Chapter 1: Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad
He took you from the parking lot. It was your own fault, you thought. You knew how dangerous it was to shop at night, to walk past vans, and to not check the backseat before getting in. No, you corrected. This wasn’t your fault. It was the bastard who took you that should be blamed. To him you were a twisted prize, tied up decoratively in the basement of his home.
You’d been calm for most of it, trying to remember the things you learned about people like him. Agree to his demands, stroke his ego until he trusted you, take the first opportunity to escape. But the moment you heard his boots slamming against the wooden stairs, your confidence wavered. You could hear the keys in his hands clattering as he tossed them while whistling some light hearted tune.
He didn’t pay you any mind. He walked past you straight over towards the workbench where a radio and toolchest were placed neatly. His whistling finally ended but it was replaced casually by the instruments on the radio, the mellow singing of cellos and violins. He opened the toolchest and gazed over the different items, fingertips brushing over them as if they were his children.
He turned around and eyed you appreciatively. The corner of his mouth rose in delight to what he saw. He moved across the room and grabbed a clean piece of clear plastic, large enough to spread out across the floor.
You held back the whimper when you realized it was to keep the floor clean. You pressed your spine harder against the unfinished wall at the base of the stairs. “Why are you doing this?”
He glanced at you, not at all surprised by the question. He stood up and turned around, focusing himself on his work. He gently twisted the dial on the radio, filling the basement with a deafening amount of noise. He began removing the tools, eyeing each one with delicate scrutiny.
Another was coming down the steps. You felt it rather than heard it. Each step was like a heartbeat in your chest, pushing you ever closer to the grave. Your rolled your eyes up the unfinished wall, his shoes passing over head. Your eyes widened at the sight of the gun, your body curling deeper into the shadows under the steps.
He didn’t see you. His eyes were locked on the other man, gun rising to take aim at the back of his skull. Your hands clamped over your mouth just as the thunderous shot went off. The other man slumped forward, sliding down the workbench to the floor below. He stepped over towards the radio and turned it off before kneeling next to the cooling corpse and checking for a pulse.
He pushed back his hood and ruffled fingers through the short tufts of his hair. He must have sensed you, caught sight of you in his peripheral, because he jolted to his feet and the gun was aimed once more.
“Wait! Please!” You lifted pleading palms, trembling with desperation.
He held the gun firmly in place, his aim remaining as determined as his expression. But he didn’t pull the trigger and eventually the barrel lowered. “No one else was supposed to be here.”
You didn’t move, hands still held up in surrender despite how sore and tired your arms were. “Please, let me go. I won’t tell anyone about this. He kidnapped me. I don’t care that you killed him.”
His eyes rolled down to the gun in hand as if he were weighing his options. “You’ve seen my face. I can’t let you leave.”
Your head hung low, clasped hands pressed to your skull as if you were praying but you knew clearly that he alone held your life. “I’ll do whatever you want. Just… I don’t want to die.”
He holstered the gun and sauntered forward, eyes roving across you like a predator sizing up his prey. He knelt down in front of you and held his gaze with yours for a moment longer. Finally, he turned his efforts towards removing the ropes around your wrists, pulling the knot free until you were no longer bound.
You whispered, fearful to speak and fearful more of what his answer would be, “What are you going to do with me?”
“I haven’t decided yet.” His hands encased your elbows and pulled you up onto your feet. “I’ll let the others make a decision.”
“Others?” Your attention whipped around as if they might make an appearance.
“I belong to an order of…” He stepped away and moved towards the base of the steps, not at all eager to talk about the specifics of what he did for a living.
“Hitmen?” You bit the corner of your lip, sinking your tooth into it.
He didn’t bother nodding or even making a true reply. He gave you a brief glance before climbing the steps. “We should leave the area before someone sees us. I can’t afford for anyone to recognize me.”
You tried to calm your breathing, to ignore the pounding in your ears, but you couldn’t stop yourself from looking over at the corpse of the man who boldly taken you. These hitmen, whoever they were and whatever they did, couldn’t be all that terrible if they stopped people like that. He saved your life, hadn’t he?
You slipped your eyes closed. What choice did you have?
You were driving home during a storm after having spent a long night in the office. You'd stayed behind to put the final touches on the team's project. You wanted it to be perfect for in the morning, the big business deal was riding on that presentation. It was going to be presented in front of the entire board and you didn't want to make your branch look bad.
But damn if that hadn't been a terrible idea. The storm was bad, rain pelting against your window. You barely made out the sign for your next turn. The bridge was coming up, a large and massive thing, old too. It wasn't the best looking bridge but it was the only way home.
You slowed the vehicle down just a bit more, trying to make out the road from the cement blockades set up along the side. That's when you saw it, a figure off to the right of the bridge, head slumped over. You narrowed your eyes, leaning forward to see it better but the storm was making it so difficult. Your headlights just barely fought back the darkness.
He was sitting on the rails. He was leaning over the edge. He was going to jump.
"Shit." You slammed the breaks, jerking the vehicle into park. "Shit. Shit." You shoved open the door, cold rain drenching your hair and fluttering your eyes. You spun on your heel and slammed the door closed. "Hey! Are you okay?" You cursed yourself for the stupidity of the question as you rounded the front of the vehicle. "Hello?"
He ducked his head away, body swaying forward a little.
"Wait! Wait!" You rushed forward and squeezed in between the cement blocks. "Hold on. Let's think about this, okay?"
"I have to do this," he muttered it, his body shaking from a choked back sob. "You don't know what I am." That voice sounded familiar but you couldn't see his face. The rain was hitting you so hard that you couldn't look up at him for too long.
"You don't have to do this." Your own eyes were warming with tears, a splintering sorrow in your throat. "Whatever it is, we can fix it. You don't have--"
"I can't do this anymore." He leaned forward a bit further, swaying as if he needed to convince himself to do it.
"Wait!" You screamed it. "Please! If you won't think about yourself think about the people you might hurt by doing this." You shuffled forward just a little closer.
"She's dead! There's no one left for me to hurt!" He flicked his attention over his shoulder at you. The headlights from the vehicle were just enough to help you make out his features.
"Arno?" You trembled, from the cold and from the burst of adrenaline. "Arno Dorian?"
He whimpered, head bowing away from sight.
"Don't do this, okay. Don't." You threw your hands up into your soaked hair. You remembered him from work. He had lost his girlfriend in some sort of accident. Her death had hit him hard enough that he stopped showing up at work. He just disappeared.
"Go away!" He hooked his arm around the metal pole on the bridge's framing, fixating his attention back towards the river below. "Leave me alone!"
"I can't just leave! I can't just go home and forget about this. If you jump right now... you not only ruin your life but..." You side-stepped around just a little in order to better make out his features. "You'll ruin mine too, you know? I'll stay up all night wondering if you're alive or not. I'll... always wonder if there was anything I could do to help. Let me help."
He muttered something your ears hadn't quite caught. He dropped his head into his hand, black hair messily tousled into his face. "She's dead... I just... can't do this."
"Please," you begged, warm tears burning your eyes as they mixed with the cold rain. "Please, I can help just let me try and help." You moved even closer, at least a foot away from him. "God, please, if you jump I will spend the rest of my life hating myself. Please."
His entire body shuddered, a painful sob ripping through him. He leaned forward and you sucked down a gasp. But Arno turned on the railing, bringing his feet back to the bridge. He hobbled down, stumbling to his knees.
You rushed to hold him, grappling your arms around him as if he might change his mind and leap. He was freezing, his entire body a block of ice, colder than even the wind and rain. You pressed his head into the bend of your neck, fingers cradling his head as he wept. "I'm going to call for some help, okay." Your swollen fingers shoved roughly into your jacket, searching for your phone but damn it was still in the car.
"No." He tried to shove himself away from you. "No, I don't... I don't need any help."
"You tried to jump off a bridge, Arno." You weakly grabbed hold of his jacket, your muscles aching from shivering and your fingers too frozen to work. "I can't just let you walk away."
His head hung low, a hand reaching into his pants pocket. "My friend... Jacob... I'll just call him and he'll come get me."
You swallowed hard, torn between what to do. You batted your eyes, shaking the water out of your vision. You took the phone that he held. "Let's get in the car. It's warmer in the car." You helped haul him up onto his feet, hesitating as he moved to the passenger door. You rounded the vehicle to the other side and jumped in, relishing in the melting heat.
Sadly, it made your fingers ache even worse as you tried to work Arno's phone. You searched through his contacts, finding Jacob's number. You called, flicking your attention towards the very silent Arno. It rang for what seemed like an eternity and then, with a sinking heart, the voicemail picked up. You set the phone into your lap and hung up.
You put on your seatbelt. "He wasn't there. We'll head to my apartment and get you cleaned up." You looked sideways at him. "Arno?"
He gave a weak, nonchalant nod.
You started the long drive home, clothes sticking to your already frozen skin. You didn't bother saying anything and Arno certainly didn't care to speak either. You shivered the whole ride, hands clenched achingly on the wheel.
You parked the car in the lot and grabbed your things from the back seat. You hurried back out into the rain, running towards the apartment complex. Arno was slow and sluggish, his eyes locked onto the ground where his feet were headed next. He nearly ran into you as you waited at the entrance beneath the metal awning.
You reached out and tugged him impatiently into the building. "It's freezing." You ran your fingers through your hair then squeezed out the water onto the floor. "Thank god the heat's on." You started up the stairs, pacing yourself so you didn't leave the shambling Arno behind. You hurried into the apartment, checked the thermostat and threw your things onto the table nearby.
"Use my shower." You guided him through the apartment to your bedroom door. "Put your clothes outside the door and I'll toss them in the dryer."
Arno's lips were parted, they quivered to speak but he swallowed instead. He headed into the bathroom and closed the door. You were frozen, staring at it as if somehow you could solve his problems. The door cracked open and Arno held out the bundle of dripping clothes. You took them into your arms and scurried to the other side of the apartment where the small washer and dryer was. You threw everything inside before returning back to your bedroom.
You jerked and tugged off your clothing and threw them down into the floor, the water making everything all the more difficult. You pulled on a new set of clothes and tied back your damp hair. You grabbed one of your sweaters from the closet and wrapped yourself in it.
Your eyes darted back to the bathroom where the shower was still going. Arno was quiet, hardly the sounds of a man washing off, not a single disruption of waterflow. You thought maybe you were just being paranoid, forced yourself to stalk off to the kitchen.
You put on a kettle of hot water for tea. But then you weren't even sure if Arno liked tea so you paced back to the bathroom door. "Uh..." You cleared your throat. "Arno? Do you like tea or coffee?" You tugged downwards on the hem of your shirt when he didn't reply. "Arno? Arno!"
"Coffee," he murmured while turning off the water. "Coffee is fine."
You released the breath you'd been holding. You hesitated but you left to start the coffee pot, gathering together the sugar from the counter and the creamer from the refrigerator. You focused on every minor task in order to keep yourself from thinking back to that moment on the bridge when you thought for sure that he was going to jump.
The kettle began whistling and you scurried over to turn off the stove top.
You looked over your shoulder just as Arno was stepping out of the bedroom, towel tied around his waist. "Oh, sorry, let me grab your clothes." Your face burned as you rushed off to grab his damp clothes from the dryer. They were warm if nothing else. You rushed over and handed them out. You tried not to look at any of his exposed skin and the sculpted muscles.
He silently took the clothes back to the bathroom with him. You fervently rubbed your hands up and down your face, trying to chase away the embarassment. You moved to the kitchen and checked on the coffee pot. It was just finishing up when the bathroom door opened again.
Arno moved to the closest recliner and sat down. He was perched on the edge of his seat, hunched over, and staring at his clasped hands. He had a far away look in his eyes, reviewing memories that had passed long ago.
You returned to keeping yourself busy. Your poured him a cup of coffee then nervously broke the silence, "Do you like cream and sugar in your coffee?"
His voice was hoarse from crying, cracking every now and then, "No, thank you. I... take it black."
You gathered the hot mug into your hands and reveled in the heat that sunk into your stiff fingers. "Careful. It just finished brewing." You slowly set it down onto the table, daring a quick glimpse at his features. But Arno was already back to brooding, too busy in his own thoughts to notice much of anything else.
You wrapped your arms around yourself as you moved back to the small kitchen. "You know what I love with my coffee... Brownies. We need some brownies. And some ice cream."
You rummaged through the refrigerator and grabbed the plate from one of the shelves. You'd made them days ago, saving them for a bad day after work. You heated a few up in the microwave while grabbing some ice cream. All you had was chocolate and, considering the day you were having, you'd take it.
"I'm not sure if you've eaten much today..." You made two bowls and returned to the living room. You set one down onto the table for yourself then stood over Arno. "Here. It's nice and warm." You went to set the bowl between his hands but he jolted the moment you did, startling the bowl right out of your grasp.
Arno stood up sharply just as the ice cream spilled out onto the living room rug. "God, I'm sorry. I wasn't... paying attention."
"No, no." You lifted your hands up to him, a poor attempt to calm him down. "It's fine. It's just ice cream..." You eyed your favorite rug. "Just a rug." You kneeled down and lifted the bowl upright. It was a rug you're father had given to you long ago after one of his trips overseas. He'd bought it at some street vendor and you'd kept it ever since. It even survived the various college roommate you'd been forced to deal with.
"I'm s-so... clumsy. I didn't even..." He dropped back down into the recliner, head pressed into his hands. "I can't do anything right anymore."
"Arno," you chided, focusing on him instead of the mess. "It's not a big deal, really. It's just a stupid rug with some ice cream." You wrapped your fingers around his wrists. "Listen to me, Arno. Drink your coffee. I'll clean this up and it'll be forgotten. Alright?"
His hands fell away from his face. His eyes were so red and puffy, lips chewed and raw. "Yeah... yeah, okay."
You pushed the coffee table away and rolled up the rug. You carried it over to the washing machine and tossed it down on top. You weren't sure you could get out the stain and it wasn't really all that important. Arno was suffering and you didn't have a single idea on how to help. Coffee and a stupid dessert wasn't going to fix anything for him.
"Shit," you hissed. You were in over your head. You weren't even sure who to call for help. His friend hadn't picked up. Surely there was someone else he knew that would come and get him. But even after that... then what? They take him home? Leave him to be depressed?
You went into the kitchen and grabbed a rag. You wetted it under the sink, clenching and wringing it with frustration. You clutched the rag in your hand as you ambled into the living room. "You should stay here tonight. It's storming pretty badly outside and..." You got down on a knee and wiped up the small mess.
"No, no, I couldn't..." He raked his fingers through his damp hair. "I couldn't do that to you."
"Nonsense." You chuckled and tossed the rag onto the table. "It would be nice to have someone around for a change. I was going to watch this new series on TV if you're up for it." When he didn't reply you cautiously placed your hand on his.
Arno jolted back, a sudden gasp and his eyes were on yours. "Sorry. It's..." He shook his head then began nodding. "Yeah, I'll sleep on the couch." He was still trembling, his hands slightly cold and you weren't even sure if he had taken that shower.
You stood up and grabbed the throw blanket off of the couch. "Here. You need to get warm or you'll catch a cold." You draped it over his shoulders before curling up on the couch with one of the pillows. You grabbed the remote and turned on the television. You flicked through channels, every now and then looking to Arno in concern. He was silent, still too caught up in his own thoughts.
You finally found the correct channel and patted the cushion beside you. "You can see the television better over here."
He stiffly got to his feet, the blanket clutched tight as he shuffled forward. Arno fell mindlessly onto the center cushion and glared at the screen.
You tried to contain your sigh of relief. You leaned your head against the couch, fingers raking through your hair and hopefully ridding yourself of the lingering tension. "It's suppose to be really good." You tapped your foot during the commercial. "Superheros... New and original story..."
Arno moved beside you. All of his weight leaned against you, his hands pressed into his eyes as a sob shook through him.
Your arms wrapped around him and cradled his head onto your shoulder. "It's going to be okay, Arno."
His arms slipped around your waist as he bit back the whimper.
You rubbed circles into his back while your other hand busied itself with his hair. "You're going to be okay."
His fingers clawed at your back, tugging at your shirt for something to hold onto.
You held him like that until the crying faded, his head eventually making it to the pillow in your lap. "You're going to get through this. This isn't the end."
"She was everything to me..." He swallowed back his next sob, jaws clenching with irritation. "God, what am I doing?"
You raked your fingers through his hair, your eyes focused on the television but your mind was distracted. You hoped he would talk to you about it more. Talking might perhaps relieve some of his pain. But he remained silent during the rest of the show and into the next.
He must have finally fell asleep. His breathing was soft and his body was limp. His eyes were closed and for a change he looked rather peaceful. Well, as peaceful as a sleep deprived slob could look.
You turned off the television and tried to get comfortable. You weren't going to wake him up, not after all the difficulties he had to go through. You would bunker down with him for the night. You didn't even want to think about what the morning was going to be like. But if Arno needed your help then you would give it.
He left the city as quickly as possible and he would have made it over state lines had you not complained about being hungry. And the fact that you hadn’t cleaned your face in days, and there was cut along your forehead that needed washing, and you couldn’t remember the last time you took a shower.
So he stopped at a convenient store and allowed you to sneak off to the bathroom to clean yourself up a bit before strolling about the aisles looking for food. You grabbed every snack imaginable from chips to candy bars, snagging a few sodas for when you got thirsty, and some hand sanitizer because it felt like the bathroom hadn’t exactly washed away all the grime.
He watched in silent annoyance, hood pulled up and arms folded, glowering at each thing you grabbed. You waltzed eagerly over to the clerk, dropping your stash down before beaming delightfully. “Hello.”
The cashier gave a weak smile before taking a quick peek at the man beside you. He rung every item up without further hesitation, likely surprised that he wasn’t at gun point yet. The moment everything was paid for you followed the stoic man out into the parking lot and slid into the passenger seat.
“Satisfied.” He cranked the vehicle and drove back out onto the road.
“Well…” You rolled your head to peer over at him. “Couldn’t we stop for the night? I still need a shower and, God, I’d give anything for a bed to sleep on.”
“You should be glad I didn’t leave you to rot in that basement.” He tilted his head away, the passing streetlights barely giving you a glimpse of his expression and his hood was still pulled up. You didn’t want to test his patience so you kept silent even when he pulled into a motel parking lot. “Stay here. I’ll check in.”
He returned in not time, tossing you the keys to room eight before rounding the vehicle to the trunk. You giddily grabbed your bounty of snacks and raced off to room eight, shoving the door open and grinning madly at bed. You fell face first onto it, every muscle sighing in utter relief. “Finally. I feel like I could sleep a hundred years.”
“One night,” he stated, hauling in a duffle bag and securing the door’s locks. “We leave in the morning. I need to be up north for my next job.”
You sat up and gathered your legs onto the bed with you. You grabbed the snacks, shuffling through each item for which one sounded the best. “You’re next target… Who is it?”
“It’s better if you don’t ask.” He set the large bag down onto the round motel table and zipped it open. He hesitated at first before removing the assortment of guns and ammo.
“Can I at least ask your name?” You pried open the chip bag, more than happy to grab the first handful of the salty treat.
He glanced over at you then set to work on counting the bullets, organizing them with the appropriate weapon. He was keeping track of inventory for whatever the next mission ahead would be.
“I have to call you something.” You munched on chip after chip, watching the way he moved with diligent determination. “Guy-who-saved-my-life-but-is-somewhat-questionable is way too long and I’m sure i’d muck it up every time.”
“Altair.” He grabbed one of the guns and began dismantling it. “The less you know about everything the safer you’ll be.”
The phone in his pants pocket began to vibrate. He pulled it out and pressed it to his ear, sternly, quietly without a word. He listened for a moment before grabbing the remote to the television and flicking it on. It went straight to the news, your face appearing next to video footage from the gas station only hours ago.
“You only know one side of the story.” Altair paced away from the television and your gawking. “You don’t know the truth.” He paused for a moment, a glare tossed your way. “I will handle my own affairs. Until my abilities are compromised, you have no authority.”
You slid your attention back to the screen, a poorly done sketch of Altair in a hood appeared next your picture. They named him the kidnapper, a possible suspect in your abduction. You mindlessly grabbed more chips from the bag and munched on them, the crunching sound blocking out most of Altair’s conversation.
He hung up the phone and began stowing weapons back into the duffle bag. “We’re leaving.”
“What?” You scrambled to your feet, snacks gathered into your arms. “We just got here.”
He slung the bag over his shoulder. “Now.”
You gave a heavy sigh, head thrown back. “Good bye soft squishy bed. Good bye sweet pillow.”
“You’re being childish.”
You tossed him a bitter glower.
“Steal the pillow if you want it so bad.” He marched for the door and went straight to the vehicle’s trunk.
You hugged your snacks to your chest than snatched up the pillow. It was only one pillow and damn if your back was tired of being against a stiff chair. You slid into the car just as Altair was getting in as well. He took note of the pillow then drove back out onto the highway.
“Where to?” You rummaged through your bag and found the candy bars.
You offered to let him stay at your place more than once but Arno was resolute on returning home. He had spent the entire weekend with you so it only seemed natural that he would leave. Sleeping on the couch hadn’t been the best option for your neck and back but Arno was certainly looking far better than before.
You drove to his apartment, taking quick glances at his expression just to make sure he was still there. He was being quieter than normal and Arno wasn’t very talkative to begin with so it was even more unsettling than before. You pulled up into the small parking garage and stepped out into the frosty autumn cold.
You followed him into the building, hardly considering the odd passcode required to get in. It wasn’t until you were walking into the lobby of the building did you realize how richly decorated the place was. In fact, you were scared to think about how much the rent was costing Arno. He couldn’t possibly make enough money to live in a place that looked like it came out of the Baroque era.
After the two of you were alone in the elevator, you finally dared to speak up, “This place is really nice.”
Arno gave a slight hum in agreement.
“Like ritzy kind of nice…” You almost sighed but you caught yourself just in time. Ever since he asked to go back to his apartment, and you agreed to it, Arno had been clammed up and depressed. You cheerfully added, “With a place like this, I bet we might see the Queen of England.”
Arno’s lips twitched on the edges. It wasn’t much but it was enough to make you feel a tad bit better. He stepped forward sharply when the elevator doors open. He slid his keys into the slot of the first door and jostled it open.
The apartment was dark which really didn’t seem odd since no one was home. It was the frigid wall of cold that met you upon entering that really caught you off guard. He flicked on the lights which honestly didn’t help much. To say the place looked depressing was an understatement.
You dug your hands into your pants pocket, having only thought to bring a sweater with you. “God, Arno, it’s freezing in here. Did you turn the air conditioner on high when you left?”
He didn’t give you a glance, only approached the thermostat and switched the heater on. “I hadn’t planned on coming back.” He tossed his things onto the small table nearby.
You swallowed hard and ducked your head away. “Arno…”
“It’s fine.” He sauntered further into the house, flicking on an antique lamp as he walked by. In fact, everything in the house looked like an antique from the old world. There were faded and worn maps framed up on the wall. The couch looked like rustic leather with faded gold buttons lining its seams. The coffee table was a rich deep red that match the darkness of the bookshelves. Everything looked dark and old and weary.
You shuffled into the living room, feeling out of place in your soft pastel sweater and faded blue jeans. “We could order some food until your friend gets here.”
“If you’d like.” Arno tossed you a long look before turning his attention to organizing the stacks of paper on a writing desk. “I’m not hungry right now.”
You drew in your bottom lip before releasing a slow breath. “You didn’t call him, did you?”
He stopped organizing papers. It almost looked like he stopped breathing. “I… No, I didn’t call him.”
You gave a rather dramatic humph. “Well. Then I guess I’m staying the night here.”
“I don’t need a babysitter.” Arno slammed the papers onto the desk then froze. He rubbed a hand down his face and shook his head. “I’m sorry. You did not deserve that anger.”
You hesitated at first then strolled over towards him. “Arno.”
He finally faced you, settled his gaze on you and the mahogany brown of his eyes glistened. “I’ve pushed everyone away. All of them. If I called… I don’t think they’ll come. And they have every right after… what I’ve said and done.”
Your throat tightened at how broken he looked. He almost looked as if he might collapse at any moment. You shrugged aside your sorrow and replaced it with excited energy. “I am here and I am ordering us something to eat.”
Arno gave a meager nod as if the idea of eating felt like a burdening task.
“Chinese?” You jerked your hand out of your pocket and searched your purse for your phone. “I know a really good place that does delivery.”
“Yes. I’ll… grab some drinks.” He ambled past you towards the kitchen.
You made the phone call, ordering things that you liked and things you thought Arno might enjoy. You didn’t know him well enough so you could only hope your order was decent enough.
Arno set down a few glasses onto the coffee table with a bottle of wine. He gave you a wry glance. “It was… the only thing I had.” You imagined somebody who didn’t plan on returning wouldn’t have expected guests. So of course he didn’t think about having anything else besides… alcohol. You shuddered, imagining him in this dark apartment alone with nothing but wine to drown his sorrows.
You smiled widely. “Wine’s good.” You sat down onto the couch and brought your feet up with you, desperate to conserve energy in the slow-warming apartment. “Should take the food about thirty minutes.” You wrapped your arms around yourself and you could swear the apartment was getting colder.
He eyed you a moment. “Cold?”
You shrugged your shoulder. “It’s not that bad.”
Arno stalked across the room towards a large trunk, another old world item, but it appeared to be used as some sort of table. He removed the items that cluttered its surface before pulling a thick blanket out. He carried the item to the couch and sat down with you, laying the quilt out across your laps.
“Here.” He lifted his arm and reached behind you. “Let me hold you.”
Your breath tangled in your throat but you nervously laughed it away. “It’s alright, you don’t have to do that.”
He didn’t wait for your reply, wrapping his arm around your shoulder and pressing you firmly against him. “I don’t mind.” You felt him take down a slow breath before sighing. “I’m sorry for bringing you into this.”
You looked up at him, taking down a gasp. “Arno. You didn’t bring me into anything.” You placed your hand against his chest, trying to draw his attention. “I want to help. And you’re going to take me help.”
His lips parted, words wavering on them. He slipped his eyes closed with trembling brows. "I can’t imagine being alone anymore...” He swallowed and shook his head. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“You’re not.” You pressed your cheek against his chest. You took down a delightful breath of his scent, espresso and the lingering undertone of peppercorn.
Arno grabbed the quilt and pulled it further up over your arms and shoulders. “I don’t think I paid my heating bill.”
You pressed your fingers into your smile, trying to contain your laughter but it came bubbling free. Your entire body shook with it even managing to draw a very brief chuckle from Arno. You took down a calming breath. “Maybe we should take the food back to my place…”
He smiled weakly, one that grew and faded as he muttered, “I’ll remember to pay my bills in the morning.”
You bit your bottom lip. It was strange to think how delighted you were to see some form of joy in his expression. “We’ll just watch something on TV and relax until then.”
Arno cleared his throat. “I… didn’t pay my cable bill, either.”
You rolled your attention up to the ceiling. “Well, at least you have electricity…”
His arm around you tightened. His chin rested on the top of your head. “Thank you, mon amie.”
Your brow rose. “Mon-a-what?”
He laughed breathily. “It means friend.”
It wasn’t anything truly magnificent but you felt a heated blush rise. You whispered, “Oh. Of course. Anytime, Arno.
You didn't realize how much you would miss having him around until he left. And of course he had to leave at some point. He had his own life to get back to. Arno paid his bills and checked up on things at the Cafe that he owned. He made sure business matters were dealt with before returning back to his home, leaving you to your empty apartment.
It didn't feel the same anymore. It felt emptier.
Sure, you were glad to have the kitchen well stocked and your bed to yourself as well as the entirety of the master bathroom. You were happy that you didn't have to ask Arno where the remote was for the hundredth time. Or where your keys were because they always disappeared when you were heading out to work in the morning. You also didn't miss his tendency to clean and, boy, did he clean. Every little thing in the apartment ended up organized and rearranged under his scrutiny.
Okay. Perhaps you did sort of miss it. In fact, you really missed it. You had the urge to call him up just to see if he'd come over. But you knew you couldn't keep bothering him. He was a grown man. He had his own life to live and you couldn’t exactly be a part of it one hundred percent of the time. Although, you certainly wouldn’t have minded.
You just hadn’t imagined it would be like this or in this sort of location. And you didn’t think Arno would be sitting down, hunched over with his guilt-ridden gaze burrowing into his clasped hands. He hadn’t even bothered looking up when you approached or when the officer called his name.
You crossed your arms in hopes to keep from trembling. Never in your life had you ever been called into a jail or picked someone up for a drunken disorderly. And here you were, called to rescue a broken and tormented friend. “Arno?”
He pressed a hand into his face, rubbing his palms roughly against his eyes. They were bloodshot and you weren’t sure if it was from the crying or something else. He waited for the cell door to unlock before getting to his feet. He shoved his hands into his pants pocket, the slimming v neck looking like it had seen better days. He couldn’t look at you when he walked by, following the hall back towards the main part of the station.
You silently watched him collect his things from your seat along the wall. He silently sauntered over towards you, still not quite able to look you in the eye. You stood up and pulled the keys from your jacket pocket. You led the way through the semi-quiet building, making sure each of your steps was a confident as the next. You knew Arno wasn’t watching you. You knew he was probably more focused on his feet rather than your back.
It wasn’t until you were pulling the car up to a stoplight that you finally said it, “What were you thinking?”
Arno slipped his eyes closed, lips pulled down into a grimace as he turned his head away. He didn’t return his attention to anything inside the vehicle after that. He glowered endlessly at the other cars, the passing trees, the mailboxes… Anything but the situation laid out before him.
“You broke a man’s nose.” You clenched the wheel tighter. “Busted out his knee cap.”
His frown deepened until his teeth were bared. “I’m sorry. I shouldn't have asked this of you--”
“No!” You threw him your heated fury. “This isn’t about me. You shouldn’t have done this to yourself! What if you’d killed him?”
“And next time? What if you go to prison for this?”
“I’ve done worse!” He bit back the rest of his words, busted knuckles pressed against his mouth. “You don’t know me. You don’t know the terrible things I’ve done.”
You took down a quaking breath, your body trembling from both grief and rage. You were torn between yelling at him for his stupidity and coddling him to keep back whatever ghosts haunted him. You’d been strong through most of his suffering. The bridge, you thought, had been the worst of it. But there in that moment you couldn’t stop from crying.
His words were soft pleadings, “No. Please don’t, mon amie. No, don’t cry.”
You furiously shoved your fingers across your face, smearing the tears. Your driving was reckless, making turns without really considering the other vehicles. You couldn’t think straight anymore. It hurt you to think that Arno had gone directly home, got himself as drunk as possible, then wandered the streets looking for a fight.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He snatched your hand from the steering wheel and pressed it into the warmth of his chest. “I just can’t keep living like this.”
You pulled your hand away from him, held it in the air before cautiously returning it to the wheel. Thick tears, silent and hot, rolled down your cheeks with each blink of your eyes. You didn’t want to cry. God, you wanted to be strong for him but it just hurt too much.
“I couldn’t… I went home and I tried to but I couldn’t…” His lips were parted, swollen from all the stressful nibbling he did to them. A painful sound came from low in his throat, a strangled mix between a sob and a moan. “You should have never met me.”
You clenched your teeth and pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex. You shoved the vehicle’s gear into park, an anger you hadn’t quite felt took over. “How dare you!” You hit him. You put all of your rage into each hit against his shoulder. “How dare you make that choice! You have no right! It’s not your life to take!” You shoved him but the anger left just as quickly as it arrived, leaving you to whimper. “It’s not.”
Arno was breathing hard. He was frozen, hands lifted as if he wanted to hold you but he couldn’t move. “Mon amie…”
“Don’t!” You threw yourself back into the chair, your jaws aching from the clenching and unclenching of your teeth. “Your life belongs to all of your friends and family. Your life… isn’t yours to take.”
Arno turned away from you. He opened the door and silently stepped out. It wasn’t until after he closed the door, after you drove towards your apartment, that you regretted your words. What if you made things worse? What if he tried to kill himself again? What if he drank himself senseless because of the things you had said?
You slowed the vehicle to a halt, eyes gazing up at the red glow of the stoplight. You groaned and cried, curling your arms around the steering wheel as your buried your face into it. Your shoulders shook, chest heaving to take down another breath but the air felt so thin and empty.
You threw yourself back into your chair, grateful that the road was empty and no one was waiting impatiently behind you. You pressed your eyes into your sleeve, roughly dried your cheeks with it then continued down the road.
You drove home and slunk through your apartment towards the bedroom. You fell forwards onto the bed, pressed your cheek into the rumpled blankets because you hadn’t bothered making the bed that morning. In fact, you never made the bed. Arno had been the one to do that. Sweet, heartbroken Arno. Afraid of the pain in his heart Arno.
It was a few hours before you finally got back on your feet. You grabbed your keys and your purse. You returned to your vehicle with a bitter determination and drove halfway across town to Arno’s apartment. The side of your fist banged into his front door. Your ears strained to hear any sort of sound coming from inside.
The door swung open and Arno staggered a bit, his reddened eyes barely taking in your presence. He held the neck of a bottle in his hand and before he could process anything, you snatched it from him.
“Seriously?” You marched through the foyer to the kitchen and poured what was left of it down the sink.
“What are you doing?” He reached out for the bottle but the last was already gone.
“No!” You set it down hard onto the counter then shoved a hand into his chest. “You listen to me, Arno Dorian. If I have to babysit you then fine! I’ll babysit you. If I have to come over here every morning to make sure you’re still alive then I will.”
Arno’s jaw flexed under a rage you hadn’t seen in him. “You barely know me! You. You have no right to be here.”
“Well like it or not, I’m here.” You stepped forward, meeting his gaze with as much confidence as you could muster. “Now, go lay down and sleep off that drink.”
“I don’t want you here. I don’t want to ever see you again.” His hands grabbed hold of your shoulders, squeezed hard the muscle and bone.
You were frightened, scared at the rage you saw in him, but you kept your tone as bitter as you could manage, “You plan on beating me up like you did that guy? You going to put me in the hospital, too?”
He hissed and jerked his hands away.
You inhaled a deep breath and pulled upon what courage you had left. “Go to your room. The rest of the alcohol in this house is gone. You won’t touch another drop. When your sober, we’ll talk about what to do next.”
He staggered back, his hand barely catching him as he stumbled into the kitchen counter. You reached out to help him but he shrunk away from your hand. His expression twisted with grief, the rage that had been so well place crumbled away. “You should have let me die.”
“Stop it.” You hurried forward. Your hand snapped hold of his arm, forced him to look at you. “Stop. I need you to be alive. I need you to be safe.”
He ever so slightly shook his head, bowing it away as his eyes became listless. He gave a slight moan and it was only seconds before that you realized it was happening. You rushed him towards the kitchen sink, steadied his trembling body as he heaved out the contents of his stomach.
He choked back a breath of air. His fingers pressed into his forehead before spitting out whatever remained in his mouth. “Why? Why do I do this to myself?”
You hooked his arm around your neck and hauled him towards the bedroom. “Come on. Let's get you to bed. I’ll find a bucket in case you need it.”
He muttered it, barely reaching your own ears, “Stop.” He tried to pull away from you but he was too drunk and too dazed to really put up much of a fight. “Stop helping me. I don’t deserve it.”
You rolled your eyes and hauled him the rest of the way through the dark apartment. “Such drama.” It was hard enough to pull his weight along but his staggering and wavering made the trek all the more difficult. You finally reached the edge of the bed and let Arno crumple down into it. “I’ll return with some water. And some fruit. You’re going to need it after…”
“Mon amie.” His fingers wrapped their hold onto the blanket beneath him.
“Not another word, Arno.” You glowered down at the red of his eyes, the pinched brows that trembled beneath his grief. “I’m helping you, like it or not.”
His lips thinned, pulled taut from their frown. “Thank you.”
“Thank me when you’re sober.” You barely patted a hand onto his shoulder before marching off to gather up the supplies you’d need. It wasn’t going to be easy and you weren’t entirely sure why you wanted to help him so badly. It wasn’t like Arno and you had been close. It wasn’t like you knew Elise personally. Honestly, you barely talked to them before everything happened. You just felt like you had to do something. Someone had to do something. You couldn’t watch him sink further. It just wasn’t your nature.
You fingertips smeared clean the blood that dappled you cheek. Your lips went taut in slight annoyance, hating the way blood thickened and clung to everything it touched. This wasn’t the first time you had to clean blood off your skin or out of your clothes.
Your opponent made another valiant effort to take you down. But his skills, although worthy of remark, were far from equal to your own. You shoved him back into the table and vase behind him, knocking them both off kilter. As glass and ceramic shattered to the floor, you threw the final punch that sent him down to his knees, another spray of blood shooting across the carpet.
Master Kenway gave a click of his tongue, a heavy sigh as he approached. He’d been quietly watching from the sidelines, letting you diligently do your job as a bodyguard. “This is why we can never have nice things.”
You raised a chiding brow at your kneeling rival before teasingly sneaking a peek at the prestigious man at your side. “It was his favorite vase. He bought it while we were in Istanbul.”
“You know very well I hated it…” He scoffed, horrified at the mere mention of it.
“It’s why I bought it. Oh! My apologies.” You smirked, rolling your heated gaze back to the cowering intruder. “Did I say his favorite? I meant mine.”
The intruder flinched at that, eyes darting up to check what expression you wore. He knew then that he was not only out matched but things were growing worse by the moment. He ducked his head away but you saw clearly as he cringed from the wounds on his face, sharpening when he moved too quickly.
Master Kenway’s hand trailed softly along your arm before disappearing, his steps carrying him across the room where a decanter and glass were waiting. “My dear?” He held his hand towards the amber liquid, sounding far more chipper than he should have.
“A man broke into your home, tried to kill you, and... you’re offering me a drink?”
“No need to be uncivilized about it, my dear. I am alive and well. Does that not call for a drink?” The corner of his lip tugged into a smirk, a brief flex of his cocky ego. Even after all the years you’d been by his side, it was still surprising how casual he took these things.
You shot your attention back to the intruder. “Tell me a name or so help me I will break a finger for every second you make me wait.”
“I’ve seen her do it.” Master Kenway lifted the glass to his lips, savoring the sharp drink on his tongue before swallowing. “It’s not pretty.”
A breath shuddered out of his chest and he leaned forward slightly, a sickness perhaps washing over him. “I’ll tell you everything. Just let me go.”
He chuckled, a hand tucked behind his back while he sauntered forward. “You’ve seen my face. I can’t exactly allow you to leave here.” There was always something about the way he walked across a room that set your senses on fire. Perhaps it was the way he dressed, the trim button down and the slimming slacks that clung to his thighs, but Haytham was hard to look away from.
The trespasser's head shot up and it must have been painful because his brows pinched under the agony, a groan just barely swallowed. “I… won’t say a word. No one will know it was you, I swear.”
You lifted the gun and pressed the metal of its muzzle against his forehead. “Tell me who it was that sent you and I won’t start breaking bones.”
“The Assassins. A branch located in the southwest region. They saw a data trail leading--” The gunshot caught the rest of his words. You didn’t need to hear the rest. You already knew it. In fact, you had known it was going to go this way eventually. Haytham was double crossing them as well as the Templars, lulling them both into his control.
Master Kenway took another ginger sip as he strolled over to you, not at all unsettled by the gunshot or the man’s words.
“I told you they’d find this place.” You turned sharply to him, infuriated that he wasn’t more concerned about it. “If the Assassins, if Abstergo, finds out you're playing them both--”
“They won’t find out.” He set aside his glass, a hand tenderly curling around your elbow. “First, we burn this place and all the evidence. Then we shall go and pay our little data thief a visit. We should inform him to better cover his tracks next time.”
You leaned into the minor touch. It wasn’t the most intimate thing he’d ever done but you couldn’t help but feed of of it. And he was highly aware the effect he held on you. You only barely managed to keep your tone even, “He did this on purpose. He’s too good to get caught.”
He raised his chin, leaning closer but not quite close enough. “Then we kill him as well.”
It had been hours since you’d last seen him. It wasn’t entirely unusual for him to disappear for long periods of time, finishing some odd job or, yes, hunting his assigned target. You still didn’t know much about his profession or the group of people he worked for. All you really knew was that his line of work was dangerous, to both himself and you.
“If I’m not back in twenty-four hours,” he said, grabbing his guns and holstering them, his jacket keeping a few from view. You watched him, his unmoving expression and the calm way he carried himself. It was just another mission to him, another day.
“I know.” You folded your arms across your chest, a failing attempt to keep from shuddering because this wasn’t just another normal day for you. You’d been with Altair for a month but each time he left was like the first time all over again. “I’ll check into the second location.”
“And after three days?” He darted his eyes towards you, unwavering stare keeping with your own.
“Get out of the country with the passports and fake IDs.”
He had given a satisfied nod of his head before sashaying through the hotel room and leaving. The door clicking shut behind him sent a sickness across your skin, a nervousness at being alone again.
You busied yourself with room service, movies on the television, eventually passing out around three in the morning. When you woke up you thought you’d see him in the corner, cleaning his guns or taking stock but...
It hadn’t been twenty-four hours yet. He still had an hour at least. Forty minutes if you were being completely honest about it. And you would wait those forty minutes because you knew, you just knew that Altair was going to show up soon. He’d walk through the door bearing his same confident too-good-for-this-world attitude.
Thirty-five minutes, you told yourself, refusing to pack up your clothes or double check the passports. You were not leaving the hotel until he showed up even after the twenty-four hours were up. You just couldn’t leave him. And you couldn’t go and find him. He hadn’t told you the location of his job.
The hotel door beeped and rattled open, jolting you from your seat. You hurried towards the hallway, your relieved sigh passing your lips too quickly to stop. He charged forward, door slamming shut behind him. His arms grappled around you and shoved you to the ground, his weight thrown on top of you like a shield.
“Altair?” You barely managed another word as the first gunshot rounded off, a series of them cascading through the air. Glass shattered out of the windows, clattering into the floor while the bullets pelted into the wall.
Altair’s hand cupped your head and pressed your clenched eyes into his chest. He was a heavy and comforting weight. If it weren’t for his arms around you, the cave he formed, you wouldn’t have been half as calm as you were. When the array of bullets ceased, the air a thickening silence, Altair lifted just enough to see your expression.
You took down a sharp breath, swallowing the next unsteady breath. “Altair, what the hell’s going on?”
“Keep low. Stay behind me.” He got up on his knees and snagged the duffle bag from the hotel coffee table.
But you stayed where you were, lying rigidly against the rough carpet as Altair grabbed your bags and placed them onto your stomach. Your arms slithered around them. You clutched them to your chest before rolling up onto your knees. You stayed behind Altair just as he suggested, hunched over and waiting for the next series of gunshots.
You whispered it, a secretive hush, “I guess your job didn’t go as planned.”
He glanced over his shoulder, the briefest of looks as he entered the hotel hallway. The hall was filled with shouting guests, the innocent bystanders frazzled by the gunshots they’d heard. Altair straightened his stance and faced you, looking you over with analysis rather than concern.
Your brows jolted at the sight, the slick darkness that stained his clothes. Your words were strangled, your throat clenched shut as you use your body like a shield. You didn’t want the other hotel goers to see. “Is that… Are you bleeding?”
“The blood on my shirt?” He casually glimpsed at it, finger barely touching the hem of his shirt as he pulled the wetness from his skin. “Would you feel better if I told you it wasn’t mine?”
You went to reply but you decided against it, tossing your head as well as the remark. “What now? We can’t exactly walk out the front door.”
He hooked his arm around your waist and pulled you down the hall. His hand tugged the pistol from his belt, letting the weapon rest in his hand even while entering into the crowd of people. You allowed yourself to press against him. You took in his warmth, the heat of his hand against your hip.
A couple ran out of their hotel room, one dragging the other by the hand to evacuate the building. Altair slammed his hand against their hotel room door before it could slide shut. He slipped inside of the room, allowing you to do the same.
Altair set down his bag then slid the curtains closed. “This will be safe enough for now.” He tossed you a hard pressed glower when you waltzed unabashed through the room. “You should have left for the second location.”
Perhaps it was his presence, how safe he made you feel, but you smirked at him. “You still had thirty minutes.”
His jaw clenched and his brows furrowed together. The muscles in his body flexed with tension, pushing your back into the closest wall. Altair’s feathers were twisted by unbridled anger and cornered beneath it you felt weaker than ever. “You could have been killed. This isn’t a game.”
You kept yourself from shrinking away from him. Altair wouldn’t hurt you. He had already saved your life twice over and he more than put up with your childish whims. You spoke softer but no less determined, “I know. Next time I’ll be prepared.”
He rolled his eyes closed before stepping back and shoving his fingers through the thick curls of his hair. “We need to take more precautions. You need… training.”
You drew in your bottom lip. Before Altair could step too far away, you slipped your hand around his arm and held on firmly. “So, does this mean I get to join you on your next job?”
He shot you a heated glare.
“Joking,” you mumbled, “Only joking.”
Altair was still rather annoyed but his arm curled around you all the same. “We have ten minutes to catch our breath. Then we move.”
His head was pounding, a cascade of pain that trickled from the crown of his skull and down into his eyes. He could only vaguely remember the events from the day before, the drinking and the bar fight, the disappointing way you looked at him. You had helped him during the night with each passing sickness. You wiped away sweat and vomit, helping him drink down cold water to soothe the pain in his throat.
His lips pulled taut into a hard grimace, an anger shuddering in his chest. He had let you see him yet again at his worst and that single thought alone destroyed him. He knew you deserved better than him, eyes rolling over to find you asleep in one of the dining chairs. You must have dragged it into the room sometime during the night, needing a vantage point over his chills.
He sat up, careful not to jostle his swimming migraine. He shoved the blankets away and padded across the room towards you. He kneeled down, eyes sweeping low across your expression towards the coffee mug slipping out of your grasp. His lips quirked as he tenderly took the cup before its remaining contents could spill out onto the floor.
You jolted, sucking down a deep gasp of air. You only settled until after you saw him kneeling before you. “Arno?”
“Do you want me to warm up your coffee?” He lifted the mug casually, rising to his feet and shuffling for the bedroom door. “I could use some myself.”
You gave a soft sigh, nursing your skull in your palm. “Yeah. Please.”
He knew you had to be tired after the ordeal last night. Alcohol poisoning, most likely. No, he corrected, it was definitely that. Drinking all that day and then drinking again after getting home… It hadn’t been the most sound decision but it felt like the only way to smolder the constant aching in his chest.
He rubbed his thumb across the smooth porcelain. “There’s a doughnut shop around the corner. I could go there and grab us something to eat.” He was halfway to the kitchen when he turned around, worried when you didn’t make a reply.
Arno could see it clearly, that uncertainty in the way you leaned against the door frame. You wanted to talk to him about last night, to ask him a million questions but your lips parted shyly and you muttered, “Just coffee.”
“I’ll make a fresh brew.” He sauntered off to the kitchen and poured the stale coffee out into the sink. He kept his mind busy. He focused on scooping out the coffee grounds into the espresso machine, gathering together all of the utensils for a proper and warm concoction. He realized how much he knew about you after the time together. He knew your favorite drink from the cafe, preparing it just how you liked it.
But after the cups were made he hesitated. He stared into their mirrored surface and saw the cuts and bruises that adorned his features. His gaze slid to the red and split skin along his knuckles, a throbbing ache to haunt him for the next few days. It would remind him that once again he was weak enough to turn to drinking.
He grabbed the warm porcelain coffee mugs and carried them into the living room. You were curled up in one of the hard chairs, feet tucked under you and eyes sweeping over to take in his stance. He felt so exposed under your gaze, his steps wavering as he set the drinks down onto the wooden coasters.
You reached out and took the cup in hand, wrapping your fingers against the warmth. You didn’t say anything. Your eyes were locked on the steam that whirled in the slight chill of early morning.
Arno finally reached out and took hold of the mug’s handle. He averted his gaze from both you and his busted knuckles. You deserved an explanation, he knew that much. But what you deserved more was to have never been pulled into his mess in the first place. “What happened last night, won’t happen again.”
You took a slow slip before peering over at him on the couch. “I know.”
His anxiety clenched in his throat and he shoved the coffee cup onto the table. “You should leave when you’re done with the coffee.
Your gaze was steady, brows pinching and lips pressing firm. “I’m here and I’m not leaving. We’re not having this argument again.”
Arno leaned forward, staring just as determinedly. “Why can’t you just go home and forget about all of this. Just forget about me entirely. You’re not responsible for me.”
Your words leapt from the tip of your tongue, “You called me from a jail cell.”
“I was… drunk.” He dipped his head away, finger curling into his palms. “I shouldn’t have called you last night. I shouldn’t have brought you into this.”
“Well you did. And do you even know why?” Your breath shuddered from your throat, your head ever so slightly shaking. “Why did you call me of all people?”
He was well aware why he’d called you out of all the other numbers. He didn’t have anyone else he could rely on. Everyone else had grown tired of his habitual drinking and depression. The Order wanted nothing to do with him and he honestly didn’t want anything to do with them either. Especially after Bellec’s death…
But mostly it was because he was selfish and the only person he wanted in that moment was you. He wanted your tender compassion, the way you made him feel like a person. It was a drunken and half thought out action. He didn’t consider the toll it would leave on you. Another mistake to add to his growing list.
“No, I guess not…” Your sigh was a hushed groan as you hugged the coffee to your chest. “It’s too late to regret it. I’m not just going to leave you here. Especially not here. Not to drink yourself to death.”
He swept his eyes up to yours, staring longingly for some sort of merciful end. Arno’s voice softened, a harsh whisper as he choked back his self loathing, “If you knew the truth about me, you wouldn’t think that way.”
“Stop it.” You sat up suddenly and carelessly let the mug clatter onto the coffee table. “What have you done that could be so terrible?”
“I’m a monster.” He jolted to his feet, an unsteady storm writing in his chest. “I’ve done horrible things to others. Things that… haunt me.”
“You know me. I’d never judge you.” Your feet slipped off the edge of the chair. You leaned forward, seeking out answers where he wouldn’t give them. “Whatever it is… it can’t be that bad.”
“It is. It’s worse than that.” Arno gave a weak shake of his head. When he saw your stare his gaze rolled up to the ceiling, a pathetic plea for someone to end his life then and there. “My father raised me on his own for a time.” He paced across the living room, fingers flexing anxiously at his side. “He was murdered by a… ‘group’ of men who call themselves Templars.”
“Arno…” Your fingers jolted to your mouth.
“Elise’s father took me in. He raised us both.” He finally managed to stop pacing, settled himself on the other side of the coffee table. “He was a Templar murdered by other Templars. I didn’t even know any of that until after he died. They kept me from it… When I found out the truth… I can’t do this.”
He could hear the sharp bite of regret in your words, “Arno, it’s okay.”
“I can’t. I just can’t. The moment I tell you…” His palm pressed against his mouth, hiding the grimace that tugged at the corners of his lips. “If you knew what I was you’d never forgive me. And I wouldn’t deserve forgiveness for all the things I’ve done.”
“Arno, listen to me.”
Arno shook his head, turning away until his back was towards you. He couldn’t bare the thought of you hating him. “You’re all I have left…”
“Would you just… trust me. Talk to me, Arno. Please?”
He dropped down against the arm of the couch, hunched over as he placed his head into his hand. “I joined the order that my father belonged to. Assassins. They were my best chance to find answers.” He peeked a quick glance at your expression, your brows rising high and your breathing rapid. Arno knew the signs of stress when he saw them. He was trained to after all.
“You said Assassins?” You worried the corner of your mouth between your teeth. “Like… hitmen?”
He stood up too quickly because he saw you flinch away. Arno knew from that moment onward he’d lost you. You would never look at him the same way. And that thought, the idea that someone so caring as yourself, could see him as evil was unbearable. “The Assassins have been around since… ancient times. They’ve… been dealing with the Templars for ages…”
“Are you still an Assassin?”
“No. They… disagreed with my methods. Elise and I hunted down her father’s killers without their approval. I just…” He furiously rubbed at his eyes, feeling them strain painfully under stress and agony. “I wanted redemption.”
“So you… killed the men who killed your loved ones? That’s why you think you’re a monster?” Your eyes weaved away, focusing intently on the grains in the hardwood floors. “It sounds like you were just trying to get justice, Arno.”
“It’s not justice.” He started pacing again, furiously trying to walk off the tension brewing in his bones. “It’s murder. I didn’t do it for me. I did it for Elise. I did everything for Elise. I had to somehow redeem myself but she was so obsessed that...” He felt his voice crack, the words inaudible even to his own ears.
You stood up, legs trembling beneath your weight. You managed to settle your fingers onto his arm, to stagger his pacing into submission. “Arno.”
“She died trying to get her revenge. I should have stopped her. I should have stopped myself.” His eyes fluttered and his voice barely made it past his lips, “If I’d only stopped and thought about things more clearly they’d all still be alive.”
You stepped closer to him, palms careening up and down his arm. “You can’t blame yourself for that. You didn’t know… Whatever happened, you couldn’t have known.”
Arno shivered, teeth grinding as a sickness swelled low in his stomach. Quickly, before he could sink to the floor, he grappled you into a hug. He pressed you to his chest and used you as an anchor in a desperate attempt to keep himself in reality. His knees buckled all the same and they dropped painfully to the hardwood floors.
You were pulled down with him. You remained frozen for a time, shocked or perhaps overwhelmed. But your arms slid around his neck to bury fingers into the short strands of his hair. “It’s going to be alright.”
His grip tightened, your body curving into his as he pressed the sleekness of his tears against your neck. “Why don’t you hate me? You should hate me for what I’ve done.” Arno dug at your back, fingers clawing into the cloth of your shirt. “I’ve hurt you, too.”
You leaned into him. Your head rested on the bend of his neck and you allowed him to cave around you. “I couldn’t hate you. You’re struggling right now. Sometimes people struggle and…” You sighed a gentler sound that seemed to put him at ease. “It’s not going to be easy but we’re going to survive this.”
His eyes slipped closed at the feeling of your hand against the back of his neck. The way your fingers squeezed and massaged, the way you spoke to him, always seemed to settle his anxiety. When you were around it was easy to forget about all of the lives he had taken and the careless mistakes he had made.
You shouldn’t have answered the door. It hadn’t really occurred to you that the person on the other side would have been dangerous. You thought it’d be good for Arno to have company, especially since he fell asleep on the couch hours ago for the longest nap in recorded history.
You kneeled down next to the couch and gave his shoulder a gentle shake. “Arno.” You squeezed his shoulder when he began to startle from sleep. “There’s someone here to see you…”
His eyes were wide now. It happened too quickly for you to really take it all in. His hand snapped a gun from underneath the couch cushion. He was on his feet and shoving you behind him, using his body like a shield as the barrel of the gun founds its target. “Altair,” he stated it, his hand reaching back to make sure you were still safely behind him.
“Arno,” you breathed it, fingers curling around his shirt.
Altair strolled cautiously towards the chair on the other end of the coffee table. “Is this how you greet an old friend?”
“Friend?” He shuffled back, an awkward dance to put some distance between himself and the other man. “Acquaintances, at best.”
He was dressed rather well, a businessman of some sort you could only assume. He’d been stern when you answered the door and the way he took a seat in the chair, head high and back stiff. “Have you forgotten we once trained together?”
Arno’s hand squeezed at your waist, an attempt to keep not only you calm but himself. “Yes and I recall you stating clearly that I wasn’t ‘worthy’ of being an Assassin.”
“Clearly I was right.” He gave a quirk of his head, expression unmoving as his fingertips smoothed across the arms of the chair. “Do you miss those days? When we were all younger and naive.”
“Normally, I’d lie and say yes but I honestly don’t care about your feelings.” He allowed you to grab his hand, to lace your fingers with his and hug the muscles of his arm to your chest. “Why are you here?”
“Your name popped up on our scanners.” His attention rolled down to his suit, fingers smoothing out waistcoat and jacket. “You were arrested last night for brawling. That means you’ve been drinking again.”
Arno’s muscles stiffened at the sudden burst of fear.
Your heart clenched and the words jumped from your throat, “He was defending me. We were at the bar together and one of the guys… he wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Altair’s gaze narrowed, burning through your poorly placed facade. But you ducked safely behind Arno to ensure your lie might hold up. He gave a hum of approval, languidly rising to his feet. “Careful, Arno. The Order doesn’t enjoy it when their secrets get out.”
Arno vigilantly watched as he left for the door, only daring to move away from you long enough to ensure the locks were in place. He raced back to you, gun tossed down onto the couch before his arms gathered you against his chest. “Are you alright?”
“Yes.” You nodded your head furiously, eyes fluttering to keep back the tears. Fear twisted inside of your chest and you couldn’t help crying. “Yes. I’m alright. I’m okay.”
His arms kept squeezing around you, trying to gather you closer to him as if it would somehow cover you in armor. His cheek rubbed across yours, smearing your tears, and that prompted a quick brush of his thumb. “You should have never met me.” Arno jolted away from you. “You need to leave. I need you to leave.”
“Arno,” you squeaked, throat clamped tight as he hurried towards the coat rack. “I’m not leaving. We’ve already discussed this.”
“If you stay here, you could…” He jerked your coat off of the rack and snatched up your purse. “You aren’t safe here. I should have never…” His brows pinched, eyes unable to lift high enough to view your expression.
You growled it, stated it firmly, “I’m not leaving you. Whoever they are, I’m not...”
“They could come back. I’m not worried about the Assassins. I’m worried about… the Templars.” His hands were full with coat and purse but it didn’t stop him from shaking your shoulders. “I can’t lose you to this… this nightmare.”
“Then…” You rolled your eyes away, knowing that he was right. “My place. Stay at my place until…” You shook your head with dismay. “You can stay with me where it's safer.”
Arno’s hand lifted to your cheek, eyes searching yours furiously for an answer.
He gave a slow sigh, eyes slipping closed. “Mon Amie.”
You drew in your bottom lip, teeth scraping across it. “Please come with me.”
He took a staggered step back, fingers pressing at the tears that leaked through his closed eyes. He nodded weakly before turning towards his bedroom. “I’ll grab some clothes… Here take your things.” He turned back to you, gently pressing your things into yours arms. “The sooner we’re gone the safer you’ll be.”
“We have listened to this song ten times.” He tightened his grip on the steering wheel, throttling the hard leather as if he were trying to strangle the car itself.
“I know.” You giggled somewhat delightfully as the song began again, preparing yourself to sing the lyrics you memorized. “Shh. This is the best part.”
Altair finally struck his hand at the radio, silencing it completely. “Ten times.”
“C’mon.” You gave a low groan, slouching deeper into the passenger seat. “Seriously, dude, you’re no fun. We’ve been in this vehicle for eight hours.”
He tossed you a quick and stern glower. “We just stopped and ate lunch.”
You rolled your eyes. “Two hours ago.” You childishly shoved your back against the seat as if it would somehow make things softer. You reached into the backseat and snatched hold of the pillow, the one you stole all those months ago. You shoved it against the seat, squishing it until you thought it’d be soft enough.
“We are not stopping again.” He gave a low groan, leaning forward as if it would help him concentrate.
You rubbed your spine against the pillow. “Why don’t you ever let me drive?”
He didn’t even look in your general direction. “I hope you are not being serious.”
You huffed, mouth wide at his suggestion. “What? Why not?”
“You are like a small child. You complain about everything. If you drove, we would stop at every gas station to grab a drink then stop at the next gas station to pee.” He darted a quick look at you and the pillow. “You stole a pillow from a hotel room and don’t get me started on all of the movies you bought at the last hotel.”
You bitterly reached out and shoved his shoulder as hard as you could. “How is renting movies considered childish? I was bored! God, you left me there for two days. ” You shoved your back against the seat again, the pillow doing little to make things comfortable. “You didn’t even call to let me know you were alive. Ass!”
Altair jerked the wheel, forcing the car to the side of the road before slamming on the breaks. He gritted his teeth, lips pulled back as he stared into the speedometer. He growled through his teeth, “I am sorry. Alright? Sorry!”
You reached across the console, barely brushing fingertips across the taut muscle of his arm. You felt him coil away from the touch just before leaning into it. “I know. I just… hate it when you disappear like that.”
His hands fell away from the wheel and he leaned back in his seat. He tilted his head away, finding the words before muttering, “I was ambushed. They had me pinned down. That’s why I didn’t call.”
You curled your fingers around his arm, squeezing it tenderly before smiling. “You know what’ll make it better?” You reached out and cranked up the music, tossing him your haughtiest grin. “Music!”
He gave a groan but it wasn’t quite so serious as before. He pulled the car back onto the road, his hold on the wheel looser and his elbow pressed lazily against the console. “Could we play a different song ten times?”
“One more time, I swear.” You leaned over the console, grinning all too sweetly. “Then we’ll listen to your music.”
He peered over at you, softness to his eyes that you saw on rare occasions. “Fine. Once more.”
Chapter 11: Haytham Kenway
Chapter by AvaWhiteRaven
Now that I've somewhat organized the modern stories... here's a new one ^-^ (it's smutty...)
The maid was the one to answer the door. She quietly allowed you to step inside without any questions. She didn’t bother to ask why you were there so late at night, why you were arriving unannounced. You had been the one to hire her, after all. You knew her name, date of birth, the names of her two sisters, her mother and father, where she was born and at what time. You knew everything there was to know about Haytham’s staff. It was your job to make sure that anyone who came into contact with him was reliable and trustworthy. And if they weren’t… well, that was the not so pretty part of your job.
You knocked on the office door but slid it open before the Master Templar even had time to reply. He was hunched over his desk, fingers pressed to his skull as he read whatever report or book was sprawled out before him. He glanced up, having to do a double take when he realized who was walking into his office.
“Oh?” He stood, brows rising in slight confusion. “Did I call for you?”
You reluctantly slid the door shut and calmly strolled forward. You kept your tone even, words solid on the tip of your tongue, “No, you didn’t.”
Haytham didn’t look too pleased with the answer. But he rounded his desk all the same, fingers reaching up to make sure his dress shirt was buttoned up and prestigious looking. If you had been anyone else he would have been furious, annoyed that someone caught him without his waistcoat and jacket. Even more irritated that someone had arrived at his home without being invited or sending word ahead.
He approached a small table, cluttered with decanters and crystal glasses, an assortment of his favorite spirits. “Drink?”
You clutched your hands behind your back, squared your shoulders. “No. Thank you, sir.”
He poured himself whiskey by the looks of it, keeping his chin somewhat high. “Ever the diligent.” He raised his glass to his lips, sipping the drink and holding it on his tongue before swallowing. “Even when you’re not on the clock.”
“I’m your bodyguard. I’m always on the clock, sir.” You stood your ground, eyes following Master Kenway as he strolled across the room towards the unlit fireplace. “Which is why I’m here.”
He peaked a brow as he regally took his seat on the couch. He was watching you, the dark alluring gaze of a Master Templar analyzing his subjects. He angled his arm onto the back of the couch, fingers rubbing against each other as he considered his words. The other hand swished the glass around, allowing the alcohol to aerate. “Go on then. Speak your mind.”
“The woman…” Your gaze swept downwards, a moment of shame that his trained eye caught sight of. You forced yourself to look at him again, to steady yourself and to hide your emotions. “I ran the background check as you asked of me. I tailed her, as well, sir, just to be safe. From what I can determine she’s average. She checks out clean.”
He tilted his head away then brought it back. He took a mouthful of his drink and swallowed, setting the crystal down onto the coffee table. “You came here to tell me that the woman I’m going on a date within a few nights is… cleared?”
You squeezed your hands together, smoothing out your brows and lips, softening your eyes. “That is correct, yes.”
“It couldn’t wait until morning?”
Even your breathing needed to be managed, each one feeling more labored than the last. You had planned on lying to Haytham, to tell him that the woman had a shady past of some sort but… You knew lying would have taken far more effort and being around the Master Templar weakened your resolve.
He leaned forward, arm sliding off the back of the couch so he could fumble with the top button of his shirt. “Since you’ve spent so much time watching her…” He tugged the fabric away from his neck, letting it open up to reveal the tanned skin beneath. “Any suggestions on what I should get her for a gift?”
You swallowed your pulse, gaze bobbing around the room in search of something to focus on other than Master Kenway’s movements. You focused on the mantle above the fireplace, the decorative swords that had once belonged to some ancestor or another. “Flowers probably. She seems like the cliche type.” It wasn’t until after you spoke that you realized the bitter undertone to your words, the minor hint of jealousy.
Haytham stood up, drawing your attention back to him long enough to see a few more buttons had been tugged loose. His sleeves were messily rolled up the taut muscle of his forearms. It was the most disheveled you had ever seen him look. Haytham sashayed back over to the decanter, allowing you to follow his movements shamelessly. “When you leave be sure to inform Mrs. Henson that I need an order of flowers.”
You flicked your stare up from his chest to his eyes, finding that he was staring in return. A blistering heat swelled across your face and neck, damn near watering your eyes. “Right away, sir.” You spun on your heel as rapidly as possible and darted for the office door.
“Before you go…” From your peripheral you could see him fiddling with his sleeves. “I have another task for you.”
You placed your hand over the door handle, focusing on the cold metal beneath your heated and sweaty palm. “Of course.”
“Would you be so kind as to bring me my glass?”
You turned your head to the coffee table, leaning towards the door as if you were torn between two opposing forces. You weren’t sure you could handle much more, the sly way he was slowly undressing in front of you. But you shoved away from the door and marched rigidly over to the glass. You snapped it up, a thin layer of amber liquid left at the bottom. You were almost tempted to throw the last of it down your throat just to settle your nerves.
Haytham stood over the decanter, hands tugging the dress shirt from the waistband of his pants. “We’ll have to leave in the morning. If we plan to get back in time for my date, that is.” He made sure his movements were slow, watching you for any signs that your gaze might linger on the flashes of his exposed abs.
You sauntered forward. You kept your gaze on the small table, then his hand as you held out the glass to him. He casually, somewhat slowly, took it from you and set it down onto the table with the others. You swallowed your sigh of relief. “If that is all, Master Kenway--”
His hands snapped up your arms, throwing you back against the closest thing. It was an old armoire, the crystal and glass upon the shelves clattered, the antiques jostling on their mounts. His grip tightened, fingerbones digging into muscle. His voice was bordering between anger and lust, “Tell me what you really came here for, my dear.”
You licked your lips, your breath brushing past them as they buzzed with energy and need. And god how you needed. “To give you my report.”
He stepped forward, knee pushing past your own, his thigh pressed firmly into your knotting center. He knew exactly what he was doing and worst he knew what you needed. “Oh? After all this trouble I went through… I was hoping you would show more jealousy than this.” He leaned his weight forward, slid himself flatly against you. “I am… disappointed.”
“You wanted this?” There was nothing between you but cloth and heat and you found yourself arching into it. You needed Haytham. You had needed him for so long and to finally have him there, pushed against you... You swallowed down your moan but your eyes were growing hazy by the second. “Do you want me to beg?”
“Yes.” His hands roughly followed your shoulders to your back. His lips quirked, eyes suddenly lidded as your hips rolled forward into him. His words were crisp but they were dark, as dark as they were when he was about to kill someone, “Beg. Plea. Cry.” His hand clawed at the soft skin along your back, tugging at the base of your shirt. “I want you broken and desperate… until all that is left of you is me.”
You clenched your eyes shut and shoved your head back against the cabinet. “Sir.” You shamefully rutted against him, seeking any form of relief from the heavy weight that sunk itself low in your gut.
“Beg.” He snatched up your hips, jerking them forward into the hardening bulge before pounding himself against you. Your back hit into the cabinet again, something clattering forward into the glass. Even between the layers of your clothes you could feel him slide across your already soaked cunt.
Your fingers curled around his broad shoulders, clutching desperately onto him for support. You blurted, stumbled with your words, “Haytham, Master Kenway, sir. Please.” You couldn’t decide which title was even appropriate anymore. He was still a Master Templar, still an important and powerful man… someone you had admired from a distance, ogled surreptitiously. But beneath his heat, the rough strength of his palms...
He laid his mouth over your ear, damp breath heating your skin. “Beg. Harder.”
You kept your eyes closed in hopes it would strengthen your resolve. “No.”
“How long have you wanted me before I noticed? How many nights, I wonder, did you lie awake writhing in need for me.” His lips caressed across your cheek never committing fully to your mouth. He wasn’t going to give you anything until you asked for it, until you pleaded with him. “Were you weak? Did you break down and finally give into your primal nature?” His hand shoved roughly down between your bodies, forcing itself past your thighs. “Was it my name that left your lips when pleasure took over?”
Your heart hammered in your ears, chest heaving when his palm gripped over you in need. Heat flared up your backside when his palm rubbed against your clit. Your thighs were trembling. A moan jolted from your throat. “Yes. God, yes I did.” You couldn’t keep your eyes shut anymore. You met his gaze, the pale hazy grey of his eyes steady as he admired your crumbling expression.
Haytham smirked as he stepped away from you. The fire that had surrounded you vanished, leaving you trembling. You barely kept yourself upright, fingers gripping uselessly at the cupboard. He swaggered backwards to one of the chairs, his eyes never leaving yours while he lowered himself down onto it. “Lock the door.” His fingers tugged at the buttons of his slacks, peeling away the cloth with far too much sensual ease.
Your legs were weak beneath you, barely carrying you over to the door. Were you really going to do this? Were you truly going to expose yourself Haytham this way? You couldn’t even process what just happened. You could have walked away right there in that moment. But you wanted him. You had wanted him for so long.
You flicked the lock, counting the seconds between each breath in order to calm yourself back down. You had not only admitted to Haytham that you needed him but confessed to having pleasured yourself in thought of him.
A grunt from his throat caused you to look over at him. His head was rolled back, eyes slipped closed. And his hand was wrapped around the swollen red of his cock. His lips parted wider with each tender stroke. “Do you plan on just watching?” He rubbed back and forth, thumb brushing over his already leaking tip. “I would hate for you to disappoint me twice.”
You crossed the room, prying your eyes away from his length to peer at his expression. Haytham looked frazzled beneath the well placed mask, the one he wore when he was around various political figures. But you knew him better. You knew he needed you just as much as you needed him.
You straddled his waist, more than ready to press your lips into his but he chuckled. His hands grabbed your thighs and pushed you away. He gave a meager shake of his head, chiding you for being so impatient. “Not quite yet. Stand on the chair.”
“I don’t like games,” you told him plainly, wanting nothing more than to fuck him into ground. It was all you had thought about lately, especially since he was suddenly so aware of your infatuation.
“If you want me, you’ll play games.”
You muscles tightened in need. You stepped up onto the chair, cautiously planting your feet on either side of his legs and towering over him.
His hands followed the muscles of your calf to the soft flesh of your thighs. Even the slight touch of his fingers on your legs nearly made your eyes roll close. “Take it off. Everything you're wearing.”
You huffed at his arrogance, treating you like he treated some commoner, some subordinate. You had always respected the man and he in return had always respected you. Every secret and every fear that Haytham had… you knew them. If he wanted you to play games then you would. But they’d be on your terms.
Your fingers fumbled with the button of your pants, taking a great deal of time to loosen both of them. You watched him lick his lips, eyes following your body up to your expression. He was catching on but instead of protesting, he cleared his throat and straightened his spine. He was going to be just as stubborn. He wasn’t going to give in either.
You slowly pulled the zipper down then hooked your thumbs into the waistband. You leaned forward a bit, tugging the form fitting trousers down your thighs to your knees. You spoke quietly, hinting at your own need, “Having fun yet, Grand Master?”
He smiled but his jaw clenched. He raised his chin and although you were close enough to grab, to be kissed, he resisted. “I was having fun the moment you walked in here.”
You allowed the fabric to pool at your ankles before slowly straightening upright. You stepped out of the piled cloth and kicked it aside. You shimmied out of your jacket, tossing it off to the floor. Instead of working on the buttons of your shirt, you slipped a hand beneath the fabric, gliding it up across your skin. You tilted your head, slipping your eyes closed to show how delighted you were by your own touch. You allowed a moan to slide past your lips, fingertips brushing atop your hardening nipple.
Haytham’s eyes followed the motion until his hands were strangling the arms of the chair. He couldn’t wait anymore. He reached out and jerked your panties down from your hips, exposing the heat between your legs to the cold air of the office. His palms cupped your naked backside, pulling you forward. His lips captured your clit, mouth greedily buried against you. His hand held you firmly into place as you bowed forward.
“Yes,” you pleaded, biting your bottom lip when his teeth nipped against your skin. “Haytham, please.”
His other hand pulled your panties down the rest of the way, untangling them from your ankles. You opened your thighs wider him for to sink his mouth lower. Your foot jolted to the chair’s arm, a breathy and uncontrolled whimper jumping from your throat.
His tongue swept upwards across your throbbing cunt, tasting you with a thrumming hum. You could feel his whimpers vibrate into you, drawing upon your own uncontrolled groans. Your fingers tugged at the strands of his hair, ruffling them with encouragement as he swirled his tongue along the edges of your opening.
“Please.” Your eyes rolled shut, your hips tilting at just the right angle.
He knew what you were asking, the thinning of lips into a smile told you as much. “Don’t you dare fall.” He plunged his fingers in knuckle deep, your walls already slick with your own unsatisfied desire. His mouth continued to suck, expertly timing his mouth while his fingers pumped into you.
“Fuck.” You knees weakened, buckling out from under you. Thankfully your knee hit the back of the chair. Your body leaned over him as electricity skipped up your spine, the soft tussles of his hair brushing your bare stomach. Your legs began quaking, the heat of your cum spilling out of you. You knees were giving out, weight beginning to slide downwards. Your pulsing clit slipped from his mouth then gradually, delightfully, rubbed against the cloth of his shirt until you were seated in his lap.
His lips were red and coated thinly in your orgasm, his eyes dazed by heady lust. His hot and swollen cock curled under your backside. Haytham wrapped his palms around your ass, squeezing them just enough this his length slid between them. “I believe I told you not to fall.”
You squirmed in his lap, your skin brushing against his, just enough that he jolted. You leaned forward, lips hovering over his ear. “I don’t take orders from you.”
He scoffed, always having enjoyed your tenacity. “And who do you take orders from exactly?”
“Myself.” You enveloped his mouth with yours but he refused to relent.
Instead of returning the kiss he hooked his hands under your knees and shoved your hips forward into his. He held a laugh deep in his throat. His hand reached up to your neck, squeezing rather tenderly. “You haven’t begged me enough yet.”
You leaned into his hand, daring him to try and control you. “Perhaps I’ve changed my mind… Perhaps I’ll walk out of here instead.” You smirked, shifting your hips just enough to cause him to unintentionally buck. You had to prove how much control you had. “Perhaps you should be begging me.”
His attention roved down from your eyes, along your mouth to the loose fitting shirt. “I don’t beg.”
You lifted up out of his lap. The cold air against your feverish skin was a stark contrast to Haytham’s fiery heat. He must have felt the same way because he sucked down a quick breath, lips screwing downwards into a frown. You stepped out of the chair, watching as he stumbled to hide his desperation and dissatisfaction. But the moment you began lowering to your knees, his eyes slipped closed.
His head rolled back when your palm careened the length of his clothed thighs. His muscles coiled when the very tips of your fingers brushed the underside of his length. “Damn it,” he breathed, his hips rolling towards the feathery caresses. He forced them back, forced himself not to fall apart. But then you swept the tip of your tongue along the throbbing vein, watching as his eyes shot open. His lips parted until he clenched his jaw, biting into the groan that threatened.
Your mouth hovered over him, making sure your breath tickled the place you had licked. You whispered across his skin, “Grand Master… Look at me.”
He kept his chin up, a poor attempt at remaining strong as he peered down. He watched tensely, following your fingers in their descent across your stomach. You dipped them into your soaked walls, coating them with slow and tacit motions. Haytham was quivering, even his lips were trembling, his tongue sweeping out to lick them.
You slipped your fingers out of your cunt. You reached out and curled them around his swollen cock. You smeared your own essence, squeezing just enough until a strangled gasp was pulled from his throat. You flicked your tongue over his tip, tasting the harsh bitterness of precum that was slowly leaking free.
Haytham’s hand jolted, needing to take control of the situation but you threw out your arm and blocked him. His lips pulled back, head rolling away to hide the plain brutal need that was spilling over his features. He gripped the chair tighter until you thought he might break it.
“You haven’t begged me enough yet.” You squeezed and tugged at his length, this time slowly swirling the pad of your tongue over him.
“Fuck me.” His back arched, hips sinking across the chair in an attempt to move closer.
You wrapped the heat of your mouth over him, a startled and sputtering whimper jolting out of his throat. You hummed in delight and let it vibrate through his length and up his spine. Your hand turned and twisted around his agony, bringing him ever closer to the edge.
You pulled your mouth and hand away. “Beg. Harder.” You rose up onto your feet and watched as his brow curved under achiness.
His hand reached out and, with shockingly gentle hand, took hold of your neck. He pulled you closer, mouth to your ear and pleaded, “Fuck me, please.”
You dropped your mouth over his, capturing it was unbridled ferocity. You had waited just as long as him, the heat pooling in your gut and the tightness in your thighs. You crawled into the chair and straddled his lap. You arched into him. Your hips swayed forward, your throbbing cunt seeking out his searing heat.
Haytham was already gathering your thighs into his palms, squeezing them as he positioned you where he needed. He angled his lower half as his tongue worked on roving the depths of your mouth, tasting not only you but himself. He shoved your hips forward, the head of his cock sliding easily into you.
You gasped down his next breath, eagerly sinking yourself down the rest of the way. You bucked against him, Haytham doing the same with reckless need. You buried your mouth into his dampening hair and breathed in the deep scents of cinnamon and musk.
Haytham pounded into you. He ignored the cell ringing on his desk, fingers not even flinching in their digging grip on your thighs. “I need you.” His hips raised off the chair, nearly teetering the piece of furniture backwards. “You feel so…” He moaned as your mouth enveloped his neck, sucking viciously and teeth scraping. “Yes.”
Sweat trickled down your neck and spine. You needed him faster and harder but your body along couldn’t give you what you wanted. You reached around and pried his hand from your reddening thigh. You guided his fingers towards your clit. Your mouth pulled away from his neck, tongue licking your swollen lips. “Please. Haytham, please.”
His thumb stroked quickly across your sensitive bud, your hips rutting into the brief touch. But before you could even think of begging, he set to work with rapid and messy shoves, each one sending delight up across your back. Your hips were wild and unrhythmic, a messy meeting of skin and bones, each thrust quicker than the last.
A knock rattled the door, the maid calling out with uncertainty. “Sir, there’s someone on the phone for you. It sounded urgent.”
Haytham looked ready to reply, body tensing as if he were going to get dressed and answer the door. You weren’t having that. You cupped your hand over his mouth and forced him back against the chair. His brows pinched, more annoyed than shocked. He couldn’t believe you had the audacity to silence him.
“Sir?” She knocked again. “Are you in there?”
You continued your bucking, shamelessly sinking yourself onto him as the orgasm bloomed inside your throbbing walls. You barely managed to stifle a satisfied moan, the heat of your cum leaking out onto his lap. “You started this,” you whispered, breathy and still shivering. “You’re going to finish it.”
Beneath your palm his lips twitched into a smile, his head falling back and eyes closing. His body shook beneath you in repression, a need to keep from following your release with his own. Your hand fell away to show his parted lips, jaw widening further with each twist of your hips.
“Upstairs…” The rest of his is words were moans until your hips stilled. “Our meeting in the morning… it can be rescheduled. Upstairs, now.”
You pressed your lips into his ear. “No…” You chuckled when he stiffened beneath your audacity. “In the morning I have to secure your flight--”
His mouth wrapped around your shoulder, teeth sinking painfully through your shirt and down onto your skin. His fingers clawed into your legs, ramming you against his cock. Skin slapped, cum spreading where your two bodies joined. You leaned into him, pressing your shaking breasts onto his shoulder. He grunted, the sound quivering against your shoulder bone. His cum, hot and thick, poured out of you and onto the chair.
Haytham pulled his bite away and heaved down a breath, laced with sex and musk. You knew because you were sucking down the same air, tasting and smelling the aftermath of desperation. His digging fingers relented, prying away from your reddened and scratched skin. “Upstairs, I said… We’re not through just yet.”
You didn’t move, you couldn’t yet. Your legs were weak and you knew the moment you tried to stand you would have stumbled. “I really shouldn’t--”
His arms gathered around you, tightening the hug as if he planned to trap you with him. His closed eyes were buried into your neck, the words barely above a whisper, “I need this to be more than just… some tryst.”
“Haytham.” You gladly melted in his hold, a hold you had been longing for.
His fingertips smoothed across the skin along your back, down the bones of your spine. “Stay tonight. You can leave early morning, should you wish it. But tonight…” He tilted his head, the heat of his breath warming your cheek. “Stay with me.”
“There will be talk…” You smirked, leaning back until his arms were forced to loosen their hold. “The maids know by now what we were doing.”
Haytham watched you stiffly get to your feet, muscles still quivering from the night’s activities. “They wouldn’t dare. They’re frightened of me and even more frightened of you.”
You reached down and snatched up your clothes, glancing him over before turning to the door. “Upstairs, then. Shall I just pick a room? Perhaps throw open each door until I find one I like?”
He slouched down in his chair, gaze roving down from your wrinkled and tossed shirt to your swaying hips. “Should I count then? A game of hide and seek.”
“It’s only fair.” You settled your hands on the door, not worried in the least that a maid might see you. They likely scattered when they realized what the two of you had been doing. They wouldn’t risk seeing it with their own eyes. You pried open the office door and waited for him to start the count before hurrying off to the stairs, tossing an article of clothing just to spur on the chase.
You woke groggy, the sunlight sharp against your eyes and the harsh bite of stale beer in the air. You couldn’t quite remember what happened last night. The most you remembered was meeting up with a guy at some bar down by the docks…
You rolled slowly over onto your side, fingers slushing through the tangles that were knotted in your hair. You swept your eyes up across the room, taking in the unfamiliar space. A studio apartment, perhaps? It was a loft of some kind with a living room and kitchen. You were resting on a bed that had seen better days, a thin blanket tossed over you somewhat sloppily.
A few feet away from you, near the living room couch, someone was standing with their back to you. He was decorated with tattoos, each one flexing under the movements of his muscles as he tugged his shirt over his head. He tossed the article onto the recliner, fingers reaching up to shake the coarse strands of his blonde hair before patting the pillow on the couch.
He wasn’t your date, you think, but then again… You couldn’t quite remember who it was you were meeting with last night. You stiffly and rather painfully sat up, the muscles in your neck coiling and sweat chilling across your skin. You rolled your eyes closed, fingertips pressed into their swollen tenderness. Had you drunk too much? That didn’t sound like you at all...
“You alright there, love?”
You snapped your eyes open just as he was walking across the small space. You noted the accent, thinking perhaps it was familiar… Those blue eyes though, the way the corner of his mouth quirked… “You're that bartender?”
He kneeled down in front of you, sloppy grin and raised brows. “Edward. Owner, more the like, but aye, the bartender. You remember what happened last night?”
Your brows drew painfully together, a dizziness that still clung sharply to your senses. “Uh, I went out for drinks with a guy… A friend set us up…” Heat swelled behind your eyes as you tried to remember the shaky and staggering walk through the bar and towards the stairs. Yes, you hadn’t been feeling well so you tried to find the bathroom and then…
He seemed to scoff a bit, annoyed suddenly, “Yeah, well, some friend... ‘cause your date tried to roofie your drink, love.”
You sucked down a breath. “Roofie!”
His hand gripped your knee, squeezing it tenderly but his words were bordering on humor, “Roofie, slip a Mickey, lace, dose… otherwise drug you and leave you senseless.” He grinned, tugging at your knee until you looked at him. “But you’re fine, love. A little rattled, I see, but you’re alright now.”
You darted a glance down at your hands, finding them clutching each other, knuckles paling the longer you clenched them. You remembered a bit of it, the stumbling on the stairs, Edward gathering you in his arms and asking if you were alright. Your date rounded the corner, trying to play it off as if you had too much to drink… Edward must have known, must have somehow sensed it because he didn’t let you go with him.
The other man even so boldly shouted “she’s my date” as if you were somehow his to claim. He seemed offended that another was getting in his way.
Someone heard the commotion and approached the stairs. He didn't even look all that surprised when he took in the situation. “Something the matter, Kenway?”
His grip around you tightened, words hard pressed, “Afraid not, Adé. Seems someone tried to use drugs here in our bar. Why don’t you show this man what happens to scoundrels like that at the Jackdaw?” After that you must have collapsed, fainted even. You couldn’t remember much after that. All of it had been so hazy.
“Thanks,” you mumbled, peeking a glance up at him.
He chuckled, something far too lighthearted and sweet. “Anytime… although preferably, I’d rather it not happen again. Least of all not to the same girl.” He got to his feet, a hand motioning towards the pillow. “Rest a bit longer. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“No, I shouldn’t.” You glanced over towards the windows. The curtains were drawn but you could see the morning sunlight slipping in. You hadn’t been fully honest with Edward about your date. It hadn’t been a romantic sort of liaison. A friend had set it up, someone you knew from a previous job, in hopes of finding you new work.
You got up quickly, your hand rubbing across your arms as if you were trying to clean away the events. “I should get home. I need a shower and…”
Edward reached out. His arm barred you from moving further away but he wasn’t forceful, only enough to get your attention. “You were drugged. You want to get home. You want to get somewhere you can feel safe. I get that, I really do, love, but right now… I don’t think it wise to drive with that drug in your system. And… it might do you good to report the bastard to the police.” He huffed a breath of air, fingers rushing up to smooth out the creases forming on his forehead. “Well… actually, about that, he might have… had a hard time of it last night.”
You analyzed the way he pushed his lips off to the side, the way he dared a quick look at your expression. You weren’t even sure what yours was. You couldn’t feel much of anything and your face… everything felt so hollow and strange.
“A few of those who work here… they don’t take kindly to people that hurt our customers.” He rolled his eyes out across the room. “If you catch my drift?”
You stated it, no fear or concern just plain blunt curiosity, “Is he hurt?”
Edward raised a shoulder. “Yeah.”
Your lips thinned. You weren’t upset, perhaps sickened because it finally hit you that someone had tried to hurt you, truly and brutally hurt you. You’d been in danger before but this… the idea of being raped and killed without being able to stop it, having no control last night and that left you vulnerable… If it hadn’t been for Edward and Adé, you might have been a nameless corpse in the morgue.
You gave a nod. “Okay.” You tossed your gaze over your shoulder to the bed, a messy one with covers tossed every which way. “I’ll stay if that's alright.”
“My place isn’t much.” He was grinning again. You didn’t have to look to know, his words held it. “A real mess, really, but I hadn’t exactly thought a girl was coming up. Well, I mean, girls do come up here but they’re usually not the…”
You looked at him, the nervous way his hand was raised at you as if he were pointing you out. You raised a brow. “They’re usually not what...”
“Well, they’re usually not the decent sort who care about the mess.” He tilted his head, chin angling in just the right light that it made him look almost charming. And he was charming, sweet in a way, if not rough around the edges. The tattoos along his chest and arms demanded attention, the taut muscles even more, but you kept your eyes from wandering.
“Maybe I like the mess.” You failed to press your smirk away when you waltzed over to the bed. “I’m sure you’re tired. Worked at the bar all night, I take it?”
“At the bar, aye.” Edward gave a resound sigh, one that told he was more than ready to crash on the couch. “Adé usually handles the books and finances. James, on occasions, when he stops by.” You heard the couch creak under his weight, the groan that sounded from low in his throat.
You settled on the bed, curled up on your side and daring to sweep your gaze over towards couch. You couldn’t see Edward’s face, only the mussed strands of his hair, the deep tan of his skin. A sailor, you think, noting the anchor and the ship’s wheel. There may have been a ship on his chest but you were too nervous to really look at it.
You gathered enough courage to finally ask, “Do you have a ship?” But he didn’t reply. Your ears strained to listen to the soft hushed sounds of his breathing. You whispered curiously, “Edward?” And smiled when you realized he’d fallen into a hard sleep. After a long night and the strange event, he must have been truly exhausted.
You drew in your bottom lip, sinking teeth into it to keep from crying. How did your life get this way? How could you let yourself go down a path so dark that you ended up in some bar down by the docks and in the debt of a stranger? You’d pay him back somehow. Because if Edward had wanted to, he could have done horrible things last night. Instead he’d… rescued you.
Chapter 13: Altair Ibn-La'Ahad
You shoved a handful of chips into your mouth, eyes locked on the scene that was playing out across the television. The superhero was just stepping into the dark lair of the villain to rescue his closest and dearest best friend. Your hand dipped into the bag, reaching the smooth and greasy bottom to find that there was only a single chip left. You pulled out the broken half chip with miserable defeat, heart dramatically sinking.
You whispered, “Why cruel world?”
“No,” Altair stated, not even lifting his gaze away from the sleek black metal of his gun. He was sitting adjacent to you in a hard chair that looked like it belonged in some old aristocrat’s house. “That’s your second bag.”
“Hey. It’s not my fault half the bag was air.” You crumpled it up and tossed it at the coffee table. “Where are those candy bars?” You looked around the couch as if they’d be lying around somewhere.
Altair didn’t bother to make a reply. He was working on dismantling the weapon, the hard outer shell pulled away to reveal springs and other mechanical crap. He was always keeping those guns clean, lecturing about being prepared for whatever might happen on the next job.
“I swear we bought some candy bars...” You narrowed your eyes at him, watching how calmly he moved. But you knew Altair was a trained killer, a man who guarded his expression incredibly well. “We did buy some. Altair?”
He pulled his attention from oiling the springs, half aware of what you were even suggesting. He half heartedly retorted, “Check the kitchen.”
You sunk back against the couch and watched as the hero of the movie was leaping across fire and explosions. “Nah. I don’t feel like it. I bet you ate them anyway.”
“Watch your movie. We have to leave once it's over.”
“Where to this time?” you asked mildly, not at all expecting a proper answer. Rarely did he ever tell you the truth about his line of work or where the next job would be specifically. Half of the time, you weren’t even sure he was aware of it.
He began to assemble the gun again, sliding all the pieces back into place. “I am taking you home.”
You jolted, sucking down a breath of air. “What?” You shot a glance at him, doing a double take on his complacency. You scurried to grab the remote and pause the movie. You needed to be sure you heard him correctly. “What do you mean I’m going home?”
He set the weapon aside but his eyes still lingered on it.
“You told me I couldn’t go home. You told me the people you worked for said I was a liability.”
He stood up, so nonchalant about your anger that it fueled your irritation even more. “I lied.”
Your jaw clenched painfully, teeth gritting. “You… lied? That’s all you have to say? That you lied?” You slammed the remote onto the coffee table, demanding his attention but he was already crossing the room towards the window. “This whole time you’ve been lying to me?”
He pushed open the window before dropping down into the dining chair next to it, his hand fumbling around in his bag. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes and flicked the box open. You’d never seen him smoke before, in all the months you’d traveled with him. Then again, you couldn’t confess to knowing everything about him. He was secretive and stoic. And for all you knew there were times he went off on his own just to take a smoke break.
“Why?” You pressed all of your annoyance behind each word, “Tell me, Altair! Why would you lie to me?”
“That first night when you saw my face…” He pulled out one of the cigarettes and pressed it between his lips, tossing aside the rest of the box. “I planned on dropping you off in a few cities over. I could not risk you exposing me while I was so close to the murder scene.”
You didn’t realize how hard you were breathing, how rapid your breath was until your throat swelled. You heaved down a deep breath, your lungs expanding. “That was over four months ago.”
He leaned back in the chair, daring to finally look you in the eye. “I know.”
“This whole time I thought my friends and family were in danger. This whole time. And you just…” You threw your hands up then furiously combed back your hair. “I had bullets flying at my head!”
Altair pulled out the flip lighter, flame flickering as it seared the tip of the cig. “That is why I am taking you home.”
“Someone tried to kill me so now you’re taking me home? I’ve been sleeping in motels and the backseats of cars and, on rare occasions, decent hotel rooms. I’ve had to eat cheap diner food and chips for the past few months!” You grabbed the closest object, the phone book from the coffee table and fiercely threw it across the room at him.
He didn’t try to block it and you knew he could have. He let the book smack his shoulder while he pulled the cigarette from his lips. Puffs of gray smoke trailed between his lips, an emptiness in his eyes.
You growled, half screaming, “I haven’t talked to anyone I care about! They all probably think I’m dead! So I’m going to need a damn good reason why you think it was okay to lie to me.”
He spun the soft paper between his forefingers, setting his attention on it rather than you. “I lied for selfish reasons.” He flicked the ashes out the open window before sliding his gaze back to you.
You waited for him to say something substantial and when he didn’t you taunted, “What reasons?”
He drew his bottom lip into his mouth, sucking on it before letting it slide across his teeth. He spoke slowly, reluctantly, “I... did not wish to say goodbye.” He took a long drag of the cigarette then let the smoke wisp free. “It is safer. I see that now.”
Your anger twisted into a painful mixture of grief, your eyes batting back the hot tears that welled. You shook your head, clenching your eyes shut so that tears couldn’t spill but they were so large they leaked free. “I could have called home and told people I was alive… and instead you kept me like… a trophy?” You shoved fingers across your cheek, furiously swiping the tears clean.
“No,” he breathed it, “Not a trophy. You were…” He exhaled heavily. Altair crushed the cig into the top of the table. He got to his feet and ambled through the room along the wall, fingers brushing across the furniture he passed by. He needed time to gather his words, to seek them out. “It was easier to keep you with me than to tell you that you were free to go. I did not want you to leave.”
You bit your bottom lip. You spat it, the words quivering on your tongue, “Screw you.” You shoved off of the couch and marched to the bathroom. And although he could have stopped you, Altair let you go. He was close enough to grab your hand but he knew well enough that you needed to be away from him.
At least he understood that much, you groused.
You closed the door shut behind you and locked it. You snatched hold of the hotel towel and buried your face against its plush texture. You curled up into the wall, sobbing in hopes that the towel would muffle it. Every ounce of your hatred and sorrow spilled from your mouth, shuddered through your chest.
You were angry and upset. You had every right to be. But four months… that had not only been enough time for you to get to know Altair but it was enough time to start to care for him. And the best part of all, was that Altair got you out of your comfort zone. He put a confidence in you that wasn’t there before. He took you across the world for his odd jobs but always made sure you enjoyed at least one day in each city. You found the world less scary than it was months ago, despite having been put in an abnormal amount of danger. Altair had been good for you, in more ways than one.
You let the towel fall away when you thought the stress of the past few months had dissipated. You left the towel on the bathroom sink and opened the door. Altair was standing just outside, head hung low and hands reaching back against the sofa table he was leaning into. He began to speak, whether it was an apology you weren’t sure. You didn’t give him much time to speak or for your brain to process the few words he did mutter. You rushed at him, gathering his head into your hands and pressing your lips to his.
Altair responded quickly, lips parting and mouth widening, deepening the kiss with reckless need. His arms roughly snapped around your waist, turning until he had you pinned against the sofa table. He tilted his head in such a way that he pulled from the kiss only seconds before capturing your mouth again. His palms squeezed and gathered your hips to his until he could set you down on the table. He moaned when your thigh brushed upwards, legs wrapping around him.
You pressed your hands flat against his chest and pushed him away. His lips tugged free, swollen and glossy, breath panting past them. Your eyes nearly slipped closed again, still sated from the heady kiss. You breathily murmured, “You’re still an ass.”
He released a few heavy breaths, lips quivering in an attempt at a small smile. “I do not want to let you go…” His fingers slid up across your neck, caressing your skin as he stared longingly at your mouth, a desire for another quick kiss. “But you can not stay with me.”
You curled your fingers around the collar of his shirt, clutching hold of it as if you were clutching hold of him. “I could stay. I could… learn.”
He slipped a hand beneath your shirt, up along spine until you were arching into him. “I would rather you live without me than die traveling with me. I want to be selfish but I can not. Not anymore.” Altair hung his head low and stepped away, the loss of his heated body leaving you cold and shivering.
His hand reached out and careened across your knee, a meager shake of his head. “No.”
You leaned forward, your hands grasping at his arm so that he couldn’t move further away. “I can’t. I can’t just go home and… pretend this didn’t happen.”
He rolled his eyes to rest with yours, holding your gaze for as long as he could. “Do not forget then. Perhaps years from now…” He turned his head away, arm slipping from your fingers as he skulked back towards the window. “Perhaps then we could but right now it is too dangerous.”
You pushed your lips to the side, trying to keep from frowning. Because the edges kept tugging downwards as if they might tear themselves in half. You clenched your jaw and threw your head back, staring into the grains of the ceiling. “I won’t let you do this. I won’t.”
He pressed his shoulder into the window frame, looking out across the city as if it held all the answers to the problems you faced. He spoke blandly, a practiced tone, “You can not stop me from taking you home. You know that.”
You shoved off of the sofa table, squared your shoulders and kept your head high. You were determined, a determination that he had instilled in you. “I can stop you. Take me home. Fine. But, you taught me how to the contact the Order in case there was an emergency. I know your habits. I know all of your aliases. It might take me a while but I will track you down.”
He was silent for a moment and you just barely managed to make out his expression in the reflection of the glass. His eyes were emptying, a fear that was settling itself into place. He knew you were right. “If you do that… you would be opening yourself up to an attack by the Templars.”
“Then I suppose you'd have to find me before them.” You swallowed the tight lump in your throat. “Either way, I’d get what I want.”
His eyes slid over to peer at you, to take in the unwavering conviction. “Not if the Templars killed you first.”
Your voice softened, you weren’t any less determined but you could tell that he was slowly beginning to agree with you. “You wouldn’t let them.”
He took down a slow deep breath, filling his lungs before sighing in resignation. His eyes were locked on the window again, a confliction that distorted his expression.
You made your way across the hotel room, taking your time as you approached. “I could take care of myself… I just need to know how.”
Without taking his eyes off of the window he reached a hand out to you. He allowed you to take it, his fingers curled around your hand until he could hold it at his side. “You do not understand fully what you are asking of me. You are asking me to teach you how to take a person’s life.”
“No,” he breathed, jaw clenching tight, and you knew then there was no room for arguing.
Chapter 14: Edward Kenway
You rolled your bottom lip into your mouth, feeling the sharp heat and tasting the tartness of iron on your tongue. It seemed like ever since you stepped through the doors of The Jackdaw you were constantly in danger. In fact, arriving in Animus City had to have been your worst decision to date.
You woke up before Edward that morning, started to make breakfast when someone barged into the flat above the bar. They had you on your knees and Edward fighting for freedom within seconds. It hadn’t gone well, Edward having been taken by surprise and their numbers too much for you to handle.
You rolled your eyes up, catching sight of Edward as he sat slumped in his chair. He was tied up, hands behind his back and head bowed forward, the wavy blonde hair hiding his face from view. He was beat up far worse than you, refusing to go down without a fight. Whoever they were, whoever Edward was, they knew how to brawl.
But their greatest mistake was assuming you were just some fling, some girl who got caught in the crossfire. They hadn’t tied you up quite as well, the duct tape in fact rather loose around your wrists. And they hadn’t tied them behind your back which would make chewing the tape all the easier. Because they hadn’t paid you much attention, you knew they weren’t after you. They were after him for some reason.
Edward groaned, body jolting into consciousness. He sat up abruptly and gasped, eyes frantically searching the room until he found yours. “Lass? You alright? Did they hurt you?”
You tossed a shoulder before sweeping your vision out to the dark and empty warehouse. “Well… I mean… We were just kidnapped so…”
He struggled against the bindings, the rope around his chest and the tape around his wrists. “You never--” He growled as he shifted forward. “--should have gotten caught up in this.”
You raised a brow at him, voice lowering when you heard a door creak open, “Mind telling me what ‘this’ is exactly?”
Edward must have heard the same noise, falling back in the chair sloppily. “I’ll get us out of here. Just… let me do the talking, alright, love?”
You weren’t going to argue with him. Especially not when someone stepped into view, the dim light in the warehouse making it impossible to see his features. He rounded the back of your chair, his hands falling onto your shoulders. “Edward Kenway… Where’s our shipment?”
“Shipment?” He huffed and tried to sit a bit straighter. “Well, I can’t exactly tell you where it is if I’m tied up now can I?”
“I know your people took it.” His fingers curled into your muscles, causing you to wince in pain. “Word is that you’ve started working with the Rooks. So… that means you're working with the Frye twins now.”
Edward’s eyes rested on yours, a silent plea with himself that you’d make it out alive. But you knew the Rooks, or at least, knew of them. They were a street gang and they were led by Jacob and Evie. So if Edward knew them, worked with them, then he was just as much a criminal. And for him to work with such a noteworthy and notorious gang, it meant Edward was in more trouble than you first imagined.
You didn’t exactly have a clean record either but you rarely ever crossed the paths of the bigger fish. At least, you tried not to. And here was Edward, just some bartender you met last night, someone who saved you… You were going to have to get him out of the situation.
“Give us the twins.” His hands on your shoulder moved to your neck, squeezing just enough to make you gasp. “And we’ll let you both walk out of here unscathed.”
Edward’s jaw clenched, lips pulled taut into a hard grimace. “Let her go. She knows nothing about this.”
His grasp tightened, testing the softness of your throat before letting go. “You have thirty minutes. Then… then I return with my tools and start carving her to bits.” His boots pounded against the concrete, their stomps echoing throughout the large room until he was outside.
“Listen to me, lass--” Edward’s words cut short when he saw you slip downwards out of the rope tied loosely around your torso and the chair.
“Give me ten seconds to get this tape off.” You twisted up onto your feet. And just as you had done countless times before, you brought your hands up above your head. Duct tape was the most used tool among criminals, easy to get a hold of but it was also easiest to break. You brought your wrists down, elbows thrown out and let the tape rip.
“This… isn’t your first time, is it?” Edward’s chin raised a bit, eyeing you suddenly with skepticism. “Mind telling me who you are, love?”
You peeled off the tape and tossed it down, rounding his chair to rid him of his restraints. “I’d ask you the same thing.” You ripped the tape and pried it off his wrists then unknotted the rope, eyes darting towards the door just in case they returned earlier than planned.
“Out of here first.” He hurried out of the ropes and worked the tape off his ankles. “Then you and I can get to know each other better.”
You huffed, marching towards a door on the opposite side of the room. “You’re working with the Fryes. I don’t want to get anywhere near their radar.”
He hurried to your side, arm barring your way through the door. “What were you really doing at The Jackdaw?”
You looked over his expression, noting the sternness and yet the underlying concern. He was more concerned for you than himself. You stepped forward, peeking out into the hallway before continuing on. “A friend was going to set me up with some work… I’m really good behind the wheel.”
“Is that so?” He tossed his head knowing exactly what you were hinting at. “And what sort of work were you looking for?”
You pressed your lips thin. “You know what kind.”
“I do, aye…” He took lead, each step that he took was as silent and planned as the next. He was used to hiding, used to skulking through places unseen. He reached the end of the hall, peering around the corner to make sure the next room was clear. “Good ‘cause we’re gonna need your skills to get far from here.”
“We’re going to need a vehicle first.” You followed him into the next room but the time for patience was closing. You could hear scuffing back down the hallway, shouts when they realized their prisoners were gone. “Quickly, please. I’d like to keep my fingers.”
He looked back at you and then towards the hall. He snapped hold of your hand, pulling you forward into the room just as the gunshots resounded. You rushed forward and the two of you raced through the room towards another door, leaping through it before even considering what was on the other side. You skidded to a halt, eyes widening as you took in the tables cluttered with guns. Edward didn’t seem to mind. He snatched them up like he was just shopping for that week’s groceries.
“Who are these guys?” You didn't have much time to take in the rows of assault rifles, not while Edward was hauling forward with you in tow.
“Less talk, love.” His grip around your hand tightened, the sounds of gunfire and boots stampeding increasing his will to survive. He ducked down and you followed suit in hopes the tables would block most of the bullets. But it seemed like it only slowed the two of you down, your heart leaping up into your throat even when you dodged out of the room and into another hall.
Thankfully the exit was just in reach, Edward shoving you out of it before him. You scurried ahead and turned the building’s corner, finding a few vehicles to choose from. You tugged door handles until your rapid desperation threw one open. You leapt into the driver’s seat, your eyes darting up long enough to see Edward open the passenger door and hunker down behind it.
You reached into your boot and pulled out the multi-tool, another sign that they hadn’t expected you to be much of a problem. You popped off the ignition slot moments before gunfire assaulted the air. Edward returned fire, the passenger door making a decent shield. You stripped a few wires, sparking the engine into life, then slumped down in the drivers seat.
“You weren't jesting, were you, love?” Edward quickly slid down into his own seat, slamming the door shut and taking aim out the shattered window.
You rolled your attention from him to the gathering of gunmen. “Just keep us covered long enough to get out of here.” Your foot slammed the pedal, the car jerking forward like a startled horse. Its wheels could barely handle the sudden friction, the car taking a moment to race through the parking lot and towards the road.
Edward knew just when to fire and for the right amount of time. He took out a few of the men, those who had been too brave and stood out in the open. But he gladly tossed the gun into the backseat when the vehicle’s tires sped along the smooth asphalt of the street.
He sat up a bit straighter, eyes darting to the side mirror. “We can’t go back to The Jackdaw. That’ll be the first place they look for us.”
You huffed, a slight laugh behind it. “I’m not staying anywhere near this city. I’m getting myself a new identity and skipping to at least six towns over.” You gave a groan when you saw the gathering of cars behind you. “After we lose these idiots.”
His eyes jolted to the mirror again, fingers rushing up to smooth the wrinkles along his forehead. “How good of a wheelman are you, love?”
“Pretty damn good. Ten bucks says I lose them in three turns.” You jerked the wheel, the back of the car skidding outwards but still fully in control.
Edward peered over at you, corner of his mouth pulling into a smirk. “I think I can handle that wager.”
You cocked your head, making a sharp right turn down the street just as the light changed red. There wasn't much traffic but it was enough to keep your pursuers at bay. One more turn and your target came into view.
“Cities. They have thousands of cars and hundreds of parking garages.” You peeled into the dim light of the garage, following the ramp up to the second level then pulled in between two large vans.
Edward turned around in his seat, eyes surveying the concrete structure but with how dim it was… It wouldn't have mattered much. “We should ditch this. Find a taxi, maybe.”
“This is where we part ways.” You pushed open the driver door but his fingers curled around your elbow.
“I could use your skills, lass.” His grip was loose, not a demand, a request. “You could use the work.”
“I could also use my life,” you jeered, gently pulling your elbow from him. “Whoever is after you is now after me.”
He leaned onto the console between the seats. “They are, aye, and I have people who can make sure they back down.” He licked his lips, knowing full well your eyes would linger there. “Those men back there… they’re private contractors for a company called Abstergo. I’ve got contacts. They’ll keep them off our back. But if you leave the city… Can’t help you much.”
You breathed deep then released a slow sigh. “Alright. So what’s this job?”
“I’ve just the crew.” He grinned, cheeky and cocky like he'd won some grand prize. “Let's grab that taxi then, shall we?”
Chapter 15: Altair Ibn-La’Ahad
Altair took you to the airport without barely saying a word. It was a silent and tense drive to start with but you had hoped at least he would apologize or confess his feelings. You tried countless times to reason with him. After all, everyone already thought you were dead. What would be the point in going back now?
“No.” Altair pulled the car over at the appropriate terminal. “It's too dangerous.” He stepped out of the vehicle and sauntered around to the trunk.
You followed after, hoping you'd have the courage to say more but he was so damn cold. It wasn't the same nonchalance as when you first met the man or the mild apathy during your time together. This was a whole new callousness.
Altair handed over your bags and then an envelope. “When you land, there’s enough money to get you a taxi home. Remember what I taught you about watching your back.” He stepped back and started to walk away.
“Altair.” You stumbled to find something to say, anything to delay the inevitable. Your mouth turned sour. You suddenly felt shaky and feverish, a sickness washing over your skin.
He didn’t wait for you to find the words. He was already in the driver's seat, slamming the door shut in a loud thud. You watched in stunned silence as his car joined the rest of the bustling traffic, another vehicle filling in where he had parked. But you just couldn’t move from your spot.
You couldn’t believe it. Four months… you’d spent four months with him and he couldn’t even so much as give you a proper goodbye. Your heart ached, wishing he had at least kissed you goodbye. Had that kiss back in the hotel room been just a dream, a fluke.
You strangled your bag’s strap, squeezing it tight to keep your mind focused on anything but the dull ache in your chest. He didn’t say goodbye because this wasn't goodbye, you told yourself. That had to be the real reason.
But your long walk through the airport, being jostled through security and nonchalantly having to find your gate… the more real it became that Altair wasn’t coming back. He wasn’t chasing after you like some scene in a movie. This was reality. Although a very twisted reality where you lived and fell in love with a hitman…
You sat down in the hard chair, eyes staring blankly at your gate number. You weren’t even sure what you would tell people. They must have thought you were dead and held a funeral and… Your eyes started watering. You rolled them irritably at the ceiling. It was way too embarrassing to cry out in public in an airport.
Someone sat down next to you and held out a piece of paper. You thought it was a tissue at first, fluttering your bleary eyes until you saw the airplane ticket. His words were cold and flat, “You have a choice.” He kept his eyes locked straight ahead, barely acknowledging you. “You can keep the ticket in your hand and go home. You can forget about these past few months and pretend the world is a happy and safe place.”
You glanced him and found the small insignia hidden carefully on his attire. His eyes finally slid over to you but there was an emptiness in them that strangled the words in your throat. You couldn’t possibly speak.
“Or you can take this ticket… and join the order.”
Your attention swept back to the ticket he offered and then the ticket Altair had given you earlier. “Altair--”
“Altair has already revealed a great deal about his profession and our organization. We are curious as to whether or not you sympathize with our cause.” The corner of his mouth twitched into a minor smirk. “There are many jobs that need to be filled and we are willing to offer such a job to you.” He held the ticket closer this time. “If you are willing to join our fight.”
You cautiously reached out towards the paper in his grasp but he pulled it ever so slightly away.
“I must warn you of the true dangers that would lie ahead should you follow me. Your life, your very existence, will be a shadow in history. No one will know who you are. Your identity will be forgotten. You will be dead to this world save to those who will either wish to kill you or aide you in the fight.”
“I understand.” Your fingers pulled the ticket from him and he rolled gracefully up onto his feet.
“Good. Come with me then. We’ve a lot to discuss.”
“Does Altair know about this?”
The man scoffed, lips pulling into a wide smile. “Not yet. We’ll tell him when we’re ready to share that information. For now, you are an initiate. You are a novice in training and that is all you need to concern yourself with.”
You hurried onto your feet and grabbed your luggage. You followed after him through the winding crowd but it almost seemed like everyone stepped out of his way. It was as if the whole airport knew there was a killer among them.
He never once glanced over his shoulder at you. Not even when you weakly asked him, “Where are we going?”
He stepped before the new gate number just as they were beginning to board. “Masyaf.” He finally looked at her, the blood stilling in her veins. “You will begin your training there with me as your mentor.”
“What… sort of training?”
He didn’t reply. He only continued towards the gate, offering his ticket without an ounce of hesitation. You knew it was going to be a long, awkward flight.
Masyaf was a stark contrast to your last venture. It was hot and arid, your throat scratching against itself. Sand gritted between your teeth and you swore their were dunes forming inside of your lung. You were just barely able to keep the wind off your face. And training in the scorching sun was unbearable. You were beginning to regret your choice of not returning home.
But there was also the brighter side to things. You spent most of your time in the library doing research and learning how to use technology as a weapon. You were learning more about computes than your high school class ever prepared you for. Your mentor was also very adamant that you learn about the Order’s history, handing over books that were half your size.
You were pacing the upper floor, reading the scribbled handwriting of some dead archivist as your mentor worked with another recruit down below. You felt as if the book would never end. It talked endlessly about an ancient relic and the magic it held. It was hard to determine what was true and what was distorted by history’s lack of understanding.
Coding and hacking was more fun, more exhilarating. Setting up cameras and using satellites for infiltration was nearly addicting. You couldn't wait for the first mission. But the way your mentor spoke, it was a long way away before that ever happened.
You rolled your eyes about the ceiling and gave a heavy sigh. The wall of windows allowed the room to be speckled in a rainbow of hues and just enough sunlight to warm your skin. For all its harshness, Masyaf was a beautiful home. It was a massive castle among a small, quiet little town. You took down a deep breath and swept your gaze across the other studying scholars.
A loud thunderous slam reverberated through the massive main hall, echoes reverberating across stone walls. You held your breath as you looked over the balcony to the scene below. His voice was animalistic, nearly growling as he stormed forward, “Where is she!” He snapped hold of your mentor’s shirt and threw him back into the closest bookshelf. “You had no right! If she has one bruise, one scar, I will end you!”
Your eyes widened the moment you realized who it was.
Your mentor swept his gaze to you and nudged his chin. “She is alive… see for yourself.”
Altair shoved him away and searched frantically about the space. The moment his eyes caught sight of you above, he was racing towards the staircase. Your heart was hammering inside of your chest. Heat bloomed across your face as you feared what his reaction might be. He was so furious, so livid. How could you face him? You had gone against his wishes and somehow you would have to explain why.
He rounded the corner, a rigid and angry march towards you. His hands were balled tightly into fists and his brows were flat across his eyes.
“Altair,” you whispered, breath knotting itself inside your lungs. You flinched when he knocked the book out of your hands.
His hands roughly grabbed you and pulled you forward into a strangling hold, his grip around you tightening. His chest was heaving, hot breath billowing across the nape of your neck. Altair released his hold on you only long enough to grab your jaw and press his lips bruisingly hard into your own. His fingers moved to squeeze your lower back as he stepped froward, shoving you backwards into the bannister. He pinned you there with unrelenting hunger and ferocity.
Altair pulled away just enough to glare into your eyes. “I told you to return home. I told you it was too dangerous.”
Your eyes fluttered and your vision caught sight of the stunned, onlooking initiates in the room. Your blush deepened and your body burned hotly. They were starting to whisper to each other, the room filling with their hushed surprise.
You muttered under your breath, “I'm sorry… I couldn’t go home. Not after everything I've learned.”
He gritted his teeth. He huffed irritably and rolled his head away. Altair threw his hands up into the dark tufts of his hair. “You make me crazy. I feel as if I'm going insane.” Then his stare returned, brows furrowing. He stepped forward and placed his hands on the bannister, locking you in place. “From now on, I'm in charge of your training. If you're going to be one of us, then you're going to learn it properly.”
Your mentor casually approached, arms folded neatly across his chest. “I am her mentor, Altair. You can not come here and bark orders like a rabid dog.”
He stood tall and turned his fury to the man. “Do not test my patience. You knew damn well what my decision was on her involvement in the Order.”
“And the council decided otherwise. I was merely following their command.”
He snatched hold of your hand and pulled you forward. “Now you will follow my command. She is mine to train. Do not come near her.” Altair stalked through the upper floor past your smirking mentor and down the stone steps.
“Altair, please don't be angry.” You struggled to keep pace with his mindless rage. “My job mostly consists of sitting behind a computer.”
He stopped suddenly and spun on his heel. “Do you think Abstergo will hesitate putting a bullet in your head because you were sitting at a desk?” His hand loosened its grip, an attempt at being tender. “Your identity will be erased. Your birth certificate, your death certificate, your name, your drivers license… everything will be removed from the system. You'll be a ghost. And when you die, there won't be a name on your gravestone.” His voice suddenly grew quiet, “That's what you just signed up for.”
“Abstergo is killing people… they're committing horrible illegal acts and no one is stopping them.” You shrugged your shoulders. “I've learned too much to walk away with a clean conscience. If it’s too dangerous, why are you still part of the order?”
His anger seemed to melt, shoulders relaxing and lips parting. “We’ll train in the morning. It won't be easy. I won't go easy on you. If you are to survive then you must be prepared for every ordeal.”
You nodded. “I understand.”
“Right now…” He sighed in resignation and began to lead the way through Masyaf’s massive citadel. “Food and rest.”