Desmond didn't linger long in the Animus today. He exited as soon as he completed his current sequence. When he returned to the present, he could smell that dinner was ready. He ate as quickly as he could without arousing suspicion from his companions. Which turned out not to be very quickly at all: the meal was some mysterious meat that tasted like liver.
As soon as he'd choked down a sufficient portion of the stuff, he excused himself from the group.
"You're going out again tonight?"
"Yeah, gotta burn those calories, you know? Don't want you to have to widen the Animus." Their stupid insults have given me the perfect cover story.
This time, he opted to leave his Hidden Blade at the hideout. She was pretty cool about it yesterday, but she'll probably feel more at ease if I'm not armed.
He made a beeline for the cottage across from the bank, and climbed up to the balcony. Peering inside, he spotted Alexis at a small table, reading a book. He knocked lightly on the window. She glanced up and started at the sight of him. He waved. She came to the window and let him in.
"Desmond! You really came back."
"Of course, why wouldn't I?"
"I figured you probably would," she grinned, "but I also figured there was a chance I just dreamed everything from last night."
"You think I'm dreamy, huh? Same to you, Lex." He leant in and gave her a kiss.
"Turns out it was liver. Pig liver. Something called 'fegatelli di maiale'. They cook it in the pig's stomach, can you believe it?" Desmond was reclined on the couch, head resting in Alexis' lap.
"Blech. There's no accounting for taste."
"La pura verità."
"You've got a really good accent going. Are you taking classes?"
"Nah, it's pure immersion. Eight hours a day in the Animus works wonders. Sometimes I don't even realize I'm speaking Italian."
"...Eight hours in what?"
"Oh, didn't I tell you about the Animus?"
"I don't think so..."
"Ah, my mistake. The Animus is a machine invented by Abstergo. It's used to relive memories from your ancestors."
Desmond sat up. "Something called 'genetic memory', encoded in human DNA. I don't understand the technological details, but being in the Animus is like going back in time. Only you're not yourself. You're someone else, from way back in your family tree. I'm talking hundreds of years back. You see what they saw, hear what they heard."
"Man, that is some science fiction shit."
"Hey, it's true. That's what happened after Abstergo got me. I was one of their test subjects. They made me go in the Animus and live the life of an Assassin from the Crusades."
"How would that help you learn Italian?"
"Since I excaped Abstergo, I started reliving a different ancestor, also an Assassin, but this time in Italy during the Renaissance. I've been spending so much time as Ezio that his skills are being passed on to me."
"So, it's like a historical virtual reality simulator."
"I guess it is technically a simulation, but it's no game."
"All right, give me a moment to process this." She was rubbing her temples, as if trying to fight off a headache. "They kidnapped you to test their machine? I thought you said they were trying for world domination."
"They needed information from my genetic memories to get the Apple of Eden... Did I mention the Apple yet? Shiny gold ball, controls people's minds?"
"I'll believe that when I see it."
"You might not like it if you did." Suddenly, images of Assassins under Al Mualim's control at Masyaf filled his vision. Great, more bleeding. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes until the phantoms dissipated.
"Ahh, it's nothing." She has enough reason to think I'm crazy without knowing about the hallucinations. "Enough about me. What have you been up to?"
"Nothing much. Job's going okay. Been spending most of my time worrying about you. I wasn't even planning this vacation, you know? It was Anne's idea- you remember Anne, right? She said I needed some time to relax. I think she was hoping I'd just forget about you being missing. She said I was obsessed and I should just let the police do their job."
"Well I'm sure glad you came." If I know the Templars, they either bribed the police to discontinue searching for me, or planted evidence to lead them on a wild goose chase. "By the way, I meant to ask before: How long are you going to be in Monteriggioni?"
"Just a week; well, five more days now." He looked dejected. "What? This place is pricey. How about yourself? Any plans to get back home?"
"No... I don't think I'll ever be able to return."
"The Assassins need me. And I need them, if I don't want Abstergo to get me. Which I don't. Last time they had me they wanted to kill me. They probably still do."
"Mm... Well, we better make the most of our time together, Desmond my dear." She gave him a playful look.
"You're making a pass at me? Right after I've said that a giant evil corporation wants to kill me? I'd have thought that was a mood killer. You're weird."
"Hey, I'm trying to take your mind off your troubles. Are you saying you're not interested?"
"Oh, I'm not saying that..." He grinned and moved in to embrace her.
Alexis ran her tongue over the enigmatic scar that defined his lips. Keeping their bodies in contact, she led the way to the bedroom. Desmond laid her down and unbuttoned her nightshirt. He caressed her bosom, gently running his fingertips in circles of diminishing size until reaching her nipples. Then he trailed his hands down, over the fantastic curve of her waist, the slight podge of her belly.
"Lift your bottom a bit." She did so, allowing him to remove her pajama bottoms. He threw them aside and gazed down at her. He savored the sight of his girlfriend's body: a familiar experience, so unlike the strange chaos that typified his life these days.
"Not fair," she mock-complained. "I want to see your body too." She sat up and swiftly unzipped his jacket, tossing it to the floor. A shirt, boxers, and jeans were soon added to the pile of clothes.
They kissed, her hands roaming all over the Assassin's torso, kneading the various muscles, while he caressed her back, one hand dipping into her panties to squeeze a cheek. "God, you're such a sexy Lexy," he panted.
"And you're... ah, shit. Nothing rhymes with Desmond.... Oh, I got it. Desirable."
He smiled. "Nice one. Now let's cut out the wordplay and get back to the foreplay," he said, dimly aware of the irony in this statement. He gently pushed her onto her back and leaned over, supporting himself with one arm, then nuzzled his face between her breasts, inhaling her sweet scent, using his other hand to stimulate her through the thin cotton of her underwear.
"Uh... ahh... Dezz..." His girlfriend's breaths became rapid. "Hah... yes... keep going..." He took this as his cue to pull down the panties, now dampened with evidence of her arousal.
They'd been together enough times for him to know what she liked. He inserted two fingers into her eager entrance and began to thrust, gradually building up speed. Suddenly a hand was gripping his shaft. He moaned at the sensation, her tugging matching pace with his thrusting.
His legs were going weak. He shifted his body to lie on the bed beside Alexis. For now, nothing existed beyond his body and hers. There were no Abstergo research labs, no Pieces of Eden, no shadowy organizations, no enigmatic codes, no ancient civilizations, no portents of doom. Just two lovers, touching each other, shuddering with mutual pleasure.
"I should have known you had Italian blood. You do have a certain flair for lovemaking."
"You're pretty good yourself, Lex." Desmond said, sleepily. The pair drifted off in each others' arms.
A couple of hours passed silently, and then...
"No! Padre! Federico! Petruccio!"
Alexis was startled awake by the pained cries. "Huh? Desmond?! Hey, calm down!"
"E zio Mario, anche! Bastardi templari!" he howled, eyes closed, a death grip on the sheets..
"What's going on? Wake up! Des!" She shook him by the shoulders.
"Tutti uccisi! Gah!" His eyes shot open, his breathing frantic and shallow. "Sono... Che cosa?"
"It's okay, it's just a bad dream! Calm down..."
"Do... I... aagh. Goddamn Bleeding Effect.... " he growled.
"Are you okay? You were, like, yelling. Really loud. In Italian."
He sighed. "Yeah... I guess I'm okay." So much for keeping this from her. "That's a side effect of the Animus. Sometimes I get these visions of the past, even when I'm not in it. As you might have guessed, not all my ancestors' memories are exactly pleasant.... Sorry you had to witness me like that."
"Geez, Desmond. This is for real."
"That's what I've been telling you."
"I know, but... It's not like I thought you were lying. It's just... the stuff you were saying is so out there."
"You don't know the half of it." Imagine her reaction if I told her about Eagle Vision, or Subject 16's video. He caught sight of the clock. "Shit, it's gonna be sunrise soon. I gotta get back." He jumped out of bed and scrambled to get his clothes on.
"Are you, like, breaking curfew to come see me? That is precious."
"No, I'm allowed out at night. I just have to be back before daybreak. For security reasons. Where did I put my Hidden- oh right, I didn't wear it tonight..."
"Same time tomorrow night?" Alexis inquired hopefully.
"It's a date."
As Desmond climbed onto the roof and started back, he had a nagging thought. It is really a strange coincidence for her to be in Monteriggioni at the same time as you. What if Abstergo is using her to get to you? What would you do then? Rebecca’s tale of her ex-boyfriend came to mind, unbidden. He tamped down the thought, burying the possibility. No way. Alex’s too honest, too intelligent, too ethical to be working for them.