The fist crashed into the side of Malik's face hard enough to make his head jerk to the side.
He'd seen it coming, had known something like it would probably happen even before he answered the question of, 'give us the damn information' with 'I would except I don't know if I could put them into small enough words so you'd understand it'.
The man doing the questioning clearly did not make it to the position he was in through wits and, somehow, he'd managed to find helpers who seemed to possess fewer working brain cells than him (Malik had mentally dubbed them Meat Head One and Meat Head Two). They were, however, clearly very good at dealing out violence.
He'd braced for the impact as well as he could with his arms tied behind his back and Meat Head Two holding him still, but no matter how hard he clenched his jaw everything still rattled painfully at the punch and he could tasted blood.
It did nothing, however, to curb the defiance (mixed with no small amount of derision) on his face when he turns back to face the piggish man standing in front of him.
"You wanna say that again, you bastard?"
He shouldn't, really, because his entire body was already aching in far too many places in that tell-tale way that meant it was going to bruise. But it doesn't stop him from opening his mouth.
"Did you not understand me the first time?" He canted his head when the man's face flushed in anger, "Should I speak slower?" He makes sure to enunciate every word of the last question clearly.
That earns him a punch to his stomach courtesy of Meat Head One that made him double over as much as he could while Meat Head Two kept a tight grip on his arms.
"Your guard dog is dead." The words make something painful clench in his gut, and Malik is only too glad to keep his head down for now if only because he doesn't trust the expression on his face, "No one will come for you so you may as well talk before we decide you're not worth the trouble and dispose of you."
Malik breathes in, takes a slow (painful), steadying breath of air, before he looks back up.
"I'm sure if you could have, you would have done so already." But they needed him alive at least until they got what they needed from him. That much he knows from the way the man's face twists in fury at his words. "And I think you underestimate how hard it is to kill him."
Even if Malik wasn't sure if anyone could have survived that fall but holds onto the hope that if anyone could do it, it would probably be Altair.
You better not be dead, asshole.
The man snorted, looked amused instead of worried at Malik's words (but no one misses the way his hand twitches for the holster of his gun. Altair's reputation preceds him).
There is a brief lull as Malik's captor considers what his next move should be when someone knocked on the door. A nod and Meat Head One moves from where he's standing by Malik to open the door.
His conviction from before about Altair's survival were proven to be less sturdy than Malik would have everyone else think if the stab of relief when he comes through the door, looking none the less for wear, was any indication. Meat Head One was, perhaps, less glad about the whole affair seeing as Altair's first order of business was to slam his elbow across his jaw, then follow up by dragging him in to knee him in the face with unforgiving force.
The man, who was at least a head taller than Altair (and bulkier as well) crumpled on the ground, reminding the world again that bigger didn't always mean better.
In fact, 'bigger' meant very little in this situation not only because Altair was almost inhumanly good at what he does, there's a certain amount of fear commanded by a man who had fallen out of a helicopter in mid flight and apparently came out of it more or less unscathed. He was even still wearing the same suit though it was splattered here and there with flecks of blood and less pristine than it had been when Malik helped him do up his tie this morning (he's never actually sure if Altair really was that incompetent with anything that did not include maiming someone or if it was just another excuse to have Malik's hand on him).
In contrast, Malik was a mess of bruised skin and blood, his suit jacket disappearing somewhere between being knocked out and waking up to a face that was actually less awful than the sight of Altair falling from the helicopter.
It did nothing at all to even the odds and, in fact, stacked them even further in their disfavour. Because Altair's anger tended to bring his world to sharp, pinpoint focus and there was almost no stopping him when he got like that.
Malik's captor managed to pull out his gun after nearly fumbling it and, with anyone else those two seconds of time lost would may have been nothing.
With Altair, it was the difference between life and death.
The room was not that large, still it would have surprised anyone one witnessing it the first time to see Altair close the distance between the door and the man with the gun in such a short amount of time. And Malik knew it was game over the moment it happened.
("If you must be held at gun point," Altair had said once while holding one to Malik's forehead with the safety on, as if it were a choice like choosing what colour suit to wear that day, "Then you are safest when you are far away or at point blank range."
"I don't see how." Had been his reply and Altair only smirked, and with a flick of his wrist, offered the gun to him.
"I'll show you.")
The theory of it is simple.
First remove yourself from the line of fire. This is accomplished by twisting your body of the way and moving the hand holding the gun in the other direction. The trick then is not moving back but getting closer, keeping a firm grip on the hand and then--
("Anyone who follishly puts themselves this close is close enough to grab," Altair had continued mildly when he had disarmed Malik, and had him at gun point, again, "and close enough to attack.")
--then it's just a matter of knowing how fingers are not meant to bend then twisting the gun so that it's either let it go or losing a finger. He does not stop there, however, and he kicks out as he pulls back and there's a sharp crack when the man's knee gives out.
"We need him alive." Malik says mildly and pretends not to notice the way Meat Head Two's grip tightens to the point of pain.
It is amazing to watch Altair in motion, it is even more so when Altair changes the trajectory of his aim to shoot the man in the thigh instead of between the eyes. A fatal shot, but not immediately so and he could still be saved if it became necessary. A bargaining chip because Altair knows how Malik prefers to work. He aims for the leg that was unhurt.
They both ignore the man screaming on the ground as Malik cranes his head back.
"If you release me now I can convince him to not kill you."
It was not for the man's sake so much as for Altair's. Malik had promised himself, back when he'd realized that Altair did not relish dirtying his hands but would do it for Malik's sake, that he would do his best to avoid making him a murderer.
Either through coincidence or impeccable timing, Altair chooses that moment to turn towards them and Meat Head Two releases Malik with something close to a whimper.
He barely takes two steps forward before Altair was there, yanking him behind his body. They had called him Malik's guard dog and there was some truth to it, he supposed.
"Turn around." Malik orders and watches as he's obeyed with little to no question (though undoubtedly it wasn't because of him). He nods at Altair and it's two-three steps until he's close enough to knock the man out.
Altair opens the chamber of the gun with a click and removes all the bullets before discarding the weapon entirely. He had his own, after all. Malik doesn't flinch when he pulls out a knife, only turns so he could cut open the zip tie they used to tie his hands together.
"I taught you how to get out of these."
Malik only rolled his eyes as rubbed his wrists, "None of your methods involved how to get out of them if I was unconcious when I was bound or what to do when it's at my back." He made to step forward, but found himself restrained briefly when Altair put his arms around him.
The proximity of that knife to his body should not be reassuring, but few were the people Malik trusted more and he could not think of anything more reassuring than the warmth of Altair's body along his back.
He's released after a moment that was altogether too short: they still had work to do.
"Now," Malik straightens his shirt as much as he could as he walked towards the man still crying and blubbering to the side. "I have some questions I'd like to have answered."
~ + ~
"How did you even survive?" Malik asks later while Altair ran a warm cloth over his bruised skin with more gentleness than anyone would have assumed he was capable of. "You fell out of a fucking helicopter."
He's quiet now, but had been yelling at Altair when he realized that, not only had he come in ahead of the rest of the team, but also with a sprained ankle.
The corner of Altair's mouth turns up in a smirk, "were you worried?"
"No." He says flatly even though they both know it was a lie. He winces when too much pressure is applied to a tender spot on his chest and Altair bends to kiss it in apology. "Seriously. How did you manage to come out of that whole thing with a sprained ankle?"
It felt ridiculous that he could have fallen from such a height and ended up with only a sprain. (Not that he was complaining, but he all the same, he can't help but marvel at it.)
"Would you believe me if I said a pile of hay broke my fall?"
Malik did not and to show this he kicked Altair in the leg.
He found that it didn't entirely matter, right now. He would probably bother Altair about it again in the morning when he didn't ache all over the place and he wasn't so damn tired. He falls into a lull as Altair works over the bruises, drawn into a light dose by the gentle press of warm cloth to his skin.
He loses track of time and isn't sure how long it's been when Altair stops. He opens his eyes to see Altair frowning at him.
Malik sighs. He grabs one the hand holding the cloth and tugs to get his attention.
"You fell out of a helicopter." He reminds him again as if Altair might have forgotten, "given that, there's not much you could have done."
Altair lowers his eyes but not in acquiesce.
"It will not happen again."
And he was too tired because that was probably not supposed to be as funny as he found it.
"You falling out of a helicopter or my being kidnapped?" He asked as he tugged at Altair's wrist until he laid down beside Malik.
"Both." He said as he brushed a thumb over Malik's cheek.
(He'd done the same when he had promised aloud to Malik what he had promised himself long ago.
"I won't let anyone hurt you." The words had been whispered while they lay together between the sheets and Malik had accepted them even though he doubted it was a promise Altair could keep. The world Malik lived in was not without danger. It was a fact he had accepted from the beginning.
It did not mean that he didn't appreciate the sentiment.