Fandom: Assassin's Creed
Spoilers: Assassin's Creed Revelations and the Lost Archive DLC
Trigger warning: dark subject matter, things happening that are non-consensual, nothing explicit
I don't own any of these characters. They belong to Ubisoft, for good and bad.
Rating: PG 13, some suggestion of romance between two men
Characters: Shaun, Desmond, Subject Sixteen
Summary: “What is a man but the sum of his memories? We are the stories we live! The tales we tell ourselves!”
There are two ways I see the Assassin's Creed modern story line going after Revelations. One was a slightly happier tale in the story A Confession of Character. Then there's this story.
There had been a point in time when a mug of tea brought with it many things, some tangible, some not. Warmth. Clarity. Comfort. The past had its fill of days where a perfectly brewed cup was an oasis of certainty in an uncertain world.
Now, it was none of those things. An eternity to Shaun, but in truth, it was no more than a few days since the Prodigal’s Awakening.
A few days since all this started.
Both of his hands came up, making a cradle for his well worn mug. Shaun willed the return of at least some fragmented sense of well being.
It did not.
His watch was far too bright in its 3 am display. Still up. Still working. How could he not? The alternative was impossible to consider with the end of all there was looming over the horizon.
I know what to do.
Hope had warmed the bitter lump that Shaun had for a heart when he heard Desmond say those words. It hadn’t been too hard to believe the coma consigned Desmond to madness, but the lucky bastard had woken unharmed, filled with such confidence.
Desmond spoke little of his time trapped in the Animus. There’d been some small words of a vast loneliness, a land that was dark and unforgiving and that was all was said of that. What he chose to share was a location given to him by Jupiter and a plan that got them looking.
The Vault revealed itself quickly enough, but its secrets remained tightly locked away. Another puzzle, another key left waiting for them, waiting for someone to decode it. Shaun had been so sure he’d cracked it, but when Desmond called out his solution, the entrance remained firmly shut.
A spectacular failure. Breaking apart and reassembling his error consumed Shaun’s days. Where had he gone wrong? Where could he make it right? Morning hours passed without a viable answer and his nights evaporated right along with it. Others took to the problem but had no suggestions to offer. By all accounts, it should have worked.
Should have, but his answer was off. He was off.
He wasn’t the only one.
It was disturbing to see the tiny cracks in William’s glacial veneer. He’d become snappish, paranoid, so convinced that Abstergo was right around the corner, that he ordered them all fully armed at all times. Rebecca was already usually armed to the teeth but Shaun couldn’t be arsed, ignoring the small pistol they’d pressed on him back at his desk.
He had more important things to worry about.
As time passed without results, William became eager to offer up his son’s sanity to the Animus once more, as if just one more ancestor might finally give them that elusive answer that was free of obfuscation.
That mood fouled entirely when the Animus turned fussier than a two year old.
Rebecca fritted away hours coddling the thing, replacing parts and coding and calibrations, only to have some new problem spark a hail of swear words as soon as she thought she was done. She’d spend her days and nights at it as well, William pecking at her from over her shoulder only to make her pale and wrung out.
Shaun knew the feeling.
The only one who was content was Desmond. There were the endless workouts, the man working his body to its limits but it wasn’t that challenging to imagine the need to shake off the effects of being shuttled across two continents and a week of immobility, even if he never spoke of it. Everything seemed perfectly fine. Perfectly normal.
Except for one thing.
The first time, Shaun thought it an accident- Desmond’s hand ending up on the small of his back or brushing an elbow or at his shoulder, but it happened again. And again.
All casual enough, all feather light and done in passing, all easily a coincidence if not for that hint of invitation in warm eyes that had always set Shaun back on his heels.
There was never any mention of it, as if this was something they’d always done, something that they’d always been doing, though that was light years away from the truth. Before everything had gone to hell, there’d been a wary distance between them. Here and there were rare moments when they’d fall into conversation, the two of them finding some small solace in mutual quiet contemplation, waiting out the wee hours together when neither would examine their real reasons for not being able to sleep.
This casual familiarity was achingly unfamiliar. The touches were a tantalizing suggestion of what could-have-been, would could be, if it weren’t for the fact that Desmond began it all without him. Taking liberties as if they’d already had this conversation.
Which they hadn’t.
Sometimes Shaun wondered if he was the one who’d been in a coma, completely missing the precise moment in time when he’d agreed to take on this newfound intimacy.
It was something Shaun wanted once. How easy it would be to succumb to such temptation, but it would also easily be the most foolish thing he’d ever done, and perhaps his last, fumbling through a new romance with the world barreling towards destruction.
Instead, Shaun filed the past few days as the trick of a fevered imagination, escaping to his room fully burdened with his tea and his disquiet.
Managing his door open with a nudge of his knee, Shaun went straight to his desk, the same routine he’d had for days before burying himself in his work. One thing was different. He set his tea aside and it wasn’t until his monitor flickered to life that he realized someone was with him. His stomach twisted into a giant knot. “Is there something I can help you with?”
Desmond was the picture of casual, framing himself in Shaun’s doorway. “Probably,” he laughed, showing off a smirk that was too broad for his face. “I’ve missed you.”
Adrenaline stabbed Shaun right in the heart. There hadn’t been anything to miss and this simple fact gave a cold, hard slap to go along with it.
“What the hell are you up to, Miles?”
“’Miles?’” Desmond echoed quizzically. He wore a bemused smile as if this were some great joke, showing far more teeth than Shaun was used to. “My, my, my. Aren’t you formal all of a sudden?”
Desmond slowly sauntered into the room, sealing the door behind him as if he needed no invitation. “This would be easier if you didn’t play so hard to get.”
If this was a game, it was a cruel one. Shaun’s confusion sharpened his anger. “And what exactly do you think you’re getting?”
His mind went into overdrive, desperate to explain away this behavior. Some lingering effects from the coma perhaps, or a shift into the bleeding effect? Desmond never even hinted at such-
Cataloging the possibilities came to a very abrupt end as hands cupped his face and Shaun cursed his body for leaning into it, cursing even more as Desmond let out a pleased little noise that shot straight to his groin.
Desmond came close, impossibly handsome from millimeters away. “I’m getting what I want. And what you want too.”
Shockingly bold hands were at it again, one smoothing Shaun’s cheek, the other drawing him closer by his hip as if it were the most natural thing in the world, pulled in so tight there was no room for Shaun to say no before lips were on his own.
Shaun never expected he'd be on the receiving end of a kiss from this man, not now, not ever. Not that he hadn't thought about it, because good lord he had.
In his weakest moments, he’d envisioned this affection, but as a mutual undertaking. Not this, not with him cornered and no way out, a part of him taken freely with no permission asked and none granted.
Yet here they were.
It was much easier to let his brain latch onto the details then to contemplate what exactly was happening. It felt wrong. The kiss was awkward- too stiff, overly eager. Too much like a child thinking up what an adult kiss might be like. There was none of the playful give and take that Shaun thought of from the man who’d shared such easy conversation that soothed troubles on long and lonely nights.
So many senses screaming- touch, taste, hell, even the smell was wrong, with not even the extra hint of his own aftershave that should have been there, the scent that Desmond used to pilfer from the shower when he thought Shaun wasn’t looking.
Flavors turned sour on his tongue. His hands came up, delivering a hard shove squarely to the center of Desmond’s chest, desperate to put space between them. “You fucking bastard!”
“I think I like it when you play hard to get.” Desmond came up with a leer hot enough to melt steel but it quickly vanished as Shaun used it to make his retreat. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wrong?” Shaun parroted back the question originally asked in all innocence. It only served to fan his fury. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Everything in Desmond read out as pure confusion. “Since when can’t I kiss you?”
“Since when did I say you can?” Shaun snapped back, anger rising even higher. “A few midnight chats don’t give you permission to stick your tongue down my throat!”
The shock on Desmond’s face stung so badly that Shaun wanted to punch the look right off of him.
“But aren’t you… we’ve been-“ Desmond struggled to find purchase where there was none.
“We’ve been what?” Shaun reached for his scorn, more than happy to lash out. “Co-workers? Colleagues? Barely even friends!”
A huff of air escaped from Desmond, the color draining from him in his disbelief. “What? Weren’t you two… “
Desmond froze, his limbs hanging awkwardly from his frame. His eyes went big as he stared off into nothing, realization hardening the smooth planes of his face into raw anger. “Miles, you utter chicken shit!”
A small and frightened flitter of warning began to beat its wings in the pit of Shaun’s stomach. “What was that?”
The answer Shaun got was not at all what he was expecting.
It started small, a tiny quake in Desmond’s left leg but soon, the whole of the man was shaking with it, his entire body shaking as if something writhed just beneath the surface.
Shuttling aside every klaxon going off in his head, Shaun reached out instead. “Desmond?”
Whatever could be seen of Desmond’s arm filled with a light, the same delicate pattern, the same echo of circuitry Shaun had witnessed only once before. William told them to ignore it at the time; an after effect of Desmond’s prolonged stay in the Animus that had quickly faded on his son’s awakening.
It wasn’t fading now.
The sound of his own name shouldn’t have made him sick to his stomach but it did, Shaun watching the word force their way from Desmond’s mouth slurred and half-formed, as if the tongue couldn’t work properly in their creation. A ripple passed over the man’s face and it got Shaun’s own skin to crawling, simply watching the tiniest muscles warring against each other just underneath the skin.
“Shhhhaun…. run!” The desperate gasp for air from Desmond had Shaun doing the same. “He wantsss to... can’t… can’t ssstop him. Can’t-“
What warning Desmond had died in his throat, air in his lungs slipping out in a gurgle, his frame arching into a back-breaking line.
And just as quickly as it came, it was gone.
Desmond stood there gathering his breath and gathering his composure as if nothing at all were the matter. No more tension. No more light, no more pattern. His face hung in shadow. “Well. That was unfortunate.”
Eyes looked up but who they truly belonged to was another matter.
There was bile in Shaun’s throat, an acid burn where the rest of him went cold. “Who are you?”
The laugh from Desmond held no humor in it. “C’mon, Shaunnie-boy. We never met before I took one for the team but they said you were supposed to be the smart one. Were they wrong about that too?”
Took one for the team? Shaun tried to keep his heart from shattering into a thousand pieces. It shouldn’t have been possible, but there had already been so many impossible things. His guess came out a whisper. “Clay? Clay Kaczmarek?”
“That is not my name!”
It came so quickly and with so much venom that it forced Shaun to step back. The edge of his desk hit the back of his thighs and there was nowhere left to go.
“Clay made Adam, Adam made Clay, and Clay made me!” sang out this stranger with a smile that never reached his eyes. “Though I will admit, something got a little lost in translation.”
Desmond turned towards him.
Perhaps this madness was true. Perhaps there’d been no problem with the key after all. Perhaps the Vault had known the wrong man was turning the key.
“He thinks about you a lot, you know,” this parody of a man said in an off-hand murmur. “More than a lot. But that was all Desmond ever did, right? All talk, no action!” His stolen mouth settled into a grim line. “Coward.”
“We… we can sort this all out,” Shaun began, hand quietly creeping to the drawer in his desk. “Get you back into the Animus-“
That handsome face contorted into a vicious snarl, words thundering out in a growl. “Not a chance!”
The body that belonged to Desmond began to prowl within his tiny cage. “You can’t even begin to comprehend what it’s like! To have memories, sensations- none of which are yours! Eking out an existence in a vast world of nothing where everything you are is just bits of code, all for false! How would you like to be made in your creator’s imperfect image, equipped with all of his hopes and dreams, but know that you’d never be able to experience any yourself?”
A smile appeared, with far too much teeth and not at all suited to Desmond’s face. “And then this fool shows up” he continued, tapping himself on the chest. “The guy that’s the entire reason for your agonizing, pointless existence. The guy who ran away from the legacy Clay died trying to protect like a spoiled little brat!”
Rage ripped through the calm exterior. “You think I’m going to lay down and die to save his pathetic little self? He doesn’t deserve this life!”
And just as quickly, that fury was gone again. “So I took it from him. I can do better.”
Shaun was no longer listening, trying to remember back to only this morning when it seemed like days. He’d put his gun away, hadn’t he? He must have. He wouldn’t have been so careless. “We’ll find another way,” he tried softly. “You don’t have to do this.”
That sound- the one Shaun knew was coming, the sound of metal slipping against metal- turned the blood in his veins to ice.
“I’m sorry, Shaun,” whispered Sixteen, closing in with hidden blade no longer hidden. “But I won’t let you take this away from me.”
Shaun’s hand went white at the knuckles, gripping the desk drawer behind him hard enough to lose feeling in his fingers. “They’ll figure it out. You won’t be able to hide the truth from them for long.”
Long legs took one step closer.
“You think so?” Sixteen countered softly, with a nasty chuckle that made Shaun want to vomit. ”Daddy Dearest doesn’t know dick about his own son and that man has only got his eyes on the prize. Paranoid old fuck will thank me when I tell him I cleaned out another traitor from the ranks. And Rebecca….”
There was another step forward and Shaun swallowed hard, thinking about whether he’d left his pistol with one round or two. At this range, he hoped it wouldn’t matter.
Another leer came but this one was an abomination. “I made sure she’s too busy with her baby to notice little old me. She won’t be bothering me, one way or the other. ”
The smile evaporated and there was no hint of the man Shaun once knew.
Or rather, Shaun tried very hard to convince himself of that.
“We can do this clean or messy,” Sixteen asked softly, blade coming up with chilling familiarity. “Which way is it going to be?”
Shaun flung open his desk drawer, a sick wash of triumph as his hand wrapped around his pistol. “I’ll take messy, if you don’t mind.”
Gunfire woke the whole house from their beds.