squirrellysemantics: (drake)
[personal profile] squirrellysemantics
Title: Mudita  part 7
Rating NC17 this chapter for some smuttiness
Warnings for slash and polyamory between three dudes. I have my kinks. This story is a convoluted excuse to indulge in them
Series: Uncharted, Assassin's Creed 2. Spoilers for neither
Characters: Nathan Drake, Shaun Hastings, Desmond Miles
Uncharted is owned by Naughty Dog, AC is owned by Ubisoft. I own nothing.

Previous chapters Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6



I'm slow and impatient which is a terrible combination.

The quote Nate uses is from Mother Shipton's prophecies. Feedback is always appreciated. See something you like? Let me know. See something that I did wrong (much more likely)? Let me know that too.

-----------------

San Francesco Maggiore.

Shaun had been away long enough that he wondered if the stack of notes in front of him had grown eyes, just to quietly mock him.

One last precious hint they’d gotten at Windsor was left; a nearly illegible scribble on a half frayed bit of paper.

The key.

That was what Desmond had called it before he’d become twelve and some odd stone of incubus.

But what kind of key?

It was a simple question- one of many that had forced Shaun out of a warm bed at an obscene hour to work out the answers. So here he sat, camped out at a cramped desk in his boxers with nothing but his brain and his computer for company.

So. Not too far off from a typical Friday night, then.

Well.

Except for the bit about the world being engulfed in flames if he couldn’t work out the truth. He’d managed to brute through the newest of the translations and there had been one overwhelming theme.

A warning to generations not yet born .

An end to everything.


Blah, blah, blah. Thanks for nothing, Leonardo. Another night of sleep lost because some Italian genius decided he couldn’t simply cut to the bloody chase.

Arching a bit to ease the kink from his back, Shaun made the chair under him creak out an absurdly piercing squeal.

He shot a mortified glance at the bed he’d abandoned and the two men it held. They lay sprawled atop each other, both still blissfully asleep.

Bastards. Long, lean limbs were so entangled that they began to blend together. Discarded clothes and blankets had been kicked to the floor but Desmond had readily offered himself as a replacement. This bothered Nate not at all, his arm curled possessively at the other’s waist to avoid any confusion on the matter.

Good god, had they really managed to get all three of them to fit-

Echoes of the night before hit him unawares.

Mix of sweat.

A gasp for air and a satisfied sigh.

Teeth rattling thrust …. and his chair was squealing underneath him again.

Enough, you twat. There’s still work to be done.

San Francesco Maggiore.

The confraternity in Milan that had commissioned Da Vinci’s ‘Virgin on the Rocks’.

At least one of them, anyway. Possibly both.

It had always been a mystery why someone as utterly dreadful at finishing anything would choose to produce two works that were nearly identical. Mired in a legal fight, Da Vinci finally received payment for his labours a full twenty three years after the project began.

Both were masterpieces, but finding a link between them and the data they had already made Shaun want to gouge a hole in his sternum. Everything else they’d found had been contained in Da Vinci’s anatomical studies. There’d been not one single reference to any of his paintings until these three little words.

He pulled up the two images with a sigh, pouring over them once more.

Hmm. A tiny advert caught his eye.

An exhibit at the National Gallery featured the paintings. One of them on loan from the Louvre, in town to temporarily sit alongside its sister in residence.

Of all the fucking… luck.

Trafalgar Square was minutes away. Easy enough to pop round, let Desmond have a quick look at the two in person. Always the chance for a brief snog to counter the bleeding effect and they’d be set, right?

Pragmatism took this nascent hope by the neck and smashed in its face. Poor thing might have stood a chance if not for the fact that the combined whole of their actual luck on this little escapade to date had amounted to a bin full of rancid donkey anuses.

One elbow ended up on the desk to prop up his sudden weariness, the other blindly tracing the scattering of bruises that had come up on his thigh overnight. The fact that he couldn’t remember at what point he’d acquired them had him grinning like an idiot.

A startled snort broke the silence.

Hair jutting out in a most spectacular fashion, the maker of that snort was completely befuddled as Nate blindly swept the only empty part of the bed. “Wherssshego?”

Shaun blinked back uselessly. An overwhelming urge came to answer the incomprehensible question, to justify himself, even though it wasn’t at all expected. “I… I have to…There’s this-“

“Have you been there all night?” Desmond managed to crack open one sleepy eye with the rest of his face burrowed into the man beneath him. “Why don't you come back to bed?"

Shaun was grateful that some questions were easier to answer than others.

------------------------------

There should be leash laws for children.

Shaun dodged yet another teenager with their face too buried in their mobile to watch where they were going.

Perhaps when all this Armageddon business blew over, he could start a sort of kennel for the little darlings at the entrance of museums. Retire early with that.

The Gallery was packed. Another fool child drifted past the works of masters without regard, like the walls held nothing but tacky wallpaper. Bored schoolchildren stuck together like hairs circling a drain, chatting amongst themselves rather than taking in the long line of wonders around them.

Their willful ignorance was a painful thing. There was a reason he’d chosen to teach at university. Students at that level were old enough to not fling their own feces.

Most of the time.

The two paintings they’d come to see hung side by side, surrounded by throngs of little beasts and their weary teachers trying to engage them.

Desmond kept his distance, the whole of him tightly wound. “So… what I'm looking for?” he whispered. "The last set of clues Leonardo hid in his paintings were kinda meant for somebody else."

“I know it doesn't fit,” Shaun admitted softly. “But these are the only big works that tie Da Vinci to San Francesco Maggiore. We have to be sure.”

Nate stroked at the scruff on his chin, lost in thought. “It’s worth checking. The differences between the two paintings have always been a source of speculation.”

He stepped forward with a gesture, oblivious to the sea of giggling teen girls and more than a few boys that parted before him. “The biggest difference was the angel. The Louvre version has a pointing hand. The Gallery version doesn’t.”

“The missing hand of the angel Gabriel,” Shaun added, glad to hear his suspicions out of someone else’s mouth. “God’s messenger, whose horn will signal the end of time.”

Nate had his eyes half closed as he pulled something from his memory. “For storms will rage and oceans roar, when Gabriel stands on sea and shore, and as he blows his wondrous horn, old worlds die and new be born.”

“Precisely,” was Shaun’s tightlipped confirmation. Some prophecies did come true.

There was sense to it, but nerves knotted up the muscles at the base of his skull with a firm sense of wrong.

Desmond nodded, jaw working thoughtfully. “Sounds good to me.” Noticing their young audience brought a faint flush of color to his cheeks. “And uh… if I need… help, can we get somewhere a little more private?”

Shaun blushed along with him. “Of course, now you’re worried about privacy!”

“No problem!” A leer came to Nate as he talked over the Englishman. “We’ll take care of it.”

A long, slow breath escaped Desmond. “Here we go.”

To the casual observer, it looked like Desmond stood admiring the two Da Vinci paintings with his eyes half shuttered. Any shine coming from him could have been blamed as a trick of the light, reflections from the Plexiglas that shielded each piece or all sorts of nonsense.

It still took Shaun’s breath away.

Not just the concept of another sense. That idea brought with it a burning curiosity. To know there were things that would always remain unseen to him, held only in his imagination.

It was the beauty of it that did it.

The glow. The light. All of it framed by Desmond’s handsome face.

Though now that face was furrowed in confusion.

Desmond stepped as close to the paintings as was permitted. There was a fit of teenage sighs as he elongated himself to his full height, scanning both pieces with growing frustration.

“There’s nothing,” he said, full of incredulity. “There’s nothing here.”

“You sure?” Shaun asked automatically, stomach sinking.

“Yeah.” Desmond turned to the two, disappointment all too obvious. “No writing, no clues, no nothing.” He rubbed at one tired eye in frustration. “What do we do now?”

Shaun had no answer.

“How about this?” Nate began congenially enough. “You take another couple of minutes to look around. See if anything else pops up.” He threw an arm across Desmond’s shoulder and that magical leer returned. “Then we find a new hotel for the night so we can...”

The color drained from his face. “Fuck!”

Desmond was instantly on edge. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Go!” came the harsh whisper from Nate. “Just go!”

“What are you-“ Shaun found himself being shoved bodily around the nearest corner. “Have you lost your tiny little mind?”

Nate didn’t speak, hauling Desmond along with him until the three were safely out of sight. The man crept to the corner’s edge, sneaking a look past it as if an entire invading army had appeared just round it.

“Are you going to tell us what this is all about?” Shaun hissed. “Or have you finally taken one too many blows to the – oh my god!”

Desmond tried to crane his neck past the two gawkers and saw nothing beyond a wall of schoolchildren and a tiny, old woman heading right towards them. “Will somebody tell me what the fuck is going on?”

"She's still alive?” Nate demanded over his shoulder. “How is that even possible?”

“You know how it is,” Shaun answered softly, heart hammering in his chest as flight or fight kicked in. “Drinking the blood of innocents tends to keep one young.”

Desmond spoke at normal volume, any pretense at hiding dismissed. “Wait. You mean to tell me you two are scared of that little old lady?”

Twin shushes came out in desperation but the woman breezed past them unawares, her prim and proper shoes reverberating off of high ceilings. Silver hair was pulled back in a severe bun that added a few inches to her miniscule height. She could have walked out of the chapters of an old Dorothy L. Sayers novel dressed in her modest, outdated tweed that showed not an inch of skin.

What she also had was two full grown men cowering out of sight until she disappeared through a door marked ‘Library-Employees Only’.

“A librarian?” Desmond did nothing to hide his contempt. “You have got to be shitting me.”

“It's not like that!” Nate’s pleading earned him no sympathy. “This woman is not human!”

“He’s right,” Shaun tried but Desmond was having none of it. “Professor Carlisle was the bane of our existence at university. I’m surprised no one’s dropped a house on top of her yet.”

“Why the hell is she here?” Nate finally came out from hiding. “There’s got to be plenty of young dreams left for her to crush back at school.”

Shoulders sagging, Shaun let out a puff of air. “There was an email about her retiring, but this place is perfect for an art historian like her. The Gallery’s archived centuries’ worth of material related to its holding.” The adrenaline finally ebbed, giving him a moment of clarity. “They might even have some of the paperwork on-“

Oh.

Oh no.

How could he have been so stupid?

There was a ping and a disembodied voice reminded all in attendance that the museum was to close in fifteen minutes.

“Time for a strategic retreat,” he finished, tight lipped.

--------------------

“So that’s it?” Desmond demanded, pacing their new hotel room like a caged beast. “We just give up?”

Nate was precariously perched in a chair at Shaun’s side. “No, no. I think Shaun’s got something.”

A noncommittal grunt from Shaun, who had eyes only for his computer.

Inching the chair forward, Nate got impossibly close, enough to catch a fragment of what the Englishman was reading from over his shoulder. “The San Francesco Maggiore collection,” he read aloud. “I thought there weren’t any other paintings of note associated with those priests.”

“Paintings: no,” Shaun answered, long fingers hesitating for just a moment before he kept typing. “Documents: yes. We go back to the Gallery tomorrow.”

“No! No way!” Chair wobbling in his haste, Nate brushed against Shaun’s cheek as he backed away. “You want us to walk right back into the dragon’s den?”

Shaun turned on his full glare. “Yes, that is exactly what we’re doing! There are legal documents, letters… maybe some sketches from Da Vinci’s fight with the confraternity that aren’t usually made public. Pages just like the notebooks. We’re going!”

Nate let out a laugh that was pure derision. “Carlisle tried to get us expelled! If you think she’s going to let us anywhere near that stuff, you’re crazy-“

“We have to try!” Shaun snapped. “After a good night’s rest. She might help us if we didn’t look like something the cat’s dragged in!” He rubbed idly at the burn across his face from Nate’s abrasive scruff. “And maybe, just maybe, you could trick her into thinking you’re gone respectable if your jawline didn’t look like a hedgehog’s backside!”

“Really?” Nate shot back, temper flaring out. “I guess you’d know! You are an expert at being a little prick!”

A big hand landed on each of their shoulders. “Enough,” Desmond offered softly. “We’ve got plenty of people gunning for us already that we shouldn’t be going after each other. Tomorrow we can get all prettied up for your big, bad librarian.”

They were unhurried as they prepared for bed. No call for anything physical, the urge to just sleep became more and more pressing. Easing alongside each other, Shaun leaned into Nate’s shoulder. “Sorry, mate.”

“No, you were right,” Nate sighed. "We have to go back," he added along with a chaste kiss to the forehead. “I bet Carlisle demands a kidney before she lets us in.”

A sharp burst of laughter came from Shaun before he could stop it. “Well, you do have one to spare…” and their tension drained away.

Until one very tall and very naked man appeared at the foot of their bed.

There was a small ‘woop!’ from Desmond as he threw himself atop the pile, much to the bed’s dismay though not to anyone else’s.

“This is more like it,” he murmured, pulling the others close.

-------------------------

Hot water was a beautiful thing.

Nate ducked under the shower’s head, too tall for this new place’s runt of a bathroom. Tiny needles massaged his skin and it was exactly what he needed after the best night of sleep he'd had in a long while. He’d lingered in bed, letting the others clean up first just… for… this.

Tension began to unknot and he rolled his shoulders, getting lost in luxuriant heat. Just a few more minutes. Getting rid of his stubble could wait.

The rush of a tap let him know that he was no longer alone. Been in there long enough they’d probably thought he’d drowned. He spun the tap closed with a sigh.

Billowing clouds of steam accompanied him as he exited carefully, snagging a towel to settle it around his hips. “Sorry I took so long, I really needed…need…”

Need that.

Desmond had his back turned, fully engrossed in what he could see within a mirror the size of a postage stamp. And what a beautiful back it was. Muscles moving together with not an ounce of body fat to spare. Son of a bitch even had that little crease over each hipbone that always begged to be licked.

And it would be Nate doing the licking, if he played his cards right.

The passatore blade was in Desmon’s hand and he dragged it across his soapy cheek with practiced ease. Its sharp edge left his face smooth and edibly clean. A quick rinse under the tap and Desmond bobbed and weaved before the mirror in a little dance, searching for stray spots that still needed tending.

This seemed like a golden opportunity.

If there was one thing Nathan Drake knew, it was to not let a golden opportunity pass him by.

So there he was, molding himself against that fine, fine opportunity, landing a kiss high up on the nape of Desmond’s neck.

“Hello to you, too.” Desmond smiled around his words, keeping the blade a safe distance from them both.

“Mmph,” was Nate’s answer, mouth much too busy to do much more than that.

Shaun blearily stumbled in, brushing his teeth on autopilot but that changed.

There was a violent fit of coughing at the sight of them and Shaun fought to avoid becoming the first ever death-by-toothpaste.

"We're supposed to be getting ready to go!" he gurgled in weak protest.

"This is me." Nate gave a contented smile, idly stroking Desmond's thigh. "Getting ready to go."

With a shake of the head, Desmond finished his shave, cleaning the tiniest bit of foam from just beneath his nose.

"When did you learn to use a straight razor?" Shaun asked, suddenly on guard.

Desmond blinked at the blade in his hand. "I don't know."

"Is this one of those bleeding effect things?" Nate asked with a cautious half smile. "'Cause I think we figured out how to fix those."

A glint of pure evil appeared in Desmond's eye. "We did, didn't we?"

He turned within Nate's grasp, blade at the ready.

"Whoa whoa whoa!" Nate began to backpedal, bumping into Shaun on his way. "I was just kidding... sorta-"

The armed man padded forward noiselessly, herding the two before him.

"Desmond!" Shaun called with growing panic. "Desmond, what are you-"

"This is me." The smile that crossed Desmond's face was a wicked, wicked thing. "Getting us ready to go. Have a seat."

This last was directed at Shaun, who took to the postmodern steel hotel chair with a burning curiosity.

Nate got his towel yanked away, followed by a pointed finger to the chest. There was an easy shove that dropped him in Shaun's lap.

"Keep him quiet, willya?" Desmond parroted, sounding awfully familiar as he tossed his new towel over one shoulder.

Where the hell the naked man was hiding a bar of soap was a mystery but one investigation that would have to wait as Desmond used his hands to bring it to a rich lather.

Soft groans drifted from the seated men as Desmond joined them, facing them in a straddle. Taking his time, he began to fully massage the sudsing wetness into Nate's rough cheek.

It was achingly intimate, this feel of another person tending to him with such care.

Aching in more ways than one.

"I like this plan," Nate babbled, squirming like an oversized toddler and Shaun minded not at all. "This is a very good plan you have, just so you kn-"

Desmond's liberal application of tongue in his mouth shut him up pretty quickly. Dazed from the kiss, Nate only peripherally heard the offered instructions.

"Keep him still. That’s going to be kind of important."

The request threw Nate for a loop. Was he talking toShaun? Not to be a dick, but asking the guy who wouldn't hurt a fly at school to keep Nate st- holy fuck Shaun latched on to him. Arms slipped underneath his own, a hand pressed to the back of his neck in some weird half-nelson except there were probably not that many wrestlers that would opt to include so much licking and biting.

When the hell had Shaun learned any of this shit and why hadn’t Nate been invited?

Sensory overload at one’s wandering mouth and the other’s gentle touch, and Nate had never been harder in his life.

But Desmond proved that wrong, using thumb and forefinger to take Nate by the chin, making him the object of golden eyed scrutiny.

Mother of-

The first pass of the blade caught him by surprise, forcing a breathless shiver through Nate that shook him to his toes.

"Steady on."

The warning from Shaun sounded totally reasonable to Nate but the accompanying fingers yanking his head back by the base of his scalp were anything but. Shaun’s mouth on him had him twitching in all the right places.

Desmond looked thoroughly pleased with this development, wiping the blade clean before reaching for Nate again.

How? How could this daily chore- a daily god damned nuisance!- turn into-

Oh god.

Another pass of the blade and Nate let out all sorts of embarrassing noises.

Jesus fuck.

There were fingers close to his mouth and Nate was too far gone to know who they belonged to but he caught them, suckling on them in the hopes of some kind of respite.

Nowhere near enough.

Move. Good god he wanted to move. The others had to feel the same, their own arousal pressed against him from either side. He rocked between them, taking what he could.

It seemed like an eternity until Desmond was satisfied, hand passing over his work once complete. "Nice."

Shaun eased his grip ever so slightly and this was just one more golden opportunity. One hand digging into the bare ass in his lap, the other pulling against the chair, he began to writhe.

And not just a little.

Hips snapping, he ground his ass down, letting out his own nasty chuckle at the groan from Shaun in his ear. He pressed Desmond to him, initiating a little swordfight just between them. A little bit of friction and he was almost ready to... to...

He wasn’t the only one.

At the bottom of the pile, Shaun squeezed them closer, getting the full of their combined weight bearing down on him and not minding in the slightest. He still managed to thrust up and up and up, teeth cutting into the point of Nate’s shoulder.

Using the chair’s back for leverage, Desmond gave back by riding them with abandon. The roll of his hips set the pace, pinning the two men beneath him in one hell of wave.

The rhythm was erratic, beats in this little staccato and just what Nate needed. Sure, there were moans and sighs but it was the absolutely filthy noises from them all that pushed him over the edge.

And what an edge.

So hot and so, so slippery. It hit him so hard that his thighs shook, ass clenching with each pulse that he shot straight up between their bellies.

That was enough for Shaun, who voiced his approval between Nate’s shoulder blades, spasming violently enough to shake the two men above him as he followed right along.

Desmond wasn’t far behind. Head thrown back with each little whimper, he sped up to an earth shattering pace before he ended up adding to their mess.

Shhh...shit.

Nate knew his collapse was imminent if not for the sandwich he was in and he sagged between them.

Holy shit.







What a great way to start the day.

-----------------------------

They'd been chased through the Italian wilderness and shot at for good measure together. Ambushed in Windsor castle by a bunch of mob goons. Faced down some Italian nutjob who would have been happy to wear their intestines as a little hat.

And now Desmond counted the seconds that three men could stare at each other as they stood in front of a plain door marked 'Library'.

Four hundred. Four hundred and one.

He sighed, temper starting to simmer. “This is just a little bit ridiculous.”

"You don't understand," Nate countered, haunted look to his eye. "You weren't there."

This was not exactly what Desmond wanted to hear. "All right. You just officially made it all the way ridiculous."

"Right," Shaun nodded vigorously, chin jutting out as it he also hadn't just been doing jack shit for the past six minutes. "She’s had loads of students. Maybe she won’t remember us. We're going. We are going."

His hand landed on the doorknob but no actual turning of said door knob occurred. "We. Are. Going."

Desmond grabbed hand and all, trapping Shaun there. "Damn right we’re going."

The door opened out onto a dimly lit room. History lined the walls from top to bottom, row upon row of books with not a speck of dust to be seen.

There were a few studious bodies in the darkness, the occasional cough the only sign that any of them were still alive. Pages told them a story and their heads were bowed with reverence as they listened.

At the heart of it was one pillar of light illuminating the stern face of their demon. Carlisle was hard at work, keeping to a dinosaur of a fountain pen and reams of paper when all those around her were loaded up with smartphones and laptops. Her notes came fast and furious, each page of tidy script and simple diagrams appearing in seconds.

Inching forward, the men approached her desk with hesitation. There was a certain time limit where ‘waiting for a person to acknowledge new arrivals’ became ‘a bunch of creepers hovering over somebody who didn't want to be bothered’ and that time limit came and went with no response.

Shaun got way too English all of a sudden and broke the silence with a polite cough.

"I know you're there, Mister Hastings." Carlisle’s laser stare came at them over the tops of her glasses. "I assumed that if you had a question for me you'd simply ask like a responsible adult rather than stand there like a slackjawed infant."

Well, then. Off to a promising start.

She turned her disapproval in another direction. "Ah, yes. There's Mister Drake. Such a surprise seeing you here. And here I thought you would currently be incarcerated."

"No, ma'am." Nate pasted on his sweetest smile but that too withered under her glare. "Not at the moment, anyway."

"Pardon us, Professor," Shaun intercepted weakly. "We...we're looking for anything you might have on Da Vinci's 'Virgin on the Rocks'-"

"Why?" Her eyebrows nearly met in the middle of her face as they furrowed in suspicion. "Those materials are mostly of academic interest and it's been years since you’ve been in academia. You’re up to something and I don't like it!"

"Look, ma'am," Desmond cut in, hoping the situation was still salvageable. "I understand you've had some history with these two but what we're looking for is very important." Resignation weighed down his sigh. "More important than you can possibly imagine. Give us a little time to make sure what we need isn't here, and you'll never have to see us again."

Carlisle had a magical ability to not blink. "Is that a promise?"

"I can safely say," Desmond started, feeling the burn of staring eyes into the back of his skull. "That if you give us an hour, we'll never come back here. Ever."

Ah. Here it was: the thing that had Nate and Shaun so terrified. Desmond could feel the brunt of it directed at him now. He would have rather faced a hundred Templars. The woman's penetrating gaze peeled him apart layer after layer, sizing him up against some impossible standard and finding him lacking.

"Thirty minutes," she said dismissively to all of their surprise. "Section 19-A. Damage anything and I will have you strung up and flogged."

They couldn't have timed their sighs of relief better if they'd rehearsed it.

There was a special room for looking at really old shit, Desmond discovered. Low lights and not a single window. A little too claustrophobic but they’d do what they came to do and get the hell out.

Shaun herded them into the room once they were properly gloved up.

“The first bunch is just the legal nonsense,” Shaun warned. “There’s one or two sketches. That may be our best bet.”

The pages were laid out with infinite care and it was Desmond's turn at bat.

It was kind of scary how easy it was to slip into eagle vision. How odd it had felt odd at first, like he’d grown an extra limb. It was a part of him now and there was no escaping it.

Opening his eyes, there was a pang of disappointment when most of the pages stayed dark.

But there was one. One page of centuries old parchment lit up like a lightning storm in a Nevada desert.

And with it came the voices.

Ezio! E' stato bello vederti!

“It’s here-” he rasped, trying to shut the noise out. “This is it. I… Pen.. Need to write.”

There was paper and pen in front of him before he was even done asking. Desmond reached for it but before he could make it, Nate corralled his mouth.

“Stay with us, Desmond,” Nate begged between kisses. “You got that?”

Like a tether, it snapped him back into the present.

Desmond battled through the transcription. Every time his hands began to shake, there was a touch or a whisper that guided him home.

Almost… almost done.

Horses clattering on cobblestone streets.

Shaun nuzzled his ear. “Desmond, we’re with you.”

Only a little bit left. Keep going.

The call of gulls fighting over a bit of fish in Venezia.

It took him a second to realize Nate was hugging him.

A final word.

Writing it out, there was a stirring of familiarity. Was that… that was-

“My name,” he choked out, tremble starting involuntarily. “That’s my name.”

His eagle vision faded but the word was burned into his retinas. Leonardo’s tight script spelling out…

Desmond.

What page was this from? His head was hurting. Things were starting to gray out for him around the edges but he was able to just make out the drawing of a pointing hand.

A hand. The hand.

The hand of Gabriel.

“Desmond!”

He tried to answer but this was different. Then and now became a giant feedback loop.

There was Leonardo, quill scratching out his name. Here he was in the present; his name dried out and yellowed over time.

Desmond.

Pulling and pushing him between the past and present. Careening back and forth.

Si. Ha detto il suo nome è Desmond.

Old worlds die and new be born.

There was a sharp pain… and… and

And then there was nothing.

-------------------------

“Fuck!” was all Nate could say, Desmond pale and unresponsive in his arms. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

Shaun was close to doing much the same. “Wait here! If the coast is clear, we’ll slip out to the main stairwell and get him out of here.”

Stepping out, the coast was most definitely not clear. Carlisle was there but it was the main door opening that had Shaun ducking back the way he had come. Peeking through the crack, he saw a silhouette-

What had he said about their luck amounted to a bin full of rancid donkey anuses? He’d have to amend that to an entire truckload.

The Italian.

Before Shaun could do fuck all, Carlisle was defending her territory, notebook before her like a little shield. “Yes? Yes? What is it?”

Il Macellaio was smoothly dressed in his posh little suit, looking none the worse the wear from his run in with London’s finest.

“Madam,” he began congenially. “You are head librarian, yes? I delight in meeting you.”

The young man took her hand in his and delivered a chivalrous kiss to the back of it.

In what might have been a sign of the end of days, Carlisle looked utterly flustered, staring at the young man’s grip on her as if he had just casually mentioned he was loaded with every infectious disease known to man.

That amazing, earth shattering moment came and went and Carlisle was back on her game. “What rubbish. What do you want?”

“I search for my friends,” the Italian asked in continued deference, splaying out a set of photos before her. “There are things this place holds that might draw them here.”

The snaps were little blurry, but you could still make out their subject even at a distance; the canyons of Vajo Stretto. There was a tiny Desmond scaling the rock face with Nate not far behind. Shaun recognized himself in profile, captured on film while searching for signs of pursuit in the Italian wilderness.

“I fear they are in great danger.” The Italian pursed his lips and spoke so sweetly. “Perhaps you see them, no?”

Breathing had suddenly become optional.

Nate adjusted his hold on Desmond. “What the fuck’s going on out there?”

“Nothing good. You’re going to have to run,” Shaun shot over his shoulder. The old woman continued to give the photos a thorough inspection. “I’ll keep our Italian friend busy somehow. Just go! I’ll catch up later.”

“Hell no!” Nate hissed but Shaun wasn’t listening, too wrapped up in waiting for Carlisle’s answer.

Oh, you wretched ball of hate, you’re going to get us all ki-

Carlisle looked up with a disdainful sniff. ”No. Can’t say as I recognize them.”

What? Shaun's head was in a dizzy, adrenaline fueled whirl. I mean… what?

A shadow passed across the Italian’s face in the blink of an eye. “Are you sure, madam? Perhaps the light… she is not so good.”

“Non capisci, messere?” she demanded with such coldness that the man known as the Butcher took a step back. "I have never seen these men before in my life."

She shoved the photos back into startled hands, taking a step with him for every step he lost.

“I’m not yet so old nor my mind so feeble that I don’t know every face that passes through these doors. Particularly those! Thieves and bone idle, the lot of them. Only those that can be trusted are permitted in this library!”

Throwing her notebook firmly under one arm, she returned to her desk. “This is a place of study and research, so I’d thank you to show some respect and not use it as your personal lost and found!”

“Mi… mi dispiace, madam,” stammered Il Macellaio, hastily tucking the photos away.

The scratch of pen on paper was all that could be heard as Carlisle resumed her work, studiously ignored the young man standing before her.

A full minute passed with the Italian wringing his hands.

Carlisle paused in her writing, piercing the young man with an icy glare over her glasses. “Are you still here?” She stabbed at the air with her pen. “The exit is that way.”

“Yes, madam,” said the Italian. “I… I….” He trailed off into nothingness, making an awkward little bow before beating a hasty retreat.

Magnificent.

“She did it.” Shaun could feel a nervous laugh starting to bubble up. “He’s gone!”

“Fan-fucking-tastic!” Nate hefted Desmond over his shoulder with a grunt. “Now let’s get the hell out of here.”

They bundled out into the open and Carlisle barely batted an eyelash at Nate carrying an unconscious man.

“Diabetic,” Nate mumbled as he brushed past her, studiously avoiding any eye contact. “Needs his sugar.”

She stepped in Shaun’s path before he could follow. "Did you get what you came for?" she asked.

"Yes, ma'am." And then some. "We can't thank you enough. Sorry to have troubled you."

Her frail hand fell across his shoulder and Shaun's brain shut down. The only thought left possible for the day was wondering if somewhere a herd of pigs had suddenly gone airborne.

“You know," Carlisle began softly. "You have a keen mind, Mister Hastings. It's always saddened me that you squandered your talent.”

This confession hit him harder than years of her cutting words.

“Money was always Drake's motivation," she sneered. "But you? You had the passion. But you never pushed yourself. Mired in the paranoia of those ridiculous conspiracy theories of yours."

Shaun bit off a nervous titter.

It wasn't paranoia if they were actually out to get you.

"Professor..." Shaun covered her hand with his. "I can't explain but what you may very well helped save the world. There are some dangerous men who would like to stop us and we may have inadvertently put you in grave danger. Please be careful."

Carlisle snatched her hand away, fully offended. "That mobster fellow? I can take care of myself, thank you very much."

"You-" A half hearted clearing of the throat was the only way for Shaun to keep the squeak from his throat. "You knew?"

"Of course I knew!" she snapped, that modicum of good will gone as if it never existed. "He had the mark of a camorristi on the back of his hand!"

Why, you sly old devil...

Everyone had their secrets. Even apparently former professors with their intimate familiarity of mafia clan tattoos.

Duly noted.

"You're welcome," Carlisle snapped, sounding like Shaun wasn't very welcome at all. “Now get the hell out of my library, there’s a good man.”

She turned on her heel and was gone.
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July 2012

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