Her head lolls limply against the head of the chair, and every limb is loose and slack. Her hand is tangled in the folds of the Shroud, but the cloth is lifeless under her fingers. He cards a hand through her hair, watching her eyes carefully. She's always had such beautiful eyes: blue, open, expressive. That's his favorite part about it all, to be able to watch them come back to life.
Tenderly, he lifts the golden cloth and slides it around her neck. He wraps her in its folds, watching as the soft glow brings life to her pale cheeks. She looks much better this way, with the Shroud whispering a soft, sibilant promise around her neck. It's one that he intends to fulfill no matter the cost.
“Evie,” he says. She doesn't look at him, but that's all right. “What do you think about tonight? There'll be a beautiful moon out. We'll go running on the rooftops, and I'll race you to the station. Would you like that?”
There's a blink, slow and languid. Yes, she's saying, and he loves her all the more for it. Evie's always been up for a challenge, and she'll never let this opportunity pass her by. They'll race on the roofs, the unstoppable Frye twins; the two of them against the world. Just the way it was meant to be.
He leans forward and kisses her gently on the forehead before rising to his feet. “I'll be back soon, I promise,” he says. “Wait for me, all right?”
He laughs a little as he heads up the stairs and closes the door behind him, shaking his head at his own folly. What a question. She's his twin sister, his other half. Of course she'll wait for him.
“Jacob,” she says, and he hates the words before they come out of her mouth. “I'm going to India with Henry.”
It's not fair, he wants to say. She's a Frye, and a proud member of the English Assassins. She belongs in London with him, her brother, not on another bloody continent with a man that she's only known for two years. Henry Green is a deceptively mild-mannered piece of sister-stealing shit, and for a horrible moment Jacob wishes that the man had never been born.
The moment passes. Jacob says none of this, of course, pasting a giant smile on his face instead. Oh, to see him go: he congratulates her and Henry with a magnificent toast. He gives her away at the wedding, and he dances with her before handing her away to the other man. And he watches as they leave for India, waving furiously until he can no longer see the train in the distance even with the aid of eagle vision. The gold of his sister fades away, and he's left all alone in London.
It's all right. Really. They've never been apart before, not like this, but that's all right. He's a grown man, and London is his to run. He's pretty damn splendid at it if he does say so himself, and both Brotherhood and Rooks grow strong under his hand. Evie writes to him once a month, inquiring after his health and affairs. How are you? How is London? and it's with pleasure that he writes back, Good! Excellent, brilliant, couldn't be better.
And truly, it is. The years pass. He's building his Assassins, and Evie's doing...whatever she's doing, something fiddly with research and artifacts. Things that interest her, presumably, and he's happy for her. Her letters don't give nearly enough detail, but he gathers that it's exciting work, what with unearthing ancient mysteries and fighting off Templars every step of the way. And he's busy too, so really, they're both being very productive. Father would be proud, if Jacob cared about things like his dead father's opinion.
It all ticks along like it should, until one day, one perfectly ordinary day, Jacob gets a letter. It's postmarked from India, but it's not Evie's handwriting on the letter. It's the sharp, angular writing of someone he doesn't know, but none of that matters. What matters are the words, carved irreversibly into the paper in black ink. There's been an accident. Come quickly.
Evie is dying.
Jacob's never liked rules, but he plays by them now. Above all, there are three that must be obeyed.
One: women. It has to be a woman, preferably around her age. He perches on the chimney, surveying the streets of Whitechapel and watching the prostitutes ply their trade. He'd tried a man once, but the Shroud hadn't liked that, and neither had she. Maybe some day he'll try different kinds of women, work his way up to the social ladder. The Unfortunates are easy prey, but he really should stop cutting corners. For Evie's sake, he'll do it someday, and soon.
Two: life. They're always alive with he brings them to her. That's what the Shroud wants, and so he obeys. They're alive as he takes them from the streets, and they're breathing as he lays them next to his sister. Evie's eyes are half-open as always, but they're hungry now, and so is he. Carefully, he unfurls the Shroud and drapes it across her, letting the tail end trail across the body.
And of course, there is the third rule: blood. The fabric of the Shroud runs sleekly through his fingers, and oh, it wants. It wants to feel the slick heat of life, rich and endlessly spilling across its threads. And he wants to see her again, filled with vitality and energy the way she was meant to be. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement, and everyone wins. Except the body, of course, but that doesn't matter. He doesn't need it to talk. All that's needed is the breath in its lungs and the blood in its veins.
He cuts deep. The body struggles, of course, and that's always the bothersome part, hearing them scream. They're so loud about it, and while he knows that the Shroud loves that—the louder the better—it's still all rather ringing to the ears. But all that is forgotten as blood, thick and brilliant, seeps into the golden fabric. It's glowing now, bright with life, and he laughs over the cacophony.
He drops the knife, steps over the twitching body. He lifts Evie up carefully and touches her cheeks, smearing her a deep, living red. The Shroud is beautiful around her. She's beautiful. She's his sister, and she's alive, and he loves her more than anything.
“Oh, Evie,” he says gently to her. “You've always been fixing things for me, haven't you? It's my turn now.”
He touches the line of her mouth, rubbing blood into her lips. Every drop buys precious seconds. She smiles up at him, bright and alive and approving, and that makes everything worth it.
Pieces of Eden. Fairytales, myths, stories of another world that he's never put much stock in, even after their fight with Starrick. Evie can pontificate about them all she likes, but they're not really real, not like the blade on his arm or the gun at his hip. Except they are, because Evie was killed by one. Oh, she's still breathing, but she's not alive. She will never wake, the Indian Brotherhood says. The damned artifact destroyed her mind, took away everything that made her Evie.
Green is there, dithering and ineffectual. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, he cries, as if that will change anything. The Indian Brotherhood is there, sympathetic but severe. We thought you should know, Mr. Frye, they say. There's nothing we can do. Nothing you can do. It was an accident, no one could have expected the explosion. She gave her life for the Brotherhood. It was a noble end.
Useless, all of them.
His heart is numb, encased in ice. He watches as her chest rises and falls, the only sign of life remaining to her. She's being kept alive by science, but they want to end it. They want to kill her, put her away so they can forget their mistake and move on. Green moans in the corner, pathetic and beaten as always. It's up to Jacob to take charge, and he does. He will not let her die.
He's quite polite about it. Let me take her to London, he says. Perhaps there is some miracle there, tucked away in a hospital or university. I respect Indian medicine, I do, but please. Let me try. I'll take her back, and if nothing works, then at least she deserves to die at home. She's a Frye, and she belongs in England.
What do they see? A grieving brother, determined but ultimately accepting? That's the mask that he affects, and it works. Or maybe it doesn't, but that doesn't matter. Either way, he brings her home to London, where she grows paler and thinner by the day, moving beyond the reach of even the most advanced medicine. The doctors shake their heads. The scientists shrug. The Brotherhood sighs, distant and disapproving of the Assassin who cannot accept death. Move on, he knows they're saying. We're sorry for your loss, but it's time to let go.
No. No. Nonono. He can't. He won't. He runs across the trains as if he can escape the truth, and the answer must be that he's not looking hard enough. There must be something in the city of wonders that can save her, isn't there? This is the site of their greatest triumph. It's the greatest city in the world, filled with science and technological marvels beyond imagining. There has to be something. Anything. Right?
And that's when he remembers.
If a damn piece of magic took his sister away, then another piece can bring her back. The Shroud lies hidden in the vault by Buckingham Palace, and it's not doing anyone any good by just lying there. And well, what does he have to lose? If it doesn't work, then he will grieve, sob, cry. Truly, he will. But if it does—
If it does—
Life. Trading one for the other. What the Shroud gives, it takes from someone else. Jacob's not stupid, and he's very careful to maintain the balance. And she's proud of him, he knows she is. He can see it in her eyes as they spark to life. She moves in his arms, already restless and ready to go.
He laughs with delight. He helps her sit up and brushes her hair away from her face with blood-slicked hands, kissing her on the temple. “It's all right,” he whispers to her. “Everything is fine now.”
She's saying something, or at least trying to. Words are always hard for her, he knows. The Shroud does its best, but there's only so much coordination it can grant her. Her voice is breathy and faint, and her hands cling weakly to his arms. He holds her close and leans in, putting his ear close to her mouth. No, she says. Jacob—
Her voice fails her, but he knows what she's saying. Don't go. Don't leave me. We were never meant to be apart.
“Don't worry, sweet sister,” he says. “I won't. I promise.”
Dear, beautiful Evie. Alive, forever so.