The heat was sticky and humid, patience had been wearing thin, and yet you poured over another book. Strands of your hair fell onto the pages and you felt fingers pull it back behind your ear. It brushed against your cheek, making you pause and lean ever so slightly in it. You received a flick to the back of your head for that, for stopping writing and reading.
"You must finish this by night."
Malik's voice was strong and lined with pride. And why wouldn't he be? He was the only man capable of being both a scholar and assassin to masterful levels. He was pacing back and forth while reading, sometimes sitting for hour long stretches to write page after page. He already created a new map of Masyaf and were doing various duties befitting a Rafiq.
"I will." You gave a sigh which made him raise his head and stare at you from your seat. "But can we not practice outside? We spent most of the day planning. How will this help somebody on the field?"
Malik's eyes fell slightly in a glare which made you quiver slightly. He didn't move for awhile before suddenly standing up and closing his books. He took you by your elbow and began walking away, leaving you to scramble out of your seat and follow him.
He brought you to the middle of Masyaf's village then let go of your arm.
"There is a thief. Assassinate him without any information if you are so sure you can, my student."
He spoke the title with a slight teasing edge mixed in with his harshness and slight sarcasm. He was not in a good mood and you jumped over a wall, vaulting yourself out of Malik's direct view. You weren't exactly sure where you should start.
It had been a few hours and no information was found on your part besides a list of stolen goods. You leaned against a wall in defeat, not sure what to do now. Would you confess that a Rafiq's job was useful, or swallow your hardships and try to continue?
"A teacher is there to guide his students, not just punish them. Here,"
You looked up to see Malik perched on the rooftop, a paper held out to you with one hand. You took it and unfolded it to see a circle over a map with some words next to it. You glanced up then reached out for a ledge. It didn't take long for you to reach his height and sit next to him.
"You were right."
It was the only words of self-blame Malik would get from you and he bit back a faint smile. For weeks he had been forcing you to learn a Rafiq's duties to help you in assassination, and for weeks you had called it pointless. But at least know you would at least start showing an honest interest in learning.
"Then meet me in the library once you are done out here. We still have much to do and many hours have been wasted."
Malik rose and jumped off the roof, vanishing effortlessly into a group of people nearby. He had always been skilled in such, climbing less than other assassins and taking action even less. Malik saw you depart from the corner of his eyes, being able to track your movements. His student still had much to learn.
Malik looked at you with bitterness in his eyes, a venom which had resided there ever since he came back. You felt someone push you into his room with words like 'he'll talk to you' or 'you always can make him smile'. But Malik was far from either. Under those glaring eyes he was furious. His rage was fresh, untamed, and his hands gripped the hilt of a dagger.
The call of his name made him raise the dagger. In one fluid motion it was dug into a mirror, cracking it and sending shards flying.
"Teach me how to do that."
Your comment shocked Malik, and maybe brought him out of his anger a little bit. Nevertheless he beckoned for you to come, wincing as he moved. Blood trickled from the bandages around his butchered arm, the wound just having been sewed up.
He pulled a dagger out of your belt and grabbed your hand in his. He made you hold the dagger tightly and he brought it to your shoulder's height. He then froze, his hand shaking. Tears fell down his eyes and he dropped his head onto your shoulder.
"You know what? How can you possibly think you know anything that is happening to me?! You don't need a mentor, you need to leave."
You knew where the door was, you didn't need him to point it out. And he probably wasn't expecting you to wipe his tears away and spend the night whispering sweet words to him. But that is what happened. Until he fell asleep curled up around you, breathing shallow but features calm. And you held your mentor close, not letting anything hurt him. The student had moved up a level.
"Why do you come here? Masyaf is your home."
"I came to Jerusalem to follow my mentor."
Malik would have probably glared at you if the title did not evoke something in him. He was ready to throw you away, and for your own good. You did not need a one-armed man to teach you assassination tricks. You needed someone else. Someone who would not spend the rest of their lives only doing paperwork.
"Then get a quill and help me fill in these papers."
Malik watched you quickly get to work before going back to it himself. It was strangely peaceful now, quiet and still. The student and mentor had found their place. Together.
"Malik, you have to start somewhere."
"I will not. I am out of balance-"
You grabbed Malik's hand and didn't let him storm away. He looked at the log on the ground with a frown as you stepped onto it with him. He attempted to balance, one foot slipping into the sandy earth around it. He gritted his teeth after and felt you grab a handful of his robes. You balanced him out as if he was a doll and gave him a firm nod.
Malik stepped forward towards you, one arm raising to give him balance, but since he only had one he started tipping again. You grabbed onto him this time before he could fall and held him steady.
"I can't do this-!"
"That what I said about being an assassin. And look what I managed to do because of you. So don't you dare try to say you can't do something."
Malik bowed his head slightly to look down at his feet as he strode forward. This time he did not end up unbalanced, but only almost fell at the third stride. He was slowly progressing. The student was teaching the mentor.
When you woke up in the morning it was not by Malik's sharp words of you sleeping too much. Nor was it to the sound of him moving about the bureau- not that he made many. Malik appeared to be gone. His papers were untouched from the night before.
You climbed outside and went to where you two had been training before. You saw the log and Malik attempting to run back and forth on it. He was starting to get faster, slipping less. You watched him in silence, studying his pose. He knew what to do, he just had to tweak what he learnt for years and years. He had to practice once more like a novice, starting from the bottom and working his way up.
And when he slipped you heard him groan about Altaïr being able to do it. That name gave him an inner fire and he kept going. Other times he murmured your name and this name his steps smoother and quicker. When he managed to walk back and forth ten times without tripping you went to the ground beside him. He blushed the slightest amount at being caught, but it worsened as you hugged him.
"You did amazing. Let's try someplace higher now."
Malik let himself be senselessly hugged as he hid a small smile of pride. He felt like glowing. He had took a substantial step towards regaining his abilities. But it was how close you were which made his heart hit his chest with more force than needed. The mentor had become a student.
"Malik! That's much too ambitious."
"I can do it-"
Malik came crashing down, almost snapping his neck as he couldn't properly land either. You rushed over to him, ignoring whatever he was saying to check to see if he was injured. He wasn't and you gave a deep sigh.
"Malik, that's too advanced-"
"Novices can do it."
Malik attempted to give reason, as flawed as that was.
"Novices have both their arms, Malik. I'm sorry but that's the truth. So-"
"Help me then."
He spoke the three words softly, and you frowned lightly but did as he asked for. You held his ankles as he attempted to stand on one arm. He clearly wasn't able.
"Let go of me now."
Malik was cut off my toppling over the moment you let go of him. He almost snapped his neck, unable to stop himself while only having one arm. You had been right. The student had become more wise than the mentor.
"Again, and again... a dozen more, Malik."
Malik groaned as he tried another one-armed push up. He could feel your eyes on him, papers in your lap and feet on his back as you filled them out. Sweat dripped down his face and he had already shrugged off his outer robes. He was losing patience, pride, and a good deal of clothing.
"How many more?"
"Agh!" Malik dropped his head, resting his forehead briefly against the floor. You had give him all these pieces of false hope, which had kept him practicing the day through instead of simply giving up.
"Why are you so cruel?"
"You can stop now if you want."
You waited for Malik to stop but he seemed to have even more vigour now. He didn't ask to stop again until his body simply gave out.
You then wiped his face clean of the sweat and let him sleep, kissing his forehead lightly.
"Thank you, mentor."
He mumbled right before he closed his eyes and you gave a quiet smile. The mentor had given his student his rank.
"And a feather."
You gave Malik a playful smile. How many other days had these roles been reversed? But now Malik, after brutal training and many long months, was ready to go on an assassination mission. It was something simple, quick and easy. But instead of Malik behind the bureau's desk, you were. Malik put the feather away before looking at the door. The sun glowed across the bottom of the floor and Malik took in a deep breath before going there.
"Peace and long life, Malik."
"... I've never been on receiving end of that before..." Malik headed to the door before turning his head back and raising a hand partly as a parting. "And to you, my mentor."
Malik left and staid gone for a few hours. When he came back his hand was coated in blood but he carried a drenched, now red feather. Nothing could stop your pride or your happiness in the matter. You kissed him, taste buds filled with the metallic ting and salt of blood, of passion and eagerness. The mentor and student had finally hit equilibrium. Each were both and neither, each was the other's everything.