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Assassin's Creed Collection

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Hi there!

 

Just a quick introduction before we get started:

This will be a collection of short stories, one shots and drabbles featuring the characters from the Assassin's Creed series. I will update this whenever I can and try to include a variety of different characters written to the best of my ability. 

Should you like to request something, feel free to do so, I am always up for new ideas! However, I haven't played all the games, so please bear with me if some of the characters are not as you perceive them. T_T

 

Please be warned there may be some chapters with mature or explicit scenarios. ;)

I hope you enjoy!!

<3

Chapter Text

An impatient knock at the door pulled you from a quiet slumber. Dry eyes, arid from fatigue, opened to a diligent, fragile glow; before you, a humble fire fought furiously to flicker in the swelling shadows. You woke comfortably to the last of its snug warmth. A small book lay just as comfortably on your lap, your thumb tucked safely between its rough pages. Groggily, you shifted in the soft fabric of the couch as your eyes flickered to the window. Formerly masked by the dense veil of sleep, it was only when you saw the vivid, trickling disfiguration of the glass frame did you notice the torrential rain pouring mercilessly onto the streets outside.

The knock at the door returned in a desperate flurry.

Sighing, you willed yourself to part from the couch. Before ushering out the room, you fed the neglected fire another log in hopes that it would regain its original passion and be all the warmer for your return. The spell of sleep clung to you still, and you had half a mind to slip straight back into the alluring arms of the couch.

Gliding through the dim halls, the desire to return to the warmth of the fire doubled when an unpleasant chill pricked at your skin. The shoddy fabric of your dress was hardly fit to warrant you any warmth, and the house did little to temper the chill. Sighing, you snagged a scarf from its peg by the banister on your way and swiftly threw it over your shoulders.

The knock, again, but this time angrier, came hammering onto the glass. There was something about the disjunct rhythm of clouts that gave it an edge of uncertainty. Just as uncertain, you crept towards the door. Vigilant, you reached for the handle. Smoothly, you drew it open.

Inch by inch – wretched and apprehensive and angry and dripping wet with rain – a foul apparition of a face you once knew was revealed. You froze.

It was staggering to see what three years had done to him. How his once boyish stubble, neglected and unfettered in his misery, had grown fuller, richer, yet not long enough still to conceal the scar that sliced his jaw. You sought the matching scar on his right brow, noticing how they were pulled down to sculpt his brooding expression. His eyes were the same, yet you did not recognise the strange glow in them – or lack thereof. Lifting your gaze, the black locks of his hair had since grown into a roguish mane, and it clung to his features in wet clumps. He wore no top hat; cold rain showered over him a crippling luminosity. You found yourself entranced by his profound silhouette, an inescapable shadow towering over you like a wounded beast staring in the face of his attacker. Mesmerised, your eyes followed the rain that swept over his dark features and marvelled at the way it trickled over his pale lips, parted for release of shallow breath. Then, as it dripped down his square chin, before falling onto the dark fabric of his attire. You stood beneath his intimidating, unquestionable presence and nearly melt.

“Jacob?” You breathed, your mouth agape yet empty of reason.

Where do you even begin to explain why you left? A pang of regret struck your chest as you looked into his tired, tired eyes. A sullen reflection of how your mysterious, abrupt, unjustified absence had made him do nothing but worry like hell. Three years had been carved so evidently into the crevices of his skin it might as well have been by your own hand.

“Jacob, I –” You cut your apology short as he stepped one foot in without warning. You clung to the scarf around your shoulders.

“Where have you been?” It didn’t matter how angry, how exhausted, how broken he sounded – you missed his voice. You missed hearing the low, gratifying rumble of his chest against your cheek as he would talk during a soft embrace. You yearned to reach out to him, to dip your fingers, frostbitten by spending three, cold winters without him, in the warm pool of his existence. But you refrained.

“I’m sorry!” You blurted out, wondering if your modest words sounded as genuine as they were heavy – so heavy, in fact, that your knees began to buckle, and you were forced to stagger backwards. “I… I don’t know what to say, Jacob. I know – I know I should’ve told you why I fled London,” Restless hands kept grating the scarf’s material between thumb and finger and you couldn’t help but to tug the fabric tighter, as if to keep yourself from falling apart. Your eyes were anywhere but on him, left to frantically search the walls for an appropriate explanation, “but what could I – how was I – were we – supposed to…” exhausted, you sighed. Dropping your gaze to the floor, you concluded pathetically, “it just didn’t seem like there was any other choice at the time, I’m sorry.”

Taking another tantalising step closer, he could only whisper, “Did you find someone else?”

Clenching your jaw, you stood your ground this time, squashing the restless energy in a small fist. Slowly, you raised your head.

Gone was the intimidating presence. Gone was the brooding demeanour. Gone was the anger. In him, all that remained was an onerous, frenetic dread. You’d never once seen an expression like that, let alone on a man such as Jacob Frye. This was a man you didn’t recognise. The pain in your heart gripped tighter than your scarf ever could and yet, nevertheless, your resolve crumbled.

You needn’t remind yourself of why you left him. It ran through your head in maddening circles since the day you packed your bags. But it was worth the risk you took three years ago. Worth even this – this pitiful version of Jacob at your doorstep, mourning the loss of three happy years you could have given him. Three happy years, along with many others, that he wholesomely deserved. You, on the other hand, did not deserve a single shred of his grief. After this, you only hoped he would forgive you.

Blinking rapidly, you shoved away the tears that pricked your eyes and allowed the weight of those lonely years to hang on your features, pulling them into an expression as grim as his.

“Yes, Jacob. I did.” You confessed.

His anguish intensified and he bit back an oath. Jacob had suspected as much but didn’t anticipate hearing the words from your mouth – the confirmation that you had spent those three years in the company of somebody else would strike him so harshly. You winced as he hung his head in bitter defeat, and chose your next words carefully…

“The light of my life,” You hummed slowly, surprised at the velvety texture of your voice, as if to smother honey all over his broken heart. “Somebody I want to protect,” You added. When he melted further into your icy words, you could no longer remain behind the wall of indifference. Timid, you dared to bring a hand to his cheek. “Somebody I’d give my life for.” Softly, your thumb glided across his tempered skin, revelling in the familiarity of touching him again. “Somebody I can’t live without,” He finally shunned your sweet caress with a small, spiteful jerk of his head, and you solemnly retreated it back to the scarf. “Somebody I’d like you to meet.”

He barely lifted his head, only peered at your delicate smile from beneath his brows. His eyes scorched red with woe, outrage, confusion and anger. Finally adverting your gaze, you stepped to one side.

“Isabella,” You called softly and, a moment later, a young girl emerged from a room down the hall, the apples of her cheeks a lovely rosy red from having sat in front of the fire for too long. She peered at the tall stranger and you watched as everything in his face changed. Your throat tightened and, with quivering lips, fought the urge to cry by furiously pressing them together. Sheepishly, slowly, the young girl tip-toed down the hall, her favourite teddy suffocated by her nervous embrace.

Jacob’s wide, perplexed eyes shifted back and forth between you and the small girl, daring to think about who she might’ve been. His breath hitched in his throat when you turned to face him, the beating of his heart nearly drowned out the quiet hush of your voice.

“Come and meet your father.”

The air escaped his lungs and his shoulders collapsed, his wet lashes drew away in abrupt shock as he tenaciously tried to absorb your words. He jerked his head to face you once more and you saw the hopeful gleam in his eyes, exaggerated by a sheen of fresh tears. You could only smile and nod and blink through your own tears as you struggled to catch a quiet sob between the purse of your trembling lips.

The quiet words her mother had spoken piqued Isabella’s interest. Ever so slightly, she loosened the grip on her teddy and, raising her head slightly, Jacob was forced to succumb to the innocent radiance in her large eyes – as blue as his. Mesmerised and careful, he waltzed past you until, soon, they stood not three feet apart. Placing one hand on your heart and another to your lips, you watched with sad eyes as slowly, Jacob kneeled before her.

For the first time, Isabella gazed into the eyes of her father. They flickered in electric curiosity over his person and rendered every cell of his being to come alive. Now, after three numbing years, Jacob understood. Swallowing the tightness in his throat, he composed himself and cracked a careful smile. She looked like her mother. Though in her dark, thin eyebrows, he was reminded of his sister, and when he imagined the young girl rolling her eyes at him just as Evie had done so many times before, he nearly burst out laughing with joy. He had not felt as such in a very long time.

So taken aback by the very beauty of her existence, he almost failed to notice how tightly she gripped her teddy bear. He smiled tenderly. “What’s his name?”

“She –” Isabella corrected, thrusting the teddy into his face – “is called Daisy.”

Jacob cleared his throat as he gently took the bear from her hands, somewhat giddy, “Oh, sorry – my mistake, Daisy.”

Finding the ends of her dark hair to fiddle with in the meantime, Isabella smiled brightly, “Daisy says it’s okay, but she won’t forgive you next time.”

From the doorway, as you witnessed for the first time what a family – your family – might look like, you could barely withstand crying aloud. When Jacob bellowed a sing-song of his hearty laugh, tears spilled down your cheeks in streams. A symphony of monstrous emotions flooded you all at once. Concern, sorrow, joy, regret - all bigger than the one before. Too big for you withstand, no matter how hard you tried, the tears still fell. Isabella, upon noticing your state, grew bolder. She stopped playing with her hair.

“Daisy wants to know if you’re really my papa.” She sung, batting her eyelashes with timid curiosity.

Jacob started, somewhat alarmed by her question. His heart began to race, and he could feel the palms of his hands growing clammy with every nervous breath. Readjusting his grip of Daisy, he couldn’t quite find the words – he’d only just understood it himself and, with every second he looked at the radiant young girl before him, an angel, he found it increasingly difficult to believe that she was of his own blood, so when he replied with a stanch “I am, Daisy,” he was just as surprised to hear it as she.

Isabella took this information well. Better than he did. After a second, she grew even bolder. “Mummy said you were off saving the world,” Jacob cocked his head to listen eagerly, the smile not quite leaving his lips, “and that’s why you couldn’t be with us – because you were too busy protecting everyone.” Jacob could not bring himself to look away. Even to look at you, snivelling quietly by the door.

His smile faded, understanding it better now. You had made the right choice, he was loath to admit, though from it a downward spiral of emotions, feelings of dread, feelings of loneliness, he doesn’t want to think about what might have happened had you stayed.

Would you have walked into the wrong part of town one night, only to be beaten by Blighters until his unborn child no longer lived? Or, worse still, would Starrick have taken you away from him? Or taken his child, his sweet, beautiful daughter away from him?

He glared at the floor, holding onto Daisy a little too tightly. He thought of how hard a decision it must’ve been for you, even more so to carry it through all by yourself. The house – he had just noticed – was cold and dark and just one gust away from being blown over. In almost every corner the wallpaper had curled in on itself, as if escaping the cold. Further down the hall, behind Isabella, he watched as a drop of rain fell from the ceiling and into a craven tin bucket. It makes no sound against the torrential downpour outside, but when it plopped, he came to meet the eyes of Isabella once more.

A smile couldn’t help but tug at the corners of his mouth. Despite the harrowing realisation of the hell you’d suffered, it pleased him to hear that the young girl had inquired after him. Better yet, that you had described him as a good man – a hero.

“But you can stay with us now, right?” She sang nervously, looking back and forth between the two of you. His smile grew wider and he scooped her up in his arms. In return she giggled in delight, music to his ears.

“Well I think so,” He said playfully, turning to you. Though the sight of them together, grinning, was something marvellous, you had stepped forward, arms crossed, and frowning.

“No, Jacob,” You warned sadly, not bothering to wipe the tears from your cheeks.

“Why not?” He questioned, incredulous and concerned. More than anything, he missed you. He loved you and would spend the rest of his life trying to prove it, to make up for lost time. He looked to Isabella briefly, ever in awe. The first thing he would do after bringing you home would be to make another, and then one more. And they would be just as beautiful.

“Starrick –”

“Is long gone,” He reassured, his voice low and gravelly. With comforting eyes, he peered at you.

“But the Order –”

“Won’t touch us.” He said more firmly. When you looked up to him in such disbelief, all it took was the slight nod of his head for the pain to melt away. To instead be replaced by a wonderous hope that sparked deep within the cold crevices of your broken heart. “Besides,” he continued, somewhat smug, “Do you remember the Rooks?”

You couldn’t help but release a laugh. “You mean to tell me that little gang of yours was actually a success?!” You challenged, scoffing as you rubbed your flustered eyes, stained with salty tears.

“Did you doubt me?” He mocked hurt, widening his eyes and comically tilting his head in a way that made you giggle.

“No.” You said honestly, wiping away the last of your tears before finally stopping to smile. “Not for a minute.”

His sunken heart fluttered furiously. In that smile was the vision of you he had known three years ago. The you, who had also suffered a great ordeal. The you, that now accepted him, and could live with him in the future that you were both destined for.

His hold around Isabella tightened, to make sure she was there, and not some dream, like one of many he had seen over the years since you had left.

Jacob knew what he wanted. He looked at you, with rosy, tear-stained cheeks, large wet eyes and long lashes; he wanted you.

“Marry me.”

You nearly fell over. So overwhelmed with shock, you could barely find the air to whisper, “What?”

“Become my wife.” He said, surer than he’d ever been his whole life.

There was no denying it now. No reason to tell yourself it was better this way, that his life would be better without you, and yours - Isabella's - without him. Because as he held out his hand, his daughter looking at you expectantly in his other, you saw your future, and it was grand.

You took his hand and squeezed it tight.

“I will.”

Chapter Text

Amid a symphony of green, tranquillity entwines soft and precise. Golden strokes of the sun harmonise with a ripe blue sky. Trees shifting gracefully in the wind wave a warm welcome to the young man that finally shows his face. For once, the heavy fabric of his hood weighs upon his shoulders, so that the dark tassels of his tresses may dance in the breeze and tickle his neck.

Despite a fruitless mission that left little leads, and fewer promises, Connor returns to the Homestead in high spirits. He has counted the days until he could see you again. Heedless, his heart leaps as he envisions a welcoming smile upon your lips. Rolling from your tongue is the texture of his name as you greet him. It sends his stomach into a fluttering frenzy.

The wild anticipation of his desire to see you champions the need to abide by the forest’s tremendous peace, and so he breaks it with a curt shout. Immediately, his horse hurries to gallop along the trail.  

Peering through the foliage lies the Homestead, but Connor doesn’t permit the horse to ease until he reaches its modest porch. Throwing a leg over, the young man demounts swiftly and unties his belongings from the saddle’s ridge.

The door, seemingly as ancient as the man who dwells behind it, creaks as he pushes it open and Achilles is there to greet Connor as fondly as he is able. Connor does the same. “How are things?” The young man asks, though his vague interest in hearing the reply causes his eyes to wander – there are other things on his mind. Starved of your company, the need to see you manifests into an inescapable itch.

“Good.” Achilles relaxes further into his chair. “And, the mission?”

Connor grunts, displeased. “A mess.”

Achilles is neither surprised, nor disappointed, and though he can scarce provide comfort (a trait lacking in both men), Achilles offers his wisdom instead. “The road to freedom is certainly a long one. But if it were easy, no one would value it.” The younger man frowns in return, like he’s just eaten something sour, but refuses to stew over it anymore today.

Instead he longs to see large, sparkling eyes, to witness gentle fingers tuck away a stray lock. Fidgeting, he searches the room for his distraction, before stepping out altogether. Moments pass before Connor silently returns. Smirking in his seat, Achilles can’t help himself. “She’s not here.”

Connor starts, flustered and somewhat peeved. To save face, he swallows his distaste for the old man’s impeccable ability to read minds. “Where is she?” He asks, taking the bait.

“Boston. I sent her on some errands.” He croaks.

Connor erupts suddenly. “What? She’s in Boston? Why didn’t you ask me to go? Or – at least, have waited for my return?” He barks, tense and confused. As ever, Achilles remains unphased by his ingenuous outburst. He is not worried, but smug, and this irks Connor.

“She is but one girl, Connor.” He sings a warning, and the young man shifts agitatedly in response. Knowing Achilles speaks true, he clenches his jaw and fists. “She is smart enough to keep out of trouble – unlike someone I know,” Connor rolls his eyes, “– and is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. What more can I say? You were away and she was determined to do it herself. We owe her that trust.”

Connor remains restive, pacing endlessly from one end of the room to the other before Achilles continues, “If you’re really that worried about her… you can just go see how she’s doing.”

He stills. More than he would care to admit he yearns to find you, to see you, to certify your safety himself, but for this – you’d damn him straight to hell. Regardless of how much he longs to take pleasure in your company, Connor does not wish to insult you. Achilles is right. You deserve thatmuch of his trust, at least.

Even still, something nags at his chest. It sends a dull, lonesome ache raging through his veins and makes his very skin crawl. Back and forth he ponders the idea in his head until – finally, he decides. Bolting off, Connor slips past the creaking door and jumps onto his steed. With a scuffle, it takes only seconds before he is buried beneath the green once more.

From the window, Achilles is shaking his head, smiling. “That boy is hopeless.”

҉     ҉     ҉

Shadows flee your features as you emerge from the carriage, setting foot into the sun. With a smile beaming just as bright, you challenge the rays that dictate the town and bask in the warmth they throw at you.

The journey here had been long, but far from insufferable; Achilles had vehemently coaxed you into travelling in his carriage, one that not only provided cool shelter from the raging sun, but a fabulous view in which to watch the world go by. Though, however pleasurable, being bound to the same seat for hours can make any man restless.

Reaching for the strip of paper in the pocket of your petticoat, you review the messy assortment of words. Your eyes flicker across the town and, spotting a few vague signs, you hop to it. Like driftwood, you gleefully meandering the streets of Boston, until finally you arrive at the desired store.

It’s only when you creep into the shabby building do you realise how sheepish you feel. Crouching over a counter in one corner is what you can only presume as the shop’s owner. He keeps watch like some guard dog, and it does little to settle your nerves. “Sugar, please, four bags.” You squeak.

“That all?” He asks dryly, rolling his jaw. You nod and quickly throw him the appropriate sum. Relieved, the dull man pockets the money. The sugar is yours!

Perhaps you are being optimistic when you try your strength for two; the sugar falls to the ground with a jarring thud, and you nearly topple over them with a surprised squeak as a result. Embarrassed, you recollect yourself, hauling out the door with just half the amount of sugar and half your dignity.

The carriage waits not half a mile down the street but, holding what feels like a bag of bricks, you can’t help but curse yourself for not parking the bloody thing outside the door. Still, you’d sooner travel back and forth four times than ask for the scary shopkeeper’s help.  

But at long, long last, you reach the carriage and, just as you’re about to throw the damnable object on, something absurd catches your eye.

Placed at the foot of the carriage in one careful line sits three bags of sugar. Confusion overwhelms you and in jerky movements your head spins like a broken compass, eyes wide and brows furrowed, you scrutinise the streets for answers – but there are none. To your frustration, the townspeople behave in perfect routine.

Biting your lip, you conclude the shopkeeper defies your original judgement of him; he must’ve ordered the remaining bags be delivered to your carriage (and promptly, too). You wander back to offer him thanks but, it is just the same. He is just as confused as you.

“I didn’t do it,” he growls, swiping a fist under his nostrils and sniffing loudly. Baffled, you all but flee the premises, hoping to forget this unsettling paradox.

However, things get worse when a fidgety, straggly man knocks you right off your feet. He neither apologises nor asks after your wellbeing and instead hastily runs off, tripping over his tattered boots. Growling and cursing and clicking your tongue, you are just about to see the back of him disappear behind a corner, until, patting your petticoat to stand, you realise – how dare he!

You make haste, darting after him and screaming all kinds of oaths (you dare not think of what Achilles might say if he were to witness such an ensemble – he would criticise you further for having his money nicked in the first place!). An image of Achilles’ coarse features, ridden with disappointment, plagues your thoughts and propels your legs to run faster.

Left, right, you weave in and out of buildings like needle and string, just a few paces behind. But it’s too late, he turns one narrow corner and you loose sight of him completely. Skidding to a stop, you take a minute to catch your breath. Blasphemy drips from your mouth in curt, wheezy gasps of air as you hunch over your knees and contemplate your next move.

Walking back to the carriage empty handed would be accepting defeat and that was not on your agenda for today, however poorly inscribed. Speaking of… where was that thing?

You release a shrill, unwomanly groan. It’s gone. You must have dropped it during the chase. That, or the thief had gotten his sticky hands on it, too. Ever the optimist, you think, perhaps you can find him yet.

Unsuspecting, you turn a corner, and nearly scream with fright.

Blood embellishes the soil like poppies blooming in the late spring. A man, still and awkward lies among them with his chest to the sun in surrender. Placed delicately upon his torso, and what sends a harrowing chill through your spine, is your pouch.

For the second time today you are confused, paranoid and, wincing as you creep towards the ruined man, suspicious. Daring not to linger for longer than you should, you snatch the pouch and scurry out of the area.

More than ever you are desperate to finish this bizarre day. In losing the shopping list, it seems significantly easier to do so, but there is one favour yet to be done. Asked specifically by Achilles, a letter. To a Mister Smythe Bower. No one you know but sounds important.

Reaching into your pocket, a familiar sinking feeling arises when you discover naught. Bloody hell, had you lost that, too?

You sigh dramatically and gnaw on your cheek. At least, you remember to whom the letter was meant for and, in hopes that your sincerest apologies would somehow suffice, you muster up the last of your pride and set off. Anxiety follows you like a bad omen all the way to the porch.

Trepidatious, your fist hovers by the door. Two, small movements elicit a quiet knock. Melding your nervous hands together, you pray the master be away with business, but when movement stirs and a man, tall and displeased, unveils himself, your heart leaps from your chest and escapes by your parted lips.

“I came to apologise.” The words fly from your mouth before he has even pulled the door all the way open. You thought he was frowning earlier, but now, as his thick brows draw deeper lines onto his forehead and his mouth curls downwards you see that he is most definitely frowning now.

“S’cuse me?”

“I’m sorry, I work as a maid for Achilles – I presume you know him? Well, today I was sent to deliver a letter –”

He groans loudly, and you freeze. “Another fuckin’ letter? Jesus, that old man is doing my head in.” He exclaims ruffling his hair agitatedly, as if shaking could rid him of this unsolicited nuisance. You wish it so, too, for you have had more than enough trouble for one day. You want to sympathise with him but there is one glaring problem: what on earth was this man talking about?

“Forgive me, but did you say you already received a letter?”

“Yes. I have.” The man huffs as you stare at him perplexed, mouth agape. “Now, do you have a letter for me or not?” He growls, impatient.

Blinking several times a second did not seem to lift you off the ground and fly you far, far away like you had hoped, so you are left but an insane, stuttering, muttering mess. “N-no, sorry, I… I apologise for the trouble. Good day, sir.” Scuffling away with your tail between your legs, you nearly wince when the door slams.

A puddle of uneasiness settles in the pit of your stomach as you scamper away, your mind too disorientated to properly adhere.

Colliding with a brick wall would’ve sent you to the ground slower.

You stumble and fall gracelessly to the ground with an oof, and it is only when you hurry to collect your skirt and rise to your feet do you realise a tall man, pale in complexion and hair as dark as his manner, eyes you distastefully. You make the mistake of meeting his harsh, icy blue eyes, and surrender your apology to him quicker than anyone could blink. His company, you notice, appears just as menacing as he, watch you with amused stares.

Silence bestows your heart an irreputable queasiness before a rotten smile plays on the corner of his mouth.

“Do not worry, madam, it was a simple mistake. Are you alright?” Breathless, you can but nod compliantly. His charm makes your skin crawl. Without warning, he extends his palm and you are sure to steel your composure so as not to flinch.

His large hand rests firmly beneath your chin, urging you to succumb further beneath his cool glare. “What lovely eyes.” He coos, stretching his thumb across the expanse of your chin, before creeping up to the curve of your bottom lip. He almost sneers, satisfied at your surprised expression, and continues his journey. Like flowing water around a lowly rock, he and his men filter past you, each of them eyeing you briefly before pretending as though you don’t exist.

As you glare at their retreating figures, your heart finally presumes its regular rhythm, the anxiety in your stomach dwindles but, in its wake, leaves you shaken and confused.

Whilst so committed to witnessing the unnerving men disappear behind the last corner, your other senses run amiss. The sound of heavy fabric ruffling furiously in the wind and the thud that follows goes by unheard. Your pursuit of solace is rudely interrupted by a concrete grip on your arm, firm and absolute. A sudden pair of shoulders broad enough to block out the sun obstructs your view.

At first you are ridden with panic, but once his scent settles and you recognise the magnificent white and military blue of his trade-mark attire, joy overcomes you. Connor has returned after many long nights away, and for you to reunite in Boston – of all places, what a wonderful coincidence!

However, there is no merriment here. No exchanging of pleasantries. No compassionate glances that make your heart soar. Instead your delight dissipates and is sooner revived as a shocking terror once you see his expression.

You can barely squeak out his name in surprise for he is already vigorously shoving you back, all the while paranoidly checking over his shoulder as if some wild beast is out on a hunt for the taste of his flesh. “You have to leave, now. Go back to the carriage.” Your thoughts are frazzled at his fiery words but once he absentmindedly thrusts an all to familiar shopping list etched in scruffy ink into your hands, the perplexing puzzles of today begin to piece together and your terror turns red with anger.

Meeting Connor here today is of no coincidence – the scoundrel had clearly been following you to amend for your anticipated failures!

“So it was you!” You screech. Enthralled by rage, you rip your arm from his iron clasp and force his movements to an abrupt halt with a shove to his chest. "Did you have fun spying on me today, Connor?” You spit venomously. He looks to you incredulously, before throwing a look over his shoulder once more. When his eyes return to yours, they are as gentle as they are desperate. He raises his hands in surrender, but with it he urges your temper to settle, which, unsurprisingly, does not sit well with you.

“Forgive me – I did not mean to startle you, we can talk about this later but for now, please get back to the –” You pay him no mind.

“Why were you following me, Connor? I had everything under control!”

“Oh, really? Because I would not have needed to step in otherwise! No, never mind, just – please, get back to the carriage. I do not wish to argue with you here –” He tries to usher you backwards again, but you swat his hands away.

“Do you take me for a fool? Do you even know how unprofessional I looked to that man just now? This is my job, Connor, and if I can’t even do thisby myself then –” You shrug dramatically, “guess I better pack my bags! Or wait – are you gonna to do that for me, too?!” You are shouting now, and, in a fist, you crush the swelling fury that makes your fingertips tingle with an itch to strike his cheek.

“Oh, of all places to make a scene –!”

Suddenly, Connor’s anger is belittled by the impulsive boom of a raging gunshot. The spot by your foot explodes into dust as the bullet collides with the pavement, and a terrified cry emits from your trembling lips. You stifle your horror by slapping both hands to your mouth and Connor is quick to plant himself between you and the armed men.

Though you do not recognise the person who wields the flintlock, smoking satisfactorily, standing next to him, smug and supercilious, is the stranger you had bumped into earlier. A baleful, sinister smirk slices his face in two. Merely a look from his cold, blue eyes is enough to send a shiver raking through your spine. It is apparent that Connor knows the man, too, for a vehement oath flies from between clenched teeth, and his loath expression ignites in you an unmistakeable fear.

“Connor!” The elder man exclaims, mocking familiarity. “Fancy seeing you here.” His sing-song voice is dull and coarse and in turn his posse snicker and smirk.

Connor persists a restrained silence. In his mind runs wicked fantasies. To uncover Charles Lee here, in Boston, after weeks of tiresome searching makes him suspicious and even more so his blood boil. He clenches his fist and glares menacingly through the wisps of his furrowing brows.

However, there is a slight tug at his back. It pulls him immediately from such taboo ideas, and he remembers just what is at stake. Had you not been there, Connor might have been stupid enough to fight them at once. But he can’t fight them all off and protect you. He would not risk your life for his own personal vendetta.

“It’s certainly been a while.” Charles Lee chortles, eyeing his opponent discourteously. Connor stiffens when his eyes wander over you. “And, my, my, could this be a date?” He cocks his head to one side, peering further round Conner to meet your cowering glare. “Well, now, I almost feel bad! But, we’re going to cut this one short. Such a shame, really… to ruin a pretty face like that.”

Connor does not wait for his lackey to take aim, grabbing your wrist in a flurry and bursting out into an immediate sprint, you trail behind him, racing to keep up, screaming bloody murder as a bullet launches itself into the wall by your head when you turn a corner.

You can no longer feel just how tightly Connor grips your hand or notice how he glances back to you after every shot fired because you are completely captivated by fear. He drags you further down the road yet, darting in and around secure alleyways whilst your lungs turn to fire, your legs into mush.

When you finally stop, it is by the docks, where a sturdy horse waits patiently. Connor releases your hand, where an empty feeling arises and nearly makes you cry, only to take you by the waist and haul you onto the saddle. Whimpering, you fumble to grip the reins, “What's going on?”

Connor grunts as he proceeds to hoist himself onto the horse behind you, “We must flee Boston for now. It is not safe.”

“And what of the carriage? Achilles’ shopping?”

“Do not worry about Achilles’ shopping. I will return for them later. They will be fine. Achilles will understand.” He encases you in strong arms in order to take charge of the horse and, with a yell, he smacks its rear and orders it to race down the crowded streets.

You fly across the dock, over the cobbled path, where finally, civilisation ends and is replaced by fresh soil.

Fifteen minutes along the muddy trail, Connor slows the horse, and you feel the nudging of his muscles as he flexes to tug the reins. It is too early to breathe a sigh of relief; heavy air shrouds the two of you in an uncomfortable silence and you are far too tense to relax. This is mostly down to the mighty presence on your back, something you become increasingly aware of. Your shoulders remain stiff and you strain to keep yourself from leaning into his chest. But when trapped between such large arms, you find it difficult to think of anything but how your hips roll against his with every step of the horse. Pushing down the heat rising to your cheeks, you bite your lip.

Minutes pass, and you can no longer suffer the agonising quiet. You demand answers.

“Who on earth was that man, Connor? Why did he try to kill you? Are you in some kind of trouble?” Your tone is soft. Gentle, and shy, as though mindful not to upset the beast’s concord.

Connor gives no credible reply, only mumbles quietly, “It’s nothing.”

“Please, Connor. I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me.” You hum quietly.

“I do not need your help,” He counters quickly, and you can’t help but bite back.

“Well, at least you know how I feel.” Connor can feel the jolt of your body against him as you furiously cross your arms. He resists the urge to both groan and roll his eyes by grating his jaw.

“Please, do not ask me about this. Just trust me that it’s safer this way.” Your heart sinks.

“What, like how you trusted me today?”

Connor deflates and as he sighs you feel his breath on your hair. “I am sorry.” The sincerity of his tone blossoms in you a bitter guilt, flourishing faster than fresh daisies in spring.

You know full well that Connor was only trying to protect you – in his own way. Cursing him and later driving him to apologise makes you feel like an unruly, spoilt brat. Inwardly, you curse yourself.

Silence reclaims you both once again before you find the courage to speak, “Thank you,” you say slowly, “for helping me today.”

Connor grins behind you as you slowly relax into his chest, adjusting his hold on the reins so that you would sit more comfortably.

“It is my job.”

Chapter Text

Trembling fingers graced over the elegant curves of the mask; the final accomplice in your facade.

Deep breath. You told yourself.

Trailing slowly over the majestic crimson, you raised it to your eyes, wherein a quivering sigh slipped from your lips.

Deep breath. You told yourself.

Tentatively, you fitted it to the bridge of your nose and let it wrap around your pale cheeks. It was cold and heavy and everything you had come to expect a mask to be.

Deep breath. You told yourself when finally, the shaking had stopped.

You were someone else now – at least for tonight. Yet after all this time, it never got any easier. You suspected it would remain so.

For some reason, the uneasiness in your stomach was driven out only after the mask went on. Within its fixed mould, your nerves were settled like a raging waterfall, frozen by breath of the harshest winter and you, behind its firm and absolute design, were reassured you of who you were. Or, more importantly, who you weren’t.

Tonight, you weren’t the assassin – a vicious, cruel, cold-hearted murderer – but Italy’s best and finest performer. Some sort of celebrity, perhaps? Nay. Nothing like that. Though the thought made you blush. You were just doing what you loved. But you couldn’t deny that this person – the you with the mask – was highly anticipated amongst the common folk and, dare you say, the wealthy, too.

Tonight would be yet another grand spectacle for all. You would not let your Lady down. After all, she, your only confidant, had allowed you to perform safely within her brothel in the first place, promising to keep your identity hidden in exchange for your talent. Even to her girls, the lovely ladies of the brothel, who you were was a mystery. You assumed they cared not, for no one had questioned you since your arrival. Little came to their pockets in knowing who you were, so you figured they were busying themselves with getting to know the next customer, instead of yourself. At least your being there attracted a few more of those.

Looking the gown over, your costume was complete. An intricate montage of white lace was draped eloquently across your slender figure like the enchanting swirling bubbles in the river, lined delicately with string as gold as the setting sun. It was hidden largely behind a lavish, opulent, expensive red fabric, soft and nimble so that it succumbed to mould your figure every time you moved, but thick enough to hold desire and promise.

No one within the brotherhood had ever seen this… much of you, as it was vastly different to your traditional assassin robes; nevertheless, it put a spell upon your character, an enchantment that further separated you from your other self. Nodding firmly, you took off for the town.

“You’re late!” You heard as you arrived at the plaza. Huffing, you stopped to meet the sour face of your mistress. She sauntered over to you, arms folded, hips rolling. She looked slightly miffed, but that mischievous glimmer in her eyes did not escape you. “It’s a promising crowd tonight,” she grinned, “I hope you can fulfil their expectations – and mine.”

You said nothing, but only returned her smile and nodded firmly. She breathed a hearty laugh.

“Of course you will, I have faith,” she hummed, fixing a stray hair, “Now, the magic begins!”

And what magic it was. Illuminated by golden candlelight, seemingly scattered like the thousands of stars in the night sky, a whirlwind of grey smoke exploded at the centre of the plaza and, from it, you emerged. A symphony of “ooo”s and “ahh”s emanated from the crowd as they saw your silhouette materialize from within the cocoon of smoke, and you spared a moment to thank your assassin heritage for giving you that trick.

A shot of adrenaline surged through your veins like the rage of a river running free, every pore of your skin began to tingle and itch with an uncontainable excitement. Courtesan girls laughed and cheered you on as the smoke dissipated and, like stars, their eyes glowed and winked at you from the crowd. You smiled gleefully in return; all eyes on you.

The music began, and you were immediately swept into its melodic tune. You struck the first pose, and from there began to dance – elegant, striking, and irrevocably dazzling.

But you felt yourself elsewhere, as if you were watching this wonderfully charming masked dancer from the crowd and, like everyone else, was enchanted by her splendour. The midnight air overcame you, compelling you to move as one with the wind in a single composition of enchanting spins and twirls, like a puppet in the hands of its master, like you were someone else.

Yes, you were certainly someone else now. A quick glance into the eyes of your audience, and you saw they were just as captivated by the night as you. The mask seemed to chant a spell, its verse written by the fluid movements of your dance and emphasized by the mystique of the night – hypnotising all who lay witness.

Or perhaps, you wondered, gracefully flaring your arms up and outwards, it was you who was put under the mask’s spell?

The music intensified, your courtesans flooded the stage to dance beside you, keeping up fairly with the pace and the steps of the routine. The crowd cheered louder, throwing their fists into the air, some dancing to a routine of their own.

But then, you saw, lingering in the dark like a thick cloud in the night sky, it was him.

How could anyone overlook such a shade of white?

There, at the back of the crowd, ambling forward with a smirk slapped across his features like he owned the place. Ezio Auditore. Master assassin and mentor to the Italian brotherhood.

Yes, there was no doubt – and his beady eyes, though hidden by his hood, were trained on you. His presence alone was enough to make you freeze. But on stage, observed by many, you forced yourself to dance through the shock. Still you were taken by the mask’s influence, but the illusion had been shattered. Now, you became very aware of your other self, seemingly hidden beneath the mask and the white lace, and wondered if he saw it, too.

What unfortunate circumstance had brought him here, you did not know. But you had to flee – that much you knew. Consumed with anxiety, you sought your exit. The finale was coming up soon. You could disappear as quickly as you came.

Your eyes flickered to your mistress, who stood merrily observing the spectacle some ways away. She caught your gaze and immediately sensed your distress. Wasting no time, she spotted the dilemma in the crowd and tapered her way towards the assassin.  

Ezio… Why had he come here?

Had he known the truth?

Though you were one of many across Italy, every assassin had known of Ezio. Not just because of his title, but because his presence demanded it. A sombre, yet amiable, reckless force that belittled kings and enticed the needy.

You had met, spoke and trained with him only a couple times, but prayed it wasn’t enough for him to connect the dots.

No, no. That would be impossible! You reassured yourself. This person you were now, the person you became with the mask, an enchanting and alluring spirit, was nothing like that other girl. The assassin. There was no way he could tell.

…Could he?

Is that why he was here now, to punish and chastise you for ridiculing his brotherhood? For behaving a fool during the hours of the night and fooling everyone else in the meantime?

“Ezio!” The mistress exclaimed, struggling to uphold her professional demeanour as she talked above the noise. “Such a pleasant surprise,” bowing her head slightly, Ezio returned her greeting cordially with a curt nod of his own. “I did not anticipate your coming,” she gestured to the festivity, “what brings you here?” She sang, smiling, bright, seductive. You glanced over and saw them conversing and inwardly thanked your mistress. If she kept him distracted long enough, you could easily make off with little effort.

“I am here on… business. Something small has come to my attention and I must resolve it,” Ezio replied blatantly, with his politest smile, but otherwise ignoring the Lady’s charms and advances. His interest lay elsewhere. “Who is she?”

The Lady sighed, apologetic, though Ezio did not miss the nervous glint in her eye, “Unfortunately, she is not for sale. Though, I am sure one of my other girls will suffice in… entertaining you instead?” She raised her arm, catching the sight of a beautiful, busty blonde, but the assassin stopped her with the prompt raise of his hand

“No, signora, I am here on business.” He repeated, searching the crowd before his eyes once again landed on you.

“Then…” The Lady hummed, confused. He gave no response, eliciting the mistress to peer questioningly at his infatuated expression, noticing how his eyes were seized by your bewitching movements. At last, a sly smirk had come to rest on her sharp features, and she turned her eyes to you too. “Beautiful, no?”

Ezio did not reply, but merely continued to watch as you frolicked about the stage, mesmerized. The Lady laughed, “She has that affect on most people,” Ezio flushed momentarily, clenching his jaw and turning his face away. “Such passion, such talent,” she continued, “I could not let it go to waste. You understand.” He thought of his brotherhood. In some way, he did. In most ways, he didn’t.

Hesitant, Ezio asked again, “Who is she?”

The mistress merely shrugged, a playful smile on her plump, provocative lips. “I could not say.”

“Her name, signora.” He demanded. But the mistress grew bold.

“She has asked to remain anonymous and I will respect her wishes.” She responded firmly but Ezio ignored her again. Enthralled by the masked enchantress before him, he treaded through the crowd.

You noticed his movement and, glancing to your mistress, rolled your eyes when she could only smile and shrug her shoulders in defeat. The finale was within sight, at least, but as he drew closer, it was evident you might have to take your leave a little earlier than expected. The girls could handle it on their own.

Just then, he neared the edge of the stage and your heart flew to your mouth. Did you dare?

Flirtatiously, you pranced forward to meet him. It must have been the mask’s spell, or perhaps the whistles and “woo”s from the crowd enamoured by such thought of your touch, that possessed you to crouch down. To reach forward and caress his bristly cheek. To lean in inch by inch until you could feel his breath mingle with yours. Your heart fluttered furiously in your chest, like an exhilarated, irreputable fire, scorched red with desire and need you’d not felt before. There was the slightest hint of your lips on his, and pure electricity bolted through you, all the way to your bones.

Clearly, he had not recognised you, for you had him well within your trap now; as he leaned inwards to get a proper taste of your lips, you yanked yourself back, surprising him. A smirk found its way to your lips.

You twirled, masterfully weaving in and out of the dancers before returning centre stage once last time. Smoke flew from your hands in one swift motion and, just like that, you disappeared before the last beat of the drum.

Chaos erupted from the crowd as they roared and screamed and cried their approval. But Ezio, coughing as he emerged from the smoke’s residue, was more… irate than impressed. He had been teased, and then denied? That simply wouldn’t do.

The smoke dissipated and your mystery remained. Ezio frantically searched for your silhouette as the crowd continued to applaud your spectacle, but he found you nowhere to accept such praise. You had fled.

Bewildered, he sought out the mistress. Where she had stood in the crowd was now just an empty space. It became clear that she had vanished along with you. It sparked a thought. Ezio took off sprinting.

 

҉   ҉   ҉

 

“You did well tonight,” She said earnestly, but you could hear the grin in her words. Having arrived in the room before yourself, you found her draped elegantly over the armchair, a vision of a splendid painting. You fought the urge to roll your eyes and waltzed over to your satchel.

“Can’t say the same for you,” You jabbed quietly. Insulting her was not your intention, truly, but the whole situation had left you rather miffed.

“It bothers you?” She questioned, immediately knowing of what you referred to. When you didn’t reply, she arose from her chair and stepped a foot in your direction. “He didn’t recognise you, dear. Is there really a problem?”

She was asking you honestly, now, and your heart recoiled at her words. Because maybe that was just it.

He didn’t recognise you. Once again, the mask concealed all, and so long as it existed to disguise your other self, he wouldn’t ever recognise you. Your two worlds would remain separate ever more.

But, in believing you were someone else, he was tempted, drawn to your mysterious act just like everyone else. But with the other you, would he display such heated desire, such a passionate longing for the murderer, as he did just then to the bewitching enchantress? Would he respect you as an assassin of his guild, knowing that during the hours after the sun had set, you frolicked about provocatively on a stage for all to see? Surely not.

Similarly, the people who watched and admired your performance tonight, would they still marvel at this mesmerising character of yours, even if her hands had been coated in blood? Surely not.

Your heart churned. The answer was simple. No. There wasn’t really a problem. Because he didn’t recognise you and that was a good thing. A good thing. You told yourself.

“No, you’re right. There’s no problem. Thank you for covering me tonight.” The solemn reply slipped from your slouching lips and you turned to look her in the eye before giving your best smile. You begged the mask for one last illusion and prayed that you appeared happier than you felt.

“The pleasure is all mine,” she hummed in delight, throwing a pouch onto the table, wherein a loud rattle cried out upon impact. “You’re good for business. This is your share for today,” she winked.

When your mood failed to brighten, she sighed, and sauntered your way. Grasping your shoulders with her claws and peering at you from beneath her lashes, her expression suddenly turned very serious. “You live two very different lives, but each does not fulfil you. Only within one, can you find what you are looking for. Pray you that day comes soon, or I fear you may be consumed by the need to satisfy both.” She said coolly, striking a sensitive chord and making you wince. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I have faith; all shall be well,” she combed her fingers through your tresses, tangled from being thrown about on stage, and then smiled. “Perhaps sooner than you think.”

She left abruptly, and when she did, you remained for several minutes yet to contemplate her words. She surprised you with her wisdom, but it wasn’t the first time. In all your years, you had learnt to never judge a prostitute.

As you turned to undress, the words relayed in your head. They floated about aimlessly in your mind as you tried to grasp at their meaning. A nasty headache was all you took from them.

Seeking comfort, you raised a swift hand to your head, and felt the mask. Deciding it was time to shed the skin of the midnight dancer, your fingers curled round it’s crimson edge. But just as you were about to slip out of its firm grip, you heard a noise – a quiet click amplified only by the silence of the night – coming from the window behind you. Within the space of a breath, you turned, so quickly that it felt as if your mind had been flung out. Alarmed and with vision a blur, you managed make out the silhouette of a man, illuminated by the glowing moon, emerge from the shadows outside and your eyes nearly popped from their sockets.

Horrified, you slapped both palms to your mouth, but a single breath escaped in your surprise.

Ezio!”

Merda, merda, merda! You cursed internally. He cocked his head to the side, his expression unreadable beneath the shadow of his hood.

Speechless, you could only gape. He had found you! By the Gods, what foul wind had guided him here? Here? Where you stood alone in nothing but the skimpy lace of your chemise! And, if this wasn’t already problematic enough, you had just called his name!

No! no – get a grip. You still had the mask on. You would lie and ask him to leave, as simple as that.

Only, heart hammering in your chest, you nearly choked on panic as he strode towards you carefully.

“It appears you know who I am,” He spoke, his voice rough and ragged and reverberating shivers down every inch of your body. Sirens went off in your head while you watched, frozen in place, as he lifted his arm to tug down his hood.

In the warm glow of the room, his dark, exquisite features were revealed. You felt strangely coy as his eyes bore into you. Eyes brown like bark but with somewhat of an obnoxious hint of yellow fire. You could not turn away.

Mustering up courage, you began your act. “Si, messere, all the ladies of this brothel know who you are,” you squeaked, trying hard to regain a professional stance.

Ezio took an arrogant step towards you. You started, and in your most commanding voice, gave him warning, “You are not to be here,” The words came firm and fast, but he marched right through them, trampling on your resolve. “Unfortunately, I see no one after the show.” You insisted. He came up close, intrusively close, and there was this heavy, uncontrollable thumping in your chest, brazen and insolent and you prayed it did not find his ears.

The hairs on the back of your neck stood on end as soon as you realised the extent of his size, towering at least a head over you. The pretend voice of serenity had abandoned you, and a meek whisper was all you could manage, “so, kindly take your leave…” Barely a foot apart, his lips were placed right in front of your eyes and you were compelled to stare. They were lined thin, delicious, in a knowing smirk. “Or I will…”

“You’ll what?” He murmured, drawing a hand to graze his knuckles along your cheek.

“…I will… leave,” You breathed. A weak threat. It sounded better in your head. But nothing seemed right anymore.

“In this?” He pondered playfully. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you were aware of his hand on your leg, rough and calloused and gentle above all else. Carefully, he examined the lacey fabric of your chemise beneath his palm, stroking his hand along your thigh before gathering a tuft and rubbing it between thumb and finger. “You’ll get cold,” His hand moved upwards and lowered his lips to the shell of your ear, “I can warm you up.”

Against your will, you shivered and sighed at his touch. Red hot desire surfaced on your cheeks, and you finally had the gall to turn your face away. “Signore, please.”

The assassin hooked his thumb on your chin and seized you within his fiery gaze. There his hand remained as he drew closer.

Before you could refuse him again, Ezio smothered your lips with his, masterfully entwining them together and hindering you weak at the knees. You succumbed to him, burning like wood, melting like ice, but nevertheless soaring like an eagle in the wind. He had hooked both hands on you. One slithered behind your ear, while the other lay restless on your waist.

You staggered backwards somewhat, and you reached to steady yourself. Upon doing so, the satchel made its way into your grasp. A thought sparked. There may be a way to escape him yet!

However, the thought temporarily left your mind when you felt his tongue. His breath was hot on your lips as he groaned into your mouth. It was delicious. Had you still been under the influence of the mask, you might have allowed him to bed you. But the assassin was in charge now. As he drew for breath, your cunning mind began to forge the plan.

“Tell me truthfully, bella. What is your name?” He grumbled, hands still stuck to you like glue. But yours were elsewhere, fumbling around inside your bag. An unmistakeable grin took centre stage on your features as you found what you were looking for.

“Don’t you know, Ezio?” You sang, playfully leaning in as you had done back at the plaza. “Nothing is true.

His eyes widened as the air exploded into dust. He was blinded by you once again, left coughing as he searched for your silhouette in the smoke. The shutters to the window cried as they swung vehemently back and forth, seemingly waving you off into the night, and he hurried over to peer through the dark.

Muttering an oath, he clenched his fist and aggravatedly slammed it against the wall. You had fled once again. This time, there was no indication as to where.

Or was there?

Suddenly, your words rang through his ears like the chorus of an old song he knew. He knew it well. The very words of his creed.

Ezio grinned.

This just got interesting.

 

 

Chapter Text

All at once, you were claimed by seething rage and tossed headlong into a sea of red. You were blinded by an irreputable fury and a ghastly roar ripped itself from your throat. Several ragged breaths escaped by the gaps of your clenched teeth as you gripped the letter. Eyes wide and glimmering dangerously, they danced over each black line.

Putain!” You screamed, furiously crushing the paper in a raging fist and hearing it crackle and cry satisfactorily in response. You gasped for air, hissing like a snake. “Quel salaud!” You screamed again, louder.

At your cacophony, Arno came hurdling through the door, inelegantly tripping over his boots and debris. Alarm lined his brows as they furrowed and clung low to his eyes – eyes that were flickered wide with panic. His gaze found you instantly. A lone silhouette, seething in the far corner of the room. You were hunched over a pitiful piece of paper, but unharmed, nonetheless, and he was momentarily filled with relief. But upon witnessing the state of the room, his heart nearly leapt from his chest.

Broken splinters had been brutally strewn across each and every surface that had not yet been wrecked. Behind the tattered curtain, a septic light seeped through the shattered window in wretched patches of grey. It spilled pathetically onto the discarded shards of glass, lost amidst the rubble on the floor. They twinkled sadly, like tears down a cheek. The room lay in complete ruin. It was enough to take his breath away.

But then, witnessing your expression, he nearly staggered backwards. You were indignant and vengeful and vehemently outraged. Such a striking difference to that sweet, smiling portrayal of innocence that he had always known you to be. What evil had driven you to this madness?

“It was him, Arno.” You spat, whipping round fervently to face him with a crazed look in your eye, the crumpled note still quaking between your fingers.

With long, powerful legs, it took him only three paces before he was by your side, worry etched evidently into his features. He was at a loss of how to comfort you. You were breathing hard and heavy, and electric eyes danced over the room in search of something to hit and, if he wasn’t careful, the target could be him. Still, he extended his arms to you gently, as if coaxing your rage to simmer by the simple gesture of his hands.

“That fils de pute! He stole it!” You growled, mouth full of venom and bile rising all the way to your nose. The thought of your precious heirloom in the hands of someone like him was so nauseating, it made your stomach writhe and churn.

Yet, as the reality of it began to sink in, the anger dissipated. In its place, you were left but a frantic and hysterical mess. “He stole it, Arno!” You cried, wildly waving your hands about your face to keep the tears from spilling over. “He stole it right from under my nose!”

Arno didn’t miss the desperate tone in your voice, he finally understood. He stepped closer, pulling you into his chest before securely wrapping his arms around your shoulders. You whimpered into his chest. A gentle hand landed behind your head, further pushing you into him. You succumbed. Melting into him like butter on a baguette.

“I’m sorry,” His voice was grave and quiet in your ear. It was refreshing, like a comforting breeze during a hot day, and your heart fluttered with warmth. “I know how much it meant to you.” He added softly, before sinking into a comfortable silence.

As time passed, your enmity withered. Sighing, you took delight in Arno’s company, basking in the warmth of his kindness and exulted in the feeling of his body pressed against yours.

Despite his stature and title, each more daunting than the other, it was nice to have Arno here, you thought amiably. He, above all others, could at least understand how you felt, and from his presence you were reassured of your next mission.

“I have to get it back.” You whispered, determination derived from the rage and frantic energy. At this, Arno stiffened, and the arm slung around you grew tense.

“I don’t think that’s wise.” He said simply, and you looked up to him in sudden, fearful surprise. “What – I mean – it’s clearly it’s a trap.” He criticised jeeringly. As if this should’ve been obvious to you the second you discovered your treasured item’s absence.

He can’t have serious. “Surely, you don’t mean to say I let this go.” You breathed, aghast and disgusted by the notion. In studying his firm orbs, two assertive dark pools of obstinacy and doubt, you realised, oh, yes, he was very much serious.  

Incredulous, and wrenched yourself from his grasp. “As if that will stop me.” You shrieked, biting back. “You should know better than to let him get away with shit this.” You reasoned harshly. The space between your brows tarnished by hard lines as you scowled. “We should –”

– “No. It’s too dangerous. I won't allow it.” He said sternly, presuming his master assassin title by pushing his shoulders back and peering down at you with a steel-like resolve.

“Won't allow it? Like hell! Come hell or high water, I am getting it back!” You roared. The heated passion in your voice challenged his uniform conduct and Arno’s schooled expression had cracked slightly. But he had stepped from his authoritative position only to hit you where it hurt.

“You shouldn’t risk your life for something so trivial!” You flinched. The brief hurt that flashed behind your eyes forced the words to echo in his mind, and he winced

“To you, perhaps. But that ‘trivial’ item means the world to me! I thought you, of all people, Arno, would understand that! Aren’t you always risking your life for that dumb pocket-watch of yours –”

– “I’ve never put my life at risk –”

 – “Oh, bullshit.” You chided, finally tearing yourself from his piercing gaze. Furiously grating your teeth, you rolled your head left and right in subtle movements before taking interest in your battered boots, buried amidst the debris of the room. “It’s okay for you to risk your life for something you care about, but not me?” Accusing eyes bore into his one final time. He suppressed the urge to look away, the fiery glare of anger still shimmered stubbornly in those dark brown pools.

You released a pained, breathy laugh, and mumbled, “You’re such a hypocrite, Arno.”

With every crackle of the rubble beneath your boots, Arno’s heart sank lower, emptier. He watched, torn between two minds, as your silhouette disappeared behind the door. Loneliness and a deep yearning overcame him suddenly and, as he would always do, he sought comfort in his prized pocket-watch.

At the mere touch, he was instantly reassured. But with this solace came an even greater grief. Drawing it out, he examined it fondly, relishing in the familiarity of its intricate design, and all the nostalgia that came with it.

But Arno felt terrible. As his fingers traced over its alluring curves, he imagined, with great discomfort, how he might’ve felt had it been his precious item – the only memory of his late father – stolen right from under his nose, and winced.

You were right. You always were.

No matter how disrespectful the act, or how evil the intent, when it came to his watch, Arno wouldn’t have been one to sit by idly.

But it was not his watch that was lost to him that night. Something far more important was at stake.

He took off after you, into the night.

Come hell or high water, he would see you safe.

 

҉          ҉          ҉

 

Bitter and cold, your eyes scrutinised the paper again, tracing over every distorted curve of every twisted letter in search of something that would lead you to your prize. But you found naught. Though etched in sickeningly black ink, the words were as shallow as they were toxic. If you were going to solve this case, you would need to concentrate much harder.

Biting your lip, you threw the image of Arno from your scattered mind and focused on recollecting yourself through a different light. You succeeded. Instincts took over, and your world was plunged into a deep, mystical blue hue. To your left, a spark of gold caught your eye, and without hesitating, you followed the yellow trail.

It had led you to a stark, decrepit old building. Judging by its blackened windows, it seemed it had been vacant for a while. But the thought didn’t leave your mind entirely. Arno had suspected it to be a ruse, after all.

Ans so you tiptoed in quietly, careful to keep the silence undisturbed. You expertly weaved your way in and around the septic hallways, resorting to your instinctual vision over and over again. Lively blotches of red were reduced to dull, lifeless piles of limbs after your blade had been driven into their necks, leaving behind a different kind of crimson. Your wicked mind relished in it, and you wore it better than your assassin robes.

A lethal, vengeful beast you were, crawling through the shadows like a bad omen. As was such, for every step brought with you another splatter of blood, another body brought to the floor and left to rot with the rest of the house.

There was but one man left. His back greeted you as he stood nonchalantly in the far corner of the empty room, shining like a pot of gold in your eagle eyes before he, too, was reduced to a worthless pile of flesh.

His blood spilled over, and with it he fell to the floor. But as he rolled over, your eyes became wide and the air was stolen from your lungs. The unfamiliarity of this poor man’s face struck in you the harrowing realisation of your horrible, horrible mistake.

“A decoy…” You breathed. Shooting upright, you were suddenly aware of how heavy the silence was on your shoulders, how small you felt in the corroded room, how naïve you’d been to think it could’ve been settled so easily.

A shrill, slithering, snake-like voice spoke first. “Looking for this?” It hissed.

Seething, you spun to face your match. A hot, angry fire flared defiantly behind the cold glass of your eyes. There. In his palm. Your heart skipped a beat. He was smug, dangling it before you like bait. You would slice that hand off and feed it to the dogs. But before you even took a step in his direction, the once abandoned room filled with at least a dozen men more, piling in behind the snake, each with their own hungry kind of glare.

"T'es une poule mouillée! Stealing it just to lure me out!” You hollered as two men advanced, each ensuing a painful grip on either arm before you could repel. A heavy thud sounded out as you were brought to your knees in no time at all.

The serpent smirked. “You?” He sneered. A chilling draft did latch onto his word, despite being delivered softly.

Your jaw dropped. The struggling ceased. “No…” You whispered, realising his true intention, and the extent of consequences following your gross miscalculation.

A sudden, dreadful image invaded your thoughts; Arno’s lifeless body, sprawled across this very floor, the magnificent blue of his robes stained crimson, and he left to rot with the rest of them.

You blanched. This was your fault, and yours alone. Not only had you ignored his warning, but you had gone against his word. Now, both of your lives were at risk. Arno had told you not to go. But you didn’t listen. Blinded by the desire for immediate justice, you had jumped into danger as always.

Arno was right. He always was.

“He won’t come.” You said determinedly, regaining what little courage remained in the crevices of your quaking body, and attempted to rip yourself free.

“If you believe that, then you’re as stupid as your feet.” He quipped, scowling at you from beneath his grubby, unkempt brows. “Arno will come to reclaim you, just as you have come to reclaim this –” he raised your trinket to the sky– “worthless piece of shit. And he will die.”

Ferme ta gueule, pompe à chiasse!” You bellowed ruthlessly. “You’re a coward, the scum of the earth, sous-merde! I hope Arno does come, because when he does, he’ll slit your throat and stuff it with your intestines!”

There was a short silence as you glared at him, eyes as fierce as fire.

“On second thought, I think I’d rather just kill you now.” And with that, he turned to leave.

At the slightest hint of movement, you relented mightily against the brutes, but they held fast, clutching you tighter, so much so that their fingers began to personate fire on your skin. They dragged you to the far wall, were they proceed to bind your wrists with rope and tie it to something else. Helpless, you watched as the snake disappeared behind his men, his thin, grisly lips pulled into a devilish smirk and you were screaming all kinds of oaths.

His men remained and, for one sickening second, you feared the worst. But they, too, fled the scene. Despite your suspicions, you continued to scream bloody murder to their backs, even a while after they had completely gone from your sight.

But then, you were instantly silenced.

First, it was the smell. You had smelt it long before the room had started to fog up. A heavy, thick stench of danger and death and a single whiff sent your stomach twisting and churning and writhing in a hellish fear.

At the first sight of the black smoke creeping up through the patchy floorboards, you erupted, screaming and crying and wailing for help. Between breaths, you tried tugging at the rope around your wrists, but they remained firm. It wouldn’t be long until the building was completely engulfed by fire, as it was mostly just rubble to begin with. You needed to escape, and quick. Or it would soon be too late; the smoke got to work on infecting your lungs, your eyes, your mind.

Ruthlessly you thrashed your hands to-and-fro, crying out in agony all the while. But your restraints refused to relent – you would sooner rub your hands off than wriggle them free. Tears fell, stinging your cheeks.

It was getting difficult to see, now. As if someone had thrown a black veil over your eyes and every second you weren’t screaming or crying you were coughing and gasping for air. Breathing became increasingly difficult, for although you tried not to take in the smoke, when in crying for help, you had to take in a deep breath in order to be heard above the roaring flames below. It was useless; they belittled you anyway.

You could feel the heat; sweat pricked at every pore of your being, and your assassin robes were starting to make you feel claustrophobic.

It was only when you saw the first hint of yellow did your actions falter. Bright, golden flames ignited in you a bitter thought. It had been mere embers before when you stood face to face with the snake, but as you sat helpless in a pile of your own sweat and tears, tied to the wall and about to be burnt to ash, the ember had exploded into a full-on fear.

These moments were your last.

You froze, eyes empty and dull, mind numb and scattered, doing nothing but letting the salty tears to flow down your ashen cheeks in streams, even as the flames continued to eat away at the rotten wood.

Vision depleting, everything was blurrier than before, the flames now only brightly flickering blobs in your vision. With your wrists bloodied and bruised, you no longer strained to wrenching yourself free.

The flames watched patiently, spreading near the entire way around the room, encircling you within a ring of fire, like your death was something of a show – something to marvel at. With half a mind, you listened the wicked flames that did still roar. They wanted a show. But you would not give it to them. You no longer possessed the strength to fight back anymore.

As you leaned back, you thought of Arno, and smiled. He was out there, somewhere. Safe. Alive. As he should be. Though God had abandoned France, he seemed to have looked fondly upon Arno. He must have a greater deal yet to do, you mused, as fond memories of your time together passed behind your eyes, ridden with salty tears.

As a final farewell, the blistering heat from the flames, or the mystical veil of the smoke (you couldn’t know which), had gifted you with an illusion of Arno himself – a strange silhouette of his ghost beside you.

You had so much to tell him, but the smoke had a strangling grip on your throat, and you couldn’t form the words. The outline of his ghost melted into a distant blur. You wanted to reach out to him, but the last slither of strength had run dry, and you found you could no longer keep your lashes apart, and so, with a heavy mind, heavy lungs, heavy heart, you finally permit them to fall.

As your vision faded, so too the phantom of your beloved friend. You felt strangely cold, despite the flames.

Sorry. You thought. I never got to tell you how I felt.

The sound of the roaring flames melted into silence.

You surrendered yourself to the darkness.

 

҉          ҉          ҉

 

Arno had raced through the pathetic, wretched streets of France for what seemed like an eternity before finally arriving at… nowhere. The end of the golden trail had brought him to a pitiful pile of rubble disguised a house.

After blindly following his eagle instincts as fast as his legs could carry him, Arno had arrived first. Moments later, he was joined by his brothers, who had leapt at the first word of trouble. Arno had confided in them. Sure enough, now they would be more prepared for whatever was yet to come. They slowed down to join Arno’s side, inspecting the house, not quite sure what to make of it, but tense and battle-ready, nevertheless. Something seemed off.

As they arrived, a quaint, orange glow emanated from the bottom floor. But he disregarded it as soon as the door creaked open, and out piled a dozen or so silhouettes behind a thick cloud of black smoke.

Arno seethed with contempt, stiffening exponentially. As the beasts emerged from the ashen cloud, some coughing the smoke away and others cackling with hysterical glee, his eagle eyes landed upon one figure in particular. The snake.

Beside Arno, his fellow assassins felt how he suddenly radiated death, and they, too, grew tense and scowled. His target was apparently surprised to see him, his mouth forming a dramatic ‘O’ shape as he sauntered out the door. Then a wretched smile played upon his lips.

“Arno!” He exclaimed, somewhat delighted. “Thanks for joining the party; I was starting to think you weren’t coming!” He and his lackeys stopped a fair way from Arno, forming a nice line between he and the house and he suddenly became restless. The serpent had been expecting him? And – Joining the party? Does that mean you were here? Why was it then, that your beloved trinket, so idolised, so cherished, sat so craven in his hand? Arno feared the worst.

“Where is she?” He barked, fidgeting to keep himself from burying his blade in his neck. The snake just smiled. Until his silence was quickly followed by a single clap of his hands. On cue, a large handful of men stalked out from the shadows, encircling the assassins like vultures. They were massively outnumbered now. Arno clicked his tongue. It was a trap after all.

But, even knowing this, Arno’s qualms did not perish. Why was it that the trap had only just been set in motion? Something was very wrong here.

Distracted by the thought of how many ways Arno could end his measly life, he hadn’t clocked the ever-increasing peril until the black of night had been disturbed by an irreputable blaze, swelling greater than that sickening feeling in his gut.

Amidst the flames, a dreadful wail emitted from the house. Arno’s heart froze.

That was you in there. He didn’t even need to think. More like – he couldn’t. Only that you were inside that burning house, in trouble, and he had to get to you. Now.

There was no time to act. He was moving before the scream died out, racing at full pelt towards the house, and everything else exploded into action. Several of the brutes had stepped to intervene Arno but, thanks to Zach, were stopped short by a bullet to the chests, eyes and groin. They toppled to the floor before Arno, writhing in agony. As Raoul had taken to deal with the men that approached from behind, Vic had whipped out his rifle, cleanly picking off the lurking snipers on the roofs.

Ahead, the snake sat frozen at the vision of the master assassin rapidly advancing, his men dropping like flies when Arno had yet to lift a finger.

Before he could retreat, Arno was upon the snake, swivelling past him and into the house, but not before extracting the hidden blades from his wrist and slicing one across his stomach and driving the other into his neck. Gurgling blood, the snake doubled over, and soon he was face down on the floor. Arno had gone before then, he’d leapt into the blaze, now at full throttle, and searched for your form amidst the fiery hell.

Wincing in the heat, he marched forward with both arms raised to shield him from burning debris, scorched black by the reckless inferno. Arno staggered backwards several times; his desperate search had interrupted by sudden collapses of the building.

He was pushed back to the staircase and, concluding you were not here, raced all the way to the top. He barged in and out of rooms, growing more frantic by the second until, finally, as he toppled through one door, he saw the dejected outline of your body, limp against the far wall, hands tied above your head.

His eyes widened and his heart flew to his mouth. The sight of you like that, crestfallen, flaccid, vacant, stole the air from his lungs.

Violently coughing, Arno plunged into the flames and sprinted to where you lay. He had arrived in time to witness those once dazzling, curious eyes, now empty and expressionless, gently fall close.

“No, no, no, no, no!” He cried. Arno felt sick – his eyes searched you frantically as he took your shoulders in a quaking grasp, trying to jolt you awake. “Merde, merde, wake up!” He pleaded, but his words fell on deaf ears. You remained motionless, still, as if frozen in ice.

Growling in fear, he engaged the hidden blade and cut the rope holding your wrists in one fluid motion. Your limp body dropped forward, collapsing into his chest. Abruptly, part of the roof gave way, caving in on the pair with a deafening crash. Instinctively, Arno twisted and loomed over your unmoving form, shielding your body from the flying, flaming bits of woods and stone with his own. It was time to go – this house would crumble at any moment.

When he was sure the fallen roof had stopped spitting red hot saliva, he scooped you into his arms. Your head hung back limply, and one floppy arm rolled off your chest, dangling nonchalantly into the fire.

He fled down the hall, over the stairs and out the door as quickly as he was able, mindful to avoid every raging blaze of fire, every slab of rubble that collapsed around you and kept your body close to his.

Eventually, he made it out. Icy cold air was the first to welcome him from the raging inferno, and into the black of night. He was next greeted by a vast assortment of bodies that littered the floor, his boot even made a squelching sound as he stepped in a puddle of blood, but he paid it no mind.

Raoul, Zach and Vic stood anxious outside the house, their dull attire spotted with bright crimson, nervously awaiting Arno’s return. They each looked mightily relieved to see him emerge, but in noticing your lifeless body, candidly draped over Arno’s arms, their expressions quickly turned sour.

Followed by his assassin brothers, Arno stalked away from the battlefield, from the fire, from the all the blood, and placed you very gently onto a soft patch of grass, where you seemed to melt into the ground. Arno grimaced, swiftly reaching out to cup your cheeks, glittering with dry tears, with his large, trembling hands. His fearful, frenetic gaze desperately searching your features.

“Come, on. Wake up.” He begged.

When Arno released you, your head pitifully flopped to one side. He swallowed thickly, panic flourished deep and a small, quivering gasp slipped through his lips but was soundless against the night. If it was possible, Arno could feel his heart breaking into a million pieces right there and then, as if he had only just realised that now you might have been lost to him forever.

His eyes traced over your long lashes sewn shut, beseeching silently to himself that they might magically open again. That you would leap up and chastise him with light banter again, before showing him your brilliant smile.

But you didn’t.

He wanted to be mad at you. He wanted to tell you how stupid you were for thinking you could do this alone. He wanted to see you look down in shame, and say he was right all along. That you’d never do it again. That you’d never leave his side.

But he couldn’t.

He was disappointed in himself.

The others looked on, just as forlorn and disbelieving as he. Hours seemed to drift into a cold, silence of nothing. A while later, he heard the soft crackling of the grass. The quiet footfalls grew distant, and then grew louder as they neared.

Vic handed Arno your beloved heirloom. As he took it, he made note of how cold and heavy it felt in his hand, weighing down on his guilt. Carefully, he seized your wrist, grimacing at the bright red hue that stained your flesh, before placing the treasure between your hand and his. He lowered it to rest on your chest. Slowly, he bowed his head, leaning in, placing a delicate kiss to your parted, ashen lips. He lingered for a while. But then, with his hand on your chest, he felt it rise. He shot up. Your hand in his tensed ever so slightly, gripping the trinket. Your chest lowered. Then rose again.

Arno started; the hope that boomed in his heart nearly caused it to burst. Slowly, your long lashes parted to reveal those beautiful, glowing orbs, gazing at him fondly.

Your voice was scratchy and quiet and coarse, “Why the long face?”

Simultaneous sighs and shaky breaths of laughter erupted from the assassins. Everyone relaxed.

“I’m sorry, Arno.” You whispered. “I should’ve listened to you. But instead I risked both our lives today.”

“I forgive you.” He breathed, cradling you tenderly in his arms. You smiled. “On one condition.” He added quickly and, had you the strength, you would’ve rolled your eyes.

Here it comes… You thought bitterly.

“That you stop getting yourself into trouble.” He hummed, brushing a careful finger over your brow.

You laughed, though it hurt your lungs when you did. You’d make no such promise. Heaven knows he got himself into trouble more times than you could count. “You’re such a hypocrite.” You jabbed playfully and Arno smiled.

At that, you raised your head. Arno met you half-way, leaning in and tilting his chin to land his lips upon yours.