Chapter 1: Eyas
February 1797, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
Baltimore in the winter could be terribly cold. It was especially cold that winter as Micheal rode his horse into the city, every breath smoke that managed to make it past his muffler. He was dressed in a smart coat and hood of the Order that protected him from the fat white flakes that drifted down to the ground in slow arching spirals from the slate colored sky, His cheeks were red from the cold but he was in high spirits despite the chill as his horse, a fine roan mare named Shear, clopped down the road, tail swishing and turning over the light cover of snow.
He wound his way through the familiar streets of Baltimore, soaking in the sights and sounds of the city, which wasn’t even halted even though it was cold and snowing and people and horses and wagons and carts were moving here and there in the normal passage of city life, going this way and that, boys running all over or yelling at passersby to buy the daily paper. Micheal just passed them by as he headed towards one of the wealthy neighborhoods in the city. Though really wealthy was a more relative term here in the States. After the Revolution most people were poor, even the nation was poor. But it was worth the slow travel and pain that accompanied their freedom from the British Empire to become a new nation all in their own rights, one younger than Micheal was old.
He slid off Shear when he reached his destination, a building with a red door set into a black frame. The shutters on the first floor were closed tightly, but those on the second were arranged open or closed at their leisure. At the top third and top story there were no shutters to even close, but curtains, and only because he knew who lived here did he know that the windows on the top floor opened from the top, the bottoms bolted into the frame.
Micheal led Shear to a small common stable a few yards from the door. It was warm within and smelled of hay and horses. He saw her to an empty stall and removed her tack and rubbed her down before leaving her to rest. They’d had a long journey and she deserved a vacation as much as he did.
The red door was unlocked and he pushed it open. The bottom floor was empty, the doors all taken off of their frames, and the place spotless of even a gathering of dust. Micheal flooded up the stairs to the second floor, from which he could hear the sound of inhabitants moving around their homes. He ignored this floor too in favor for the third, taking the stairs three at a time. Here the walls were painted the color of paper and the carpets on the floor were the color of blood over darkly stained hardwood. It was at once familiar and Micheal smiled.
The den leader’s office door was ajar and he bounded over to it excitedly and he rapped his knuckles quickly on the dark door. “I’m busy, go away,” the den leader called from inside.
“You won’t make an exception for me?” he called back, a mischievous grin stretched across his lips.
Seconds later the door was wrenched open. “Micheal!” the den leader cried and wrapped him a delighted hug. “Oh, my boy, this is the most wonderful surprise this old woman has had in a long while,” Sarah Hart, his mother, said cheerfully.
Micheal laughed and held his mother at arm’s length. Her brown hair was more grey then it had been since the last he saw her but she was still as radiant and healthy as ever. “You’re hardly old, mama,” and he kissed her cheek. She beamed at him and gently stroked his own brown hair, much darker than her own. She said he had his father’s hair, the man he’d never met. He pushed the thought from his mind. He chose not to think of the dead. Especially over a dead man he’d never met.
“Oh my sweet boy, you flatter me,” she cooed and gave his reddened nose a playful tug, Micheal smiled at her. “Come in,” and she beckoned him within her office. His mother had been the den leader in Baltimore since he could remember, he’d grown up in this city, only leaving for the Point when he was twelve for training with a few other boys from Baltimore who’s parents were of the Order. “Now let me get a good look at you lad,” she tutted a bit and he pushed down his hood and pulled off his muffler so she could properly see his face. She smiled, almost sadly, at him, “Handsome as ever, when are you going to bring a lovely lady for me to meet eh?”
“Mama,” he groaned, sagging a little. She just laughed. “I am busy,” he sighed.
“Yes, yes. Sit,” she ordered, and never one to disobey his mother, or a den leader (heaven forbid both) he sat on one of the chairs opposite her desk. She hummed and walked past him, running a hand through his messy dark hair as she did and went into the adjoining room which was also her home, his old one. She came back a moment later with a bowl of warm stew and gave it to him. He chuckled, his mother did love to spoil. “Now,” she sat on her desk before him, sprite as one of his sisters back at the Point, “what brings you home?”
He answered once he swallowed, “I was heading back to the Point from Jamestown,” he said and spooned another bite of warm soup into his mouth. “I decided to visit.”
“What were you doing in Jamestown?”
He frowned a little but reached into a pouch and pulled out a feather. It was an old practice within the Order that had recently come back into practice. Apparently an old book from the days of the Crusades had made it into the hands of the Mentor in America, for now proof of the kill was required. Such things had not been done for centuries, but most found it nice to return to the old ways. Micheal had no opinion on it, but it meant that most assassinations could now no longer be done simply from a distance, they had to be conducted on a more… personal basis, much like they had been done back then. His feather was bloodied.
“Ah,” of course his mother understood and he put it away. “But why you? Aren’t there Assassins in the South who could have handled it?”
He shrugged, “I don’t ask. I just do,” he said, Sarah smiled thinly.
“Always ask questions Micheal,” she told him.
“Does it matter?”
Her smile turned mysterious, “Sometimes. There are great many mysteries in this world.”
“Listen to your mother and eat your soup,” she said sternly. He pouted but ate his soup. “As Assassins we must always question what we see, what we know, for all that we can trust are our eyes. That is the meaning of our Creed.”
“I know,” he grumbled.
“So then you know the words? Or do you know the meaning?”
He sighed, this topic was not unknown to Micheal. His mother was a bit obsessive. The Creed said that nothing was true, and everything was permitted, she was fascinated by those two lines. He didn’t understand why, but that was his mother and he wouldn’t question her. “Both, you’ve told me often,” he said.
“Good,” she said sitting up a bit straiter. “So you’re here now to eat my food and keep me company, a fair trade,” and she smiled, he rolled his eyes a little but smiled back. He did love his mother, but she could be a bit strange.
Perhaps it was a bit degrading. He was a deadly warrior, and he was sent to buy groceries. He didn’t know why he was surprised though, he knew he’d get made to do such things if he visited his mother, he knew that, and what better use of a young man than to send him out into the cold and go your shopping? Micheal was both amused and unamused at the same time.
He was going through one of the markets when he felt it first. He looked behind him, scanning the lightly populated crowd, but saw nothing. That didn’t mean that his senses were wrong though, in fact, it made him feel double sure that someone was indeed there, watching him. He turned back around and continued on his way, looking for the butcher shop he was sure was on this street. The hair on the back of his neck suddenly stood strait on end and he whipped his head around, looking quickly. Nothing. A creeping sense in his gut told him that whoever was following him was very good at it, and at being unseen. He went to the worst conclusion first: Templar.
They wouldn’t act here though. It was an open street. Too many people to witness and fight and death. If there was one thing that was similar between the Templars and Assassins it was their shadow tactics, their want to hunt in the dark and sneak about unseen. He blinked hard and after several seconds he could finally bring to bear a strange second sight. It had not come so naturally and always took a moment to bring to bear. His mother had taught him of it, she said his father had been able to do it, but he was not good at it and the gray and wavy colors always gave him a headache.
He scanned the ground around him, it was washed in gray, and no spark of red in sight. His brow furrowed.
“You know its best not to act like a fool where everyone can see,” a voice said from behind him. He started, and spun, the colors swarming back into his vision so rapidly he had to blink several times as if to clear his eyes from looking at the sun. There, standing before him, was one of his brothers, though he did not recognize the man.
“Excuse me?” he asked.
“You’re very obvious boy,” he said though couldn’t be more than a few years older than him, which pissed him off. The other man had dark dark brown hair and amazingly sharp, vacant eyes. Micheal knew he was looking at someone far above his ranking status even though he wore just the simple signs of a regular Assassin. It was the way his body commanded the space, yet was easily overlooked, if this was the man who’d been following Micheal no wonder he’d looked right past him. “Don’t you know your tenets?” and Micheal flushed deeply.
“You were following me,” he accused.
“Not exactly hard,” said the other man with a smile, one that looked as though he hadn’t done so in a long while. “Come,” he beckoned, “I know you’re here on Sarah’s orders.”
“How do you know her name?” he asked, even as he followed, unable to not, something compelled him. It was not common for Assassins to know the names of their den leaders, it made things safer for the leaders who, while not defenseless, were not as capable as a full brother or sister.
“I knew her when she was young,” he said.
He scowled, “Then you would have been barely a boy,” he pointed out, keeping stride with the man.
“That I was,” he agreed, “She is still a beauty she was in her youth,” he said wistfully.
His hackles went up, that was his mother this stranger was talking of. “She is,” he agreed tightly.
“Go do your shopping, boy,” the stranger said as they stood in front of a door and Micheal looked, they were before the butcher. “After, I wish to talk.”
Micheal eyed him, but saw no reason why he shouldn’t do as asked, he nodded and went inside, buying a few sausage links and pork chops from the rotund man. The stranger was waiting for him outside, leaning against the side of the wall as though the cold or snow on the ground did not bother him. “Who are you?” he asked.
The man ignored the question, “How went your assignment in Jamestown?”
He blinked, how did this man know? Why would, someone who was obviously a Master, interested in his mission? Then a spark went off. What if he wanted to know to gauge his training? He could be one of those men from the main branch of the Order in Europe, who even the Mentor here in America abided by. If so he had no accent, but that didn’t mean much as Micheal could speak fluent French without an accent as well as English in both a British and Baltimore accent. “It was a success,” he said and quickly walked after the Master who’d taken an interest in him.
“That is good to hear,” and he sounded… proud? Odd. “Did you see anything interesting there?” he asked.
“Interesting?” Micheal echoed, not understanding.
“No,” he shook his head.
“Hmm,” the man said and for a blind second he feared he’d done something wrong. “Well, I suppose that is a good thing,” the man sent him a smile again, this time it looked less unused, maybe like he’d been practicing while he’d been in the butcher, though it was a silly thought. “What made you stop in Baltimore?”
“My mother,” he said, “I haven’t seen her in almost a year.”
“Yes, you were in New York for that time weren’t you?”
He didn’t ask how he knew, “Yes.”
“Its good to see you care so deeply for her,” again there was that strange proud note.
“She’s all I have,” Micheal confessed. “My father died before I was born.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said.
“I never met him, I don’t really feel sad.”
“No, I suppose you wouldn’t,” he agreed.
“Though my mother says I look like him, so I guess if I ever wanted to see him I’d just have to look in a mirror,” he grinned broadly. The other man looked at him, an approving smile on his lips. “She even named me after him.”
“Ha, such is a woman’s heart,” he said with a breathy laugh.
The walk back to the den was surprisingly enjoyable. The man, who’s name Micheal still didn’t know, asked him many questions, about everything. His training, his life in the Point and Baltimore and his missions since he’d been made a full brother almost a year prior. He was one of the youngest men to have been made a full Assassin in years, he was very good at what he did, but he knew he had a lot to learn, especially after talking with the man. Just being near him made him feel inferior and there was no doubt in his mind that this man was a Master. The man also asked after his friends, his mother, and (embarrassingly enough) if he fancied any girls, to which he told him exactly what he told his mother, that he was too busy for girls. The man had found that amazingly funny but had prodded no further on the subject.
They arrived back at the den before Micheal knew it, in which time he’d done most of the talking, but he didn’t feel rude in doing so as the man had prompted him into speaking the entire way. “I have to go give these to my mother,” he said motioning to the groceries he had.
“Go, I shall be here,” said the man.
“Don’t you want to come inside? It’s rather cold out?”
He smiled slightly, “No,” he shook his head. “Its best if I not. Now go,” he motioned and Micheal scampered up the stairs into the den, banging the toes of his boots on the mat just inside to rid them of snow and practically ran up the stairs. He didn’t quite know what gave him such speed or urgency, but excitement flooded through his entire body.
“There you are,” Sarah said when he arrived.
“Here you go mama,” he said breathlessly and put the groceries on the desk before turning to leave.
“Micheal,” she called when he was half way out the door and he checked his momentum to turn around. “What’s the rush?” she asked with a teasing smile.
“I met a Master in the market,” he said quickly, “We’ve been talking and he’s waiting for me downstairs.”
“Really?” she asked surprised and curious, “What’s his name?”
“I don’t know, I kept forgetting to ask. But I don’t want to keep him waiting, I’ll tell you later,” and he left before she could call after him.
When he got outside the street was empty. Micheal frowned deeply. Where had they gone? He scanned around, including looking up, but the street was very much empty. He’d barely been five minutes, where was he?
He turned when he heard the sound of horse hooves. There was the man, leading his horse out of the stables. Micheal went to join him quickly. “You’re going for a ride? In this weather?” he motioned around them, while it was not snowing, it was still cold.
“Yes,” he said in an amused tone.
Micheal was silent for a few seconds, “I will join you if you don’t mind,” he said.
The man just shook his head, “No,” he said. “My time here is done, it was good to finally meet you my boy,” he seemed sad but Micheal didn’t know why.
“Oh,” Micheal said with a frown.
“Give this to your mother,” and he held out a leather bound journal.
“Huh? Why?” he asked even as he took it.
“Just do it,” he took a deep breath, “I knew your father too, it was his. He left it in Philadelphia a long time ago. I’ve been keeping ahold of it till I could give it to her.”
“Oh,” he was still confused. “Will I see you again?”
The man mounted his horse, a stallion with bright black eyes, “I don’t know, will you be able to?” he asked in a tease and Micheal flushed.
“I will,” he said firmly.
“Then that’s all the answer you need,” and he pulled his horse’s head in a direction.
“Wait,” Micheal called and the man turned, but didn’t stop his horse. “You never told me your name.”
The man smiled brittlely, “They call me Hawk,” he said and turned back around, giving his horse a tap on the flanks to put him into a canter. Micheal stood watching him, journal in hand. A strange emptiness filled him, as if he’d just lost something precious and important, though he didn’t know why.
Once Hawk was gone he went back inside and up to his mother’s office. “Well, that was quick,” she said, the groceries were gone and she was sitting at her desk going over some papers.
“He left,” Micheal said with a frown.
“Ah,” she nodded.
“He said to give you this,” he held out the journal, she furrowed his brows at it. “He said it was from my father,” he eyes widened and she snatched the journal from him so quickly it startled.
Sarah sat back and opened the journal, “Oh Micheal,” she said softly and Micheal knew she didn’t mean him, but the father he’d never met, and the only man she’d ever loved. She’d never remarried, and had kept her married name, instead of taking her maiden name when he’d died. It was as though, to her, he never had. “Did he say where he got this?” she asked, looking at him, her voice cracking.
“No,” he shook his head as she flipped through the pages, and he could make out the neat penmanship of the Order cipher. “He said he’s been holding onto it since Philadelphia,” he knew that his father had died in Philadelphia, during the war for independence, but nothing beyond.
She smiled painfully, “Yes, I suppose he was,” she said and wiped at her eyes. “What was his name? Did you find out?”
“He said his name was Hawk,” he recited.
“Hawk,” her smile was less painful then before, “Silly man,” she whispered. Then she stood, “Dinner will be ready in a few hours, have some time to yourself, I need to be alone for a while,” she said. He blinked but nodded and left. He turned back to look at the darkly stained door in confusion. What was in that journal? Who was this Hawk, and what did he mean to his mother? Why was he interested in Micheal? How did he know his father? So many questions, but he knew few, if any, would be answered. Though he supposed that that was the irony of the Creed, he could never know anything, he could only ever suspect.
Chapter 2: The Second Rock
August, 1866, Dubai town, Dubai
The corridor they were in smelt of age and air that had not moved in millennia. Their footsteps echoed all across the corridor, up and down it, the blackness surrounding them absolute save for the glow of Hawk’s Apple. “Do you think we’re close?” he asked, his voice automatically hushed, even though there wasn’t another soul here for miles.
There was no answer at first, “We can’t be far,” was the answer from the ancient man behind him. Hawk was old, but Altair had been ancient when Hawk had been born. “Can’t you hear the singing?”
“I think you have cotton in your head,” said Ezio, the only one who did not lower his voice. Hawk couldn’t say he was surprised, Ezio was not the most subtle person. He could be sneaky and unseen yes, but subtle? Hawk was sure the Italian didn’t have a subtle bone in his body.
“And I think you’re close to getting killed again,” Altair snarled in a whisper.
“You like me too much.”
“Hawk is better company than you,” Altair scowled. “He is not annoying.”
“He is annoying in his own way,” Ezio waved him off, Hawk just sighed but said nothing to they're friendly bickering. He was used to it. As often as Altair pretended to hate everyone he really didn’t and as much as Ezio frustrated him Altair wouldn’t hurt him on purpose (at least not usually. Though there was that one time in Milan…). They were more like brothers than anything. The most dysfunctional brothers Hawk had ever met, though he’d been an only child so he didn’t know if this was actually normal.
“Oh,” Hawk said suddenly as they stepped into a larger cavern and the bickering tapered out.
“We’re here,” Altair said, “Make it brighter,” he encouraged. Hawk concentrated and the Apple glowed brighter. Despite his age the Apple was still something he was not used to using it still. Altair said it was normal, the Apple was not something to be bent easily to the will of a human and even one bonded with Hawk would be difficult, though every year it got a bit easier.
They were in a large cavern, deep underground, it’s walls lined black with the surface of an Ancient’s temple. Only unlike any temple Hawk had seen this one did not glow, or react to them, which was why they’d had to bring the Apple. At the center of the cavern was a great box, about twelve feet square, carved all over with intricate geometric deigns. “Pretty,” Ezio said and Altair elbowed him in the ribs.
“This is the Vault,” Altair said. “I found it in the fourteenth century, before I met Ezio,” he continued and had his hand to his temple as if he was starting to get a headache.
“You never showed me before,” Ezio said in an offended tone.
“It didn’t matter,” Altair said. “Also you were very adamant on ignoring me after your first Waking,” he scowled at him.
“So what is it?” Hawk asked, stepping closer to it, the light from the Apple casting long shadows.
“A Vault,” Altair said, “Before I got rid of my Apple I saw it. It is like a safe…” he trailed off, now both hands on his temples.
“Are you well Altair?” Ezio asked, and put a hand on his shoulder, Hawk turned and looked at them, head cocked to the side. A ghost of what worry once had been flickered through him, but he was more curious then concerned for the other man.
“It is just very loud,” he said.
“Loud?” Ezio was confused.
“Are you both so deaf?” he snapped, the obvious pain in his head making him angry. “Or are you both just so stupid to not understand?”
“I hear nothing as well,” Hawk said. “But I understand,” Ezio just looked confused. It was not an uncommon look on his face to be honest. Hawk and Altair were similar, they both had a more intimate relation to Pieces of Eden then Ezio did, the only thing was that Hawk’s intimacy was only with his Apple, Altair was sensitive to all Pieces. “How do you use the Vault?” he asked.
“You have to unlock it,” Altair said, jaw tight and he was rubbing his temple, that one eye slammed shut. “It opens with an Apple. Inside is infinite space, it’s a perfect safe.”
Hawk only understood half of that but knew what he had to do. Even as Ezio clucked over Altair and his head pain he went over to the Vault and looked for a key hole. He found it on the left side, a perfect cup for an Apple to fit into. He looked back at Altair who had both his eyes squeezed closed and fit his Apple into the hole.
He stepped back, wary, as suddenly the grooves on the Vault began to glow blue, the cut circles around the Apple began to slowly turn and lock into place, around in the cavern the rest of the area began to light up as well, including the corridor they’d just come from. Then a door opened to the side, a small one, one tall enough for Hawk to get through but Ezio and Altair might have to duck a bit to enter. “Well, that was cool,” he said.
“Greetings Master,” said a voice that made them all jump.
“Who’s that?” Ezio demanded.
“That was the voice I was just hearing is what,” Altair growled, it seemed his headache had vanished and he shoved Ezio’s concerned hands aside.
“Are you the master?” Hawk asked him.
“No, you are Master Micheal Hart,” the voice said again and suddenly a woman appeared before the three. Hawk scrambled back and actually fell onto his ass, for the first time in a long time, fear lacing through him. He scrambled back on his hands and feet, and hid behind Ezio’s legs. “Is something wrong?” she asked.
“It’s one of the Ancient hologram things,” Ezio said bluntly.
“Hawk?” Altair looked behind the other man at the youngest who was positively cowering behind his legs.
“Make her go away!” he cried, arms above his head.
“Hawk, what the hell is wrong?”
“Just make her go away,” he stammered.
“Is this form displeasing?” the hologram asked.
Altair turned away from the younger man who looked like he was about to have a break down. “Who are you?”
“My name is Venus,” she said in a beautiful, angelic voice. “I am the keeper of the Vault.”
“I see. Why is Hawk so freaked out by you?”
“I don’t know,” she said truthfully. “I thought he’d be pleased.”
“Stop looking like her!” Hawk yelled.
“She looks like Sarah,” Ezio said to Altair who was still confused. Ezio was always better at understanding relationships than the elder man, though it was possible that that was because of Altair’s age and distance from the normal world. He was disconnected from regular folks and their problems.
“Oh,” Altair suddenly understood. “Could you stop that Venus?” he asked.
“It’s my programming to look whatever shape my Master most desires,” and they all felt sick hearing that. Sarah was long dead now, though neither of the elder men knew Hawk still hadn’t gotten over it. Behind Ezio Hawk whimpered.
“I don’t think he likes it,” Altair said blandly.
“I apologize, I did not mean to upset him.”
“Can I just say; I like this one. She’s a lot nicer than the other’s I’ve met.”
“That’s because this isn’t a temple,” Altair rolled his eyes. “Temple guardians were like important members of the Ancient’s society. Venus just said herself, she’d the keeper of the Vault,” and the hologram nodded. “What is your function?”
“I guard and maintain the Vault,” she recited, going through her core functions. “I am to assist and offer information on all objects that reside within and keep out any who try to gain entrance without the key.”
“Which is an Apple?”
It took her a second to respond, “No. Only the current key may be used to open the Vault.”
“So only Hawk’s Apple?”
“Yes,” she nodded cheerfully.
“And let me guess, you only change shape on your master’s desires?”
“That is correct,” she smiled.
“Wonderful,” Altair pulled at his face and crouched next to Hawk. “You’re ganna have to suck it up kid,” he told the younger man.
“That or get over her,” and Hawk was silent and glared at Altair as if he’d just told the American to do something obscene. “That’s what I thought. Now act your age and deal with the problem.”
“Would you? If it was your wife?”
“Maria would have kicked my ass if she saw me act as disgraceful as you,” he said and Hawk bristled but did stand up with the older man.
“Okay,” Hawk said facing Venus.
“I did not mean to upset you Master Micheal.”
He blanched in dislike, “Rule one Venus,” he said voice amazingly firm, Altair put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Don’t call me Micheal ever again. Or master.”
“Then what should I call you?” she asked him standing in front of him, standing on the ground before him the spitting image of Sarah, only as though she’d been washed in gold.
“Okay Hawk,” she smiled widely. “What can I do for you?”
Hawk looked at Altair.
“We’ve got some things for you to hold,” Altair said.
“Oh good, new inventory has not been added in a very long time.”
“There’s things in you now?”
“Yes. My last Master was a collector and inventor.”
“Where is he now?”
“With the Seventh,” was all she said, it made sense to none of them.
“So gone?” Altair made sure, she nodded. “Okay. Hawk, talk to your new friend, Ezio and I will put away the artifacts,” and Altair walked past him, Ezio following. Ezio was carrying a large bag over his shoulders.
“Is that allowed?” Venus asked Hawk.
“Yes, do whatever they ask and assist them,” he said.
“Very well,” and the Vault suddenly started to move again and the previous small door grew tall enough for the both of them to enter. “How else may I be of service?” she asked.
Hawk frowned at her sadly, “I’m going to hide you away, where nothing and no one can get you,” he said softly, she never stopped smiling. For the first time in a long time, his heart hurt.
Chapter 3: Little Brown Chief
March 1986—April 1990, the Farm, Black Hills, South Dakota, United States of America
Altair was amazed how easily these people trusted. For all their talk of secrecy and to be wary of strangers, all you had to do was have a brand about your ring finger and they would accept you. Altair however did not have a brand, instead he said he was from another part of the Order where they took your finger instead. They believed him and welcomed him with open arms, even though he was not like them and they all could sense that he was far more than he let on.
He was given a room in one of the houses. It was not uncommon, for the houses were rather large and usually two families shared them, that or people like Altair who came from afar and were seeking respite for a few weeks, months, or even years, to get out from the ever watchful eyes of the Templars. There was another man here like Altair who’d been there for six months already, and without even looking through his second sight he knew he’d be killing this man. All members of the Order showed red in his sight, Assassin, Templar, it did not matter. They were all corrupt and in some ways the Assassins were no better than their enemy. But Altair would kill this man because he was a Templar. But that would come later.
The leader of the Farm was a Master, though it was in name only. Andrew Miles was a hard man who’s purposes were more that of a bureau leader then a Master Assassin. Altair did not like him either, but he would not kill this man. Not yet. No. Not yet. But soon. Altair made acquaintance with him, but friends with his wife, who (unlike Andrew) had been born into this world. But she was not like her husband, she was not hard. But she wasn’t soft either, and he could feel no love between Andrew and Kaley.
They had a son, Duncan, who was seven years old. Altair was interested in him and in turn the young novice was interested in him. He’d heard from Kaley, quite adamantly, that she wanted no more children, and Altair did not blame her. With the current atmosphere surrounding the Brotherhood very few of their members wanted children, because they’d have to grow up into this mess. The Order did not recruit from the outside as often as they should or once had, and there was such a new interest in bloodlines within the Order that it made Altair’s skin crawl. He knew, though he didn’t want to know, that the Order was starting to tip in the same direction as the Templars.
But Altair turned his normal outward attentions inward to the members of the Farm. He helped the instructors with demonstrations and even taught a few classes in both self defense and history. The novices loved when he taught history because it was never a history from a book, for even the Assassins had books on history, or even things that were spoken of often. Altair’s history was that of the Order and it was the few times that the novices got to hear of their birth right beyond the adults telling them of the Templars to scare them, or an ever war that was spoken about in hushed tones. Adults weren’t allowed in those lessons, and he made it into a game, that none of the children were allowed to tell the adults what he said. In this way he spoke what their parents would have considered blasphemy and traitorous words. He told them secrets and stories and history that had been lost to the world and the Order for centuries.
Duncan was an amazingly bright child, and was enrapt by Altair’s history lessons. He visited Altair, when he did not have other school work or chores and asked Altair questions, promising he’d never tell his mommy or daddy. Altair would just smile and tell him.
It had been a long time since Altair had used an Apple, or any sort of scrying Piece of Eden. He did not trust them, he did not like them, and they were always more trouble then they were worth. But Altair had waited a long time for this century. His wait had been agonizing for four hundred years, for he was alone. But now it was not so. He had Hawk to scry now, though the younger man was not as good at it as Altair had been, for Hawk’s Apple fought him every step of the way even though it was two-hundred years in his possession. At Altair’s distance when he’d first seen the future that would mark his life with some sort of strange purpose, the future was not as consistent and so many things could change. He’d seen this point though, this place, the Farm. More recently Hawk had proclaimed from what family they would be from.
So yes, Altair humored Duncan, and told him secrets and was safe in the sort of knowledge that Kaley did not want any more children, and that this boy was the one he’d been waiting for. Duncan followed him everywhere, and in turn showed him around the Farm and the woods surrounding it and the places he liked to hide. Altair saw him for the kind, curious, and clever boy he was and encouraged him to never stop asking questions, to never stop looking for the truth.
Then, three months after Altair arrived at the Farm Kaley Miles said she was pregnant again. Altair had not been expecting that. She was also unhappy. She resented Andrew for getting her pregnant again, and it was obvious that she was not pleased with the child she carried, but some sense of duty kept her from just getting it aborted. Or perhaps the talk it would cause amid the others if she did, the unspoken shame she would bring upon them all if she got rid of it. It was one of the few things that had surprised Altair in a long time.
Altair watched the Miles’ dynamics for a long time, all the while Duncan clung to him, with his questions and his bright brown eyes. Kaley grew to deeply resent her husband, but in turn allowed Altair closer, as it was obvious her son adored him. Altair thought it strange that Kaley could detest her unborn child, yet seemed to still care for Duncan. That changed however and seven months into her pregnancy became deeply depressed. Duncan often asked him why his mommy was sad all the time, and Altair would just shush him and tell him that his mother was fine.
But Kaley was not fine. She once confessed to Altair that she wanted to kill herself, because this life they had was barely a life. She was tired. Altair understood. The generations of Assassins were getting gradually and gradually getting more fanatic in their beliefs, to the point of extremism. Kaley’s parents were extremists, so was Andrew, but she was more moderate. She did not believe most of the causes the Assassins fought for anymore and she loathed to see her children raised in such an atmosphere.
Then the child was born. Altair kept Duncan with him that day while Kaley was in labor and taught him how to skip rocks in the nearby river. Duncan was excited to be a big brother and chattered endlessly on about what he wanted to do with his new baby brother. Altair had to remind him that his little brother wouldn’t be able to do any of the things Duncan wanted to do till he was bigger. Duncan had just pouted a little and then they’d climbed trees as Altair told him the story of Brutus of Rome and how he slew Julius Caesar on the ides of March and how Brutus was one of them. Duncan stayed the night with Altair as well, sleeping in a sleeping bag next to Altair’s bed in the home he shared with one of the other families. The next morning they went and saw the new baby, who’d been born some time that night.
They found the Miles’ at opposite sides of the room. Kaley was lying in their bed, staring out the window, and Andrew was holding the new baby, his face stern. Duncan had run right up to his mother, climbing into her bed and Altair had a very bad feeling.
Over the next several weeks Kaley grew bitter and fell into deeper postpartum depression. Andrew was left to care mostly for the child and Duncan was largely ignored. Several people in the Farm helped with the older boy and infant alike, as it was obvious Kaley wanted no part in either of her children. Rather often Altair was saddled with Duncan, as both his parents had been used to him simply being around by then and were comfortable leaving their son with him. Less often Altair was left with the new baby, Desmond.
Duncan very obviously loved his little brother. He was around Desmond constantly, at least when he didn’t have lessons and was old enough to watch the baby if there was someone else other then Kaley home. That person was often Altair, though also Andrew’s friends within the compound, one of them being the Templar Altair swore he’d kill.
Desmond was a very normal child. He screamed when hungry or wet and messy as could be. Duncan said his brother was just a poop factory and Altair always replied he was too cute to be a factory. That always made Duncan laugh. Sometimes Altair stayed at the Miles’ house when Desmond was a few months old and would wake to the sound of a woken baby and stumble from the couch to the infant’s room. It was not the first time Altair had ever taken care of a child, even after his two first children Altair had taken care of many people’s children, even some that grew up to call him father (though few others then Darim and Sef shared his bloodline). Kaley never tended to her son, and refused to acknowledge she even had children at all, even Duncan. On the dark nights like those when it was just him and baby Desmond awake, the rest of the house asleep or not even home (as Andrew had the habit of going to a nearby town with his friends, or sleeping in another woman’s bed) Altair would sit on the floor, against the crib and sing him lullabies in Arabic until he fell asleep, then he’d stumble back to the couch and sleep for a few more hours before the baby would wake him for something else.
Months passed like this, Altair alternating between sleeping on the Miles’ couch or in the house he was living in, his days broken up between novice lessons or helping around the Farm. Altair taught the entire group of novices, about seven children with ages ranged from six to fifteen, how to ride horses, and how to track in the woods and how to build fires without flint or lighters, how to catch fish with their bear hands (though with mixed results of effectiveness and they’d put a stop to those lessons when one of the girls had ended up hurting herself in the river), and the elder children he taught how to throw knives and fight. There was always a strange atmosphere of play about it though, as if they did not really believe they’d ever have to use these skills, but enjoyed having them regardless.
Desmond’s first words were in Arabic. Altair had a habit of singing to him in Arabic before bedtime or when he was woken in the middle of the night, and Duncan had said he’d wanted to learn how to speak it because he said it sounded pretty. So when alone with the boy he would use it more often so he could pick up on the words. Desmond’s first word was akh, ‘brother,' when he saw Duncan, who’d been very excited. Altair was careful to speak English around Desmond more, saving his songs for the only Arabic he spoke around the boy. He started speaking English quickly after that, but always called Duncan ‘akh’ even when he learned the English word for brother.
Several years passed like this. Altair watched Desmond grow, and Duncan as well. When Duncan turned ten he was told to kill a crow by one of his instructors, he refused. Altair saw then that Duncan was soft. It was not a bad thing, no, not at all, in fact it was almost good. But he was not the boy Altair had come here to find. He turned his attention to Desmond, who was only three years old, though unlike Duncan’s own parents never turned from him completely and still told him secrets and stories that the adults would have frowned upon.
Altair knew what he’d been searching for when Desmond was almost four years old. He was playing a game with the little boy, when he’d suddenly asked Altair why he was blue. Not sad, but blue. That had startled Altair and he said he wasn’t sad. Desmond repeated in asking Altair was blue and it was only then that Altair had looked up and seen Desmond was staring at him, with a cocked head, eyes blazing golden. Altair had smiled at him and said it was because he was Desmond’s friend, and always would be his friend.
That was Altair’s last day at the Farm.
That night he stole away in the house the Templar lived in and killed him in his sleep and revealed his left foot. On the ball of his foot was a small brand in the shape of a cross and much like an Assassin’s initiation Templars were branded by their order as well. His work done there he returned to the Miles’. Andrew wasn’t there. He was currently enjoying the company of Cindy Holloway, a woman who lived in the compound, and Altair thought about going to kill him too. What a wretched man. But he did not, it was not his place.
Instead he entered Duncan’s room and gently shaken the boy awake. Duncan asked him what he was doing here.
‘I’m leaving,’ he’d said.
‘My time here is over.’
‘I don’t want you to leave!’ Duncan had cried and hugged him. Altair had gently stroked his head.
‘I can’t stay,’ his voice had been patient.
‘Then take me with you,’ he’d pleaded, ‘Please Altair don’t make me stay here. They’re mean here and want me to hurt others. I don’t want to do that. I want to hear more stories and climb trees,’ he’d begged.
Altair had just shaken his head, ‘I can’t take you with me little one,’ he’d said gently. ‘It’s important that you stay here, because you’re the best one out of any of the people here.’
‘Yes. You’re going to be a good man one day Duncan, but you need to stay here,’ and after a moment Duncan had nodded. ‘I need you to do something for me, and it’s very important, do you understand?’ again Duncan had nodded. ‘Good. When I’m gone, you need to take care of your little brother. Don’t let him become like the others on the Farm.’
‘How do I do that?’
‘Be kind to him, as you are to everyone. Tell him stories, like I’ve told you. Make him ask questions, even if no one knows the answer.’
‘Like you always tell me,’ he’d said.
‘Yes,’ Altair’d agreed, ‘There is nothing more important then to keep asking questions. Never let your parents or instructors tell you otherwise. Understand?’
‘Yes,’ he’d nodded for a third time.
‘Good. Don’t forget, Desmond needs you.’
‘I don’t want you to go,’ Duncan had frowned.
Altair had smiled thinly, ‘I know little one. But come the sunrise I will not be welcome here any longer,’ too many questions would be raised, too much anger. ‘But you’re Desmond’s akh, and you need to be with him. He’ll need you to help weather this storm.’
Altair had just smiled, ‘Never stop asking, even if there is no answer,’ and he’d kissed Duncan on the head and left the house. He heard Duncan follow after him but Altair simply slipped away into the night to become simply a story Duncan would tell his little brother of the man without a name or face.
Chapter 4: The Trouble with Molting
March 2013, New York City, New York, United States of America
It was too early for this. Far far too early for this. There was a reason he worked the day shift and not mornings. But Addy had begged and begged and pleaded and really Jacob wasn’t that much of an asshole. Sure he pretended to be, because it did a person well to have a hard outer skin when you lived in New York, but he really wasn’t as bad as he tried to convince everyone he was. Addy knew that, and that was why Jacob was currently opening the shop, way before anyone else would even arrive for morning shift. Hell it was too early for Kadar to even be awake, and he was on Jacob’s ass for food in the morning barely after the sun rose. That was how early it was.
So if Jacob was a little testing and irritated this morning it was understandable.
He’d just unlocked the front door when he heard a motorcycle pull up in front of the thrift store next door. He ignored it, probably whoever ran the adult store or something, he didn’t know, he didn’t fucking work mornings. He meandered back to behind the counter and fiddled with the register when the door opened. He looked up, ready to tell whoever it was that they weren’t open yet, when he got a look at the guy who’d just walked in. He blinked hard.
The guy was wearing riding gear, motorcyclist, and his helmet dangled from a few fingers. Half his face was totally covered in blood. God damnit. Did he really have to deal with this this early in the morning? The man walked up to the counter and Jacob did his best not to lean back a little, he smelled like leather, blood and sweat.
“Do you have a bathroom?” he asked, his voice was a little slurred. Was he drunk? Fuck fuck fuck Jacob was not seriously dealing with this. He rose an eyebrow at him.
“Bathroom’s for paying customers only,” he said, fully expecting him to leave. Honestly that usually sent the creepy homeless people away when he worked nights, or even just any weird asshole off the street. He honestly didn’t want this guy to stay here.
But he looked up at the menu, eyes squinted a bit as if in confusion. Probably like any other annoying New Yorker he was weirded out by the Arabic. Fuck ‘em. “I’ll have a Turkish coffee,” he said flatly as he dug out his wallet and flipped a ten dollar bill on the counter.
Jacob gritted his teeth, great. “Down on the left, on your right,” he said and the men left the counter, also leaving his helmet there. He stumbled a little and Jacob leaned around the counter to watch him enter the bathroom with a deep frown. Five-seconds after the door closed he heard the distant sound of vomiting. Oh lovely. Jacob made a face.
He turned back to the front counter and gave the helmet a leery look, as there was a huge spider web crack on the visor. Fuck, what the hell had this guy been doing? Playing baseball with his face‽ He heard some more sounds of vomiting and scooped up the ten, throwing the change into the tip jar, since he obviously deserved it for putting up with this fucking mess, and then went about making the coffee.
He was leaning against the counter when the guy came back out of the bathroom, now looking a lot better. He’d cleaned his face off of the fresh and dried blood and Jacob couldn’t see any actual wound, so it was probably some small head cut in his hairline which seemed to have stopped bleeding. The guy stared at the turkish coffee and honestly looked a bit green, as if the thought of putting anything into his stomach was a painful thought. He also had that look people had when their brains needed to reboot, but not in a good way.
“You okay?” he asked and the guy actually jumped, man what was going on in his think pan? Was he stupid or something?
“Terrific, what are your first clue?” came the sarcastic remark in reply.
Jacob half sneered. Okay, there went him being nice. “Excuse me for wondering why you were bleeding all over my shop and came in here looking like a homeless person,” he spat right back.
“I doubt homeless people have motorcycles,” he said in a dry, uninterested way and picked his helmet up from the counter. He gave the inside a careful sniff and Jacob didn’t have to know it smelled rank to know it smelled rank. He looked at Jacob for a second, then down to the coffee and again looked a bit green. “Uhmm,” and he looked at Jacob.
“Let me guess, now you don’t want it,” he sighed.
“Sorry,” the guy shrugged.
Jacob shrugged as well, it honestly didn’t matter to him, he got paid for it and he didn’t ask for his change, it was all good to him. “Figured after I heard you in the bathroom,” he confessed and prepared the coffee the way he liked it before shooting it, since their Turkish coffee was made to be shot, not sipped. At least the kind he’d just made since he’d had a very good feeling Mr. Bloody wouldn’t actually want anything when he came out of the bathroom.
“Sorry about the coffee,” he said and for the first time since Jacob had seen him looked alert. Well, that was good he supposed.
“Why? You paid for it,” and he rose his brow at the man questioningly. Maybe he was brain damaged. He had obviously hit his head pretty hard since his helmet was cracked.
They blinked at him, “I did, didn’t I,” yeah, this guy was totally fucking brain damaged. “Whatever, later,” and he turned from the counter and headed for the door.
Jacob watched him for a few seconds before his guilt complex kicked in. He had a really terrible one honestly, it was why he was such an asshole, like if he pretended hard enough he could make people think he didn’t care as much as he did. But really, Jacob cared a lot, and really hated when something very obviously wrong happened, he felt responsible, even if it was honestly not his fault.
“Hold on!” he called and darted out from behind the counter and hustled over to the guy. “You the one who came in on the Ninja?” he demanded and grabbed him by the arm before he could leave, which was near the door. He could see the Ninja near his Sportster the one in front of the thrift store.
“Uh, yeah, and I plan on leaving on it too,” he said giving Jacob a look though sounded very confused as to why Jacob was questioning his very sound logic.
“Then I really can’t let you go,” he said.
They blinked at him, “You’re ganna have to run that by me again. What?” he furrowed his brow at Jacob in confusion as if everything about Jacob was a mystery.
“As a fellow biker I can’t, in good conscious let you leave after you came in here like that,” he said with a slightly frustrated look on his face. Didn’t he know how much of an idiot he was? Seriously. The guy looked out the door at the bikes by the curb, eyes going to his Ninja before being drawn to his Harley. Jacob frowned at him.
Then he looked back at him, “I have somepla- okay,” Jacob was honestly surprised by the quick change. “What do you suggest?”
Jacob scowled at him, as if the man expected him to say something foolish. “Stay here until you don’t look like something my cat dragged in,” he said in an irritated tone. They looked around behind Jacob as if it was the first time he’d actually looked at where he was. Was he blind? Jacob reconsidered the ‘stupid’ thought he’d had earlier.
“Fine,” they said and tugged out of Jacob’s grip and went to one of the large plush chair and pretty much stumbled into it. Jacob pressed his hand over his face and muttered darkly in Arabic to himself. He was doing this one thing, just this one thing, and that was it.
The man put his helmet between his feet and was conked out in seconds. Jacob watched him for a few seconds when the bell dinged, signaling the arrival of another patron. Jacob turned on the door to snarl at them that they weren’t open but his words stuck in his throat before he could get them out. It was Jenny, she was working the morning shift with him.
“Yo,” she said and tossed her blonde hair over her shoulder. He gave her a great look of despair. “You okay?”
“I think I have a headache,” he said and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Oh, sorry,” she frowned sympathetically at him. “Everything set up for today?”
“Almost,” he sighed and they walked back towards the counter.
“What’s up with the guy?”
“Please. Fuck. Do not ask. I do not want to deal with whatever that is for at least half an hour so I can put my head on strait before morning rush,” he groaned in agony. She just giggled at him as the door opened again for Felix, who immediately asked after the knocked out man in the corner. Jacob retaliated by snapping at him and shuffled into the back of the cafe to just not deal with it.
Less then an hour later came the morning rush and there really wasn’t any room for Jenny or Felix to pester him about the sleeping guy in the corner. Jacob went over to him a few times where there was a moment of breathing space to make sure he wasn’t dead and wiped a bit of blood off his face, as apparently the head wound hadn’t closed up as much as he’d thought. Finally once most of the crowd had vacated the cafe, with just a few college kids and two old men reading the Times by the front window were left the two others jumped on him and he told them what happened. Jenny immediately said he was good looking and Jacob had slapped his hand across his face so loudly one of the old men had turned to look at him.
Around lunch Addy came to relieve him of his misery. He did so carefully though, as after the rush Jacob had sent him a myriad of rather violent text messages about how he was never working mornings again and he could go beg someone else to cover his shift next time he decided to get shit faced the night before his morning shift.
There was, of course, the question of what was going to happen to the sleeper when Jacob left. None of the people pulling a double, or those coming on shift wanted to be responsible for him in case something happened. Honestly Jacob didn’t blame them. Really though the guy was his responsibility and he’d made him stay here, so he’d have to take deal with it.
Once he’d clocked out he went over to the sleeping man. “Oi,” he said and shook him, not afraid he was dead since he was still breathing. “Hey, wake up.”
He almost jumped out of his skin when the man was suddenly seemingly wide awake and had grabbed his wrist so hard he heard the bones grind. For a wild second he thought the guy was going to break his wrist, but it, like the fact crazy idea that his eyes had been suddenly gold faded quickly. He slumped back against the back of the chair, eyes lidded, obviously awake but not awake. He rubbed his wrist, as it still smarted, before saying, “You can’t stay here.”
“Seems like a fine place to sleep,” he said, in Arabic. Jacob rose a brow at him but he didn’t know if the guy saw it, hell he wondered if he even understood what he was saying.
“Well, you can’t do it here,” and he grabbed the man’s wrist and pulled him to his feet. “Even though you’re obviously whacked do you think you can keep it together enough to not be a total freak?” he asked. The man cocked his head at Jacob, staring at him with hazy brown eyes that somehow… looked alert. Jacob didn’t even know how to describe it, it was weird. After a second he nodded. “Great, you can come with me then,” and he took the man’s wrist to lead him out of the cafe, grabbing up the man’s helmet and waved bye to his coworkers.
The guy seemed to be mostly awake now, which was good and followed him to his Sportster. He pushed the full helm onto the strange man’s head and strapped it into place before donning his own and getting on the bike. “C’mon, I’m doing my one good Samaritan deed of the year. Don’t make me regret it.”
“I make you regret a lot of things, dai,” he said, visor up so he could hear him. Jacob just narrowed his eyes at him, this dude was weird, but didn’t seem particularly dangerous (barring the whole ‘almost break your wrist’ thing). He got on the bike behind Jacob and flipped the visor down as he wrapped his arms around his waist.
One good deed, he thought. Just one good deed and then he was off the hook for the year. He knew it wouldn’t be like that, Jacob was too nice. Still, it would make him feel better. He really should have known better. What was the saying again?
Oh right. No good deed goes unpunished.
Chapter 5: Guardian Angel
1492, the Vatican, Rome, Italy
The pain had been blinding, like a stab to the chest and Ezio crumpled and didn’t get back up. He tried, he tried so hard, because if he didn’t then Rodrigo won and if he did then— it couldn’t happen. He wouldn’t let it! He tried to get back to his feet, fingers seeming to dig into the floor to push himself up but blood was gushing out of his chest and there was no way he wouldn’t die here. No.
He coughed up blood and lay down on the bright floor, panting, dying. Some sick part of him grinned, he was dying. He would have thought dying would have made him angry. Okay it did make him angry. It made him beyond furious. But there was a strange acceptance to his rage. He’d done what he could, he’d tried. He’d tried and failed though so…
A phantom crouched in front of him. “Hey there boy,” they said and it sounded like his father. He craned his head back as best he could but the light was in his eyes and it made the man silhouetted, it made him look like an angel. “Quite a fuck up you managed to get yourself into,” they reached out and grabbed his shoulder.
“Who are you?” he asked, voice weak.
“A guardian angel,” he said softly. “Do you want me to make this pain go away?”
Ezio closed his eyes, his armor was bent inwards, digging into his chest, it hurt as much as the wound, “Yes,” he said through his teeth. His angel squeezed his shoulder.
“Do you want to see your brothers, your father?” he was asked, but it was getting hard to think, hard to speak.
“What? They-they’re dead.”
“They are. Would you like to see them again?”
“If I say yes?”
“Then I’ll put you out of your misery,” his voice was flat, emotionless, and Ezio had no doubt he’d do so.
“And what if I don’t?” he wheezed, there was blood in his lungs, he knew that because he’d heard the sounds before.
The angel’s lips quirked, troubled, and then leaned down to say into his ear, “Then I will give you a curse,” his voice was almost so soft he couldn’t hear it. “And with it you will never have to worry about being hurt again,” his lips brushed the cusp of his ear. “I will make you live again.”
Ezio swallowed. He almost said to just do it, kill him. He’d lived a full life, he’d killed the men who were responsible for his father and brothers’ deaths. He’d known many women, won and lost love seemingly a countless number of times. He could be with his brothers and father again. But then he’d be leaving everyone, he’d be leaving his sister, and his mother, his uncle, his friends.
A selfish part of him didn’t care. He’d done enough! He’d done enough. He was tired and wanted to sleep. To hell with them. He looked up at his angel who’s eyes flickered under a cowl, burning gold. “Make your choice Ezio, soon it won’t matter what you want, you will die,” he said softly.
But if he left them who would deal with Rodrigo. He still lived. He knew there were other Assassins, he wasn’t stupid. But Rodrigo…
Rodrigo was his. Right? Yes, he should be.
“If I live,” Ezio rasped, “Will Rodrigo die?” he asked the angel, grasping it’s forearm with what remained of his strength.
“Yes. But you will not be the one to kill him.”
Ezio squeezed his eyes shut, “Who then?”
“His son will kill him. And you will kill his son. If you die many other people you hold dear will die.”
Ezio knew he was selfish, he wasn’t stupid after all. He did what he wanted and didn’t apologize for much, he used and took and manipulated to get what he wanted. But he could be selfless too, he could be. The thought of the people he loved dying, because of him, because he was so selfish, made his chest hurt that had nothing to do with his wound.
“Give it to me,” he said at last, voice curt but weak, “make me live.”
The angel smiled sadly at him. “Very well Ezio,” he said, “I give you the curse of life,” and then he started to glow, everything started to glow and he heard singing, a voice too high for any person to ever reach. There was no song, there was just the unending song, rising and falling around him.
Then the darkness came and Ezio didn’t know up from down and for the moment, he was not burdened by the things that had done so in life. He knew then the angel had lied. He was dead.
He woke to new light coming in through the high windows. He felt good, invigorated, and no longer hurt. His chest plate was not bent and he had no wound. Ezio looked around, he was where he’d been when he’d fought Rodrigo.
His eyes narrowed with purpose and he went to find the fat man.
He knew hours had passed, it had almost been dark when he’d come to the Vatican, but now it was early morning. The Pope could be long gone, but something told him he wasn’t.
Before he left the room he’d been in, to find Rodrigo, he turned around, eyes searching. He didn’t see anything, or anyone. His angel had been imagined by a dying mind. But here he was! He was alive. Something had made him live. His guardian angel the angel had said. He didn’t think a man like him could have one of those, men like him didn’t deserve to be watched over by things like that.
He turned back around to find the Pope, leaving the room. As he did he realized he was starving. Once he escaped the Vatican he was going to eat his weight in food and then some.
But first, the Pope.
Chapter 6: To Ten
1904, Gijón, Asturias, Spain
He’d never been especially claustrophobic. But there was always something about waking up in a coffin that made the hair stand up on his arms. He looked around and made himself take slow, even, breathes. He could very easily panic, fuck, he knew he could, he was immortal, not a god, and he was still only human. He closed his eyes and counted slowly back from a hundred. He made it to about forty before opening his eyes again. Calm now. Well, calmer at least.
This was a nice coffin though, well made, but not like they used to make them. He wondered how he let the others talk him into this. He was seriously going to cut all of Ezio’s hair off for this. All of it! Just shave him bald and call it a done deal. In hind sight they should have made Hawk do this. But Hawk didn’t fit the description.
Yeah shaving off all of Ezio’s hair and taking Hawk’s Apple. It was the only thing he really cared about honestly and he’d pout about Altair having it.
He pressed his hands against the lid of the coffin and blew out air, his muscles strained. After a few seconds his eyes squeezed shut again. Maybe put a railroad spike through Hawk’s hand too, he tended to freak out when Altair put him in serious amounts of pain. Nothing he wouldn’t recover from, or even go Under for. But this was stupid and he really hated being buried. He’d faked three funerals in his life, his own, a friend’s, and one time when Ezio hadn’t been around to confiscate the body in time. Oh that had been a real joy.
He gave the coffin lid another shove and then frowned at it. Altair felt around next to him. The others were supposed to leave him with-
Oh those clever bastards. Okay maybe he wouldn’t shave all of Ezio’s hair off. He was still arresting Hawk’s Apple though, and save the rail road spike for a rainy day when he just wanted to freak Hawk out and do it to himself. Hawk might not have actual emotions anymore, shadows of them yeah, but not real emotions, but Altair was pretty damn impervious to pain. Not that he didn’t feel, because he could feel. Hawk would freak out, probably scream, and Altair would laugh at him. Sounded like a good plan.
Right now he was feeling a bit pissed as he grabbed the small spade and rammed it upwards. It took him a few tries before he splintered the lid. This was why he missed wooden coffins, not these fancy, lacy, reenforced things. You were going in a box in the ground, why did you care what your box looked like? He supposed that for people who stayed dead it didn’t matter, though the people who had to bury them it mattered. Altair pushed the thought aside as dirt tumbled into his space. He wasn’t going to think of burying people, he’d done that too much in his life.
Another smash of the spade got more dirt on him and with a move that you’d see on a contortionist he squeezed his body up to the top portion of the coffin and didn’t bother to hold his breathe as the coffin lid gave out and dirt crashed down onto him. While the dirt shifted he moved quickly so he was mostly standing by the time the dirt had settled around him. He breathed in slowly, very slowly, and then let his arms scramble upwards on a slightly dirt filled lung full of air. Because he was already mostly standing it wasn’t like he had to swim through six feet of dirt, only about a foot or so.
His hand breached air. No grass, good. He groped around for something and after a few seconds found the edge of his tomb stone. It should have felt weird, grabbing his own tomb stone, but it wasn’t. Altair had over a hundred tomb stones, bought for him, with different names, over the centuries on the times he needed to die but didn’t actually feel like getting buried. Cause being buried sucked. His lungs burned, damn it all.
Then a hand grabbed his, oh good. They hadn’t left him. That was always a little fear in the back of his head, that they wouldn’t be there at the right time, that they’d come too late and he’d really have to dig himself out of a grave. He could hear scratching above him and with his other hand he dug at the soil around him, pushing up and away, moving upwards.
Altair was rarely so happy to see the sky in his life then when he was Under or when had to crawl out of a hole. This time was no different. He coughed dust and dirt into Hawk’s face as he helped push dirt aside so he could get out.
“I hate you both,” he managed to say as Ezio grabbed onto his other hand. “Especially you,” he told Ezio, as it was Ezio’s fault he was in this situation.
“Yeah yeah, love you too Altair,” Ezio said, tugging and Altair kicked at the ground. “You just had to come to in the middle of the day didn’t you.”
“Like I can chose, idiot,” he grumbled. “Stop. Stop, you’re ganna pull my arms off,” his legs were still caught.
“You’ve survived worse,” Hawk mumbled next to him, dirty as a dust clot as he kept digging, with his hands at that.
Altair yanked his hands away from Ezio who huffed at him moodily. “You owe me for this Ezio,” he informed him and set about trying to pull himself the rest of the way out of the earth.
“If you’l recall I owe you for quite a lot. You still owe me for this though,” and Ezio sent him a baleful look.”
Altair glared at him, “You wanted this,” he spat. Hawk eyed them both. “Nothing in life is without price. You should know that by now, you’re not a child,” his glare intensified. “I owe you nothing. You paid your own price.”
“We should really get going before someone sees,” Hawk chimed in suddenly. “Ezio, help me.”
With a sigh Ezio kneeled and did help Hawk dig Altair up enough that he could climb from the soil. Out of the dirt Altair stood, wobbly from his time Under as well as his legs being compacted by dirt and spit out several mouthfuls of mud. He’d be tasting and smelling dirt for days. Behind him the others were pushing the dirt back over where it’d bee dug out.
“You all right?” Hawk asked him.
“Yeah,” he was sitting against the back of his head stone now. It didn’t have his name on it though, or even this decade and some’s alias on it. It was some man Ezio knew, a man he’d let himself get killed for, so he could escape to America with a Piece of Eden called the Pen. But they’d needed a body, one that could pass for Moroccan, Altair could do that, the others couldn’t. “I’m starving though,” he added with a groan.
Hawk threw a sack at him and he opened it. Bread, and meat, and cheese. He devoured everything in one sitting before even thinking of the others. After Waking there were usually two things on their minds, one was food, always first was food, even if they didn’t realize it, the other was (given the circumstances) where was the closest set of clothes. Altair was in his funeral clothes though, so he didn’t care about the second, he was focused on food.
“Did he get away?” Altair asked as he found an apple at the bottom of the sack.
“Yes,” Ezio said.
“Good. Otherwise I was really going to put you under and then leave you naked in an academy,” Altair threatened.
“You wouldn’t,” Ezio frowned at him, he was clean shaven like the rest of them were, and his hair was short. Hawk was wearing his long. They both kept with the fashion of the era usually. Altair was seven hundred years old, he didn’t care anymore, not really. Sure he’d wear some of the things that were standard for the era but his clothes didn’t change much anymore. He was too old to care, too dusty and set in his ways.
“I would,” Altair said around the apple and groaned, it tasted amazing. “We’ll collect the Pen when he dies,” he added to himself a bit.
“Is that everything?” Hawk asked.
Altair stood, dusting himself off, there was a lot to dust off and he needed a bath because he’d never get it all off. “Yeah,” he said finishing the apple, even eating the core and only spitting out the seeds and stems. Ezio made a gross face at him. He didn’t get how Altair could literally eat anything. Altair thought Ezio was a picky eater, as it was he wouldn’t go near pasta or anything even remotely Italian. He hadn’t been back to his home land since Sofia. He didn’t blame the man, it was always hard to go back to Masyaf. Hawk was indifferent, he would go anywhere, see anyone, if it had sentimental value or not, because it didn’t to him anymore. He was unburdened by nostalgia and Altair had never been more jealous of a man then Hawk ever in his life. “I don’t want to see either of you for at least ten years,” he wiped at his eye, it didn’t dislodge any real dirt.
“Aww, that hurts Altair,” Ezio teased.
“If I do I’m making good to my promise I made down in the grave of shaving you bald,” he told Ezio flatly. Ezio’s face made Hawk laugh.
“Fine. Ten years,” Ezio said moodily.
“Ten years,” Hawk agreed with a nod. “Why ten years?” usually when he gave them a number of years to stay away for they only got together for a reason. Sometimes it was ten years, sometimes fifty, or strange numbers like thirteen or forty-two. But they always came, because Altair always knew, and without Altair they both only knew so much, Hawk had his Apple but he still used it clumsily. Ezio had been a follower his entire life, even when he led, he’d wanted to follow, for someone to tell him what to do, that he was doing the right thing. Altair always did that and told him when he did good and when he did bad. For that Ezio always came back. Hawk came back because the two of them were the only things he had anything resembling emotionally attachment to. They were brothers, but they followed the leader, and that was Altair.
“Because,” Altair said solemnly, “The world’s going to burn. Usual meet. Ten years,” and then without further explanation, he walked away from his empty grave.
Chapter 7: The Bender
Sometime in the thirteenth century, Cairo, Egypt
He could feel it in his limbs. A sort of deep, sinking feeling that made everything just sort of heavy and hard to deal with. Only it wasn’t part of his body anymore, not really. It was in his mind. It was a consuming force inside him that gnawed at every inch of his skin inside and out. Shadows, ghosts, and shades slid back and forth across his vision though he didn’t sway or bat at them. He only watched.
Altair had forgotten what number of beer he was on. Dozenth. Or more. Probably more. One hundred and twelve years old. A dozen beers didn’t do much anymore. No. Had been a time when one would get him drunk, because Muslims didn’t drink alcohol. At least not under their caliph, back then.
Altair grabbed his mug and drank from it deeply. He didn’t taste what he was drinking. He didn’t know if it was fabulous or if it was swill. He didn’t care. He just didn’t want to feel, or know, or be able to remember. Remembering made him hurt in ways he thought he was beyond hurting. His wife, his children, his best friend…
He drank again, not bothering to finish the thought. The waiter put a fresh mug on the table and Altair flipped a coin onto it. The coin was scooped up with the empty tankard of beer.
He drank until he didn’t think, until he couldn’t feel. He’d come in here when it was light out, the sun still rather high, and was vaguely aware that it was dark out now. Altair had been here a while. The bartender knew him. Knew he kept to himself, didn’t keep a tab, always paid for his drinks up front, didn’t cause a fuss, and drank beer like it was water. Then when the tavern closed Altair would get up and walk away on his own accord. He’d always be back though. Because the times he wasn’t drunk he was hung over and the times he wasn’t hung over he was remembering what he’d lost and it led him to slipping his hands into other people’s pockets and purses for coin for yet more beer to start the cycle all over again.
Altair eyed a pair of men who were having a confrontation in front of his table. He didn’t like them, he wanted them to leave. “Eh,” he said, not slurring. He wasn’t drunk enough for that yet. He was only on his thirteenth beer, he had to drink more than that to slur. “Take it outside.”
He didn’t know how it happened. He hadn’t meant to be an asshole. Maybe on the way out of his mouth the words had gotten confused about what they were supposed to say. Because next he knew he was getting dragged out of his table and in the middle of a fight. Oh such a bad idea. He wasn’t sure if for them or for him. He was so painfully out of practice in fighting. But he fought back.
He looked down when he felt something prick his chest. It wasn’t a prick. There was a knife in his chest. Damn it all. He grabbed the wrist attached to the knife handle and yanked out and then stabbed himself again. That freaked out who’d initially stabbed Altair. But damnit if he was going to die might as well get it over with. He didn’t fancy bleeding out all over the place and trying to pretend he wanted to fight to live.
He took five stabs to the chest before he collapsed, once he managed to puncture his lungs and his heart and rupture his stomach. He didn’t remember hitting the ground.
Some time later, Altair opened his eyes. He was laying face down in ditch. Fabulous. He rolled over and sat up
The haze of alcohol was gone, and he wasn’t even hung over. For a moment the world was beautiful and crystal clear. Why would he want to forget this world existed by seeking solace in a tankard? Then he remembered and it was like all the colors were leeched from the world. His everything was gone. Why was he still alive? What was the point?
A shadow passed over him. He looked up and saw a big man standing over him, the sun behind them, making it hard to see. “Hello there,” they said.
“Hello,” Altair said passionlessly.
“Quite a death that was,” Altair looked at them more carefully. “Why don’t we get you something to eat? Must be starving after healing all those stab wounds.”
Altair squinted at them, “Who’re you?” he asked.
The man smiled, “A friend. C’mon now, before someone sees,” and he offered Altair his hand. Altair hesitated a moment before taking it and was hauled to his feet.
Chapter 8: Tapped Out
April 2014, Hawke Island, Indian Ocean
Desmond eyed the others with slightly narrowed eyes. The problem was though that two of them had really good poker faces.
This was by far the most surreal event that had happened to Desmond since he'd first been trapped in the Animus at Abstergo. Sure there was plenty of weird shit out there that had happened to him. Holograms, going into a coma, some of his ancestors still being alive, the Bleeding Effect, Venus, the Apple, the fact that Warren Vidic was actually a mad scientist like you saw in kid's cartoons, and of course being the whole 'savior of the world' thing. But this… this was just bizarre.
It had started when Desmond had made a comment about one of the (many) things Hawk collected. He was a fucking doomsday prepper and a hoarder, he didn't know why he was surprised at some of the shit Hawk had. I mean you had to entertain yourself somehow during the end of the world. But… Magic: The Gathering?
What was even weirder was that all of them were into it. Well Ezio, Altair and Hawk at least. He'd never seen something so fucking weird in his life. But then maybe it made sense, it was just small scale war and all strategy and out thinking your opponent. So he and Jake had been roped into it after Desmond commented on it, and Clay was already along for the ride because apparently he and Hawk played card games across computers. All sorts, including Magic.
So yeah, fucking bizarre.
Desmond and Jake were still learning, but honestly there wasn't anything too hard about the game and his ancestors were patient (you kind of got that way after a few centuries though), and were both just playing a deck Hawk already had. And let it be said Hawk had a lot. Like more then any three men, let alone one man needed. He had to have every card every printed and duplicates.
Hawk had given Desmond a deck full of green spells, life gain, and elves. Jake had been given auras, which you apparently put on creatures to make them really fucking strong. The others played their own decks (Desmond still had trouble wrapping his head around the idea that guys like Altair and Ezio played Magic). Altair had an evilblue/black mill, control, deck and made Desmond want to punch him in the face for. Ezio played mono white soldiers which made Desmond really want to punch him in the face for. Hawk had something called izzet, which was red/blue and pretty fucking annoying but not evil. Clay played a multicolor deck full of angels.
And they all played at the same time and there was a surprising amount of vendetta amid his ancestors. Desmond just focused on not dying first and building up an elf army to the point that he pretty much couldn't die because his life was so obscenely high it was just like taking tick damage on Street Fighter. Altair also took special interest in milling Jake to death as quickly as possible, which caused him to swing at Altair with his massive 13/7 creatures all buffed up on auras. And while all this was going on Clay was just very calmly making three 3/3 angel tokens each turn or something ridiculous like that.
In short; it was a cluster fuck.
It was also really fun!
It was Altair's turn and he looked way too pleased with himself. He also had a Jace the Mindsculpter, which Desmond had learned in the past few hours was a giant 'fuck you, you lose' card when he popped him off. But that wasn't out right now. Instead he just said, "Mill ten," to Jake who looked five seconds from launching himself across the table and burying his fist in Altair's smug face. Though too be fair Desmond would have too if he'd been under Altair's ire as it'd taken all of five turns to half Jake's entire library.
"I don't know what I'm going to do to you later, but I promise it will not be fun for you," Jake growled at him and put the top ten cards of his library into his graveyard, looking at them and swore so elegantly Desmond would have called it poetry. Altair continued to just look pleased.
At least that was all Altair was doing and then let Ezio go. That didn't mean he wasn't going to continue to fuck everyone over though since his control deck was nothing but amassive troll. Ezio just quickly swung at Clay for all he was worth (which was quite a bit as Ezio's soldiers were only slightly more annoying then Desmond's elves) and managed to kill off a good portion of his angels. Didn't do much good though. Desmond didn't do anything after his draw, he just played another elf and gained like ten life, he was at like forty-six or something.
"You need to give him something more interesting then that," Ezio grumbled to Hawk. "He plays like a five year old."
"Hey, shut up," Desmond sniped right back.
"You don't do anything though! You're playing agro, it's wasted on you."
"Fuck you, swinging at you for six," and Ezio was all tapped out except for one 1/2 that couldn't block. Ezio glowered at him, and Desmond made a 'come at me' face in retaliation. He still had untapped blocking elves too for Ezio's next turn.
"Leviathans?" Hawk asked as he took his turn, by far the calmest person here without any vendetta except to make sure Altair didn't mill Jake to death until at least turn six. It had been interesting to see them play six counters against each other in a row on if a mill ten (and all of Jake's remaining cards) would go through a game ago. He was just trying to get back on Jake's good side. At the least Jake wasn't attacking him with his big, fuck off, creatures so it seemed to be working.
"He needs a building deck," Ezio said thoughtfully and gave Desmond a look.
"He'd play a good Commander," Altair grunted.
"Are you kidding that would be terrifying," Ezio shot Altair a look.
"You're just upset because you suck at that format," Altair smirked.
"Artifacts?" Hawk asked, having ignored them both and played some creature that let him find a card. "Or burn-
"If you give him a burn deck I will set your hair on fire," Ezio said seriously.
"Oh look at that Ezio you get to take two," Hawk said in a sweet, mocking, tone, and swung some small creature at him. It was then bounce back into his hand. "Proliferate?"
"Just not poison," Altair said, "And you done yet?"
"Yes," and then it was Jake's turn. The New Yorker drew and shot Altair a dirty look. "Or a token deck."
"Those are annoying," Ezio said, "and agro. He's got agro."
"Fuck you Altair swinging for twelve," Jake hissed from around Hawk.
"Just give him a set up, kid doesn't actually do anything," Ezio said Jake and Altair being ignored.
"I don't like dying, okay?" Desmond huffed. "I'm allergic to it and unlike you jerks I only have one life, so yeah, I like to keep my skin."
"I'm going to Angel Song," Clay announced.
"Fuck you Clay!" Jake yelled at him, drawing everyone's attention back to this stupidity. "He has ten life left!" and he shoved his hand in Altair's direction.
"I know," Clay said nicely, "I like watching you two fight though. It's funny."
"Fuck you," Jake and Altair said at the same time. Clay was unruffled.
"Uhg," and Jake slumped down in his chair, "Your turn blondie," he muttered.
Clay made angel tokens and swung at Ezio, killing him before he was over. Altair immediatly milled Jake for three, twice, and blocked one of Hawk's counters. Jake had onecard in his library left and really did look like he was about to kill something… or someone. Desmond continued to do nothing, sitting on his life and his elves, and Jake managed to kill Altair before getting milled to death and then as soon as his turn was over lost because he couldn't draw next turn but who cared because he'd killed Altair. Hawk didn't do anything and then Clay nuked the entire field, of creatures. Desmond just forfeited after that and watched Hawk slowly crush Clay into a tiny ball.
Then the game was over. Hawk left and got Desmond a new deck full of colorless machines and lands which when you set it up properly destroyed everything except you.
This would be fun.
Chapter 9: Eternal Suffering
November 1835, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
At the least she wasn't his problem. He refused to let Sarah become his problem. But at the same time Micheal felt responsible since he'd been the one to bring a young girl from Pittsburgh to the Point. It was sort of on him. Or at least he thought so.
It was why he kept tabs on her even though he had his own life, his own friends, and didn't have time for a little farmer's daughter with too much spunk. That was what he told himself at least. Sam needled him about it when he heard about Sarah getting into fist fights with their brothers, or cat fights with their sisters. It was normal behavior. Such close proximity to one another eventually bred conflict and while they would fight they would never do so to harm. They weren't in to really hurting each other, they were brothers, they were family. Better then the family Sarah had had back in Pittsburgh obviously, or she wouldn't have followed Micheal home for three days without food or water.
Sometimes Sam joked that Micheal was like her big brother. At the least he was sort of like a benefactor. His mother helped Sarah sometimes, showed her what to do, how to move. He was okay with being Sarah's big brother, especially when he was at the Point and she'd bound up to him while he was still on Clipper's back, barely having gotten home from a mission involving this or that and had a million questions. It was sort of nice actually, he was an only child after his father had died, and his mother had never remarried, he liked having a little sister.
Except no real big brother ever looked at their little sister like Micheal was starting to look at Sarah. He was almost four years her senior but when she started to come into her womanhood; he noticed. He couldn't not notice. She was gorgeous, her hair long, and she put it into intricate braids around her scalp, with big eyes, a long, slender, neck, skin the color of cream, and a mind that was sharper then a knife. She didn't put up with people, especially men, looking down on her just because she was a woman. Meaning she fit in perfectly with the rest of their sisters.
He found his eyes following after her more and more as she filled out her curves (and they were rather ample) and Sam would laugh at him and he'd slap his hands over his eyes to stop himself. Sarah was his sister. She also wasn't his problem. He shouldn't be thinking about doing some of the things he wanted to do with who he thought of as his sister. She didn't seem to notice, and treated him like always.
She was seventeen when he realized she didn't actually treat him like her brother anymore. He'd been sort of dancing around the fact that he was attracted to her for years, reminding him it wouldn't work. He, honestly, was often annoyed by her. But she also made him happy, and he wanted that. Sarah didn't really treat him like a brother anymore though, and it took Sam pointing it out to him for him to notice. They were just comfortable around each other and often would spend all day together, doing nothing, or he'd try (and fail) to teach Sarah to skip rocks, or fish with her hands, and she'd try (and fail) to teach him how to sew, or wrap a strained wrist. She was gentle, fiery, but gentle too.
A man named Dylan Murray got him to act. Dylan thought Sarah was beautiful too, and he was the same age as Sarah. Micheal had to take a step back before he actually did stab Dylan in the chest like Sam always joked he looked about to when he saw the younger man courting her. That didn't last long though because he didn't like Dylan and he liked Sarah and really they weren't siblings. There had been more then a little shock and surprise around the Point when Micheal made his not so brotherly affections known.
At least it was a surprise and shock to everyone except Sarah.
Of course she'd seen it coming. He didn't know why he thought she'd be surprised. He'd yet to actually ever surprise her in anything, even if she sometimes pretended to do so to 'protect his fragile male ego', whatever that meant.
The first time they kissed was a surprise, because she kissed him and it just… had sort of happened. He wasn't even sure how when he thought about it, they'd just kinda fallen into it. In fact they'd just sort of fallen into everything really, including their romance and eventually marriage, something Micheal never thought he'd do, let alone to Sarah, that farmer's daughter from Pittsburgh who didn't know how to take care of herself and too much pride to listen to anyone and was always off climbing trees and getting lost in the woods and making his life difficult.
Hawk thought about all of that when he stood next to the casket.
He could feel the two others at the back of the church, watching him. He hadn't seen them much after the first decade, they let him find his own way, once they told him what he needed to know.
She was still beautiful, in her coffin, even though she was old, her hair silver and long around her shoulders. They'd flushed her cheeks and lips, which was funny, since she hated makeup, and never wore any. There were fine lines around her mouth and eyes from a life of smiling and her hands were resting on her chest. He didn't see the old woman in front of him though. He could still see her, young and beautiful and full of love and life.
He felt nothing though. A shadow of a memory of feeling. Honestly he shouldn't have even been there, as it was he was the last person there. The others had gone. He'd seen his son, Micheal II, and his family. His son was going to be a grandfather himself soon, his eldest daughter round with child.
Carefully, gently, Hawk reached out and stroked his fingers across Sarah's forehead, brushing back her hair. "Goodbye my love," he said softly and leaned over the edge of the casket and kissed her icy lips. "I'll find a way to see you again, I promise," he said, his voice gave away nothing. He didn't even hurt. Now he knew why the other two called it a curse, why they grew attached to nothing and no one.
Life was suffering and eternal life was eternal suffering.
Chapter 10: He is the Sunlight
February 1446 Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia
It was an easy silence, one they’d shared hundreds of times before. The only sound was the scrape of a knife on a plate. Abel eating after Waking, looking tired. His poor Abel was so tired lately, that Apple of his gave him so much trouble and annoyance sometimes. Cain looked at him with a wry smile, “Good job on that,” he said, only slightly sarcastic.
Abel looked up at him, his eyes hooded, he said nothing. He looked in one of his moods. Damn kid acted too old for his own good sometimes. Cain knew better. He was just a kid, still getting a feel for this sort of life, these sorts of deaths. The time before Cain had found him in Cairo didn’t count. He’d been lost then, a rough cut stone. Cain had put him in his pocket and polished him up as best he could. Still had some work to do on that though.
“Don’t give me that look,” Cain frowned deeply at him. Abel just continued to eat.
Cain picked himself up and went over to behind his brother and crossed his arms across the top of his head and leaned on him. “What is it now?” he asked. Abel just made an annoyed noise. “C’mon, tell me.”
“Get off,” and Abel pushed him off.
Cain stared at the back of Abel’s head, confused. What was with him? He wasn’t usually so moody, even after Waking. He leaned down, put his arms around his shoulders, head next to his. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“Nothing, get off,” Abel pushed him again.
“No. Tell me,” Cain insisted, squeezing him. “Its better to just come clean than to fight me, you know that,” he said.
“Fuck off. Get off,” Abel shoved him and Cain let him go. But he didn’t understand.
He went around to his front and crouched next to the table Abel was eating at, “Did I do something?” he asked, honestly confused.
Abel’s amber eyes were sharp when they practically glared at him. Abel had so many sharp edges sometimes, too things far too seriously. Centuries had passed and his brother was still so sharp, too sharp. Cain still hoped those corners would round off like his had so just brushing against people wasn’t painful. He knew how angry Abel was at those weak, normal, mortals, how much he hated them. Hated them because they could do the one thing he couldn’t: die. He didn’t understand why Abel wanted to die. They were literally made in the image of the gods, eternal, unable to stay sick, and came back from death, nothing could stop them.
All of Abel’s sharp edges came from that though Cain chided himself. He’d been the same way, before finding peace in his gift. He’d been angry and bitter and hateful and sharp all over. Abel would round out eventually.
He hoped so anyway.
“No,” Abel said.
“Then why are you angry with me?” Cain asked, drumming his fingers on the table top.
Abel’s gaze was hard, like he was trying to cut Cain with his eyes, “You will though,” he said.
“What?” Cain asked.
“The Apple… I saw the future,” he said.
Cain blinked, “Really? That’s amazing! What did you see?” he asked eagerly. Personally he didn’t bother with those toys anymore. Not worth his time. They’d given him this gift and he left them alone. Abel was obsessed with them. But he was a man of long burning passions, hate, and love, and it was all so adorably mortal.
Cain knew it wasn’t worth it, everything you could love or hate would one day die. He didn’t love, he didn’t hate, he was a shapeshifter who took on the role the world needed at the time. He’d known, befriended, and loved, saints. He’d led armies. He’d courted princesses and princes alike with a cunning tongue. He’d explored the unknown worlds both old and new. He’d sacrificed himself… countless times for those who needed him and watched those who did and didn’t deserve it burn and die. But they all shriveled up and died in the end. There was no point in loving or hating something so strongly as Abel did.
Except him of course. Abel was forever, like him. And he loved him. That was the only word for it. He felt delight when Abel was around like he hadn’t in centuries before, and grew warm when he managed to make the serious man smile. It was a brotherly love sure, but Cain loved him with ever ounce of his ability. He’d give everything to see his brother happy too.
“I saw you,” Abel said, “You did… a bad thing,” he said.
Cain frowned, “What did I do?”
“You killed a lot of people,” he said.
Cain frowned deeper, “But we do that,” he reached out and grabbed his brother’s wrist lightly. “We’re warriors, we sometimes kill people.”
“Do you enjoy it?” Abel asked.
“No,” Cain said, he didn’t enjoy much. It was all so much the same, an endless blandness that all swirled together into endless days, everything blurring into itself. Cain had a good memory, but rare was the event that marked itself in his memory. Finding Abel in Cairo was one of those times.
“The killing I saw you do. You were enjoying it,” Abel said. “And you told me you were bored, and it was entertaining. You were killing women.”
Cain’s face was slack, “I would never,” he said.
“I saw you do it,” Abel said.
“No you didn’t,” Cain scowled. “You saw a scenario that could happen. I haven’t done anything. When is this supposed to happen?”
“In a few hundred years,” Abel admitted.
Cain snorted, “That’s a long way away, brother,” he offered Abel a smile. Abel didn’t smile back. “Don’t concern yourself with it so much. The future isn’t set in stone. You know that. Whatever you saw was a dark future.”
Abel blinked at him, his mouth tight. “It was the only one I saw,” he said. “I remember, before I killed myself under the strain. I was looking for him-“ ah yes, Abel’s allusive hero. He didn’t know the man’s name, or what he looked like. But he knew when he’d be born, what year. He knew where and when he’d find him. “So many possibilities,” he continued, his voice sounding far off. “And you killed all those women in every. Single. One.”
Cain frowned, “Why would I do that?” he asked, “You know I don’t hurt women unless I can’t help it.”
“You said… you were bored.”
“I wouldn’t do that,” Cain said firmly and stood up. “You know me, would I?” he demanded.
“The man you are now might not be the one you will be then,” Abel said.
“Are you even listening to yourself?” Cain demanded.
“Are you?” Abel stood as well, he had to look up at Cain. “You’re going to hurt innocent people and you probably will before that too,” he looked torn then. “I can’t stay and watch you become that man I saw in the Apple.”
Cain blinked, “What?”
“I’m leaving,” Abel said and Cain felt his face go slack a moment. “I can’t stay with you if you’re going to become… that. So I’m leaving.”
“You’re leaving me?” Cain asked.
“Yes,” Abel said.
Cain went and hugged him, “Don’t do things without thinking, Abel,” he said, like Abel was prone to do at times. Doing before thinking, acting on his first instinct that wasn’t always the right one.
Abel didn’t hug him back and eventually Cain let him go. “I am thinking,” he said and shrugged Cain off. “And my name isn’t Abel.”
“I know that, but you’re my brother-
“I’m not your brother,” Abel said. “The Assassins are my brothers. You’re my friend, and Assassins don’t have those.”
Cain’s mouth went tight, “So you’re just…leaving. After everything I’ve done for you-
“You’ve helped me,” Abel said, “But I never asked you to. You helped me on your own free will, and on mine; I’m doing what I have to for me now. I still obey my tenants, and I can’t kill. But I’m not going to stand by your side and watch you murder innocents either.”
“My name is Altair,” he said firmly. “And this is goodbye.”
Cain couldn’t move. He watched Abel give him one last pained look, clearly not liking having to do what he thought was right, and then turned and went to his room to get his things. Cain sat in his chair at the table a sudden disappear washing over him. Abel was leaving. Leaving him. His perfect, eternal, brother, was leaving him. He was alone again.
He looked up when the door opened, “Abel,” he called before he could leave. “I’m here if you need me.”
Abel swallowed, “I told you, my name is Altair, and I don’t need you anymore,” and the sound of the closing door was finalizing. Cain sat there, unmoving, until thirst and hunger made him get up, and it was only under protest that it had to continue to live. The next day Cain did something he hadn’t done in centuries.
He killed himself.
Chapter 11: Chenrezig
January 1 Demeter’s Ark, Lake Chad, Chad
This century was so comfortable. It was something Cain had thought quite a bit since he’d been freed of that hole in the earth that foolish man had put him in. Proeathan things were comfortable yes but even human made things. The world had been made comfortable in his passing with soft beds, and supportive chairs. Such a far cry from long ago. He could still remember sleeping on raised wooden platforms, with just a blanket between him and the wood.
Oh how the world changed. And changed again and again and again.
He liked how comfortable the chair the AIs provided for him was. He’d had a lot of technology to assimilate in a short amount of time. Electricity and flying machines and this thing the humans had called the ‘internet’ but he’d never seen. It had been broken already by the time he was rescued. It was fascinating. And the AIs, the AIs were wonders. What they were going to give him was a wonder.
Hera’s masked face was projected on the glass in front of him. “Cain,” she said.
He smiled, “Hello,” he said. “What do you need of me?”
“You agreed to our price for your help,” she said, “its time for us to start paying.”
“Fantastic,” Cain’s smile widened.
“A synthetic will be provided to you. You may do whatever you wish with them. What do you want from them?”
Cain leaned back in the, very, comfortable chair. He’d thought about this a long while. Since they’d told him what Lucy was, what they would offer him for his cooperation. As far as he knew only Clay and Micheal knew like he did. But Lucy had been created for a purpose unlike the one Cain had. She’d been designed to mimic someone who’d died.
“I want a son,” Cain said, “fertile, and who looks like my son,” an old pain splintered in his chest.
“Who is the mother?” Hera asked.
Old memories he was sure he’d forgotten flickered briefly into recognition. The charming smile of an Indian princess from a long time ago. Her cheerful laughter, and the whisper of her voice in his ear. She’d been so beautiful. She’d said they’d have been together always. What a naive idiot he’d been.
“Mother doesn’t matter,” Cain said, “someone who looks my ethnicity.”
Hera was silent a moment, “And what is that?” she asked.
“You are a very strange man,” Hera said. “You are as old as any tree. But even trees remain the same. You should be short, but you are not. You should have old features, but you don’t. Your immune system is not like humans from when you’d been born. Its almost as though you’ve changed over the past millennia. Where are you from? What land calls you their son?”
Cain’s smile was sharp and hard and like a knife, “Or maybe I’m not like the rest of humanity. My father is from Tibet, that’s all you need to know.”
“I see,” Hera said. “What do you want for your son?”
“A longer life, if possible. If not it isn’t an issue.”
Hera was quiet for several moments. “You want fertility, and a long life?”
“A normal life for a human,” Cain corrected. “He doesn’t have to be perfect. Humans are horribly flawed creatures after all. I imagine a pure human would be even more flawed.”
“Such things require balances, Cain,” she said.
“I am a balancer,” Cain said, “tell me what.”
“You have options. Normally to give longer life we’d make a synthetic sterile-
“So synthetics are not inherently sterile?”
“No. They are not a hybrid which is often sterile. But to give both things it must be a sizable exchange to give him a normal life. He can be an idiot-
“Unacceptable,” Cain growled.
“He can be born disfigured-
“Or he can lose a sense,” she said with seriousness. “Sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch. Which one would you rob your child of?” she asked calmly.
“Any of them?”
“Smell,” he said, he’d met a man once who couldn’t smell. Had been completely normal and one of the best smelling people he’d ever met because he was so concerned that his body oder was offensive to others. “Is that all?”
“There will be other things, but you don’t get to decide them. The red moon decides those.”
“But he won’t be an idiot?”
“No. He’ll be normal in most ways-
“Lucy is normal in most ways isn’t she?”
Cain frowned, “She is,” he agreed.
“Then that’s all there is we need from you, Cain,” she said. “The fruit of your desires will take some months to cultivate.”
“I have time,” Cain said.
“Yes… I suppose you do,” and she disappeared.
Chapter 12: Tincture
November 1888 London, England
At some point he knew he’d find him. For a man who claimed to never stay stagnant Cain had the same habits he’d had four centuries ago. Liked apartments above bakeries and florists, but not restaurants and the place had to have as many windows as the walls were capable of holding. Altair had scouted four such apartments so far. In a bobby’s uniform all sorts of doors opened and he knew how to look sympathetic. The first four had been a family of six crammed into two rooms who ran the bakery; a young composer who lived in a cupboard of an apartment; a young couple, the man who worked in the florist shop downstairs; and the last had been an old woman with six cats who’s children ran the bakery and lived several blocks down and insisted Altair come in for tea. He was on apartment five now and didn’t know what to expect.
The owners of the bakery had let Altair right in through the back, saying their tenant was nice, quiet, and enjoyed toast and jam for breakfast in the morning. That could have been anyone though. Altair climbed the stairs to the apartment and went into Eagle Vision, but his surroundings were nothing but washed out and grey. No lightness, no hint of color. He held his left arm back a bit, flicking the hidden blade out silently in case it was Cain, and knocked, calling, “Scotland Yard, open up under the order of her majesty Queen Victoria.”
He waited, then he heard the locks coming undone. Three locks. Cain used three locks. He prepared himself. The door opened widely. The man standing in the doorway was a find Englishman with a waistcoat, finely manicured mustache, and ice blue eyes. Altair would recognize him anywhere. He didn’t think and just flew at him, hidden blade ready.
Cain caught him in a great bear hug, “Hello brother,” he said with all the mad joy he’d expected. “Knew you’d get my message.”
Altair stabbed his flank, Cain released him and though blood flowed Cain didn’t seem to notice. “I knew this day would come,” Altair growled.
“Yeah, fancy that. So did I,” Cain stepped deeper into his apartment, Altair followed, kicking the door closed behind him. “I mean, you told me,” and he grinned.
“I should have killed you then,” Altair said and lunged at him. Cain pushed him past him, smacking his back on the way into the wall.
“Trouble with that kid; we don’t die, or you forget that bit?” Cain asked, his side was red with blood. “Wouldn’t be surprised if you did, was always so troublesome getting any information into that thick skull of yours. Its like you like being wrong all the time—!” Cain had to jump out of the way when Altair nearly managed to get another hit on him.
“Why Cain?” Altair growled, “Why do this?”
“Bored?” Cain asked glibly. “And had to get you to pay attention to me somehow kid,” and Altair missed the longing in his voice. “This proved to be one of my fruitful attempts to get you to come find me at least.”
“… One of?” Altair asked.
“Oh yes. Been waiting for this year. The year I’d kill all those whores you pretended were good enough for you-
“Shut up!” Altair yelled and attacked again. Cain fended him off with his bare hands and that just infuriated him all the more.
“Been waiting so long for this year,” Cain said even as he deflected each of Altair’s attacks. “And I know you have been too-
“No!” Altair cried.
“Oh yes,” Cain was suddenly in his face, grabbing his wrists, looming above him because despite being centuries older was over a head taller than Altair. “You’ve been waiting for this,” he basically whispered, “because that means you were right. For once you were right.”
Altair wrestled his wrists away and stabbed Cain in the chest. He didn’t know what he was doing and did it again and again, stabbing at Cain until he was dead. Altair stood above the body, breathing hard, covered in blood, eyes wide and wild. He’d just put Cain Under. But for how long?
Altair felt sick doing this but he crouched by Cain he cut open his nice waist coat and then dug his knife into his chest. He cursed when he snapped his knife off between Cain’s ribs. He was gentler with his other one. Altair might have been okay with death and gore but there was something so vile about how personal this was, how far he had to go to make sure Cain didn’t Wake until he was locked up, until he was dead. The only way you could kill people like them was to lock them away forever, make them irrelevant. He coughed a little, gagging, as he ripped open Cain’s chest and keeping bile back cut out his heart. The threw it away from him but knew he wasn’t done. He cut out his lungs too.
That done Altair went to the kitchen and threw up. He hadn’t thrown up at the sight of a dead body in centuries. But this one made him throw up until he had nothing left and his chest heaved and hurt and his throat was aflame. He ended up sliding to the ground in a heaving, shivering mass, trying to control himself. It took him several minutes before he could get to his feet and wash his hands and clean himself and his uniform as best he could.
Once he was presentable he adjusted his hat and went downstairs, saying goodbye to the bakery owners. He’d have to wait till it was dark to go get Cain and take him someplace he’d never escape from. His hands shook the rest of the day until he finally loaded Cain’s body into a cart, making sure he hadn’t started to regenerate, and left London.
Chapter 13: That Whole Immortal Thing
April 2014, Hawke Island, Indian Ocean
Jacob felt like he was sleeping. Though he was having a nightmare. There were just so many people talking at once, screaming. Screaming in his ears until he was deaf but even even he covered his ears they didn’t cease. Just on and on and on wanting to be heard. They reached out for him, some of their fingers brushed his skin or touched his hair. A few stronger ones had clawed hands around his ankles or around his arms, pulling him one way or another.
Then, all at once, like he’d entered the eye of a storm all the noise stopped. The echo of their screaming made his ears ring and when Jacob looked up there was a strange being in front of him. He recognized them too and looming over his shoulder was some tall, thin, black skinned man with wide, wild, eyes and a neat afro. They were staring at Jacob like they wanted to devour him and the memory of a woman with chipped teeth and tired bloodshot eyes flicked across his mind’s eye. When she’d seen him she’s wanted to eat him too.
“Jacob,” Altair’s voice was like a bell and the tall, wild, man vanished into nothing. Jacob rubbed his temple. His head hurt so much and the yelling was starting again. The demands to be heard starting to overwhelm again.
Altair knelt next to him and grabbed his arm, “Jacob,” he said again, “stay with me.”
“Where am I?” he asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” Altair said, “Now stay with me. Push back the voices.”
Jacob squeezed his eyes closed, “Its hard,” he said.
“I know. Here,” and Altair did something but like when he’d first appeared the voices vanished. “Better?” Jacob nodded miserably, feeling tired. So so tired. “Don’t go to sleep,” Altair said, “Do not go to sleep,” he shook Jacob a little.
“But I just want a little rest. I’ll wake up in a second,” and he was almost drifting. Altair shook him again, harder this time.
“Do not go to sleep. Sleep and you die.” That made Jacob be a bit more awake. Awake enough to hear the whisper in his ear. ‘Let me come’ it whispered softly, so gently too. Not like the criers. Jacob didn’t stop them. “Jacob,” Altair was saying, “Jacob,” another shake that made his brain rattle.
“What?” and his voice sounded strange to his own ears. “Altair?” and it sounded like someone else’s voice. Altair released Jacob like he burned. He stayed sitting for only a moment more before exhaustion took him and he fell over onto his side.
“Shit,” he heard Altair say and crouched over him, “Jacob. Jacob! Don’t go to sleep!” But Jacob wasn’t listening. He was very nearly asleep. “No!” he heard Altair yell and that was all he heard before he was Under the spell of sleep. At the edge of sleep the gentle voice whispered ‘thank you, Jacob,’ in his ear and he smiled in his sleep.
When Jacob woke from that dream he felt… good. Like really good. Like that had been the best sleep he’d ever had and holy shit he was hungry. He wanted to eat everything. He looked around then sat up and Ezio was sitting by him.
“Hey,” Ezio said, “You aren’t like… going to freak out are you?”
“Why would I freak out?” Jacob asked.
“Oh good,” Ezio said.
“How do you feel?”
“Awesome,” Jacob said. That’s an understatement, and Jacob started so bad he almost hurt himself looking behind him at the voice he’d just heard. Nope, not there, the voice said. The fuck? Hello Jacob. “Wha-“ Talking isn’t necessary.
“You okay Jacob?” Ezio asked.
“I… yeah? Hold on.”
What the fuck? What does fuck mean? It means… fuck. That made no sense. NEITHER DOES A WEIRD VOICE IN MY HEAD. WHO ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU? No need to yell Jacob. I’m Malik. And if what I understand about this whole thing… Hawk? did is right then I’m your ancestor. Wait… like Desmond’s got ancestors in his head now I have one. I suppose. I’m just as confused as you. So much new information. Excuse me? I can see all your memories. Hey! Those are private. Not anymore. My you were a messy child. Stop that!
“Jacob,” Ezio said and he snapped his head forward, “We need to talk.”
“Right, sorry,” Jacob said. Stay out of my memories Malik. Oh don’t be like that you get to share mine too. I don’t want them. Too bad. Jacob abruptly felt a wave of Old World wash into him. It happened very quickly, in the pause between his and Ezio’s conversation, the length of a heart beat.
In that heart beat an entire life flashed before his eyes. Going to Masyaf, a brother named Kadar who was every bit as temperamental as him. The training. Altair. A hundred friends with boys their age. The smacks and beatings and disciplines. Eventually sacrificing a finger to the Brotherhood, getting to wear the hidden blade, the white hood and all the pride it gave him. Solomon’s Temple. Fucking Solomon’s Temple where that life had fallen apart. No more brother, no more friends, no more Altair, no more respected position. Just grief, pain and a blinding hot rage. There had been a long grieving period, for all that loss, but he’d come through to the other side and then the next important thing hit Jacob like a truck. Malik… liked Altair? And Altair had never known. Oh wonderful. Malik had grown old and then, in the final gambit, failed and let his best friend’s youngest son die, and then had been killed himself.
“You died, Jacob,” Ezio said.
Jacob blinked and he was trying to process it all at once. Malik and Ezio at the same time. “I what?” he asked.
“Well, you went Under,” Ezio said. “Its what we call it, when an immortal dies and comes back.” Jacob was now paying way more attention to Ezio.
“A what?” he asked, looking for clarifications.
“You’re immortal now. Like us.”
Jacob looked at Ezio and then laid down on his back and stared at the ceiling. “Jacob?” he asked.
Jacob? I’m immortal. Yes but- Not now Malik. Not now.
Jacob lay there for a good five minutes before he sat up. “I’m immortal?”
“Yes,” Ezio nodded.
Ezio frowned, “You Bled through. Altair tried to fix you but you just… he didn’t fix it. You went Under. You died.”
“But I’m not dead now.”
“No. You’re Awake. And hungry I’m sure. Altair should be along soon with some food.”
Altair? Malik basically perked up. I wanna see Altair. Malik please. No I wanna see him with my own eyes. Those are my eyes thanks. Same thing! We share a body now, our eyes. I wanna see him. Allah its been so long. Stop thinking what you’re thinking christ I do not need your fantasies! Whoops sorry. Who’s Desmond? Why do you think about his butt so much? I do not! Yes you do. Huh… it is nice though. It is- Wait! I shouldn’t be agreeing with you! Get out of my head! Technically now its our head. No, get out, its mine. Ours. Mine. Ours. Mine. Ours. Mine. Ours. You let me in, so here I am to stay, get used to it kid.
“Yeah, I am hungry,” Jacob said. “So… how does this work?”
“Basically? You can’t die. Well you can die, we call it going Under. While you’re Under you regenerate, and are healed of all sicknesses and ailments. Then, once you’ve finished regenerating you Wake. You’ll be hungry, so eat or you might starve to death.”
“Okay,” Jacob said slowly. “So I have a question.”
“Do you have someone else in your head?”
Ezio blinked, “No? Someone else in your head?”
“Yeah he says- he said his name was Malik,” Ezio stared at him. “What? Did I say something?”
“Malik?” Ezio asked slowly, “Like, Malik al-Sayf?”
“Yes,” Malik said. Woah do not do that! Jacob cried. Do what? Use my body! Our body. NO! Its my body! Kid you’re going to have to have to accept the fact that we’re here together now. So get used to it.
And I think its rude that only you get to have a name for this vessel, Malik said. You aren’t supposed to be here, Jacob said. Well I am now. I don’t like us being referred to Jacob. Yeah and what did you have in mind? Malik? Fuck no. Of course not. This was your body first so I’d defer to that. Hmm, I saw it in here somewhere. Ah, yes; Jake.
Images and smells and sounds pulsed through Jacob’s mind eye. Eugene with his first motorcycle, eighteen and he’d helped Jacob, then only ten, onto the old thing he’d spent most of his junior year restoring. He’d been cleaning it at the time. He could hear his brother’s voice but not the words and could smell the polish he used to clean the chrome pipes. Jacob could feel Eugene’s hands on his own, putting Jacob’s smaller ones on the handlebars, explaining how to use them. That right was the throttle but no don’t gun it Jake you’ll flood the engine. Jacob felt like he was floating above his body. He pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes.
“Jacob?” Ezio asked, touching him.
“Jake,” Jake said and looked at Ezio, “Call me Jake now.”
“What? I mean sure, but why?”
Jake blinked, Malik kept bombarding him with memories. Going to visit his moms for Christmas and being thrilled about socks and sweaters and a cordless power drill; protesting on Wall Street in the snow, lips blue and cold but anger hot enough to keep him warm; his first kiss where he’d been playing spin the bottle and had to kiss Ryan Sullivan and he’d known then he just wanted to kiss boys; when he’d cut his arm open on that piece of scrap metal, running from the cops when he was fifteen, it’d gotten infected cause he hadn’t wanted to tell his moms about it and he almost died because of it; Eugene’s funeral; telling his moms he was gay and they’d just looked at each other and hugged him, saying they were proud of him for telling them. It got too fast now and Jacob felt like his head was about to split open. He cried out and leaned over his knees, grabbing his head as he felt Malik digging through his memories, watching each one, each one lasting less than a second but he saw the entire thing because he could view at the speed of thought.
“Jacob— Jake, Jake,” Ezio was calling his name but it was like trying to talk to someone through a waterfall. He just heard the white noise and the flickering images of his life flashing before his eyes. The images started to melt and meld and he saw more of Malik’s life. Old Syria, before the civil war tearing it apart. It was a more in depth look now, not just a gloss over like earlier. It didn’t help his head though and he wanted to just rip his skull off to ease the pressure building in it.
There was so much death and blood in Malik’s life. The slice of a knife and a splatter of blood. Names and faces and targets raced by him at lightning speed. And so much running. Damascus, Acre, Arsuf, Jerusalem, Aleppo, Tyrus, running from the guards; climbing into windows and the time he’d climbed into the wrong one scared a couple who were enjoying each other in bed and been so embarrassed he fled and fell right into a group of guards; the drift of hash in the air, filling his lungs, dulling and sharpening him in different ways; not a few screams of people as he ran past, sword arm a whirl of silver and steel, cutting through everything; wading knee deep through an army with a squad of Assassins, fighting with the Saracens, pushing back the crusaders, and when asked who those devils in white had been were no where to be seen, already flying back to Masyaf. And Altair, so much Altair. Hating him was the first emotion, then curiosity at the boy Al Mualim found so interesting, an intense, white hot jealousy at his ability driving him to do better, harder, better, faster, stronger, all the time. Couldn’t fall behind Altair, couldn’t let him get ahead, but always chasing him. Even when the jealousy faded; always chasing. Wait Altair, wait please just a moment. Grief and hate and anger were a heady wash against him, flooding him before it was released. He couldn’t hold onto it. Not towards Altair. No. Not him. Not his Altair. Such a waste, so much waste. He’d never said anything. He’d never told Altair. He’d let his boy die and never told him. And Tazim. He’d left Tazim alone in an Order that would hate him for being his son.
The memories started to recede. The images and smells and souths grew distant. He felt Malik there still, and his purpose. He had a second chance. A second chance to tell Altair, and to be with his son. It took Jacob a moment to realize Malik meant him. He was Malik’s descendant, and he was about Tazim’s age when Malik died.
“Jake,” Ezio was saying, “Jake. Jake. Jake. Jake?”
“I hear you,” Jake said feebly, feeling drained and so hungry. Starving actually.
“Are you okay?”
Jake looked up at him, “I will as soon as I get some food in me.”
“Altair should be bringing some. Now I have questions. What do you mean Malik is in there?”
“When I Bled. I let him hitch a ride with me back to the living,” Jake sat up with a groan. He felt drained and wanted to eat. “His memories, his emotions, his thoughts,” he rubbed his head. “Fuck my head hurts.”
“I’m sure,” Ezio said.
“Where’s that novice when you need him?” he asked wearily. He looked at Ezio, “This immortality. How immortal are we talking here?”
“I had my head cut off,” Ezio said, “It grew back.”
“That’s some serious immortality,” Jake said. “What about arms? Can I grow my arm back?”
“Yes. And Jake, you have both arms,” he reminded him. Jake turned and looked at his left arm. I haven’t seen my left arm in decades, Malik said. Its just an arm. No, Jacob, it isn’t. Its much more than that, and Malik sounded so relieved.
The door opened
Jake turned and looked and he bared heard Ezio say, “Oh good, you’re back.” Jake might as well have had hearts for eyes now. He looks so young, Malik said. He’s like nine hundred years old. He looks good for a guy who’s nine hundred. Hey buddy try and keep it in our pants okay. His shoulders are even bigger than when I last saw him. Wow dude you are super gay. And coming from me that means you’re really gay.
“You been telling him?” Altair asked and Malik mentally flailed because it’d been so long since he’d heard Altair’s voice. Jacob wasn’t so into it though. Altair was mean to him, always pushing him, exhausting him in training.
“Right now,” Ezio said.
“Good, so I don’t have to,” Altair said and then looked down at Jake. “Hungry Jacob?” and Malik soured. Excuse him, he knows I’m in here; prick. Shut the fuck up Malik.
“Starving,” he said.
“Good,” and Altair crouched in front him and god damnit Malik don’t stare so obviously at his crotch. But but- Wow you’re a thirsty old man. Shut up Jacob you do the same thing when Desmond does squats! “Eat,” Altair said putting food in front of him. Oh what I’d give for him to feed us. Did you have to make that sound so creepy and sexual? Cause it was sexual. Dude. What? We need to get laid. Altair first! Christ.
Jake then distracted himself with eating and just kinda tuned the others out. Altair isn’t that great, Jacob said. Well, he’s an idiot, but other than that. He’s mean, and a self centered, control freak. I won’t disagree on those demerits but he really isn’t that bad once you get to know him, Malik insisted. I don’t believe you. Oh well, doesn’t make it less true. He can be rather funny actually and he’s very loyal. Yeah? He was with the woman he lost his virginity to for his entire life and even though I wasn’t the easiest person to get along with… he never replaced me. I bet he isn’t even into you. Don’t say that! Don’t shit on my dreams Jacob. Man you have access to my slang for like ten minutes and you’re already taking my lines. Thanks grandpa, you’re a real inspiration. Shut up Jacob.
Jake looked up when he felt a shift and saw Altair head for the door. He chewed quickly and swallowed hard and scrambled to his feet. Malik had control of his mouth even without his permission. “Wait wait you stupid novice I didn’t say you could leave yet.”
Altair turned around, he looked moody and pissed off, especially at Jake. “Really, now is not the time,” he growled and oh yeah I forgot how scary that is, Malik said. Told you he isn’t that great.
“Shut up,” Jake said to Altair’s great surprise. Have you never kicked him? What? No of course not! Its Altair you think I have a death wish? See the thing is with Altair, he’s really a big dumb idiot who likes to be told what to do. So when you want him to behave, you just yank his chain and bit and remind him who’s boss. We’re so not the boss, man, Jacob said. Not yet we’re not. Altair was clay in my hands back when I was alive, he’d do anything I say. Yeah well that’s not then. Well he knows I’m here, we should remind him. You’re going to get us killed, man.
“Did he just—?” Desmond asked, staring at Jake. You like this boy? I mean kinda, Jacob said. He’s cute and funny and handsome and has a really firm butt. So yeah, I guess. Okay. Why? Malik what are you going to do. Shhh, watch and learn Jacob.
“You don’t get to say that to me kid,” Altair said, having to look up at them. He’s so short, Malik said, I swear he was taller. We’re just tall, Malik. Oh, fancy that we are. “And if I remember correctly you’re the novice.”
Malik laughed, but it didn’t come out of their mouth, silent laugh. “Still wrong, as usual,” he said, sort of meanly and put his right hand on his hip. Well that was new. “Too worried about everything you shouldn’t be worried about still. I would have thought you’d have broken that habit Altair—“ and there was fear in Altair’s eyes. Oh he knows, Malik said.
“Shut up,” Desmond said, they looked at him, Desmond was wide eyed. “What the hell did you do to him?”
“I told you,” Altair said, “he’s not like you.”
“You mean besides the whole immortal thing?” Jake asked, making a motion.
“Stop that,” Desmond said.
“Stop what?” they asked.
“That thing you just did. Just stop, its terrifying and… oh my god.”
He knows too now, Jacob said. Well at least he’s smarter than Altair, Malik said. Literally anyone is smarter than Altair, Jacob said. Now you’re getting it. “Well, he seems to be taking it well,” Jake said glibly.
“Was there a point to this? Beyond annoying me I mean? I do have a bird to go pluck.”
“Yes, actually there is,” Jake said and he smiled brightly. Nine hundred years Jacob. Oh god you’re actually going to do it aren’t you? Jacob groaned. Hell yeah I am! Shouldn’t you be, I dunno… wise and sagely? I don’t know where you got that idea from. Uhg just do it.
So Malik did. He grabbed Altair by the front of his shirt and yanked him close and kissed him hard right on the mouth. He let Altair go and Altair swayed, staring at him. “Wanted to do that for nine hundred years,” Jake said. You’re way too pleased with yourself aren’t you? Jacob asked. Oh immensely Malik said.
“Did he just-
“I think you broke them, Jake,” Ezio said, amused but sounded nervous too.
“Well at least they’re quiet now,” Jake said proudly and poked Altair in the chest. Altair just continued to stare at him, totally flabbergasted. See, I told you he’s a big, dumb, idiot, Malik said. Just have to yank his chain a bit and remind him who’s boss. You’re going to get us in so much trouble. Wouldn’t be the first time!
Jake turned towards Desmond. Malik no. Jacob, yes, Malik said. Malik no. Shut up Jacob I’m doing exactly what you want. “And you,” he said to a very bewildered Desmond and stepped over to him and kissed him too. It wasn’t as forceful as Altair’s, but Desmond didn’t kiss him back either. “Been wanting to do that for a while.” Malik no!
Unlike Altair though Desmond at least kept some wits about him. Why do we both like idiots? Jacob asked. Cute butts? Abs? Big shoulders? Nice penis? Shit works for me, Jacob agreed. “I think I need to sit down,” Desmond said and lowered himself to the floor looking so confused and like his world was a lie. Yeah, they only have their looks going for them, Malik said. Horrible husband material and shit Malik no that was a joke!!
Chapter 14: For I am the Sun
October 2014 Somewhere in Germany
It was an endless, bottomless, pitiless, endless, darkness.
Cain’s entire world had been darkness for so long he’d forgotten what light looked like. Never in his life had he experienced such absolute darkness. There were no cracks in the walls, the seem of a door or hinge. No little filter of light. No. All there was was darkness and hunger. A great yawning hunger that had plagued Cain for so long he forgot what it felt like to not be starving, to not feel the Waking hunger.
He was lying on his back, but it didn’t matter. Not really All there was was the void and the horrible dark emptiness all around him. Sometimes he wondered if he was still alive, and then he’d feel his heart beating. It always sounded so loud in here, like a far off drum beat or thunder.
All this wasn’t even the worst part. The worst part was that he’d forgotten what the sun felt like. What color the sky was. The sound of a child’s laughter. The smell of fresh baked bread. The taste of his favorite dish like the one his father used to make him when he was a boy and he could remember even all these years later. He’d forgotten what his sweet Abel looked now too. All he could remember were hard edges and scared amber eyes. If he’d just held on a little tighter.
It didn’t matter now.
He was going to rot in this place forever. He didn’t even have it in him to hope anymore. It had been so long. Too long to keep up hope that Abel had just forgotten him in here in a time of crisis. Too long that it could be an accident that he was in here too long.
Instead he just felt nothing.
The darkness and the hunger and the sensory depravation would have been enough to drive anyone mad. And it had. Cain has screamed and ranted and stormed through every inch of this place. He’d broken every bone in his hands and shoulders trying to beat his way out of this hell hole. He’d started talking to himself and saw things that weren’t there. Sometimes he had full conversations with old friends who’d been dead centuries. The insanity of no food was the worst. He’d hallucinate grand feasts and jugs of water and and gleaming freshly cooked meat. But then they’d all sort of receded. He wasn’t crazy anymore. He was just empty. Empty and hollow and so very tired.
He was sleeping, one of the few things he still did now, too weak to sit up or stand anymore, he didn’t even urinate or defecate anymore. There was nothing left. But he could still sleep, and dream, and grasp at what the sky looked like and what grass felt like. He’d woken because of a noise. A noise he wasn’t expecting because the only sound in this prison for the past hundred years had been his heart beat, his breathing, and the sounds of his nerves firing. But this was a scrape of a sound.
He looked around with just his eyes, but didn’t get up, couldn’t really even if he wanted to. He squinted against a sudden sliver of pure, absolute, whiteness. He closed his eyes because it burned to look at. Then the crack opened further and the chamber was bathed in light. Cain opened his eyes and went right into the sixth sense to control the amount of light his eyes took in. His pupils contracted into nearly nothingness as he gazed at what was before him.
He began to weep.
Standing above him was a man with yellow eyes. Cain thought it was death, finally. At last death had finally kept up with him. Or it could be another trick his mind was playing on him. Weakly he reached up to the figure. “Ne-wan?” he asked softly, his voice beyond fragile and barely there. Father? he’d asked. He missed his father. Now he was the last of his ethnicity. The rest were all dead. All gone and he’d never even known them. But maybe in death he could see his father again, see the other Drell; meet his mother.
They said something he didn’t understand and he cried more. No, not his father. He also wasn’t dead. They reached down and touched him and he didn’t realize he had the water in his body for the tears, or the strength left in his body to sob. They picked him up gently and cradled him against their chest and left the chamber, stepping into the light.
He ended up passing out shortly after and woke up hooked up for three machines and several IV drips. He felt much better now, his body finally able to kick in and return him to his natural state of perfection. A proeathan came into the room and their yellow eyes met Cain’s.
“You are Drell,” they said in hado, the language of the Drell. Very bad hado at that.
“I am,” Cain said.
“Explain your existence,” they demanded.
Cain sat up, he felt alive. He felt amazing actually. He realized as he sat there that he hadn’t just passed out on the way here. He’d gone Under again. Probably his heart giving out from being taken out of that prison. “How long have I been asleep?”
Proeathan week. So five days. “What year is it?”
“The fivers’ calendar refer to this year as two thousand and sixteen,” they said. “Now explain your existence.” Cain smiled and looked around. He’d been in that god forsaken prison for over a century. Just thinking he he was already formulating what he was going to do to Abel. “Drell, explain your existence,” they demanded.
Cain took off the monitors and looked at the IVs he was attached to. They were all just supplements to feed him basically. He pulled out the needles and got of bed. “A god doesn’t answer to the likes of you,” he said.
“Drell, get back into bed,” the proeathan made to restrain him and push him back into bed. But Cain was as fit as he’d ever been. He was at his peak, like he always was. He tripped the proeathan up and they fell, cracking the back of their head on the tile floor and blacking out. Cain left the room, not giving a shit he was naked.
Several of the doctors and nurses saw him though. He smiled at them and most of them were too surprised to do anything about him. Eventually someone stopped him and they jabbered at him in a proeathan language he didn’t know. “I speak hado,” he said in hado. He was detained when the nurse he’d knocked out stumbled out of the room and was yelling and pointing at him angrily.
Cain just smiled. It was good to be back.
Chapter 15: The Visitor
May 1203, Masyaf, Syria
Someone was shaking his shoulder and speaking loudly. So loudly and made his ears ring. With a groan he forced his eyes open. It felt like he hadn’t opened them in some time and they’d glued shut with crust. Someone had shoved aside the curtains he had drawn across the window to keep the sun from distracting him but he was looking at the woodgrain of his desk. Funny, that didn’t usually happen.
“Altair, can you hear me?” his eyes flicked and he looked at who was speaking. It was Malik, it was always Malik, who else would wake him from his time with the Apple other then Malik? He grunted. “Oh good, you aren’t dead I can tell Maria it’s too early to wear mourning black,” he said with more then a bit of sarcasm.
“You talk so loudly Malik,” he groaned softly and sat up. A few pieces of paper fell off his face as he moved from where they’d stuck, the ink smudged and he knew there was some ink on his face.
“All the better to wake you Altair,” Malik said, standing back, hand on his hip, his form of arms folded across his chest. “You’ve been in here for three days you camel brained idiot.”
“I have?” it had not felt that long. He hadn’t meant to drift for so long. He looked from Malik to his private desk. There were all manner of papers on it covered in words or drawings of all kinds. He remembered none of it. That was how it was. He never remembered what he saw in the Apple, never. But his hands had purpose even then and they drew and wrote without the burden of his clumsy hands or script. The words were neat and orderly, unlike when he normally wrote and the languages and words all jumbled together to the point that often only he could make sense of what they said, and the drawings were beyond what he was usually capable of. He selected one at random, confused by what he was seeing. It looked like a city skyline, but like none he’d ever seen with tall square buildings that rose into the sky like piercing fingers jabbing into the heavens.
“Yes, you have,” Malik’s voice drew his attention back to his second in command. “Maria has been worried.”
Altair blinked at him slowly, “And have you been worried, Malik?”
“Only because I have a healthy appreciation for Maria’s temper,” he said gruffly. They both knew he wasn’t sincere. Altair didn’t bother to call his bluff. “Now come, you must be hungry.”
Only when Malik said that did Altair realize yes, he was starving. “You have no idea,” and he stood without a weary bone in his body. If anything he felt strong, good, and with clear purpose. “Food sounds amazing right now.”
“Then come. I’m sure the cooks will be glad to feed their poor, starving, Mentor,” Malik teased.
“I’m going to die of starvation,” Altair informed him. Really though, he was hungry. Malik just snorted and left Altair’s office for the kitchens. Altair bounded after him. He hadn’t felt this good in years it felt like. He sometimes had a pain in his legs from sitting so much as ridiculous as it sounded and prolonged sitting always triggered it. There was no pain though, not even a twinge. It was like he just came out of a fight. He felt great.
He followed Malik downstairs to the kitchens where Malik was telling the head cook, a man named Razir who was as skilled with a chef’s knife as a sword, that the Mentor needed something to eat. Razir was more than happy to prepare something. Altair ate it there in the kitchen on the big center table.
“You eat like you’ve never seen food, Altair,” Malik said.
“You wish to make something of it?” Altair asked, narrow eyed, about to shove another grape leaf into his mouth.
“I just hope this isn’t to become common. Or you’ll get… fat.”
Altair looked Malik up and down, “The one who needs to worry about getting fat is you. You’ve gone to the tailor twice this year to get your robes taken out.” He ducked Malik’s first swipe but missed the leg sweep and found himself on his ass. The kitchen was silent, everyone staring at Malik and waiting to see what Altair would do. “That was very rude Malik. Don’t you have better manners than to attack a man while eating?” He calmly got to his feet and went back to his meal. Giving Malik anything would just let the man win. Reacting as if he’d done nothing important and you weren’t upset with him defanged him. Altair had learned all sorts of tricks in the twelve years of his Mentorship about how to deal with his feisty second in command. Malik just scowled at him. “That was delicious Razir, but I confess. I’m still hungry. Do you have any meat? Goat perhaps?” The thought of it made his mouth water.
“I’ll have some cooked,” Razir said, the only one not stunned by what Malik had done. He’d served Altair, Malik, and Maria their dinner often and saw how they acted around one another. Their fights were playful and even smacks were never given with real intent to harm one another. “Thought it will be some time, Grandmaster,” he confessed. “In the meantime would you care for more of the same?”
“Yes,” Altair nodded quickly.
“I should go tell Maria her husband is going to get fat and to get used to having less space in your bed,” Malik said with a half sneer.
Altair had a come back for that but couldn’t say it. Not out here in the open. Malik knew that. “Clever,” was all he said. Malik smirked at him.
Razir brought him more pita, hummus, grape leaves, olives and cured sausages with the promise of a real meal soon. The cook then turned to instruct his underlings on what they’d be making their hungry Mentor. Altair took the platter to a side counter and popped himself up onto it, the platter in his lap. “Don’t even start,” he added to Malik as he ate.
“I’ve never seen you eat so much. Normally you eat like a bird. Or I have to feed you myself. What has gotten into you?”
“I don’t know,” Altair confessed. “I’m just… ravenous. If you said I didn’t leave my room for three days than I’m making up for three days of meals,” he said between bites.
“What did you see in there?” Malik asked him.
“I don’t remember. I never remember,” Altair shrugged. “No, that’s a lie. I just remembered. Just before you woke me up I saw a dragon.”
“A dragon?” Malik’s brows went up.
“Yes. A dragon. I couldn’t tell you what it looked like. More it felt like a dragon, if that makes sense? All I remember is that it had blue eyes, and it seemed very… pleased.”
“How odd. I looked at some of your drawings. You were dreaming of that man again.”
“Ah, yes,” Altair nodded a bit. “Not a surprise. I will have to check my notes when I’m done here if I know anything more of him.”
“Something you will worry about later. We have visitors.”
“Don’t uhg Altair. They’re important visitors. Members of Az-Zahir Ghazi’s court have come to pay us a visit.”
Altair groaned again. “The man’s dead, can’t he leave us alone?” he complained. “What do they want?”
“I don’t know. They insisted they’d only speak with you. I told them you were busy with something of great importance and couldn’t deal with them now. They said they’d wait. They’ve waited a day and were growing annoyed.”
“Then you came and woke me up,” Altair supplied and Malik nodded. He sighed. “Very well. Once I’m no longer starving I’ll go deal with these messengers of the Lord Aleppo,” Altair rolled his eyes, showing how much care he had for Az-Zahir. Third son of Salah ad-Din he might be he still annoyed Altair to no end.
“Shall I go tell them you’ll be with them before the day is out?”
“What time is it?”
“A few hours till sundown,” Malik said.
“Yes,” he said.
“Very well, Mentor,” Malik said and then turned and left the kitchen. Altair finished his platter and when Razir told him more food was ready met it with a hearty cry.
Chapter 16: A Good Dream
Date and location unknown
“Once upon a time in a land far away from here there was a poor beggar man. Once he had been a very great man. But time had not been kind to the man and where once he'd been a king he was now much less. Not a king of the whole world, just his world. People loved him and he loved them. The man had a family, friends and children and they did everything together.
“Then tragedy befell the man. His beautiful wife died suddenly. His best friend left him. One son died and the other hated him for reasons he couldn’t really say. Seemingly overnight the man was alone through no fault of his own. Now alone he tore off his crown and left behind his great clothes and let someone else take his position. He became a pauper for without those around him who loved him he didn't see the point of being king.
“The man wandered the land, not knowing what to do. Then, one day, he stumbled upon a cave hiiiiigh in the mountains. He thought that was a good place to rest for the night so he went into the cave and fell asleep. He was woken when the occupant of the cave came home. It was a dragon."
"The dragon saw the man sleeping and let out a great roar. 'What are you doing in my cave?!' The dragon demanded. 'I am just looking for a place to rest,' the man pleaded. 'Please, don't eat me.' The dragon was amused by this and said, 'I'm not going to eat you silly human. I am a dragon. I do not eat the stringy flesh of humans. You may stay in my cave, but in the morning you must leave.' With that the man went back to sleep and in the morning he left as the dragon had instructed.
"The man returned to the cave that night. The dragon was there when he came. The dragon roared, 'Human! You come to my cave again?' 'Yes,' said the man, 'I am here to repay the kindness you showed me last night letting me sleep in your cave.' The man had brought a lamb from a shepherd, still alive. He set it before the dragon. The dragon looked at the lamb but did not eat it. Instead he just licked it as if to see if it was really a lamb the man had brought. Satisfied he dragon took the lamb and brought it close to it. 'Thank you human. You may stay the night again if you wish,' the dragon said. The man graciously agreed and spent the night in the dragon's cave.
"The man came to live with the dragon. Every day the man would go out and bring something back for the dragon. The dragon, easy to please, was always happy with the gift and added it to his hoard.
"One day the man did not come to the cave for the night. The dragon became worried of where the man had gone and set out to search for him. After several hours of searching he found the man sleeping out in the field. 'Why do you sleep out in the field?' The dragon asked when he found the man. 'I have used the last of my coin from when I was a king,’ the man said, 'I had nothing to bring you tonight in return for letting me stay in your cave.' The dragon laughed at this. 'You think you must buy your way into my cave, human? There is always room in my cave for a friend!'
"After that the man and dragon were the best of friends. The man filled the hole left by his wife and best friend with the dragon. The dragon gave him everything and always made sure the man was happy and had good to eat and a warm place to sleep. The dragon told the man his true name and the man told the dragon of his wife and best friend and sons. The dragon was sympathetic towards his heartbreak but was more than happy to fill the man with new happiness and stories. The dragon showed the man the wonders of the wilderness and all its creatures. As a dragon the dragon could commune with all the beasts in the mountains and he taught the man how to talk to them as well. But as a human the man had a clumsy tongue when it came to animal languages. The dragon would laugh at his flubs and correct and help him learn it properly.
“As time passed the man learned from the dragon that the dragon was alone. Not that he had no mate or hatchlings, but he was the last of his kind. Or at least the last that the dragon knew of, and the dragon was old and had seen many things. He had not seen another dragon in a very very long time. That made the man sad, but also happy. The dragon knew what it was like to be alone, and as the dragon brought him companionship, so too did the man to the dragon.
"Then, one day, while the man was out, dragon slayers came. They had heard of the dragon, the last of his kind and sought to find him and kill him. They came when the man was out and captured the dragon!
"When the man returned he saw his dragon friend was gone, the cave empty of the beast. He waited all day and night for the dragon to come home, but he never did. Only after the sun had risen did the man go deeper into the cave where he’d never been. The dragon might have loved the man and been his true friend but he was still a dragon, and guarded his hoard jealously. When the man entered the cavern of the dragon’s hoard it was empty. Not a single coin remained. The man thought the dragon had left him and heart broken he went down the mountain to the city. There he heard of the dragon slayers who’d come. They had taken the dragon to the lord of the city, a tribute to him.
“The man rushed to the castle where his friend was being held in an unbreakable magic cage. The dragon slayers were boasting to the lord about their great feat and saying they’d brought it in his honor. They would let the lord deal the killing blow so he could gain the status of a dragon slayer. The lord was pleased by this and accepted.
“The dragon slayers gave the lord a sword to kill the beast. At the last moment the man ran forward and when the noble man made to pierce the dragon’s heart he instead stabbed the man in the chest. Enraged by what had happened to his friend the dragon flew into a fury. Using magic not even he knew he possessed the dragon turned the cage around him into rusty ash. In the confusion and chaos of the dragon freeing itself the dragon slayers were caught unaware. The dragon smashed the head of the lord and thrashed the dragon slayers against the wall with his great tail and wings. He rained fire onto everyone around him.
“Once the evil men were slain the dragon gathered the man up into his arms and flew away, far away into the mountains, leaving behind the dragon slayers who had stolen him and his hoard from his home. The dragon took the man deep into the forest to a spring that was said to be able to heal any wound, some even said bring creatures back from the dead. When the dragon arrived at the spring the man no longer breathed. The dragon put the man into the spring and prayed and waited. He would not move until the man did as well.
“After a long while the man breathed again. When he saw that the dragon was alive the man wept. ‘Why do you cry, my friend?’ the dragon asked. ‘I cry because I am so happy you are safe and alive!’ the man said. ‘You are the only friend I have left. I don’t know what I would do without you.’ That made the dragon very happy.
“Once the man had recovered from his wound he climbed onto the dragon’s back. The dragon said, ‘We will go somewhere far away. Somewhere we will both be safe, where there are no more dragon slayers because there are no more dragons.’ ‘Where is that?’ the man asked. ‘I don’t know. But we will find it. Together,’ the dragon promised. Then the dragon flew away from the spring with the man on his back to find a new, safe, place to live. They lived happily ever after.”
Chapter 17: The Pyromancer's Daughter
July 1969, Willow Creek, Idaho, United States of America
Puzzles always just made sense to Kaley. Always had. She loved a good puzzle, to find the twists and turns of a thing, untangle it and make it neat and show it for what it was by presenting a full picture. Code breaking was the ultimate puzzle. There was no final or focused form to it. There was no image you had to work towards. You just had to know what you were doing, and do it, otherwise you’d never get the finished product. They were the best puzzles. And she got to stick it to a bunch of Templars, so that was a winning situation for her.
After staring at her big white board for a while Kaley’s eyes were watering. She’d been here since after breakfast. The head code cracker for the Assassins was a woman named Jovanna O’Toole who ran the entire division dedicated to unraveling Templar and government intelligence. She was a tenth generation Assassin with roots in Saxons of ancient Britain and a third generation cypher. She was an older woman and thought Kaley was a bit obsessive. She was. She should be. Once Jovanna died Kaley would take over for her and it’d be the first time in three generations that an O’Toole didn’t lead the Assassin cryptography division. First time the division head wouldn’t be in Europe too.
Oh how that burned some of the older families that a Miles- a bunch of once-Germans who’d come into standing in the seventeenth century- and was almost strictly American would take over such an important division in their organization. As it was they were still bitter Troy ran Willow Creek, the second biggest compound in the western United States, and third biggest in the western hemisphere. Only Red Convergence in Alaska and Eagle Point out in the mountains of Pennsylvania were bigger. Still bitter Troy was a friend of Mentor Jefferson and still bitter and sexist a girl was going to take over both Willow Creek and the powerful Miles family. Too much old blood in the old world, and Assassins didn’t like change. The French and Italians were so strong, overshadowing their Middle Eastern and North African roots. Too old, too hard to change, too stuck in the old ways. They weren’t ready for the future. They didn’t have a plan. They were stumbling around in the dark and Kaley knew that.
Standing in front of her white board Kaley saw things she’d been missing fall into place. The code cracking division was one of the most important and competitive divisions of the entire Order. While it was a community that shared everything they also wanted to solve the code faster than any of the others. Only field agents were more competitive. She’d had half formed ideas on her board and now she could see what the Templars had been doing with this code.
“That’s so clever,” she said with a slight smile. She didn’t like what the codes turned into, but she could appreciate a good puzzle. And she’d solved this code in two months. A record. Even Jovanna had been staring at this code for months, beating her head against it in annoyance.
There was a knock on the door and before she could answer it the door opened. “Kay its time for- ahg! Why aren’t you wearing pants?” John demanded.
Kaley looked at him. John was a tall man with fantastic hair, dark grey eyes, and a mouth with lips that looked like they were made to suck a dick. Which, incidentally, he did, quite often. John was the oldest Miles, and queer as a Templar with a conscious. No one knew but her and their father Troy. Assassins didn’t take well to homosexuals, never had. If you were gay you weren’t capable of continuing your line, producing more Assassins. You had far less worth than other Assassins. Troy knew that and kept John close so no one asked or bothered John about why he was nearly thirty and still had no wife, or children.
“I am wearing pants, perv,” she stuck her tongue out at her brother and lifted up the long hem of her shirt. Or really, not her shirt, current squeeze’s shirt. It was big on her, and comfortable. “Its just hot so I’m in shorts. Geeze, you act like you’ve never seen me naked,” she scoffed.
“Sis, you were six, not twenty.”
“Whatever,” she rolled her eyes.
“Anyway, its time for dinner. You missed lunch,” he said.
“Are you kidding?” she checked her watch. “Where did the time go?”
“You spent it looking at that wall,” he said.
“Hey! I was making important advances in cracking this code. Which, in case you were wondering; I did,” she said.
“Yeap! I can’t wait to tell dad,” and she bent over her desk a moment to finish filling out her notes.
“Well c’mon I’m hungry,” John complained.
“Go bother Archie if you’re hungry, I’m sure he’ll comply.”
“Woah woah little sister. That was uncalled for,” John said, but was also red faced when she glanced up at him.
“Or did you do that already?”
“I’ll see you at dinner. Hurry up,” John practically squeaked and left her alone. She smiled and shook her head fondly at her brother. John was so predictable. Or maybe it was just men. She got bored of them so quickly. You had to try hard to make her interested for more than a few weeks. All the boys her age at Willow Creek knew that and practically fell over themselves to be impressive. Most of them were just so… boring.
Kaley finished her notes and changed her shirt so her daddy wouldn’t ask where she’d gotten it, and went out to the dining room. Troy was there, as usual, at the head of the table and there were two spaces open. It was just her, John, and Troy in the house. Her other two brothers lived with their wives and children, doing their best to keep the family name going. Mrs. McKenna, an old lady who was too on in her years to help the Order in other ways, cooked for them and several other families every day. It gave her something to do and didn’t take more able bodied people out of their fields.
Kaley sat in her seat at Troy’s left. John came in from the kitchen were two bottles of beer and set one at his plate and the other in front of Troy. “Thank you,” Troy said. Troy looked the picture of a hard old man. He had all his hair still, but it was pure silver. He had dark blue, almost black, eyes like Kaley did, and a scar ran vertically down one side of his face. He had deep frown lines on his forehead and corners of his mouth and though he was in his fifties was still in great shape. “Finally come out of your office I see,” Troy said to Kaley as he took a sip of beer. Kaley didn’t like beer, she thought it tasted icky.
“I had a major breakthrough with the code,” she said excitedly as John started serving everyone. It was fresh bass, whole ears of corn and snapped beans with a cream sauce.
“Meaning, I cracked it!” she cried.
“You did?” Troy asked, eyebrows going up. “That’s wonderful dear. I’ll send a message to Jovanna tomorrow that she can expect the full information from you in a few days.” Kaley beamed at him.
“Show those Europeans the Americans are just as good,” she said with a mean while.
“Better,” John said rather emotionlessly, more like he was stating a fact he’d been saying for years and just reminding everyone of it.
“Exactly. Better than those Europeans,” Troy said. “Speaking of them though,” he turned to Kaley. “I’m having someone visiting from Poland in the next few days.”
“Oh? Who?” Kaley asked and glanced at John who was quietly eating. Him not talking meant he’d known, and knew who it was, but wasn’t telling her.
“A very nice young man. His name is Oliver Ranta. His family is very well known in eastern Europe.”
“That’s nice. What’s he coming here for?” Kaley asked between bites. Troy didn’t answer right away and John was very much not saying anything. “Daddy?” she prodded.
“Remember how we spoke some time ago,” Troy started, “about your future? How you’re going to take over the family when I’m gone-
“And you know I hate it when you talk like that,” she said sharply. The thought of her father dying was the worst thought. Her mother had died when she’d been young, killed out in the field by Templars. The thought of losing her father was unbearable.
“Regardless. Its something we must think about. You’re not a little girl anymore Kay. Jovanna isn’t getting any younger, she adores you, as I’m sure you know. Neither am I. You’re going to be Matriarch of the Miles when I’m too old. You need to start thinking about what that means and what it means to our family. Unfortunately, and you know I hate to say this, but you are a woman. Those sexist ninnies in Europe aren’t fond of female leaders among us, let alone Americans,” he rolled his eyes a bit. Kaley had stopped eating. “I have been talking with some of my friends I have both here in the States and in Europe and they made me come to the decision that it would probably be best if you got married.”
“Oliver Ranta is coming to Willow Creek, to see you. You will be marrying him.”
“Again, what? Did you arrange my marriage?” she asked, gripping her utensils so hard her hands shook.
“I did,” Troy said.
“Why would you do this?” she demanded. “As if my life isn’t controlled enough by the Order now I can’t even pick my own husband!?”
“Kay, please. Oliver is a great young man-
“I don’t care!” she snapped. “You didn’t even ask me.”
Troy’s face wrinkled in a frown, his scarred eye becoming tiny and hard. “And I am your father.”
“And I am your heir! The only one of your blood. You didn’t even consider my feelings in this.”
“I did,” Troy said slowly, keeping his temper in check. John just had his head down. They both knew what it was like when Troy lost control of his temper. The good ole’ Miles fury was strong in all of them and they could burn a house down with it. “I know there are no boys in Willow Creek you find interesting enough to be with, if you did I would know about it,” and that took all the wind out of Kaley’s sails. “And since I know you are so fickle and wouldn’t settle down with anyone I just took your chance to waffle away from you and picked someone for you. Now he’s coming in two days and I expect you to be nice to him. His father has already agreed to this so you might as well just accept this.”
Kaley’s reply was to knock over his beer and storm away.
“Kay!” John called after her.
“Let her go,” she heard Troy tell John. “She’ll come around,” was all she heard before she was out of the house. She went down the lane to the gym where there were still people training and exercising. She went to her locket and pulled out her work out gear and put on her pads before going to the practice ring.
There were several guys there and they greeted her by name. She didn’t waste any time or pleasantries and just told them to beat her up. Or try to at least. After double checking that they’d heard her right they fought. Kaley threw them all to the ground about six times each before they said they had to go home.
Kaley stood alone in the ring feeling impotent. Her father had just married her off to some Polish dick she’d never met! That was all her father saw Oliver as. A dick that could give her well bred children. It was infuriating! She didn’t even know Oliver and she hated him. For a moment it felt like her skin was burning and she just wished, in that moment, that she could breathe fire.
Then the moment passed and she threw her gear back into her locker and went home. Troy and John were already asleep. Kaley showered. She’d been so happy in the beginning of the night and now she was going to bed angry.
Kaley was out of the house the day Oliver arrived. She’d made a point to be. She’d gone to the communications office to talk to Jovanna for a while. The two of them could talk forever about their work and it kept Kaley’s mind off the foreigner who’d come to Willow Creek. For a while anyway then her brother Eric had shown up.
Eric leaned into the cubical she’d taken over to talk to Jovanna. Eric was her youngest big brother, had only one baby so far. He was cute with big pale eyes and a perfect jaw. His hair was always a mess. “What?” she swatted at Eric in irritation.
“Dad says come home,” Eric said and tugged on her collar like a boy pulling pig tails. Anyone else did that and she’d have thrown him on his ass. Eric was too cheerful and sweet to do that to.
“I’m talking to my boss,” Kaley said in exasperation. On the other end Jovanna laughed.
“So? Tell her you’ll call her back. He’s got a visitor he wants you to meet-
“I know why he wants me home. Get out, I’ll be home when I’m done,” she waved him away. Eric just shrugged and left. “Can you believe the nerve of these men?” she asked Jovanna.
“My dear, perhaps its best if you don’t dawdle. I’ve learned many a time that taking off the bandage slowly doesn’t work. You need to just rip it off, get it over with. Besides, your father is a smart man. You might not hate Oliver.”
“Uhg! I can’t believe you’re on his side!” she accused. Jovanna just laughed again.
“Anyway dear, it’s late here, I must be getting to bed. You did good work with that code. We’ll talk again soon.”
Kaley sighed, “Alright,” she said. “Talk to you soon, ma’am.”
“That’s a girl,” Jovanna practically cooed and they both hung up. Kaley dragged her feet back home.
When she opened the door she could hear men talking in the living room. She heard her father and brother John talking to a voice she didn’t recognize. It was heavily accented and sort of difficult to understand, but not fully unpleasant. She lingered just outside where they couldn’t see her, just listening. They talked banally about Troy’s accomplishments. Seemed Oliver thought quite a bit of Troy.
Finally she just did what Jovanna suggested and entered the room. “Hi. Sorry I didn’t come sooner. Jovanna kept me,” she said to her father.
“I’m sure,” Troy said and she knew he knew she was lying. “We were just having a chat. Oliver, this is my daughter, Kaley,” Troy said.
Oliver immediately jumped to his feet to shake her hand. He had a firm grip with callouses on the palm and fingers from knife fighting and there were a few small scars on the top of his hand. “An honor to meet you Ms. Miles,” Oliver said. He wasn’t ugly, but he wasn’t pretty either. Oliver was about as average as you could get with a face you’d forget the moment you looked away from it. Kaley supposed that was the point. His hair was black and his skin shockingly pale. He had subtle lines at the corner of his mouth and when he smiled as he shook her hand she knew it was from doing so so much.
“Ah, nice to meet you too,” she said, caught off guard a bit.
“You were speaking with Ms. O’Toole before arriving?”
“Yes,” Kaley said.
Oliver just smiled at her, “I hope she’s doing well.”
“She is,” Kaley said.
“Unfortunately,” Troy muttered.
“Dad!” Kaley cried.
“What?” Troy asked innocently. “Is it so much I want my little girl to have an excellent position amid the Order?”
“I don’t understand?” Oliver said.
“Jovanna has selected my daughter to be her successor.” Kaley smiled a little when Oliver went from interested to outright respectful of Kaley. “It is a great honor.”
“Yes,” Oliver nodded. “The division head has been an O’Toole for three generations. You must be exceptional to get Ms. O’Toole’s interest.”
“I am,” Kaley said. She wasn’t cocky, she was just telling the truth.
“You must show me how you work some time. Its so beyond me. I’ve only the head for field work,” he admitted almost shyly.
“Yes. You must tell us Oliver,” Troy said. “Both of you sit,” he added. Kaley sat and only when Oliver let go did she realize he’d been holding her hand the entire time in both of his with utmost gentleness. She sat next to them. Troy asked Oliver about himself, as the Pol had been far more interested in talking about Troy before.
Turned out Oliver was a rising star in Europe. His family wasn’t very powerful like Kaley’s, but they were upstanding and came from the Dutch Assassin who was remembered in Assassin history books. Oliver was jokingly called his second coming, though Oliver humbly told them all he never thought of himself like that. He was intelligent, and not the way some Assassins were where they just knew things the Order taught them. Oliver had actually lived and been a part of the world at large. Kaley was horribly jealous of that. Troy didn’t let her leave Willow Creek. She was too special, too important.
Oliver also liked to fight and John had suggested that he and Kaley spar sometime. She’d wanted to punch John for that and Oliver had tried to talk his way out of it. Oliver wasn’t very good at talking though and when Troy had said that sounded like a good idea he’d just shut up.
A few hours later they were finally done and Kaley excused herself to her room. She fell onto her bed annoyed. She hated that she didn’t hate Oliver. Troy had taken her agency of choosing her own husband and then given her the best man for the job. Most of the men her age in Willow Creek were so introverted and stupid and had no charisma. Through no real faults of their own of course, they were Assassins, they were bred that way. They were supposed to be quiet, sociopathic, and follow orders. Oliver was in charge. Of his life, of his cell. He spoke well, despite his Polish accent, though she supposed it was totally fair for him to have an accent as he spoke four languages. He was just, great really and she sort of looked forward to getting to know him better.
“Damnit dad,” she muttered.
She rolled out of bed, changed her clothes and fixed her hair before leaving again. Troy and Oliver were still talking though John had left to go do whatever he had to still do that day now that Kaley hadn’t set the house on fire. “Back already?” Troy was honestly surprised when he saw her. He’d expected her to go to her room and sulk for a while, not come back out after a few minutes.
“I said I’d be right back,” she said, offended.
“Is there something you needed?”
“I thought maybe I could talk to Oliver, alone,” she gave her father a pointed look.
Troy’s brows went up in surprise. “Of course,” he said and with a grunt got to his feet. “I’ll leave you two alone then.” He gave Kaley a look as he left. A very specific, ‘don’t be mean’ sort of look. Kaley just smiled at her father. She had no intention of being mean. She wasn’t happy about being married off, but she wasn’t here to be mean.
“Ms. Miles,” Oliver said, getting to his feet.
“Please, you can call me Kaley,” she said nicely.
“Kaley,” he said and then looked around her to make sure Troy was gone. “I am so sorry.”
“What?” she blinked in surprise.
“I realize your father did this without your consent. For that, I am sorry. Heh… my father, he went behind my back with this as well.”
“So, we both have conniving fathers?”
“Who want the best for us. I trust my father to make good choices on my behalf. Do you?”
“Sometimes,” she said. “Other times I want to strangle him,” that made Oliver laugh.
“I know how that goes,” Oliver said, smiling. He had a fantastic smile and made him look less ordinary and almost handsome. He had dimples. That was cute. She smiled as well.
“Has my father given you a tour of Willow Creek yet?” she asked.
“No. I came right here from the airport,” he said. “The drive here was…”
“Boring?” she teased. “Nothing but potatoes and corn here. Well, except here.” Oliver nodded. “I’ll show you around.”
“I’d like that quite a bit,” he said.
“Lets go then,” Kaley beckoned him. Oliver smiled and followed her out of the house.
Kaley rarely got to leave Willow Creek. Troy didn’t like to put her needlessly at risk he said. Today though she got to go out with Oliver to Lewiston and take him to the airport. He’d been here for two weeks and now he was leaving. When he’d first arrived Kaley didn’t think too much of him but now that he was going Kaley was loathe for him to leave. She’d had to beg Troy to let her go. Normally he’d say no and she knew that but he couldn’t stand to see her beg. He’d said yes.
Now she was sitting in the back seat of a jeep with Oliver. They had their heads close together, talking. John was driving and Troy was in the passenger seat. She could see her father watching them in the rearview mirror. He seemed pleased. She didn’t really care either.
When they finally stopped at the airport Kaley barely noticed. Oliver checked in and they walked to his gate. Kaley held his hand the entire way. There was forty minutes before his flight and he and Kaley spent the time waiting together.
“You must come visit me in Poland,” Oliver said, not for the first time in the past two weeks.
Kaley smiled, “You know I’d love to. My father wouldn’t love it,” she said.
Oliver gave Troy a shrewd look. Troy was reading the paper he’d bought from a kiosk at the terminal. “We’ll convince him,” Oliver promised. “Eastern Europe is so beautiful Kay,” he cooed. “No potato fields,” he promised and she laughed. “I’d take you to see a city. They’re not like the ones here.”
“I’ve never been to a city,” she said.
“All the more reason,” he said. “Everything is so close in Europe. We could go anywhere.”
“Uuuh, Oliver stop. You’re making me depressed I can’t come with you,” she whined.
Oliver chuckled. “We’ll convince that old man to let you visit. He’s going to have to let you go if he wants us to get married after all. You can’t stay in this dusty place all the time.”
“I can’t wait,” she smiled. She never thought she’d say that either. That she’d be excited to be in an arranged marriage.
“Me neither,” he kissed her. Oliver was a fantastic kisser honestly. Kaley fully admitted she loved like a fire. She loved hard and fast without apologies or reservations. She wasn’t in love with Oliver yet but she knew she’d just need a little more time. He was the only man she’d met who interested her enough to want to learn all about him and not just use him as a play thing like the boys back in Willow Creek. They spent the next twenty minutes canoodling and she was very aware of John and Troy pretending not to see.
Then a voice came over the speaker announcing that the plane was boarding. “Why do you even have to go back to Poland anyway?” Kaley whined.
Oliver chuckled, “I have work there, my dear,” he said, still sort of smiling. “My people are waiting for me. My cell is going on a mission to Berlin. Once I’m done with that mission I’ll come back, or you’ll come to me. We’ll make it official then. How’s that sound?”
“Yes!” she nearly whispered.
Oliver got up and she went with him to the gate. “Sir, it was a pleasure meeting you,” he shook Troy’s hand. “John,” he shook John’s hand as well.
“We’ll be in touch I’m sure,” Troy said with a faint smile.
“Good luck with your work back home,” John said.
Oliver smiled faintly, “Thank you.” Kaley kissed him one more time before letting him go. “Safety and peace,” he said before turning and showing his ticket to the flight attendant and walking down the gangway.
As they were driving back to Willow Creek Troy turned back around to Kaley. “Didn’t I tell you?”
“Tell me what, daddy?” she asked, looking away from the window where she’d been zoning out back at him.
“I considered your feelings. I didn’t just pick some idiot for you. You’re my precious daughter after all,” he said fondly.
“I suppose you did,” she said, smiling back a bit. “When he’s done with his mission in Berlin he wants to get married,” she said.
“Excellent,” Troy turned back front. “Berlin missions last a year or two, so we have time to prepare and decide if he’ll be coming here, or you to Poland.”
“I want to go to Europe,” she said immediately.
Troy chuckled, “We will see about that, dear,” he said.
“I want to, daddy. I want to be there, with him.”
“We’ll see,” Troy just said again and she knew she’d have to wear him down to ever get him to agree. Wouldn’t be too hard. Troy did anything she asked. She was giddy with the thought and the next year couldn’t pass soon enough. She couldn’t wait to see Oliver again.
Chapter 18: Promises
July 2020, Atlantis, Atlantis
Desmond hated meetings. Hated them so much. Especially with proeathans. Since he'd reminded all the proeathan leaders that he was in fact that one in charge now and they would be answering to him it had been a lot of back and forth. The Adjatevs were being made to pay for their war crimes, but the newly elected Cabinet was slow to enforce anything on their own people. Desmond was super close to just going back into the Selene waystation and forcing them. He was just a guy and here he was playing politics. He hated it. But he was also stadalla and even in just two short years it seemed like everyone had forgotten that. Maybe he needed to remind them.
He was leaving one such political meeting with the heads of the proeathan and human states save for the Adjatev rep. Merccion, the leader of the Cabinet, but not the Chancellor, hadn't been there. Desmond would remember that. He was trying to forge good relationships between everyone and the fucking Adjatevs fought him every step of the way. Only small progress had been made in the past two years. Desmond didn't even want to do this. He had a better project in mind to take up his time, energy, and efforts. One that was actually rewarding.
Maybe it was time to thin the Adjatev leadership like he had at first. He'd been selective in who had to die at the head of the proeathan government. It had included all of the previous Cabinet, and Chronos, and some other leaders of the other nation-states.
He was so wrapped up in his thoughts on his way out of the meeting, back to his office, that he didn't notice someone come up behind him. He cried out when they jumped onto his back.
"Desmond!" Lucy called her arms around his neck.
"Holy shit! Hon, don't do that." Desmond bent his knees a bit so her feet could touch the floor.
"I surprise you?" she asked and though he couldn't see her he knew she was smiling widely.
"Yes, you did," Desmond said and grabbed her hands, unclasping them from around his neck and turning around to face her. "What is it?" he asked, still holding her hands.
"We need to talk," she said.
"Uh-oh," Desmond grimaced. "Am I in trouble?"
"Yes, and no," she said sweetly.
"Shit," he muttered. Whatever he'd done, or hadn't done, probably wasn't too great.
"It isn't bad," she promised him and popped up onto her toes to give him a peck on the lips. "I'm just annoyed."
"Shit," Desmond said again.
"You'll like my solution to my annoyance though," she promised him sweetly, coming to press up against him.
"I will—?" he sort of ended in a squeak when she grabbed his crotch. He was glad they were the only people in the hall. "I will," he said and she smirked. "Soooo… I guess I'm done working for the day aren't I?"
"You are," she said smugly.
"Okay," he said. She just walked off and Desmond followed like the good husband he was when his super amazing wife said he was done with work because she wanted him. He wasn't going to complain. He worked all the damn time, was tired most of the time, and still sometimes had nightmares, sex wasn't always on the agenda.
Their home was the one Desmond had made in the Unnamed for them, recreated in the real world. With a few additions. He'd added more bedrooms both for visitors and because he had no idea how many kids Lucy wanted so he'd just prepared. It was the same layout Lucy had liked for so long but was filled with different things because the things they'd wanted in the Unnamed didn't really exist anymore. It was in the large building that encircled the Unnamed on the highest floor and took up most of the floor so Desmond could look out on what he'd made with a smile knowing he'd made something wonderful for both the other humans and proeathans and his future children. Atlantis was still small but was growing quickly. New buildings were going up all the time and relations between humans and proeathans were healing slowly. That'd take decades yet still. They had time. Rebuilding and healing the huge wounds in the world would take time and Desmond had all the time in the world now to make sure they mended. He hoped within the next fifty years there would be mixes. It was better that way. If their two species just freely mixed and they weren't so separated. If nothing else it'd ease a lot of tensions and bad feelings that lingered and would linger for a long time. For now, humans lived with humans, and proeathans lived with proeathans.
A lot of humans from Demeter lived in the building too, on lower floors. They wanted to be near Lucy who was their Angel. That had gotten around real fast amid the other humans and it was tangible. It wasn't their nameless, faceless, man in the sky. Lucy was someone they could really see in real life and what she'd done grew in proportion every year. Desmond's role had been flopped from evil to more neutral. No angel at the battle of Atlantis two years ago could look at him and see him as he'd pretended to be. But they weren't sure what to make of him either. Cain said the Faceless were restless because of all these new religious ideas and they were trying to assimilate both Desmond and this Angel of the Lake icon into their iconography for proeathans to consume as well. But this would change things. There had never been proeathan gods like the Angel and her stadalla as the humans were calling it. The entire religion was going to change. Desmond wasn't exactly pleased by that.
Lucy was also super over the whole Angel of the Lake thing and had since dyed her hair to help hide her appearance since blondes were still so rare. She'd dyed it normal colors for a few months, brown and black mainly of various shades. She'd had gotten tired of that pretty quick. Right now it was a very light lavender color. Kinda weird, kinda cool. Jake, of course it was Jake, thought it was awesome and promptly dyed his hair indigo and somehow convinced his brother to dye his blue too. Desmond thought they were crazy but they were happy so he wasn't going to fight them about it. Weird dye jobs had started to pop up around Atlantis because of those two among the humans but surprisingly it was the proeathans who had become especially taken with bleaching their hair and dying it extravagant colors. Anything to be different.
"So, am I in trouble, or am I not in trouble?" Desmond asked when they were finally inside their home. It was still sort of empty. They both worked so much they didn't have time to live in it or collect things. Not to mention he and Lucy weren't really 'things' people. They liked things to be clean, orderly, undecorated. It was how they'd been raised. Altair promised that in a few decades they'd start to accumulate 'stuff' as that teaching wore thin and they became more distant from their mortal lives and childhoods. That and he promised they'd have all sorts of weird things in their house once kids came into the picture. You just had things when you had kids because kids just needed or wanted things and toys and a thousand things to get underfoot. But for now, it was pretty utilitarian.
"Both," she said, turning around and looking at him smartly.
"How can I possibly be both?" he asked as she came up to him and undid his belt.
"Usually you don't get any when you're in trouble," she said.
"This is true," he agreed.
"But, you're still in trouble."
"But like you said about the whole getting laid thing," he said and followed her when she dragged him away from the door by his undone belt. "What'd I do?"
"Its what you didn't do."
"Okay, then what didn't I do?" Desmond huffed as they came into their bedroom.
"Remember when we were in the Unnamed?"
"How could I forget?" Desmond asked and leaned down to bump his nose against her. "Would never have come out if not for you."
"This is true," she smirked. "Well, do you remember what I said?"
"We were in there a relatively long time. Lots of things were said. Which one am I forgetting?" Not like Desmond didn't have five thousand other things to remember or anything. He didn't say that. He should remember things his wife thought were important. He'd made this entire place for her. So they could have a safe place to have their kids. Anything she wanted was important to him.
Lucy took his hand and put it on her flat stomach, "I'm not going to die in three years, but you promised we'd have kids," she said.
Desmond blinked a few times. "And I fully intend to keep that," Desmond said seriously. "But we both know that it really isn't a good time."
"I don't care," she said. "I might not age until I feel like it, but I'm still gaining years. And unlike you boys, girls don't have all the time in the world to have babies."
It came to Desmond slowly. He was an idiot sometimes, was working on that. But it clicked. "Oh… oh," he said and looked at her in an entirely different way. Lucy wouldn't look different than she did now unless she told Desmond to make her mortal again. But the two of them weren't true immortals. They didn't go Under, their bodies weren't remade. The bodies they had were the ones they had. All women had a set number of years before their eggs just, basically, went bad. Didn't matter if they were immortal or not.
"You promised me before we left. It's important to me because I want it, and no one else is making me."
"I know, I know," he said softly and leaned down to kiss her. "But you have to agree, it's horrible timing."
"I know. I don't care. I don't even know if my body works differently because I'm a synth. I might have less time," she frowned unhappily at him.
Desmond let his breath out in a huff, his lips making a sort of motorboat sound. "I just… in good conscious I'd feel bad," Desmond admitted. "Like, it isn't the end of the world, but its pretty close. I literally just got out of a meeting where Od informed me if that something wasn't done about the Adjatev Cabinet to bring them to heel or into the Fold he'd force them to. We just got out of a war and these proeathans are ready to go into another one. I don't want to bring a kid into that."
"But I want to."
"I know," Desmond said. "But they'll be my kid too," he wrapped his arms around her. "I'm also reaaaally busy. I want to be able to not have to do anything for when we have our first baby. You know I'm doing like ten things at once. You think that'd be fair to any of us if I couldn't spend time with you?"
"No," Lucy agreed softly, but also sort of heartbroken. She knew he was just being realistic. "But I'm worried if I don't now when my body is still 'young', I won't be able to later.
"We will," Desmond promised, kissing her lightly. "And it'll be fine. If it'll make you feel better Demeter can hold onto all of your eggs so we can use them whenever we want."
"… I never thought of that. That is really smart. I can't decide if I'm impressed with how smart that is or annoyed I didn't think of it and you did," she said. He just chuckled.
"See, good for something," Desmond grinned.
"Yes," she said. "I'd still rather try it the old fashion way and not with Demeter's help," that made him laugh a bit. "Good ol' college try and all that."
"I really think it'd be better if we waited," Desmond said. "We're young yet, we have time," he reminded her.
"I hate waiting."
"Oh, I am well aware. You dragged me away from work for this," he teased.
"You hate it anyway."
"I'm much more interesting," she tugged him down by the collar, their mouths almost touching.
"You are." He kissed her.
"Say yes," she said softly.
He gave an annoyed whine and tugged away from her a little so he wasn't completely influenced by her because she would absolutely try and change his mind, "Yes, we will definitely have kids. But… not right now. It isn't a good time. I promised you in the Unnamed I'd make it safe. It isn't safe yet."
"You're the stadalla," she reminded him. "My stadalla," she added. She grinned when he gave her an unamused look.
"Yeah. I'm the stadalla, and the stadalla says we should wait."
She groaned at him and let him go, "Fine," she huffed. "Fine. We'll wait more."
"Just until I get the stubborn idiots of the Fold to come to some sort of actual truce and treaty," a task easier said than done. "Then we can have all the kids you want."
She eyed him and then held up her hand, pinky extended to him, "Pinky promise."
He grinned, "Pinky promise," he said and hooked his pinky with hers. "We'll go visit Demeter, she can put some of your eggs on ice and we won't have to worry about if the proeathans made you any less perfect than I know you are."
"Oh now you're just laying it on thick," Lucy said, grinning.
"Have you met me? Thick is practically my middle name."
"Oh, I know," she gave him a look.
"Does this mean we can still have sex even though we're not going to try for a kid?" he asked hopefully.
"Yes," she said after a moment.
"Awesome," and then he grabbed her face and kissed her deeply. Lucy wrapped her arms around his neck. He reached down and picked her up easily. She kicked off her shoes while he carried her to the bed.
Chapter 19: A Full Oven
January-September 2023 Atlantis, Atlantis
Lucy didn't knock. She just opened the office door. Desmond didn't notice. That was why she didn't knock. He was staring at two different screens, working. Desmond worked a lot. She knew why. He wanted to make the world even better. No one got a pass on bad shit they'd done. Including him.
To amuse herself Lucy reached out and brushed against his mind psionically. Desmond did a full start of surprise, jumping in his chair and slapping the desk with the palm of his hand. She giggled as his head whipped around to her. No one else had the guts to even try and touch Desmond's mind. Other psychics said it was too scary because it was so vast. Lucy didn't have that sort of problem. She'd specifically learned to do it to drag Desmond's attention away from whatever he was doing to pay attention to her since in the past few years it was surprisingly difficult to get his attention sometimes. Everyone always needed him or wanted his attention.
"Oh. Hey honey, you startled me," Desmond said, a smile pulling across his face.
"I know," she stopped on the other side of his desk. "You busy?"
"Yes, but did you need something? I can put it on hold if you want."
That made her smile. "Well I don't need you to exactly but you might want to," Lucy said.
"Okay?" he said slowly. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah. I just needed to tell you something."
Desmond blinked at her. "This isn't you doing that thing you do where you make me think it's something bad and then you tell me you love me is it? You know that always stresses me out."
She giggled. "No. Unless you're already anxious?"
"Well just tell me would ya?"
His reaction wasn't what Lucy expected. He just sort of leaned back in his chair and looked her up and down. "What?" he asked.
"What?" he asked again.
"You heard me," she gave him a look. Again he didn't say anything. He just looked… confused? They looked at each other for a few minutes. "You know this isn't the reaction I expected," she said, giving him a hard look.
"Sorry. My brain's kinda catching up to what you just said. I was really focused on something else and I'm trying to catch up to that. Give me a sec here."
Lucy waited. She knew Desmond had a lot going on in his head. Since the Unnamed, it was hard to keep him not doing five things at once. He was always thinking about something else unless Lucy told him that this was more important. But it was sometimes slow to get him to think about something new if he was focused on something else. Lucy was one of the few people who could drag his attention on other directions too.
A solid minute passed and Lucy smiled a little when she saw Desmond's entire face shift just a bit. It lifted up and then he got out of his chair and came around the other side of the desk and kissed her deeply. She closed her eyes as he wrapped his arms around her waist. "That's amazing," he told her once he stopped kissing her. She beamed at her. "Not exactly what I'd call 'waiting' but I'm not going to complain either."
"You're the one who doesn't pull out," she said, raising a brow at him.
He snickered. "Okay, that's fair," he said with a huge smile. Then he was all sorts of excited energy and grabbed both her hands in his own. "You're really pregnant?"
"That's so awesome!" He kissed her on the face a bunch making her giggle as he showered her with affection. "How long?"
"About six weeks," she said. His smiling was making her smile even more.
"Ah. So that's why you haven't been feeling too well."
"Yeah," she grimaced. Lucy had had the worst morning sickness. Every day almost at seven am on the dot she had to run to the bathroom and throw up for a little bit. It was part of why she'd told Desmond now and not waited a bit longer. Her morning sickness was very obvious to anyone not her own husband apparently. Jake had figured it out after three days. She didn't blame Desmond for not noticing. He was usually too busy making sure she had water and making her something easy to eat for breakfast when she eventually kicked him out of the bathroom because his hovering wasn't making her feel better.
"Well now I won't worry and think you're dying then," he said, sounding genuinely relieved.
"I'm not going to die, you made sure of that," she said and cupped the side of his face.
He turned his face into her hand, holding it there with his own hand and kissed the palm. "I know, I still worry," he said. She knew he did. That he'd done it wrong. She couldn't imagine the mess he'd be if she was gone or if he had made a mistake with it. Desmond wasn't suicidal, anymore, but losing her wouldn't help the situation. But she was already older than her 'expiration date' so everything was fine.
"I'm not going to die," she told him again. "Don't bring the mood down."
"You're right. Sorry. I really am pretty excited," he said, back to smiling like a fool.
He kissed her again. "I love you," he said.
"I love you too," she said before he kissed her some more. She could feel his excitement in the way his hands pressed against her, holding her against him.
Then, abruptly, he stopped kissing her. "Okay, sorry, I need to go right now," he said.
"What?" she cocked her head at him. "I'm so excited I need to go run around. I'll be back in a few minutes."
She laughed at him. "Okay," she said and kissed the tip of his nose. "Or we could just have celebratory sex?"
"Uhhhh—" she watched Desmond's brain short out a little. "Both. Both is good," he nodded. "First I need to go run off some of this energy."
"Want me to stay?" She rose a brow at her, her lips curling up on one side like a smirk.
Desmond didn't understand. Then he did and he flushed. "Not this time. I have important things on my desk," he said.
"I could be too—
"Youuuu, are a troublemaker," he told her. She just giggled. "Okay, be right back, meet you back home," and he pressed another kiss against her mouth before actually leaving. She honestly thought he wouldn't really leave. She followed after him and watched him literally run down the hallway.
"I married an idiot," she told herself with a slight shake of her head and a sigh. But that was okay. She knew what she was getting into with Desmond. She'd been with him in a simulated eternity. She absolutely knew what she was getting into when she married Desmond. He was kinda dumb sometimes and basic as hell but that was the charm to him. That and he always made her feel like the most important person in the entire world. Lucy locked Desmond's office and went up to the top of the Embrace where she and Desmond lived to wait for him to come back.
It wasn't the first doctor's visit but probably the most important. Lucy could see how utterly wired Desmond was. He literally couldn't sit still. He was very excited. She was too but she didn't get the same nervous energy he did. "Des, honey just relax," she said with a smile and put a hand on his leg. His leg was bouncing.
"Huh? Oh, sorry," he stopped bouncing his leg. "You know how I get."
"Heh, I do," she said.
They were waiting for the doctor. They were proeathan. Not because there were no more human doctors but because Lucy didn't want humans touching her. Not now. Not when so many were starting to realize they were more. A lot of them had empathy or even telepathy. It was apparently extremely common in humans now that people were able to access their psychic powers. Mainly she just didn't want to be bothered by flowering psychics trying to reach out to her while doing their doctor duties and seeing too much of her. She wanted to just be left alone. Bad enough that so many people knew what she looked like. Whenever someone touched a bit too far with their mind it took no time at all for all humans in the area to know the Angel of the Lake was around. They all wanted to talk to her, to touch her. If she was with Desmond he just made them invisible to get them out of the area but he wasn't always with her. Desmond was teaching her how to close her mind off but it wasn't easy and she wasn't naturally inclined to that sort of ability so it was something she had to actually work on. Desmond did it no problem because he was Desmond and freak of nature but she wasn't so lucky. She was a freak of science but that was an entirely different emotional break down she hadn't had in a while.
Proeathans didn't have the same problems humans had. Mainly they were an older psychic race and knew how to politely respect people's psionic boundaries. Proeathans couldn't affect others either, they could only affect themselves. So Lucy had a proeathan pediatrician. She was a nice Netallian with peppermint red hair and always had the most amazing and perfect red-winged eyeliner that made Lucy jealous. Her name was Ki'ars and had been absolutely petrified the first time Desmond and Lucy had come in for their first visit because it was the stadalla and it had taken her three visits to realize it was also the Angel but by then she also knew they were both just human beings and not something to be worshipped.
Ki'ars eventually came into the room. "Hello," she said in her velvety accent.
"Hello," Lucy and Desmond greeted her in unison.
Ki'ars sat down on her stool after throwing the back of her coat out behind her. Proeathan doctors loved the drama of human doctoral lab coats. Sometimes going to see a proeathan doctor was like going to the theater because their lab coats could be outrageous. "You're looking well," she said looking Lucy over with a sweep of blue eyes. "Eating well still? Taking your medication?"
"Yes, and yes," Lucy nodded.
"Any strange pains or abnormal bleedings?"
"Excellent," Ki'ars jotted that down and got up again. "Now I'm sure you don't want me to ask you any more questions because you want to get to the main event huh?"
"Desmond has been jittery all morning, so for my sanity, please," she teased him. Desmond chuckled.
"Alright, take off your shirt and we'll get started then," Ki'ars said and turned her back on Lucy and Desmond to fiddle with a machine on a arm that swung down from the ceiling. It was basically a large light and screen.
Lucy took her shirt off. Her stomach was very noticeable without any clothes on and she put her hand on it without thinking sort of protectively. Desmond positively beamed at her and she got all warm in her stomach. She loved him so much and was so happy they were having a baby. She kinda wanted it to be over already so they could both be gross parents. She resisted the urge to kiss him. It was an urge she got all the time and half the time she didn't manage to resist it and they ended up making out wherever.
Ki'ars turned back around to them and went to some cabinets. She pulled out a jar and then put on a pair of latex gloves and scooped what was in the jar into her hand. "So this allows for easier light passage. It might be a little cold," she said as she came over to Lucy. "Lay down for me," and Lucy laid down on the gurney. Ki'ars smeared the clear gel onto part of her stomach. She got goosebumps and shivered.
"It is cold," Lucy complained.
"Yeah, sorry," Ki'ars said. She took the gloves off and brought the swinging machine arm down. It didn't touch Lucy but got very close. She turned the head on and no light was emitted. Proeathans had weird machines that did impossible things but the anti-lights always boggled Lucy's mind. They weren't seeable by human or proeathan vision and could only be picked up by cameras. Proeathans had a bunch of anti-lights. Like the one for this machine was sort of like an x-ray. But it wasn't an x-ray because shooting babies with x-rays was dangerous. It was more like it could penetrate one thing but as soon as it hit something else it was bounced back, almost like how sound worked but far more precise.
On the screen on the wall what the camera was capturing by the bounced light was projected. It was way better than any ultrasound Lucy had ever seen but there was still distortions because of the closeness of all the tissue. But there was the very distinct image of a tiny little human. Desmond grabbed her hand. "There they are, got them the first time, and they're facing a good direction," Ki'ars said.
Lucy was hardly listening. She was staring at the screen. That was her baby. That was her baby! Just a few years ago she'd been so sure she never wanted kids because it would be too cruel to them, to Desmond, to herself. "It moved," she said when the image moved a little.
"Well, yes, it is alive," Ki'ars said with gentle amusement. "They look perfectly healthy which is good given… the both of you," she said warily.
"Don't beat around the bush doc, you can call us both weirdos," Desmond said. Lucy gave him a look but Desmond just grinned at her.
"What gender are they?" Lucy asked her.
"Hmm," Ki'ars adjusted the light a little. "Looks like a little boy. See, you can see even though he's shy," Ki'ars pointed.
Lucy's heart jumped. A boy. She blinked a bunch all at once and she sniffed a little. She didn't hear much of the rest of the appointment. She couldn't take her eyes off the screen until finally Ki'ars turned off the light and wiped down Lucy's stomach. She realized she had been smiling the entire time as she put her shirt on. They finished up the appointment. Ki'ars reminded Lucy to drink lots of fluids and eat well and take her dietary supplements so she and the baby would stay healthy. They thanked the doctor and left the doctor's office and the building to walk a few blocks back to the Embrace from the clinic. Desmond talked but she was only half hearing him and would just nod now and then.
It wasn't until they were in the elevator to the top of the Embrace that it suddenly all caught up with her. Next to her Desmond started when she sniffed once and then just started crying. "Wha- Lucy, honey, what's the matter?" Desmond asked, gently taking her arm. She wasn't sobbing, she was just crying.
"Nothing," she said.
"You're crying," he said and stroked her hair with worry.
She laughed. "Cause I'm happy!" she cried and the tears were still coming.
"Oh, thank goodness," Desmond sighed. He gently stroked her cheek and chin, smiling again.
She rubbed at one of her eyes, smiling and crying at the same time. Her chest felt too small, like it going to explode from all the joy and love she felt. The elevator dinged gently and Desmond pulled her out onto their floor. "I love you," she said.
"I love you too." He wiped her eyes for her like the sweetheart he was and Lucy just loved him so much. Everything about him was wonderful.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and he leaned down a little to kiss her wet face. "I'm so glad we're having a baby together. And that it's a boy. I wouldn't have cared what it was but I love you both so much," she sniffled.
He held her against him. "I'm glad you're happy," he said. He stroked her chin with his thumb, cupping her jaw. "We deserve it."
She laughed. "Yeah, we do," she said, all smiles. "Let's tell everyone," her face hurt from smiling.
Desmond smiled back at her. "Yes. I'm glad we're having a boy," he said as he opened the door to their home.
"Yeah?" she asked as he pulled her inside.
"Mhm! Jake was sure you were going to have a girl. He bet me fifty dins-
"Desmond!" she yelled and he laughed. She gave him a playful smack. "Like you need it," she scolded him.
"Whaaaat? It's funny," he grinned at her. Then he kissed her on the face and the mouth. "But really, it didn't matter to me what we have, I'm going to love them all the same. As much as I love you."
She smiled at him. "Good," she kissed him again. They ended up kissing some more before managing to pull themselves away from each other and Desmond went to call up everyone important and tell them the good news.
Lucy was sitting in the nursery. It was all teal and pink colored. Teal was a 'boy' color for proeathans, more green than anything else, and pink was a color for children since it was so soft and pleasant to look at even though they were all colorblind. Despite their colorblindness proeathans had a surprisingly good grasp of color and how they paired together. She was sitting in the rocking chair Altair had built. Not even had commissioned, he'd made the entire damn thing. Apparently, nine hundred years was plenty of time to learn how to do all sorts of things. He'd made it Lucy sized too and Desmond couldn't really sit in it. He was too big and tall to find it comfortable. That was fine with Lucy. She found it plenty comfortable.
By this time Lucy was very pregnant. Only a two months left before she was due. But it was really the dumbest thing. Their son was due in two months but they still hadn't decided on a name. Nothing felt… right. Desmond had found books from bookstores on the American mainland full of baby names. Humans did a lot of raiding of nonessentials on destroyed parts of their old civilization. A lot was just gone after almost a decade of neglect but there were some places where things were still usable. Bookstores were a favorite since they had so much culture that humans had had to put on the back burner for several years to survive.
Desmond was walking back and forth in the nursery with one of the books open just running through the list of names. Lucy was using one foot to rock herself back and forth a little but wasn't commenting on any of them. She didn't like any of them. Well really it wasn't that, it was that Desmond didn't seem partial to any of them either. He had no opinion. Really Lucy could have picked any name she wanted and Desmond would have been fine with it but she didn't want that to be how they named their kids, her just having the only strong feelings about it.
"Dumas, dumb, Dunbar, who would actually name their kid that? Duncan… Dundee, sucks, Dylan, eh, Ean, it's with an E, who writes Ian with an E? Edward, I still can't take that name seriously after Twilight-
"Hold on, go back," Lucy interrupted Desmond and his running commentary on names.
"Hmm?" Desmond asked. He stopped pacing and looked at her. "To which one? Please don't say you wanna name them Dumas. They'll get made fun of so much." Though he looked… nervous. Not about what he'd said. Like he'd made a mistake he hadn't meant to make.
"No," she said.
She gave him a long look. Desmond didn't flinch but he did start to look a bit uncomfortable. "Duncan?" he asked. "Even though I suggested it before and you said no so what's the point?" he waved it off.
"Yeah but I expected you to want to have a bit more say in our child's name," Lucy said.
"I gave you my input and you said no like three months ago," Desmond said. "So what's there to add?"
"So that's why you're so uninterested-
"I'm not uninterested. I just think any name is okay if you like it," Desmond said.
"But don't care what it is?" she asked.
"Desmond, you realize what you're saying don't you?" she asked. "And how shitty it sounds?"
Desmond grimaced. "I guess," he shrugged a little, looking away from her.
"You know we talked about this. I don't wanna name our kids after all the dead people in our lives. There are too many of them. Way too many."
"I know," Desmond said, "That's why I haven't brought it up again."
"Even though you still feel the same way?"
Desmond went over to her and took a knee in front of the rocking chair. "It's not like I'm saying let's name our kid Andrew-
"Ew, gross," she made a face.
"Yeah, exactly," Desmond said. "And I don't want to name our kids after all the dead people we know. Just this one."
"This isn't a second chance thing is it?"
"No," Desmond shook his head. "I'm not gross like my dad was who couldn't form healthy relationships so kept making new ones to replace his failed ones." She nodded. He grabbed one of her hands and held it in both of his. "I love you, so much. I love our baby almost as much," that made her smile a little. "Like almost," and he held up his hand putting his forefinger and thumb together so they were almost touching. That made her giggle. "I loved my brother too. He was, literally, the only thing I had growing up. I loved him so much I want to name my kid after him, because I loved him, not because I think he deserves it or I deserve something. Just because I loved him."
"This is the only one?"
"I promise," Desmond said. "The next one can be Zeus or something or whatever the fuck humans are naming their babies that year," and that made Lucy laugh.
She mulled it over. Really her Desmond was such a good person. When he wanted to be. Sometimes he was an asshole but for the most part he tried to do the best and be the best him. He was never an asshole to her but he had to put up with so many idiots in the Fold she was surprised he hadn't just washed his hands of them and started over with a new group of people for the Fold. She knew he loved her and loved their unborn son and he had a lot of love inside of him. She had been worried about why he wanted to name their son Duncan but she knew she shouldn't have. That wasn't how Desmond was. He wasn't selfish like that.
"Okay," she said. She admitted, she didn't hate the name. Duncan was a good name. It sounded good even. "Even though I can't believe we're naming our son a D name too," she rolled her eyes.
"Oh, trust me, I had that crisis when I was twelve and realized my parents were both so bad at names they named their two kids D names," Desmond said. "And really, you're okay with it?"
"Yes," she said. "It's a nice name and I want you to like our baby's name too." His response was to kiss her sweetly and gently.
Desmond had been asked to wait outside. Proeathans didn't allow fathers into maternity wards during the birthing process. The nurse in charge had looked about to faint asking the stadalla to leave the room but Desmond had gone. He hadn't planned on being there anyway. He knew he'd just make everyone anxious and afraid and he didn't want that. He did hear some noises from inside but not the screaming he expected because of how TV told him childbirth was. Desmond waited for hours. He did some work and paced and played on his tablet and just tried to pass the time. No one talked to him. They all knew who he was. They were all too afraid to speak to him.
Finally, five hours later, the door opened and the head nurse poked her head out. "You can come inside," she said.
Desmond practically sprang off the seat and went into the room. The other nurses were busy cleaning up the mess and the midwife was getting Lucy situated on the bed. Desmond waited off to the side until she moved aside. He went to Lucy's side. "Hey," he said, bending down a bit to touch her two-tone hair because she hadn't dyed it in a while.
"Hey," she said tiredly.
"You made it," he said as soft as a whisper and leaned down to kiss her temple.
"Mmm! Where is he?" she asked.
Desmond looked around. One of the nurses had cleaned the baby up and was busy wrapping them in pink swaddling. Pink was a baby color. It was supposed to promote good health and be soothing to look at for both species. "He's coming," he assured her. "They're just cleaning him up."
"Okay," she said tiredly.
The nurse eventually brought the baby over and handed him to Lucy, putting him on her chest. She immediately wrapped her arms around them. Her eyes shined and she stroked his chubby cheeks. Duncan's eyes were already open and looking up at Lucy. "Hey," Lucy cooed, smiling so much her face was split in two. Desmond sat on the bed next to her.
"He's beautiful," Desmond said.
"He is," Lucy said, unable to look away from him. Desmond didn't blame her. Desmond could look at him all day too.
He wrapped an arm around Lucy's shoulders and leaned down some to gently touch his son's face. The nurses finished cleaning up the room and gave them some privacy before asking about the legal documentation required for newborns. That and who the fuck was going to rush them? No one. They just stayed like that. Eventually, Duncan closed his eyes and fell asleep and it was the cutest thing ever
Desmond started when Lucy's phone rang on the desk. He picked it up. "Hello?"
"Des? Where's Lucy? Is she okay? I called earlier but no one was picking up," Jacob said, sounding stressed out.
"Oh, we're at the hospital-
"What?! Why? What happened? Is something wrong?"
Desmond blinked slowly. Then he remembered. He hadn't told any of the others that Lucy had gone into labor and they'd gone to the hospital. Jacob thought something terrible had happened. "No. Everything fine. We have a baby now-
"What! And you didn't call me sooner!?" Jacob yelled.
"So sorrrrry my first thought when my wife went into labor wasn't to call you," Desmond rolled his eyes.
"Yeah yeah okay jerk face. See you in a bit! Then he hung up."
"Who was that?" Lucy asked him.
"Jacob. He thought one of us was dying."
"Oh… idiot," she said.
"Yeah. I think he's coming here now. Probably going to tell the others."
"So what you're saying is we should enjoy the peace and quiet while we can before everyone shows up and wants to hold the baby?" Lucy said.
"Yeah, basically," Desmond grinned. He kissed her forehead. "He really is something else."
"Yeah," she nodded. "What are you going to do with the Fold?"
"I dunno. Kick their asses about not being pieces of shit and take a step back. I don't want to miss anything with him," as he said that he stroked Duncan's cheek with a finger. "Or you."
"Okay," she said softly and yawned. "I'm tired," she said.
"Then go to sleep, silly," he said with a grin. She nodded drowsily. "Better get your sleep in before Jacob, Ezio, and Mike show up."
She chuckled. "Yeah," she said with a tired grin. "Here," she handed him their baby and Desmond held him expertly. He'd been practicing with butternut squash since they were approximately the same size as a new baby and Desmond was a big, useless, human being who didn't know how to hold babies. He always threw Lucy into stitches whenever she found him wandering around holding butternut squash like a baby. "I'm going to take a quick nap," she yawned.
"Okay," Desmond said and leaned down and kissed her mouth. "I love you."
"I love you too," she said with a dreamy smile and closed her eyes. She was out in moments.
Desmond got off the bed to not disturb Lucy and started slowly walking around the ward. After a few minutes the nurses came in with a bit of paperwork just to certify what his name was and who his parents were so he existed on paper. Proeathans didn't circumcise so that wasn't even a question either. Desmond told them the name they'd picked, "His name is Duncan. Do I need to sign anything? My hands are kinda full," he looked down at the baby.
"I'll leave them on the counter and you can sign them when you get a moment," the nurse said. Desmond nodded and the nurse left after doing as she said.
That left Desmond alone in the room with just baby Duncan and a sleeping wife. At least for a little while. Probably half an hour passed when the door was abruptly opened. A whole collection of people poured into the room led by Jacob. "Congrats, it isn't an alien!" Jacob said.
"I mean it is my brother's baby," Tommy said, "and he's a special snowflake alien mutant so who knows."
Desmond sighed and rolled his eyes at the both of them. "Not so loud, he's sleeping," Desmond scolded them.
"Right right, don't wake the baby, got it," Jacob said. Then he noticed Lucy was waking up and went over to gush to her.
Altair, Ezio, and Mike's entrance was a lot more subdued. Altair had to literally put his hand on Ezio's chest to restrain his enthusiasm. "Let me hold him so Ezio can hug you before he hurts himself," Altair said calmly.
"That sounds like a pretty good excuse to be the first one to get to hold him," Desmond said with a smirk.
"Well I am the oldest and I gotta get something over on Jacob somehow," Altair sighed. "But really, before Ezio breaks in half from excitement."
"I am literally right here," Ezio said, annoyed.
Desmond did transfer Duncan to Altair and Ezio was immediately allowed to continue his original path and swept Desmond up into one of his big, bear, bone-crushing, hugs that made Desmond's spine pop. He kissed Desmond on both cheeks. "Congratulations bambino!" he didn't quite yell.
Desmond smiled widely. "Thanks," he said.
When Ezio let him go Mike hugged him next. Desmond was still getting used to actual warmth coming out of this person who used to be Hawk but now wasn't Hawk at all. Mike had such a warm, honest, embrace. "Congratulations," he said as well. He released Desmond once he'd held Desmond long enough.
"Hey, why did Altair get to hold him first?" Tommy complained.
"Because he tricked me into it," Desmond sighed. "And was good at it."
"You'll get your turn. Age before idiocy," Altair said. Desmond could tell Altair was absolutely enrapt with the new addition.
"Yeah yeah okay old guy let someone else have a go before he wakes up and starts crying and I kick all you out," Desmond said and picked Duncan out of Altair's arms and put him in Tommy's. Tommy had experience holding babies from the two he and Jacob had adopted and didn't need to be coached which was nice.
"So, what's his name? You finally going to tell us?" Jacob asked, gently stroking Duncan's face while Tommy held him. Desmond and Lucy had been keeping it top secret. Mostly because they hadn't figured it out until very recently but the two of them liked making everyone annoyed that they didn't tell them what it was.
"We were thinking we'd wait till they started going to school and we had to legally inform people what it was," Lucy said from the bed. That made everyone laugh until Tommy started shushing them because Duncan made an unhappy face and everyone shut right up. They waited in silence to see if he'd start crying but he just kept on sleeping.
"C'mon, I wanna hold him," Jacob said impatiently and Tommy let Jacob hold Duncan.
"We named him Duncan," Desmond said.
Tommy and Altair both looked at him in surprise. "Seriously?" Tommy asked.
"Mhm," Desmond nodded.
Duncan was passed over to Ezio and then finally Mike. It was by some miracle that he stayed asleep that long before he opened his eyes. Then a moment later he opened his mouth and started crying. Desmond immediately took Duncan back and brought him over to Lucy. He was probably hungry. Not like he had anything to poop yet. Jacob helped Lucy sit up and Desmond handed the infant to her. They politely conversed among themselves about babies while Lucy convinced Duncan that no he really did want this tit in his mouth and it was way better than crying. "How long were you guys here?" Tommy asked.
"About seven hours. Lucy doesn't like hospitals so we waited until she was partially done with her contractions before coming down here," Desmond said.
"Hospitals are disgusting sources of disease," Lucy called back from the bed.
"Yeah that too," Desmond said.
"She's not wrong," Jacob grimaced. Jacob would know best of course. He'd Bled a lot of medical persons and one of his moms had been a nurse. "You shouldn't stay here too long."
"Well, she's fine so probably just until she's been cleared to carry her own self out of here," Desmond shrugged.
"House births are way better," Jacob said. As he did the whining and low crying from Duncan finally stopped as Lucy got him nursing and he figured out how nipples worked.
"Yeah well we didn't want a bunch of proeathans and the midwife in our house okay? Like bad enough you five just show up whenever the fuck you want— which is going to be even worse now isn't it?"
"Oh yeah," Mike said with a wide grin.
"… I'm getting new locks."
The others laughed. "You know locks don't work on Tom," Jacob nudged him in the ribs.
"Don't remind me," Desmond sighed. That was the problem with having a clone of yourself and you were an all-powerful psychic. Tommy could do just about everything Desmond could and was one of the few powerful telekinetic amid humans. Mary was one of the others. But being a telekinetic meant that locks were literally pointless. Just use your mind to open them from the inside. Thankfully all the telekinetics around were good and Desmond and Lucy hadn't had to visit one and have a one-on-one god talk with them about why they really shouldn't use their newfound powers for evil. Mainly because they really didn't want a house call from Desmond.
They talked a bit more and everyone was allowed to hold a baby one more time before Desmond shooed them all out saying they could visit them tomorrow at home and turn their lives into a circus then. Once they were gone Desmond could breathe a sigh of relief. "Man," Desmond huffed.
"You're telling me," Lucy said.
"I thought they'd never leave."
"They're your family," she said.
"Yeaaaah. They still drive me fucking crazy."
"Mmmm. I like it when it's just us more," she agreed. Desmond went over to the bed and sat next to her again. Duncan was passed out again and had been since he'd been fed which was good. Desmond hoped he was one of those quiet babies and didn't scream all the time for no reason.
"Me too," Desmond said. "Just you, me, and our new fat little bean," he said and rubbed Duncan's cheek gently with the tip of his finger. There had already been a lot of playful 'he's so cute and fat' from his family and Desmond had to agree. Of course, fat babies were good.
She giggled. "Yes." Desmond leaned down and kissed her. "I can't wait to bring him home."
"Just as soon as Ki'ars says you can go," Desmond said, putting his forehead against hers.
Chapter 20: Double Trouble
August 2026 Atlantis, Atlantis
Only a few people in the world were allowed to interrupt Desmond while he was home. That was his family and a select members of the Fold he found the least annoying. He looked up when the bell rang. It was seven in the morning. Who was bothering him? It was his turn to stay at home with their son Duncan. Lucy was out with Jacob and Tommy on a 'girls day' as Jacob called it and Tommy was dragged along to carry shit if needed. Desmond wasn't invited since someone had to watch the baby. Desmond didn't mind. He liked spending time with his baby.
"Who's that you think Duncy?" he asked Duncan, his voice a bit higher.
"Dumb dumb!" Duncan proclaimed.
Desmond laughed. "Yeah, probably." He got up from the table and went to get the door. He rose his brows at who it was. Od. "Od, it's early, what do I owe the pleasure?"
"There's an issue," the Ilythian said.
"I'll say. You're bothering me at seven in the morning while me and my son are having breakfast," Desmond said.
"The Fold needs some … intervening."
Desmond cocked his head at Od. "I want you to really consider what you're asking me, Od. You're one of the Fold chairmen. Can't you deal with it?"
"I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important. We just found out there are still slaves in Apollo."
Desmond blinked slowly. "I'm sorry," Desmond said and scratched the inside of his ear like he was cleaning it out. "I could have sworn you just told me something stupid."
"That's what we thought too. We've been in a meeting about it for thirty-six hours. The adjetavs insist that the humans are not captive and chose to stay-
"One day Od. One day I'm gonna go an entire week without something stupid reaching my ears. That's not today." He was mad about the news. "Are you in a recess?"
"Yes. People were complaining about not being able to stay awake but we didn't want to close the meeting so we took an hour recess," Od said.
"Hmmm. Alright. I'll be there," Desmond said. "Don't tell anyone I'm coming."
"Of course," he nodded.
Desmond closed the door and went back to the dining room where Duncan had managed to make a huge mess all over himself and his high chair with his breakfast of mushy vegetables and milk. "Duncan, no," Desmond sighed. He picked Duncan out of the high chair. His son was soaked in milk. "You're all messy," he scolded very gently. Duncan just laughed brightly. "C'mon lil buddy. Let's get you cleaned up," Desmond said and went to the bathroom where he filled the tub up a little and put a naked toddler in it to clean off the milk and mushy vegetables. "You should be the only mess I have to clean up, you know that?"
"It was fun, daddy," Duncan said.
"I know but cleaning up messes aren't fun."
Desmond scoffed. "Only cause I'm still cleaning them up," he said and tickled Duncan making him laugh. He got Duncan all clean and got him out of the tub and dressed him in some very nice clothes. Desmond and Lucy still had 'official' things to do in Atlantis despite taking a step back. Or they were invited to every party under the sun from baby showers of people they didn't know to public feasts proeathans held. They turned down ninety percent of them but the ones they went to they always dressed up nicely for. And Duncan was old enough to start being brought to the things as their excuse to leave early. Which meant Duncan had some very fancy, very tiny, clothes for fancy events.
"Daddy, it is itchy," Duncan complained and started scratching his arm.
"Oh no," Desmond said but still made sure Duncan was all dressed up.
"Why the pretty clothes, daddy?"
"Cause we're going to see some of daddy's friends and they like dressing up," Desmond said finishing with the clasps on Duncan's shirt. It wasn't quite a tiny suit but it was pretty close. A proeathan style suit since most of the fashion designers alive were proeathans. Humans had lost a lot of culture makers like artists, writers, singers, and movie makers. Proeathans hadn't so a lot of stuff, even human stuff, had a proeathan slant to it.
"No, not a party. Just some people."
"Then why you mad?"
Desmond smiled a little. It was really hard to keep things from psychic children. Desmond and Lucy's especially since Duncan was such a powerful one with people considered gods as his parents. "Because they made me mad," he said gently. "So we're gonna go pay them a visit so they can try and make me not mad at them."
"Ohhh," Duncan said nodding.
"Okay, we all dressed and don't have to go potty?"
"No," Duncan said.
"Okay," and Desmond picked his son up and walked out of their home and out onto the uppermost floor of the Embrace. He went to the elevator and took it three floors down where most of the floor was dedicated to the Fold. It looked a lot like a typical big assembly hall full of desks and chairs on tiered floors facing a wall with a larger table with four chairs on it. All on their own the Fold had added a fifth chair to the room, moving the four chairmen chairs and table forward to accommodate another, grander, throne looking chair behind them. That was, of course, supposed to be for Desmond (or Lucy if she felt like it). Desmond thought it was over dramatic and gaudy. It also had the opposite effect everyone had hoped for. Instead of sitting at the chairman's table with the others now Desmond would stalk around the Fold chamber. Usually not talking but very obviously judging.
"Wooooa, big room!" Duncan cried when they entered. His little voice echoed in the empty room.
"Yeah," Desmond smiled at him and he went over to the 'throne' (so stupid they'd given Desmond a fucking throne) and plopped Duncan right down. "Okay buddy," he squatted down in front of him. "You're gonna just have to sit there for a little bit okay?"
"I know, it's no fun at all. But you need to be a good boy and do this for daddy."
"Cause I wanna show all my dumb friends how utterly adorable you are," he said and wrapped an arm around Duncan to smother his face in kisses and playful bites. Duncan giggled and shrieked happily as Desmond lavished him with affection. Then Desmond stopped and Duncan gave him a very deliberate kiss on the cheek. "Thank you," Desmond said. "I'm going to be right here the entire time, okay?"
"Okay," Duncan nodded.
"Good," Desmond looked up when he heard the door open and immediately turned invisible. He moved to the side of the chair and Duncan followed him with his own black eyes. Once he saw Desmond wasn't moving he dropped them and looked around. People were coming into the room. The Fold was made of two hundred people. One hundred of each species and fifty of each gender for both species. Half of them were elected officials and the other half Desmond had personally appointed. Their recess was over and they were starting to trickle back into the room to take their seats.
Duncan didn't know the meaning of fear. When people noticed him he waved at them and even gave them a bright, "Hello!" in only the way a three-year-old could.
At first, Duncan was ignored but then as more people came in he drew more notice with his hellos and waving. The humans, of course, came over to investigate first. Always too curious for their own good. Since nearly the entire older generation of humans had been wiped out all the humans of the Fold were around Desmond's physical age to forty at most. A bunch of young people trying to make life better for their species now that they weren't burdened with the shackles of the older generation. The women came over first but in the past few years all humans had been getting more in touch with their sensitive sides as they realized that it was their ability to connect with each other that made them truly powerful and some of the men eventually followed. The women cooed over Duncan but didn't touch. Desmond was sending them subtle telepathy to not touch his son. Duncan was the friendliest boy you'd ever meet in your life and would wave and say hello and be genuinely happy to see you but he didn't like being touched by strangers or even by people not his parents sometimes. Desmond and Lucy respected the boundaries he set and always made sure to ask before they let one of their family hold him. Desmond thought it had something to do with his natural psionic inclination. Empathy maybe? He wasn't sure. It was all so new to everyone, even Desmond and now there were no old angels to ask. The humans didn't touch but Duncan did love all the attention and being told he was such a cutie. That made Desmond smile.
Eventually, the humans had satisfied their main curiosity about a child and some more progressive proeathans also came down to inspect Duncan. Desmond didn't have to stop the proeathans from touching Duncan. They wouldn't. They didn't have the same touch orientated way of communication that humans did. Two of them was Baldur and Thor and they both looked around for Desmond but saw him nowhere. Duncan, of course, recognized the two of them. "Obi, obo," he waved at them excitedly when he spotted them.
"Hey," Baldur smiled, it pulled at the big scar across her face. She hunkered down in front of Duncan, "Where's your daddy huh?" she asked in a whisper. Duncan looked up, around, then back at her. He gave a big shrug with his entire body that made Desmond laugh to himself. Only a little kid could get away with that level of drama. "Your mommy?"
"She's with her boyfriend," he said proudly and everyone around gave the child a strange look. What? Thor coughed to hide a laugh behind his hand. Baldur's face twisted as she tried not to laugh and ended up having an actual coughing fit as Thor patted her back. Desmond just covered his face with his hand. That joke about Lucy and Jacob was literally never going to die; neither were either of them.
"Okay," Baldur squeaked.
"C'mon Baldur, you're gonna hurt your chest again at this rate," Thor said and tugged her away.
"Bye, buddy," Baldur waved as she allowed Thor to pull her away.
"Bye bye obo," he waved after her.
There was a bit of discussion about the little boy on the chair but no one had taken him off of it. "Ahem!" one of the human chairmen cleared his throat. "It has been an hour recess and everyone is expected to have returned. Those that haven't will be penalized. Everyone take your seats." There was some shuffling as two hundred people got to their assigned seats.
"Obi," Duncan said, looking at the back of Od's head. Od was ignoring him. "Obi, obi obi obi," he said over and over again. Desmond saw Od twitch in annoyance and rub his thigh of the leg he had left. That was how Desmond knew Od was annoyed. "Obi obi obi-
Od turned and gave Duncan a hard look. "What, child?" he whispered, almost angry.
"Hi," he waved.
Od's face darkened. Honestly, Desmond's favorite thing in the entire world was watching Od have to deal with Duncan. He also hated that Baldur had taught Duncan to call him 'obi' or uncle in Ilythian like he did to Thor. Desmond was sure Duncan knew Od didn't like children too. "Be quiet," he whispered and aggressively put a finger to his lips. Duncan mimicked him. Desmond snorted. Od might not like kids but he'd spent enough time around Desmond and Lucy the past three years to know the motion to get kids to shush. Od turned back around.
Duncan noodled his finger around his mouth for a few minutes. Desmond was paying more attention to what was going on in the Fold chamber. The chairmen were bringing back up the topic of slaves in Apollo. The humans, rightfully, were full of bristling anger. The proeathans weren't so much. A lot of proeathans still lived in Apollo and Apollo was part of the Fold. But it was literally on the other side of the Earth and short of Desmond going there and kicking their asses, again, it was harder to get them to agree to something and then actually follow through with it. Of course, the leaders and reps of Apollo knew that, they also knew that Desmond had a small child and was hard pressed to be convinced to leave Atlantis without a very good reason. They were taking advantage of this fact and Desmond didn't like it.
He listened for a little while. Apollo reps said that under good authority that the humans were not slaves but were simply workers for proeathans who'd decided to stay in Apollo under their own free will. The human members of the Fold had a lot of shit to say back to them. Most of it not good and Desmond wrapped Duncan in a soundproof bubble so he couldn't hear the foul language the humans threw at the proeathans.
"Okay buddy, you were really good and very patient. We're almost done," Desmond said and stood up with a grunt. As he did he became visible and the entire room went dead silent. He reached down and picked Duncan up and walked away from the chair out onto the floor between the chairmen's seats and the rest of the Fold. "Hello, everyone," he said. He knew he didn't look the part here like the rest of them. Everyone else was dressed all nice in pressed suits and dresses and here Desmond was in sweats and a hooded long sleeve shirt he had pushed up to the elbows. He preferred longer sleeves to hide the very obvious glyphs burned into his skin. He looked even more out of place with a toddler on his hip.
"S-seventeen," one of the Apollo reps stuttered.
"Yeah, that's me," Desmond said. He'd just started going by his number around the Fold after the first few days. It was mostly to remind the proeathans not to fuck with him because he was still their seventeenth stadalla. That and it gave him good anonymity by not going by his real name so he could exist as a normal human being outside of the Embrace's top floor. "And just what in the world are you doing. Really. What is the meaning of this?"
"You were listening, stadalla?" another proeathan asked.
"Oh, I hear everything," Desmond said. He was very good at playing all the all knowing, all seeing, all doing god being they thought he was at this point. "And I want all of you to look at yourselves and look hard." He hefted Duncan on his hip a little. "This is my son by the way," he said. "Why don't you tell all my dumb friends how old you are, buddy?"
"Three!" Duncan said proudly.
"So now I get a house call from one of you," his fingers noodled around, pointing vaguely at no one, "this morning, while I'm feeding my son his breakfast. And they're telling me that you— people," he said to not swear. Oh, but he wanted to swear so badly. He'd done a lot of swearing and yelling the first year or so. Everyone in this room had seen just how furious Desmond could be and what a naturally inclined pyromancer stadalla looked like. "Still have humans in Apollo. Humans. In. Apollo," his voice got tight and hard, his face devoid of emotion. He took a deep breath. Oh, he was so mad. OH! He was so mad! He'd felt the minds of the humans in Apollo before he'd left the Unnamed. They all had wanted to go home. They didn't know where home was but it wasn't this metal cage shaped like a city. "And then you lie to your fellow members of the Fold about them. Lie to me," he pointed at himself somewhat vaguely. Really he was just making a show of this with a kid on his hip to make sure everyone knew how pissed he was to be dragged to this place and having to bring his little son with him to discipline them much like he had to when Duncan wouldn't pick up his toys or screamed because he didn't want to take a bath. Desmond would have to take him aside and talk to him in a calm but firm tone to remind Duncan that Desmond was the boss and he would help Duncan pick up his toys or clean his room but they were getting picked up and he was going to bed and no amount of screaming was going to change that.
No one said a word. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. Even Duncan knew to be quiet and was just hanging onto Desmond. Desmond rubbed his face with one hand and a groan. "I want all those humans out of Apollo and on Atlantis soil in three days. If they aren't every Apollo member of the Fold is fired and your replacements will be chosen entirely by me instead of your people getting to decide who some of them are." There was a general pull back from the proeathans. All of the Apollo reps made up about half of the proeathan members of the Fold.
"But what?" Desmond demanded. "But what?" he asked again. "All humans in Apollo on Atlantean soil in three days. If I find out you haven't obeyed there will be consequences. Your failure to relocate all humans to Atlantis before now is an act of treason against the Fold, against Atlantis, and against me. I made the Fold to deal with important issues between Earthlings so I didn't have to babysit you all the time. The only person I should have to make sure don't make a mess out of everything is my son. And yet here I am cleaning up your mess too. You don't want me here. I don't want to be here. Fix your shit. I don't wanna have to come back here again. Next time I do something bad is going to happen.
"Three days," Desmond said as he started to walk out, holding up three fingers. "Don't fuck it up," and he walked right out of the room.
"Daddy, you said bad words," Duncan said once they were outside of the Fold chamber.
"Yeah, I know. That's cause my dumb friends made daddy reallly mad," Desmond said. "Don't tell your mommy I said them okay?" he pushed his lips out a little making a face that made Duncan giggle and nod. "Good boy," and he kissed Duncan on the cheek. "Let's get you into some real clothes and we can go to the park. Does that sound fun?"
"Yeah! Can obi and obo come?" Duncan asked.
"Maybe. They might be busy," Desmond said.
"What about jid? Or nonno? Or grampy?" Duncan asked.
Desmond chuckled. "Maybe. I'll call them, how about that and you can ask them if they'll come to the park." He called the elevator and it immediately dinged open.
"Yay!" Duncan cried, throwing his arms up. "Daddy when's mommy coming home?"
"She'll be home for dinner, you know that," Desmond said, walking into the elevator.
"So that means Tom-Tom and Jacobe can't come too?"
"Yeah, that does mean that, sorry chief," Desmond said.
They rode the elevator up. "Daddy," Duncan said.
"Yeah?" Desmond asked as he stepped out of the elevator to the front door.
"What if no one wants to come to the park with me?" Duncan asked and was literally three seconds away from crying.
"Duncan it's okay," he said gently. "I'm sure one of your grandpas will come to the park with us."
"But what if they don't?" Duncan blubbered.
"Duncan, buddy, it's too early for crying about the park, baby," Desmond cooed and cuddled him. As he did his eyes blacked out and he offered Duncan happy, soothing, feelings. Personally, Desmond thought it was pretty hilarious. Kids were great. Their biggest worry in life was if someone was going to go to the park with them. Desmond wished he got to live one day as Duncan so he could experience what no worries felt like. "I'm sure you can convince your jid or grampy to come to the park with you. Just ask nicely."
Duncan sniffed. "Okay," he said, voice full of tears. Desmond just patted his back gently and went to change him into some regular clothes.
"So we're gonna call jid and nonno and grampy and see who wants to come to park. Okay?" Desmond asked once he had Duncan dressed again. Duncan had stopped crying and looked totally normal now.
"Okay," Duncan said brightly. Desmond left the room and Duncan skipped after him.
Desmond went and picked up what a phone had turned into. It was a proeathan device made of a solid piece of crystal where the circuits had been etched into the inside of the crystal. There was no screen but responded to touch and a number pad. It was audio only but had no speaker, the crystal just vibrated at a certain frequency to produce sound and transmit your speech. Humans were already figuring out how to push proeathan tech in ways proeathans had never even considered because they so rarely worked together on anything. Human engineers were already talking about how to turn it into a sort of smartphone but with more data and memory capacity than had been possible on chips. But that was still a few years out as engineers became familiar with the super high tech stuff the proeathans had.
He knew if he had it his way Altair wouldn't have one. Jacob made him have one. He dialed Altair up and waited. There was no dial tone, you just had to wait. Humans hated it. They wanted feedback that the other person was actually being rung. Desmond didn't blame them really. "Hello?" Altair's voice came in so perfectly it was like he was standing right next to Desmond.
"Hey, dad, someone wanted to ask if you'd come with us to the park-
"Daddy I wanted to ask him!" Duncan protested and pulled on his long-sleeved shirt in annoyance.
"Sorry, I didn't hear you," Altair said.
"He wasn't paying attention, kiddo, here you go," he handed Duncan the crystal and Duncan launched into a completely different topic of conversation. Desmond just sat down while Duncan walked around in the living room talking to Altair. Altair probably wasn't even saying anything except for 'yeah' now and then.
Duncan took five whole minutes to finally get around to what they'd called Altair for. "Me and daddy are going to the park, jid. Do you want to come? Okay. Okay," he said to whatever Altair was saying. "Jid wants to talk to you," he said and gave the crystal back to Desmond.
"Which park exactly?" Altair asked.
"The graveyard- what park do you think?" Desmond rolled his eyes. "The one in the Embrace. Duh."
"I was just asking, no need to get fucking snippy with me, ibn," Altair huffed.
"We'll be down there once we ask if Ezio and Mike want to come too."
"Don't groan at me," Desmond said.
"I will if I wanna. Uhg."
"Don't make me tell Cain you're being annoying."
"I'm shaking in my boots."
Desmond snorted. "Anyway. We'll probably be there in like half an hour if his conversation with you was any indication."
"Right," Altair said. Then he hung up. No goodbye. Altair never said goodbye over the phone.
"Duncan, come over here if you want to ask nonno and grampy to come to the park," Desmond called because Duncan had wandered off somewhere.
"Yeah yeah yeah!" Duncan yelled and hopped out from behind the sofa and bounded over to Desmond. They repeated the process with Ezio and Micheal. Ezio couldn't come, he was helping some people out in Westcliff. Mike was going to join them. Mike always dropped whatever he was doing unless it would explode to come hang out with Desmond and Duncan. He didn't want to miss anything.
Once they'd finished Desmond grabbed Duncan's hand and they headed for the park downstairs in the center of the Embrace, just off to the side of the now fenced off Unnamed.
Chapter 21: Come Back Home
September 473 E.o.J., Atlantis, Atlantis | April 579 E.o.J., Badrid, Saad province, Hera
They had no home anymore. Well, it was still there, but it didn't feel like home anymore. Desmond often felt like an intruder in his own bedroom and at meals he and Lucy barely talked, or when they did it was about work. They hadn't even had sex in a decade. Four hundred and sixteen years was a long time to be married and still look and feel and sound like they were in their mid-twenties.
Lucy was sitting in bed, feet over the side, braiding her long hair before bed. It was long now and natural colored, a soft sort of dirty blonde that turned into the color of corn silk at the ends, or starlight. He could remember when she used to dye it every color of the rainbow. She wore a silk night gown but it did nothing to hide the shape of her back and shoulders. The lamp on his side of the bed cast her in a soft shadow that made her seem faded and shadowed, a ghost of herself. They'd barely talked all day, just at dinner and in passing at work. Desmond sat up and reached over, touching her back. She didn't respond.
"Hey," he said in English, an English no one knew anymore. Just them and the other immortals knew how to really speak it anymore except for the historians who went digging in the old ruins of what had once been the United States or parts of western Europe. It was comforting speaking it, intimate even. It was very private, which was nice when their entire lives revolved around the public and speaking and working with huge groups of people. "Talk to me."
She looked over her shoulder at him, "There's nothing to talk about," she said, also in English.
Desmond frowned and moved over to her so he sat next to her, one leg up under him. "That is something to talk about," he said. God not even a century ago they'd been so in love, with a kid even. But in the past thirty or so years, after Adren had finally passed away, it was like their entire relationship had just wilted. "You can talk to me," he moved till he was nearly next to her. He was in front of the light from the bedside lamp and her face was shadowed.
"Do you still love me?" she asked him.
Desmond was so caught off guard by the question he took a moment to respond. "Yes. Yes of course. Why wouldn't I?"
She looked away from him a bit. "I dunno."
"Do you still love me?" he asked her.
Her eyes darted up to his face, afraid of the question, afraid he'd think badly of her, afraid of her own answer. She steadied herself. "Yes," she said earnestly. "I do I just—
"You can talk to me," Desmond encouraged. "We're all grown up now and everything, you don't have to be scared of talking to me," he took her hand, his thumb stroking her fingers, finding comfort in the smooth metal band on her ring finger. An old tradition from when they'd been mortal. Rings had fallen out of favor, proeathans didn't use rings and this new world they'd made four hundred years ago was a mix of proeathans and humans. They'd remarried like sixteen times since then, mainly for the party, but also to actually make their marriage legal again, and also because they sometimes got so wrapped up in each other. Sometimes it'd be like the end of the world all over again and the older folks would sigh and roll their eyes while watching Desmond and Lucy make lovely dovey faces at each other. Jake still claimed he was traumatized from a particularly heated meeting about the Fair where he swore they'd been about to rip each other's clothes off and angry fuck right there in front of him and everyone else at the meeting.
She sighed and looked away. "Exactly," she said. "You just… do that."
"Just accept it."
"Well is it something?" She shrugged. "That wasn't really an answer, dear," he chided her.
"I'm bored," she said and looked at him. "Of this life."
"Of me?" he ventured. Her pained face was enough. Yes. Of him. He looked away and took a deep breath. Well, that certainly wasn't something anyone liked to hear. "You're bored of me," he said.
"I love you, Desmond," Lucy said. "I really really do. But I just… I don't know. We've been together so long now. Aren't you tired of the same things over and over again?"
"I don't think of it like that I guess," Desmond said. "Do you want a divorce?"
Lucy looked stricken, "No," she said, horrified.
"Okay. Then what do you want?"
Lucy shrugged and turned her hand to cradle his a bit. "Maybe we should take a break? I never really did get to have a life when I was a mortal, and that's just a memory of a dream now," she ended in nearly a whisper. "I guess, I want to go have a life. Away from you."
"But you don't want a divorce?" Desmond clarified.
Lucy looked at him and kissed him with a passion that surprised him. She pushed him back some so he had to hold himself up so he didn't fall right onto the bed. He kissed her back. It was the best kiss they'd had in probably twenty years and reminded Desmond of when they'd been younger, more wild and reckless and hopeless about one another. "I don't want another husband," she said softly once they stopped kissing, their mouths just barely separate.
"You just want a break," he said. She nodded. He sat back up all the way. "How long?"
"I don't know," Lucy said. "A few decades. Long enough for me to miss you. Right now we're always together and sometimes its suffocating. Sometimes I just can't take it anymore. Sometimes I want to ask you to make me mortal again."
"We've talked about this," Desmond said. The only way he'd make Lucy mortal was if he was made mortal first. It was the only selfish thing he really asked for in their relationship, that he not have to live the rest of his life alone when Lucy died a synth's death. If Lucy wanted to pass away it'd take sixty years until Desmond was old enough to do so around the same time. They'd talked about it in depth and Lucy was in agreement about it. She wasn't nearly so cruel as to leave him like that.
"I know," she said. "I know you've thought about it too. I just, need space, need time."
"Okay," Desmond said and rested his head on her shoulder. "What do you want to do?"
"I don't know. Probably leave Atlantis."
"Will you meet other men?"
"Will you be mad if I do?"
"I… would be a hypocrite if I told you not to. You've never been with anyone else. You deserve that."
"You're always so understanding about this stuff," she teased him slightly.
"Don't get me wrong, I won't like it knowing my beautiful wife might be out banging guys a sixth my age but I will deal with it."
"And you should go bang sexy ladies a sixth my age," she said.
"I don't do them that young," he said sarcastically. That made her laugh and Desmond smiled. Half a millennia and he still adored her laugh, and making her laugh. "Alright," he said once she'd stopped laughing. "We'll take a break. I might be good for both of us," he allowed.
All Desmond did now was plan for the next Fair and it had become a world event on the scale of the winter and summer solstices which were some of the biggest, wildest parties in the major cities. But it was his life now and he worked nearly every day, sitting down with his people and planning what would happen. Centuries ago he didn't have to spend all year planning, he could get it together in about seven months from start to finish. It was just so big now. If he didn't spend the majority of his days on it they'd fall behind schedule.
The other immortals didn't help as much anymore either. They'd all moved on to other things but did stop by every few years to check in, to lend a hand and insight. So it was mainly Desmond, making sure his baby didn't get turned into a commercial consumer monster. He didn't begrudge the others for doing other things. Sometimes Desmond felt like it was his penance for what he'd done. He'd nearly gotten his entire species destroyed and they'd come back from the brink of real extinction. So now he put the Union Fair on every year so no one could forget, so everyone would remember they were better united than separate.
Desmond could use a break too. He only eased up when there were kids around but otherwise was an absolute work-o-holic. Wasn't too bad when your wife was one too. But he still felt beat down sometimes. "I want to go home," he said.
"The way station?" she asked.
"No," he said softly and took her hand again. "I think I want to go to old South Dakota." He hadn't been there in two centuries, not even just scrying it. "See my family." The monument he'd made for his brother was still there as were the statues for his parents, for the family he'd never known. Historians had no idea why there were seemingly random grand grave markers in the middle of the Black Hills nor did they know who the people were that were so significant to history to get such grave markers.
"Don't stay too long," she said.
Desmond sat up, "And maybe I'll take a break from the Fair. Make Altair and Cain run it for a few years."
"And run it into the ground," Lucy said.
"Altair might, but not with Cain around, and if nothing else Jake's around to control them both," Desmond said thoughtfully. "Huh… the more I think about it, the more I like your idea," he smiled at her. "A break would be good for the both of us."
"I think so too."
"Do you want to leave? Or should I leave?"
"I think we should both leave," she said seriously.
"Alright, fair enough," he nodded. "Any stipulations for this?"
"Please don't look for me," his heart broke a little at that. "If you love me trust I'll come back. I just want to be myself."
"Okay," he said slowly, doing his best to not let it show how much that affected him. "But you cannot die, at all, or put yourself in any sort of reckless situations. I assume you'll still talk to Jake?"
"Like I could get away without calling him once a month," she smiled.
"I won't look for you," Desmond promised. "But please, tell Jake if you're in trouble. Just so I know someone can come help you."
"I'm a big girl, Desmond," she said.
"I know, but you're also my wife and I worry," Desmond said. "I don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you. I don't want to rescue you. One because you can do it yourself, and two because you know its bad for my health," that amused her.
"Then you can't do anything stupid either," she said smartly. "I don't feel like rescuing you."
"Promise," Desmond said and sealed it with a kiss. It wasn't tasteless like they had been lately and Lucy actually kissed him back. "When do you want to leave?"
"End of the week?" he nodded. That'd give him time to track Altair and Cain down and drag them in by their ears. If nothing else he could go visit Duncan and find them. Duncan would be happy to see him, the AI always was. He was nervous but also excited.
"How long?" he asked.
"I don't know," she admitted. "A few decades. Oh, don't look like that. They'll go by fast," she said and cupped his face in one hand. "I'll find you," she promised.
"You better or I'm coming to find you," it was a threat as much as a promise and made her giggle. "I'll survive," Desmond said.
"I know you will," she said. "And so will I."
"Yeah. It's getting late now. Should we go to bed? We can deal with this more in the morning?" She nodded and finally tied off the end of her braid and joined Desmond when he crawled under the covers. For the first time in a decade they slept facing one another and Desmond got to go to sleep to the sight of Lucy's peaceful face.
Desmond was in the city of Badrid. He'd never been. It was a small city, but thriving, getting bigger every year. There were only a few dozen cities in the world still, even after all this time. The world was still recovering from losing seven billion people back before the Great Darkness and proeathans didn't breed very quickly, coupled with the fact that after the cryo sickness had killed all the pre-hibernation proeathans the ones left were still young and many weren't ready for children. So the world's population was still growing and there was plenty of room to expand.
Some of the ancient cities had just been torn down and rebuilt upon, others were being renovated from the ground up. Many were unlivable still. Too much radiation from the short initial panic wars that had occurred in the five years Desmond had been captive of the proeathans and those with nukes had fired some. Places like London, Paris, New York City, Boston, Tokyo, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and even more. They were still recovering from the nuclear fallout. And the ones that weren't riddled by radiation were uninhabitable because of the ice age and were under meters and miles of ice. The proeathans had kickstarted the current ice age back then and the Earth was hanging onto it. Helped that people didn't burn fossil fuel anymore. Proeathans had pure, clean, energy, and brought it to the humans who'd done things with it that had shocked, disgusted, and awed the proeathans.
Badrid was new. It was in a place there had never been a city on the coast of Spain. Lovely seafaring city that reminded him of images of Paris funnily enough. Barely enough people to be a city but the people of Badrid were fiercely proud of their city. It had the highest population of clairaudient angels anywhere too, which Desmond found cool and also weird. He was just happy that now that humans weren't fighting for their lives and to survive they could actually start using their psychic abilities like the proeathans did, which was to say; for just everyday use. Of course since Badrid was full of clairaudients it meant everyone was both super nosy and super secretive since your neighbors could, quite literally, hear everything.
Desmond had been in Badrid about eight months. He liked it. It was fairly warm, the people were friendly, the streets clean, and the food delicious. That was what Desmond had decided to do on his break. After he'd visited his family in South Dakota he'd started doing a tour of the world, to remind himself how beautiful it was, and how great the people were in it. He'd left Altair and Cain in charge of the Fair and he checked on it via holo-deck when the event went live and never saw it go off the rails. Good idea leaving it with Altair and Cain. Had he left it with Altair and Micheal or Ezio the entire thing would have gone tits up for sure. And of course, he'd been traveling to try all the sorts of food there was out there. Desmond had always loved food but it was limited in Atlantis because only certain styles really got recognition and could prosper there. But leave Atlantis and you could find all sorts of weird good food. Needless to say Desmond had basically eaten his way from city to city, staying until he'd decided he'd had his fill and moved on to the next.
As usual for him, Desmond was at a restaurant. It was mid-morning and he was having coffee and breakfast at a place he'd never been to but apparently made amazing crepes. He had a very strong latte and was waiting for his breakfast crepe filled with stewed strawberries and topped with handmade whipped cream and hazelnut syrup. Thinking about it made him smile contently. He was so ready for food. He was sitting outside to enjoy the nice weather, the fence laden with aromatic flower boxes, watching people walk by and sipping his coffee.
A feeling nudged his mind a second before a pair of hands covered his eyes. He went very still. "Who's there?" he asked, doing his best not to threaten them. He was a peacekeeper now but he'd never lost his sharp edge, his ability to fight and kill. That would stay with him forever.
"Guess," said a female's voice he didn't really recognize. Fuck was it one of Cain's brood? He hated when they snuck up on him and despite the generations of separation from the immortal and his son they were still powerful angels and proeathans. It was sort of creepy actually. Then again most people said the same thing about his and Lucy's kids. There was something slightly off about them most people couldn't place. They were too much.
"Uh—" Desmond was too old to play guessing games with strangers. He just opened himself to his fully expanded Driver sense. It was easier to think of it as a Driver thing than as proeathan or angel since he could do them at once now. Duncan said that was what Drivers had been able to do. His eyes were freaky when he did this but it allowed him full use of all his psychic abilities. Including the one that literally allowed him to see directly around him in the visible light spectrum.
He tore away from the hands on his face and turned around. "Hey," he said, suddenly breathless and unsteady. Lucy was standing on the other side of the fence and she looked so beautiful. She'd dyed her hair a perfect shade of warm brown with the barest hint of red streaks in it that made her blue eyes just pop. And she was tan. God was she tan, her freckles coming out all over and his chest suddenly felt too small as his heart went to fill his entire rib cage.
"You look like you've seen a star," Lucy said.
"No," Desmond said, "an Angel."
She giggled. "You're funny," and like they hadn't been apart a hundred and six years she leaned down and kissed him. He'd been with other girls, and guys, while they'd been separated, and had plenty of good boyfriends and girlfriends who all kissed good but Lucy's kiss was the best thing he'd ever had. Still, after all this time. It felt like home.
"I missed you," he said softly when they parted.
"I missed you too," she said, cupping his face. "More than I thought I would," she admitted. "I thought I'd barely miss you at all. Stupid mistake really."
"And I missed you less," she rose her brows at him. "Well I thought I was going to be a complete wreck of a human being without you to keep me from doing stupid shit like twenty-four seven," he added. She smiled. "Come over, have breakfast with me," he urged. She nodded and went around the fence to come sit across from Desmond. She set a large backpack down behind her chair before sitting. Once she was there she reached across the table and took Desmond's hand. It was soft and small in his and while she was tan she was still several shades lighter than him. He just smiled at her, as stupid and madly in love with her as he had been when they'd been young and trying to bring life back to their dead world. They didn't say anything for a while.
"Ready to come home?" he asked her.
"I'm already home," she said and squeezed his hand. He leaned across the table and kissed her again. It was cut a bit shorter than he'd have liked when his breakfast came. Desmond ordered more food, knowing exactly the sort of crepe Lucy would like, and they shared the strawberry one. Funny, this was exactly the one Lucy would have wanted to try. The realization came to him as he was taking a bite and it showed on his face because she smiled smugly.
"That is a terrible use of your powers," he said.
"I wanted to make sure you had my favorite with me when we met again," she said. She got a surprise when Desmond got up and went to sit next to her instead of across. "What?" she asked.
"I love you," he told her. "And I want to be able to kiss you easily whenever I want."
She laughed, "You're silly."
"And that's why you love me," Desmond said proudly.
She kissed him on the cheek, "Yes, it is," she beamed at him and they finished their crepe, thighs touching under the table.
Chapter 22: West Coast Blues
Been a while cause the reviewers on ff.net pissed me off with their HELLA toxic comments about the last chapter but here, have Jacob and Tommy being hella cute
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
2020, Atlantis, Atlantis
It didn't surprise the humans how quickly humanity was able to bounce back from a tragedy. It did surprise the proeathans. It had only been a few years but already there were a ton of people on Atlantis and they were doing what people did best after a stressful situation; fuck. Which led to a lot of new little babies that had Jacob quietly losing his mind.
Funnily enough, Jacob was one of the better human doctors left. A lot of the real ones had been killed outright by the proeathans or hadn't survived the winters or still hadn't made it to Atlantis yet. Jacob had a lot of, practical, medical training. He'd never taken a single class in it and even when he'd gotten his degree the prospect of premed was daunting to say the least. He'd considered it briefly because one of his moms was a nurse but really he wasn't into it. Hawk had thought it a good idea to Bleed train him for medicine and healing and now he had a lot of knowledge about medicine and how to treat people and how to look at people to see what needed to be helped with them.
There were proeathan doctors of course but it had only been a few years. There was still a lot to forgive and no matter how fantastical proeathan healing was humans didn't want anything to do with proeathan doctors. So the humans with any sort of medical knowledge had been shoehorned into being doctors and nurses for the entirety of the human population on Atlantis that was growing bigger and bigger every day.
And that was how Jacob found himself being a part-time pediatric doctor to a bunch of pregnant ladies. The rest of the time he acted as a head surgeon since he was one of the few who could do it and would actually use proeathan procedures or instruments that were better at saving lives than just cutting someone open and sewing them back up. He was in his office, hating everything about his life, and going over files on some new patients. They were just humans who'd been brought over by numia from the east coast of America and needed to be checked out for diseases and given any vaccines or medical attention. He was given five new patients. They were all pregnant because Jacob was that guy who got those patients because the other doctors didn't like being pediatrics either.
Jacob officially hated being a doctor. When things caught up or humans were more okay with proeathan doctors or actual human doctors showed up on the shores of Atlantis he was never wearing the white coat again. Ever. He wanted to go back to working in food. Or a barista like the last job he'd held while mortal. He'd liked that job.
He immediately started daydreaming about opening a coffee shop and not focusing on the files he was supposed to be reading. He'd wanted to do that before the end of the world and now maybe he could? Sure the end of the world thing sucked but people liked coffee shops.
Stop thinking about things you shouldn't be focused on, Malik said. I'm taking a break, leave me alone. You're on call. I'm always on call, and Jacob sighed aloud. You need to focus.
"I just wanna drink a latte or something," Jacob groaned and slouched in his chair.
"Tough shit," he really hated when Malik used his mouth while he was driving without asking. "This is my body too," he reminded Jacob.
"I'm sharing this body. It ain't yours," Jacob huffed. He got up from his desk. Jacob, where are you going? You have work to do still! Malik tried to drag his feet but it was still Jacob's body. I'm done for the day unless someone needs an operation, Jacob said and shrugged a little. You're so irresponsible! Well one of us has to make sure we have fun, Jacob said. Malik said nothing, he just sulked. Jacob let him sulk.
Jacob hung up his coat and put on a different shirt before he left the hospital. It was a big building next to the largest building in Atlantis and probably the third or so most important. Of course, nothing was bigger than the Embrace, Desmond had made sure of it. He walked down the block to the park that sat in the arms of the Embrace. There were kids down here, playing. Kids from the plantations they'd saved. They were eight or so now and were under the watchful eye of a dozen adults. Jacob stopped and watched them run across the big field dotted with perfect trees and manicured grass. He didn't know how but Desmond had made the park within the Embrace forever perfect. The trees never lost their leaves, the grass never became worn, even the sunlight didn't seem as intense inside the park. Of course, he'd stopped trying to figure out how Desmond did stuff a long time ago.
They're cute, Malik said casually. Yeah, Jacob agreed.
A good chunk of the plantation kids had been adopted. Mostly by parents who'd lost their children during the Dark Age. But there were still so many that needed to be taken in. The ones who weren't were given places to live and be taught within the Embrace by holograms. Ones who were lived with their new families and got to go to the handful of schools around Atlantis.
He glanced up when several of the kids stopped what they were doing and pointed up at the sky. It was a numia coming in low over the Embrace and dropped down lightly on top of the building. That looks like Tommy's numia, Malik said mildly. What? Jacob hadn't been paying too close attention to it and focused on it a bit more. It had that white stripe on the nose- that's what I thought, and Malik laughed at him when Jacob made a b-line across the park to the Embrace.
Inside it was sleek and modern but not tacky and he impatiently called a lift, jamming his finger into the button a couple of times. Calm down, Malik laughed. Nah, I'm good staying excited here thanks, Jacob said. Finally, the lift came and Jacob dialed it up to Desmond's floor, the top floor. He put the code in needed to access that floor and the lift rose quickly while Jacob tapped his toe on the floor.
Just like he knew he found the twins right outside Desmond's door, talking. When the lift opened Desmond looked at his watch. "That took you four minutes," he said idly.
"You're getting slow, babe," Tommy smirked.
"I had to go across the park avoiding all the little munchkins in the way," Jacob complained. He felt Malik sort of click off in his brain. He wasn't annoyed by Jacob's 'betrayal' anymore but he also didn't like Tommy like that. Mainly because Malik couldn't separate Altair as Desmond's father figure and he got all grossed out kissing his old as ball's boyfriend's 'son'. So now he just went to sleep unless Jacob needed him, like at work, or when he had to break up a fight, or he was tired of getting his ass handed to him in some physical activity.
"You know if you just let us see what sort of ability you have it might elevate that," Tommy said.
"Got enough going on in your brain. Yeah, we know," Desmond completed for him with a roll of his eyes. "Doesn't mean you aren't stubborn as hell."
"Yeah but that's part of my charm," Jacob said with a grin and Desmond looked away with a roll of his eyes when Jacob finally kissed Tommy. "What's that?" he looked down, Tommy was holding a big burrito.
"Oh, yeah, you don't ever read the missives Des sends you so you wouldn't know," Tommy said.
"I have so much reading to do already," Jacob whined. "You think I wanna read his crap too?" he jerked his thumb at Desmond who snickered.
"There was an incident with the people we picked up," Tommy frowned. "Long story short, I got kinda stuck with this," and he moved his arm to show Jacob the front of the burrito.
"Why do you have a baby?" Jacob demanded.
"I told you-
"Yeah but that doesn't explain shit," Jacob was not happy about this. He was already up to his eyeballs with babies, especially with the new cases he just got. He didn't need any more babies in his life to deal with.
Tommy rolled his eyes. "Fine. I'll explain downstairs. I just need to finish up with Des and I'll meet you down there."
"You knew about this?" he demanded of Desmond.
"Uh, yeah bro and if you read my messages you would have known too," Desmond wasn't impressed. "Shoo, this isn't your jurisdiction."
Grumbling, Jacob went back to the lift and took it down a few floors to where he and Tommy lived. It had a thumb lock like the rooms back in Demeter did and it opened right up for him. He flopped down on their couch and waited. He didn't have to wait long and wasn't thrilled Tommy still had the baby. "Don't look like that or your face is gonna get stuck like that," Tommy said to his deep frown. That was one thing Jacob wasn't so happy about because of sharing a body with Malik, he was able to frown… better. Probably not a good thing. Tommy just rolled his eyes when Jacob's face didn't change and he sat down in the armchair.
"Why do you have a baby?" Jacob asked again.
"So… Hmm, how do I put this?" he paused and looked thoughtful. "Right, I'm an empathetic human being who felt bad for a baby and now I like them."
"The fuck?" Jacob sort of sputtered. "That, once again, explains nothing."
"Well, so we went to the west coast and found some people there. There was one lady who was really pregnant. Like ready to pop any moment. And you know how we stay out there for a week after a broadcast is sent out so anyone else nearby has a chance to show up. Well while we were waiting she had the baby."
"And why do you have some lady's baby?"
"Well, did you look at him?" and Tommy showed them to him again. It wasn't that Jacob didn't like babies. He just didn't want to deal with them. He already had to monitor the health of several hundred of them, not to mention all the plantation kids still needed pediatric care too and that was his wheelhouse too. They were mixed race by the looks of it. Asian and black from what Jacob could see by the shape of their closed eyes and darker skin.
"Okay? You said there was an incident?"
"Lady who had the baby was with a black guy. She wasn't Asian," Tommy grimaced and Jacob sort of saw where this was going. "Her boyfriend? found out she was having sex with another guy," and Jacob still thought it was super cute Tommy's ears turned pink even mentioning anything about sex. Not in a childish way but just he was 'young' and awkward about it still. Jacob thought it was adorable as hell. "Got real mad and attacked the Asian guy with a knife. Lady tried to break them up but ended up getting stabbed. Black guy was so mad he killed the guy for 'making him do that' and then killed himself. We didn't find out about it until nearly sunrise because the baby started crying."
"What the fuck?" Jacob rubbed his forehead with a sigh. "I thought Desmond helped everyone be nicer to each other, what the fuck?"
"Yeah," Tommy nodded but was frowning. "But love makes you do crazy things. So now… baby," he gave them a little squeeze in their swaddling.
"You're not keeping it are you?"
"They're a he, Jacob, not an it," Tommy scowled at him. "And… yeah, I guess? He's grown on me," he looked down at the sleeping baby with a smile Jacob had never seen before on him. He knew immediately that there was no way he'd convince Tommy otherwise about this without a big fight and maybe a breakup. Jacob had spent a long time helping Tommy figure out being a human being with 'amnesia' and he was invested and didn't want that. He knew it'd end up with him being the asshole in this situation too and he couldn't take Desmond, Tommy, Lucy, and Altair all giving him dirty looks for saying he didn't want to adopt a baby who had already gone through some shit. Tommy was already attached and Jacob didn't want to be that asshole. He wasn't even sure he could be even if he wanted to.
Jacob just sighed deeply and used his hand to hold up his head. "So… I'm guessing you wanna keep him?" Tommy just gave him some flirty eyes that were like a shot to the gut. God damn, he hated the twins for both being able to do that effortlessly. It was just unfair! And Desmond did it to him too which was extra bullshit. He'd complained to Lucy about it and she just went 'that's rough buddy, when he does that to me I just fuck him' which wasn't helpful at all. Jacob thumped back against the couch and folded his arms. "Does he have a name?" he was being moody but he didn't care.
"I didn't catch it," Tommy admitted. "I was mostly dealing with the amplifier for most of our stay and not interacting with the humans then next thing any of us knew there was just an orphan baby. I suggested we wait until he was taken by someone so they could name him," he gave Jacob a significant look.
"Tom, I don't-" he sighed. "Why are you like this?" he asked.
"Because I'm a nice boy, like you always tell me," he said with a cute smile.
"You're a little devil is what you are," Jacob said and that made Tommy laugh. "Well, if nothing else my moms would have been thrilled I'm adopted a mixed race baby with another dude." Tommy laughed again which woke the infant and Tommy tried to shush them but they just started crying. Tommy looked immediately out of his depth.
With another sigh, Jacob heaved himself up from the couch and went over to the armchair and took the infant out of Tommy's arm. He gave their skin the gentlest pinch and saw they were probably a bit dehydrated from how the skin didn't instantly bounce back and if they were thirsty they were probably hungry. "Cmon, we need to get down to the nursery and get him some food, he's hungry," Jacob said and gave Tommy's boot a nudge with his shoe. Tommy beamed and got up from the chair. "Did you tell Desmond about what happened?"
"Yeah. He's pretty upset," Tommy frowned. "I'm sure having a nephew will cheer him up," he added with one of his cheesy grins Jacob couldn't help but find endearing.
"You're so lucky you're cute, you know that?" Jacob asked. "Food first and then… the rest. Fucking goddamnit," he muttered to himself in Arabic at the end. So not how he expected to have a kid but plenty of people didn't expect kids either. "Let's go," and he motioned for Tommy to follow him to the lift so they could take their new blubbering son to get a bottle in his mouth.
If you liked the story it'd be great if you left a comment. I really like reading them and let me know you care o/
Chapter 23: Sword Dancer
Faj EoE 4221, Atlantis, Atlantis
Her chest hurt. Not exactly a surprise. Baldur had seriously injured her shoulder during the battle for Atlantis a few years ago. Had just completely shattered the right side of her clavicle, part of her scapula and had chipped part of her spine. She’d never fight again with a chipped disc. It pained her too much to go through the motions at speed. At least she could still worship and her sparring partners knew to be gentle with her. Her entire right side hurt and she winced painfully while she was going over a report from a fellow Sengar in Apollo. She ended up hissing at the pain and stood up, shaking out her right arm. That just extrapolated the problem.
She left the room and shambled her way to the lift in the middle of the Embrace. She dialed it to take her down to the ground floor where she could walk down the block to the proeathan staffed hospital. The lift stopped to pick up another passenger and she stood upright. It was former Sengar Inti. She couldn’t let him see her in pain. He glanced at her, looked her up and down, and looked straight ahead at the door. The lift stopped a few floors down and as Inti was leaving the big warrior looked back at her, “You should really take better care of yourself,” he said and then the doors closed. Fucking annoying cryptic adult. Why were proeathan adults like that?
Baldur wasn’t even a child but she still felt like one sometimes. She didn’t feel the need to talk circles around people or be cryptic for no reason. It probably helped that she was around humans so much and they had no time for not saying what they meant. They appreciated her being straightforward, honest, and to the point. She knew Inti could be direct when needed but in casual conversation, he was just as bad as other adults and was cryptic as hell.
The lift didn’t take on any other passengers and opened on the ground floor. “Oh, Baldur. I was just going up to see you,” it was Thor. Most Ilythians had light brown skin but Thor’s was very dark, nearly the same shade as his black hair he always wore the same way since she’d known him. A tight braid against one side of his scalp to keep his hair out of his face. The only lightness to him was his eyes. Even in the blue sight his eyes were light. Normally whenever she saw him she smiled. She and Thor had been sparring partners for a very long time before they’d gone to sleep. Today she did not smile.
“Not right now,” she sighed and gently pushed past him.
“Is everything alright?” he asked, following after her. Baldur had a longer stride than Thor did and he had to hustle to keep up. She was always annoyed that for a woman she was too tall, even taller than many men. She wished she’d been born just a bit shorter so she wouldn’t have stuck out so much for her height.
“I’m fine,” she assured him.
“You sure? Your face says otherwise.”
She grimaced. Thor could read her like a book. “Did you need something?”
“I just needed to speak to you about something,” Thor was vague as could be, almost as vague as an adult. She didn’t like to think of Thor like that. “Why are you going to the hospital?” she glanced over at him, he was blue sighted. “Are you not feeling well?”
“I just have a slight pain in my chest, nothing to worry about,” she tried to soothe him. Thor still frowned deeply.
“It mustn’t be slight if you’re going to the hospital. You fought on a broken leg,” Thor said.
“Yes well, I was desperate then. I am not desperate now,” she tried to keep her voice calm and scowled at herself when it dropped a bit in tone. She hated when it did that too. It only did that when she was upset. Thor said nothing and just kept following her. She went into the hospital and was seen quickly. She was Sengar of the Hedren, the stadalla was her Ando, and she was a member of the Fold. She was seen immediately. Thor managed to worm his way after her and stood outside the doctor’s office.
The doctor checked her over. They placed their hands across her chest and spine before, to her great surprise, brought in a human. “What are they doing here?” she asked the doctor.
“They used to help me in Apollo,” the doctor said. The human just stood by the side but said nothing. Baldur wondered if they could even understand what they were saying. They didn’t look afraid, nor did they bear the slave collar.
“They’re free, right?” she made sure.
“Oh, yes. Of course,” the doctor nodded. “After the stadalla touched us all some humans immediately showed psionic aptitude, I fostered hers,” the doctor smiled at the human and the human smiled back.
“Oh. Well, what are they going to do?”
“Make you feel better,” the doctor assured her. “She’s going to take your hand and you’re going to relax, Sengar. When you come back to focus you’ll feel better.”
“Okay?” Baldur was confused but when the human came forward she offered a hand to her. She watched the human’s eyes go completely black in an instant and a moment later Baldur developed a slow, wide, smile. The pain was lifted and she slouched back against the chair she was sitting in. She felt no more pain. It was some sort of empathetic healing or comfort sharing. She wasn’t sure. It was somehow able to ease the pain at the least. She rubbed her upper chest where the pain had been located but there was no pain now. It lasted only a few seconds, felt longer, and then the human let go of her hand. “Wow,” she breathed.
The doctor grinned, “Yes. It’s quite something what humans can do,” they beamed at their assistant. “It’s amazing the type of pain humans can tolerate. She gave you her tolerance.”
“They can do that?” Baldur’s eyes were wide.
“Oh, I have to ask Desmond about that,” she said, mostly to herself.
“Oh… uh, a friend,” she just said casually like she wasn’t on first name terms with the stadalla. He was one of her sparring partners and even if she couldn’t always fight back she was good at defending and let him try to beat the shit out of her when he got frustrated with old proeathans. She didn’t blame him at all. “So I’m all set then? How long will this feeling last?”
“A while. Feel free to come back. It’s a non-addictive pain suppressor for us so don’t feel like you can’t come back.”
“Can she do that with other humans?”
He chuckled. “Humans already have that pain tolerance. She’d be sharing nothing of use to them.”
“Wow,” Baldur said, wide-eyed. She had no idea humans were so good at handling pain. She knew proeathans weren’t the best and changes in pressure could cause discomfort to them thanks to the size and scope of their brains but humans could just shrug off her sort of chest pain? It must have been insignificant to them. The greatest pain in her life was when she’d kicked Sengar Od with her broken leg and she’d only stayed awake on stubborn will to win and adrenaline.
“Yes. They’re very helpful. Now I think that’s it. Have a nice day,” and the doctor quickly left with his human assassinate in tow. Baldur followed after them and she found Thor right where she’d left him.
“You’re feeling better?” he asked her.
“Yes,” she said with a smile. “I feel a lot better. Let’s get out of here,” he followed dutifully. Once they were out of the hospital she turned to Thor as they walked, “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“Mmm, may we sit in the park?” he asked her.
“So I take it isn’t secret?”
“Well… it is but I think it’s better shared now,” he said.
“Hmm, very well,” she said and they found a shady place to sit under a tree. Some of the plantation kids were out under the watchful eye of a few adult proeathans and they ran around the park like excitable dragonflies, yelling and playing tag. She eased herself to the ground carefully. She had to be careful because of her back. “So what is it?” she asked Thor.
“You’re my favorite sparring partner, you know?” Thor asked her.
She snorted, “You just say that because I can’t beat you anymore,” she teased him and he grinned back at her.
“Okay that might have something to do with it,” he admitted. “But that isn’t the only reason. You’re so strong and brave and you get things done. You’re friends with the stadalla even,” he sounded like he couldn’t believe it even as he said it. It was pretty crazy, to say she was friends with the stadalla. She, and Thor really, had gotten even close to him the past few months after his child had been born. Desmond needed someone to act as his voice and that fell to his Sengars so she and Od were often in Desmond’s home discussing things while he did… normal parent things. It was so bizarre to her to see the savior of the world and the builder of Atlantis hold a baby in his arm while talking about matters of state or excuse himself because his baby was crying. Baldur had taken to bringing Thor with her now as an extra set of hands because sometimes there were poop explosions and Thor was way more level-headed than any of them and if Lucy wasn’t around he was the only one who wouldn’t panic and just put the baby in a sink full of water while the rest of them cleaned up the mess. It was a surreal experience to be Desmond’s friend and be someone you considered a god. But they also wiped a baby’s ass and changed their diaper like a normal person. Sometimes Baldur was sure she was having a fever dream in stasis still.
“Yeah, that’s crazy to think about,” she agreed with a shocked roll of her eyes.
“And I just… I’ve been thinking about some things. And it’s been more in the front of my mind lately since we’ve been going and seeing Desmond and his family.” Baldur didn’t know where this was going. She just gave him a confused look. He didn’t look nervous and she didn’t expect him to be even if he was. Thor was always a bit of stability in a chaotic situation. Funny that since Desmond told her Thor was the name of a god of storms to humans. Probably because the last Hoda before they’d gone into stasis had been named Thor and he’d been an absolute nightmare and brewed chaos which went against everything the Ilythians stood for. Their new Hoda was much better and held the ideals of the Ilythians with more conviction than Hoda Thor had. “I’d like to learn to sword dance with you,” he said.
Baldur blinked. She wasn’t sure she’d heard that right. In Ilythian weddings, the couple had a choreographed fight with hollow swords that made different tones depending on where they struck. It was to represent the last fight they’d ever have since you shouldn’t fight someone you were married to but instead of a loss, the wedding sword fight was to be the last time the two were against each other and instead they would only fight with each other in unison. “I— uh—“ she wasn’t sure how to respond to that. “Did I hear that right?”
Thor grinned, “Yes,” he said. “Are you alright, Baldur? Is your chest pain back?”
“No. I’m fine. I just… why would you want to learn to sword dance with me?” she asked.
“Why wouldn’t I?” he asked.
“You know my luck is misaligned, right?” she asked him again.
“So? You’re still the best female fighter I know. And you’re my friend. And you’re beautiful too.”
“Are you playing a prank on me, Thor? Because if you are I don’t appreciate it,” Baldur said. It wouldn’t be the first time either and the last time it had happened she’d beaten them down so they wouldn’t even meet her eyes. They hadn’t made it into stasis.
Thor’s eyes were wide, “What? No. Never,” he insisted.
“No one says that about me.”
“I do,” he said. “And I don’t really care that you’re not luck aligned.”
“You know our species should be more worried about procreation than feelings right now,” she said callously. “After what happened.”
“They made thousands of humans in the Seed Bank. If they really wanted to raise our population they could do that to us,” Thor said and Baldur was genuinely shocked he’d say that. “We’re all going to die. I’d rather be with someone who makes me happy than someone who will just make children. You’re my favorite sparring partner. I would be lesser without you.”
Baldur wasn’t sure what to think about all of this. She’d never had someone seriously interested in her. She was always a fun experiment or she was lonely. It wasn’t usually a joke but it was never serious. Like serious like Thor was serious. She used to like Thor when they were younger but he was so… upstanding and respected both before and after they joined the Hedren. She knew he was way out of her league despite them being friends for so long. Baldur hadn’t even been anything before she’d challenged Od to a fight. If anything Thor had been higher ranked than her. Not that he’d have ever fought her because he knew she’d beat him and Thor was smart. He didn’t pick fights he couldn’t win. He didn’t say things he didn’t mean.
“I would be lesser without you as well,” she said. He reached over and grabbed her hand. “You really don’t care my luck isn’t aligned?” she asked him.
“Not even a little,” he said and leaned over a little. “Do you mind if I kiss you?”
“No,” she said and closed her eyes when he leaned the rest of the way in and kissed her. Her chest sort of hurt again but in a strange, good, way. She’d gladly live with it.
Chapter 24: Treasure
November 2027, Atlantis, Atlantis
Cain sat, relaxed, in front of a window, legs crossed. His foot gently tapped out a beat in the air but it wasn't impatient. He was happy to wait. He had the time. He had plenty of time. Outside it was nice to watch the people from above. They milled about like ants, moving to and fro. Or maybe like minnows. He could always tell which ones were human and which ones were proeathans. Any groups of humans gave a berth around a proeathan, giving them space. To not be seen. Not be touched. To not draw attention. It had been over a decade you'd think they'd get over it by now. Cain knew better than to expect that. Humans held grudges for generations. Not that they didn't have a very good reason to but you'd think they'd want to move on with their lives and not dwell in the past.
He looked up when the door opened. Technically he was in a waiting room but he wasn't going anywhere. It was the front chamber for the Order of Faceless. There was a faceless in their featureless mask standing in the doorway. Cain stood up and they walked over to them. They wore the mark of a vow of silence on their forehead. Probably sent this one so they couldn't be asked questions, give him a hard time or otherwise be rude. Of course Cain was in with their god. Paid to be nice to those Desmond kept in his circle or you might just get visited by a god. A faceless with a vow of silence ensured no mistakes.
“I'll take that,” and he took the swaddling from the faceless. He didn't look down at them, he just kept eye contact with the faceless. “You may go,” he said. The faceless left quickly like they didn't want to breathe the same air as Cain. Stupid, speciest, assholes.
Only once they were gone did Cain look down. A smile tugged at his lips. “Good job, Hera,” he said. A perfect human baby was wrapped in the pink and yellow swaddling. They had some of Cain’s features but they weren't identical. Almond shaped eyes and a Drell-like nose and black eyebrows in a shape that reminded him of his father and himself.
Cain hadn't held a child that was his since the rise of Christianity. That boy had been a wonder. He'd only been told of the impossible things human psychics could do by his father before Yeshua. Half the stories about him weren't true but that was besides the point. Half the stories about Desmond weren't true either. The talk of an ‘immaculate’ birth had drawn him to see for himself. Seeing the good Yeshua had done for everyone, the wonder and strength he offered others, the love he fostered between humans was infectious. Cain hadn't been immune to it either. He'd been living as a hermit for a few decades before that. Tired of humans and how hateful they were, how petty. Yeshua had reminded him humans could also be kind, generous, and caring humans could be.
He didn't like to think he'd let himself be seduced but that would have been a lie. A pretty girl was still a pretty girl and though Cain’s tastes had changed over the millennia it was hard to say no to a pretty girl who wanted so badly to be with you.
That was the last time he'd held a baby of any importance. Other than Desmond’s little one and that was only because Cain had tricked Altair into handing him over. He loved how small and fragile infants were. How utterly perfect they were.
“I've been waiting a long time to meet you, my son,” Cain cooed and lifted their head up to press a kiss against their forehead. He sniffed and opened his eyes. They were brown. Cain smiled. Hera had been good on her word. No proeathan or half breed children for Cain. There would be plenty of them in the future now and the last thing the world needed right now was more proeathans. But the world could use some more humans. A real one with no mixed blood, like Lucy was. “Hello there,” he said softly. The infant just stared at him. “You’re very cute, you know that?” Their tongue slowly appeared on the bottom of their open mouth. “I wonder if my brother will like you as much as his grandson hmm?”
That made Cain smirk. Oh the look on Altair’s face was going to be priceless. “Let’s go find him and see, what do you say Rinchen?” he asked and bounced him a little. Rinchen blinked his eyes at Cain and made a little noise. “Yes yes, and then go see the room I prepared for you. I hope those stupid faceless knew to feed you.”
He was halfway to the door as he said that and Hera appeared in front of him. Cain didn’t even flinch in surprise. “They did,” she said and put her arms inside her sleeves.
“I bet that grated them. Bunch of snooty proeathan clergy feeding a human infant,” Cain smirked again.
“Oh, they hated it. But it was a good lesson in humility,” Hera said. “And they wouldn’t disobey their High Priestess.”
Cain nodded. “He’s as I asked for him I take it?”
“He’s like my daughter,” Hera said, meaning Lucy. “But with a natural life. You took a sense for him and so he is without.”
“What else should I know?” Cain asked.
Hera’s eyes squinted a bit in a smile, “That is something you will figure out as he grows,” she said.
“No. I gave him… an interesting disposition.”
“I swear Hera if you made my son a pyromancer-
“Tempting but I think one hyper powerful human pyromancer is all the world needs at the moment. No. You may find it ironic in the future.”
Cain didn’t like the sound of that. “Very well. Good day, I guess, if that means anything to you.”
“The days have been better since the world passed through the hotai,” she nodded a bit. Cain just sort of rolled his eyes and left the hall of the Faceless and went to find Altair and rub his cute new son in his stupid face.