The last time he kills Nicolo di Genova is with faithful might and almighty purpose, skewering him between two ribs and driving his scimitar as deep as he can, twisting the hilt.
He doesn’t know it’s the last time he’ll ever kill this man when he does it.
He presses in against him, whispering his prayers that he will finally put an end to this man’s life. This close, the warmth of him is oppressive, but it firms his resolve. He twists the scimitar and knows that it is done.
Yusuf staggers back, falling to his knees as he cleans his scimitar. He’s lost track of how many times he’s killed his enemy, but something about this time feels different. It has a finality to it that he wants to see through. Reverently, he wipes the blood from the weapon and watches as his enemy lies on the ground.
He is still.
Like this, there is something celestial about him. Yusuf tells himself it is his God’s will, that his purpose is fulfilled.
Until the silence breaks to the sound of wet coughing, blood staining the ground. The enemy spits words he doesn’t understand at him, but Yusuf doesn’t need language to understand what the look in his eyes says.
How many more times is he going to try?
The enemy has stopped trying to kill him.
Maybe it’s time for Yusuf to stop as well.
Maybe. Maybe, but why else would they be brought together? Why else, but for this?
It is years later. Andy has yet to find them, and they’re still on their own.
He has yet to leave Nicolo’s side. They were brought together for a purpose, though Yusuf has yet to decide what that is. There is still the bitter animosity between them as they learn this new life and one another. They pick up each other’s languages, they even pick up some of their habits.
The difference is they’ve stopped killing each other.
(They haven’t noticed this yet)
It’s not until they’re in a fight and old habits kick in. Yusuf doesn’t reach for his scimitar, though. It stays safely tucked away as he moves on Nicolo. He doesn’t even know what started it or who did, he only knows that they’re fighting and something has to happen.
Yusuf’s hands grab at the fabric of Nicolo’s shirt. The linen is blood stained with all the attempts on his life he’s made before, littered with tears, and bear evidence to an impossibility -- that this man has been killed and this man will not die.
In all this time trying to kill him, Yusuf keeps trying to tell himself that the next time will take.
Destiny cannot have led him to this man for no reason.
He is to be his death some day. Somehow. They are intertwined, and Yusuf will understand why, but until then, he will keep Nicolo close and his life in his hands. It’s his to take and no one else’s.
Even if they’ve become unlikely allies, he knows there is a reason that they were given to one another. This close, it seems as if Nicolo understands what’s coming next. Yusuf has learned just enough Italian now to recognize Nicolo’s words.
“How many more times are you going to try this?” he whispers, breath hot against Yusuf’s jaw as his stormy eyes flicker over his face, almost resigned for what will happen next.
It brings up a fire in him he’s never felt before. Who is Nicolo to ask him that? Who is he to suppose he knows him that well? How can he think that what they have is over just because it hasn’t worked yet.
His fist balls up at the space between two ribs where he’d once buried his weapon. This time, instead of stabbing him, he splays his fingers over his side and pins Nicolo to the clay-baked wall of the house behind them. “Maybe we try something different,” he retorts in broken Italian.
Yusuf presses him in, one hand to his hip, the other achingly hard against his ribs as he kisses Nicolo like he needs to learn a new way of fighting.
The enemy bites back.
There’s blood spilled from Yusuf’s lip, but it heals within seconds. Grinning, he wipes away at it with the back of his palm, cursing at Nicolo in his tongue. Nicolo tangles his fingers in Yusuf’s hair and painfully yanks him in for another kiss, as if he’s discovered that this is equally as good as trying to kill one another. He tastes blood in Nicolo’s mouth for the briefest of seconds and thinks that maybe Nicolo is right.
Maybe trying the same thing again and again has no point.
Yusuf stares at Nicolo in wonderment, even if the thing inside him that fuels him to knock Nicolo back against the wall until his shoulders scrape is a bitter and twisting thing that yearns for dominance and wants to feel. It’s not kind, it’s not gentle; it’s all-encompassing in a way he’s never felt before.
Yusuf learns about himself anew in the kisses he and Nicolo share, biting and scraping and healing until the sun goes down and the night creeps in.
Neither of them will be the cause of one another’s death, not from this day.
It’s time for them to try something new. It’s time for them to face this world together.
It turns out that destiny did lead Joe to Nicky, but for a much better purpose.
He’s not going to be the death of him. He’s going to be his whole damn life.
“You’re far away again,” Nicky murmurs, brushing back a strand of Joe’s hair from his forehead. His touch is soft and steady. His tone is filled with warmth and hope. This man fits with him in ways that only his God must have known about, when he delivered them to one another. This man is his, and he is Nicky’s.
Joe basks in the warmth of Nicky’s body, wrapping himself around his body, holding on tight. “I was in the past.”
“Come back to the present. It’s better here,” Nicky mumbles. “We have a nice big TV and beer.”
Joe presses a kiss to the base of Nicky’s neck, shedding off the skins of Yusuf and Nicolo, of old enemies, and falling right into their destiny together. “How can I resist you?” he teases. “Here I am. Present and ready for the future.”
Whatever that may be.