people if there had been a raid at any of the discreet ballrooms.
“Well, I can certainly say there isn’t an infection,” he said, eventually.
“Oh thank god,” Max whispered, grasping Jacob’s hand, pulling it into his lap. He was sitting cross legged on the bed, next to him.
“Will the eye heal?” Evie asked, brushing her fingers over her mouth.
“From what you told me, Jacob… I’m very sorry, you will never be able to see through it again. Although, it will certainly heal, and still be there.” Horton narrowed his eyes. “It’s frankly amazing you’re here at all. The knife could have easily pierced your brain.”
Jacob hunched his shoulders. Well, he had worked that out when sitting alone in his cell. It came as no surprise, but the truth still hurt. “I don’t know where I’ll be without it.” He swallowed thickly. “I suppose I shouldn’t complain, I’m alive, that’s what matters.”
Max squeezed his hand. “It’s still your eye, darling.”
“I’d rather be blind in one eye than not be here at all.”
Evie scowled, pacing slightly. “You can’t do anything?”
“No, Dame Evie, unfortunately, I can’t.”
“Right.” She stopped, leaning back against the wall. “He will be alright regardless?”
“He will.” Horton looked back to Jacob, tilting his head. “Your other injuries should heal within a month. I’m truly sorry about your eye.”
Jacob waved dismissively with his free hand. “It’s fine… I haven’t seen out of it for an entire month, I had guessed it was damaged beyond repair.”
“Still, I hate to be the bearer of bad news.”
“I can get an eyepatch and tell everyone in the pub I lost it in a bet, they will all be so confused.” He chuckled to himself, he could make light of the situation, if he really tried. “There are benefits to this.”
Horton picked up his bag and put his hat back on. “I’ll take your word for it.” He nodded to him and Max. “Have a good day.” He turned to Evie. “And you too, Dame Evie.”
“Thank you, for helping, Horton,” Max said, smiling faintly. “Your pay is in a pouch by the door.”
“Oh, there’s no need–”
“Take it, please. We asked for you on your day off.”
Horton tipped his hat downwards in a thank you. “I hope to see you back at the pub soon.”
“We will be,” Jacob said quickly. He had missed going out, seeing everybody. Even if he wasn’t ready yet, he would be, soon.
With another nod, Horton walked out of the room, leaving them in a weird silence. Grieving over an eye. Jacob was bothered over it, upset, but he had accepted this reality during the long hours he spent in that cell. But to Max and Evie, it must have been more of a shock.
Evie moved to the edge of his bed, sitting upon it. She heaved in a breath, sighing loudly. “Your… eye… He took your eye…!”
Jacob fiddled with the covers, he certainly did. He glanced to Evie, trying to give her a reassuring smile, but she was staring dead ahead. As if she was too angry at what Jack had done to look at the damage. “It’s not the best outcome, I know… But Jack beat me close to death on several occasions, I’m lucky to be here with only a lost eye. It could be so much worse. And anyway, I have a spare eye, it’s not all bad.”
Evie huffed a laugh, shaking her head. Slowly, she looked to him, smiling sadly. “I suppose it isn’t as bad as it seems. You still have your humour, after all.”
“And where would we all be without it?” he boomed, laughing to himself. Max and Evie chuckled along with him. “Nowhere, I say.”
Max leant his head on Jacob’s shoulder, grinning up at him, still holding his hand loosely. “Life would be duller without it, my dear. Your sense of humour and sarcasm are crisp and always beautifully refreshing.”
Jacob barked a laugh, cupping Max’s cheek. “What a sweet way to put it. But we all know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”
“Anyone who truly believes that is the lowest form of human.”
With another laugh on his lips, he kissed the top of Max’s head, beaming. Trust him to raise his spirits in an instant. “If you say so, love.”
“I do say so.”
Evie stared adoringly at them. As if she was admiring what she’d witnessed. “You have such a strong relationship. Even with all the shit you have been through this past year.”
Max lifted his head, sitting back against the headboard. “This may have tested us to our limits, but just being together is testing society. We have lived in fear of being found out for two decades. It’s strong because we had to be in the first place.”
Jacob squeezed Max’s hand. That was… very true. The secrecy of their relationship allowed them to learn what risks were worth taking, which in turn had allowed them to work so well during… all of what happened. “Society is unforgiving for people like us. We live so intensely that every day can be a struggle for a relationship like ours to survive… But here we are, after twenty years. It’s been hard work, but that’s what love is about.”
“I couldn’t imagine having to hide so much of my life away.” Evie picked at the covers. “It’s not fair.”
“It’s not,” Max said, sorrowfully, “but at least we have places to go and people we can trust.”
She looked to them both, eyes questioning. “For people like you, fifteen years must be a long time to be married, and twenty years of being partners must be a long time too.”
“It is. And it isn’t often people share vows, they simply believe it can’t be done.”
Jacob thought about Adelaide and Viola, they had been together for eighteen years, and they had never once shared a vow like he and Max had. “I think it scares people. They believe that having a ceremony, even between themselves, would add another crime to the list. Because it is illegal, at the end of the day.” He smiled at Max, wondering where he would be without him. His life had been so full of love because of him. “To normal people, that’s terrifying.”
Max looked so lovingly at Jacob. “But to us, it’s hardly terrifying now. Not after so many years. It’s completely normal. Our love inspires others and makes them feel confident to pursue a relationship with another man, or another woman.”
Evie smiled slowly, grinning soon after. “Then I’m glad you found one another, and that you help people just by being together. You’re clearly very good for each other. I’m sorry I didn’t see that immediately, but I see now.”
Jacob beamed. “That means a lot, Evie, to the both of us.”
“I really mean it.”
“I know you do.”
“Shall we all hug now?” Max asked, chuckling.
Evie shook her head, laughing herself. “I’m not climbing on to the bed to try and hug you both.”
Jacob moved, tugging Max with him. “Then we’ll come to you!”
Max let go of Jacob’s hand, climbing round to one side of Evie, while Jacob shifted along the bed to her. (He was still weak, he didn’t want to injure himself any more than he already was, so he made no sudden movements). As they all sat on the edge of the bed, Evie wrapped one arm around Max and the other around Jacob. They both wrapped one arm around her, and she pulled them to her, so they were snuggled into her sides.
Jacob let out a small chuckle. “Isn’t this nice?”
Evie minutely shook her head. “You’re both ridiculous, I’m ridiculous.” She laughed softly. “It is rather nice though.”
“I think, it’s quite possible, we all crave very human interactions now that it’s all said and done,” Max whispered.
“I think, Max…” Jacob whispered back, “that you’re right.”
“Then I propose we hug regularly from here on out.” Evie smiled at the both of them. “If you agree, say Aye.”
“Aye,” they both said at once, smiling.
“Max…!” Jacob screamed, gutturally. The tears came quickly as he kept screaming. He was frozen on the spot, forced to watch the most gruesome and terrifying thing happen to his husband.
His heart lay on the floor, the blood flowing out of it, as the wound gushed, staining his waistcoat. He was already dead, tied to a chair and lifeless. While Jack stood triumphant, hand and knife dripping with blood. The sight caused Jacob to collapse down completely. Any energy he had was gone, and his screaming devolved into sobs as he cried relentlessly. Max was dead… he was really dead. Killed by a monster, right in front of him.
Jack approached Jacob quickly, kneeling by him. The cloth was plastered to his head, twisting as he smiled. He reached forward with his hand, a sharp gauntlet upon it. He needed no knife to plunge into Jacob’s chest, ripping his heart from it.
He breathed heavily, staring at his own heart with wild eyes. Jack inched his knife towards the arteries and veins, laughing heartedly.
Jacob bolted up, screaming. As he quickly adjusted to his environment, he realised that he was very much alive. That there was no blood anywhere. Next to him, Max was stirring from his sleep, opening his eyes. Jacob tried to slow his breathing, but the shock from the nightmare prevented him from doing so. The last thing he wanted was to worry Max.
But from the way he was looking at him, he’d already frightened him.
“Darling,” Max whispered, voice hoarse from sleep, “are you okay?”
Jacob scrubbed his face. “No…” He gestured vaguely to his head. “Nightmare.”
“Come here…” He lifted an arm, and Jacob lay back down, cuddling into him and laying his head on his chest.
Closing his eyes, he breathed Max’s scent in. He was real, alive, and here, with him. Being in his arms felt so much safer compared to his awful dream. It had been a cruel nightmare. The thought of Max being killed hurt at the best of times, but seeing what he saw in his dream… He was very glad for the fact that Jack was dead and couldn’t hurt them anymore.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“It was just… Jack, killing you, then me. It was so real.”
Max rubbed his hand up and down Jacob’s arm. “That is… terrifying, my dear. What can I do?”
“Hold me… please just hold me.”
“I’ve got you.” He pressed his hand against the side of Jacob’s head. The warmth was welcoming. “You’re alright, my dear, you’re safe.”
Jacob shook, despite knowing that they were both fine. The irrational part of his brain could only bring the nightmare to mind. “Outliving him… doesn’t end what he did to all of us. My own mind lets him haunt me.”
“With time that will fade, I know it will.”
“I hope you’re right. I don’t want him to be a looming force when he’s dead and gone.”
“He won’t be.” Max slowly began to massage his scalp. It calmed him immensely. “He can’t be… Your mind will heal.”
Jacob curled an arm around Max’s stomach, closing his eyes. “Will it all ever go back to the way it was?”
“I don’t think it can, but the Brotherhood is strong enough to recover and learn from this. And some of us will live with the scars it dealt.”
“And some of us will live without a left eye,” he said, chuckling quietly.
They lay there for a long while after that. The only sound in the room was their breathing. It calmed Jacob down completely. Being pressed up against Max helped, and having his head against his chest, having the constant reminder that he was alive and breathing, helped too. Despite what his mind would rather tell him in his dreams, they were both alive, and their hearts were certainly within their chests.
Safe and sound.
“Max…?” he whispered.
“Yes, my dear?”
“If this year has taught me anything it’s that… I wouldn’t know how to live without you.” He squeezed his eyes tightly closed; the mere thought cut him at his core.
Max grasped Jacob’s left hand, brushing his thumb over his ring. “As long as you wear this, I will always be with you,” he recited easily.
“If you live to our old age…”
“Don’t make me think about that, please.” He entwined their fingers, holding loosely. “It’s possible I could go before you, but I will be with you, no matter what, my dear.”
“Do not fret about the future. We’re here, now, concentrate on that.”
Jacob sighed, thinning his lips. He shouldn’t have brought it up, but he did fear it, the future. Losing Max would be like losing himself, after so many years. “Okay… okay.”
Max kissed Jacob’s hand, his ring finger specifically. “We have been through hell, my darling, but we made it out. Let us live in peace.”
Jacob raised his head, smiling softly down at Max. “I won’t bring it up again, I promise.” He lightly kissed his cheek. “I love you.”
Max cupped his jaw. “I love you too.”
He rested his head back down on his chest, and Max held him, until they both fell asleep. Jacob didn’t have another nightmare, thankfully. Being wrapped in Max’s comfort allowed for a peaceful rest. And that brought hope. It was very possible that he could recover from this mentally unscathed. His eye was another matter entirely, but he would get used to that. He was truly warming to the idea of an eyepatch.
It would all be alright.
Jacob adjusted his eyepatch for the umpteenth time. He was still getting used to having something covering his left eye. The swelling had decreased, revealing the mess that his eye now was. It would surely take months to heal, but then, he wouldn’t see it often from now on. The eyepatch would be a fairly permanent accessory. Still, the newness of it annoyed him.
He was sitting in the living room of the first terrace, along with Max and Evie (although she was standing). Some of the initiates had begun to arrive, greeting them before returning to their rooms. Some were very excited to see Evie, while others said hello and didn’t seem too bothered. Mostly, that was to do with who had gone to India and who had stayed. It was strange to think a quarter of the children that went to India were now dead. Five dead versus the fifteen that were still alive. It didn’t seem like a lot, but emotionally and through figures, five was a large chunk of their people. Even if one of those five killed the other four.
They all seemed very happy to be back, but there was a bleakness, a sadness to their moods.
While things could return to normalcy, they had a lot of grieving to do. The way they had done their work for the last fifteen years would change as well. Fear could no longer be a technique. That change paired with all the grief… Well, the Brotherhood would certainly have a period where they weren’t as strong as before. Hopefully, they would all get used to the pain this year had brought.
Walter walked into the room, kitted out in his dark wine-red outfit. His particular style had Indian influences as well as a very British, very London style. As if someone took Evie’s clothing and merged it with Jacob’s old outfit from 1868. His techniques used to feature fear in terms of making people scared by taking out targets they had talked to only a minute before. A blend of old and new without the tools the new demanded.
Perhaps that was a better way to do things, if people truly wanted to use fear against their enemies.
“Evie!” Walter half shouted as he saw her. “You’re here!”
She smiled, tilting her head. “I am. I’m afraid I don’t recognise you now that you’re grown.”
He stepped towards her, holding out a hand. She shook it. “I’m Walter. Walter Hill.” He beamed at her. “You were such an inspiration to me in India that I modelled myself off you.”
“I’m charmed. It’s nice to know I inspired you.”
“If it wasn’t for you, I’m sure I wouldn’t be as good as I am.” He glanced to Jacob. “Do you approve of her techniques?”
Jacob sat up straighter, furrowing his brow. “I haven’t thought about it, to be honest.” He twisted his mouth. “I would say no… because of the evidence of what can happen and the chemistry to back it up.”
Walter swayed back and forth. “Uhh, yeah, I suppose that makes sense. You are the last person who would endorse them.” He gestured to Evie. “Would you stop using them?”
“After everything I have seen… yes.” Evie folded her arms, sighing. “We have never had this problem in India, as far as I know, but seeing what could happen… I can’t bear to look at the bombs anymore.”
“Right.” Walter smiled. “Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind.” He turned, cupping his hands behind his back. “The others were getting testy about the distant news that Evie was using the fear techniques. But I’ll keep them in order for you, Jacob.”
“The letter explained Jack had caught you… He took your eye?” He gave Jacob such a sympathetic look.
“I’m blind in it.” Jacob touched the eyepatch once again. “Hence this.”
“It suits you, in a way. You’re like a rugged too old to take any shit kind of Assassin now.” Walter chuckled to himself, albeit a little nervously. But his eyes got serious very quickly. “I’m glad you survived, and I’m sorry he took your eye. What he did to all of them, and you, proves that he was nothing but a coward. I hope you know that.”
Max leant forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Trust me, Walter, we know. A wolf in sheep’s clothing that in the end behaved too much like a sheep to really be a wolf.”
He thinned his lips, nodding. “Yes, Maxwell, that’s brilliant. Let’s think of that bastard in the worst way possible. And let’s forget his name, he never existed as far as I care.”
Jacob huffed a bitter laugh, though, it wasn’t directed at Walter. “That’s easier said than done for some of us.”
“But it can be done. London will remember him; we don’t have to.”
“Good point. I suppose we do have to let this go eventually.”
“Not yet. It’s too soon for that now, but in a year, in two, we should.” Walter went to step away but stopped. “When the grief is gone, light will shine on us again. And then this Brotherhood can continue normally.”
Evie smiled softly. “Those are wise words, Walter.”
“Thank you.” His lips curled in a sad smile. “I’m glad you’re all okay.” He nodded to them. “I’ll see you later.”
As Walter left the room, a couple other initiates came in, saying hello and wishing Jacob a speedy recovery. It went on like that for another hour before all the initiates had greeted them. They hadn’t come all together, taking different routes, or going to see people before they came home. Some had even expressed that they would go back to see George soon, mentioning that he had been very welcoming and entertaining. (Which had come as a shock for both Jacob and Evie).
As Jacob stood, he touched his eyepatch again, finding it far too strange.
Max sighed. “You’ll never get used to it if you keep touching it as if it’s going to eat you.”
Jacob tilted his head, looking to Max as if he’d spat at him. “It’s weird. There’s something covering my eye… and it feels like it shouldn’t. I can touch it if I want to.”
“That wasn’t what I meant, dear.” He stepped close, curling an arm around his waist. “If I take your mind off it for a couple hours, I’m sure you will get used to it much quicker.”
Evie quirked an eyebrow, smirking. “Oh, you’re going to take his mind off it, are you, Maxwell?”
Max rolled his eyes. “I didn’t necessarily mean like that.” He turned to Jacob, smiling faintly. “Although, if you’d like…?”
“Not yet, let me heal more first.” He leant into Max, placing an arm at his back. He would forever appreciate being able to feel his husband’s warmth again. “But we could finish that book we started months ago.”
“Can we start from the beginning? I’d forgotten all about it.” Max grinned. “I remember it being brilliant, though.”
Jacob turned his head, kissing Max’s temple. “Yes, we can start from the beginning. I don’t remember half of it now.”
Quickly, as if scared someone could walk in, Max kissed the corner of his mouth. “Then it’s a plan.”
Evie chuckled at them, sitting in the armchair opposite. “You two are quite the pair. Have fun.”
They both smiled at her, saying, at the same time, “we will.”
Max sat down, handing a newspaper to Jacob. They read through the first few pages together, catching up on all the news. Keeping a constant eye on London could be difficult at times, so if anything strange popped up in the newspapers, then they tended to investigate. But it had all been relatively calm over the last four months.
The station was getting quite busy as the next train rolled up. Jacob checked the time… Two o’clock. Not quite the train they were waiting for. It was due in half an hour, and it was safe to say, Jacob was excited. It had been a year and three months, pretty much a lifetime in terms of all that had happened, and how much he missed him.
But now, Emmett was coming home. Jacob had sent a letter to update him, in November – essentially saying he was fine, that Max was too, that Emelia and Avis had also died, and that his auntie Evie was now in town. He shortly got a reply saying that he would return in a few months, as he had a bout of training to complete. And now, in April, the day of his return had come.
After everything, he couldn’t wait to see his son again. Max had been jittery all week, positively excited that Emmett was coming home. They both wished for him to stay, for at least a few years, just to have him there and close. Maybe they were being protective, but that was bound to happen. And if he wanted to, when he was older and his skills were more refined, he could go off and help other Brotherhoods. After all, plenty of cities and countries had Templars at the helm.
And Emmett had expressed his passion for the continent many times.
“Almost time,” Max murmured as the minutes ticked down. “I can’t wait to hold him again and know he’s safe.”
“I know…” Jacob fiddled with his thumbs, smiling slightly. “It’ll be good to talk to him, face to face, see him grin and hear him laugh. See all he’s learnt and what he still needs to develop.” He placed his hand at his heart. “I’ve missed him so much.”
Max let out a long-winded breath. “I know… I’ve missed him to the point where it felt like my heart would burst.”
He reached out, discreetly brushing his thumb over the back of Max’s hand, quickly returning his hand to his lap after. “He’ll be with us soon.”
The minutes seemed to slow as two-thirty got closer. The excitement kept building, causing Jacob to almost bounce in his seat. By the time the train rolled into the station, all he wanted to do was run and find Emmett. To pick him up and hold him tight. But he stayed sitting, somehow. Through sheer force of will, really.
As the passengers flooded out, Emmett appeared quite suddenly, holding his bag tight in his hand. He lit up as his eyes landed on them, rushing towards them. Jacob and Max stood in an instant, practically catching Emmett as he ran into their arms, dropping his bag and curling one arm around Jacob and the other around Max. Jacob barely had time to register what had happened as Emmett stepped back quickly.
His smile faded slightly as he glanced to Jacob’s eyepatch. “Seeing is different to reading. Are you okay, Father?”
“I’m fine, I promise.”
“Good.” He grinned as he looked between them both. His skin was slightly tanned, he’d clearly been soaking up far too much sun. So much for working in the dark. “I skipped over a greeting.” He chuckled to himself. “Hello, Father. Hello, Uncle Max.”
Max stepped towards him, pretending he was about to pinch his cheek. To which Emmett put up his hand to block him. Max laughed, heartedly. “Hello, my boy, you’re looking well.”
“I am well.”
“Glad to hear it.”
Jacob ruffled Emmett’s hair, gleeful as he scowled. If Max couldn’t embarrass him, he certainly could. “And you look far more grown up.”
“Just wait until you see me in action. Then you’ll see how much I have truly developed.”
“I can’t wait.” He angled his head. “Shall we go?”
“Not yet. I have something to give you.”
Emmett dug into his pocket, pulling the shilling from it. “I believe this is yours.” He handed it to Jacob, half forcing it into his hand. “As long as you breathe, you will wear that necklace, Father.” He smiled. “It’s part of you.”
“It will be yours one day, Emmett.”
Jacob nodded, grinning as he put the necklace back on. To wear the shilling again, feeling the cool metal against his skin, was wonderful. He had missed it. But when he feared death, he knew who it had to go to. And since he knew that now, he had to amend his will.
“That’s better,” Max said, clearly resisting the urge to wrap his arms around Jacob. “You didn’t quite look like yourself without it.”
“I suppose I have worn it for a long time… You’re right, Emmett, it very much is a part of me.”
Emmett grinned. “Good, I’m glad we settled that. Now, let’s go, I’m starving.”
Both Jacob and Max chuckled as they all began to make their way to their house. They wouldn’t be going to the terraces, not until later. First, they wanted to get Emmett settled in. There was also the fact he had to meet Evie. It was strange to think he’d never once met her, but now was that time. Everything had finally lined up in order for it to happen.
Once they arrived at home, Emmett sprinted up the stairs. There was a large bang on the ceiling before he came running back down, hands empty. So… that bag was much heavier than it looked. Evie appeared at the living room doorway, smirking.
“What was that noise?” she asked.
Emmett rubbed his neck, laughing. “I have about twenty different sets of throwing knives in my bag. I shouldn’t have really thrown it across my room.”
She chuckled as she said, “I’m Evie, your auntie.”
“I figured.” Emmett stepped towards her. “You look so much like father.”
“We are twins.”
“You’re non-identical. Siblings don’t always look alike.”
Evie glanced to Jacob. “Did you teach him everything about genetics?”
Jacob grinned, acting innocently as he batted his eyelashes. “No… It might have been Charles… and Max… and me…”
Max gently elbowed him in the stomach, shaking his head. “Don’t blame me for his obsession with biology.”
“You taught him too!”
Emmett cleared his throat, glaring at them both before looking back to Evie. “When I was a child, around five, Charles taught me a thing or two… When he died, Jacob continued my teachings. And Uncle Max helped.”
Evie smiled. “I suppose it’s a good thing, especially in our line of work. You need to be able to spot who might be related.”
He nodded. “It does help.”
“I’m excited to get to know you, Emmett. I’ve only heard the best of things.”
“Oh, I’m sure father brags about me far too much.”
“Trust me, he does.”
“Hey!” Jacob called out, exasperated. “You say that as if it’s a bad thing.”
“Not bad, Father, just interesting. Uncle Max is worse.”
Evie nodded a little too much, laughing slightly. “You’re most certainly correct about that.”
“I’m not afraid to admit it’s true,” Max said blatantly.
“I don’t mind,” Emmett said quickly. He smiled at all of them. “I’d rather have people who are proud of me than people who aren’t. And Uncle Max… you’re like a second father to me, it’s your job to brag about me. Even if everything you say isn’t true.”
Jacob’s heart panged at Emmett’s words. If only they could tell him. If he saw Max in such a way, the way he should see him, then maybe they could tell him… Maybe it would be safe to. They had never taught him to hate people like them, and had always taught him to rebel against what society told him…
Max glanced to him; his eyes hopeful. He’d been thinking along the same lines then… He tilted his head slightly and… Well, now seemed a good a time as any to try it. Jacob nodded, in the hope that Emmett would finally see them for who they truly were. For who Max truly was, not like a father, or like an uncle, but his actual father, along with Jacob. Complete equals in his care. He wanted it so badly.
“Emmett… my boy,” Max began, his voice choking up, “we should tell you something.”
Evie gaped at them, as she clearly realised what was happening. She took a step back, leaning against the wall. Emmett, on the other hand, looked very confused. He furrowed his brow, shaking his head and shrugging, as if asking Max to continue.
“We’re…” He gestured to Jacob and himself, “in a relationship. And while Jacob is your biological father, we raised you in the mindset that I was also your father.” He sucked in a breath, shaking a little. Jacob stepped forward, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.
Emmett opened his mouth slowly, staring with wide eyes. “You’re in a relationship…? Like… partners? Like a woman and a man would be?”
“For how long?”
“We’ve been together for twenty years,” Jacob said quickly, trying to hide the fear in his voice.
“And you had me as your child, like any other family?”
He smiled slowly. “I have two fathers…” He looked over his shoulder to Evie. “Did you know?”
“Yes, I’ve known for almost as long as they have been together.” She gave a tiny smile. “How does it make you feel?”
Emmett looked back to Max and Jacob. “You know I don’t think like society does on most subjects anyway. This is… good news for me. I’ve always wanted Max to be my father as well. That’s how it always felt and now… I know why.”
Max gave out a breath of relief, it sounded slightly wet, as if he was on the cusp of tears. “Oh, my darling boy, that makes me so happy.”
“It makes me happy too,” Jacob said, his eyes welling with tears. “We never should have doubted your openness. But I hope you understand why we didn’t tell you.”
“Of course I understand. Society hardly accepts working people, never mind people who love someone of the same sex.” He shrugged minutely. “I love you both. Thank you for telling me.”
Max and Jacob spread out their arms and Emmett came running to them, running into their warm embrace. He hugged them tightly as they wrapped their arms around him. Jacob closed his eyes, so glad that Emmett now knew. So glad he accepted them, and that he’d always truly wanted Max as a father too. It felt amazing. That their son finally knew them as they had always been. The truth had been shared and nothing bad had happened.
It was a very happy day all round. Emmett was home, he’d met Evie, and he knew Max was his father too. There was nothing that could top that. Nothing at all. The sheer elation the last couple hours had brought made Jacob one of the happiest men in London in that moment. Max surely felt the same.
As Emmett pulled out of the hug, probably finding the contact a little too much, he beamed at them, and they beamed back. Evie was grinning in the corner. And for the first time in a long time, everything felt bright again.
Jacob looked forward to the future.
“You hired a band?”
“Yep.” Jacob leant into the bar, smiling at Cooper. “I’ve made sure no police will be coming near here. Otherwise… they won’t get paid.”
Cooper raised an eyebrow. “How rich are you?”
Jacob took a sip of his beer. “No comment.”
It hadn’t taken much to scare the police away. A quick bribery and a flash of his hidden blade ensured they would come nowhere near. Not that he would hurt any policemen, not now, but he couldn’t risk the pub and everyone in it. For this night and this night alone, they were going to feel like everyone else, having fun with their partners, without fear.
Cooper poured another tankard of beer, placing it down next to Jacob. “Where did you find a band?”
“They’re the one from the Brick.”
Jacob nodded, sighing. “I know. That raid took so many of us.” He brightened up swiftly. “But we’ll celebrate in their honour. All of us deserve to dance with one another. All we need to do is shove all the tables and chairs out of the way.”
“Smith!” Cooper called.
Smith appeared from out back, grinning like a loon. “Yes, sweetheart?”
“Jacob’s got a band coming in a couple hours. We need to get the furniture shifted.”
“Marvellous!” He clapped his hands together. “Come on then, Jacob, let’s get moving.”
Cooper pointed to the spare beer. “And when is Maxwell joining us?”
Jacob smirked, draining his drink. “Give him a couple of minutes, he’s sorting out a group of still rogue Rooks.”
It may have almost been 1890, but some still decided to be on the wrong side of history.
“Oh, alright then. Should I expect blood?”
“Expect the unexpected?”
Cooper rolled his eyes in response. Smith gave out a hearty laugh, grabbing Jacob’s shoulder and tugging him over to a table. They stacked the chairs and carefully placed them along one wall, pushing the tables into the corners and turning some on their sides to lay on top of the rounder and bigger tables. The pub was quite big, even more so when the furniture was out of the way. And since it was in a quieter part of town, it didn’t garner too much attention. Mainly due to the fact it had no signage. It had been open for decades.
Without a band, they knew how to survive. With a band, it was all up for debate.
Hence, Jacob had done what he could to prevent a tragedy. He would resort to drastic measures if it came to that.
Max burst into the pub, wiping blood off his face with a handkerchief. “Bloody traitors.” He shook his head, coming up to the bar. Cooper gestured to the tankard he prepared before, and Max glugged it down in one.
Jacob helped Smith move the last table against the wall before going over to Max, smoothing a hand across his back. “How did it go?”
“They didn’t cooperate.” He extended his hidden blade, cleaning it. He tucked the handkerchief into his pocket once he was done. “So, I had to do what I had to do.”
Cooper huffed. “Please no talk of your work in here.” He nodded to a couple of women who had found a seat at one of the tables Smith and Jacob had left alone, at the back of the pub. “Some of my punters don’t like it.”
Max cracked a smile. “Consider it forgotten. There are better things to be thinking about today!” He raised his tankard, raising his eyebrows.
“Ah… The grand dance,” Smith said, making his way behind the bar. He grinned with glee as he placed a hand on Cooper’s shoulder. “I’m getting more excited as each minute passes.”
“It’ll be nice… to allow something more joyous than usual,” Cooper said, quietly.
Jacob grinned. “Do you want me to spread the word, or keep it to the regulars?”
Cooper rested his elbows on the bar, laying his head on his hands. “You said no police will raid us, right?”
“Bring as many as you can.”
Jacob tipped his hat. “I’ll do my best.”
He spent the next hour telling the Rooks he knew were like him about the pub, and the dance in particular. Some were delighted, running off to tell their friends about it. Others were timid, and no convincing could make them go close to a pub like that. Police or no police. Being in a gang didn’t mean people had courage when it came to this. Not with something as socially unacceptable as being queer or being caught doing queer things.
Anyhow, by the time he made it back to the pub, he’d gotten the word thoroughly spread.
And he was pleasantly surprised to see so many people inside. The pub usually got around six people in on a night like this. But tonight… there was easily twenty. And that wasn’t including him and Max. More would surely come as the evening set in. There would probably be around thirty to forty people if they got lucky. And there was just enough space to allow that many people to dance. After all, not everyone would go to dance, some would merely watch.
Being in an environment like this brought joy to any queer person, and that was a fact.
The band was slowly getting set up. Cooper had allowed them behind the bar, where it was most likely safest for them. They were grinning and laughing as they prepared for their performance. Cooper was keeping them entertained while Smith was supplying everyone in the pub with drinks.
In the chaos of it all, Max dragged Jacob over to the back, where it was less crowded.
“Can you believe it? All these people?” he said, gesturing to them all.
Jacob lit up. “I can, really. So many have to hide and for one night, we all won’t have to. There’s no threat.”
Max took his hand, entwining their fingers. “It’s wonderful.”
“It is, it really is.”
When the band had gotten themselves warmed up, they took a suggestion from Smith and began playing a slow starting piece. Jacob wasn’t too well versed in music, so he didn’t know what it was called, but the first few seconds sounded good enough for him.
Max removed his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and loosened his cravat. Jacob also stripped himself of his coat but kept his sleeves down, hesitating. Max tutted at him, and took Jacob’s arm, rolling the sleeve to his elbow easily. He did the same with the other, proceeding to take Jacob’s hand when he was finished.
He tugged them towards the dance floor people had created by standing at the side-lines. Jacob caught a glimpse of Horton in the corner, sitting on the lap of some bloke. And Adelaide along with Viola had already begun to dance around. Their form was brilliant. Their dresses swayed beautifully in time with the music.
Jacob and Max fell into the rhythm easily, and as they did so, more couples joined the floor. Jacob led this time around. Usually Max did, but today, it was Jacob’s turn to guide them through this dance. The music slowly began to speed up, so their footwork came quicker and quicker till they were gliding around the dance floor, getting completely lost in it all.
Staring into Max’s eyes as they went around and around, faster then slower, perfectly matching the music and keeping their footwork in line, was magical. Dancing wasn’t easy, it was a skill that had to be nurtured with the right person. They tended to dance regularly, even if it was while humming a tune in their own house. It was never anything special.
This, on the other hand, was completely special. All around them, surrounding every inch of the room, were people just like them. Some where there to meet new people, while others were taking the opportunity to dance with their partner properly. It was things like this that gave hope to people and made them feel at home. Safe and free.
The band seamlessly moved onto another song. This one started fast though, allowing everyone on the dance floor no break. But they didn’t need one when everyone was laughing and smiling, dancing around without a single care in the world.
Jacob grinned immensely as the music sped up to such a point, many struggled to keep up. But not him and Max, they had the stamina and agility needed to keep going. Being Assassins really did help when dancing, the skills were transferable. Making it easy to dance the whole night through, if they truly wanted.
“We might have to stop showing off,” Jacob whispered as the music began to calm the hell back down.
“Aw, darling, showing off makes it fun.”
They chuckled, almost losing footing. But they kept it together, by some force of will. The crowd, who had been making ‘OooooOooOoo’ noises, cheered. Probably because they had been so close to tripping over their own feet and falling.
“I love this,” Max said quickly as they spun into another bout of fast-moving footwork.
Jacob grinned, concentrating for a second before glancing to Max in such a loving way, that Max nearly froze on the spot. Their dancing was certainly becoming more chaotic the longer it went on. Gladly, their speedy performance could calm as the music came to a swift end. The band moved on to something much slower. Allowing them to sway and cool off for a second.
Other couples joined the floor now that the fast music was gone. All Jacob wanted to do now was wrap Max up in his arms and kiss him till the sun came up. As they swayed and moved slowly across the floor, Max gradually smiled.
“My dear, this was a fantastic idea.”
Beaming, Jacob inched them closer to the side-lines. “I do come up with great ideas, all the time.”
“Yes… You do, sometimes.” Max laughed softly at Jacob’s slight scowl. “I love when you pretend to be in a huff with me.”
He shook his head, spinning them to the very edge. “And I love when you pretend you can insult me.”
“We’re getting near to the audience; would you like to stop?”
“I want to sit with you, press against your side, and watch others dance for a while.”
The piece came to an end as both Max and Jacob stopped simultaneously. A few of the people making up the circle gave them pats on the backs as they went past. They retrieved their coats and lay them on the bar as they jumped up onto it. Cooper quickly supplied them with beers, giving them a wink and a slight thumbs up before returning to other customers. They chugged down their drinks, needing to replenish their fluids. Dancing really worked up a sweat.
Many more couples were on the dance floor, happily enjoying their time as they danced around, holding each other as close as possible. Tonight… was great for everyone involved. To those who had been brave enough to come. To those who had never danced with their partner like this. To everyone who could be themselves and not have to worry who would come knocking at the door.
It would only be another queer person coming to join in the fun.
Sitting on the bar (along with others) gave them a great view of all the brilliant dancing going on. Jacob curled his arm around Max’s waist, shifting closer to him. Max smiled, leaning his head on Jacob’s as they watched. The music was speeding up again, causing one couple to trip. It ended with them laughing heartedly, while a few of the audience helped them back up.
“It’s magical,” Jacob whispered.
“My darling, it’s the most wonderful thing I have ever witnessed.”
“So many of us, dancing, having fun… being themselves. It’s not often people like us get this.”
“I know.” Max took Jacob’s other hand, holding loosely. “And we helped make it happen.”
They kept watching, for a good few hours. Occasionally, they got distracted by kissing passionately. Though Cooper kept whacking them with a tea towel, claiming that they were distracting the audience. Emphasising that the focus of the night was on the dance, not ‘them two making the place into a damn brothel’, as he put it.
Of course, Cooper realised his mistake as soon as he’d said it. As Jacob went to retort that the pub had rooms for people, Cooper turned away and busied himself with customers. They both chuckled warmly, focussing back on the dancing. The couples were magnetic. Truly magnificent.
“One day this, people like us, it will all be so normal no one will ever believe it once wasn’t,” Max said, so hopeful that Jacob easily imagined such a future for the first time.
“Perhaps, then, their music will be even more romantic.”
“Or more sexual.”
Jacob barked a laugh. “I wouldn’t put it past people.” He squeezed Max’s hand, kissing him on the cheek, smiling into it. “I love you.”
Max pulled him into a sweet and gentle kiss, grinning as they parted. He gazed at Jacob so adoringly, so tenderly. “And I love you too, my dear.”
“I will never tire of hearing that.”
“Neither will I.”
They both smiled at each other, the joy of the evening flowed between them and while everyone watched the beautiful dancing, their love was clear for anyone to see. They came as a pair, and that would be true, forever.
Right till the end.
Staring into his eyes now, Jacob knew he had plenty of years left with Max. And he was going to enjoy every last one.
Thank you so much for reading!! I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it! ^.^
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