The sun has already set and the only brightness coming through window is the light of the city. This is the time when Malik hears knock at the doors. It is late enough for it to be Altaїr coming back from practice, but he has the keys and has no reason to knock. This is second time today he decides to involve himself with the outside world by opening the doors and let whoever is there disturb his peaceful evening.
“Good evening! Do you mind if we share a couple of words over a coffee?” the smiling face that let itself in without being invited or getting any response belonged to Leonardo. Malik was still trying to understand what just happened when he noticed that Leonardo was already on the sofa, inviting him to come.
“Yes, hi…” With confusion fading, but still lingering on his face, Malik closed the doors and turned to Leonardo “Is there a problem?” This was only explanation he could come up with. Why would Leonardo be here otherwise? Taught that was in Malik’s mind was that he would get some kind of reprimand for what he had caused the night before.
“No, no problems at all. I just wanted to chat with you for a bit. I hope that is alright with you?” he just sunk leisurely in the sofa while his eyes were still on Malik. He expected that Malik would come to sit with him or that he would first make some coffee. Either was fine with him.
“It is fine. I am just not used to having visitors often.” Malik went towards the kitchen to make coffee “Even if someone comes here, it is usually someone looking for Altaїr, so I am a bit surprised.” Malik was standing, a bit confused, in front of various shelves and cabinets, unsure where he would find coffee or the pot. He tried to find them, searched in cabinets and looked on the shelves, but it was all to no avail. He did not know the arrangement of anything in the kitchen, finding one thing among others was hard task. He admitted defeat; his hands were pressed against the counter with sadness and failure in his eyes.
It became clear to Leonardo; Malik felt like stranger in his own home. In hope of helping Malik to feel better, he changed his drinking desire. “You know, I am not in a mood for coffee. Maybe juice would be a better choice.” Malik knew what was offered to him, and he accepted it, uneasy as it was.
Juice was acceptable replacement for coffee. Its place was the fridge, always the fridge so he did not have to wonder aimlessly again. After he opened the fridge, he saw two bottles of different types of juice. “We have orange and…” other one was red and he could not identify it right away; and the label did not help since there was no flavour written on it, only the picture. “…and strawberry?” he looked at Leonardo for his decision.
“I would kindly ask for strawberry. I could never resist them.” His smile was still on his face, the kind and caring smile that expressed the carefree spirit of this person.
Malik nodded and took the juice out of the fridge. Glasses were easy to find; they were on the shelf above the fridge. He did need to stretch a bit since the shelf was a bit higher up; Altaїr organised the kitchen according to his needs, not Malik’s.
Malik could not remember last time he actually drank juice, even less what kind of juice he preferred or liked. To avoid further inconveniences, he poured some strawberry flavoured juice for himself also.
Carrying the glasses was not easy; his arm still hurt, but he managed to carry it to the table. After putting both of them down he noticed that he had no coasters; and he could probably waste half a day looking for them. Altaїr will probably be upset if they mess the table, but he will deal with that later.
As soon as Malik sat, Leonardo reached for the juice. He seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. “This one is really good! I rarely find one so tasty. Tell me, where can I purchase this?” it was just after he has asked that he realised what he has asked. Malik probably did not know since he was not the one that bought it. Leonardo wanted to apologise for stupid question but he was interrupted.
“I will ask Altaїr. He does the shopping.” Malik’s gaze was directed towards the carpet. He was embarrassed that he did not know anything about his own living space. Most of his time was spent in his room, dong something on one of his computers; he kept telling himself that he was too busy to pay attention. He knew that wasn’t true, he was just lazy and distracted by childish things.
“You became quite dependant on him. Am I correct?” Smile on Leonardo’s face was somewhat different. It was not the regular kind-hearted smile, this had more mischief in it. He even shifted his body to match it, facing Malik, expecting his reaction.
Malik was still had a bit of sadness in his face, but he answered the question with a lot of discomfort “Since he is living here, he can at least do something productive. Why should I bother myself with the rest of the apartment when I spend most of my time in room.” He realised this was not the smartest thing he said; between him and Altaїr, he looked like the bad guy. He was still looking at the carpet, this time with leisure on his face, sneering at himself.
“Yes, I say tending to the apartment really is productive. So he is here a lot? Does he not go out during the day?” Leonardo knew what he was asking, he was aware that Altaїr spent most of his day outside the apartment working for Ezio. He just wanted those taught to sink deeper into Malik’s mind.
“No.” he turned to face Leonardo “He is out most of the day, and, because of his training, he comes back rather late.” He suddenly became disgusted with himself. This was the moment he realized how useless around here he really was. Even though he did have a lot of work, to him those were menial tasks done in a matter of hours. A job that could take a week for some other programmer to finish, he could easily be done with in a day or two. Most of his free time was spend crashing sites or playing games; whichever seemed more fun at the given time.
“I see. So when does he find time to tend to all of this?” Malik did not have an answer for this. Only time he did communicate with Altaїr, is when he calls him for food (be it breakfast, lunch or dinner). He is not even sure what it is Altaїr does for a living.
What is wrong with me…
After seeing Malik’s face frozen in taught, Leonardo decided to continue the conversation; he accomplished what he wanted.
“Tell me, how are you feeling? Is everything alright? You were not hurt bad?” a quick recollection on the event from last night.
“I am fine, just a bit bruised. Altaїr…” a slight pause before he could continue; he was reminded again how much he became dependant on him “Altaїr disinfected all the wounds and they seem to be healing nicely. Even though it is just the first day.”
“You should ask him to teach you some moves.” He finally got to the part of conversation he was aiming at from the very beginning.
“Moves?” a confused look came with the question.
“Yes, he is rather skilled at many martial arts. Or so Ezio tells me. He could train you so that you can defend yourself next time.” Malik did not know how to react, what to say. He was not even sure what Leonardo just proposed.
“I am not saying that you should go around provoking people (even more), but it is always good to know how to stand up for yourself. Is it not?” he still had that smile on his face. And it started to annoy Malik more than it should. This friendly façade was just a cover for something he was not sure he wanted.
“What makes you think I would agree to this? What makes you think HE would agree to this?” even if he agrees, there is no proof Altaїr wold accept this.
“What if I told you he said he agreed to this?” Leonardo knew that Altaїr did not tell him that he agrees to anything, but a little freedom of interpretation can’t harm.
“You already asked him? And he said yes?” This came as a shock to Malik, shock clearly visible on his face. Why would this person agree to do more for him? Doesn’t he despise him? Maybe Leonardo talked him into this, manipulated the conversation; much like he is doing now.
“Yes, we already talked. I have even managed to get him extra free time from work. All that is needed now is your answer.” He scooted closer to Malik, bursting with anticipation. A move Malik answered with leaning a bit back; he was not sure what Leonardo was doing.
“I will see…” Only answer Malik could give at this time. He needed to think about this. Does he really want to let himself be pushed to Altaїr?
“You have time until I finish my juice.” He reached for the glass.
“What?!” time was running out, Leonardo obviously enjoyed that juice too much. And before he could actually think, the juice was gone.
“So, what is your answer?” Leonardo was licking remaining of the juice from his lips.
What could he say, what answer can he give at this short time? “Could you give me more time to think?”
“Why do you need more time? You either want to learn to defend yourself or you don’t. It is that easy.” how Malik hated that smile of his.
“You do not propose just training, what you are saying…” he was interrupted with the sound of opening doors. It was Altaїr.
Altaїr quickly inspected the room; he did not know what to think of the sight. Malik was looking at him with the exactly confused face. While Altaїr was lost in shock, Malik was lost in his confusion. Leonardo’s eyes were still on Malik, eagerly expecting the answer.
“Am I interrupting something?” the whole situation seemed to tense to just ignore it, Altaїr had to say something to clear it out.
“No, no! I was just having a little chat with Malik.” Still eagerly looking at Malik, with his smile “So, what is your answer?”
Malik’s eyes switched from Altaїr back to Leonardo. After he stared at him for a few seconds, he just dropped his head and gave the answer still unsure of what he wanted “Yes.”
“Excellent! I will make all further preparations for when you get well.” Leonardo sprang off the sofa with the most exciting look. Before either Altaїr or Malik knew what happened, Leonardo was out of their apartment, passing a wink to Altaїr as he exited.
“What was this about?” Altaїr closed the doors and locked them behind him.
“Leonardo… said that you wanted to train me…” he could not find strength to look at Altaїr.
“Willing. I told him I was willing to train you.” A needed correction.
“Semantics…” barely heard remark.
“Important semantics. I never said I want to train you, only that I would if Leonardo somehow managed to talk you into it.” He stretched as he was going to the bathroom. “I did not think he could actually talk you into it.” He was already closing the doors behind him, Malik did not know what to say. Or how to feel.
After a shower, Altaїr came to living room in hopes that he could spend half an hour clearing his mind while watching TV. His steps came to a stop after he saw Malik standing near his room, waiting for him. A sight Altaїr never saw before.
“I am sorry for being a bother to you.” Words uneasily rolled down Malik’s tongue.
Altaїr did not know what to say; this is second time Malik was acting strange (strange for Malik standards). Altaїr stance changed, he was confused and tired; was this conversation necessary now.
“Why are you telling me this?” there was no kindness in his voice.
“You don’t have to waste more of your time on me. You are not obligated to train me or show me anything. It does not matter that…” he was interrupted in his self-pitying speech.
“It does matter. I made an obligation to Leonardo and I will stand by my words.” He continued to the sofa “It does not matter how Leonardo came to persuade you to accept, but my end of the deal still stands.” He sat and turned on the TV; he did not look at Malik once.
“So… You will train me?” Malik was unsure whether to be happy or confused; perhaps he was a bit of both.
“Yes. But when you heal. You are unable to do anything now.” He waved his hand at him “Go rest.”
Malik slowly turned to the doors to his room, still unsure what to feel. Before he closed the doors behind him, he let out a small farewell “Good night…” The doors were closed, no other sound was heard.