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A World on Fire

Chapter Text

Part One

Prologue

"Epona!"

The cry is loud and unexpected after the constant clip-clop of hoofed feet on dirt and Desmond almost loses synchronization as he starts.

After days with only a horse for company, can you blame him?

He's currently in the animus, experiencing the tedious one week trip from Acre to Masyaf and he's so damn close to yanking his hair out in boredom.

He hates the trips to and from the cities more than when he's being chased by Templars and Guards or when he has to wait around in his room for Vidic to decided it's time for him to go back into the animus. It's like its own form of torture and he wonders if they're making him relive the trips on purpose.

Maybe if he would stop mouthing off to Vidic he’d be allowed to skip these parts of Altaïr's memories?

It's not so much that he has to spend one week—sometimes more—traveling that he hates, but that he spends the one week alone. Even though he's reliving Altaïr's memories, the Assassin's thoughts are cut off from him.

Sure, he can see, hear, and smell—fucking smell—everything Altaïr can but he can't relive the man's thoughts. Which is kind of odd if you ask him. Considering the animus makes him relive everything except that.

Guess not even millions of dollars and a high-tech machine can make you a mind reader.

Everything else is as clear as day though. He can feel Altaïr's annoyance when he becomes exposed, can hear the shouts of all the citizens as they scream in panic, and can smell some of the ones that desperately need a bath. It makes him wonder though; couldn't they have left the last one out?

Hell, the smell of horse is so strong that he's been smelling it in his sleep!

But that could be the bleeding effect…

The horse stopping rather abruptly draws his attention back to Altaïr's memories and, as he tries to spot what has caused such a sudden stop, he gets hit with an overwhelming sense of curiosity from the Assassin.

It has an underlying trace of irritation though and, when Desmond spots two figures standing at the entrance to the Masyaf gates, he realizes that he's arrived at his destination.

He’s arrived at the Great Assassin Stronghold.

One of the figures by the gate shoots forward and into the last rays of the dying sun as he climbs down from his horse—a black one with bits of white—a few feet away from them.

It's a girl and she's a petite, small thing but when she comes into focus Desmond can't look away. She is big, green eyes hidden behind thick, black glasses and pouty, pink lips with endless locks of brown hair that fall in loose curls down her back and, yet, she looks odd.

Her features too sharp, too real.

She doesn't look like a memory—Desmond can see the texture to her skin and clothing unlike the smooth surface of all the other objects in Altaïr's memories. The scenes the Animus projects around him are always smooth, almost blurry as the Animus struggles to pull them from the memories buried deep within his DNA.

But this girl isn’t a memory. She can’t be. Not when she looks so texturized, so detailed in a way only real things can. So he knows that if he reaches out he'll be able to feel the softness of her cheek.

Something's not right.

Desmond knows it—can feel it—but there's not much he can do about it. At least not without losing synchronization so instead he settles for unsaddling his horse just as the girl reaches them—reaches Altaïr.

"Oh, how mommy's missed you! How's my baby doing, huh? Did this mean old Assassin treat you well?"

Desmond starts, losing a bar of synchronization as the girl's words reach his ears. He's never heard anyone talk like that in this year. So he watches, confused, as the girl all but shoves him—Altaïr—aside in her haste to get to the now softly nickering horse.

How is she not afraid of the lethal Assassin even while knowing what he is?

Paying the very dangerous Assassin no mind, she throws her arms around the horse. She cuddles it, runs her fingers through it’s hair, and even goes as far as to kiss the damn thing.

 It's only then, as she showers the horse with attention, that Desmond realizes she's wearing a sweater. Though not just any sweater but one with a zipper—and a fucking Batman symbol on the front!

It's not right, not logical but all Desmond does is watch and wonder if the bleeding effect has finally gotten to him.

"I thought I told you to wait for me at home."

Home? Does Altaïr live with her?

The girl ignores Altaïr's words and shrugs off a bright turquoise backpack Desmond only just realizes she's carrying. He briefly spots the logo Jansport as the girl unzips her bag and pulls out a small bundle of carrots.

"No, you said to wait until you got back and you have," the girl says as she feeds the horse. "Besides, I wanted to make sure Epona was okay," she mumbles and Desmond eyebrows draw together in confusion at the name.

He's so sure that's not a common name in the twelfth century, pet or no. It's not Arabic, English maybe but certainly not Arabic.

"Jennifer."

Now that is certainly English.

"Oh calm down, it's not like we've been here long. We only just came through. Besides, Mother and Father want to know if you'll be joining us for movie night. We're watching Shutter Island," the girl chirps and this time Desmond can't keep himself synchronized.

It’s too much.

He shoots up in utter surprise, shattering the glass screen of the animus as his head collides with it while he gasps for breath. Blood trails from various scratches on his face but he ignores them as he rolls off the animus and scuttles across the room.

He can hear Vidic and Lucy yelling over his gasps but can't reply because he's still mentally stuck in Masyaf 1191, still looking down at the petite, brown-haired girl with the too big glasses resting on her tiny nose.

"Jennifer."

He's still stuck on Jennifer and movie nights in Masyaf, 1191.

What the fuck!?