Malik sat in the Assassin's Bureau, twirling the end of a feather in his only one hand. The dried blood sat uncomfortably on the tips of the once bird feather. He could feel a breeze, but it was warm and not very refreshing. The memory he was repeating was clear as crystal water on a summer day. All the screaming. Altair being thrown out. The crusaders. Kadar.
Malik gripped the feather tighter, causing it to snap and flutter to the floor. He slammed a fist on the desk where his map lay as the feather so delicately hit the floor. His fingers dug into the palm of his hand and he found himself trembling. He squeezed his eyes shut and breathed in.
No, he was okay.
With this he lifted his head, waiting for the bells to chime that Altair had completed his job. The sleeve where Malik's other arm was supposed to be danced lightly with the breeze that ruffled his hair. He stared at the sky, watching the clouds being pushed slowly by the wind. Malik cleared his throat, finally hearing that same chime. The guards screaming. The rafiq paced himself for Altair's return, lolling back to his desk and taking a triumphant seat, making the small ink bowl twitch.
And he heard the same thump of the boots. He heard the same panting from running on the rooftops of Jerusalem. Malik drew in his breath. Calm down, he would think. Another fist clenched.
Soon he heard the steps advance, and in the corner of his eye he saw the same dull, not even white anymore assassin clothes stained with dirt and dried blood. Malik turned his head slightly to see Altair standing there with a bloodied feather. He held it out, even though he was still feet away from the desk.
"I killed him," Altair obviously stated. Malik rolled his eyes and turned his whole body to the assassin.
"That's a little obvious, Altair. Just hand me the feather." He held out his only arm, feeling the same awkwardness since his friend (enemy?) had two. Like normal people. Malik had to stop himself from trembling again. As Altair took steps to the rafiq, the feather lightly set in Malki's palm. The blood was still wet. A chill flew up Malik's spine.
Altair took a seat on top of the desk as Malik took notes and scribbled on the map, leaving the feather adjacent to it. Altair didn't remove his hood but watched Malik write, taking a sniff or two from the dust caught in his airways. As Altair watched he would always take note of how clumsy Malik could get only writing with one arm. Altair's heart sunk only slightly.
As Malik scribbled and made faces at the moving map he couldn't help but notice the assassin standing there, watching him. He wiped the sweat off of his forehead and turned to Altair with a grumpy face. He lifted his lip in annoyance but Altair didn't catch on, or was being an asshole. Of course Malik took the latter.
"Can I help you?" The rafiq asked with sarcasm leaving trails in his voice. Altair jumped off the desk and chuckled lightly. He scratched the hair underneath his hood.
"You look pale," Altair observed. Another eye roll followed suit from Malik.
"Be quiet," snapped Malik, "The guards will stop looking for you soon, and I need ink." He turned trying his hardest to concentrate on what he was doing. But the constant shuffling of Altair's feet made it hard.
"Really," Altair said calmly, "When was the last time you slept?" Malik huffed and slammed the quill he was using on the desk. He rubbed his temples and pressed his lips together.
"It doesn't matter," he growled, picking up the quill. He paused to wipe his forehead and continued. He was breathing heavy now. Damn Altair.
But the damn assassin wouldn't stop. He came almost trotting up the desk and looked at Malik's slightly lowered head, trying to read him. Altair curved his head so he covered the map and look up at Malik. Blinking once or twice he sighed.
"Malik, you should sleep." The assassin proceeded to walk around and enter behind the desk where the rafiq stood, getting even more frustrated. He abruptly turned to Altair and clenched his fist around the quill.
"Dammit, Altair. I told you I was fine," Malik snapped, his breathing becoming heavier. He wiped his head and set the quill down and swayed, catching himself at the edge of the desk. His vision was blurry. Okay, so he wasn't fine. But he glared at Altair and noticed the assassin had a concerned look on his face. Malik grimaced.
"Altair--" But before he could finish, he collapsed on the ground.
~ . ~ . ~ . ~
He could still feel the sun beaming down at him through the roof of the bureau. He groaned, rolling over the pillows and ended up on the cold stone. He let out another groan before opening his eyes, seeing a cloudless day. Strange, he could have sworn it was cloudy. There was no breeze, and it seemed cooler than Malik was only moments before. But that was just it. Had he only been out for a moment? He slowly sat up, looking around.
And there in the corner sat the same dirty robes and head tilted down. A small smile curled to Malik. It was Altair, no doubt, and he must have waited. Malik crawled over to the corner, washing away the want to stand. He was liking the cool weather.
"Altair," Malik whispered, poking the assassin. He groaned and look up. But it was not Altair's amber eyes.
Two big cerulean eyes gleamed in the sunlight and tan skin greeted the rafiq. He was stunned. He searched up and down on the assassin, but it was definitely him. Malik had no doubt. The young assassin pulled down his head to reveal short, wavy black hair. He smiled.
"K-Kadar," Malik whispered, dropping his lingering hand.
"Hello, brother," chimed Kadar, slowly standing. He tilted himself as he stood, arching his back as he cracked it. Malik slowly stood, trembling as he did when he thought about his smaller brother. He couldn't believe he was standing there. Malik brought a hand to his forehead.
"Why... Why... Why are you here?" Malik turned. But now his brother's face was bruised and bloodied. Malik gasped and flung a foot backwards, his lip trembling profusely as he lowered his arm to his side again.
Kadar's smile didn't fade, even though the condition of his face did. Drastically. "Well why are you here?"
Malik stuttered, "I... I'm the rafiq of Jerusalem. I was... Was... Asleep..." He couldn't believe how lost for words he was. He kept shaking his head. He kept doubting himself. He kept blinking, thinking his brother would just disappear.
Kadar giggled, "That great, brother!" His happiness was just the same before he died. Kadar's hands flew behind his back to curl together and he grinned massively. "I always thought that Altair would become one of those! He was such a good assassin."
Malik's only hand clenched into a hard fist. He was trembling, yes, but now with anger. He violently shook his head. "No. Altair is not a good assassin. He killed innocent people on the job. He disobeyed rules. He killed you." Malik now had tears in his eyes as he glanced at his brother. "No..." He whispered, "I killed you."
Kadar's grin finally faded, only slightly, "No, brother, you tried your best to save me."
Malik felt a hot tear crawl down his cheek. It burned. He hadn't cried since Kadar died. "Please," Malik pleaded, "Please, brother. What can I do to make it up to you?"
Kadar smiled only lightly, "Wake up."
Malik sprung from the pillows. He panted. He wheezed. He wasn't crying. No, but the sky was still cloudless. He looked around him and saw another dirtied white assassin's clothes clinging to a human in the corner where Kadar was. Putting a hand over his fast beating heart he croaked, "Al... Altair?"
The figure lifted its head, and indeed, two amber eyes met Malik's. He looked tired. But what a relief. The rafiq stood, slowly making his way to Altair, who also stood slowly.
"See you're finally awake," Altair grinned slightly. "You still need that ink and shit?"
Malik slowly shook his head, "I... I need to get out of here. I've been here for days, I'll go get it." He glanced at the ground, his heart still beating abnormally fast.
Altair shrugged. "If you say so. I'll be chomping on something when you get back." He started to the archway before he turned, "And don't die." He winked but Malik just glared. He hated how Altair thought he couldn't take care of himself.
Glancing up the wall he remembered why he had stayed here for days. It proved difficult to get out. He sighed. He had to, anyways. If he stayed at the bureau any longer he might hallucinate Kadar again. He rubbed his temples before jumping onto the small fountain.
He grabbed a loose piece of stone and with all his strength he brought himself up to the rooftop. Once his feet made contact he stood, overlooking most of the roofs in Jerusalem. He sighed. There was still no clouds. No breeze. He decided it was just a normal weather change, nothing to worry about. He started across the rooftops before he caught sight of a guard. Doing his best to avoid conflict he jumped down at the shortest height. Even then he stumbled slightly backwards, catching himself on the wall. Another sigh.
"I'm fine. I'm fine," he would repeat to himself as he wandered through the crowds. Luckily no one could recognise his clothes a being a rafiq. He was thankful for that. Having only one arm made fights difficult. Not impossible, just not something Malik wanted to do everyday.
As he swerved and curved around people trying to be as swift and fast as possible he finally found the market. Walking through the even more crowded streets he finally found the stall that sold quills, parchment, and ink. They had other things, too, but Malik was only interested in the three.
"Good..." He glanced at the sun then back at the salesman, "Afternoon, sir. I'd like to purchase some ink." The salesman looked up, a shadow covering most of is face. His lips were thin and his skin dark. The latter Malik wasn't ever surprised at, but thin lips weren't common. Not that common anyways.
"Alright, brother." The man looked at such an angle to reveal more cerulean eyes gleaming in the hot sun. Malik shook his head. No. This was not happening, not again. He rubbed his eye and took his time to reopen it, getting another look. Yet the cerulean eyes remained, and so did his sing-song voice.
"Do you still want ink, brother?" Kadar innocently asked, holding up a medium bottle of black ink. Malik lowered his head. He shook it lightly, caught in denial. Where a breeze would be perfect no breeze swept through. All that there was was a cold feeling in Malik.
"You can't be him..." He whispered, "You died a year ago. I'm hallucinating."
Kadar laughed, "No, brother. You're dreaming." Malik looked up into his brother's eyes. "Wake up."
Malik's eyes flashed open. This time he was leaning on the back of the desk in the bureau. He was panting again. He took a hand to his forehead. It was hot. He cringed in unbearable pain, and he didn't even know why. His tear ducts swelled. He arched his back. He missed Kadar.
"Are you okay?" A voice rung in his ears. It wasn't Altair... And other than that, he couldn't tell the novices by their voices anymore. He sighed and stood up slowly, his right leg in pain. It trembled as he tried to stay awake. Once he found his support on the desk he lifted his head to face the unknown voice.
More fucking cerulean eyes. Malik's teeth clenched. His fist clenched. The pain in his right leg grew. His eyes became dark. "Why the fuck are you everywhere?" He screamed at his brother. Kadar backed away slightly. He cocked his head.
"What do you mean, brother?" Kadar's eyes were soft and afraid and Malik suddenly regretted yelling. He rubbed his temples. It was becoming a habit. He looked up at his brother. He was trembling.
"Kadar..." Malik reached his hand out, leaning over the desk. He lifted his knee and climbed over the desk, stumbling to his brother. He bumped into him lightly and took a step back. He studied his brother who lessened in his frantic trembling. Malik smiled. Even if he was hallucinating, it was still Kadar. And he was still here. He put his one arm around Kadar.
His little brother breathed in, "You smell the same, Malik." Kadar lifted his right arm and tugged at the sewn sleeve where Malik's other arm used to occupy. He sniffed.
"Is this what happened in the temple...?" Kadar looked up at his brother. But Malik just smiled.
"Yes, Kadar. But that doesn't matter now. Now... Now you're finally alive." He squeezed his brother the best he could. He knew he went insane. He knew Kadar was dead (wasn't he?). But he didn't care. He nestled his cheek in his younger brother's hair. It was soft, just like he remembered. And Kadar was sweet, just like he was when he was alive. But he was alive now, dammit.
"I missed you, Malik." Kadar whispered. Malik hugged him closer.
"I did, too, brother." Malik rubbed Kadar's back.
~ . ~ . ~ . ~
The next few days Malik was in pure utopia. He hadn't seen Altair in days and Kadar went everywhere with him. Even though he wore the assassin uniform he kept the hood down, and Malik loved how when he looked to his side he saw his short brother there bouncing up and down with his cerulean eyes like the water they often walked by.
Finally in the market Malik bought ink and a few other writing tools. Kadar would insist on getting bread, and even though it was expensive, Malik bought it all the same. In fact, Kadar got expensive enough that Malik took a job cleaning the outside of houses. To cheat, he would get Kadar to throw mud on the Bureau and Malik would just clean it off over and over again. His boss never noticed.
Of course, being exposed that much Malik got a wheat bag and took a few together to make a common gown. He left his hair out, but the hot sun would burn his scalp every now and again. And everyday when he was done with work the sun was setting and he would jump down the Bureau's roof and find Kadar spread on the pillows. Malik would smile, get a snack, and join Kadar in sleep.
The days would repeat, and sometimes Kadar would help Malik, but only for a moment before Malik's boss would come around. Sometimes after work Kadar would stay up and ask Malik to go by the water. Of course he couldn't say no. He would dress back in the rafiq's clothes and walk along the rooftops since most of the guards left to sleep. Kadar would always be jumping to and fro, Malik following slower. They would always reach the water by moon rise, and they would sit on the dirt all the same.
One night, Kadar was standing on a boat in the middle, dragging his finger through the water. He was humming to himself while Malik watched and smiled. He was so happy his brother was with him now. He looked up and saw the stars, hoping he would never change.
"Malik?" Kadar asked quietly that night.
Malik was lost and only answered a few moments later, "Yes, Kadar?" His brother jumped back to the ledge and pointed in the direction of the bureau. Malik followed his finger and gasped. Just barely in vision he saw guards storming the rooftops. The bells chimed. But Malik never saw Altair... He stood fast and grabbed Kadar's hand.
"I'm not losing you this time," he spat out, running full speed. As long as they made it to the bureau they were safe. Malik was determined.
The only time he let go of Kadar was to climb, and even with one arm he climbed almost as fast as the panicking Kadar. Once they were on the rooftops Malik grabbed Kadar's hand again and ran as fast as his feet would carry him. They were so close Malik could almost smell it. When he saw the assassin's symbol he jumped down with Kadar, catching himself at the bottom.
"Go inside, now!" Malik ordered and Kadar nodded and ran in. It was still dark. Malik could only hear the bells and guards yelling at a distance. He grabbed a sword that lay in the corner. He stood, defensive, waiting for the guards to find him. Of course he really didn't want them to. But he was ready.
Unfortunately they were close enough that Malik knew they spotted him. He backed up so he was half in the dark archway that led into the inner bureau. And to his dismay (but not so much surprise), four or five guards jumped in. They spatted something in Arabic before drawing their swords. Malik's teeth clenched.
"It's the assassin!" Once screamed.
"Yes, the one that killed him!" Another followed.
Malik knew exactly how this happened. Damn Altair. Malik gripped the sheath harder and concentrated everything on the guards. "You won't get me." he growled but the guards just spat and laughed.
"We don't want you, one armed freak. We want him." He pointed with his sword to the small Kadar standing right behind Malik. The latter man gasped.
"Kadar! I told you to stay away!" Malik yelled and Kadar cringed.
"I'm sorry," Kadar mumbled, "I thought you were going to get hurt. I wanted to help." He looked up with sad ocean eyes as he tugged on Malik's black cloak. When Kadar turned his head to the guards so did Malik. He swallowed. He wasn't going to let Kadar slip away again.
"Come at me," Malik ordered.
And come at him they did. Swords clanged and Kadar ran around before finally deciding to draw a sword himself. Malik was immersed in the fight he didn't noticed. He dodged and stabbed, so far taking down two guards. He turned to the others and now noticed Kadar. He was being ambushed by four guards. Malik's heart raced.
He charged to the guards, stabbing one in the back. He fell down and a shrill scream of pain rang through Malik's ears. He tried to get to his brother, but was slashed by another guard. He dropped his sword with a clang and fell down to the hard stone. He grabbed his side and looked at Kadar. He himself fell down on his head and coughed up blood. No. No. No. No. Malik wasn't about to lose him again.
Taking his hand off his wound he reached out his hand. "B-Brother!" He screamed and Kadar turned his head his left eye bruised and blood pouring from his mouth, and yet he was still smiling. He held out his bloodied hand and blinked, a tear falling down and only partially washing away dirt.
"Kadar!" Malik's screamed through tears. "Kadar talk to me, please!" Malik was crying now, reaching his hand far. But Kadar just let his hand go loose.
"W-Wake up... B-Brother."
Malik's eyes widened.
Again he shot up from cold stone. Again he was panting. Again there was no breeze. Again he was scared. Hot. Alone. Confused. He looked around and saw Altair standing right before him, arms folded. Malik sighed and slowly stood.
"What happened, Malik?" Altair asked, watching the rafiq stumble and catch himself and then stumble again.
"I... I keep seeing Kadar." He rubbed his temples and then turned to Altair. "I'm going insane, Altair. I can't stop thinking about it... What happened at the temple..." He slammed his head down on the desk. "It's all so clear to me now."
Altair sighed, "I thought you moved on." Malik glared over towards Altair. But his expression was just that of apathy. Malik slammed his fist on the desk, making the blood soaked feather bounce and fell to the ground so delicately.
"Altair, because of you, because of your recklessness... Your stupidity... Kadar is dead!" Malik spat out, loud. His tear ducts hurt, but he wouldn't let himself cry in front of Altair. Altair stepped back and lifted his hands.
"I'm not going to pity you, Malik. All I know is that you were knocked out and now you're tripping, seeing your brother. Not my problem." Altair shook his head and waved his hand around before turning and walking to pillow where he flopped down.
Malik was left alone and angry. Sad. He finally let tears fall down. He clenched his fist. That was it. He only saw Kadar when he was asleep. He frantically turned, suddenly rustling through all his papers and drawers. He knew he had tranquilizer somewhere. If he took enough he would go comatose. An eternal sleep, but not dead. And then he finally found it.
It was a small vial, and his trembling hand opened it. There was a small glass he suddenly saw on the desk and still shaking, he dribbled the tranquilizer into it. The cup was small, it would take about three sips to get it. He drank it reluctantly. When he slammed the cup down he took the vial once more and dribbled it in. Another sip. Another slam. Now he stared at was left. One more sip. And he could see Kadar again. He started to pour it. Then.
"Don't do it, Malik." This startled him. He searched for the voice. "Down here, Malik." Malik searched and looked down. His parchment had spilled ink on it, and formed the face of Kadar. Somehow his eyes were still cerulean. Malik's tears fell.
"But I must be with you, Kadar." He blinked and another tear fell, "I can't take this."
Kadar's face saddened, "No, brother. You can live without me. I'm not everything. You have Altair. Yes, I know you have hatred. But he's there." The eyes of the portrait looked down. "I love you too, Malik. But you have to remember I'll always be there." The portrait looked back at Malik. "So wake up, please."
Malik lowered the cup. Kadar spoke again, "Please, brother. Wake up." The ink was dribbling from the eyes. "I love you, please move on. Please. I wouldn't want you to be like this. Just wake up. Wake up. Please."
~ . ~ . ~ . ~
"Wake... Up... Malik..." Altair shook the rafiq back and forth. Soon Malik's eyes creaked open and saw the disgruntled Altair holding his shoulders. Malik looked up. The sky had clouds. There was a hot breeze. Altair was still covered in dried blood. Malik blinked and rubbed his eye.
"Altair? Is that you?" Malik asked, still searching for the norm.
Altair frowned, "No, Malik, I'm Jesus. Of course it's me." He stood, holding out a hand for Malik. "Now stand up." Malik did so, but slowly.
"What happened?" Malik asked, rubbing the back of his head. Now it was Altair's turn to roll his eyes. He folded his arms and turned his head to face Malik.
"I tried telling you that you needed to sleep. And you got all pissy and then fainted. Me and a random novice that popped up here came and got you. You've been out so long we asked Al Mualim to come. He went to go find medicine... He should be back soon." Altair scratched the back of his head.
Malik sighed. He was definitely back. He glanced at the sky. "So that's what happened..." He looked back at Altair and saw a familiar figure jump down with a vial in his hand. When he stood he saw that it was indeed Al Mualim. The old man grew a smile.
"Malik!" He laughed, "After two weeks you finally rise!" He made his way next to Altair. Malik just stood, speechless. He swallowed, watching Altair and Al Mualim stare back it him. He remembered what Kadar had said. He wiped his eyes and sniffed.
"Uh..." Altair started, "Are you okay, Malik?" Malik looked back up, a tear rolling down.
"I'm fantastic, Altair."