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Title: A Confession of Character
Fandom: Assassin's Creed
Characters: Desmond Miles, Shaun Hastings
Warnings: HEAVY SPOILERS FOR AC  REVELATIONS and all of the warnings inherent in that. Much angst ahead.
Rating: PG for descriptions of blood

People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

A/N:  I hope this makes some sort of sense. Feedback greatly appreciated.  Thanks to seisei for stealing her fashion sense.

There was still a hint of fall color in the otherwise cold and dismal grey of upstate New York as it settled in for the winter.

His thin blazer did nothing to shield him from the elements but Shaun was out in it anyway, pulling his collar just a little bit tighter against the brutal wind. No time to get any proper clothes for this horrid weather. At least he had his usual coffee to sustain him. No espresso bars, no shops; he’d had to rely on the good graces of a petrol station for his fix. Of course, it was absolute rubbish, bitter and bland like everything else here. A sterling metropolis, this was; a village whose bovine inhabitants outnumbered the bipedal kind by a good margin. It had been easy to find a tiny place to rent where no questions would be asked since there was no one around to ask them.

He looked out over the bleak countryside, wondering what secrets brought them here.

Wondering what price would be asked over what had already been collected?

A chill went through him that wasn’t from the cold.

His fingers barely brushed against the knob before the front door fell open. A bundled up firecracker stormed right through him.

“Rebecca?” he asked, too startled to do more than reach for her sleeve. A simple twist and she was out of his grasp.

“Don’t! Just…just don’t!” she growled, stalking off with an uncharacteristic ferocity. “I don’t know what the fuck Bill is trying to pull  but I just can’t-“

Her back was to him, stalwart in her refusal to let him see but he caught a glimpse of her face anyway; red and puffy and furious as she fished through her pockets.

It had been days and they still had never talked about… what had happened. Not for lack of trying- she’d become far too adept at avoiding him.

‘Every death is a tragedy to someone, somewhere’ was all Rebecca once said.

But if this wasn’t their tragedy, then whose was it?

“Look, I’m gonna go,” she sighed, whiteknuckling the keys for the lorry before she was off. “Call me when he’s done messing with that thing.”

Shaun hovered at the top of the steps, not sure which direction would be best. Neither would be the best choice but he never really had any other option.

Two days. Two days since the prodigal son’s return. A week and a half since they’d descended into that wretched temple. Questions about that day were still verboten when there had been little time to do much of anything, much less grieve.

William Miles hadn’t made it any easier. Not one word of solace. Not one iota of compassion.

Yes, Bill. Stopped by the bank, did a bit of Christmas shopping, oh!- and I’ll just get that pesky little funeral out of the way, shall I?

That coffee was getting cold.

They’d been holed up in this apartment for barely a day and a half and it was already too small, so tiny that no conversation was private. He headed to the kitchen, determined to do his best to ignore any sounds filtering his way.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Bill had a distinctive timbre, insinuating all manner of things no matter what he said. The question was simple enough and it came charged fully with paternal disapproval.

“We don’t need it.” Desmond’s answer was reed thin and barely audible. “I know where we have to go.”

Having a little father-son quality time, were they? The Apple made for a lovely centerpiece as the two men squared off at the kitchen table.

Keeping his head down, Shaun committed a cardinal sin to coffee drinkers everywhere as he popped his revolting coffee into the microwave. There was no way for him to keep to himself.

They looked nothing alike. Bill, stoic and proper, hands clasped before him, leaning forward in challenge while Desmond….

Clothes no longer fit Desmond as they should; jeans that were fine only days ago were now baggy and loose at the hips. Bone weary, he was loose limbed and nearly falling out of his chair, dark circles under his eyes only made worse by the week’s worth of scruff that he had yet to shave since-

<Oh..oh god. Shaun, look!>

<How… what the hell happened? >

<We’ve got to get them out of here!>


In other words, Desmond looked like absolute shit.

A savage note rang out between Shaun’s ears. Good.

Bill took up the Apple with an ease that made hairs stand on end. Rebecca wasn’t the only one disturbed by this obsessive fascination. It was one thing to watch a few tapes of it in action. Experiencing the havoc it could unleash in person was another thing entirely.

The man peered into it as if he could make it answer to him by the power of his will alone. “Just look at it. A marvel of creation, older than the entirety of known human civilization.”

The older man cradled it in his hands, a finger tracing the etched lines as if committing them to memory. “It is a tool. That is all. It’s only what you make of it and it can be a valuable gift if you only would try. You could open up their vault in seconds.”

Silence dragged on. Bill finally tore himself away from the Apple, measuring up the man his son had become, eyes narrowing in cool calculation. “Think of all you’ve gone through to get this. What about those that have gone through so much more? Does Lucy’s death mean nothing to you?”

This from the man who acted like her death was less than nothing? You utter bastard.

Desmond stammered through his reply, sickly pale beneath his beard. “You… you don’t know anything about that.”

Bill had his opening. “Then what happened down there?”

That question kept Shaun awake most nights.

“Time… time stood still,” Desmond began. “Juno took complete control. I tried to stop it but…” His head bowed under tremendous weight. “Lucy, I’m sorry.”

Was it possible? All Shaun knew was that in one moment he’d been prattling on about symbols and the next-

“Killing her was their means to an end,” Desmond choked out. “They wanted me on my own.”

“Fascinating.” The clinical tone from Bill brought on a fresh wave of chills. “Why is that?”

There was no answer.

“There will only be more death if we fail,” Bill pushed again. “More sacrifice.”

He set the Apple down before Desmond, who shrank away from it as if it had turned into a pit viper. “Son, this has been my life for longer than you’ve been alive. You have the ability to end all of this today-right now, in fact-if you take control of the Apple and open that vault.”

“You have to listen to me!” Desmond pleaded. “It’s not that simple! The First Civilization are not our friends!”

The creak of a chair scraping along wooden floors and suddenly the timer counting down Shaun’s coffee was the most interesting thing in all the world.

“I see. Still can’t trust your old man,” Bill snapped, finally losing some of his composure. “I’ve got to make a few calls.”

He fussed with the closed in the foyer, barely acknowledging his son. “You’d think after nine years, you’d have figured out that running from your responsibilities is not the answer.”

That caused a wince but Bill said nothing of it, looking quite professorial as he slipped on his fine wool coat. There was a pause before his parting volley. “You haven't changed a bit.”

The front door slammed shut with grim finality. Desmond sagged with his head in his hands, his whisper not something anyone else was really meant to hear.

“Neither have you.”

An unwanted sliver of sympathy worked its way under Shaun’s skin but then-

<Shaun, he’s got a pulse! The team will be here in ten! How’s Lucy doing?>

<…>

<Shaun?>


Shaun had to wait for his legs to stop shaking, so he sat sipping at his flimsy cup with its god awful coffee, wondering when it might cool back down to something more tolerable than a boil.

Desmond had to break the silence. “What do you want, Shaun?” he asked, overloaded with exhaustion.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he answered, his frayed knot of a temper growing tighter and tighter. “Thought you might want to chat, maybe catch up a bit.”

Just the feel of Desmond gaping at him and all the pressure, all the misery finally snapped.

Enough of being a good, little soldier.

“Do you know how hard it is to bury an American citizen on Italian soil?” Shaun began breezily enough. “Especially one whose cause of death was so suspicious.”

Good god, it hurt- but he needed it to. Pierce callused skin. Bleed the poison out.

But just like most of his grand plans, it got derailed by something outside of his control. Something infinitesimally small that managed to change everything.

Eyes bloodshot and rimmed with red and far too obviously in need of sleep, Desmond quietly watched him back.

Listening. Desmond was listening.

And that was all Shaun needed all along, really.

“You have to pick out a private loculo once you’ve gotten all the proper paperwork in order,” he blurted out, attempt at a breath coming out in bits and pieces. “They had one of their doctors tell the polizia that she’d killed herself. Can’t have any messy inquiries, now can we?”

Eyelids fluttered as Desmond took the blow. “Shaun-“

“Live, die, and end up a tiny footnote in someone’s ledger!” Shaun spat out, startling himself with his level of bile. “What world are we saving if this is what we’ve become?”

“You can’t think like that!” Desmond tried, his plea almost as much to himself as to anyone else.

“Why not?” Shaun demanded, the last of his reserve crumbling away. “No one else seems to give a damn!”

Sight flashed crimson as his memory unfurled.

<Astonishing how much blood could come from a single, tiny human being. It soaked his jumper, his shirt, his trousers through and through; clothes going all stiff, gluing the fabric to his skin once it dried.

It all had been chucked into the bin as soon as he’d reached the safe house.>


Pain snapped him back to the here and now, his forearm completely ablaze. Scalding coffee had gone everywhere, the wad of paper that used to be a cup still being clenched in his hand. “Shit!”

Desmond was on him, dragging Shaun to the tap where the Englishman let out a stream of curses worse than any dock worker.

“She’d been dead for ten minutes before the extraction team found us,” Shaun babbled under the cold water, his story leeching from him in a flood. “It was you they cared about. You and the Apple and nothing else-“

“Shaun, you don’t have to do this-“

“I carried her out.” Shaun tried for another breath but there was no air left. “Sending her back to her parents would have been too dangerous, too visible-”

“Stop!” Desmond had him by the shoulders and there was no way he had any fight left in him. “Please!”

And then Shaun saw it.

He’d seen it only once before and then just for a few seconds before it faded away. A byproduct of being in the Animus for a solid week, Bill had theorized.  Nothing permanent.

Perhaps not.

Lines of the coolest blue turned brighter and brighter just under Desmond's skin. Geometric patterns echoing the writing of the First ran through the man, beating with the pulse of a many hearts.

Shaun couldn’t help but reach out in awe, hovering along where the light went up and over. Clothes disrupted the mosaic but it started up again, hints of color peeking out just above a hooded collar.

A hand etched with light gently brushed his cheek and they were-

Somewhere else.

The snow that blanketed the ground came up to Shaun’s ankles but he was far from cold, not with the layers of the warmth under his trench coat. If someone asked, he’d never admit that it had been his favorite back when he’d still been teaching but he’d been sad to leave it behind with the rest of his past the day the Templars had come for him.

Children’s laughter was not at all expected so he turned to catch them at play atop a massive statue. Trees that reached for the heavens kept the noise of a hectic city at bay. A ring of skyscrapers of the human variety were just beyond them. In the center of it all was a six foot tall bronze Alice, forever perched on a mushroom, the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter beside her in attendance.

How appropriate.

He adjusted his gloves and scarf as fresh snow began to fall.

Must be Central Park.

New York City.

He’d never been.

There was movement beside him; Desmond, standing with him, hale and heartbreakingly hearty.

The poor bugger hardly looked dressed for the cold in usual hoodie, but he didn’t seem to mind. Particularly not with the addition of a quite purple scarf that had too obviously been pilfered.

Desmond stuffed his bare hands into his pockets and turned to the sky, eyes closed. Tongue sticking out, he waited, trying to taste the flakes that fell his way.

“Kinda got reminded of this the hard way,” Desmond said in between each one, a bittersweet smile on his smooth, tanned face. “But there's all sorts of things worth fighting for.”

There was silence aside from a rare playful squeal or impatient honk and Shaun breathed in this moment. Looking upwards, snowflakes on his glasses stuck and melted to his lenses, leaving a tiny refractile trace.

He trying to remember the last time he’d felt this tranquility.

And failed.

So Shaun did what needed to be done. He stuck his tongue at the sky.

It tasted wonderful.

One and another and another and another ice cold starbursts on his tongue, he craved it now-

Until there was a shockingly cold, wet smack that landed squarely on the back of his head.

His outrage at being disturbed flickered and died at the sight of Desmond backpedaling away, the man doing a piss poor job of trying not to laugh as he armed himself with a second ball of snow.

“I think you’ve made a grievous tactical error,” Shaun stated flatly, brushing the snow from his hair.

Desmond paused, humor fading in uncertainty.

Then Shaun struck, scooping up two great armfuls of the stuff, flinging it in Desmond’s startled face.

His target let out a great whoop of delight and any pretense at being serious was gone as it turned into an all-out snowy war, tumbling about in great big mounds of it like schoolboys.

Shaun let himself laugh the first honest laugh he’d had in ages and then-

A wave of white and they were back. Back in the same dark and dingy kitchen. Back in his coffee spattered clothes and Desmond-

Desmond was as ragged and rough as before. His eyes, though. His eyes were alight in that alien blue.

“They’ve turned this into a war,” he said softly. “But there’s something much bigger than they are, bigger than all of them put together.”

How awful that one couldn’t automatically tell to which ‘them’ Desmond referred.

“I know what we have to do,” he continued, offering up his emblazoned hand.

The light began a slow retreat, eyes dimming first as the energy curled inwards. It all spiraled down, coming to rest in a single point in the heart of his palm.

“But I can’t do it alone.” Desmond swallowed thickly, looking far too fragile. “Will you help?”

Shaun covered the proffered hand with his own, the warmth of Desmond’s hand contrasting sharply with the coolness in its center. “Yes. Yes, of course.”

He looked up, returning Desmond’s hesitant smile.

It was only now Shaun noticed the tiny snowflakes still valiantly clinging to his glasses.

Date: 2011-11-24 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rueli.livejournal.com
TT_____TT Why must it hurt so much!?

With those events crashing down on them as they did, Shaun and Des needed that moment. Brilliant writing!

Is not good at writing comments without having a fangasm

Date: 2011-11-25 12:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexb49.livejournal.com
thanks so much! It seemed like the modern assassins got short shrift this time around. I wish we got more time with them. I think I needed the catharsis as much as they did.

Date: 2011-11-26 05:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alznthlay.livejournal.com
Ugh. THIS WAS WHAT I NEEDED DURING THE CREDITS.

Jfc.

Thank you.

Date: 2011-11-26 05:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexb49.livejournal.com
Thank you. I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt like something was lacking from the game.

Date: 2011-11-27 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-everbright.livejournal.com
YES!

Yay, Neo-Desmond! ERG, William. In Rev. they don't actually give him a lot of characterization, but I go the felling they didn't want us to hate him, but, but, but, THEY DIDN'T actually tell us anything about what happened after they got out of the vault! AGH. Thank you for writing this, I also have all the feelings.

Date: 2011-11-28 01:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexb49.livejournal.com
I have to say that with the tidbits we are given in other games as well as how John de Lancie played him in ACR, I find William to be pretty evil (but I think I probably made that kind of obvious). His whole tone this game was of not really giving a shit and focusing on the mission at hand. Shaun kind of pegged it with calling how William asked about Lucy's funeral as being classless. '

I know there's emails from a W.M. to Desmond that do not identify himself as being Desmond's father in the Da Vinci Disappearance DLC but again those seem more intent on making sure Desmond focuses on the mission and doesn't get distracted by anything. Why not identify yourself, particularly since Lucy tells Desmond that the Farm got raided and his parents are "probably" alive in AC1? What happened between Desmond and William? Why would William outing himself be less risky than having Desmond guilted that the parents he ran out on might be dead before he ever got to reconcile with them? To be honest, I wasn't very happy with the storytelling/continuity for ACR in general so I don't expect a lot of this to make sense. It still breaks my heart that Lucy's death rated something less than 5 lines of dialogue.

Didn't mean to unload there! I'm glad I'm not alone.

Date: 2011-11-29 04:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-everbright.livejournal.com
WILLIAM. It's weird, I keep giving him rope, and he keeps hanging himself. I have no idea why, but he's striking me more as lawful neutral unless I really look at some of his interactions. I agree with you that they dropped the continuity ball pretty hardcore in AC:R, esp. since Desmond sounded like he honestly didn't know what the hell Evil Scientist was talking about in AC1 and that got refuted in the Optional (!) Des memories. BLAH.

Date: 2011-11-29 11:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexb49.livejournal.com
I think I could see why they made Desmond's parts optional. I know I would have had a hard time completing them due to nausea in that view. It is a complete disservice to the character and reinforces those that don't like him to begin with.

As for William, his interactions really muddle Ubisoft's intentions. He speaks with more emotion about the Apple and what they might find in the Vault than he does for Lucy or his own son that he hasn't seen in nine years. It was his call to keep Desmond from knowing he was alive all along. Just dug through Lucy's old emails and it's pretty obviously William who tells Lucy to make sure Desmond doesn't know what's going on. He was directly working with Lucy the entire time yet he addresses her 'situation' as sad with the same emotion one reserves for seeing a commercial for a charity on tv. I don't quite know where Ubisoft is going with this but they made him far from likeable for me.

Date: 2011-12-12 02:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yumearashi.livejournal.com
Just finished seeing AC:R, so I can read this now!

This was really excellent - something the story really needed. Well-written, as always, and your characterization was, sadly, better than Ubi did this time around. You gave them the depth that was lacking in the game.

PS - hope you're feeling better!

Date: 2011-12-12 03:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexb49.livejournal.com
I have to say that there was something lacking in ACR (as well as it being downright contradictory at times). It's particularly frustrating when we've been told that Desmond's story arc ends with AC3.

Thank you so much for the well wishes! I am feeling better.

Date: 2011-12-12 07:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yumearashi.livejournal.com
Yeah, the game play looked cool, but story-wise I was pretty disappointed. I have a whole big blurb I'll be posting to the 'long list of things I want to talk about' thread once I have the time to type it all up. Honestly, I'd rather have waited another year for a game whose characters and story maintained the quality we'd seen in AC2 and ACB.

Glad to hear you've recovered ^_^

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