Frowning, he turned his head to look at Rebecca’s approaching figure from where he was laying on a low wall outside what had become the new permanent headquarters of the Assassins. The low wall itself surrounded the small courtyard and garden on the edge of the building and it was his preferred place to lurk. Connor was the main reason for that but the rest of them were in agreeance with it as the architecture of the modern era was so starkly unfamiliar.
Sitting up, he twisted his body to turn towards her and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Rebecca blinked at him for a moment before replying, “One of the techs found something while they were going through some of the Abstergo files. Apparently when they sent people to collect your…” She paused and shifted uneasily, causing him to chuckle.
“My body,” he supplied. “You can say it.”
“No,” she murmured, her voice choked with emotion. “I can’t.” He felt bad then for the way he’d phrased his statement and rose from his seat to start towards her. Sometimes he forgot how hard it still was on all of them, how they’d spent years thinking him dead and gone while he’d been working behind the scenes.
Reaching out to touch her arm, he said gently, “I apologize.”
Rebecca sniffed and reached out to lightly punch his arm as she scoffed, “You’re an asshole, Desmond.” Shaking her head, she then straightened and said, “They must have gotten something from you before you woke up because they’ve been using your DNA.”
Stiffening, he started to shake his head but then he thought about it. The moment that had brought him back to consciousness had been pain in his arm, which had instantly led into him stabbing the man with his broken hidden blade. Had it been a needle taking his blood? Frowning darkly now, he growled, “For what?”
“Well, the lie they told their employees was entertainment purposes. Shaun took a look though everything and he found out they were looking for something called the Observatory.”
The name sparked the barest of memory, a flicker recalled from the depths of one of his childhoods, and suddenly Haytham surged to the forefront. His entire bearing changed, standing straighter with his chin slightly lifted, and he knew Rebecca had noticed the shift. He also knew that she knew who it was because not a one of the rest of them stood as the Templar did.
“I recall Reginald speaking of it once,” he said quietly, trying to recall the exact details from his youth. “I learned later that my father had known something of it.”
Rebecca frowned then and asked, “Edward Kenway?”
“He was one of us.”
He closed his eyes and let out a breath, before he nodded in confirmation. It had been something he’d learned later in life but it hadn’t changed anything. Not even discovering the fact that Birch had been the one to order his father killed and his half-sister taken had done so. Then he reopened his eyes to look at her and asked, “They were digging through our DNA to find the location through him. Did they discover it?”
Rebecca slowly nodded before saying, “We don’t know if they sent anyone there.”
“We should find out.”
“Sure. Can I have Desmond back now? Or at least one of the others?”
Scowling, he answered sternly, “You know as well as I that he can hear you.” He then took a step towards her, looming slightly, and smiled as she hurriedly stepped backwards away from him. “I dislike being here as much as you dislike my presence. However. It was I, not any of the others, that gave us the advantage we needed to both infiltrate the Templar ranks and laying the groundwork to bring them down. You can at least appreciate that, Miss Rebecca.”
“Yeah,” she answered shakily and Haytham nodded sharply before retreating grumpily. He sighed in the aftermath and lifted a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose as the man’s few scattered memories of his father lingered worryingly. As he’d discovered since surviving the Temple, Haytham hadn’t been quite the uncaring man he’d first perceived but one of more deep conflicts. And one of the larger ones was the events around his father’s demise and his own unknowing working with the man who’d killed him.
“Sorry about that,” he apologized after a moment.
Rebecca just shook her head before saying, “I correct myself. You’re not an ass, Desmond, he is.”
He flinched just the slightest, wanting to remind her that Haytham could hear her, but he didn’t. Instead he just said softly, “I’ll agree he has his moments but…there’s more to him than there seems, Rebecca. He helped us of his own will.”
“He’s still a Templar, Desmond.”
Sudden anger surged in him and he snapped. “Because that bastard Birch killed his father! You have no idea how it felt to realize that everything he’d known had been based upon a lie, that everything he was, everything he’d become had been built upon his father’s murder. He was only ten years old when his life got stolen from him! Ten, Rebecca.”
He then shook his head, turning away from her. “But he’s still a Templar, I know,” he stated bitterly. “He’s me now, though. Remember that? No matter how much any of you call me Desmond anymore, I’m not Desmond. And you insulting him is as good as insulting me.”
“I…Desmond, I didn’t…”
Shoulders slumping slightly, he turned to look at her mournfully. Rebecca was standing there looking all too lost and distraught, one hand slightly stretched out towards him. “I didn’t think of it that way,” she finished softly. “I just…it’s easier to think of them separately.”
“But we aren’t. We are one. All of us.”
He straightened again then but it was a different sort from Haytham’s stance this time. Still tall and proud but also ready and wary and Altaïr’s voice spilled out of him in a tightly controlled growl. “He is a Templar,” he said slowly, “but he is also a man of conviction. He followed what he believed. That is something to respect.”
Almost an instant later his stance relaxed or it at least appeared to in the eyes of the unknowing. Ezio’s laugh bubbled out of his throat before he said, “And he is ours, mia cara. I would tread carefully now with what you say.”
“He wasn’t all bad,” murmured Connor as his body shifted again though it wasn’t to the half-Native Assassin’s usual stance. It was there, the lean coiled stance of a hunter, but he was not bracing for a fight here. He bowed his head, as if in embarrassment for his words, and left his defense of his father at that though he certainly could have said more. Haytham had left his journal for him to find, after all.
Rebecca just stared at him, mouth open, her eyes wide with shock, dismay, and perhaps a little bit of horror. He could understand, of course. He’d never shifted between them like this in front of her before, never drifted seamlessly between one personality and another. No, he had merely shifted between Desmond and them because there had been little need to do else. Really the only two before who had seen him change so easily were William and Shaun.
As he started to shift back to his default, back to what was left of Desmond, suddenly Haytham was there again.
“I certainly do not need to be defended for my actions. They were my own choices and I made them willingly,” he scolded firmly, as if they were standing in front of him and not listening from within. Then he turned his gaze to Rebecca, who looked soundly embarrassed now, and stated, “And I am not insulted for being called what I am.”
He just smiled and shook his head before saying quietly, “Perhaps for the insult you paid to them through me but I doubt you are yet ready to apologize to a Templar. In the future, however, I may accept your apology when I think it honest.” Haytham retreated then, slightly smug and sure of himself again, while the rest scolded him.
Shaking his head, he muttered, “Sorry about that, Rebecca.”
“No,” she said shakily and he looked at her. She was still staring at him in dismay and had her arms wrapped around herself as if in self-comfort. “I really brought that on myself.”
“I can still apologize though.”
“You can,” Rebecca said with a nod before she smiled just slightly. “He won’t.”
“Haytham apologizes for little.” He then nodded behind her towards the building and asked, “Shall we head inside then?”
She just nodded sharply and he followed her into the building, torn inside between Haytham’s smug sense of victory, the protective sense of the others, and his own feeling like he had lost something with one of the few friends he had left.