Chapter 8 (though this is set as a prequel to the rest of the story, it's intended to be read in this order)
Rating PG for violence and loads of swearing, NC17 in other chapters
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. No real spoilers
Characters: Nathan Drake, Shaun Hastings, Desmond Miles
Uncharted is owned by Naughty Dog, Assassin's Creed is owned by Ubisoft
Find previous chapters here
Notes: This story is obviously AU for both the AC and UC series. It takes some of the canon found in AC:R and ignores some of the rest. Certain bits of dialogue lifted from finale of AC: Brotherhood. Again, the events in this chapter happen before the rest of the story but it is intended to be read in this order.
Author request: I've hit this point in my writing where I've become intensely self critical. This chapter ended up with about 15 rewrites. If there's anything you like or don't like, please let me know. Feedback is always greatly appreciated.
My name is Desmond Miles and I…. am a fucking moron.Guess Shaun had been right about something after all.
The Apple was a living thing in his hands, painting the walls in light and shadow, binding Desmond to it with threads of energy sent slithering up his spine. The urge to shiver was there but Juno denied him even that.
/The final journey commences/
Yeah, yeah, yeah.What was it about being dead for a few millennia that made people into long winded gasbags?
Her sermon was easy enough to tune out.Desmond was far too hungry to hear something- anything- from the others.A cough, a sneeze, a gasp.A little scrap of something to let him know they were still here, still with him, still alive.For fuck’s sake, Shaun was winding into one of his lectures when shit hit the fan and it damn well would have taken an act of God to shut him up.
Or maybe just the act of one particular god.
He’d been given the chance to say something on their little trip through the temple.Let the others know that the Ghost of Christmas Past had been yapping away in his ear-
And he’d thrown it away.
Played the big, tough guy instead. Didn’t want to be the reason they’d turned back, not with the Apple so close. No voices in my head, nope, none at all.
He was an idiot to let them walk into this blind.
/There is one who would accompany you through the Gate. She lies not within our sight/
More vague bullshit.
Juno was getting off on this, a big fucking puma toying with its prey. How long until the part where she got bored and bit his head off?
Sweat beaded up underneath his clothes, the Apple heating Desmond through and through. What a damn fool he'd been.This grip on him, this possession, was nothing like what he'd experienced before -through Altair, through Ezio.Maybe because this time it was being wielded by somebody who knew how to use the damn thing and not some power hungry old crank.
/The cross darkens the horizon/
A sharp jolt of electricity blazed through him, a million tiny needles piercing his flesh as they dug in, hooking into the meat of him so to better pull and-
He was dangling in mid-air.
Searing, blazing heat as Desmond fought this, nerves humming like a guitar string plucked by a heavy hand. His arm caught fire and the muscles underneath the hidden blade moved of their own accord.
The scrape of metal on metal made him sick to his stomach. “What are you doing?”
Dumbass.Not like Juno was taking questions./The Path must be opened!/
Only one reason for the blade to be out.Fuck.Fuck.
He was spun around with a careless twirl and his heart sank.
Shaun had been trapped with his hands doing the talking, Rebecca frozen in a moment of skepticism.The Apple made them a sickly, artificial yellow, their skin turned waxen.
Juno brought Desmond in for a hard landing./You cannot escape your part in this. The scales shall be balanced. /
Feet firmly planted on the ground, each muscle fired in sequence, his leg moved forward in a clumsy, mechanical step.The second was less awkward, Juno getting more familiar with her new puppet.
There was no pride left in him, not anymore.“Stop!Please!” His body refused to listen.
/You know very little. We must guide you/
Guide me? ‘The First Civilization Guide on How to Slaughter Friends and Massacre People’ wasn’t a guide he wanted in the slightest.
God damn it one more step and there was Lucy, paralyzed and completely vulnerable.
Utter insanity.If Juno wanted anybody dead, the Apple could have done all the smiting just fine on its own. They wanted this, wanted there to be blood on his hands.
Can’t let it happen.
Shit!Shoulders were wriggling an inch, maybe two. One body part down, a million to go.Given another minute, maybe he could-
/Cease your struggles! /
That invisible noose cinched tight around his neck, the Apple shutting down his mobility to zero. That didn’t stop Desmond from trying to resist, beginning a tug of war as his arm drew back of its own accord.
The blade froze for the briefest of moments. I’m trying, I’m sorry, I’m-
Something went ‘pop’ in his shoulder and the blade continued its swing.“No!”
There were moments in time that defined everything that happened after, act as the hinge for a door that could swing either way.This was one of those moments.What came next might have been filled with the slip of a sharp blade into unresisting flesh, might have been filled with the hot spill of blood.
All of that could have easily happened but not for the explosion that sent the whole world shaking.
Dust rained down from the ceiling and for the first time, there was something more from Juno than cold condescension./What is this?/
No time to think, no time to breathe with his body in mid swing, Desmond held on to hope that he could capitalize on Juno’s moment of inattention and threw his weight to one side.
Momentum carried the blade high and wide, passing harmlessly through open air.
He tempered his triumph, though he shouldn’t have bothered. Juno had other things to worry about.
Another big boom and a section of wall rippled in response. A spine tingling groan held for a few seconds before the wall gave way, collapsing into squeals and blinding smoke.
A quick look proved everyone unharmed so Desmond pushed aside the chaos. A flick of the wrist.That was all he wanted. How hard could it be? C’mon.C’mon.
There was a loud crack-crack-crack but he didn’t care – couldn’t care- until the blade was safely away.The noise still had his heart racing.A gun going off at close range sorta did that to you.
Right now his priority was the weapon lashed to his arm. The ornate vambrace that once accompanied the blade was long gone, leaving it stripped down to an elegant simplicity. In all of this, though, there was still one rudimentary fact.
No matter its history, no matter its purpose, no matter how many lives it had claimed at this very moment this blade belonged to him.
Him and no one else.
A warm thrill ran up his arm from the Apple, its light flickering in his palm. A breath he didn’t know he was holding burst out of him and the blade returned to its sheath.
More importantly, Desmond stumbled forward for the first real step of his own.
What light there had been –the whites, the blues, the golds- all turned blood red and Juno showed fear. / It was to begin here!It was your hand that was to open the way!/
The gunfire kind of impossible to ignore, not with loud, angry bursts of muzzle flash lighting up the newly redecorated temple.Desmond could easily see a guy in the middle of all that madness running straight towards him.
Dressed in dirty jeans and a t-shirt that had seen better days, the poor bastard was in a flat out sprint, wildly contorting to shoot behind him while dodging the bullets licking at his heels.Reaching the edge of crumbled walls and concrete, the man let out a grunt to leap the gap to the platform, landing in an inelegant pile at Desmond’s feet.
The man was up and ready in no time, blasting through a full magazine in the span of a heartbeat.“Today has not been my day!”
Reloading happened with an economy of movement, the gun draining again just as quickly.This slowed the guy’s mouth down not at all. “What the fuck did you get me into, Harry?”
The stranger seemed to have a fondness for explosions, tossing a grenade back the way he came with little regard for accuracy. Ears were ringing but for now, there was no more gunfire from the darkness.
/No more of this defiance! /
The Apple turned to lead and Desmond nearly toppled over under its weight.A simple toss should have gotten rid of it but the sphere pulled at his skin, almost fused to his flesh.The Apple was a part of him, whether he liked it or not.
An angry light lashed out from it, a lightning bolt with a very specific target.
“Oh, shit!”The stranger was quick, rolling clean away from the blast hunting for him.He kept to a crouch, keeping watch from a breathless distance. “What the fuck?”
Buddy, you took the words right out of my mouth.
Desmond had no chance to laugh as Juno renewed her attack.If the first had been hot, the second flare of her anger was a damn blast furnace, blasting through to the marrow of his bones.He fell to his knees with his blood set to boiling, the world turning grey as the insides of him turning to sludge.
A wave of cool broke through the agony.Desmond looked through his fog to find a hand settled on his shoulder and a filthy, handsome face.
“Just hang in there,” offered the stranger with soft determination. The hand lifted, though the strange relief lingered.
Studying Desmond carefully, the man puffed out a thoughtful breath through pursed lips.“You’ve got this, Drake.”
Drake. So that was his name?
The man brought up the butt of his weapon to take a tentative jab at the Apple. “How ‘bout we ditch the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch-”
This poke did nothing, the sphere refusing to let go. Drake delivered another, harder strike that that shifted Desmond more than the Apple and-
The Apple retaliated, lashing out wildly in answer and Drake nearly up on his ass in his effort to get out of its way.
/Such hubris!/ The image of Juno transformed into something far from human, what had been hair twisting into a furious tangle of serpents./So many years have passed and still your kind cannot set aside your baser instincts. You must submit to your future, yet even that simple truth lies outside your comprehension. /
Drake shot a healthy dose of disgust over his shoulder, glancing in her direction for the first time.“Jeez, lady- who died and made you-yow-wow!”He flailed in a wild back pedal at the sight of her, looking to Desmond for reassurance. “What the hell is that?“
“You… “Desmond asked in return. Didn’t the others… the others hadn’t - “You can see her? Hear her?”
“Heard her, yeah!” the stranger fired back at him with pinched annoyance.“Missed the floaty, creepy part but I’ve been kinda busy!”
/ You leave us no choice. /
Juno had barely finished speaking before it began.
There was that heat again, the Apple consuming everything and anything.That first strike hit Desmond hard, but after that one wave of cool, it was nothing like what had come before.He could move at least, though it was exhausting work, his body ponderous and slow as if swimming in a sea of molasses.
Drake was not so lucky.
The light seized him completely, his rifle slipping from shaking hands. “Ohgodohgod what is this?”
Tendrils wound around his limbs, dragging the man solidly to his knees.One hand haltingly drew the side arm from its holster.
Desmond tried to get there, a race to the gun the only thing he could think of.Grab the butt and twist, right?It was what his dad had always taught him.Other kids had music lessons or algebra homework and he’d grown up with Disarming Armed Opponents 101.
But the air was thick and cloying, every barrier Juno put up throttling the life out of him.Desmond pushed through, closing in on Drake with shaking legs.
Not quick enough.The pistol came up through Drake’s resistance, the fight in him obvious in his ragged breathing. Sweat marked a trail down his sooty forehead. The point of his gun dug into the softest part of his own throat. At that range, there was no need for precision.
Juno was nothing but ice and deliberation. /You. Will. Yield. /
“You take last requests?”Drake asked, sounding far too casual.His finger settled over the trigger and his voice constricted around hard metal.His eyes shuttered closed, and Desmond watched the bravado shattered. “Make this worth something.”
A second of horror passed and Desmond forged ahead with no plan outside of his righteous anger.
Was this it? Was this all there was ever going to be?So much talk of free will and self-determination.So many lives lost, so much blood shed in its defense and in the end, all that was about to be shoved aside at the whim of some race who had been dead for so long that they’d forgotten what it meant to be alive in the first place.
There had only ever been one path for Desmond.There was never any choice. No argument. No explanation.All of it decided by those who laughed at being called gods but acted as if they were firmly convinced of their own omnipotence.
Dance to our tune, little monkeys.Trust us.This will only hurt for a little while.
Well, fuck that.
There had to be another way.
And if there wasn’t one, Desmond was going to keep looking until he found it.
Starting with now.With aching slowness, he fell to his knees at Drake’s side, cradling the hand holding the gun.There was the effect of that touch again, the barest brush shooting liquid adrenaline up his spine. The contact brought with it the shocking clarity that came as if he’d fallen headlong into an ice cold lake, turning every thought into his head into one single thing.
One word.A command, really.Hard to believe something like that would be worth a damn in this fight, though this time, something was different.
This time, the Apple was listening.
A soft, impossible breeze ruffled his hair and suddenly–
Desmond was fourteen again.
Just a boy under a moonless sky, he’d run through the tall grass as fast as his legs could carry him.There had been no light to guide him but his path through the old Dakota pines had been well worn and achingly familiar.
His lungs had been ready to burst, the whole side of his face already swollen and aching, mouth throbbing even in the crisp, clean cold.Gritting his teeth had hurt like a bastard and he’d willed away the threat of tears. He failed that too, making a mess of his sleeve, smearing around the blood that had only just begun to dry.
Once the damage had been done, there hadn’t been one word of apology from his dad. Why would there be?“Let me get your mother. She’s always been better at suturing than I am.”
Desmond couldn’t wait.He ran.He always ran.
One day, he wouldn’t come back.
Pine needles had been his favorite thing about that time of year. Not a lot of other things going on in a South Dakota fall, but just the echo of their scent made the adult in Desmond smile, reaching across time.A few handfuls was all he had ever needed to keep warm on those nights when he’d been way too alone and way too lonely.
It was all for him, his forest, his little patch of sky.Sometimes it liked to hide from him on a cloudy day or when the moon had been too bright, but every once in a while, the conditions were just right. Everything lined up and the world would sleep in its thick, black cloak to make every star belong to him.
He could reach out to the ends of the universe.
There had been no more pain, no more fear after that.Nothing left but to wrap himself in awe on that one night in a young boy’s life.
Desmond felt it again now, the Apple showing him layer upon layer of past, present and future.He could take hold of forever.
Juno was there with him, her presence pushing into his thoughts, jockeying for control of the Apple./You dare!/
“Damn right I do,” Desmond murmured and he pushed right back.
The Apple had its price, of course.It sopped up his newfound strength, fueling itself from his force of will.In his mind’s eye, the Piece of Eden opened for him, unfurling as if it were some vast flower blossoming in the heart of his palm.Its power, its knowledge, its beauty seemed infinite.
Every bit of Juno’s wrath was over his shoulder, but Desmond began to peel back petals one by one.
A loud “Oh my god!” was from a voice that was far too English to be anyone but Shaun.
No surprise that Lucy was on task. “Is everyone okay?”
“What the hell is going on?”Rebecca demanded.
That was a damn good question.
Freeing the others had been simple enough, but there was something different about Drake, Juno’s hooks still deeply embedded.
Desmond was missing something. A piece of the puzzle.He kept digging into the Apple in search of it, though his stamina was fading fast.
“Shit! We’ve got company!”Rebecca sounded impossibly far away but the fresh salvo of gunfire that came after did not.
Bullets pinging around him and Desmond ignored it, desperately visualizing the uncurling of a trigger finger. Jesus, fuck, didn’t the Apple come with a manual?One last push and Drake’s hand relaxed just a hair.
Desmond would take whatever progress he could get.He turned inward, digging deeper.
There was a vague awareness of Lucy’s hand on his cheek but he could barely feel it. Weird.When had his face gone numb?
“Desmond?Desmond! I don’t know if you can hear me, but try to take cover!”
She brushed by him, bringing Drake’s rifle to her shoulder to return fire of her own.
A stray round sang past, but moving wasn’t exactly an option with Desmond running on empty.
Let go of the gun.Let go you fucking goddamned motherfucker. It became a mantra and Drake’s hand slackened in his a little bit more.
Juno wasn’t having any of that andDesmond faltered as her efforts doubled.The Apple strobed, going hot then cold.
“Run.” Drake’s plea filtered through his concentration.It was thin and reedy, the man as drained and pale as Desmond felt. “Don’t-.”
“No way,” Desmond bit off, not giving a shit what other valiant thing Drake had to say.
A shadow fell over them both.
“Do I have to do sodding everything around here?”
For all his bluster, Shaun was full of worry. A shot came far too close and he let out a hiss, ignoring the singed hole on the sleeve of his jumper that hadn’t been there a moment before.
“Let’s get rid of this, shall we?”Shaun reached for the gun, handling it with the delicacy normally reserved for rods of plutonium.He forced himself not to touch anything else, knowing death might come from the smallest slip, the tiniest shake.
The gun came free and three men shared a sigh.
Shaun came up with a feral smile. “Rebecca!” he called out sweetly.He flipped on the safety and tossed the gun her way in a neat little arc. “Got a little present for you!”
Her hand was more than ready for it.“Aww, you shouldn’t have!” Rebecca shouted over the mayhem, taking out one gunman with an efficient burst of fire as Lucy took out another.“It’s even my favorite col- oh shit!”
“S..sorry, what?” Shaun barked back.“That’s not the sort of attitude I want to hear right now!”
The answer to his question was small and metallic, hitting the floor at his feet with a clang.Shaun turned whiter than parchment. “Oh, shit.”
There weren’t many times in life when you solidly knew something, were so startlingly sure that you were well and truly fucked, and having a grenade dropped into your lap was one of those times.
Desmond fought to move and Drake leaned into him, doing much the same, but both stayed locked in their torpor.
Wow.Guess for all that, it would all be over soon-
They hadn’t counted one crazy English bastard.One deep breath later and Shaun had the grenade in his hand, pitching the thing as far away as he could. Was he insane?Who the fuck throws back a live grenade?
In the same motion, Shaun turned with arms wide and nailed both men in a full-on tackle, dragging them-
Time came to a halt.
Though not for Desmond.
Every nerve, every fiber of his own being was alight.His own hands shone so brightly he could see them through closed eyelids, burning a pristine white.The heartbeat of every living thing seen and unseen within a mile of him tapped out its rhythm on his skin.
There were a few differences.Two, actually.The men on either side of him glowed in their own hue-Shaun a bright blue and this Drake a burnished gold.Their brilliance forced their edges to blur, their colors beginning to run together.
Then the flashes came.
The bottega, its floor littered with canvas and all manner of tool, Leonardo scribbling away at the center of a mad mess, filling page after page with his tight, distinctive script.
The scene changed and there was nothing but blackness.Not frightening, not at all. More like a womb, containing Desmond in an all-encompassing warmth. It had been a long time since he’d felt so swaddled, so protected from any danger.It made his heart sing, bringing such a smile to his face but there was no time to wonder why before the scene shifted once more.
A massive, featureless surface barred his way, but Desmond knew it was a door, could feel it in his bones even though there was nothing even remotely door-like about it.The Un-door.
This was it.This was the end.He knew that with grim finality even if he hadn’t the slightest clue what the hell was going on.
It was a feeling that he’d gotten used to.
Voices were speaking that were both familiar and not.
“As much as I’ll ever be.”
“Let’s do it.”
Desmond put out his hand and-
/Most intriguing. / Juno quietly intruded even here.
A final blinding flash put time in motion again, dropping Desmond back into the real world
Actually, dropping Desmond on his ass back in the real world, with the combined weight of two grown men landing on top of him, the Apple trapped between them.
The grenade that had been thrown forever ago finally blew and debris went flying, the real damage done to those on the receiving end of Shaun’s throw.
The concern now was the Apple, the sphere growing hotter, brighter than the sun even in the palm of his hand.
/Perhaps we were in error. /
What the hell was Juno on about?God, the thing was scalding, whatever skin was exposed to the Apple feeling as if it were starting to char.Desmond writhed to be free of it, to be free of the tangle of limbs, to get this miserable thing gone before it could harm anyone else-
/You have made your choice./ Juno was almost serene.
In between one blink and the next, the Apple went quiet. No more heat. No more light.No more battle. No more anything. The lifeless sphere rolled off his fingers and Juno left with parting words.
/ You must not fail. Now go!/
The temple fell into darkness.
There was motion and a flashlight clicked into action.Rebecca had her new toy at the ready but there was no more violence.She made a blinding pass with her torch. “You guys all right?”
Barely sparing a second for her answer, she squatted down, picking at the burned out husk that had once been the Apple.“Well, this thing is pretty much done.”Her dismay was palpable.“Looks like we’re right back at square one.”
Desmond scrambled to his feet, testing the flex of his fingers. A moment ago they’d felt like blisters upon blisters but all he found was healthy, unharmed skin.
So what the hell had happened?Was all of it some Apple-induced hallucination?One thing he was sure of was that Juno and her non-answers were long gone.
“Let go!” Shaun bellowed from the floor, struggling in the darkness.“Let go of me, you imbecile!”
Rebecca quickly shed a little light on the situation.
Shaun was trapped, Drake wrapped around him like a crazed octopus.
“It’s you!” Drake hugged the unhappy Englishman until they were both out of breath. “Where the hell did you come from?”
His delirious laugh was infectious, but Shaun wasn’t having whatever Drake was smoking.
“Where did I come from?” Shaun sputtered, his glasses knocked fully askew. “How have you managed to not get your fool self killed yet?”
Drake laughed loud and long as if this were some old joke.“Oh, god. You haven’t changed a bit.”
Then the impossible happened.An impossible impossibility even considering all of the other god damned impossible things that had happened that day.
Drake dropped a loud kiss on Shaun’s forehead and …
Shaun smiled.Not a big smile, obviously, because that would have caused the universe to collapse in on itself, but a thoroughly pleased, dopey little grin that Shaun was desperate to hide.
And just for a moment, something in Desmond raised its ugly head.
“Guess you guys know each other, huh?” he asked more tersely than he intended.
Lucy joined them with a rifle resting on her hip, distracted by quick looks over her shoulder for signs of danger. “Looks like that’s the last of them and-“
Her torch created a spotlight that featured the two men rolling around on the ground in the middle of their little reunion. “What the ever loving hell is going on over here?”
Shaun was quickly on his feet, though more than a little flustered.“Umm, yes.Well.Quite. I.. ah-”
“Nathan Drake,” the man said by way of introduction, standing up with an open hand and a rogue’s smile.“Friends call me Nate.”
Desmond gave the proffered hand a cautious shake.“Nice to meet you, Mister Drake.”